Dying war veteran blames Bush for woes


Tomas Young

Tomas Young

This is a poignant story of a brave and eloquent Iraq war veteran whose health condition has deteriorated so much that continued living is no longer an option. He has finally decided to put an end to his suffering.

Exuding with patriotism, Tomas Young was only 22 years old when he joined the US Army after hearing the call of former President George W. Bush, who stood on the rubble of Ground Zero just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and pledged to go after those responsible.

Since it was known, without doubt, that Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorist group were behind the attacks, with Afghanistan identified as their base of operation, Young thought this is where he wanted to go and join the forces that would hunt them down.

But instead of being deployed to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda and its allies, he ended up in Iraq in 2004 following Saddam Hussein’s capture by coalition forces.

On the fifth day into his deployment, Young’s unit came under fire from insurgents in Baghdad. He was hit and his spine was severed. This was the start of the young soldier’s woes.

After his return to the US he campaigned from his wheelchair against the war in Iraq and in 2007 was the subject of a documentary, Body of War.

But Young was not getting any better despite the best medical attention due a war veteran.

In 2008 Young suffered a pulmonary embolism and an anoxic brain injury due to a reduced oxygen supply that impaired his speech and arm movement. A colostomy operation last year provided only temporary relief.

Young’s wife, Claudia Cuellar Tomas, said that last year his pain and discomfort increased dramatically and he grew weary of repeated hospital visits to treat infections and other ailments.

“He didn’t want to do any more procedures or surgeries. It’s not that he wants to die – he simply doesn’t want to suffer any more,” Claudia added.

Unable now to eat solid food, he is fed through a tube in his stomach. The skin on his hips is breaking down, exposing raw flesh and bone.

As agreed by the couple, however, Young will continue to take food and liquids until their first wedding anniversary on 20 April. After that they will stop talking publicly about his case and spend time together until they feel the time is right for him to end his life, which most likely is by starving himself to death since there is no suicide-assisted death permitted in Missouri.

But, what I wanted most of all to bring out of this blog is the moving letter that Young wrote to Bush and Cheney, the former US president and vice president, respectively, who were the  leaders behind the Iraqi invasion.

Please open this link: http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/the_last_letter_20130318



A savage, chauvinistic culture

On the heels of an encouraging news that Washington has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally (the likes of Israel and Japan), an upgraded status that will enable the country to  acquire US defense supplies and have greater access to US training as the Afghan army takes more responsibility for the country’s security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of most NATO combat troops, now comes a discouraging, nay an atrocious and disgusting video showing the public execution of a 22-year-old woman accused of adultery in Afghanistan.

The woman, named as Najiba, from the village Qol, was married to a member of a hardline Taliban militant group and was accused of adultery with a Taliban commander.

“Within one hour they decided that she was guilty and sentenced her to death,” said a Parwan provincial spokesperson.

The video opens with the woman, wrapped in a grey shawl, sitting at the edge of a ditch surrounded by dozens of men from the village, some perched on rooftops for a better view.

As she sits with her back to the crowd, a bearded man is seen reading verses from the Holy Quran condemning adultery, before saying: “We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her. Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her.”

The video then shows a man in white being handed an AK47 rifle.

He approaches to within a couple of meters of the woman, says ‘Allahu akhbar’ (God is great), aims and fires twice, missing each time. The third shot hits her in the back, she flings her arms wide and collapses.

He then fires another six shots into her body as the crowd cheers wildly, shouting “Long live Islam”, “Long live mujahideen (holy warriors)”. The shooter then fires four more shots into her body.

There is no doubt that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are still remnants of the Taliban regime, as this kind of executions were common then, but since they have been driven out this rarely happens now.

The Afghanistan Human Rights Commission expressed outrage, with executive director Mohammad Musa Mahmodi saying: “We condemn any killings done without proper trial. It is un-Islamic and against any human rights values.”

While international donors have pledged recently $16 billion in badly needed development aid for Afghanistan over the next four years when most foreign troops will leave, Afghan President Hamid Karzai should also be urged to pledge to the world community that his country’s once savage, chauvinistic culture should never take foothold again and that human life, as well as human rights, has to be given utmost respect under the rule of universal law.

