Inman Park Festival

Inman Park is an old neighborhood of Atlanta, east of downtown, where a festival is held in late April. Here is my belated photography of that event.

During the last week of April, there is the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta. Inman Park is an old neighborhood of Atlanta.

We went to the festival this year which the Kid enjoyed very much. I have been lazy in uploading my photographs, but here they are, only 7 months late.

Festival 1
Festival 2
Festival 3
Festival 4
Festival 5
Festival 6
Festival 7
Festival 8
Festival 9
Festival 10
Festival 11
Festival 12
Festival 13
Festival 14
Festival 15
Festival 16
Festival 17
Festival 18
 

ڈان

کافی عرصے بعد ہم نے بالی‌وڈ کی کوئی فلم دیکھی۔ یہ نئی ڈان ہے شاہ‌رخ خان والی۔ بالی‌وڈ کے سٹینڈرڈ کے حساب سے ٹھیک فلم ہے۔

پچھلے دنوں بہت عرصے بعد بالی‌وڈ کی کوئی فلم دیکھی۔ عنبر ایک دن ڈان کی ڈی‌وی‌ڈی اٹھا لائی۔ یہ امیتابھ بچن کی نہیں بلکہ نئی والی شاہرخ خان والی فلم ہے۔

اس میں شاہرخ خان کے دو رول ہیں: ایک معصوم اور دوسرا مجرم ماسٹرمائنڈ۔

فلم ٹھیک ہی ہے۔ عام بالی‌وڈ فلموں کی طرح اس کی کہانی کا اندازہ لگانا بھی بہت آسان ہے۔ میں اسے 10 میں سے 6 نمبر دیتا ہوں۔

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sorry, Canadians, for being so late, but better late than never, eh!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to roast a turkey.

Paths of Glory

An antiwar movie by Stanley Kubrick which shows the utter futility of the trench warfare in World War I, this is a great movie worth watching.

Paths of Glory is a movie about World War I by director Stanley Kubrick who is one of my favorite directors.

The movie shows the futility of the trench warfare in the Great War. When a French attack fails, the general decides to execute 100 soldiers as an example. He is then convinced by another general to reduce the number to three. The soldiers are tried in a trial without any evidence and then executed.

According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on a novel by Humphrey Cobb and loosely based on the true story of four French soldiers who were executed for mutiny in World War I but their executions were later ruled unfair. Also, the book and movie title comes from the following:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Overall, it is a great antiwar movie. I rate it 8/10.

War Crimes and Military Justice

War crimes happen in all wars. And are rarely punished appropriately. There are structural reasons for that which are unlikely to change. This is one more reason why war should be the last resort.

I wrote a long time ago that soldiers are almost never punished severely for war crimes against the enemy. During the past three years, I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary.

A review of the Iraq War by the Washington Post last year showed that:

The majority of U.S. service members charged in the unlawful deaths of Iraqi civilians have been acquitted, found guilty of relatively minor offenses or given administrative punishments without trials, according to a Washington Post review of concluded military cases. Charges against some of the troops were dropped completely.

Though experts estimate that thousands of Iraqi civilians have died at the hands of U.S. forces, only 39 service members were formally accused in connection with the deaths of 20 Iraqis from 2003 to early this year [2006 — ZA]. Twenty-six of the 39 troops were initially charged with murder, negligent homicide or manslaughter; 12 of them ultimately served prison time for any offense.

Some military officials and analysts say the small numbers reflect the caution and professionalism exercised by U.S. forces on an urban battlefield where it is often difficult to distinguish combatants from civilians. Others argue the statistics illustrate commanders’ reluctance to investigate and hold troops accountable when they take the lives of civilians.

[…] The harshest penalty, meted out to two soldiers in separate murder cases in 2004, was 25 years in prison — one of the convicted shot an Iraqi soldier, and the other shot an Iraqi man in his house. Two others convicted in what was called a mercy killing of an Iraqi each received one year in jail.

