November 3, 2013
Why, unlike Malala Yousafzai, did Nabila Rehman not receive a welcoming greeting in Washington DC?

Murtaza Hussain, AJE:

"Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?’" writes Murtaza Hussain 

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones - a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day - followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the Congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend"My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured."

The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Selective Memory

It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilized by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.

As described by the Washington Post's Max Fisher:

Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.

But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort -  against her own will if necessary - while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.

But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine year old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: "When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong."

Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.

October 5, 2013
Afghan civilians reportedly killed in NATO airstrike

Via Agence France Presse/AJA:

At least five civilians, including three children, targeted while hunting for birds, local officials say

April 30, 2013
A List Of Children Killed By Drone Strikes In Pakistan and Yemen

Chris Miles, PolicyMic:

List of children killed by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen

Compiled from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports

PAKISTAN

Name | Age | Gender

Noor Aziz | 8 | male
Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
Noor Syed | 8 | male
Wajid Noor | 9 | male
Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
Ayeesha | 3 | female
Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
Shoaib | 8 | male
Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
Maezol Khan | 8 | female
Nasir Khan | male
Naeem Khan | male
Naeemullah | male
Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
Ziauddin | 16 | male
Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
Ilyas | 13 | male
Sohail | 7 | male
Asadullah | 9 | male
khalilullah | 9 | male
Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
Khalid | 12 | male
Saifullah | 9 | male
Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
Nawab | 17 | male
Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
Abdullah | 18 | male
Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
Shahbuddin | 15 | male
Yahya Khan | 16 |male
Rahatullah |17 | male
Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
Shahjehan | 15 | male
Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
Numair | 14 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Taseel Khan | 18 | male
Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
Alam Nabi | 11 | male
Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
Rahmatullah | 14 | male
Abdus Samad | 17 | male
Siraj | 16 | male
Saeedullah | 17 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Salman | 12 | male
Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
Iftikhar | 17 | male
Inayatullah | 15 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Adnan | 16 | male
Najibullah | 13 | male
Naeemullah | 17 | male
Hizbullah | 10 | male
Kitab Gul | 12 | male
Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
Zabihullah | 16 | male
Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
Shabir | 15 | male
Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
Shafiullah | 16 | male
Nimatullah | 14 | male
Shakirullah | 16 | male
Talha | 8 | male

YEMEN

Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male
Nasser Salim | 19

April 7, 2013
More U.S. Children Being Diagnosed With Youthful Tendency Disorder

A bit of brilliant satire from my old college newspaper, The Onion:

Nicholas and Beverly Serna’s daughter Caitlin was only four years old, but they already knew there was a problem.

Day after day, upon arriving home from preschool, Caitlin would retreat into a bizarre fantasy world. Sometimes, she would pretend to be people and things she was not. Other times, without warning, she would burst into nonsensical song. Some days she would run directionless through the backyard of the Sernas’ comfortable Redlands home, laughing and shrieking as she chased imaginary objects.

When months of sessions with a local psychologist failed to yield an answer, Nicholas and Beverly took Caitlin to a prominent Los Angeles pediatric neurologist for more exhaustive testing. Finally, on Sept. 11, the Sernas received the heartbreaking news: Caitlin was among a growing legion of U.S. children suffering from Youthful Tendency Disorder.

"As horrible as the diagnosis was, it was a relief to finally know," said Beverly. "At least we knew we weren’t bad parents. We simply had a child who was born with a medical disorder." Read more

November 18, 2012

Mental health issues plague Afghanistan residents (1:22)

For more on “the unseen victims of the war in Afghanistan" and how their "accumulation of psychological problems could begin to undermine national reconstruction and development,” see this Reuter’s report: Relentless Afghan conflict leaves traumatized generation

March 7, 2012
Why an MRI costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France

Washington Post: Two of the five most profitable industries in the United States — the pharmaceuticals industry and the medical device industry — sell health care. With margins of almost 20 percent, they beat out even the financial sector for sheer profitability.

March 3, 2012
U.S. Supreme Court Debates Human Rights Case Aimed at Corporations

How can the international community hold multinational corporations accountable for human rights violations? The corporations’ “home” industrialized countries are generally supportive of the wealth-amassing, artificial, legal persons they create, and these states are loathe to prosecute them for crimes committed elsewhere, no matter how heinous. Further, there is no existing international tribunal for prosecuting corporate crimes. This means a lack of accountability for some of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world. These institutions are founded on the concept of limited financial liability. Investors and managers also enjoy limited criminal liability.

