Our Paramilitaries and Their Militia Play Doctor

Jim White has an important observation about the increasing militarization of our aid operations in Afghanistan.

When the medical teams come from the very same organization that disappears innocent people in the middle of the night, the US effort in Afghanistan has become completely detached from sanity.

The medical team described above is affiliated with the provincial reconstruction team and both come from Special Operations. By militarizing these vital functions which could be part of helping the Afghan population, the military is pushing aside neutral groups such as the UN and other non-governmental organizations.

When I read it, I thought it important to place this story about the Pakistani floods alongside it.

As public anger rises over the government’s slow and chaotic response to Pakistan’s worst flooding in 80 years, hard-line Islamic charities have stepped into the breach with a grass-roots efficiency that is earning them new support among Pakistan’s beleaguered masses.

Victims of the floods and political observers say the disaster has provided yet another deeply painful reminder of the anemic health of the civilian government as it teeters between the ineffectual and neglectful.

The floods have opened a fresh opportunity for the Islamic charities to demonstrate that they can provide what the government cannot, much as the Islamists did during the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005, which helped them lure new recruits to banned militant groups through the charity wings that front for them.

In just two districts in this part of the northwest, three Islamic charities have provided shelter to thousands, collected tens of thousands in donations and served about 25,000 hot meals a day a since last Saturday — six full days before the government delivered cooked food.

20% of Pakistan is underwater right now and experts forecast more monsoons and outbreaks of cholera. In response, thus far, we’ve sent two (Marine) helicopters, though we’re planning to send more, along with tens of millions in aid. Yet as has happened in other countries (most notably Lebanon), groups with ties to Islamic extremists have stepped up to provide the most credible emergency assistance.

We really are in a position–and seem willingly trying to push ourselves further into that position–where we’re placing our paramilitaries into a competition with indigenous militias to see who can most credibly provide functions that ought to be governmental. I really don’t see how this ends well.

  1. Leen says:

    Prof Juan Cole has been blogging about the floods in Pakistan for days now. Good place to go if you want to keep up with what is going on with the floods, people displaced etc and of course other issues in that part of the world. Cole has had a great deal to report about the floods.

    There were suggestions that the medical team allegedly killed by the Taliban were paramilitary.

    Tonight I am going to a live talk by Andrew Bacevich at the Boulder book store. Have a few questions I will ask. Do you have any suggestions?

    If folks have a few suggesstions that they would like me to ask I will also put a plug in for Firedoglake with the crowd and mention that these questions are from folks here at EW’s

  2. JohnLopresti says:

    CSIS in July 2010 published a 130 pp. study of disaster response effectiveness in countries in Asia in the past ten years, concluding NGOs are a key network in such efforts. The language is a bit bureaucratic, but the principles examined and suggestions rendered seem worthwhile. The research design ostensibly included examining such events as part of the instrumentality of global warming and its failed politics.

  3. rosalind says:

    ot: senator levin hit in face with pie.

    A Coldwater woman was arrested Monday morning in Big Rapids after she threw a pie in the face of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. during a question-and-answer session of the senator’s visit at Pepper’s Cafe and Deli in downtown Big Rapids.

    “Carl Levin is one of the most respected senators in Congress,” Mohsen said. “People tend to blame the war on Republicans, but we wanted to target Levin today to send a message that liberals and Democrats are just as implicated in the violence as the Republicans.”

    • Mary says:

      This is classic:

      Someone who “throws something at somebody or hits somebody with something doesn’t understand the blessings of America,” Levin said

      So says the guy who is providing noversight to drone bombings, assassination squads, torturers and torture generated lies used to take the country to war.

      Golly – so do you think he figured out that when our Congress doesn’t keep the Exec from hitting foreign (and domestic) civilians with bombs and bullets, people don’t end up understanding the blessings of America very well?

      Or not.

      • bmaz says:

        Hey Marcy, I think Miss Mary is callin yer Senior Senator a wimp!