Solis, who has studied civilian homicides from the Vietnam War, said there were 27 Marines and 95 Army soldiers convicted of murder and manslaughter in that conflict, which lasted much longer and produced many more casualties than the Iraq war has so far.

According to The Post’s review of publicly reported cases from Iraq, 39 U.S. service members were charged with crimes in connection with the deaths of Iraqi civilians or for allegedly covering them up, from the start of the war in March 2003 through early 2006.

Twenty-four Army personnel were charged in connection with civilian deaths. Twelve were convicted of crimes and received jail sentences that ranged from 45 days to 25 years. Four others were tried at courts-martial, resulting in one acquittal and three convictions with no confinement.

Charges against two others were dropped. Six received administrative punishments, including four who cooperated with government prosecutions of their superiors. In administrative cases, no trial is held and the charges and penalties are not made public.

Going back to the Vietnam War, the Los Angeles Times had this to report:

The files are part of a once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.

The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators — not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date. About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.

The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese — families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.

Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found. They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.

[…] Among the substantiated cases in the archive:

  • Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.
  • Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
  • One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.

Investigators determined that evidence against 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners was strong enough to warrant formal charges. These “founded” cases were referred to the soldiers’ superiors for action.

Ultimately, 57 of them were court-martialed and just 23 convicted, the records show.

Fourteen received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years, but most won significant reductions on appeal. The stiffest sentence went to a military intelligence interrogator convicted of committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old girl in an interrogation hut in 1967.

He served seven months of a 20-year term, the records show.

Many substantiated cases were closed with a letter of reprimand, a fine or, in more than half the cases, no action at all.

You can read the documents and more reports related to war crimes in Vietnam at the LA Times website.

Then there is the case of Sergeant Joseph Darby.

In January 2004, Darby provided a compact disc of photographs and an anonymous note to Special Agent Tyler Pieron of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib Prison, triggering an investigation which led to the implication of several soldiers violating the Geneva Convention. Darby initially wanted to remain anonymous — he and those implicated all served in the 372nd Military Police Company, but became known after Donald Rumsfeld publicly named him during a Senate hearing. Darby had agonized for a month beforehand, but finally decided to blow the whistle on his former friends explaining “It violated everything I personally believed in and all I’d been taught about the rules of war.” He had known Lynndie England, one of the most well-known suspects, since basic training. He testified that he had received the photos from Charles Graner, another soldier in the photographs.

The Joe Darby came home and was reviled in his hometown for ratting out fellow soldiers.

“If I were [Darby], I’d be sneaking in through the back door at midnight,” says Janette Jones, who lives just across the border in Pennsylvania and stopped here at midday with her daughter for a Pepsi and a smoke.

[…]

“They can call him what they want,” says Mike Simico, a veteran visiting relatives in Cresaptown. “I call him a rat.”

And so Joe Darby had to leave his hometown and move.

If you have read this far and are thinking that these war crimes and the lack of punishment is only the United States’ fault, think again. War crimes happen in all wars and are rarely punished or even seen as wrong. Take Israeli occupation of Palestine or the Pakistani army’s actions in Bangladesh/East Pakistan in 1971. Or any other example from history. And you’ll see the same thing being repeated again and again.

The problem is actually structural. First, when we are at war, we consider the enemy to be subhuman. The job is to kill the enemy and to defeat it. The soldiers need to muster up the courage to be able to kill on the battlefield. The psychological defenses they put up to justify all the mayhem around them creates a black and white world with no gray. When a war crime is committed, it is difficult to get it reported. If the enemy nationals are the ones complaining, it is easy to dismiss it as enemy propaganda. At a trial, the jury and judge belong to the same side as the accused soldiers and the victims are in general seen as part of the other. The military justice system in a good country like the US gives a lot of the benefit of doubt to the accused, which is as it should be. However, in a war situation and in the case of crimes against enemy nationals this makes the task of proving guilt very difficult.