Who should be held responsible for gross injustices committed in the name of good business practice, in the interest of maximized profits? Current legal structures are totally inadequate. From the US Supreme Court to the World Trade Organization, tribunals dealing with the business-society conflict continue to lend powerful support to corporate interests over ordinary people’s interests for health and safety and a clean environment. The result? Corporations are getting away with murder.

January 23, 2012
A French Film Takes Issue With the Psychoanalytic Approach to Autism

The outdated approach to autism in France discussed in this NYT article offers a good example of how intellectual stagnation can have serious real-world consequences.

Unfortunately, French autistic children are not getting the treatment they deserve because of overly conservative and rigid thinking on the part of psychoanalysts. 

Yet in comparing the US vs. France on the issue of autism, David Jolly and Stephanie Novak make two mistakes. First, they neglect to separate the inappropriateness of psychoanalytic treatment for autistic children from its general appropriateness for higher-functioning groups of patients. Even so, the French psychoanalytic establishment is rigidly and unhealthily attached to one man’s theories over all others. Lacanian psychoanalysis dominates France more like a church than a school of thought.

Second, the two journalists conflate the autism issue with the ADHD issue. We know that in the US, ADHD is shamefully overdiagnosed, despite the cheerful example used in the article. Too many American children are needlessly medicated, thanks in large part to marketing, as a way of controlling their behavior, shifting responsibility away from parents and teachers, and maximizing Big Pharma’s profits. The caution shown in France in not diagnosing ADHD and in not making unruly kids swallow a daily dose of psychostimulants is totally warranted. In fact, French regulations require a hospital-initiated prescription for Ritalin. This caution is especially commendable considering that France has one of the highest per capita pharmaceutical consumption rates in the world, along with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical markets. It’s clearly makes sense to protect children from pharmaceuticals that are unnecessary, especially since research is unclear on the long-term health effects of chronic stimulant use. 

Conservatism, pride, and dogmatic authority are important traits of French culture. From an outsider’s perspective, traditional ways of thinking and doing things in France easily get fixated on as the only possible way. Similarly, the French intellectual community has a tendency to close itself off to progressive ideas emanating from the outside. 

UPDATE: Incredibly, a French court has ruled that the film discussed in the article above should be censored and suppressed, removed from the internet, and the director fined at least 40,000EUR. Aside from what anyone thinks of the merits of the documentary (available here for now), or of psychoanalysis, or of Jacques Lacan, or of employing Lacanian psychoanalysis to treat autism, this is a shameful legal judgment. Censorship has no place in democratic society…unless you’re in France, which has a history over recent decades of imposing strict, arbitrary limits to freedom of expression—and punishing offenders.

UPDATE II: This op-ed in today’s NYT by L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, comparing treatments for ADD/ADHD and the problems with prescribing amphetamines for children is worth reading.  In it, Sroufe elaborates on the big problem: “To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.”

January 21, 2012
How to help end violence and child labor fueled by production of your phone and laptop

The BBC reports on how “‘conflict minerals’ that help fuel war in the Democratic Republic of Congo often end up in the most popular electronic gadgets” along with the “growing campaign to end the use of ‘conflict minerals’ in personal technology” by international consumers of laptops and cellphones. “The demand for profits contributes to dangerous working conditions, in which miners, often children, work gruelling hours in unstable shafts.”

January 18, 2012
Asked to shoulder more economic burden, Republicans point finger to children

Yep, it’s 2012 and Republicans have actually begun dismantling child labor laws—it’s for the kids own good, they say.

Child labor laws are being dismantled in Republican-led states like Missouri, Wisconsin, and Maine, while their propagandists promote the importance of learning an improved “work ethic,” “life lessons,” etc.

GOP canididate Newt Gingrich sounded off that poor children should be working as janitors.  This is his bold idea to help strengthen an economy that the Wall Street masters totalled almost 4 years ago in their neverending accumulation of capital at any cost. Despite massive fraud, that party’s still going strong and corporate profits are higher than ever.

But don’t think for a second that such extreme inequality might stop Republicans. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa used a kids-need-more-exercise argument in favor of child farm labor. “How,” he asks, “can kids be active if they are [not laboring on farms]?”

January 10, 2012
The Rise of Cyberschools

Alternet: The Associated Press reports that more than 200,000 kindergarten to 12th grade students are enrolled in full-time “virtual charter schools” in at least 40 [U.S.] states. That number soars to two million schoolchildren nationwide when one takes into account students who are enrolled in at least one course.