Some significant voices defending Greg Mortensen

The problem with all the discussion about Greg Mortensen’s failures has been the eagerness with which his work has been debunked whereas the picture seems not to be as black and white as it was portrayed in the “60 Minutes” exposé. Evidently some schools were built as Mortensen claims.
Radio Free Europe found

“some surprising backers who have come forward to praise Mortenson. One of them is a local politician in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region who originally fiercely opposed Mortenson’s work.

In “Three Cups of Tea,” Imran Nadim Shigri is described as an influential political figure who backed a conservative Shi’ite cleric’s religious decree against the CAI’s school-building.

Shigri has confirmed that Mortenson did build schools in the remote valleys of his native Baltistan. He could not recall the exact number of schools built by the CAI but said that in the remote Braldu Valley he had personally supervised the handover of five of Mortenson’s school buildings to the government, which is now providing teachers and funds to run them.

Shigri says Mortenson’s heart was in the right place but that the main problem was his lack of management skills, because Mortenson trusted some local people who misguided him and overinflated building costs.

Shigri also faults Mortenson for focusing largely on building infrastructure without concentrating on the education that would be provided in these buildings. “He only focused on constructing schools. He failed to ensure their sustainability and [proper] management,” he says. “He also failed to ensure a high quality of education in these institutions.” …

Across the border in Afghanistan, Gul Zaman, governor of the remote Naray district in insurgency-plagued eastern Konar Province, says that three of Mortenson’s schools are already working in his district while one more is being built.
In the settlement of Saw alone, Zaman says, “around 700 to 800 boys and girls benefit” from the local school and there are also “200 to 300” pupils enrolled at each of the schools in Samarak and Suna Gala.

On its website, the CAI lists eight schools in Konar and in a recent U.S. television interview, Mortenson claimed to have built 11 schools in the province.
But Zaman says that two of the schools named by the CAI were actually built by a NATO provincial reconstruction team. Zaman’s statement was verified by Syed Jamaluddin Hassani, head of Konar’s education department.

That the schools are not all being used should surprise no one.

This is not to say that Mortensen’s evident distortions of truth should be condoned, merely that some honest achievements did take place even as some embarrassing distortions of truth were used to attract funds. It was a betrayal of all the interested parties — of Mortensen himself, even, as well as all the rest.

The tragedy for all of us is that we fail more often than we want anyone else to know. Mortensen’s failures are now hung out for all to see. We can all be glad “60 Minutes” doesn’t think our lies are worth exposing. Sometimes telling the truth can be costly, but in the end the price of not telling the truth can surpass all attempts at restitution.

China’s economy will overtake the American by 2016?

The news in every direction seems to be ominous. On many grounds there are reasons to wonder what the world is coming to. Hardly anyone doubts that major shifts in the alignment of the world powers is in the offing. Among the many indications that such shifts are taking form is the recent prediction by the IMF that China’s economy will overtake the American economy within five years. Brett Arends describes some of the implications of this shift in a MarketWatch blog:

What we have done is traded jobs for profit. The jobs have moved to China. The capability erodes in the U.S. and grows in China. That’s very destructive. That is a big reason why the U.S. is becoming more and more polarized between a small, very rich class and an eroding middle class. The people who get the profits are very different from the people who lost the wages.”

The source of this is the following:
[April 25, 2011] *IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end. China’s economy will surpass the U.S. in 2016,* By Brett Arends, *MarketWatch*

ADDENDUM [May 10, 2011]
What that could mean to the value of the dollar. Link to this site; however, note that this author has an interest in reading the importance of silver.

Greg Mortensen, Ayn Rand, and the power of the moral imagination

The news that Greg Mortensen’s best seller, “Three Cups of Tea”, is partially fabricated has deeply disappointed many of us. We had been enchanted by his tales and held him up as an example of what could be done to overcome the hardships that people in other societies experience, even possibly to assuage the hostility that some people elsewhere have because of our country’s policies. We have even hoped that the Taliban could be turned around by our investments in schools for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But Mortensen’s stories have turned out to be, at best, embellished versions of events that actually did happen, or at worst, deliberate fabrications. [The best statement of the problems is by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.]

Once more we have learned that the stories we like to believe are not exactly true. Again it turns out that the stories we embrace have been shaped by the interests and agendas of fallible human beings like ourselves. Much of what we “know” about our world comes to us already misshapen by the interests of those who pass it on to us.

