It’s been 13 years. Thirteen is almost twice as long as seven. Seven reminds me of The Seven Year Itch. Yes, the seven year itch is real, it exists, it happens. No, I am not going to tell you all the juicy details!
By now you must be wondering what the fuss is all about? Wonder no more! On December 1, 1994, in Wah Cantt, Pakistan, Amber and I tied the knot.
I asked Amber yesterday that given the chance would she do it all over again? And she said yes. I also asked her if she wanted to spend 4*13=52 more years with me and she does! I guess we can call this marriage a success.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This morning, I was sleeping as Amber told me that a state of emergency had been imposed in Pakistan. I wasn’t surprised since something was expected after the situation had deteriorated in Swat in addition to Waziristan. However, when I woke up and switched on Geo TV, I realized that what had happened was more like a martial law than a state of emergency. According to All Things Pakistan, the government-owned PTV announced:
The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order.
And whereas the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, governors of all Provinces, and with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chiefs of the armed forces, vice-chief of army Staff and corps commanders of the Pakistan army;Now, therefore, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I, General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim emergency throughout Pakistan.
I hereby order and proclaim that the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.
So the constitution is no more and the so-called emergency has been imposed by the Chief of Army Staff and not the President as defined by the constitution’s emergency provisions. The text of the provisional constitutional order is available here. Whatever might be said, this is Martial Law, not an emergency.
Musharraf has given extremism as the main reason for his second coup, but the reality is that the Supreme Court was likely to rule against Musharraf’s election in the next few days.
Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has defended his decision to declare emergency rule, saying he could not allow the country to commit suicide.
In a televised address he said Pakistan had reached a crisis brought about by militant violence and a judiciary which had paralysed the government.
The chief justice has been replaced and the Supreme Court surrounded by troops.
The moves came as the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of Gen Musharraf’s October election victory.
The court was to decide whether Gen Musharraf was eligible to run for re-election last month while remaining army chief.
The BBC’s Barbara Plett reports from Islamabad that fears had been growing in the government that the Supreme Court ruling could go against Gen Musharraf.
The year 2007 has been very bad for Pakistan. In March, Musharraf tried to dismiss the Chief Justice and the lawyers came out against the highhandedness of the government, finally forcing Musharraf to let the Supreme Court reinstate the Chief Justice.
In July, there was the action against Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad after the extremist clerics there were given a free hand for months and as a result hundreds were killed. At the time, Amber called it the beginning of the end for Pakistan and to keep an eye on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan, we decided to subscribe to Geo TV. As it turned out, events spiraled out of control faster than we had thought possible. As Eteraz writes:
Musharraf’s act comes at a time when Pakistan has almost 100,000 troops in the Waziristan region, battling the Taliban. Meanwhile, the country is being hit by almost daily suicide bombings (since July, more than 450 people have been killed by terrorists). Islamist militants recently ambushed and held 250 solders hostage, and another 48 soldiers were paraded as a trophy by a Taliban commander.
Also, something like a war started recently in Swat.
Taleban fighters in Pakistan’s northern district of Swat have paraded 48 paramilitary troops they captured in fighting this week.
The soldiers said they surrendered when their positions on a hilltop were surrounded by armed militants.
More than 2,500 paramilitary troops were sent to Swat last week as fighting in the area worsened.
Nearly 300 soldiers are still being held prisoner further south in the Waziristan tribal region.
The militants in Swat want the imposition of Sharia law.
With suicide bombings occurring everywhere and FATA and Swat in open rebellion by extremists, Pakistan was in a precarious situation. Since Musharraf has been the dictator for 8 years, he must share some of the blame for the situation getting this bad. However, if he wanted to tackle it, he could have proclaimed a constitutional state of emergency which does contain provisions to suspend fundamental rights. But it did not allow him to get rid of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as Musharraf has done. The only reason of doing so is to save his own power.
And that brings us to “I told you so.” On October 12, 1999, I told everyone who would listen that Musharraf was not taking over for the sake of Pakistan or for saving the country from the corrupt politicians like Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto. He did not act when the country was in peril, but when his own position as Army Chief was threatened. I have always considered him a power-hungry army general in the mold of General Ziaul Haq.
Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of Pakistan’s current troubles with his Islamization and jihadi policies and today Musharraf is reaping its rewards and acting like Zia II. Having grown up in Zia’s Pakistan and now watching Musharraf’s Pakistan from afar, both these generals look to be the worst nightmare for Pakistan.
Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, th US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi’s India circa 1976.
However, if I have to give my prediction, my guess is that the army will stay in power for a long time now, but Musharraf’s days are numbered.