Tuesday, December 13, 2011

US Blames Pak Fertilizer For IEDs in Afghanistan

It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” Henry Kissinger 1968

What Dr. Kissinger said about South Vietnam in 1968 is just as relevant today for US allies Mexico and Pakistan. Both nations are paying with their blood every day for being US allies.

In yet another blow to the already fragile US-Pakistan ties, the US Congress has frozen $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it gives assurances it is helping fight the spread of improvised bombs, or IEDs, in the region by regulating the distribution of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer. While the loss of a few hundred American lives to IEDs each year in a war zone needs to be reduced, the hypocrisy US legislators is evident by its failure to legislate to control guns in America that claim 30,000 lives (including suicides) each year in the United States, and tens of thousands more in drug related gun violence in Mexico.

The most recent figure released by the Mexican government on the number of dead during the last 4 years is just over 34,000, according to Los Angeles Times. It's the consumption of drugs in the United States that makes drug smuggling highly profitable for powerful drug cartels, and it's the US made guns smuggled across the border into Mexico that account for the bulk of the Mexican fatalities.

US Military commanders say fertilizer bomb in Afghanistan could be as crucial to the Taliban as the surface-to-air missile was to the Afghan mujahedeen fighters in their war in the 1980s against the Soviets, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In response to US concerns, Afghanistan government banned the use of Ammonium Nitrate last year. Pakistan followed suit by banning its use in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province which borders Afghanistan. The ban has been effective in significantly cutting IED casualties in 2011. There have been 192 IED related deaths till Sept this year, down from 368 last year, according to report in Time magazine. Part of the decline is attributed to the fact that the Taliban are now detonating roadside bombs with electronic signals, serving two purposes: they let the triggerman allow civilian vehicles to pass safely, and also let him time the explosion so the increasingly-sophisticated shaped-charged IEDs would do the most damage to the target vehicle.

As a land-locked and food deficit nation, Afghanistan gets the bulk of what it needs to survive from or through Pakistan across the 1500 mile long border shared by the two nations. Stricter controls on smuggling of Ammonium Nitrate may help reduce it but it's unrealistic to expect to completely eliminate it. Similar fertilizer is used by other Afghan neighbors and it is probably already being smuggled by determined insurgents into the country.

While the number of IED related deaths in Iraq number in hundreds, there are 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones.

There are obvious parallels between the the US-Mexican border and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in terms of cross border smuggling and violence. The key difference is that the number of casualties in Afghanistan is only a small fraction of the death toll in Mexico and Pakistan. Given the Congressional inaction on gun control in the United States, the demands made on Pakistan are just hypocritical. Such demands and threat of punitive action against Pakistan will only worsen the US-Pakistan relations and damage the US efforts in the region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Afghanistan and Pakistan Facts & Myths

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?


Anonymous said...

Your comparison doesn't hold water - In the US, possessing weapons is in accordance to the second amendment - an Individual's right to bear arms for self defense. This is constitutional.

In the other scenario, American soldiers are being killed by IEDs, which are made for materials mostly imported from Pakistan. This is illegal, and should be treated as such.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Your comparison doesn't hold water - In the US, possessing weapons is in accordance to the second amendment - an Individual's right to bear arms for self defense. This is constitutional."

The production and use of fertilizer is legal in Pakistan, as it is elsewhere in the world.

Guns made in America kill tens of thousands of Americans, and American guns smuggled into Mexico have killed tens of thousands of innocent Mexicans, and the US has failed to stop it. The number of Mexican deaths are rising.

Guns are made primarily for one purpose: to kill. Fertilizer is made primarily for use in farming; to feed and clothe people, not to kill them. Pakistan is making efforts to stop its smuggling, and the IED death toll has dropped significantly this year to about 192 from 368 last year.

Mayraj said...

There's major corruption involved as well, it seems to me. After all how else can $25 billion a year get passed from US to Mexico?
Some of the funds also get laundered through housing. Catherine Austin Fitts who was at HUD revealed her shock at learning about it.

Anonymous said...

pakistan should stop making fertilizer for a few years till the WOT is completed the US should in the mean time compensate it with equal amount of fertilizer free of cost which cannot be used to make bombs.

Then gradually there should be ToT to enable Pakistan to make this sort of fertilizer.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts from a VOA report on Pakistan's reaction to $700m aid freeze by US Congress:

The Pakistani government has criticized the move by the U.S. Congress, saying it is not based on facts and takes a "narrow vision of the overall situation."

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar says that the aid suspension is not a matter of concern for her country because the Pakistani parliament is currently redefining future terms of engagement with Washington and international forces following what she called the "unprovoked" cross-border air attack by NATO last month.

"Pakistan is currently going through a process of re-assessment and re-evaluation," said Khar. "And what matters today to Pakistan and to all its institutions is the mandate that will be given by the parliament of Pakistan. So I think we are less concerned about what [the U.S.] Congress is doing today and more concerned about what the parliament of Pakistan is doing today because that is what redefines this relationship."

Pakistan's uneasy relationship with the United States has plunged to new lows since NATO's deadly cross-border air attack in late November. The country has retaliated by cutting supply lines for U.S. and allied forces fighting the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. It has evicted American personnel from an airbase in the country's southwest, and the Pakistani government has asked the parliament to define future terms of anti-terrorism cooperation with both the United States and the coalition forces. The U.S. military and NATO deny Pakistani troops were deliberately targeted in the attack and have launched investigations of the incident.

The Pakistani foreign minister says she is confident that once approved by the country's parliament, the renewed terms of engagement with allied nations, including the United States, will lead to productive relationships.

"It will also strengthen the partnership that we pursue with any country because it will be a partnership which is on a clearly defined mandate, it will be a partnership which has less grey areas and has a clear mandate of the public and parliament of Pakistan and therefore we will be able to pursue this partnership much more vigorously," added Khar.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a clarification Thursday evening, saying reports that Congress has cut $700 million dollars in military aid to Pakistan are not correct. It says that the draft legislation currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress includes a reporting requirement and that once the U.S. secretary of defense certifies that Pakistan is cooperating in the joint efforts to combat IEDs, the funds will be released. It says setting conditions on assistance with reporting requirements is not new, nor is it Pakistan specific.

Taliban insurgents are increasingly using the IEDs to attack U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. American military officials say that most of the material used to make the bombs is coming from Pakistan, charges officials here deny.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post piece on US-Pak ties and US elections:

The crises of 2011 are ripping apart a working relationship with Pakistan. Controversy over CIA agent Raymond Davis, the raid on the bin Laden compound, accusations of ISI support for the Taliban, civilian casualties caused by drone attacks, and now NATO airstrikes on Pakistani soldiers have roiled emotions. One must view these events as a whole, not individually. They are tying the hands of Pakistan's military and civilian leaders in cooperating with the U.S. to fight our common enemies. Here, political attitudes and opinions on Capitol Hill and among voters have hardened, complicating our ability to forge policies that enable effective engagement with Pakistan.

