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April 11, 2003


The Other Wars

News from Home and Afghanistan

While news of the war in Iraq has saturated U.S. media, other wars have been progressing unnoticed. The following two reports -- too important to relegate to Cybervoices -- reveal what's happened while our attention has been directed elsewhere. They're long, but worth reading.

Poverty doctor David Hilfiker has been monitoring the Bush administration's erosion of domestic social programs and records his findings in TomDispatch:

Bringing the War Back Home

The Stealth Assault on the Poor

By Dr. David Hilfiker

The preparation for the United States' attack on Iraq must have been the most public in history. In contrast, the Bush Administration's stealth attack on the poor has gone almost unnoticed. There has been no "shock and awe," no massing of the troops, no nightly commentaries. Indeed, the attack on the poor is camouflaged in "minor" regulatory changes, routine reauthorizations, "voluntary" block grants, budgetary complexities and other arcana, almost as if our eyes were supposed to glaze over before we really understood. Place the many pieces on the table together, however, and the breadth and the depth of the attack become startling.

The number of well-functioning programs with bipartisan support that the Administration proposes tinkering with is breathtaking … a little sand in the gears here, some water in the gas tank there. Head Start, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the school lunch and school breakfast programs, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), successful housing programs, child care, and other programs are all lined up for changes. In most cases, however, understanding how the proposed changes will actually affect the poor requires more than a cursory look at each program and each proposed change.

Bear with me. The devil is in the details....

What about the war we left behind? Pakistani journalist Sohail Abdul Nasir files this report in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Afghanistan: The more it changes . . .

By Sohail Abdul Nasir

Americans like to think the war in Afghanistan is over, but that would be a serious mistake.

One might conclude that Hamid Karzai, the interim head of the Afghan government, is doing well. Foreign dignitaries visit frequently, relief work is going on, and streetlights have been installed in Kabul by a German firm. The Japanese are constructing apartment buildings, and the Afghan national army is in the process of being constituted. The Taliban–Al Qaeda network has been broken; its leaders vanished. Nearly 18 months after September 11, Afghanistan could be said to be sailing along.

But there is another side to this picture: Karzai just narrowly escaped an assassination attempt last September; Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir, a prominent Pashtun leader, was killed on July 6, 2002, by unknown assailants; and Aviation Minister Haji Abd-ur-Rehaman was killed on February 14, 2002, by angry pilgrims whose plans to fly to Mecca were crushed when no flight was available. Outside the capital, the rule of warlords prevails. In the countryside, poppy cultivation has not only resumed, production is approaching historic highs, and quality heroin is now being supplied to Europe and America from newly established factories in different parts of Afghanistan. Hit-and-run attacks on U.S. troops, military installations, and airbases are a daily routine. Above all, despite all the political help he has received from the international community, President Karzai has not been able to extend the government’s reach much beyond Kabul....