On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pakistan has urged Afghanistan to reject a long-term strategic partnership with the United States. This revelation, following a string of other troubling developments in the decade-long war, makes it abundantly clear that Pakistan’s growing assertiveness is linked directly to the widespread perception in Pakistan of American weakness in Afghanistan.
The story claims that at an April 16th meeting in Kabul, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai to rebuff America’s “Strategic Partnership Declaration,” a formal agreement that would allow American military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for the purpose of training Afghan troops (apparently, preventing terrorist bases for al-Qaeda requires permanent bases for America). As if that disclosure was not enough to raise the hackles of Washington’s foreign policy elite, Gilani also told Karzai that America’s policy of trying to weaken the Taliban’s momentum while at the same time bringing them to the negotiating table made no sense, and that their countries must take “ownership” of the peace process.
Of course, rather than use this opportunity to reexamine the efficacy of a prolonged U.S. presence in the region, the question Beltway insiders are asking is why—oh why!—would leaders in Kabul and Islamabad collude against Washington?
The answer is simple: America’s ostensible clients—Afghanistan and Pakistan—lack confidence in their patron and seek more viable—and geographically contiguous—alternatives for security. Why wouldn’t they? Our presence has increased the level of anti-American radicalism that provides passive support for Islamist terrorism; in turn, insurgents have responded to what they perceive as a hostile occupation by reasserting their authority with more violence and bloodshed. This vicious cycle has led to a noticeable deterioration of security in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, put into perspective, Why would any Afghan or Pakistani leader willingly put the future of Central Asia into Washington’s hands?
First and foremost, let us keep in mind America’s abysmal reputation in Pakistan. As one retired Pakistani general in Karachi told me, the perception in Pakistan is that America uses their country “like a condom.” Let us also remember that last November, after a sharp rise in the number of night raids and Afghan civilian casualties, President Karzai told the Washington Post, “The time has come to reduce military operations…to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”
Regardless of whether Pakistan gets its way, its impudence in pushing Afghanistan to abandon America exposes the real balance of power in the region. It is Pakistan, not the United States, that wields significant influence over Afghanistan’s major stakeholders. This includes old-guard mujahideen commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network and its connected affiliates, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, and other militant heavyweights. This clash of strategic interests, not just between the United States and Pakistan but also among other competing regional powers, shows why Washington’s periodic troop surges, increased development aid, and Predator drone strikes have failed to translate into anything more than “fragile” and “reversible” gains on the ground. Such inhospitable conditions underscore the absurdity of the U.S.-led coalition’s Sisyphean nation-building project.
Rather than becoming a viable nation-state, Afghanistan will remain a bottomless pit for American credibility and resources. For this reason, U.S. leaders should not fall into the trap of refusing to withdraw from Afghanistan out of fear that the United States will appear weak. Prolonging our presence in Afghanistan is more likely to weaken the United States militarily and economically than would withdrawal.
On April 15, 1986, Ronald Reagan launched a decapitation airstrike against the head of Libya’s government. The attacks failed to kill Gaddafi.
In the wave of attacks dozens of Libyans were killed, among them a young girl who was the adopted daughter of Libyan leader Gaddafi.
It was, at the time, considered an outrage and a barbarity — both that a major power sought to assassinate heads of state, and also that the casualties might include children in his household.
Now Reagan has been outdone.
The NATO attacks on Libya have shifted to a new attempt to assassinate Gaddafi attacking his homes — and now reportedly killing his youngest son Seif al-Arab, 29, and three of Gadhafi’s grandchildren, all younger than 12.
The layers of deceit and deniability are deep:
NATO claims it is only “protecting civilians” in keeping with a UN resolution. They claim they are only attacking military targets. The Obama administration is (in keeping with “multilateralist” imperialism) claiming to act with and through its allies. And so on.
But it is important to compare Obama here with his predecessors: He has continued the Guantanamo of Bush. He has continued the Iraq occupation. He has escalated the Afghanistan war — increasing the U.S. occupation forces and expanding it into Pakistan. He has greatly escalated the use of covert assassination (meaning U.S. death squads) around the world — killing targets and whoever is near them.
