- Sign Up
JFP 2/24: Afghan Senators Demand Execution of US Troops Responsible for Civilian Deaths
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 24 February 2010 - 7:49pm
Just Foreign Policy News
February 24, 2010
Urge the NYT Public Editor to Investigate the "Kill More Civilians" op-ed
The New York Times has revealed that the author of the "mystery op-ed" denouncing the U.S. military for "overemphasis on civilian protection" in Afghanistan is employed by Booz Allen, a major Pentagon contractor. Urge New York Times' Public Editor Clark Hoyt to investigate why this op-ed was published and why the Times did not inform readers of the author's employment by those who stand to benefit financially from the indiscriminate use of U.S. airpower.
Beverly Bell: Collapsed House, No Number
"Collapsed house, no number" is an old expression that Haitians used to indicate that their flimsy homes of sticks-and-mud or shoddy cement blocks had finally fallen apart.
Today that expression could serve as the motto for the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
Support the work of Just Foreign Policy:
1) The Pajhwok News Agency reports that some Afghan Senators have demanded that NATO or US military troops responsible for bombing civilians be put to death, notes Juan Cole on his blog. Senator Hamidullah Tokhi of Uuzgan complained that foreign forces had killed civilians in such incidents time and again, and kept apologizing but then repeating the fatal mistake: "Anyone killing an ordinary Afghan should be executed in public."
2) The UN said 346 children were killed in Afghanistan last year, more than half of them by NATO forces, mostly in airstrikes, DPA reports. The special representative of the UN secretary general for children and armed conflict said 131 children were killed in airstrikes, while 22 were killed in nighttime raids by special forces.
3) Doctors in Haiti are bracing for another onslaught of patients, as emergency workers leave the country and thousands of surgeries done after the earthquake need to be redone, the Wall Street Journal reports. The withdrawal of foreign doctors threatens to overwhelm the medical community in Haiti, the Journal says.
4) A new directive to coalition forces in Afghanistan puts restrictions on nighttime raids of Afghan homes and compounds, CNN reports. The document orders forces to use Afghan troops at night "whenever possible" to knock on doors of residences and compounds, and to use them if forcible action is required for entry. The directive also orders troops to "conduct an analysis" of whether it is militarily essential to conduct a raid at night or whether it can be put off until daylight. Gen. McChrystal is also updating a directive on conducting operations to minimize civilian casualties to include "more clarity" for troops to make sure even the most junior troops have full understanding of rules and procedures.
5) Okinawa assembly members voted unanimously to adopt a request urging the central government to relocate the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station outside Okinawa, Kyodo News reports.
6) In a letter to the Washington Post, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski responds to an attack on him by columnist Richard Cohen. Cohen had characterized Brzezinski's proposal that the US deny the use of Iraqi airspace for an Israeli attack on Iran as "we shoot our friends to defend our enemies." Brzezinski notes that those advocating a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran are essentially advocating that the US abdicate to Israel the decision for the United States to go to war with Iran.
7) Defense Secretary Gates denounced public opinion in Europe for being averse to the use of military force, the New York Times reports. Gates's comments came after the government of the Netherlands collapsed in a dispute over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan. It appears almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops there will be withdrawn this year. Polls show the Afghanistan war has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European country.
8) A Senate investigation has found that military contractors in Afghanistan with the security company formerly known as Blackwater regularly carried unauthorized weapons and engaged in "reckless" behavior, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investigators found weak oversight by the U.S. Army. The problems reveal a weak link in the administration's strategy to build up Afghan forces, which relies heavily on defense firms to conduct training missions that are difficult to oversee, the Journal says.
9) A civil suit against the Israeli Defense Ministry over the death of Rachel Corrie will begin March 10 in Haifa, the Guardian reports. Four ISM activists, previously barred from Israel, will be allowed to testify, apparently due to US pressure, the Guardian says.
10) Rural communities in Haiti are straining under the burden of feeding displaced relatives from Port-au-Prince, the Los Angeles Times reports. The diversion of resources is threatening the spring planting season. Some experts warn of an agricultural disaster in the making. Relief workers say only a tiny portion of international aid has been earmarked for rural Haitians, who account for most of the country's 9 million people.
