Posts Tagged ‘ American ’

Memorial Day Personal For All Generations

As Reported by Michael Beall for The Great Falls Tribune

It arrives when spring begins its slow transition to summer, as high school seniors prepare their next steps and, when the fickle Montana weather cooperates, it’s a day for barbecues, parades, picnics and remembrance — surrounded by loved ones, bouquets of flowers and American flags.

Memorial Day is a national holiday with a personal connotation that dates back to 1868 and the wake of the Civil War. It stems from contentious roots in a time when the North and South honored their dead on separate days, until the country united the holiday after World War I to remember all American soldiers from every war.

It was known as Decoration Day in the 19th century, when Americans from both battlefronts carried flowers to graves or makeshift monuments honoring the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died on American soil.

“The procession went on, and stopped here and there at the little graveyards on the farms, leaving their bright flags to flutter through summer and winter rains and snow. They sent flags to all the distant graves and proud were those households who claimed kinship with valor,” wrote Sarah Orne Jewett on Decoration Day 1892, remembered in the book “Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory.”

Jewett’s words ring true today in the graveyards and cemeteries, memorial parks and main streets, and in homes and backyards. Memorial Day is as personal as an individual’s relationship with a war, a veteran, a living or fallen soldier.

Maureen Blake, a third-grader at Morningside Elementary, planned to celebrate the holiday with an annual barbecue to spend time with her mom, dad and sister.

“Memorial Day means to me and my family to celebrate soldiers and their hard work in the military, army, marines or whatever they do,” Blake said in a shy but excited voice. “I think it’s a day for remembering the soldiers.”

She said she remembers her dad, Ferrel, who is an Air Force sergeant, and her uncle, who passed away in a car wreck. When she grows up, she wants to follow her father into the military so she can help people.

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Pakistan and the American Learning Curve

By Ethan Casey for Dawn

On June 1, I took part in a TEDx event hosted by the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. The TED people bill what they do as “ideas worth spreading,” and during the weeks I spent preparing my talk I pondered what ideas I wanted to spread to an American audience. I titled my talk “What Does Pakistan Have to Do with Haiti? (the full text is on my website, and I’m told the video will be online soon), but in an important sense it’s really about the United States.

I used the occasion to try to make some sense of the weird coincidence that the two countries I care about most deeply and personally, other than my own, both were devastated in 2010 by horrific natural disasters. I did find a number of things they have in common, believe it or not, but the most salient is that Pakistanis and Haitians both see the United States from the outside. And what they see is often ugly and cruel, because they live on the receiving end of the American power that we Americans usually don’t experience, because we’re the ones wielding it. This is a point that’s very clearly apparent to many people worldwide, but not always easy to get across to Americans.

One way I tried to do it in Princeton was by arguing that both countries are prime examples of what the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, in an excellent TED talk in 2009, called “the danger of a single story.” We Americans tell ourselves a single story about Haiti, and a different single story about Pakistan. Dr. Paul Farmer, a celebrated physician who works in the poorest areas of rural Haiti, wrote a book titled The Uses of Haiti. We use Haiti rhetorically and ideologically and, every time there’s a new fitful spasm of American interest in Haiti, our uses for it rear their heads anew. It’s never an edifying thing to see, and it’s maddening to those of us who know Haiti.

America has different uses for Pakistan, and those are not unlike the uses we used to have for the Soviet Union. If Haiti meets Americans’ need to have someone to pity, Pakistan fulfills our need to have someone or something to fear. Fear, pity, and contempt are easy, self-indulgent emotions. But much more demanding, I said, is to cultivate and practice respect. Respect implies distance and difference, and to practice it entails acknowledging that difference is inevitable and even desirable.

Another thing Haitians and Pakistanis have in common is their experience as immigrants and visitors to America. I tried to bring this home by telling the audience about novelist Edwidge Danticat’s 81-year-old uncle, who fled violence in his neighborhood in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2004 and made the mistake of asking for political asylum at the airport in Miami. US Immigration officials threw him into the infamous Krome Detention Center and denied him his diabetes medication, and he died in detention. Danticat tells the story eloquently in her wonderful nonfiction book Brother, I’m Dying, which is above all a beautifully composed story about family love, immigrant struggle and aspiration, and the tortured and all too intimate relationship between Haiti and the United States, told by a Haitian who is also an American. I often find myself telling Pakistanis the story of Edwidge Danticat’s uncle, and I know that many Pakistanis would recognize its elements.

The idea I tried to leave the American audience with was that, as I put it, our lazy and self-comforting reductionism says nothing about Haiti or Pakistan, and all too much about us Americans — that the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan were natural disasters, to be sure, but didn’t happen in a geopolitical vacuum. I gave them a lot to think about, possibly too much.

What I want, by the same token, to offer Pakistani readers is an occasion to reflect on just how big and delicate is the task of influencing American awareness and opinion. The novelist Upton Sinclair famously quipped that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. There’s a national analogue that applies to Americans: we are no less innately patriotic than Pakistanis or anyone else, and no one wants to think ill of his or her own country.

So the job of educating and influencing the American public is a long uphill battle, and changing US foreign policy is like turning around an aircraft carrier: it has to be done carefully and very patiently.

Perhaps it can be helped along by American friends of Pakistan like myself and, even more, by leaders and members of the Pakistani-American community. In the meantime I urge Pakistanis to remember the humanity of ordinary Americans, who have been on a steep learning curve since at least September 11, 2001.

Ethan Casey is the author of Alive and Well in Pakistan: A Human Journey in a Dangerous Time (2004) and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010). He is currently writing Bearing the Bruise: A Lifetime in Haiti, to be published in early 2012. Web: http://www.facebook.com/ethancaseyfans or http://www.ethancasey.com.