        I might agree that Levin’s effective “un-American” comment is just a bit much to stomach. I know he is old and what not, but I always thought he was a little tougher than that.

      • freepatriot says:


        and I thought Congress was ignorin things, not doin their jobs an such …

        thanks for clearin that up

  4. utahslim says:

    I’m beginning to question whether NGO’s, despite noble intent, are like suppliying a fix to an addict. Pakistan will not enforce a tax on their wealthy citizens, perpetuating a disfunctional income inequality. Any government that will not meet the basic needs of its citizens does not deserve to remain in place.

    • freepatriot says:

      no worries

      Pakistan is set to have a lot less “citizens” soon

      and cloaking our NGOs with the military-enemy label ain’t gonna help us among those who survive

      we’re losing the Palestinians to Hamas the same way

      the “us versus them” mentality that infects the repuglotards in America took root amongt our enemies for a long time

      bin laden is the best known example of someone who used the current repuglotard game plan

      if we don’t come up with a solution soon, bin laden wins

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I’m kind of with you on that whole philosophy about governments that don’t deserve to survive. Would this be a good time to mention Zardari hanging out in his French chateau…?

      British Deputy PM Nick Clegg made some comments today that I thought were particularly eloquent, mostly because he provided ‘relational’ information: the geographic size of the region hit is the same acreage as England, and 20,000,000 Pakistanis are ‘directly impacted’ – which is about 1/3 the British population.

      Far too rarely do we ever hear electeds provide this kind of simple, contextual, ‘concrete’, imageable information. When one realizes that the impacted region is literally the size of England… well, it sure as hell takes my breath away… (!)

      Meanwhile, as with my own region where flooding is linked to overlogging and to timber theft, it’s not surprising to see a superb linkage presented (also in the Guardian.uk) about the timber mafia in Pakistan — ‘protected’ by the government via ‘baksheesh’, no doubt.

      Am I the only one completely fed up with hearing about ‘natural disasters’ as if things like this Pakistan flood are ‘simply’ an act of G*d?
      That’s pure nonsense.
      The floods are almost certainly part of climate change, and that’s what needs to be addressed. It is made far worse by timber mafias, whether they’re in Pakistan, or in British Columbia or Washington State.

      As for Zardari and his government…. beyond appalling.
      Absolutely useless.

      I’m with Freep: much more of this asshat and bin Ladin gets the upper hand by the day. For as venal as OBL is, at least that creep doesn’t fly off in his private jet to his chateau in France.

      I think that Freep’s nailed the dynamics of this disaster.
      The idea that Zardari and his ilk are so utterly corrupt as to make a venal creep like OBL look like some kind of ‘humanitarian’ is beyond reprehensible.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Whether we use militaries, paramilitaries, or NGO’s, the underlying problem is corrupt government and environmental devastation.
        And the two go together anywhere on the planet you want to look — including BP + MMS/US.

        This is not even a ‘political’ issue in the traditional sense of the word: we need to start stating that this is NOT a natural disaster; it’s the visible result of corrupt governments.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    Waiting for Obama to target the floods with drones.

    Boxturtle (Drones have been his solution to everything else there)

  6. fatster says:

    Afghanistan war logs: Secret CIA paramilitaries’ role in civilian deaths
    Innocent Afghan men, women and children have paid the price of the Americans’ rules of engagement


  7. fatster says:

    Judge orders release of Guantanamo detainee

    “In a previously secret ruling written in July and released Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy said the Obama administration failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the Yemeni man [Latif] was part of al-Qaida or an associated force.”


  8. bobschacht says:

    When your government controls the country with one of the world’s greatest rivers, which fed one of the World’s great irrigation civilizations, if you neglect The River, your name will be Mud. There is no rescuing the current government of Pakistan now. They are toast. Who will replace them? I don’t know, but they will promise to manage The River better.

    Never mind that the rains are more than usual. The River must be managed, and the flood control structures are being overwhelmed and therefore were not sufficient. The people will look for someone to blame.

    Bob in AZ