11) A senior Russian diplomat warned the West against trying to paralyze Iran by targeting Iran's energy and banking sectors with crippling sanctions, Reuters reports. Oleg Rozhkov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's security affairs and disarmament department, said Moscow would only support sanctions that are directed at resolving non-proliferation questions linked to Iran's nuclear program. "We do not consider the sanctions path the right one - it pushes the situation further and further into a dead end, a dead end which can only be resolved by force and we do not support that at all," Rozhkov said.
12) A rising chorus of voices across Mexico is complaining that the military approach to Mexico's crime problem is not bearing fruit, Time Magazine reports. A Feb. 15 survey by Buendía & Laredo found that 50% of respondents thought the government offensive against drug traffickers has made the country more dangerous, while only 21% thought it had made it safer. Another 20% said it had had no effect. These doubts come as the U.S. continues to throw its weight behind the campaign, Time says.
1) Afghan Senators demand Execution of Foreign Troops
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Pajhwok News Agency reports that on Tuesday, the Afghanistan senate deplored the foreign airstrikes that killed 21 innocent civilians in the province of Daikundi on Sunday, and demanded that NATO avoid any repetition of this sort of error.
But some senators went farther, demanding that NATO or US military men responsible for the deaths be executed. Senator Hamidullah Tokhi of Uuzgan complained to Pajhwok that the foreign forces had killed civilians in such incidents time and again, and kept apologizing but then repeating the fatal mistake: "Anyone killing an ordinary Afghan should be executed in public."
Lawmaker Fatima Aziz of Qunduz concurred, observing, "We saw foreign troops time and again that they killed innocent people, something unbearable for the already war-weary Afghans."
Maulvi Abdul Wali Raji, a senator from Baghlan Province, called for the Muslim law of an 'eye for an eye' to be applied to foreign troops for civilian deaths. Pajhwok concludes, "Mohammad Alam Izdiyar said civilian deaths were the major reason behind the widening gap between the people and Afghan government."
Note that those speaking this way are not Taliban, but rather elected members of the Afghanistan National Parliament, whose government is supposedly a close US ally.
2) UN: 346 Afghan children killed in 2009, more than half by NATO
DPA, Feb 24, 2010, 13:14 GMT
Kabul - The United Nations said Wednesday that 346 children were killed in Afghanistan last year, more than half of them by NATO forces, mostly in airstrikes. 'In 2009, 346 children were killed,' Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special representative of the UN secretary general for children and armed conflict, said in Kabul after a seven-day visit the country.
She said 131 children were killed in airstrikes, while 22 were killed in nighttime raids by international special forces.
Taliban militants were responsible for the deaths of 128 children last year, with seven of the children used by militants as suicide bombers, she said. In 38 cases, it was not possible to determine who had killed the children.
More than 2,400 civilians were killed last year, the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, according to the UN.
About 50 civilians have been killed since the NATO forces began their biggest-ever operation in the southern province of Helmand nearly two weeks ago. At least 27 of the casualties were caused by a NATO airstrike, and 12 others were killed by NATO rockets.
3) Emergency Doctors Leave Haiti
Ianthe Jeanne Dugan, Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2010
Port-au-Prince - Doctors here are bracing for another onslaught of patients, as emergency workers leave the country and thousands of surgeries done after the January 12 earthquake need to be redone. Between 25% and 30% of postearthquake surgeries will need to be done again to avoid problems, says Dr. Jean "William" Pape, an infectious disease authority who is founder of Gheskio, an HIV/AIDS clinic next door to a field hospital set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That estimate is corroborated by Haitian, U.S. and other medical officials involved in coordinating the international medical response, who say the problem is because of the massive numbers of injuries treated in poor conditions in an already weak health infrastructure.
The unusually high level of second operations, along with other mounting medical issues, comes as many emergency medical groups from around the world are returning home. On Wednesday, Feb. 24, the U.S. is pulling its crew out of the field hospital next to Gheskio-the last of a handful of temporary field hospitals that were set up by U.S. health authorities. Gheskio officials originally expected the U.S. team to stay until mid-March, said Dr. Pape, and were surprised to learn that they had to take over this week. "It is reflective of the confusion surrounding all of this," he said.