Staggering number of drug users worldwide


Drug users

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released its annual World Drug Report a depressing statistics, saying, that some 27 million people worldwide are problem drug users with almost one percent every year dying from narcotics abuse.

The same report also says that some 230 million people or 5 percent of the world’s population used illegal drugs at least once in 2010.

“Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV,” director Yury Fedotov said as he presented the 2012 World Drug Report.

Ironically, the poorest nation in the world, Afghanistan, continues to be the biggest opium producer cornering 90 per cent of the global share. Its production rose by 61 percent in 2011, which translate to 5,800 tons compared to 3,600 tons in 2010.

In Southeast Asia, cultivating opium is increasingly popular, with Burma being identified as the second largest producer behind Afghanistan.

But, according to the report, only a small share of this made it to Europe and North America, where opiate use was stable or dropping. Instead, 70 percent of users were in Africa and Asia.

Cocaine use too was stagnating or falling in Europe and North America, but this was offset by growing use in South America and Australia, as well as parts of Africa and Asia.

Cannabis remained the most widely used drug with up to 224 million users worldwide, although production figures were hard to obtain.

Synthetic drugs — including methamphetamine and “ecstasy” pills — were meanwhile on the increase, with a recent hike in seizures pointing to the drugs’ continued popularity, the UNODC said.

Gary Lewis from the UNODC’s regional representative for East Asia says the Greater Mekong region – China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – has also seen increasing users of synthetic drugs.

As growth in use shifts increasingly from developed to developing countries, UNODC director Yuri Fedotov appealed for more help to newly-affected nations, ill-equipped to fight this problem.

Time to pull out from the Afghan war

If polls/surveys were to be followed, America should seriously start removing its troops from the Afghan war theater sooner than later as its effort in transforming the country’s outlook in the ways of what a democratic nation should be is faltering, at best, and, at worst, is making the U.S. a sucker of Karzai’s corrupt government.

It looks like support for the Afghan War is hitting an all time low as many Americans would like to get troops home sooner, according to a CBS News/New York Times survey.

The U.S. is scheduled to withdraw all its troops and hand over control to Afghan forces in 2014, but the survey showed that 47 percent of Americans would like to see the timetable for withdrawal moved up. Thirty-three percent think the schedule for withdrawal should remain as is, and 17 percent think the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes.

The poll also shows that Americans think the war is not going well for the U.S. – 68 percent think it’s going badly, with 35 percent saying “very badly.” In addition, 59 percent think the war was not a success, versus 27 percent who think it has been.

The result of the survey comes in the heels of a series of fresh controversial issues starting with American soldiers caught urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters, followed by the alleged desecration of the Koran when soldiers inadvertently burned copies of it, and the latest of which happened on March 11 when American Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been accused of leaving his base in Southern Afghanistan to kill Afghan civilians, including children.

Perhaps in exasperation, most Americans (55 percent) say they do not have a clear idea of what the U.S. is fighting for in Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden is dead. This is a remarkable 12 percent rise from last fall.

Even among the 29 percent who did know, the responses were varied as to why the U.S. was there. “Fighting terrorism” was the generic answer given by 15 percent overall. Seven percent said to stabilize the country and 5 percent said to prevent the Taliban from taking control.

The question now is: Will this survey influence an early pull out of troops from the Afghan war zone?

Not very likely.

The more appropriate question would be: How many more American lives are to be sacrificed before rebuilding a seemingly ungrateful nation that has been highly dependent on US military presence and receiving enormous economic assistance when it is embracing back the Taliban?

Afghan forced marriage turned beastly


Teenage bride Sahar Gul when rescued

Whose heart in a civilized world wouldn’t feel hatred against this beastly Afghan family who locked-up and tortured for months a 15-year old girl, who, by tradition, has become a daughter-in-law after a forced marriage was consummated, simply because the parents-in-law did not only want her to be their son’s wife, but also have her work as a prostitute?

This is the sad, if not abhorring story, of Sahar Gul, who was in critical condition when she was rescued from a house in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan. Police say Gul’s in-laws pulled out her nails and hair, and locked her in a dark basement bathroom for about five months, with barely enough food and water to survive.