The interests of both countries mandate that Pakistan's military and elected government unite in fighting violent extremism. One needed step is strong Pakistani communication campaign to marginalize and de-legitimize the extremists. That could lay the political foundation for taking the military battle to militants. They've at time proven they can do that. But the controversies over U.S. actions have instead led Islamabad to adopt policies that obstruct fighting extremists. Success requires that we work together to overcome the widely shared perception that the U.S. deliberately seeks to abuse Pakistani sovereignty and that cooperation with us makes the military or civilians American pawns.

What can the presidential aspirants do? They can go beyond the current rhetoric to register points that resonate with Pakistanis and serve our mutual interests. Turning relations with Pakistan into partisan fodder is not useful. It would send a powerful message for the Pakistanis to hear from both parties the following:

· The U.S. supports the primacy of elected civilian government and democratic institutions even while it works with Pakistan's military leaders to address our interests, especially in Afghanistan.
· While we may have to condition our military aid to Pakistan's cooperation within its borders in fighting Afghan insurgents, we should stand strongly behind pro-democracy forces. That embraces targeted civilian aid that is carefully monitored to ensure proper use and branding so that we receive credit for our contributions.
· The U.S. is ready to expand trade by foregoing the protectionism so hurtful to Pakistan's struggling economy. This assistance as well as creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones will win us more friends than our current aid programs. This will show that in the national interest we are prepared to make difficult domestic political decisions.
· We recognize that Pakistan has legitimate security interests in Afghanistan and that with 35 million Pashtuns, no Pakistan government can support action that fails to address their concerns. But we won't tolerate its using the Pashtun card to meddle, and
won't allow it to obstruct a political settlement that would end the insurgency.
· Whatever suspicion Pakistan may harbor, as journalist Zahid Hussain has noted, only the U.S. offers Pakistanis hope for the future. No other nation does that.

These messages to Pakistan will put the political discourse between Pakistan and the U.S. on a sounder footing. It will vest Pakistani policy makers and military with more flexibility to fight violent extremism and help revitalize ties with the U.S. What the candidates for President say, and how they say it, can make a huge difference in advancing or blocking what is mutually beneficial. Meanwhile, it will require Pakistani leaders who are willing to stand up against the tide of opinion and take their own political risks.


Riaz Haq said...

Longest 33 day pause in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, reports Long War Journal:

The covert US drone program that hunts al Qaeda and allied terrorists operating in Pakistan's tribal areas has entered its longest pause since the strikes were ramped up in the summer of 2008.

The US has not launched a Predator or Reaper airstrike against terrorist targets in Pakistan for 33 days, according to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal. The last strike took place on Nov. 16 in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.

US officials have previously told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" due to deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan from the fallout of a cross-border incident by NATO forces in the tribal agency of Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers.

One US official told The Long War Journal there is concern that another US strike on Pakistani soil will "push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return." Another official said, however, that the US would attack if "an extremely high value target pops up." [See LWJ report, US drone strikes 'on hold' in Pakistan: US official, for more information on the reasons behind the current pause.]

The 33-day-long gap in strikes is the longest since another pause that took place in the spring of 2009 (28 days, May 16 to June 14). US officials attributed that gap to operational issues with the unmanned aircraft.

The third- and fourth-longest pauses also took place earlier this year, during a time of high tensions with Pakistan. A 27-day-long gap in strikes from Jan. 23 to Feb. 20 occurred after CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. The US ended the pause in strikes the day Davis was returned to the US.

And a 25-day-long gap from March 17 to April 13 took place after the US killed dozens of Pakistanis in a strike in North Waziristan. That strike killed a senior Taliban leader and 11 fighters along with an estimated 30 tribesmen who were said to be negotiating mineral rights in the area. Several members of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the military's intelligence arm, which supports the Taliban and other terror groups, were rumored to have also been killed in the strikes.

US officials had previously denied that the two pauses earlier this year were due to tensions with Pakistan, and instead cited operational issues with the unmanned aircraft, to include "weather." There have been significant pauses during that seasonal time period in previous years.

But one US official told The Long War Journal that the two long pauses earlier this year were indeed related to political problems with Pakistan encountered during those time frames.

"If it isn't clear by now, the airstrikes targeting AQAM (al Qaeda and allied movements) have been constrained by deteriorating relations [with Pakistan]," a senior US official said.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/12/us_drone_strikes_in.php#ixzz1h2mntuvO

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting idea proposed by BioNitrogen Inc, a Florida start-up, to make inexpensive fertilizer in South Asia:

In what may become a precursor of things to come in the Urea Fertilizer Industry, local fertilizer manufacturing plants in Pakistan were forced to shut last year for over six months. These shutdowns resulted in critical shortages of fertilizer which subsequently sent the costs of fertilizer rising one-hundred forty one (141) per cent in just 2 years. Industry officials sighted the country's gas load management plan as a key component of the shutdowns. The urea production shutdowns were the result of natural gas shortages which severely hampered the manufacturing of urea thus dealing a severe blow to Country's Agriculture Sector which many believe is the backbone of the entire economy.(2) In neighboring India, there are discussions that Urea prices will be linked directly to gas prices which would increase pressure on the farmers of India to maintain economic stability in the face of rising fertilizer prices.(3)

Industry data and global production data charts for nitrogen based urea fertilizer, often correlate the price of nitrogen fertilizers is directly related to the price of natural gas (methane).(4) (5) Manufacturing one (1) ton of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer requires 33,500 cubic feet of natural gas. In other words, natural gas is used to produce fertilizer which is used to grow crops. This relationship also has a direct impact on not just the agriculture economies of the world, but also the production of wheat, the main food staple in many countries throughout the world, which also plays a strong role in producing the feed for millions of livestock in not just Pakistan but Countries around the world.

What interests Dr. Terry R. Collins, the CEO of BioNitrogen, is the news accounts coming out of Pakistan often state for the record "It is a matter of fact that there is no alternative of gas for urea manufacturers as urea manufacturing process cannot be completed without gas supply." Dr. Collins offers this perspective, "There is in fact a viable alternative to using natural gas to produce to nitrogen based urea. BioNitrogen has developed a patent-pending process which specializes in the conversion of renewable agricultural waste biomass into urea fertilizer. Our small-format production facilities are designed for implementation in local farm communities, close to their required feedstock and abundant biomass."

Adds Dr. Mario Beruvides, BioNitrogen's CTO, "BioNitrogen is excited about introducing ourselves to the world as an extremely cost-effective and ecologically friendly alternative for producing extremely high quality nitrogen based urea fertilizer. If Pakistan were using our production methods and facilities, there likely would have been no closures in their country and no economic impact. This is part of BioNitrogen's corporate mandates of not only producing urea fertilizer, but we're absolutely committed to protecting the environment and contributing to local economic development while helping to feed to our planet."

As he continued to reflect on the events in India and Pakistan, Dr. Collins concluded, "Compared to traditional urea manufacturing facilities that use natural gas as a feedstock, our BioNitrogen plants will be much smaller and can be constructed and brought online for production much more quickly. ...


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Businessweek story on Fatima Fertilizer investing
in Africa:

Fatima Fertilizer Co. (FATIMA), Pakistan’s third-biggest maker of the farming ingredient, plans to build a new factory in Africa at an investment of about $1 billion to tap international markets.

The company expects to finalize plans this year to set up the factory, Fawad Ahmed Mukhtar, chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview from his Lahore head office. The fertilizer maker may consider forging a partnership by investing $200 million, he said, without elaboration.