Other nongovernment agencies are leaving as well. The USNC Comfort, a medical ship, also is phasing out patients. It has 50 patients currently, and is taking no more. "We are moving from the immediate emergency phase responding to the direct consequences," said Dr. Ronald Waldman, the U.S. health emergency coordinator, who has been stationed in Port-au-Prince since shortly after the earthquake. Now, he said, medical aid is moving to a second stage "to make sure that people who are displaced don't suffer from indirect consequences."
The shift threatens to overwhelm the medical community here. Many health-care facilities remain unusable, and new cases of diarrhea, malaria and other diseases are picking up in tent communities crammed with tens of thousands of people who lost their homes. "If you want to spread tuberculosis, jam a bunch of people into tents next to each other," said Warren Johnson, a Gheskio co-founder who is director of the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. "The second phase promises to be as cruel as the first."
Dr. Waldman said many people with amputations need to have their initial surgeries fixed so they can be fitted with prosthesis. "Because of the nature of this disaster and the nature of injuries to the survivors, that first emergency part is really not going to go away for some time," said Dr. Waldman.
4) Forces In Afghanistan Told To Limit Nighttime Raids
Barbara Starr, CNN, February 23, 2010
Washington - A new classified directive to coalition forces in Afghanistan puts restrictions on nighttime raids of Afghan homes and compounds, according to a senior U.S. official who has seen the document.
The official declined to be identified because a declassified version of the document has not been made public. The directive is signed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, the official said.
Nighttime raids in which troops enter private homes have sparked problems for U.S. and NATO forces. The raids are viewed as overly invasive - a violation of the privacy of the home in Afghan culture - and they can turn violent.
The document orders forces to use Afghan troops at night "whenever possible" to knock on doors of residences and compounds, and to use them if forcible action is required for entry, the official said.
But the directive also orders troops to "conduct an analysis" of whether it is militarily essential to conduct a raid at night or whether it can be put off until daylight, the official said. If troops can keep a target under surveillance but wait for daylight, they then can enlist the aid of village elders, perhaps, in determining if a home or compound poses a threat, the official said. The official emphasized that troops always have the right to defend themselves and are given leeway to use their best judgment on the battlefield.
McChrystal also is updating another directive, first issued last year, on conducting operations to minimize civilian casualties, the official said. The updated version, which is yet to be published, will include "more clarity" for troops on how to operate in "escalation of force" incidents, such as when a vehicle approaches a checkpoint in a potentially threatening manner and troops must decide whether, and when, to fire at it. The official declined to offer further details but said the aim is to make sure even the most junior troops have full understanding of rules and procedures.
The official said the documents may be made public in the coming weeks, after current operations ease.
5) Local assembly adopts request seeking Futenma move outside Okinawa
Kyodo News, Thursday 25th February, 02:28 AM JST
Naha - The Okinawa assembly members voted unanimously to adopt a written request Wednesday urging the central government to relocate the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station outside the southern prefecture. Representatives from the prefectural assembly will shortly deliver the request to the office of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama - under pressure to reach a conclusion on the relocation issue by the end of May - and the Cabinet ministers concerned.
6) What Richard Cohen Got Wrong About My Views On Iran
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Letter, Washington Post, Wednesday, February 24, 2010; A12
[Brzezinski was national security adviser in the Carter administration.]
I hope that Richard Cohen's characterization of my opposition to Israel's use of U.S.-controlled airspace over Iraq as a policy of "we shoot our friends to defend our enemies" is a case of unintentional or exuberant distortion [op-ed column, Feb. 23]. What I have said repeatedly is that an Israeli attack on Iran through U.S.-controlled airspace would make the United States complicit, and the United States would then become the target of Iranian retaliation. That is why the United States should make it clear that its airspace is not available for a unilateral Israeli attack, and that a violation of it could lead to an incident reminiscent of the attack on the USS Liberty, about which I added "it is nothing to be wished for."
One should not lose sight of the larger issue involved in loose advocacy of an Israeli attack on Iran that would implicate the United States in an act of war. Those advocating such an attack not only overlook the fact that such an incident might be designed to draw the United States into war with Iran but, even worse, the fact that U.S. acquiescence would mean nothing less than abdicating to Israel the decision on whether to go to war. Such an abdication is hardly in America's interest, and it is not the way that decisions involving American lives should be made.