As human beings we engage with the world through narratives. The interpretations we have of events are enabled by presumptions about how the world works. Our decisions and our plans for the future are framed by narratives of possible futures. It is human to live with narratives about what is “true” and “real,” but the narratives that inform our experience often reflect the interests and agendas of others and thus are not precisely true.

Even so, we make commitments on the basis of such presuppositions. Some of us gave money to Greg Mortensen; some people have emulated him by trying to build schools in underdeveloped communities. To the degree that his claims have been untrue the investments in time and money that people have made on the basis of his narratives have been wasted. For some, the losses could be devastating.

And what of commitments made for narratives that are pure fiction? Some of our most prominent politicians claim to have formulated their policies on the basis of the fictional stories of Ayn Rand. [see a link here] Without embarrassment they tell us so. Ayn Rand did not claim to be describing real events. Everyone recognizes her writings to be fabrications. How wise is it to promote public policies on the basis of a fictional world? Ayn Rand created imaginative worlds that suited her narratives. How could anyone accept those stories to represent accurately the world as it actually exists? How could reasonable men take her views to be so “true” that they could base on them serious proposals for solving real problems in the contemporary world? The folly seems so blatant that one wonders how any reasonable person could be taken in by it.

As Marshall Sahlins has put it, the world may not conform to how we think about it. The world, whatever it is, however it functions, has its own properties – properties so complex, so elaborate and involved, that our best ideal paradigms fail to encompass it adequately. Over and over, have not human beings often found themselves trapped in circumstances of their own making that in fact they intended to avoid and indeed abhorred? How can it be rational to propose policies whose only basis is a novelist’s imagination?

The task before us, if we are to live wisely in the world, is to discover, as best we can, what our world is like. Our potential for misjudging them, of misreading events as they take place, is cavernous. If we are to be serious in our understandings of the world we must begin with humility, recognizing that its properties are essentially beyond us; much about our world, our universe, even ourselves remains to be discovered. So our policies must be grounded as much as possible on an honest attempt to understand the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. And our individual plans and certainly our collective policies need to be based as firmly as possible on empirically grounded knowledge.

That is the task of social science: It aims to discover the world as it is, to know individuals and collectivities as they are. If our leaders seek to take our country into the future with notions based on mere fiction, can anyone doubt that disaster awaits us?

Greg Mortensen’s and Ayn Rand’s worlds are fabrications. Maybe we would like to believe them but we dare not build our lives on them because they are fantasy. Whatever the real world is like – and it is safe to say that it is always changing, always moving, and thus likely to challenge our best efforts at grasping it on the wing – the closer our imaginative narratives about it need to be if we are to engage with it effectively and avoid a colossal world-wide train wreck.

The Arab Contagion in Iran

Anymore it is no surprise to hear that the Iranian government has brutalized its own people; it’s only where it has taken place this time that surprises — or rather among whom. The Arabs of Khuzestan, a minority with historically little influence on public affairs, have been demonstrating for more rights. The contagion has spread even to this group of Arabs. And again Shirin Ebadi is risking her well being by revealing, again, how brutal the Ahmadinejad regime can be.

Here is what Radio Free Europe says:

April 19, 2011
Iran’s Nobel Laureate Ebadi Warns Of Unrest Among Ethnic Arabs In Iran
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has warned the United Nations of the possible spread of unrest in Iran’s Khuzestan Province, home to most of the country’s ethnic Arab minority.

Ebadi sent a letter to UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay in which she describes a deadly crackdown by Iranian security forces last week on a peaceful protest in Khuzestan’s capital, Ahvaz.

The April 15 protest, which some dubbed “Ahvaz Day of Rage,” was aimed at protesting what participants say is discrimination and injustice against ethnic Arabs, who make up about 3 percent of Iran’s population.

The event was reportedly planned with the help of social media sites, including Facebook, by political groups and young people both inside and outside the country who are said to have been inspired by popular uprisings in Arab countries.

Iranian officials have praised street demonstrations across the Arab world as an “Islamic awakening” but themselves have used force against Iranian protesters who have taken to the streets to demonstrate for democracy and human rights.

Deaths, Injuries, And Arrests

Force was also Iranian authorities’ response to the April 15 protest in Ahvaz.

In her letter, Ebadi says that at least 12 people were killed in the clashes, 20 others were injured, and dozens were arrested.

Human rights activists told RFE/RL they have received reports that there were more than 150 arrests, including a number of intellectuals, artists, and women’s rights activists. They said the province has been turned into “a military base” by security forces who have warned activists not to speak to the media.