Fatima registered its American Depositary Receipts in New York in March 2011 to raise its profile and expand overseas, aiming to overcome a chronic gas shortage at home. Pakistani fertilizer makers including Engro Fertilizer Ltd. and Fauji Fertilizer Co. get as much as 50 percent less gas than they need to run their factories, curbing production, according to Foundation Securities Pvt. in Karachi.

Fatima’s planned Africa factory may have a capacity to produce more than 1 million tons of fertilizer because the company expects to get “the best gas rates,” Mukhtar said.

“Besides local sales, we are also looking to export from there to Pakistan, Brazil and the markets in Africa,” Mukhtar said yesterday. To set up the plant Fatima is considering countries including Nigeria, Algeria, Tanzania and Mozambique, where there is “enough gas, which means that they will offer us good rates and good terms,” he said.

Fatima rose 1.6 percent to 24.90 rupees at the close in Karachi yesterday. The stock has almost doubled in the past 12 months, compared with a 10 percent gain for the Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index.
Diversifying Risks

Companies in Pakistan including Lucky Cement Ltd., the nation’s biggest producer of the building material, are expanding overseas to cut dependence on their home market. Lucky will begin construction of a cement factory in Congo by June through a joint venture.

Expanding overseas will help companies including Fatima to diversify risks, according to Taha Khan Javed, manager research at Foundation Securities.

“Pakistan is facing a severe shortage of gas, so that takes away the feasibility to establish a plant here,” said Javed. “From Africa they can export anywhere in the world.”

The company will rely on a mix of its own cash, bank loans and investment from partners to fund the new plant, Mukhtar said. Fatima posted a net income of 4.12 billion rupees ($45 million) in the year ended Dec. 31, the first annual profit in four years after it started commercial operations in July.

The Danish Industrialisation Fund for Developing Countries and Haldor Topsoe AS, a Denmark-based maker of catalysts, have agreed to partner Fatima and will also help arrange funds, Mukhtar said, without specifying if they will collaborate on the African factory.
ADR Trading

“We are looking at projects internationally for setting up new plants and starting production in two to three years,” said Mukhtar. Depending on the “opportunity at hand,” Fatima may set up more than one plant overseas, he said.

Fatima Fertilizer’s ADR, each representing 50 local shares, may begin trading in the over-the-counter market in New York by June, Mukhtar said. Bank of America Corp. is the market maker, Bank of New York Mellon Corp. is the depositary, and Standard Chartered Plc is the custodian bank, he said.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Noam Chomsky titled "Somebody Else's Atrocity":

In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us”—whoever “us” is.

Almost any moment in history yields innumerable illustrations. Let’s keep to the past few weeks.

On May 10, the Summer Olympics were inaugurated at the Greek birthplace of the ancient games. A few days before, virtually unnoticed, the government of Vietnam addressed a letter to the International Olympic Committee expressing the “profound concerns of the Government and people of Viet Nam about the decision of IOC to accept the Dow Chemical Company as a global partner sponsoring the Olympic Movement.”

Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.

These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes—though, in light of Washington’s refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.

Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history’s worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.

Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to monitor activists seeking compensation for the victims and prosecution of those responsible.

Another major crime with very serious persisting effects is the Marine assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004.

Women and children were permitted to escape if they could. After several weeks of bombing, the attack opened with a carefully planned war crime: Invasion of the Fallujah General Hospital, where patients and staff were ordered to the floor, their hands tied. Soon the bonds were loosened; the compound was secure.

The official justification was that the hospital was reporting civilian casualties, and therefore was considered a propaganda weapon.

Much of the city was left in “smoking ruins,” the press reported while the Marines sought out insurgents in their “warrens.” The invaders barred entry to the Red Crescent relief organization. Absent an official inquiry, the scale of the crimes is unknown.

If the Fallujah events are reminiscent of the events that took place in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, now again in the news with the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, there’s a good reason. An honest comparison would be instructive, but there’s no fear of that: One is an atrocity, the other not, by definition.

As in Vietnam, independent investigators are reporting long-term effects of the Fallujah assault.

Medical researchers have found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia, even higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium levels in hair and soil samples are far beyond comparable cases.

One of the rare investigators from the invading countries is Dr. Kypros Nicolaides, director of the fetal-medicine research center at London’s King’s College Hospital. “I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities,” Nicolaides says.

The lingering effects of a vastly greater nonatrocity were reported last month by U.S. law professor James Anaya, the U.N. rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Indian Bhadrakumar on Russian ties with Pakistan as published in ATOL:

The building blocks of the historic visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in September have begun arriving in Islamabad. It is a poignant moment in the region's history and politics. This will be the first time a Russian president visits Pakistan since its birth in 1947.

Besides, in immediate terms, mutual understanding with Pakistan is becoming an imperative need for Russia in the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan, where the Western powers would have withdrawn the bulk of their troops but are nonetheless establishing an open-ended, sizeable military presence of tens of thousands of combat troops.

Russia and Pakistan are joined in their opposition to the long-term occupation of Afghanistan by the West; Russia hopes to influence Pakistani policies with regard to Afghanistan's future and, in turn, cooperation with Pakistan enhances the overall Russian resilience to play an effective role in the stabilization of Afghanistan and in providing security to Central Asia; and, equally, a strong relationship with Pakistan - in the field of energy security, in particular - can provide yet another underpinning for Russia's strategic ties with other key regional powers, especially China, India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Last but not the least, Pakistan is a valuable interlocutor for Russia with regard to the activities and movements of the militants operating in North Caucasus.
A stunning thing is that the proposals brought by the Russian experts in the past week to Islamabad essentially pick up the threads of Putin's 2006 proposal. According to the details available so far, Moscow has made the following proposals to Islamabad:
Russia can offer financial and technical assistance for Pakistan's multi-billion dollar gas and power import projects that are in the pipeline.
Specifically, Russia is interested in participating in the two big gas pipeline projects on the anvil, namely, the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and the IP [Iran-Pakistan].
Russia prefers that the cooperation is negotiated at the governmental level through direct negotiations rather than through bidding.
Russia is also keen on participation in the Central Asia and South Asia (CASA) project, which was originally floated in 2006, to bring to Pakistan via transmission lines across eastern Afghanistan 1,000-1,300 megawatts of surplus energy during the summer months from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. (The project has the backing of the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.)
Russia will be willing to cooperate in the exploration of oil, gas and minerals in Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, Islamabad has eagerly responded to the Russian proposals. The following understanding seems to have been reached at the talks, which concluded in Islamabad on Wednesday:
Pakistan welcomes the Russian proposals;
Specifically, Pakistan is agreeable to negotiate the contracts with the state-owned Russian energy companies on a government-to-government basis and will be willing to amend its public procurement rules accordingly;
Steps will be taken to conclude a memorandum of understanding to move ahead with the identified projects during Putin's visit;
As regards the IP, Pakistan has already floated the tenders for awarding contracts for the pipeline procurement and construction work for the US$1.5 billion project. Russia's Gazprom may also participate. Pakistan proposes to give weight to bids that have a financial package attached. (China and Iran have also shown interest in the project.)
Meanwhile, Pakistan will hand over to Russia by mid-July a draft agreement for financial and technical assistance from the latter for the IP project.
Russia has agreed to finance the rehabilitation of the Guddu and Muzaffargarh power plants. ...