Mr. Cohen also urged President Obama "to borrow a tactic from Richard Nixon and fight crazy with crazy." One might recall here that Nixon initiated in that spirit the bombing of Cambodia in a desperate effort to win the war in Vietnam. The results were not particularly beneficial to the United States. Instead of acting "crazy," one should calculate on the basis of political realities, strategic experience and, above all, America's interests.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France once put it correctly: An Iranian bomb would be a disaster, but an attack on Iran would be also a disaster. The challenge for the United States is to avoid yet another war that would not only further isolate America in the world, to the benefit of its ill-wishers; the challenge is also to isolate Iran, make it pay a price for its intransigence, and assure Iran's neighbors that U.S. nuclear deterrence is credibly available for their protection.
7) Gates Calls European Mood A Danger To Peace
Brian Knowlton, New York Times, February 24, 2010
Washington - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has long called European contributions to NATO inadequate, said Tuesday that public and political opposition to the military had grown so great in Europe that it was directly affecting operations in Afghanistan and impeding the alliance's broader security goals.
"The demilitarization of Europe - where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it - has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told NATO officers and officials in a speech at the National Defense University, the Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and diplomats.
Mr. Gates's blunt comments came just three days after the coalition government of the Netherlands collapsed in a dispute over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan. It now appears almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops there will be withdrawn this year. And polls show that the Afghanistan war has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European country.
8) Senate Slams 'Reckless' Contractor
August Cole, Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2010
Military contractors in Afghanistan affiliated with the security company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide regularly carried unauthorized weapons and engaged in "reckless" behavior that included the accidental shooting of a fellow contractor, a Senate investigation has found.
Investigators from the Senate Armed Services Committee also found weak oversight by the U.S. Army and Raytheon Co., which had hired the contractors from Paravant LLC to train Afghan forces. Paravant was a special unit set up by Blackwater to work for Raytheon on the contract.
The problems reveal a potential weak link in the Obama administration's strategy to build up Afghan forces to secure the country, an approach that relies heavily on defense firms to conduct training missions that are difficult to oversee and often dangerous.
9) Rachel Corrie's family bring civil suit over human shield's death in Gaza
Parents want case to highlight events that led to American activist's death under Israeli army bulldozer
Rory McCarthy, Guardian, Tuesday 23 February 2010
Jerusalem - The family of the American activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago, is to bring a civil suit over her death against the Israeli defence ministry.
The case, which begins on 10 March in Haifa, northern Israel, is seen by her parents as an opportunity to put on public record the events that led to their daughter's death in March 2003. Four key witnesses - three Britons and an American - who were at the scene in Rafah when Corrie was killed will give evidence, according the family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein. The four were all with the International Solidarity Movement, the activist group to which Corrie belonged. They have since been denied entry to Israel, and the group's offices in Ramallah have been raided several times in recent weeks by the Israeli military.
Now, under apparent US pressure, the Israeli government has agreed to allow them entry so they can testify. Corrie's parents, Cindy and Craig, will also fly to Israel for the hearing.
A Palestinian doctor from Gaza, Ahmed Abu Nakira, who treated Corrie after she was injured and later confirmed her death, has not been given permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza to attend.
Abu Hussein, a leading human rights lawyer in Israel, said there was evidence from witnesses that soldiers saw Corrie at the scene, with other activists, well before the incident and could have arrested or removed her from the area before there was any risk of her being killed. "After her death the military began an investigation but unfortunately, as in most of these cases, it found the activity of the army was legal and there was no intentional killing," he said. "We would like the court to decide her killing was due to wrong-doing or was intentional." If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for damages.
Corrie, who was born in Olympia, Washington, travelled to Gaza to act as a human shield at a moment of intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians. On the day she died, when she was 23, she was dressed in a fluorescent orange vest and was trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. She was crushed under a military Caterpillar bulldozer and died shortly afterwards.
The army report, obtained by the Guardian in April 2003, said she "was struck as she stood behind a mound of earth that was created by an engineering vehicle operating in the area and she was hidden from the view of the vehicle's operator who continued with his work. Corrie was struck by dirt and a slab of concrete resulting in her death."