And now, they have taken up the practice of seeking to assassinate government leaders of other countries that they do not like. The very notion of “self-determination for nations” is removed from the table by their imperialist logic. And now Gaddafi’s grandchildren lie dead in the ruble.
Government scientists and media shills are now “reexamining” old studies that show that radioactive substances like plutonium cause cancer to argue that exposure to low doses of radiation is good for us … a theory called “hormesis”.
It is not just bubbleheads like Ann Coulter saying this. Government scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and pro-nuclear hacks like Lawrence Solomon are saying it as well.
Indeed, in virtually every discussion on the risk of nuclear radiation, someone post comments arguing that a little radiation makes us healthier.
However, the official position is that there is insufficient data to support the hormesis theory: As Wikipedia notes:
Consensus reports by the United States National Research Council and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have upheld that insufficient human data on radiation hormesis exists to supplant the Linear no-threshold model (LNT). Therefore, the LNT continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for human radiation exposure.
The notion of radiation hormesis has been rejected by the National Research Council’s (part of the National Academy of Sciences) 16 year long study on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.
Most proponents of the hormesis theory claim that data from the residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima shows that residents exposed to low levels of radiation (i.e. some miles from the bomb blasts) lived longer than residents who lived so far away that they were not exposed to any radiation.
However, as Reuters noted in 2000:
Japanese survivors of the atomic bomb have their life expectancy reduced by an average about 4 months, which does not support claims that survivors exposed to low levels of radiation live longer than comparable unexposed individuals.
To clarify the question of whether atomic bomb survivors have enhanced or reduced life expectancy, Drs. John B. Cologne and Dale L. Preston from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan, studied 120,321 survivors and estimated their radiation exposure and mortality rates after 45 years of follow up.
They report in the July 22nd issue of The Lancet that median life expectancy fell by about 1.3 years per Gy of estimated radiation dose, and declined faster at higher doses. At doses below 1 Gy, median life expectancy fell by about 2 months, while exposures of greater than 1 Gy resulted in a median loss of life of 2.6 years.
Drs. Cologne and Preston estimate that at a dose of 1 Gy, 60% of those exposed died from solid cancer, 30% from illnesses other than cancer, and 10% from leukemia.
“These results are important in light of the recent finding that radiation significantly increases mortality rates for causes other than cancer,” they write.
A large study of bone cancer in survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima published in March of this year also showed no hormesis, but rather increased cancer risk even at low doses.
Other data has also been misinterpreted by those who advocate that a little radiation is good for you. For example, the above-quoted Wikipedia article notes:
In popular treatments of radiation hormesis, a study of the inhabitants of apartment buildings in Taiwan has received prominent attention. The building materials had been accidentally contaminated with Cobalt-60 but the study found cancer mortality rates more than 20 times lower than in the population as a whole. However, this study compared the relatively young irradiated population with the much older general population of Taiwan, which is a major flaw. A subsequent study by Hwang et al. (2006) found a significant exposure-dependent increase in cancer in the irradiated population, particularly leukemia in men and thyroid cancer in women, though this trend is only detected amongst those who were first exposed before the age of 30. This study also found that rate of total cancer cases was lower than expected.
Even If Hormesis is Real, We’ve Got Too Much of a Good Thing
Even if the accepted scientific consensus is wrong and hormesis is real, we’re getting too much of a good thing.
As I’ve previously noted:
There Are NO Background Levels of Radioactive Caesium or Iodine
Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:
Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster. As of 2005, caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with caesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes with greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion.
The mean contamination of caesium-137 in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster was 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2. This corresponds to a contamination of 1 mg/km2 of caesium-137, totaling about 500 grams deposited over all of Germany.Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.
As the EPA notes:
Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.
So there was no “background radiation” for caesium-137 before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl.
Similarly, I’ve pointed out:
The Argonne National Laboratory notes:
Essentially all the plutonium on earth has been created within the past six decades by human activities involving fissionable materials.
Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, which ceased worldwide by 1980, generated most environmental plutonium. About 10,000 kg were released to the atmosphere during these tests.