[For the rest, click on the title above.]
===========
To the above Sami wrote the following:
I was impressed with how Shirin Ebadi has, at great risk to her own
person, recently spoken out on the Iranian government’s oppression
toward ethnic minorities. Prior to this, I had been under the mistaken
assumption that Ebadi was inclined to avoid adopting any position on
especially sensitive topics such as this, which the Iranian government
probably characterizes as falling under the rubric of ‘national
security’. Maybe even she, as courageous and outspoken as she is, had
to be extremely careful about the statements she made on certain
issues. I developed this opinion after attending an event in April 2007
at Saint Louis University, where Ms. Ebadi was invited to speak. In her
(translated) speech, she was very critical of the Iranian government’s
restrictive domestic policies towards women, but at the same time she
was also defensive of her country’s foreign policy, particularly its
ambitions to develop an independent nuclear energy capacity and
maintain its role as a major power within the region.

While denouncing U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran, she questioned why
her country was considered a state-sponsor of terrorism when it was
U.S.-backed states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which had supported
the Taliban while Iran had fiercely opposed them in the 1990s. The
convenience of this overly simplistic argument made me wonder whether
she was trying to balance her criticism of the Iranian government’s
internal policies by defending its international positions or if she
really did have a different interpretation than most of us have of
Iran’s support for militant proxies like Hamas in Palestine, Hizbullah
in Lebanon, and the Mahdi Army in Iraq. This seemed a bit odd (to me,
anyway).

When it was time for the audience to submit written questions, I’d
hoped to ask a fairly simple question about her stance on the
persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran (apart from
women’s rights in general). From the enthusiasm of the audience in
attendance (many members of the local Iranian community, along with
professors and students from SLU and other local colleges), I could
tell there were probably more questions than she could possibly answer
that day but I was also somewhat disappointed by the quality of the
questions that were asked. The focus seemed to be on the person and not
so much on the issues that she had come to talk about. Could it be that
the more serious questions had been deliberately avoided? Or maybe this
particular audience was not interested in the ‘boring’ stuff I wanted
to hear.

Anyway, I’m glad to learn that I was wrong to have based my assessment
of Ebadi on what I didn’t hear that afternoon. As in the past, she’s
now acting as the moral conscience of the Iranian nation to make
Iranians and others around the world aware of how minorities are being
repressed in Khuzestan. The issue of women’s rights is not a slight
one, and it needs to be forcefully addressed from within by able and
articulate Iranians like Ebadi. However, the perpetration of state
violence against ethnic and religious minorities (Arabs, Kurds,
Baluchis, Sunni Muslims and non-Muslims among others) constitute a more
immediate violation of fundamental human rights that demands to be
condemned by all. It’s truly inspiring to see Shirin Ebadi use her
international prominence to take a stand for the rights of all
Iranians. I must say it is also quite reassuring to have a question
(finally) answered in this way.

Moderate comments for this blog:
http://www.blogger.com/comment-pending.g?blogID=8473844

Posted by Sami to Vital Concerns for the World at 7:56 PM
====

Afghanistan – Pakistan talks. Reason for optimism?

I know I should know better, but the news that the Pakistanis and Afghans are talking separately, without the direct involvement of the Americans or [apparently] anyone else encourages me. What we know is that both governments are frustrated with the Americans. When both countries signal a desire to talk we wonder if they have reached a point of fatigue with the war and are ready address their concerns with a new seriousness. That key leaders of the Pakistani military are involved is significant, because we know they are disgusted with the Americans and trying to get them out. Can their talks with the Afghans indicate that they are fed up enough to curtail their support for the Taliban?

I would like to suppose that they are now trying to address certain inescapable realities: that the war benefits neither country while it nourishes radical elements that neither government can tolerate and at the same time prosper; also that opportunities await a time of peace, when the material benefits of strategic location and their respective resource bases could be realizes.

Years ago in a discussion among old hands at civil war elsewhere I heard someone say that such wars only end when everyone is tired of war and want to try something else. I would like to believe that both sides – even the Pakistanis, even the Taliban – would like to try something else. In the case of Afghanistan, war has been virtually continuous for two generations; in the case of Pakistan the practice of cultivating holy war fighters for a fruitless war against India has created an incendiary situation inside the country.

It may be wishful thinking, but I would like to hope so.