And that’s why it is imperative that we do not go to war unless it really is absolutely necessary. As Matthew Yglesias notes:

I don’t think ordinary people can read Sydney Freedberg’s excellent cover story in the new National Journal but the teaser text explains the basic dilemma well:

Sometimes U.S. troops kill Iraqis in self-defense. Sometimes they kill them for other reasons. And sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

The crux of the matter is that soldiers in ambiguous situations understandably tend to err on the side of their own personal safety and that of their fellow soldiers. Likewise, officers faced with ambiguous situations tend to err on the side of giving the soldiers under their command the benefit of the doubt. And courts-martial, likewise, err on the side of taking a favorable view of American soldiers.

All of which is fine. Unless you happen to be an Iraqi. Which is precisely why people tend not to enjoy being under foreign military occupation.

The Bourne Ultimatum

I have liked the Bourne trilogy since I read the books a long time ago. Finally I saw the last movie of the trilogy which, in my opinion, is the best movie of the series.

I am a fan of the Jason Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum which I read a long time ago. So, of course, I have seen all three of the movies.

The final movie The Bourne Ultimatum is, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. Its plot is about Jason Bourne coming “home” to find out about his past. The action is fast-paced and of course Bourne can do anything, but it’s fun to watch.

I rate it 8/10.

Some Thoughts on Pakistan

This martial law is basically a coup against the higher judiciary. While lawyers are protesting, the politicians are still inactive. This might empower the militants. The US must reject dictatorship in Pakistan.

Further to my previous post on Pakistan’s martial law, here are some thoughts about the past and the future.

Here is General Musharraf’s speech after he imposed emergency/martial law.

Chapati Mystery has done an English translation of the whole speech so I don’t have to.

You’ll notice the “I” in Musharraf’s speech, i.e. “I did this, I did that” and his conflation of him and Pakistan and how everything he has done and is doing is for Pakistan. That is of course the staple of such speeches, I still remember Zia’s speeches.

Also, consider his reasons for his actions as given in his speech and the emergency proclamation.

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralised and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and intelligence agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

Whereas the government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the honourable judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;

Whereas an important constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;

Whereas the humiliating treatment meted out to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralised the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

The terrorists and extremists were mentioned only a couple of times while most of Musharraf’s ire is towards the judiciary. A large number of the high court and supreme court judges have been thrown out now due to the requirement of a new oath under Musharraf’s latest Provisional Constitutional Order. Do remember that most of the judges serving now are those who took an oath under Musharraf’s earlier PCO in 1999-2000. So something has happened in the meantime to create this change in attitude.

It started with the Supreme Court taking independent positions and taking the government to task as a result of which Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 and sent a reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council. This triggered a protest by the lawyers in Pakistan which snowballed into a major headache for the government. Finally, in July the Supreme Court reinstated the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court then declared former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s exile null and void. Sharif returned to Pakistan in September and was promptly packed off to Saudi Arabia. A petition of contempt of court against the government is pending in the Supreme Court and it was widely believed that it would result in conviction for the Prime Minister and other government officials.

The Supreme Court also recently punished the law enforcement officials who manhandled the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry when he was suspended in March. Similarly, the Supreme Court was hearing petitions or taking suo moto notice of several government actions including the disappearance by intelligence agencies (or law enforcement) of terrorist suspects.

And then there was the issue of Musharraf’s reelection as President. The court allowed him to contest the election but still had to rule on Musharraf’s eligibility. It was widely expected that they would rule him ineligible soon.

All these matters resulted in a situation where the Musharraf government was pitted against the Supreme Court and the law community. Though Musharraf was wrong on most of these issues, the situation was unhealthy as a lot of political and policy issues were being decided not in the political arena but in the courts. And lacking an army the supreme court was bound to lose eventually.