Her husband’s family also burned the teenager with cigarettes and cut out chunks of her flesh with pliers.

Thus, Gul’s bruised and bloodied face has become a women’s rights poster in Afghanistan and her story has shocked and prompted calls for more efforts to end underage marriage.

The legal marriage age in Afghanistan is 16, but the United Nations agency UN Women estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15.

Despite progress in women’s rights and freedom since the fall of the Taliban 10 years ago, women throughout the Afghanistan are still at risk of abduction, rape, forced marriage and being traded as commodity.

However, it can be hard for women to escape violent situations at home, because running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered ‘moral crimes,’ for which women are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Gul is now being treated in a government hospital in Kabul, but she may have to be sent to India where she will continue her recovery from mental and physical trauma.

Meanwhile, authorities have in custody Gul’s in-laws, to include a sister-in-law, and are searching for her husband who is said to be serving in the Afghan army, but has escaped.


Jubilation over bin Laden’s death

There is no doubt there is euphoria being felt in some parts of the world, more especially in the USA, over the death of Osama bin Laden.

We have seen on TV how celebration erupted in the streets outside the White House and in New York City with accompanying chants of USA! USA! and waving American flags and honking horns.

The question, however, is: Will this jubilation, this utter disregard of someone’s dead, signals the end of all terrorist acts or will it simply incite the Muslim jihadist movement sympathetic to bin Laden to plan another attack?

Am not saying that the ten years of waiting before justice could finally be exacted on one man – the mastermind of the most horrific attack humankind has ever known, which is more remembered now as the events of 9/11- do not deserve a joyful feeling.

Surely, it does. But, over reacting with joy smacks of arrogance and does not do good to America’s image and intentions.

More than joy it is the feeling of fulfillment and contentment in ones heart that matters most for, at long last, the aggrieved nation has not let the 9/11 victims and their grieving relatives down. There is no need for it to be enthusiastically celebrated.

Justice has come to the souls of the many Americans who died that fateful day and to that end peace has to be worked on to prevail.

In trying to attempt to eliminate Osama bin Laden from the face of the Earth, many Americans and members of the coalition forces met violent deaths in Afghanistan. Many more have come home maimed.

Jubilation will simply fan the embers of Muslim hatred against the Americans.

A collective, yet composed display of emotion is what is needed by America in its resolve to establish peace with the Muslim world.

Civility is what symbolizes a cultured nation.

What to expect from Obama’s new top security team – Part I

CIA Director Leon Panetta and Gen. David Petraeus

US President Barack Obama’s choice of CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates and naming Iraq and Afghanistan war commander Gen. David Petraeus to head the CIA are simply strokes of brilliance.

Before the US military starts getting sucked in deeper into the vortex of another war, the need to rein in its involvement while finding eventually resolutions to the sensitive conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, vigilantly deflecting terrorist threat at the home front, and preserving the peace and stability in the world at a reduced cost has never been of paramount importance to the Obama administration’s national security team as it is today.

The selection of Panetta and Petraeus, both distinguished strategists and leaders in their own fields, could not have come at a very opportune time when unrest seems to be consuming some nations on earth.

“These are the leaders that I’ve chosen to help guide us through the difficult days ahead,” President Obama said of Panetta and Petraeus.

“I will look to them and my entire national security time for their counsel, continuity and unity of effort that this moment in history demands.”

Panetta has been credited for the important success in stabilizing the CIA workforce and for his role in identifying and disrupting terrorist plots against the United States.

Panetta’s experience as a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget will be helpful as the military faces efforts to cut defense spending.

Petraeus has become the most admired American general of recent times. He oversaw the success of America’s military surge in Iraq and prevented the country from falling into a sectarian bloodbath. He is trying to replicate the same success in Afghanistan and is making head ways.

Given the highly commendable profile of these gentlemen, what the world should expect is for the top security team to be more competently reliable in their intelligence gathering and coordinating efforts so that untoward incidents are prevented and surprises, eliminated.

Creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen is always better than responding to it after it has happened.