Below is a portion of the AP report on their meetings:

Pakistan says it firmly backs Taliban peace talks
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Sat Apr 16, 1:31 pm ET
KABUL, Afghanistan – Pakistan stands strongly behind efforts to make peace with the Taliban and that while the U.S. will play a role in any reconciliation, Kabul should set the parameters for any talks to end the war, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani said Saturday.
At a news conference, Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said a new Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission comprising top-ranking officials is being set up to accelerate and promote a peace process.
Any solution to the war requires the support of Pakistan, and in particular elements of its security forces, which are believed to have links to insurgents in Afghanistan.
Gilani, army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and spy chief Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and other officials flew to Kabul at a time when U.S. relations with both nations are deeply strained. Having the trio of Pakistan’s power elite at the Afghan presidential palace at the same time underscored the importance of the daylong round of talks.
“We firmly believe that this process must have full Afghan ownership,” Gilani said. “It is for the Afghan nation to determine the parameters on which a reconciliation and peace process would be shaped.”
The U.S. backs reconciliation efforts, saying that it is willing to negotiate with members of the Taliban who renounce violence, sever ties with the al-Qaida terrorist network and accepts the Afghan constitution. It’s unclear whether the U.S. currently sees these as preconditions to talks or desired outcomes. But Gilani said that “conditions, qualifications or demands at this stage, in our view, may not be helpful.”
“Is the U.S. on board?” he asked, repeating a reporter’s question. “Yes, the U.S. is on board and whatever will be decided will be decided between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States.”
Gilani stressed solidarity between the two nations, which share a 1,500-mile (2,430-kilometer) border. He denied that Pakistan’s tribal areas were a safe haven for terrorists — a frequent allegation made in both the U.S. and Afghanistan.
“We are fighting a war on terrorism,” he said. “If there are military actions in our area, people they go to Afghanistan and if there is a military action by NATO forces, they come to Pakistan. Therefore, we should have more intelligence cooperation, more defense cooperation and more political cooperation.”
“We must complement each other. … There should be no blame game.” …

[For the whole article click on the title above]

The Documentary film *Bhutto*, and Why Benazir Failed.

Recently we were able to preview the forthcoming PBS documentary, Bhutto, about the life and career of Benazir Bhutto. It was well done, but much that is described in the film cannot be understood without more information on her enemies. The film refers several times to “enemies” without identifying them. That she had them is clear enough, as there were several attempts on her life, the last one of course being successful.

Benazir and indeed all of the Bhutto family had one powerful enemy: the Pakistani army. You can’t appreciate what was at stake in the Bhutto story without knowing how powerful the army is and how pervasive its influence is in Pakistani society.

The army controls huge sectors of the Pakistani economy. It owns an estimated twelve million acres, 12% of the total state-owned land and its lands are parceled out to retired officers. Also, it owns two powerful investment companies, the Fouji Foundation and the Army Welfare Trust, which together control a third of the entire heavy manufacturing in the country. They own hotels, shopping malls, insurance companies, banks, farms, factories for corn flakes, bread, cement, textiles, sugar. Altogether the Pakistan military-industrial complex was worth about 20 billion dollars in 2007. Someone has said that while other countries have armies, in Pakistan the army has a country.

The army is however not a popular institution. And of course it need not be: It exists as the institution that should be protecting the interests of the country; the problem is that it is also the country’s landlord.

In contrast, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and later his daughter Benazir Bhutto were hugely popular. Their base of influence lay in their broad popularity among the Pakistani people. This is why the army had a problem with the Bhuttos: they were too popular. Whatever failings the Bhuttos had, and I presume they had a good many like most of us, their popularity was a threat to military wealth and power.

This was why, when Benazir ran for Parliament, essentially to be Prime Minister, the army put together a new party to run against her which called itself the Islamic Democratic Alliance. And this was why when Benazir was elected in 1989 the army did what it could to keep her from serving. In fact only after Washington intervened did the army relent, and even then only after forcing Benazir to agree to allow the army to run foreign policy and the nuclear program, and not to reduce the military’s budget, or even to question the military’s budget for the nuclear program, its backing of the Kashmir insurgency, or the Afghan Mujahedin. In June, 1989, it was the Americans who told her about the army’s project to enrich uranium.

In that year she had grand ideas of resolving the problems with India. She and the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi proposed to develop a new era of peace and cooperation but their plans were upset by an insurgency in Indian Kashmir, possibly instigated by the Pakistani military. And then Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 2991.