Immediately after emergency/martial law was imposed, a 7-member bench of the Supreme Court declared it null and void and called upon everyone not to obey the government orders. And today the protests against martial law are coming from the lawyers and not the political parties, which just goes to show the bankruptcy of the political class in Pakistan.

It is also the talk of the town that Benazir Bhutto left Pakistan for Dubai on the eve of the imposition of emergency because she knew about it and has made a deal with Musharraf. While Bhutto has condemned the imposition of emergency and called it martial law, it remains to be seen whether her party PPP will actually oppose it on the streets. The government seems to be sanguine about the PPP though as none of the major leaders of PPP have been arrested despite more than 1,500 arrests of lawyers, politicians and human rights activists over the weekend. The only major PPP leader arrested is Aitzaz Ahsan who is the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who I might add has less cojones than Junejo, had earlier suggested that national elections might be delayed for up to a year but has now said that elections will be on schedule.

Pakistan’s prime minister says national elections will be held as scheduled, despite President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule.

Elections are planned for mid-January, but there were fears they might be abandoned because of the crisis.

The government had suggested parliamentary polls could be delayed by up to a year.

But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that: “The next general elections will be held according to the schedule.”

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum was more specific.

“It has been decided there will be no delay in the election and by 15 November these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days,” he told Reuters news agency.

But with restrictions on the Press and the constitution suspended what use could these elections be?

With the political parties not being active in their political and democratic duties and Musharraf being extremely unpopular, it is likely that the longer the martial law continues, the more the extremists and the Islamists will be strengthened.

While Musharraf is not at all justified in imposing martial law and these measures are not likely to help Pakistan, it is true that Pakistan is in dire straits right now as is evident by the title of my previous post.

The war in Waziristan has been going on for a while now. The terrain there is difficult and the locals are not at all in favor of interference by the Pakistani government. However, the militants haven’t been good to the locals either. If you look at the kill ratios in Waziristan, it is clear that the Pakistan army, which has 80 to 90 thousand troops along with an equal number of paramilitaries, is not doing too well. Plus soldiers were being captured easily by the militants, the most famous being the 300 soldiers led by a Colonel who surrendered in August and were released yesterday in exchange for 28 militants.

The tribal areas have always been on the periphery of Pakistan and the writ of the central government hasn’t mattered much there. However, the problems are spreading to settled areas such as Swat. The government looked on for a couple of years as TNSM leader Fazlullah ranted against polio vaccination, girls’ education, music and other such matters on an illegal radio station in Swat. Now the situation there is out of control and paramilitary troops of Frontier Corps, who are generally conservative Pashtuns, are surrendering.

In addition, there have been numerous suicide attacks against military and law enforcement targets this year. The latest was the attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus in Sargodha which killed 11. Even more surprising was the suicide attack against a commando unit at an army mess hall near Tarbela in September. The situation has gotten so bad that the army has been ordered not to move around in uniform.

All of these things must have affected morale of the army. While the killings must be laid at the door of the militants, Musharraf must share some blame for his ham-handed handling of the matter.

Finally, as a US resident, the question arises as to what the US should do. I agree with Chapati Mystery that:

Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March. We left unchecked, and unhindered, a megalomaniac
“enlightened moderator”. We keep insisting on our own interests ahead of the interests of the people of Pakistan. We remain steadfast in our belief that those people are not as developed nor as functional as we would like them to be. Pakistan needs a strong dictator.

And all the things that Obsidian Wings points out we could have done.

As for what the US should do now? It should make it clear that martial law is not acceptable and democracy must return. In addition, the US should not favor any specific politician or party. There is an impression in Pakistan that the Bhutto-Musharraf deal had the blessings of the US. We should not take sides for or against Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif. Instead we must insist on Pakistan lifting martial law and holding free and fair elections immediately. The more the elections are delayed and the US is identified with Musharraf, the worse it is for the future of Pakistan and Pakistanis and by implication for the US. And hence I second Chapati Mystery’s call to ask US Presidential candidates to take a stand against dictatorship in Pakistan.