Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Christian and Muslim extremists unite to kill 8 UN aid workers

Remember late last year when the media storm over Terry Jones, the mad Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Qur’an to honour those who died in 9/11, happened? The uproar, worldwide, was instantaneous and furious. Everyone who was anyone condemned the actions, from Obama to Ahmadinejad. Even those who defended his right to free speech and expression admitted his idea was tasteless and designed  to provoke. Ultimately, as we all remember, Jones was beaten back and on September 11th, 2010, stated that “We will definitely not burn the Qur’an…not today, not ever”.

Fast forward to today. 12 dead, 8 of whom were UN aid workers are dead in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. Why? Because on the 21st of March, 2011, a pastor at the very same Dove World Outreach  Centre, burnt a copy of the Qur’an was burnt. Reports vary as to who actually burnt it, with CNN reporting it was Jones himself, while other news outlets reporting that it was a pastor by the name of Wayne Sapp who did so under the supervision of Jones. Why did they do this? Well, the reason has to be seen to be believed. On its website, the church proudly proclaims (verbatim): “the Koran will be put on trial, then, if found guilty of causing murder, rape, and terrorism, it will be executed! According to our International Poll, it looks like the choice for this will be BURNING.”

As if this isn’t ridiculous enough, it then updated the site to add, the next day, that “yesterday we put the Koran on trial. The event is over, the Koran was found guilty and a copy was burned inside the building.”

(Image courtesy of Christian Science Monitor)

And so here we are. 10 days later and riots  are running through Afghanistan and 12 innocent people are dead. Aside from the obvious, I have several problems with this story:

1) I read on average about 6 major news outlets every day. These range from Al Jazeera to Fox News. On not one of them in the last week, have I seen any story about a Qur’an being burnt. On not one of them did I see any build up, any fuss being kicked up, over what was about to happen. After what happened last year, why on earth not? Where was the media when they were actually needed?

2) Now that the media have woken up to cover the story, after these tragic deaths, why are most stories focussing on the Qur’an burning instead of today’s events? Most articles purporting to cover the Afghanistan riots of this afternoon have used the deaths as a headline and then proceeded spend most of the article focussing on what should have been covered last week?

3) Why, 11 long days after the event took place, did some Imam decide it would be a good idea to inform his congregation of what had happened? His irresponsibility contributes just as directly to the deaths of these innocent people as Sapp’s. It just goes to show that there are people are are willing to abuse faith in every religion.

Most of all though, I am frustrated. Frustrated that the media didn’t try to prevent this burning as they did the last one. Frustrated that the reaction of the Afghans has only really allowed those who did the burning to have an ‘I told you so’ moment. Frustrated that two sets of hatred and bitterness (the Jones camp and the Imam’s camp) can wield so much power.  Frustrated that these riots will probably spread now that the news is out. Frustrated that the UN will probably downscale its efforts in Mazar-e-Sharif as a result of today, and that the only people who will suffer from this will be the Afghanis themselves. Frustrated that Jones and Sapp will probably never be held properly accountable for the deaths they have caused. And finally, most of all frustrated that those who have suffered the most from this, were, as usual, those who deserved it least. As much as the UN may be criticised, the deceased UN workers were there doing their best to to aid and protect Mazar-e-Sharif as it grows into a stable city. They were there, because even though it was a crazy and tough place to work, it was something they probably cared about greatly. And they certainly had nothing to do with burning any Qur’an anywhere.

VERDICT: The media goes 4th by ignoring a story it shouldn’t have and the religious crazies on both sides of this go 4th for causing the deaths of 12 innocent people.





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The more things change, the more they stay the same – Britain’s development policy goes 4th

A leaked memo in the United Kingdom has caused a minor controversy by alleging that the UK’s development aid should be disbursed according to what’s best for their national security. “The national security council has said the ODA [Overseas Development Administration] budget should make the maximum possible contribution to national security consistent with ODA rules,” said an internal memo from the Department for International Development (DFID), the body responsible for managing the UK’s very significant aid budget. Surprise, surprise – aid is used as a tool for foreign policy. Here, laid bare, is the fundamental problem with development assistance; it is rarely without ulterior motives, and that’s why development aid is never going to lead to meaningful development.

This also explains something that has been puzzling me for some time. When David Cameron’s Conservative coalition assumed power, they announced strenuous spending cuts across the board, but ‘ring-fenced’ (i.e. protected) the development assistance budget. This is to keep Britain in line with their pledge to contribute 0.7% of their budget to aid; a pledge on which other countries have reneged quite happily. A laudable decision, but it seemed strange – development aid is usually the first thing to disappear from strained national budgets (particularly strange when the incoming government also ‘ring-fenced’ spending on an absurd, already obsolete nuclear system called Trident, costing over 20 billion pounds). Was it to please their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats? Perhaps. But it’s now apparent that protecting the development budget was just a little bit of creative accounting, and that money is actually being used as a supplement to British defence policy (particularly to support the war in Afghanistan).

So what are the ramifications of this? It seems likely that this signals an end, or the beginning of the end, to DFID’s heady period as de facto British representation in countries where they disbursed aid, particularly in Africa; DFID in Kenya, for example, is said to employ significantly more people than does the embassy, and the local head of DFID to enjoy a lot more power than the ambassador [I’m unable to independently verify these claims, but I’ve heard them from multiple sources]. For countries that are recipients of British aid, they are effectively put on alert – toe the line, or else; a return to aid conditionality in all its glory. It also seems likely that much more aid money will be diverted to where Britain has a military presence, i.e. Afghanistan; so while the government can say that “aid is not being cut”, the reality is that aid will be cut from countries that need it, and more of it pumped into Afghanistan to desperately prop up the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai which Britain helped to establish, and to sustain.

Ultimately, the leaked memo has told us nothing we don’t know already – the aid budget will be used as a tool for British interests, albeit much more directly than did the previous government; the interests of those who need the aid (and whom the aid is meant to be ‘ring-fenced’ for) will not be taken into account. And people wonder why development aid doesn’t work…

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