Check out this letter in The Star 6 July 2011:
Afghanistan facing a challenging journey
I WAS dismayed to read “Waging war on a timetable” (The Star, June 26). Before being assigned to Kuala Lumpur I worked for a year in Afghanistan, and based on that experience found this article to be long on cliches and short on substance.
For starters, while Afghanistan remains a difficult and challenging place, the writer seems to have totally overlooked the progress that has been made there in the past 10 years.
As US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton noted in her June 23 testimony before the U.S. Senate, “Under the Taliban, only 900,000 boys and no girls were enrolled in schools. By 2010, 7.1 million students were enrolled, nearly 40% of them girls.
“Hundreds of thousands of farmers have been trained and equipped with new seeds and other techniques. Afghan women have used more than 100,000 micro finance loans. Infant mortality is down 22%”.
That is a remarkable turnaround for a country that had suffered through almost 30 years of war.
Of greater concern is the misleading discussion on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The article only discusses civilian casualties related to actions by ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force.
But as the United Nations annual summary of the state of civilian casualties in Afghanistan (published on March 9) makes clear, Taliban insurgents are responsible for more than three-fourths, or 2,080, of the 2,777 civilian deaths reported.
That number represents a 28% increase over the data reported in the previous year.
The article not only glosses over Taliban atrocities, it misses the crucial distinction between the casualties caused by the Taliban and other insurgents and those caused by ISAF.
The Taliban deliberately target civilians, burn schools, and use children to carry out suicide attacks, whereas ISAF takes great care to avoid actions which could imperil civilians.
Because of the nature of war, mistakes do unfortunately happen and there have been civilians caught in the crossfire of ISAF engagements with insurgents.
But the number of civilian casualties caused by ISAF has dropped for the third straight year, while the number of casualties caused by insurgents has gone up steadily every year going back to 2006.
Afghanistan faces a challenging transition to full government control over its security and economic development in the years ahead, and continued support from the international community will be vital.
Equally important to marshalling that support will be clear, fact-based analyses of the state of affairs in that country, for which many people rely on respected media sources such as The Star.
Counselor for Public Affairs,
Now compare the bolded sections with some excerpts of my letter responding to Mukhriz Mahathir:
Mukhriz mentions “1,200,000 innocent men, women and children” killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq by American troops, but not once does he mention that of these innocent civilians killed, the vast and overwhelming majority were the victims of terrorists, not troops under former US president George W. Bush’s orders.
Does Mukhriz not acknowledge that the vast majority of those that the American troops targeted and killed were not civilians, but illegal combatants who were trying to kill soldiers and civilians?
Or that these terrorists were bombing their own Iraqi brothers and sisters in marketplaces and mosques in order to bully them into acquiesence?
Or that the “illegal American occupiers” often went out of their way and put themselves at additional risk in order to avoid civilian casualties?
Does he not acknowledge that the same Opinion Research Business survey he quotes from also states that 21 per cent died of car bombs, four per cent of sectarian violence and one per cent of kidnappings?
That is more than a quarter of all deaths clearly not due to the direct acts of American soldiers. And this does not include the 40 per cent of casualties from shootings that the terrorist thugs were responsible for.
He boldly claims, too, that going to war — including on a false pretext — cannot create peace. Does he refuse to admit that Iraqis today have more peace and freedom than any time in the past 30 years of despotism and deprivation?
Does he refuse to admit that the violent death rate has undeniably dropped to peacetime levels, with 85 per cent of Iraqis polled by the British Broadcasting Corporation last month describing the current situation as being “very good” or “quite good”?
There’s a list of my Iraq-related posts, including various published letters, at bottom of here.