Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Deconstruction Of The "Newsweek" Riots (Part 2)

(Link to Part 1 if you missed it)

On May 23rd, President Bush and Afghan President Karzai held a joint press conference in the East Room of The White House (transcript) which touched on the "cause" of the recent riots:

President Karzai: "Ma'am, yes, we discussed those questions on the -- on the demonstrations, or the so-called demonstrations in part of the -- parts of Afghanistan. You saw that government buildings were burned and private property was damaged, broken. Those demonstrations were, in reality, not related to the Newsweek story. They were more against the elections in Afghanistan; they were more against the progress in Afghanistan; they were more against the strategic partnership with the United States."

An hour or so later, an interesting exchange took place during Scott McClellan's White House Press Briefing (transcript):

Q: "One other question. Karzai was quite definite in saying that he didn't believe that the violence in Afghanistan was directly tied to the Newsweek article about Koran desecration. Yet, from this podium, you have made that link. So --"

MR. McCLELLAN: "Actually, I don't think you're actually characterizing what was said accurately."

Q: "By whom?"

MR. McCLELLAN: "As I said last week, and as President Karzai said today, and as General Myers had said previously, the protest may well have been pre-staged. The discredited report was damaging. It was used to incite violence. But those who espouse an ideology of hatred and oppression and murder don't need an excuse to incite violence. But the reports from the region showed how this story was used to incite violence."

Q "But Karzai seemed to think that that wasn't what led to the violence, that it was --"

MR. McCLELLAN: "That's right, he actually -- he talked about -- President Karzai spoke about how the demonstrations were aimed at undercutting the progress being made toward democracy in Afghanistan, and the progress on elections. They have elections coming up soon. And I spoke about that, as well, last week."

Q: "So could it be said that the Newsweek article played a role, but was not --"

MR. McCLELLAN: "John, I think we've made our views known when it comes to the discredited report. There are some that want to continue to defend what is a discredited report that has been disavowed by Newsweek, and that's their business. We're perfectly willing to trust the American people to make their own judgment about it."

Q: "Who's doing that, exactly?"

MR. McCLELLAN: "I'm sorry?"

Q: "Who wants to defend it?"

MR. McCLELLAN: "Well, you can see in the media coverage, there are some that want to continue to do that."

But, if you read Part 1, you'll know that there's more to this story than just the fact that Scotty got caught in yet another lie.

On May 14th, The Pak Tribune published an article entitled "What Is Fueling The Anti-U.S. Demonstrations?" which contained more background information that has been unreported by the American Press:

"However the fact that the protests of the demonstrators went from the alleged case of disrespect for the Koran to the issue of the United States establishing military bases in Afghanistan, searches of private home by U.S. troops, and Karzai government's alliance with Washington, may be an indication of the existence of other agendas behind the rallies."

"Moreover, the demonstrators in Jalalabad were targeting specific buildings to attack. It was not a wanton act of violence. As such, targeting Pakistani diplomatic establishments in the city may not be without significance. Despite Islamabad's claim that its consulate was not targeted on purpose, questions are raised as to why this particular foreign diplomatic mission was singled out."

"The issue of U.S. bases in Afghanistan has been on the front page of most Afghan publications for some time. Particularly since Karzai formally proposed a "strategic partnership" on 8 May before an assembly of some 1,000 well-known Afghans. The most common reaction to the military-base issue is that final the decision should be left to the Afghan parliament, which is scheduled to be elected in September. Many Afghan politicians, especially those who have lost power recently, have equated the presence of the U.S. military in the country with a continuation of Karzai's administration. While not openly critical of the U.S. and the rest of the foreign military presence in the country, these politicians have expressed uneasiness about the issue. The demonstrations loudly echoed those hushed sentiments."

"The issue of searching homes is more isolated and localized to Nangarhar. In late April, a demonstration by representatives of the Khogiani, Sherzad, Hesarak, and Pachir wa Agam districts was held in Jalalabad protesting such searches. Nangarhar Governor Haji Din Mohammad, after meeting with representatives of the demonstrators, promised to solve the problem (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 May 2005). As such, the inclusion of this issue in the demands of demonstrators coming from Nangarhar is not surprising, but the fact that this issue made its way to the Kabul University campus illustrates a more organized planning for what ought to have been spontaneous rallies if they were triggered only by the "Newsweek" story and not fueled by other factors."

"The attack on the Pakistani Consulate also is worth pondering. Why would students ostensibly angered by an alleged act by U.S. interrogators burn the diplomatic mission of a country that has officially contacted Washington on the issue and its parliament has condemned the alleged act with the Koran? If the allegation about abuse of the Koran was central to the demonstrations, Pakistan's consulate should have received praise, not firebombs."

An interesting comment was left at the Pak Tribune Website by Bahlol Lohdi who claimed to be writing from Afghanistan (though there's no way to confirm this...nor the veracity of his comment):

"Hazrat Ali, an infamous Warlord and chief of police in Jelalabad, and Haji Din Mohammed, a noted Druglord and governor of Nangahar province, ordered their men to fire into a hitherto peaceful demonstration. It was only then that the demonstrators turned to violence and attacked public buildings, starting with the governor’s and chief of police’s offices."

Also on Monday, President Karzai gave an interview to Melissa Block of NPR's All Things Considered (audio link. Ms. Block asked about the searches which never came up at the joint President press conference and which hasn't been mentioned anywhere else in the MSM (from what I've been able to find):

Melissa Block: "You said before you came to Washington that you wanted no intrusive searches of houses of Afghans by US troops without the consultation of the Afghan government.

President Karzai: "Yes.

Melissa Block: "It didn't sound like President Bush went that far today. He talked about commanders consulting about mutual goals. Were you disappointed in what he said?"

President Karzai: "Well, the question was not asked that way. The question was asked was whether you've agreed with Karzai's demand to have control over US Military. US is a sovereign country and we are a sovereign country. We cannot have control over US military. It's for the US government to have control over the US Military. We are having control over our own military."

President Karzai: "We are asking the US that in the fight against terrorism, now we have gone four years and there is a lot more stability and safety in Afghanistan, that the Afghan people don't understand anymore why we should be there in the villages and knocking at doors late at night and waking people up - and arresting someone or not arresting someone - and that should stop."

President Karzai: "The regular fight against terrorism as they come in groups or in the attacks should go on but the home searches should stop. And if there's any such thing it should be done in consultation with Afghan government and then with Afghan security personnel."

Melissa Block: "And in your talks today with US officials here, is it now your understanding that before US forces would enter an Aghan home and possibly arrest someone there that they would have to consult with the Afghan government?"

(Note: President Karzai's response contained a few words that I wasn't able to transcribe) He said that they talked about this a year ago, but that it was an "on-going" process. He also mentioned bringing it up with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that same day.

The anger over "intrusive searches of homes" in Afghanistan by US troops is being ignored by the mainstream media even though - as I also showed in Part 1 - that it was reported on Radio Free Europe and VOA (before the blame Newsweek story was ignited).

You'd think that Newsweek would be smart enough to mention the house-to-house searches. But maybe the government just won't let them: "Where does the free press stop and state run media begin?".


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