Riaz Haq said...

Here's piece by James Fallows published in The Atlantic:

Like everyone, and I'd say especially like every parent, I am of course saddened and horrified by the latest mass shooting-murder. My sympathies to all.

And of course the additional sad, horrifying, and appalling point is the shared American knowledge that, beyond any doubt, this will happen again, and that it will happen in America many, many times before it occurs anywhere else.

Recently I visited the site of the "Port Arthur Massacre," in Tasmania, where in 1996 a disturbed young man shot and killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. The site is a kind of national shrine; afterwards, Australia tightened up its gun laws, and there has been nothing remotely comparable in all the years since. In contrast: not long after that shooting, during my incarnation as news-magazine editor, I dispatched reporters to cover then-shocking schoolyard mass shootings in West Paducah, Kentucky, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Those two episodes, coming back to back, were -- as always -- supposed to provoke a "national discussion" about guns and gun violence. As always, they didn't; a while later they were nudged from the national consciousness by Columbine; and since then we have had so many schoolyard- or public-place shootings that those two are barely mentioned.

The Brady Campaign's list of mass shootings in America just since 2005 is 62 pages long.

I agree with the Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta about the inevitable pattern of public reaction to these events. But I find my own thoughts most precisely matched by Adam Gopnik's on the New Yorker's site today. He says:

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one--really no one--anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life....

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country--Canada, Norway, Britain--has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do--as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.

There will be more of these; we absolutely know it; we also know that we will not change the circumstances that allow such episodes to recur. I am an optimist about most things, but not about this. Everyone around the world understands this reality too. It is the kind of thing that makes them consider America dangerous, and mad.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on how James Holmes, the Colorado mass shooter, acquired an arsenal to kill people en masses:

Unhindered by federal background checks or government oversight, the 24-year-old man accused of killing a dozen people inside a Colorado movie theater was able to build what the police called a 6,000-round arsenal legally and easily over the Internet, exploiting what critics call a virtual absence of any laws regulating ammunition sales.

With a few keystrokes, the suspect, James E. Holmes, ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun — an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites — in the four months before the shooting, according to the police. It was pretty much as easy as ordering a book from Amazon.

He also bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and a high-capacity “drum magazine” large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute — a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.

Mr. Holmes, a graduate student in neuroscience with a clean criminal record, was able to buy the ammunition without arousing the slightest notice from law enforcement, because the sellers are not required in most cases to report sales to law enforcement officials, even unusually large purchases. And neither Colorado nor federal law required him to submit to a background check or register his growing purchases, gun policy experts said.

A few states like Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento, have passed restrictions on ammunition sales, requiring permits for buyers or licenses for sellers, or insisting that dealers track their ammunition sales for law enforcement.

But in Colorado, and across much of the United States, the markets for ammunition — online and in storefronts — are largely unregulated, gun-control advocates say.

Law-enforcement officials have refused to say whether Mr. Holmes bought the ammunition from multiple sources or spaced out the purchases over several weeks to avoid drawing attention.

But as investigators combed through the contents of his apartment on Sunday — its explosive booby traps now defused — new details began to emerge of his activities in the weeks leading up to the rampage. They sketch a picture of man once captivated by the science of the human mind growing increasingly interested in weapons and how to use them.
Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said there was no need to track sales of ammunition or require ammunition dealers to follow the same strictures as gun dealerships. He said law-abiding sportsmen and target shooters often bought ammunition in bulk to save money, and may keep rounds on their shelves for years. He said they can easily blow through 400 or 500 rounds in one vigorous day at a shooting range.

“I call 6,000 rounds of ammunition running low,” he said.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Fareed Zakaria's CNN GPS blog on need for gun control:

The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally –but because it has more guns.

Look at the map below. It shows the average number of firearms per 100 people. Most of the world is shaded light green – those are the countries where there are between zero and 10 guns per 100 citizens. In dark brown, you have the countries with more than 70 guns per 100 people. The U.S. is the only country in that category. In fact, the last global Small Arms Survey showed there are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Yemen is second at 54. Serbia and Iraq are among the other countries in the top 10. (Pakistan has 12 civilian guns per 100 and ranks 57 while India has 4 per 100 and ranks 110).

We have 5 percent of the world's population and 50 percent of the guns.

But the sheer number of guns isn’t an isolated statistic. The data shows we compare badly on fatalities, too. The U.S has three gun homicides per 100,000 people. That’s four times as many as Switzerland, ten times as many as India, 20 times as many as Australia and England.

Whatever you think of gun rights and gun control, the numbers don’t flatter America.

I saw an interesting graph in The Atlantic magazine recently. A spectrum shows the number of gun-related deaths by state. Now if you add one more piece of data – gun control restrictions – you see that the states with at least one firearm law (such as an assault weapons ban or trigger locks) tend to be the states with fewer gun-related deaths.

Conclusion? Well, there are lots of factors involved, but there is at least a correlation between tighter laws and fewer gun-related deaths.

I've shown you data comparing countries, and comparing states. Now consider the U.S. over time. Americans tend to think the U.S. is getting more violent. In a recent Gallup survey, 68 percent said there’s more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago. Well, here’s what I found surprising: the U.S. is actually getting safer. In the decade since the year 2000, violent crime rates fell by 20 percent; aggravated assault by 22 percent; motor vehicle theft by 42 percent; murder – by all weapons – by 13 percent.

But guns are the exception. Gun homicide rates haven’t improved at all. They were at roughly the same levels in 2009 as they were in 2000. Meanwhile, serious but non-fatal gun injuries caused during assault have actually increased in the last decade by 20 percent, as guns laws have gotten looser and getting automatic weapons has become easier.

We are the world’s most heavily-armed civilian population. One out of every three Americans knows someone who has been shot.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own facts. Saying that this is all a matter of psychology is a recipe for doing nothing. We cannot change the tortured psychology of madmen like James Holmes. What we can do is change our gun laws.



Riaz Haq said...

Here's Joe Klein in Time magazine on frequent mass shootings in US:

I spoke this morning with James Alan Fox, who said mass killings were not unknown in the U.S. prior to 1966 — when Charles Whitman took to the Texas tower with an arsenal and began picking off civilians — but they were exceedingly infrequent. Ever since 1976, we’ve been averaging more than 20 per year. Now, that has to do with a lot of things. It has to do with industrial-strength violence on TV and the movies, and the obsessive use of violent video games by young men, and the increasing mobility and atomization of society — but, as the Aurora shooting demonstrates, the carnage is greater (and the experience more otherworldly kinetic) when assault weapons are involved.

Then George Will weighed in with this observation:

The killer in Aurora, Colo., was very intelligent and farsighted and meticulous. I defy you to write a gun-control law that would prevent someone like this with a long time horizon and a great planning capability from getting the arms he wants. I just think that this is a mistake.

