Photos of a war crime in progress

Click to enlarge — Ezz Al-Zanoun/Getty Images

A boy stands at a funeral ceremony held for Palestinian Abu Jamei, who died after an Israeli aircraft hit his house in Khan Yunis, Gaza

“You can’t have occupation and human rights.”

That’s what public intellectual and essayist Christopher Hitchens had to say about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, one of the most contentious components of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This conflict came to a head once again last summer, when Israel launched a seven-week military campaign in the Gaza Strip region of Palestine that resulted in about 2,200 deaths — 1,500 of them civilian.

This campaign is just the latest in a long line of fighting in Gaza — and beyond, so much so that the United Nations just reported that within five years, Gaza could be uninhabitable.

Click this link to see more of the story, more photos.

Pakistan’s borders – drawn in blood and foolishness

In their fascinating account of a series of interviews with a Taliban tactician in Tuesday’s New York Times, Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah point to “one distinct Taliban advantage: the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan barely exists for the Taliban.”

In previous posts on The Lede, we’ve mentioned that Pakistan and the rest of the world believes that Afghanistan ends (and Pakistan begins) more or less where a 1,600-mile line was drawn on the world map in 1893, at the direction of a British colonial officer named Henry Mortimer Durand, who sought to define the outer edge of what was then British India. At the time, the Afghans grudgingly accepted this map, despite the fact that what became known as the Durand Line cut right through Pashtun tribal areas and even villages that they considered part of Afghanistan.

Sir Henry, whose portrait can be seen in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery in London, drew his line with the memory of Britain’s two failed wars against the Afghans fresh in his mind. Not long before, in 1879, during what the British call the Second Anglo-Afghan War, Sir Henry had completed and published an account of “The First Afghan War and Its Causes” begun by his father, Sir Henry Marion Durand. As Sir Henry noted in his introduction to the book (which has been scanned and posted online in its entirety by Google), his father, who died before he could complete the history, “had some special qualifications for the task,” having participated in that first, disastrous attempt to subdue Afghanistan, four decades earlier.

So, as the entry on Pakistan in the Encarta encyclopedia explains, splitting the Pashtun tribes was in some sense the whole point of what is still known today as the Durand Line:

In November, 2001, as the United States confronted the Taliban in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Cener and the Pentagon, Vartan Gregorian explained on The Times’s Op-Ed page how the arbitrary line the British colonial administration in India drew through “Pashtunistan” in the 19th century, which still forms much of the modern border, created problems that have still not been resolved in this volatile border region.

As the scholar Barnett Rubin noted in an article in Foreign Affairs in 2007, when the British left India in 1947 and the northwest part of the territory was carved into the new state of Pakistan, the Afghans stopped recognizing the Durand Line as a border:

RTFA. Learn something about the crimes of British Imperialism, the ignorance and stupidity of the American “Nouveau Imperialiste”.

Mass grave found in Mexico – and it’s NOT from a drug war!

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Archeologists have found a mass grave in Mexico City with four dozen human skeletons laid out in neat lines that could reveal clues about the 16th century Spanish conquest that killed millions.

The investigators found the 49 skeletons, all lying face up with their arms crossed, as they searched for a palace complex in the Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political center for the ancient Aztec elite and now a district in the north of the sprawling Mexican capital.

“We were completely taken by surprise. We didn’t expect to find this massive funeral complex,” Salvador Guilliem, in charge of the site for the government’s archeology institute, said when the discovery was announced.

It is likely the indigenous people buried in the grave died in battle against the invading Spanish or fell victim to diseases that wiped out large swaths of the native population in 1545 and 1576, Guilliem said.

Many Aztec fighters died resisting the Spanish invasion and millions also perished during a four-year epidemic of hemorrhagic fever that began in 1545, killing 80 percent of indigenous Mexicans.

You didn’t think that mass killings were something brand-new did you? Perhaps limited only to those folks in the 3rd World who might be a different color? Who believe in a different religion or ideology?

Mass murder was a standard by-product of colonial rule.

Brits tortured Barack Obama’s grandfather

The past usually finds a way of catching up with us. Could Britain’s colonial sins pose a risk to our relationship with the soon-to-be most powerful person on Earth?

Hussein Onyango Obama, the president-elect’s paternal grandfather, had served with the British army in Burma during the second world war and later found work back in Kenya as a military cook. Like many army veterans, he returned to Africa hoping to win greater freedoms. But his aspirations soon turned to resentment of the occupying British.

He became involved in the Mau Mau independence movement and was arrested as early as 1949, probably on charges of membership of a banned organisation.

During two years’ detention he was subjected to horrific violence, according to the story’s authors, Ben Macintyre and Paul Orengoh. Tortures inflicted on Kenyan prisoners sometimes involved such barbaric implements as “castration pliers”. “The African warders were instructed by the white soldiers to whip him every morning and evening till he confessed,” Sarah Onyango, 87, tells the Times.

The behaviour of British soldiers is the subject of continuing legal action in the UK courts from victims seeking reparations for torture and mistreatment suffered more than 50 years ago. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission is still gathering evidence.

I expect the Brits will admit to their guilt and concede responsibility for their torture and greed sometime in the next couple of centuries. A role model for the United States in every way.

Over the course of the battle in Kenya against British colonialism, over 70,000 Africans are believed to have died. 32 white European civilians were killed.

Libya will get $5 billion compensation from Italy

Reuters/Daylife Photo

Italy has agreed to pay Libya $5 billion as compensation for its 30-year occupation of the country, which ended in 1943. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, signed a memorandum pledging a $5 billion compensation package that involves construction projects, student grants and pensions for Libyan soldiers who served with the Italians in World War II.

“It is a material and emotional recognition of the mistakes that our country has done to yours during the colonial era,” Berlusconi said Saturday as he arrived. “This agreement opens the path to further cooperation.”

Rome is also eager to increase its long-consolidated energy ties with Tripoli. Libya is a big supplier of natural gas and oil to Italy. Berlusconi said the agreement helps open the way to more “gas possibilities, possibilities for Libyan oil, which is of the best quality.”

The Italian leader said that part of the package would be for infrastructure projects over the next 25 years, including a coastal highway stretching across the country from Tunisia to Egypt.

Under the thumb of colonial and fascist Italy, thousands of Libyans died. It was only the advance of Allied armies during World War 2 that freed Libya from the domination of the Rome government.

Kind of about time, ain’t it?