Average plutonium levels in surface soil from fallout range from about 0.01 to 0.1 picocurie per gram (pCi/g).
Accidents and other releases from weapons production facilities have caused greater localized contamination.
So like radioactive cesium and iodide – which I discussed yesterday – plutonium doesn’t exist in nature in any significant quantity, and so “background radiation” is a meaningless concept.
In other words, even if a little radiation is good for us, we have already been getting exposed to a lot more radiation – from nuclear weapons tests, Chernobyl, Japan and other sources – than our ancestors were ever exposed to.
Indeed, even if the studies did show that low level exposure by the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped them live longer, background radiation in 1945 was much lower than after above-ground nuclear tests, Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Other Toxic Exposures
It’s not only apologists for the safety corner-cutting nuclear power industry which is trying to convince us of hormesis. Apologists for all big polluters are arguing hormesis as well.
Wikipedia describes the general theory:
Hormesis … is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.
Even if radiation hormesis is true, we are exposed to a wide range of toxic chemicals, including BPA in our cans, rocket fuel in our drinking water, mercury in our fish, and many others.
Even if any toxic substances might have a hormesis effect in a vacuum, we are not exposed to chemicals in a vacuum … we are exposed to several chemicals at the same time. Indeed, scientists long ago demonstrated the synergistic effect of toxins – where:
The combined effect of the substances acting together is greater than the sum of the effects of the substances acting by themselves .
For example, smokers are much more likely to get cancer from exposure to radioactive radon gas than non-smokers.
So even if there is hormesis from a chemical at low doses because it causes our body to produce a wave of antioxidants and other cancer-fighters, by the time we get swamped to the myriad of toxic chemicals and radiation exposures present in modern life, our body’s defense mechanisms become so overextended that any hormesis effect would be lost.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel has decided to freeze tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in response to the reconciliation signed by ruling parties in Palestine.
Israel sees the unity agreement as a threat to the future of its relations with the PA as it has classified Hamas as a terrorist organization, the Israeli daily Ynet said on Sunday.
The occupation country fears that elections could put resistance forces in power.
Practical steps have already been taken to implement the decision to discontinue customs revenues, which constitute 37 percent of the PA’s budget.
The talks involve monies collected by Israel through a customs duty imposed on Palestinian goods imported by land, air and sea, according to the Oslo Accords.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steints has insructed his staff not to attend a meeting scheduled Sunday with the PA’s tax official to decide to transfer NIS 300m (around USD 89m) to the PA.
The position comes as Israeli professor Saul Meshal has predicted that if elections were to be held today they would result in a landslide victory for Hamas.
The expert said that the wave of Arab revolutions paired with the decline of Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas are working in favor of Hamas that currently runs the Gaza Strip.
He said one of the main reasons why Hamas maintains respect in the Gaza Strip is that the funds it receives are not distributed among its leaders but are shared with the needy through salaries, grants, and aid.
He also factored in that security agencies in the West Bank have proven notorious for waging war against freedoms and stopping peaceful protests as well as arresting hundreds of Hamas’s men creating a situation of malice and insecurity.
QALQILIYA — Israeli forces injured an American activist and detained three other foreign nationals Sunday, as they attempted to stop Israeli bulldozers from razing Palestinian agricultural land east of Qalqiliya, witnesses said.
International solidarity activists gathered in Izbat At-Tabib in the northern West Bank on privately-owned Palestinian property, which Israel seeks to confiscate for the construction of a wall around Jewish-only settlements in the area.
Soldiers pushed over a 60-year-old American woman with the Michigan Peace Team, who fell and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken wrist, witnesses said.
They added that Israeli forces detained two British activists and one Swedish activist.
A Ma’an correspondent said Israeli officials ordered a group of journalists to leave the area, threatening to arrest them for being in a closed military zone.
Residents said Israeli authorities had issued them warrants earlier in April informing them that their land would be confiscated.
An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers were in the area to secure the engineering team, but that it was border police who carried out the arrests.
A border police spokesman could not be reached for comment.