Again, this has the appearance of accuracy — but it’s a sloppy, defensive argument. Will is undoubtedly correct that the killer was going to go on a rampage no matter the severity of gun-control laws. But what if he’d not been able to purchase a semiautomatic rifle with the capacity to fire 50 to 60 bullets per minute? How many would have been killed and wounded then? Far fewer, no doubt. And if an assault-weapon ban would save lives in situations like these, just what exactly is the argument against? That gun owners’ rights are being violated? Oh, please. No right is absolute. You don’t have the right to own a nuclear weapon. The question is where you draw the line.

Taken to its logical conclusion — that no law can prevent all these attacks — Will’s formulation collapses into silliness. It’s like arguing that there’s no sense in having police departments because they can’t prevent every crime. An assault-weapon ban would, at the very least, make it significantly harder to bring off the Aurora massacre. And if it prevented just one of the 20 mass killings a year, it would be worth it. If it prevented one mass killing a decade, it would be worth it. Actually, if it prevented one person from getting wounded in a rampage these past 30 years, it would have been more than worth it.

We are not talking about characters in Batman movies here. We are talking about the death and maiming of actual people. And our inability to have this conversation now — Kristol is absolutely right about the President’s lack of a spine on this one — says a lot about the paralytic dysfunction of our political system. This should be a no-brainer.



Riaz Haq said...

Yet another mass shooting in America--this time at Sikh temple where a white supremacist gunman killed Sikhs apparently mistaking them for Muslims.


The subtext to this and similar anti-Sikh violence appears to be the hysterical Islamophobic rhetoric that conflates all Muslims with terrorists and it amounts to outright fearmongering. It must stop to free us all from these kinds of incidents in America. Rather than distancing themselves from fellow Americans who happen to be Muslim, the Sikhs and other minorities as well as the white Christian majority must take a stand against such violence. I applaud Ethan for this timely and well-written piece in this regard.


Riaz Haq said...

No other country in the world matches India's 40,752+ murders (per UN ODC)...plus here means at least that many and could be a lot more. Because of endemic corruption murders are significantly under-reported by the police in India.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Businessweek report on fertilizer ban in FATA region of Pakistan:

Pakistan's effort to cut off the flow of fertilizer to militants using it to make bombs in this key tribal sanctuary along the Afghan border has outraged local farmers, who complain the policy has cut their crop yields in half.

The blowback in North Waziristan could prove costly as the army grapples with how to tackle enemies of the state holed up in the remote, mountainous area, a task that is likely to be more difficult if the government is unable to mobilize support from local tribesmen.

"It's true that fertilizer is being used to make bombs, but the farmers are not the ones doing it, so why does the ban apply to us?" said Mohammad Daraz, a farmer in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

Pakistan has struggled in recent years to avoid offending the population with heavy handed tactics as it battles domestic Taliban militants throughout the northwest.

The U.S. has faced this same difficulty in neighboring Afghanistan — not least in its efforts to keep fertilizer, most of which comes from Pakistan, out of the hands of militants whose bombs have killed hundreds of American soldiers.

Pakistan first imposed a ban on certain types of fertilizer in North Waziristan and other parts of the semiautonomous tribal region more than three years ago, officials and farmers said.

The government instituted the policy after determining that fertilizer had been used in most of the major bombings in Pakistan, especially those involving vehicles packed with explosives, said a senior government official who worked on the ban.

The ban was meant to apply only to urea and other fertilizers that contain ammonium nitrate because they can most easily be turned into explosives, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

But security forces have instead simply tried to prevent all fertilizer from getting into North Waziristan, said farmers and fertilizer dealers.

The problem has gotten worse for the thousands of farmers in North Waziristan with each passing year as authorities have increasingly attempted to cut down on fertilizer smuggled into the area, which has become the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country.
Pakistani authorities knew that limiting the flow of fertilizer to the tribal region would be hard on farmers but went ahead with the policy because the threat from bombings was so great, said the government official who worked on the ban.

Pakistan's neglect of the poor and underdeveloped tribal region over decades is one of the reasons the Taliban insurgency that flared up there has been so difficult to extinguish. The Pakistani military has conducted a series of offensives in all parts of the tribal region except for North Waziristan.

The army plans to step up operations against the Taliban and their allies in North Waziristan in the near future, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials.

If that happens, the army may not want to count on the support of local farmers.

"This fertilizer ban is destroying us," said Ilyas Khan, a farmer from Mir Ali. "All we can do is pray for the situation to improve so we can resume our normal business."


Riaz Haq said...

Even as the US deals with the tragic loss of 26 people, including 20 children, to gun violence in Connecticut, there is no discussion of gun control while the US Congress is telling Pakistan to implement fertilizer control.

Here's an ET report:

In a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs regarding IEDs and terrorist networks in Pakistan, JIEDDO Director Lieutenant General Micheal Barbero said that Pakistani producers of calcium ammonium nitrate – an agricultural fertiliser used to make explosives – have been “less than cooperative” in discussions with the US. He maintained that while they have made minor packaging and tracking changes, they still have to implement any effective product security. He said he believed these producers must also do more.

“Despite a ban on calcium ammonium nitrate by Kabul, the fertiliser has been used in more than 70% of roadside bombs used against coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Lt Gen Barbero told the subcommittee. According to him, the amount of IED materials seized in Afghanistan has increased from 30 tons in 2009 to 444 tons currently in 2012.

The JIEDDO Director told the hearing that Pakistan’s national counter-IED strategy had not been fully implemented either and legislation pertaining to the matter had yet to be passed by the Parliament.

“In July, the Government of Pakistan committed to a military-to-military counter-IED cooperation framework. To date, despite our input, this document remains in its original draft form with no progress.”

Lt Gen maintained that a strong US-Pakistan partnership was required to tackle IED networks on both sides of the border and that both countries need to move beyond discussing cooperation to actual cooperation.

Meanwhile, subcommittee chairman Senator Bob Casey who convened the meeting, said he received a letter from US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Wednesday which highlighted the casualty toll in Pakistan from IED attacks. Around 2,395 people had been killed in such attacks in the past year, he maintained citing figures compiled by the US embassy in Pakistan.

“Each of these deaths is a tragedy,” said Senator Casey, adding that the US honours the sacrifices Pakistanis have made in the struggle against violent extremists. He too, however, underscored the need to do more on Pakistan’s part.

“While I’m pleased that Pakistan has developed a very detailed and comprehensive set of plans to counter IEDs, let me be clear … it’s time to fully implement these plans,” he said.

“The current pace of activity by the Pakistani government is not acceptable… IED incidents have risen in Afghanistan. The flow of chemicals coming from across the border has not diminished,” the Senator added.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on $688 million in US reimbursements to Pakistan:

The Pentagon quietly notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, an effort to normalize support for the Pakistani military after nearly two years of crises and mutual retaliation.

The biggest proponent of putting foreign aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan on a steady footing is the man President Barack Obama is leaning toward naming as secretary of state: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has frequently served as an envoy to Pakistan, including after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was a co-author of a law that authorized five years and about $7.5 billion of nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan.

The United States also provides about $2 billion in annual security assistance, roughly half of which goes to reimburse Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism.

Until now, many of these reimbursements, called coalition support funds, have been held up, in part because of disputes with Pakistan over the Bin Laden raid, the operations of the C.I.A., and its decision to block supply lines into Afghanistan last year.