Benazir’s term as Prime Minister ended in August 6, 1990 – hardly a year after she was elected.

She was elected Prime Minister again in 1994 but by 1996 she was again deposed. The reasons for her deposal both times were the same: her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as well as Benazir herself, was accused of corruption. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was backed by the army and had the power to dismiss her and did so twice on the basis of those claims. Both Benazir and Zardari served time in prison for corruption. It is impossible to evaluate the merits of the accusations of corruption – significantly, the PBS film presents Zardari as unfairly judged [but then the film entailed getting approvals from his administration]. What can be said with some confidence is the army had from early on opposed Benazir and were inclined to want to smear Benazir.

Rash an accusation as this is, it is not without basis. We have noted already that the army had in 1989 resisted her serving as Prime Minister and even then seriously truncated her powers. This they did again in 1994 when she was elected for a second time. And after she was deposed a second time they tried to push through amendments to the constitution that would have banned her for life from becoming Prime Minister again.

Even when she returned to Pakistan in 2007 the former general, then President Pervez Musharraf, who by then had lost all legitimacy required that she make a deal in order to run for office. Even then the promises he made in two face-to-face negotiations with her and the Americans he failed to carry out. Under American pressure he finally dropped all charges of corruption against Bhutto, which made it possible for her to return to Pakistan and run for office. When she returned on October 18, 2007, welcomed by tens of thousands, the Pakistani army provided only desultory protection even though they had been forewarned of a plot against her; indeed it is hard not to wonder if somehow someone in an official capacity was involved in what took place as her motorcade traveled from the airport to her home: suddenly the street lights went out and then two huge bombs exploded, killing 179 people and injuring more than 600. It was the “the single largest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history.”

After her arrival Musharraf behaved as if her popularity were a threat to his powers. On November 3, 2007, he declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, sacked Supreme Court judges, arrested thousands of activists, took all private TV news channels off the air, forced all serving judges to take a new oath of office that would validate whatever he did. And a few weeks later, in December, he placed Bhutto under house arrest. When thousands protested on the streets he jailed up to 10,000, finally lifting the state of emergency on December 15, allowing Bhutto to campaign for office.

By this time she had become convinced that the ISI was planning to rig the election against her, and she had prepared a dossier of evidence to present to Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. Also, on the morning of December 27, in a meeting with the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai she told him about the ISI plan. And she had prepared a note indicating that if she was killed it would have been the work of Musharraf. She was indeed killed that afternoon. Even if Musharraf himself was behind the assassination, he made no pretenses of grieving over her loss. He and the army never did like her, he said, and anyway it was actually her own fault that she died.

The army’s control of public affairs continues. No elected government in Pakistan has ever completed its tenure, for in every instance the army stepped in to take over a government that it claimed was in disarray. The army’s complaint against Benazir was corruption. No one will ever know how fair the charge was or whether this charge was trumped up in order to suit the army’s agendas – a way of delegitimizing a politician whose popularity was so great as to be a threat to its control of the country.[Source: A. Rashid, Descent Into Chaos.]

Renouncing Terry Jones and also those who murdered in the name of Islam

We are all shocked and grieved that an ignorant person would be so foolish and offensive as to burn a Quran. Clearly he had no idea what the rest of the world is like, or how other people perceive Americans or Christians. I have already stated as bluntly as I know how my own horror at this act — that is, in the hope of dissuading Mr Jones from doing it. Here I reproduce the statement that appeared in the Washington Post by someone representing the wider Christian community. [Click on the title above for a link to the source.]

Posted at 02:59 PM ET, 04/08/2011


How I tried to dissuade Terry Jones
By Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe , Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General,World Evangelical Alliance

Should Christian leaders condemn Terry Jones?

The short answer to this question is absolutely! In fact if you want to read our condemnation click here.

Before I get to the reasons behind our condemnation, you will note that we firstly strongly condemned the atrocities against the UN workers and others in Afghanistan.

When we first heard that Jones was holding a mock trial for the Koran, and then the subsequent news that he had supervised the burning of a copy, our initial response was to avoid any sort of knee-jerk reaction that might draw undeserved attention to his disrespectful and un-Christian behavior.

We simply did not want to put the spotlight on Jones or give the story any oxygen.

Why then did we decide to go very public with our condemnation of Terry Jones? There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, a video of Jones and his associate burning the Koran began to go viral and was drawing attention in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Churches were being burnt down and Christians were being killed. The headlines screamed, “American evangelical pastors burn the Koran.”