Follow Ethan Casey on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ethan.casey

India, Pakistan And U.S. Strategic Dialogue

By Apoorva Shah for The American Enterprise Institute

At this week’s first U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., talks between the two countries will cover the spectrum of bilateral and multilateral issues, from trade and economic cooperation to terrorism and regional security. 

American participants may even feel the need to bring up India’s strained relationship with Pakistan. But it would serve them well to first consider a Times of India story from earlier this year, which went almost unreported in the United States.

According to an interview in the Indian newspaper with former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, India and Pakistan in 2007 were days away from reaching a comprehensive accord on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, the axis of the countries’ six-decade-long rivalry and casus belli of three wars between the two nations.

Kasuri, Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf’s chief diplomat from 2002 to 2007, said in April that the secret deal had been in progress for more than three years and would have led to a full demilitarization of both Indian- and Pakistani-occupied areas of Kashmir and would have awarded the region a package of loose sovereignty at a point “between complete independence and autonomy.” Not only were Indian and Pakistani leaders on board (including, most importantly, the Pakistani military), so was every Kashmiri leader except for one hard-line separatist, Syed Ali Shah Gilani.

The accord was slated to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Islamabad in February and March of 2007, but before the trip ever occurred, a country-wide lawyers’ protest in Pakistan had turned into a broader opposition campaign against General Musharraf. The rest of the year would be one of the most tumultuous in Pakistan’s history, marked by the siege of the Red Mosque in July, the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in October and her subsequent assassination in December, and the return of popular leader Nawaz Sharif from exile in September.

By August of the following year, public opposition had peaked, and Musharraf was forced to resign his post as president, ending his decade-long tenure as leader of Pakistan. After Musharraf’s ouster, it appears that the deal had lost much of its momentum.

Then in November, the accord suffered another setback as ten Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists took India’s largest city, Mumbai, hostage for almost 72 hours, killing more than 160 people and injuring scores more. The attack was quickly coined “India’s 9/11,” and the evidence pointed directly to Pakistan, where the gunmen had been trained and equipped.

In protest, India cut off all diplomatic talks with Pakistan almost immediately; there were even rumors that the country was preparing military action against its northern neighbor. Within a span of less than two years, the India-Pakistan relationship had traveled the spectrum from apparent rapprochement and compromise to mutual suspicion and renewed hostility.

Since then, the signs have only appeared to worsen: for example, in 2009, when Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor publicly introduced revisions to his country’s “cold start” military strategy.

This military modernization and training program, which was developed in response to the army’s sluggish mobilization to the Pakistani border following the December 2001 terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament, remained mostly under the radar for most of the early 2000s, relegated to defense journals and the occasional news article.

It was only following the 2008 attacks that “cold start” began to receive renewed attention from the media on both sides of the border and was more publicly discussed by Indian military officials like General Kapoor. Indeed, it appeared as if the next breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations would occur through hard rather than soft power.

Concomitantly, India and Pakistan’s post-Mumbai attempts to return to diplomatic talks also appeared fraught with danger and seemed to only fuel more discord rather than reconciliation.

In February this year, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir resumed high-level talks for the first time since November 2008, but both sides appeared unprepared (they could not even agree on the specific subject of the talks prior to sitting down) and spent more time bickering through separate press conferences.

For example, while Bashir accused India of covertly supplying weapons to militants in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Rao complained that Pakistan had “not gone far enough” in the 2008 Mumbai attack investigation. As India presented a dossier of evidence against one of the Mumbai attack perpetrators, Pakistan responded by calling it a “piece of literature not a dossier.”

It’s hard to see how any progress could be made on improving Indo-Pakistani relations in the midst of this hostility. But does Kasuri’s revelation provide hope that a resolution on Kashmir could be revived? First, excepting Musharraf and Kasuri, many of the supporters of the failed 2007 accord—including Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s current track II special negotiator Riaz Mohammed Khan, and, on the Indian side, Prime Minister Singh—still hold high-level positions in their respective governments.

And second, the secrecy of the original deal shows that outward indifference, or even enmity, between the two countries can belie an internal desire for change. In a relationship where hostility is status quo and where amicable relations seem aberrant if not bizarre, a furtive accord lets ruling elites make slow, institutional changes in the relationship while preserving outward form and precedent. It also allows deal-makers to keep tempestuous domestic politicians and party leaders at arms length while deliberating sensitive issues.

Even India’s traditionally hyperactive media seems to understand: A subsequent editorial in the Times of India noted, “the fact that such a deal exists emphasizes the importance of maintaining contact with Islamabad.”

So what can we expect in the months ahead? Indian officials will undoubtedly continue to pressure Pakistan to confront Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups that plan to attack India, and another attack could indeed result in Indian military action. There will also be more bickering between the sides—on water rights, “most-favored-nation” clauses, and even cricket.

Yet the revelation of the secret deal should be both a lesson and a sign of hope. It is a lesson because it proves that progress on an entrenched conflict like Kashmir can occur without the United States’ public mediation.

American officials at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue this week should keep in mind that the accord was pursued during the final years of the Bush administration, in which the United States made it a point to separate the U.S.-India relationship from the more sensitive Indo-Pak relationship.

It is a sign of hope because, despite the outward appearance of discord between the countries, internally, leaders on both sides have—at least at some point in recent memory—wanted to move forward on a resolution.

As Pakistan continues its domestic offensive against terrorists and India pursues closer economic engagement with its northern neighbor, wanting change may be the best sign that change is on the way.

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