The $688 million payment — the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 — has caused barely a ripple of protest since it was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec. 7.

The absence of a reaction, American and Pakistani officials say, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an errant American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.
Despite the easing of tensions in recent months, there are still plenty of sore spots in the relationship.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, who heads the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, told a Senate hearing last week that Pakistan’s efforts to stem the flow of a common agricultural fertilizer, calcium ammonium nitrate, that Taliban insurgents use to make roadside bombs had fallen woefully short.

“Our Pakistani partners can and must do more,” General Barbero told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing.

American officials have also all but given up on Pakistan’s carrying out a clearing operation in North Waziristan, a major militant safe haven.

“Pakistan’s continued acceptance of sanctuaries for Afghan-focused insurgents and failure to interdict I.E.D. materials and components continue to undermine the security of Afghanistan and pose an enduring threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces,” a Pentagon report, mandated by Congress, concluded last week.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ piece on gun data in America:

There is no shortage of opinions about whether gun-control laws accomplish what they are designed to do—reduce violent crime. What is lacking are data.

As U.S. lawmakers prepare once again to take up the contested issue in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, they will find that all data on guns are surprisingly scarce.
Moreover, the federal government has been prohibited by law since 1986 from establishing a registration system for firearms or firearm owners. The CDC, citing survey costs, stopped asking Americans about gun ownership in its annual health surveys in 2004, just three years after it started asking the question in every state. (A Gallup poll last year found that 47% of U.S. households had at least one gun.)

Even if the CDC were still asking the question, some researchers doubt whether such data could be trusted.

"People who think the government is going to take their guns away aren't going to say whether they have guns," said Carl Moody, professor of economics at the College of William and Mary.

Researchers said proving a cause-effect relationship between gun laws and gun violence is difficult, if not impossible, for several other reasons.

Federal gun restrictions in recent decades have been minor in scope, for one thing, making before-and-after comparisons unreliable. Researchers pointed to the 1994 assault-weapons ban, which was riddled with exceptions and expired in 2004.

The effect of state gun laws is tough to gauge because weapons flow freely from state to state.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's USA Today on IED deaths in Afghanistan:

U.S. troop deaths and wounds from makeshift bombs in Afghanistan dropped by almost half in 2012 as Afghan forces take a larger share of fighting and Americans find and defuse more bombs than ever, according to Pentagon data.

Improvised explosive devices -- the top threat in Afghanistan -- killed 104 U.S. troops in 2012 compared with 196 in 2011, a 46% decline. Bombs wounded fewer, too, from 3,542 in 2011 to 1,744 in 2012, a 50% drop.

A flood of surveillance equipment, metal detectors and intensive training have helped spur the decline in casualties, said Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, who commands the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization.

"Finally, our war fighters and commanders in the field are the best counter-IED capability we have," Barbero said. "They get it and have a deep and thorough understanding of the enemy, the IED threat and how to attack it."

Overall, makeshift bomb attacks in Afghanistan in 2012 dropped by about 8% from their record high in 2011.

There were 15,222 incidents involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2012. An IED event is a bomb that explodes, one that is found and defused or the discovery of a cache of explosives.

Afghan troops, however, suffered a 124% increase in 2012 in the number of IED attacks against them, records show, a sign of their growing role on the battlefield. The complete 2012 statistics show the number of attacks against Afghans rose in the second half of 2012.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a CNN report on new fertilizer formula to thwart its use in bomb-making:

The United States and Pakistan will begin working together on a new fertilizer formula that could be a significant technological step to limit the ability of terror groups to make improvised explosives and car bombs using the ingredient.

An agreement to try to make a product more inert was reached last week after Pakistani officials from Fatima Group, a major fertilizer manufacturer, met with Pentagon officials.

"Such a long-term solution would be a true scientific breakthrough," Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the head of the Pentagon's Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said in a statement.

Barbero met with Fatima representatives to urge them again to take steps to control fertilizer inventories. The meeting itself was a step forward since the Pakistani government previously had stopped the U.S. military from talking directly to the company.

Fatima Group is the Pakistani-based producer of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN). It was developed as a non-explosive alternative to ammonium nitrate, long a key ingredient in homemade bombs used widely in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. But it can be converted into an explosive mixture.

Hundreds of American troops have been killed by improvised explosive devices containing the material.

Pakistan and the United States will now work on a "reformulated" CAN product in hopes of reducing its effectiveness in homemade bombs.

It is produced by two factories in Pakistan that are both owned and operated by Fatima. It also has now confirmed to the Pentagon in writing that it has suspended sales of CAN fertilizer products in the border provinces to 228 dealers in the area.

It is also working on plans for more readily visible bagging of CAN in hopes Pakistani border control agents will stop smuggling when they see it. Barbero is still pressing for color dying so it can more readily be identified.

Fatima may have its own economic reasons for trying to improve its practices.

A U.S. unit of the company, Midwest Fertilizer, has proposed building a plant in Indiana that promises 2,500 construction and 309 permanent jobs. Midwest issued $1 billion in bonds to finance the plant, but Indiana Gov. Mike Pence suspended state support after learning of Barbero's longstanding criticism of Fatima's failure to control its inventory.

Barbero's frustration with a lack of progress by Pakistan and Fatima was evident last year when he publicly detailed how insurgents have learned to process and convert CAN into explosive material that can be used with a fuel to create a bomb.

In a May, Barbero spoke to an international meeting of fertilizer companies and experts in Doha, Qatar.

U.S. officials tell CNN that the details Barbero disclosed are publicly available on the Internet, but it's still rare for an American military official to speak openly about the detailed chemistry of bomb making.

In December 2012, Barbero testified before Congress and was highly critical of both Fatima and the Pakistan government for failure to exert control over fertilizer and other components of bomb-making material.

He noted the use of another substance found in IEDs, potassium chlorate, has been on the rise in Afghanistan for the past year. Although the Afghan government bans its importation, it is legally imported into Pakistan for use in the textile and matchstick industries and often stolen by insurgents for used in bomb making...


Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of NY Times summary of “The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” by Mark Mazzetti:

More than two years later, the Raymond Davis episode has been largely forgotten in the United States. It was immediately overshadowed by the dramatic raid months later that killed Osama bin Laden — consigned to a footnote in the doleful narrative of America’s relationship with Pakistan. But dozens of interviews conducted over several months, with government officials and intelligence officers in Pakistan and in the United States, tell a different story: that the real unraveling of the relationship was set off by the flurry of bullets Davis unleashed on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2011, and exacerbated by a series of misguided decisions in the days and weeks that followed. In Pakistan, it is the Davis affair, more than the Bin Laden raid, that is still discussed in the country’s crowded bazaars and corridors of power.
Back in Washington, Ambassador Haqqani was summoned to C.I.A. headquarters on Feb. 21 and taken into Panetta’s spacious office overlooking the agency’s campus in Langley, Va. Sitting around a large conference table, Panetta asked Haqqani for his help securing Davis’s release. “If you’re going to send a Jason Bourne character to Pakistan, he should have the skills of a Jason Bourne to get away,” Haqqani shot back, according to one person who attended the meeting.
Munter said he believed that the C.I.A. was being reckless and that his position as ambassador was becoming untenable. His relationship with the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad, already strained because of their disagreements over the handling of the Davis case, deteriorated even further when Munter demanded that the C.I.A. give him the chance to call off specific missile strikes. During one screaming match between the two men, Munter tried to make sure the station chief knew who was in charge, only to be reminded of who really held the power in Pakistan.
On the streets and in the markets of Pakistan, Raymond Davis remains the boogeyman, an American killer lurking in the subconscious of a deeply insecure nation. On a steamy summer night last summer, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed — the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the reason Davis and his team were sent to Lahore in the first place — stood on the back of a flatbed truck and spoke to thousands of cheering supporters less than a mile from Pakistan’s Parliament building in Islamabad. A $10 million American bounty still hung over Saeed’s head, part of a broader squeeze on Lashkar-e-Taiba’s finances. But there he was, out in the open and whipping the crowd into a fury with a pledge to “rid Pakistan of American slavery.” The rally was the culmination of a march from Lahore to Islamabad that Saeed ordered to protest American involvement in the country. The night before the march reached the capital, six Pakistani troops were killed by gunmen riding motorcycles not far from where the marchers were spending the night, leading to speculation that Saeed had ordered the attack.

But Saeed insisted that night that he was not to blame for the deaths. The killers were foreigners, he told the crowd, a group of assassins with a secret agenda to destabilize Pakistan and steal its nuclear arsenal. With a dramatic flourish, he said he knew exactly who had killed the men.

“It was the Americans!” he shouted to loud approvals. “It was Blackwater!” The cheers grew even louder. He saved the biggest applause line ...


Riaz Haq said...

Racism is a continuing problem in America. But it gets much more lethal when you add proliferation of guns to the mix.

The outrage in Zimmerman (who killed a black teen Tavon Martin) case needs to be directed at both racism and the gun laws in America to stop this carnage...much of it black-on-black in America's cities.

There are 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones.

Riaz Haq said...

At least 100 children were unintentionally killed by gunfire in the year following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a new study from a leading gun control group shows.

The study, released Wednesday by Everytown for Gun Safety, is the latest sobering examination of the effects -- intended or otherwise -- that guns have in communities where children reside.

"It is preventable," said John Feinblatt, the group's president. "Too often we just say it is an accident or inevitable. But what this data shows is it's preventable."

The report, titled, “Innocents Lost: A Year of Unintentional Child Gun Deaths,” is a detailed examination of the frequency, causes and victims of accidental shootings of children. Everytown said 73 percent of the deaths it counted involved a shooter who was a minor, which it defined as age 14 or younger.

In 57 percent of cases, the victim was shot by someone else. In 35 percent of cases, the victim accidentally shot himself or herself. The youngest victims were most likely to shoot themselves. The eldest were most likely to be shot by peers.

Unintentional shootings of children occurred most often in places familiar to those who were killed. Eighty-four percent of victims were killed in their home, the home of a friend, or the family car, according to the study. In 76 percent of the cases, the gun belonged to a parent or other family member.

The killings occurred more often in small towns and rural areas than in cities. They occurred in 35 states.

The findings from Everytown came from an extensive review of news stories and subscription services in the 12 months following the December 2012 shooting in at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which resulted in the deaths of 20 students and six school employees. Researchers with the group followed up with law enforcement officials in cases where there was any ambiguity. If it remained unclear whether the shooting was accidental, the researchers did not count it. That means they "likely undercounted" the final result, a representative told The Huffington Post.

Everytown, the group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been criticized for its methodology in counting school shootings in a separate database it has maintained since Newtown. Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the group, stood by its research, insisting that criteria used to calculate unintentional child shootings was "very fair," and arguing that prior criticism was driven by pro-gun rights forces.

"We are meticulous about our information and research," Lamb said, noting that the new study includes detailed notes listing each of the 100 shootings it counted. "We are working against the gun lobby, which has, for decades, tried to suppress this information."

The number recorded by Everytown is higher than some other sources suggest. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has projected that an average of 62 children ages 14 and under are accidentally shot to death each year.

As a percentage of total victims of gun violence, children who are unintentionally killed is quite small. But the 100 shootings over the course of the year averages out to almost two per week.

Part of the problem, Everytown argues, is poor education about the dangers of firearms and how to safely store them. The group advocates "well-tailored child safety" laws, including those "imposing criminal liability" for irresponsible gun storage. The report cites Florida's “Child Access Prevention” law as one to emulate.


Riaz Haq said...

10 dead, 52 injured after violent holiday weekend in #Chicago #IndependenceDay #Chiraq #guncontrol http://go.wgntv.com/1LS97fv via @WGNNews

Despite stepped up police presence across Chicago, it was another violent and deadly weekend across the city.

Ten people were killed and 52 others were injured in shootings since Thursday afternoon.

The number of shootings was down from the Fourth of July weekend last year, but more people were killed.

Police superintendent Garry McCarthy called for an end to the violence, after a 7-year-old boy was among those fatalities.

Amari Brown was shot after someone opened fire just before midnight Saturday in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. He was pronounced dead early Sunday at Stroger Hospital. Relatives say the boy had been celebrating with family when he was shot.

The boy’s father, who would not speak with WGN, is a documented gang member who police said was the intended target.

Riaz Haq said...

American deaths in terrorism vs. gun violence in one graph

During his presidency, President Barack Obama has had to deliver statements on gun violence 15 times.

After a gunman opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, killing nine people and injuring seven, a visibly upset Obama said the shootings were becoming all too routine.

The gunman also died, although it's unclear whether he was shot by police or committed suicide.

"The reporting is routine," Obama said. "My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this."

He then asked news organizations to tally up the number of Americans killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and compare it with the number of Americans who have died in gun violence.

Oregon governor: Now is not the time to talk about gun control

Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2004 to 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2004 to 2013 was 277.

In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S.* and found that between 2004 and 2013, there were 36 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism. This brings the total to 313.

For the period of 2001 to 2013, which includes the 9/11 terror attacks, the total of American deaths by terrorism is 3,380.


Riaz Haq said...

Zalmay Khalilzad: "#US fell far short of its aspirations in #Afghanistan, #Iraq—a reality that weighs deeply on me" http://on.wsj.com/1M1SEr7

In his postings to Kabul and Baghdad, Mr. Khalilzad served on the diplomatic front lines of U.S. efforts to replace terror-spawning Islamic tyrannies with benign, democratic governments. In both countries, he wrestled hands-on with some of the toughest foreign-policy questions of our time. What follows regime change? How can a functional and free polity be built out of the ruins of an overthrown tyranny? What part should America play?

These are the main themes of Mr. Khalilzad’s memoir, “The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World.” In practice, Mr. Khalilzad was more than an envoy. He was a kind of backroom power broker who was trying to help engender the new governments to which he was the ambassador. It was a complex business, and out of it Mr. Khalilzad provides a richly argued case for such lessons as: “Do not assume that local politics will take care of themselves in the aftermath of regime change.”

In both Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr. Khalilzad midwifed constitutions—each controversial for enshrining Islam as the state religion but each leaving room, he hoped, for liberally enlightened interpretation. In both countries, he made countless rounds as a local go-between, trying to reconcile leaders of contending factions. He describes how he cajoled, bargained, strong-armed and, at one point—while dickering with an Afghan official over the role of the Kabul defense ministry—“tried a Socratic dialogue of sorts.”