Witnesses presented a strikingly different version of events. Tom Dale, a British activist who was 10m away when Corrie was killed, wrote an account of the incident two days later. He described how she first knelt in the path of an approaching bulldozer and then stood as it reached her. She climbed on a mound of earth and the crowd nearby shouted at the bulldozer to stop. He said the bulldozer pushed her down and drove over her.
"They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit," Dale wrote. "They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did."
10) Haiti quake is beginning to be felt miles away
Haitian farmers in the countryside struggle to feed the displaced relatives they've taken in. As meager funds dwindle, they wonder how they'll be able to buy seeds for the spring planting.
Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, 5:29 PM PST, February 23, 2010
Saint-Marc, Haiti - Even in normal times, Edwin Andre has all he can do to eke out a living from the corn, tomatoes and sweet potatoes he coaxes from an acre plot in northern Haiti. His wife, Roselaine Cius, peddles the produce roadside and cooks rice-and-bean plates from a stick-frame lunch shack to help support their family of eight. Suddenly, though, eight hungry mouths soared to 18 after siblings and in-laws from earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince fled by rattletrap bus to this sweep of farmland, a two-hour drive from the capital.
The couple's spare, concrete house - no bigger than an average one-bedroom apartment in the United States - is packed to bursting. Food once converted to cash goes to feed the homeless loved ones. Money is now so short that the pair doubt they will be able to buy seeds for the crucial spring planting season that is only weeks away. "I don't see how we will have enough money," said Cius, 40, sweating under a porkpie hat as she ladled rice from a charcoal-heated pot. "There's no way. There's no money."
The effects of the Jan. 12 earthquake that flattened much of Port-au-Prince are rippling powerfully across rural Haiti, the poorest swath of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Villagers are near the breaking point as they try to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced city dwellers just when they would be putting their precious resources into preparing for planting. In desperation, some have resorted to eating their meager seed stocks or killing their chickens and goats to feed the influx, rather than keeping them to sell.
Fertilizer is expensive and seeds for cereal crops are in short supply because of damage to the seaport in the capital and wary buying by wholesalers. Farming areas southwest of Port-au-Prince were also devastated by the 7.0 quake, which ruined whole towns, such as Leogane, near the epicenter, and damaged vital irrigation channels.
Agricultural officials and aid workers worry that while global efforts to help quake victims in Port-au-Prince are hitting their stride, the ripple effect in the countryside threatens to stymie home farming and worsen conditions in areas where most people already scrape by on less than $2 a day. Some experts warn of a quiet agricultural disaster in the making.
Relief workers say only a tiny portion of international aid has been earmarked for rural Haitians, who account for most of the country's 9 million people. Of $23 million sought for farmers as part of an urgent appeal by the United Nations, donor governments have provided only about $2 million for agriculture.
"These communities were already the poorest part of the country. The countryside is extremely poor and they have very few means to cope," said Alexander L. Jones, Haiti emergency-response manager for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. "It is putting a lot of stress on families." Jones said spot surveys show that the average size of rural families has nearly doubled, from five members to nine.
Agencies are scrambling to import 2 tons of seeds, plus hoes, shovels and wheelbarrows, for the farmers, many of whom lost their hand tools under collapsed homes near Port-au-Prince. The first shipment of 15,000 implements arrived last week. Relief workers are also turning to the Dominican Republic next door to hunt for seed varieties that are also planted in Haiti. "The planting season is approaching. We've got to deliver these seeds before it starts," said Roberto Borlini, who works for an Italian nonprofit called GVC that plans to distribute seeds and tools to 2,000 families near Petit-Goave, a hard-hit town southwest of the capital.
11) Russia warns West against "crippling" Iran sanctions
Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters, February 24, 2010
Moscow - A senior Russian diplomat warned the West on Wednesday against trying to paralyze Iran by targeting the Islamic Republic's energy and banking sectors with crippling sanctions. Russia has in recent weeks signaled growing frustration with Iran over its nuclear program, though Moscow has given few indications about what sanctions it might be prepared to sign up to in the United Nations Security Council.
The United States has said it hopes to see sanctions against Iran in a matter of weeks and Israel has pressed Russia to back crippling sanctions, though the Kremlin has steered clear of openly supporting calls for further U.N. sanctions.
