The world was filled with revulsion when a Taliban shooter tried to assassinate 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai last Oct. 9 in Pakistan. How cowardly to shoot up a rickety school bus filled with girls determined to get an education! Outraged Pakistanis took to the streets with signs and shouts of “Shame on you, Taliban!”
Soon after, Malala was called a heroine by Pakistan’s Interior Minister — he who oversees the notorious intelligence service (ISI) that largely controls the Taliban. Gordon Brown, ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, wept copious tears — he of the first imperialist power to run over Pakistan. And U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tut-tutted against “extremists who don’t want girls to have an education” — she whose ruling class will help exploit the shooting to justify more U.S. military bombing. The Taliban defended their bloody act, saying Malala’s fight for education makes her a “tool of imperialism.”
Who to believe in this spiraling war of propaganda and bullets, drone attacks and assassinations? Malala herself is an open critic of them all — her government, U.S. imperialism, and the Taliban.
As I see it, they’re all in cahoots. The workers and peasants of Pakistan are perfectly capable of dealing with their Taliban. Only a small fraction of the population actually supports these religious fascists. But taking them on will remain daunting as long as the people remain under siege by U.S. drone missiles and Pakistan’s other major predators. Imperialist banks that impoverish the people through austerity and privatization. A corrupt government of wealthy generals, politicians, and landlords — mostly obscenely rich mullahs. And of course the vicious Taliban, transforming hungry and desperate teenage boys into school-bus assassins and suicide bombers through its abusive madrassa schools.
To me, the shooting was not just a murderous assault on a courageous schoolgirl. It was also a grisly product of the U.S. “war on terror,” and a stark exposé of America’s sickening hypocrisy on democracy and women’s rights and world peace.
Take the subject of war and peace. In a victory speech on Nov. 6, Obama intoned, “We want to pass on [to our children] a country … that is defended by the strongest military on Earth … but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.”
Something for hawks and doves, you notice. Hours later, a U.S. drone assassinated three alleged terrorists in Yemen, the handiwork of computer pilots safely seated in Nevada.
Yes, the leaders of Yemen, like Pakistan and Somalia, are all now hosting undeclared wars by the U.S. with its deadly Predator drones. The kill list of “terrorists” is put together by national security personnel, and signed off personally by the president — he who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Palestinian poet Remi Kanazi puts it well: “My name is Barack Obama and I approve this bombing.”
Who knows how many die from these attacks, since they are carried out secretly by the CIA. And civilian casualties are falsely minimized by counting every male of military age an enemy combatant. I guess “Kill-them-all” is the policy at hand. Hundreds of non-combatants have died, including a good many little girls and boys.
Obviously, this didn’t just start with Obama. Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world and territorially home to several ancient cultures, was artificially created in 1947 by the British Empire. From the beginning, the country has been dominated by a right-wing military, backed first by Great Britain and then the United States.
Since the 1980s war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, Pakistan’s state apparatus has been mixed up with the Islamic fundamentalists in both countries. In fact, the Taliban was nurtured and funded by the United States in Afghanistan. So much for the myth that the U.S. brings secular democracy and women’s equality to the Middle East.
Only the people themselves can do that, and they are trying desperately. Before she was attacked, Malala said, “If the new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by the terrorists. We must raise our voice.”
Forty-four years ago (1968) Pakistanis, with women in the forefront, launched a stunning revolution. They forced a dictator to abdicate and ran society for 139 days. Workers occupied factories, peasants seized land, and students took over the schools and colleges. This can happen again and I have no doubt that Malala Yousafzai, and other determined young women and men like her, will be a part of that struggle.
Monica Hill is a frequent commentator on the Middle East. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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