For anyone desiring a detailed chronicle of America’s nation-building efforts after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr. Khalilzad’s book should be required reading—though without such a yearning it may be difficult for the general reader to get through it. Mr. Khalilzad brings to the table a wealth of anecdotes, opinions and prescriptions, but he embeds many of them in the mannerisms of a bureaucratic memo, arriving at such pithy but unreadable summaries as: “To succeed, the United States must retain its capacities as a reactive mobilizer but also develop a greater ability to serve as a proactive shaper of regional political order.”

Jargon aside, there are plenty of instructive stories here. In Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad felt that he had helped assemble the foundations of decent rule and tried to follow Mr. Bush’s instructions to turn the country’s first elected president, Hamid Karzai, “into a great politician.” But he found Pakistan to be a huge spoiler, harboring Taliban insurgents (and, as it later turned out, al Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden). He writes: “I wanted additional pressure on Pakistan—but was unsuccessful in convincing the president and the principals.”

In Iraq, there was also a spoiler: Iran. With money and bombs, Tehran’s Shia Muslim regime was fueling frictions between Iraq’s Shia majority and its Sunni minority, pushing the country into civil war. Mr. Khalilzad reports that the Quds Force, the elite overseas arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, “had an enormous number of Iraqis on its payroll, sometimes at low levels and other times at much higher levels.”

He writes that in his efforts to thwart Iran’s pernicious reach, “I sometimes told Shia Islamist leaders, who were close to Iran, that I believed Tehran wanted to turn Iraq into a smoldering ruin that the Iranians could then control with ease.” Some Shia leaders quietly agreed, including, on at least one occasion, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told Mr. Khalilzad that he believed Iran had been behind the 2006 terrorist bombing of a major Shia shrine in Iraq, the Golden Mosque.

Mr. Khalilzad concludes on the grim note that “the United States fell far short of its aspirations in Afghanistan and Iraq—a reality that weighs deeply on me.” He assigns some blame to his own missteps and more to what he saw as the broader mistakes of the Bush administration, especially the failure to devise an effective strategy for “the Iran problem.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Mexico's 2016 murder tally exceeds those of #Afghanistan, #Iraq - Business Insider


With nearly 23,000 intentional homicides in 2016, Mexico's murder tally was second only to war-torn Syria's 60,000, said Antonio Sampaio, one of the authors of the International Institute for Strategic Studies' "Armed Conflict Survey 2017.

Riaz Haq said...

#US Gold Star Families Accuse Major Banks of Aiding #Terrorists. Standard Chartered Bank is accused for doing business with #Pakistan's Fatima #Fertilizer & Pakarab Fertilizers whose products were in IEDs used to kill #Americans in #Afghanistan https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/05/business/banks-terrorism-gold-star-families.html?smid=tw-share

Anne Smedinghoff, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was escorting Afghan journalists on an outing when a roadside bomb killed her in 2013. The bomb’s design relied on fertilizer made in Pakistan, at two factories that regularly supplied a nearby Taliban bomb-making operation — a fact that U.S. authorities had publicized.

The factories, Fatima Fertilizer and Pakarab Fertilizers, were not fly-by-night organizations. Both did business in U.S. dollars through accounts at the London-based bank Standard Chartered.

Now Ms. Smedinghoff’s family and a group of nearly 500 others — including soldiers and civilians who were severely wounded in Afghanistan and their families, along with the families of victims who were killed — are accusing some of the world’s largest banks of helping terrorists carry out their attacks. Among the defendants are Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and Danske Bank.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn, include 115 Gold Star families — relatives of American military service members killed in the war — as well as relatives of noncombatants like Ms. Smedinghoff, who was killed while taking the journalists to watch U.S. officials donate books to a school. They are seeking billions of dollars in damages, arguing that the banks provided accounts, transfers and other routine services to companies and individuals who they knew were helping terrorist networks responsible for hundreds of deadly attacks.

The lawsuit will be a powerful test of the reach of a 2016 antiterrorism law, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. It allows terrorism victims and their families to seek relief from people, entities and countries that have provided “material support, directly or indirectly, to foreign organizations or persons that engage in terrorist activities against the United States.”

Victims and their families have sued banks under the law before, with mixed results. The suit filed on Thursday is notable because it takes a broad approach: Some of the relationships it cites are ones that banks had with people and companies that dealt with the attackers, rather than services provided directly to known terrorists.

This single degree of remove could allow the banks to argue that their activities were not directly related to the bombings that the lawsuit describes because their customers were legitimate businesses, even if those customers had dealings with criminals. If successful, the suit could open the door to a flood of similar cases.

A representative of Danske Bank had no immediate comment. Representatives of Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered declined to comment.

The 2016 law was passed to give terrorism victims more leeway to sue governments and other entities that they believe have aided terrorism. Before it passed, such suits could go forward only against entities that the U.S. government had designated as state sponsors of terror. The law was written to help families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks pursue legal claims against Saudi Arabia for its role in aiding their architect, Osama bin Laden.

Riaz Haq said...

#Mexico Sues #US Gun Companies, Accusing Them of Fueling Violence. #Mexican government accuses #American gun makers & suppliers of knowingly flooding the market with firearms attractive to #drug cartels. 70% of guns in Mexico come from the United States.

For years, Mexican officials have complained that lax U.S. gun control was responsible for devastating bloodshed in Mexico. On Wednesday, they moved their campaign into American courts, filing a lawsuit against 10 gun companies.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, was the first time that a national government has sued gun makers in the United States, officials said. The suit accuses the companies of actively facilitating the flow of weapons to powerful drug cartels, and fueling a traffic in which 70 percent of guns traced in Mexico are found to have come from the United States.

“For decades, the government and its citizens have been victimized by a deadly flood of military-style and other particularly lethal guns that flows from the U.S. across the border,” the lawsuit reads. The flood of weaponry is “the foreseeable result of the defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices.”

The government cited as an example three guns made by Colt that appear to directly target a Mexican audience, with Spanish nicknames and themes that resonate in Mexico. One of them, a special edition .38 pistol, is engraved with the face of the Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata and a quote that has been attributed to him: “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.”

That was the pistol used by a gunman in 2017 to kill the Mexican investigative journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea, the government said. A member of a group linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel was convicted of her murder last year.

Legal experts questioned the lawsuit’s ultimate chances, given that U.S. federal law guarantees gun manufacturers a strong shield against being sued by victims of gun violence and their relatives. But some said the lawsuit could lend political support to the strengthening of gun regulations in the United States, which are among the loosest in the hemisphere.

“It’s a bit of a long shot,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “It may just be a way to get the attention of the federal government and Biden and the White House so they can sit down and make a deal.”

Mexico has strict laws regulating the sale and private use of guns, and the nation’s drug trafficking groups often arm themselves with American weapons. The Justice Department found that 70 percent of the firearms submitted for tracing in Mexico between 2014 and 2018 originated in the United States.

“These weapons are intimately linked to the violence that Mexico is living through today,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference on Wednesday.