Oleg Rozhkov, the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's security affairs and disarmament department, said Moscow would only consider sanctions aimed at strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime. "Call them what you want - crippling or paralyzing - we are not got going to work on sanctions or measures which could lead to the political or economic or financial isolation of this country," Rozhkov told reporters in Moscow.
When asked by a reporter what sanctions Russia might be able to support, he said: "Those that are directed at resolving non-proliferation questions linked to Iran's nuclear program."
"What relation to non-proliferation is there in forbidding banking activities with Iran? This is a financial blockade. And oil and gas. These sanctions are aimed only at paralyzing the country and paralyzing the regime," he said.
"We do not consider the sanctions path the right one - it pushes the situation further and further into a dead end, a dead end which can only be resolved by force and we do not support that at all," Rozhkov said of Iran sanctions.
12) Why Mexico's Drug War May Become Its Iraq. Time
Ioan Grillo, Time Magazine, Feb. 21, 2010
Mexico City - The no-nonsense government ads flash onto prime-time Mexican TV between soccer games and steamy soap operas. Bullet-filled corpses are shown sprawled on the concrete; ski-masked special forces are seen storming down residential streets; and bearded bulky capos are dragged before the cameras in handcuffs. "Today these killers are behind bars," says a booming voice-over. "We work using force for your security."
But while the spots boast of victories and progress, a rising chorus of voices across Mexico is complaining that the military approach to Mexico's crime problem is not bearing fruit. Leftists and human-rights groups have slammed the central role of the army and paramilitary police since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006 and ordered 50,000 troops to fight the drug gangs. But in recent weeks, critics have been joined by some of the government's key allies, including members of Calderón's conservative National Action Party, regional business lobbies and the Roman Catholic Church. Such pressure could affect how the President sees through the drug war during the second half of his term, which ends in 2012.
Most criticism centers on the relentless gang-related violence, which has only worsened, even as thousands of traffickers are jailed or extradited to the U.S. In total, there have been more than 16,000 murders that appear to be drug related since Calderón kicked off the crackdown, with this January being the bloodiest month yet. Doubters now say soldiers may be inflaming the gang killings rather than diminishing them. "Security is not directly or principally related to the ability to use force, the number of police officers, the degree of militarization or the purchasing of weapons," the Mexican bishops conference said in a Feb. 15 letter to the government. "With the passage of time, the participation of the armed forces in the fight against organized crime has provoked uncertainty in the population."
Others argue that the violence has mushroomed because the army is directing its attacks at certain cartels, a tactic that only strengthens the rivals of those gangs. Representative Manuel Clouthier, who hails from a prominent National Action Party family, lashed out in a series of interviews this week that the omnipotent Sinaloa cartel of his native state has not been targeted. "In some places they have hit the gangsters. But in my state, everyone can see that the bad guys are being allowed to work," he told TIME. "There is a mafia cabal of criminals, politicians and businessmen and it has simply not been touched." Much of the bloodshed in Mexico is blamed on the efforts of this Sinaloa cartel to expand into new territories. Party leaders and officials swiftly hit back, saying that all criminal groups have been equally attacked.
There are also signs the Mexican public is losing its stomach for the fight. A Feb. 15 survey by Buendía & Laredo found that 50% of respondents thought the government offensive against drug traffickers has made the country more dangerous, while only 21% thought it had made it safer. Another 20% said it had had no effect and 9% gave no comment. Half of respondents also said they personally felt threatened by criminal violence, up from 35% who said they felt threatened in a 2008 survey.
These doubts come as the U.S. continues to throw its weight behind the campaign. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed an agreement for enhanced cooperation in the Mexican capital this week, declaring that "the collaboration between Mexico and the United States has never been stronger." The latest accord follows a hike in funding for the so-called Mérida Initiative to beef up Mexican security forces. In total, the U.S. has pledged $1.6 billion worth of equipment and training for its neighbor, including eight Black Hawk and 13 Bell helicopters for Mexico's army and federal police.
It would also be tough for Calderón to send the soldiers back to the barracks while the violence is worsening for fear it would concede a defeat. This quandary has led critics here to regularly compare the conflict to the Iraq war in Bush's second term; it is a war in which the President cannot claim victory, cannot pull out of, and which only gets worse.
Just Foreign Policy
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.