While many in the western world understand that Jones and his tiny fringe congregation are not in any way representative of true Christianity, we know that his actions would have been nuanced very differently in other parts of the world and that radicals would use them to stir up violence.

As a global association, serving 600 million evangelical Christians, we were asked by Christian leaders in Muslim majority countries to speak out clearly and distance evangelicals from Jones’ action. We wanted to make it clear that the actions of Terry Jones in no way reflect true Christian values and specifically those of evangelical Christians.

I have heard many commentators state that Jones was simply exercising his freedom of speech. While this may be true, as someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what we say and what do actually trumps our right to say it. Jones has stated that he wanted to stir the pot and provoke radical Muslims. I would ask why he wanted to do that when it was clear how radicals would respond.

Last September I spoke to Terry Jones several times trying to dissuade him from burning Korans. I asked him at one point: If he continued with his actions and radicals were to respond violently, would he come and sit with me with the widow of a pastor who had been killed or a congregation whose church had been burned to the ground, and explain to them why he had felt the need to provoke radicals to respond?

Now that the worst case scenario has happened, I ask Terry Jones again: Will you go to Afghanistan and look a widow in the eye and explain your compulsion to pull off a publicity stunt? Will you meet with the families of the U.N. workers and explain to them your provocative actions?

While those who committed the atrocities in Pakistan and Afghanistan are responsible for their actions and must be brought to justice, Terry Jones must ask himself some deeper questions. As someone who calls himself a Christian, why would he knowingly put his fellow Christians and other human beings at risk? As someone who says he is fighting for the rights of persecuted Christians, why would he want to add to their difficulties?

Yes, we most certainly condemn the actions of Terry Jones.

By Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe , Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General,World Evangelical Alliance | 02:59 PM ET, 04/08/2011

American troops in Afghanistan: A worthy expression of outrage that is overdone

It’s hard to object to the harsh criticism of the US military in Afghanistan by Malalai Joya Kill Teams in Afghanistan: The Truth, but it is also hard to picture what can reasonably hoped for in Afghanistan, or any of the other countries of the Middle East / Central Asia, if there are no military mechanisms to stand behind social institutions. I agree with her outrage at the behavior of the Americans who intentionally but indifferently murdered several Afghans and then photographed themselves preening over the bodies. But Joya’s blanket condemnation of American troops is excessive; indeed, she seems to feel there is no need for American troops to be there at all. My question is, without them, or at least some military support, how could an orderly, just society ever be developed?

She seems to think that public demonstrations will make it happen. There is a line in her statement in the Guardian that stuck out to me:

[W]e are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance [movement] led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest against the massacre of civilians and to demand an end to the war. Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Farah.
This resistance is inspired by the movements in other countries like Egypt and Tunisia – we want to see “people power” in Afghanistan as well. And we need the support and solidarity of people in the Nato countries.

How is “people power” going to work without the help of a viable military institution? — that is, the institutional support that the American/Nato forces are supposed to be providing.

If anyone whose situation demonstrates the need of a society for viable institutions of government — military and police institutions that are subject to just rulership, and an an effective system of adjudication of disputes — Joya herself is the ideal example, for she cannot live in Afghanistan under present conditions because the threats to her life. She directly, and correctly in my opinion, confronted the warlords of the country for their past crimes, and embarrassed them in a Loya Jirga. Good for her, we said. But they, at least someone, will not leave her alone if she dares to live to Afghanistan. She correctly identified the problem, at least one of the problems: Many of the power holders in the country, some of them in the current government, are former warlords with blood on their hands.

My question is how to encourage the establishment and maintenance of just institutions of governance in any society — in our own as well as all the rest. I don’t think it can happen merely by demonstrations in the streets, as much as I welcome them. Effective institutions of governance have to be developed — indeed, as happy as we can be for the progress made in Egypt and Tunisia, and we hope elsewhere, we all know that much remains to be done if those countries are to have a just, open, free society. The demonstrations in Afghanistan mimicking those in Egypt and Tunisia are a good sign, but what is to be done with the warlords? with the Taliban? with the Pakistani ISI that has been supporting the Taliban? Everyone would love to have the Americans and Nato forces out of Afghanistan, but what would happen to the Afghanistan people?

Societies have to be structured — that is, they must have mechanisms of social control and adjudication that are sufficiently effective for the society generally to be in support of it. And such institutional structures can only be established as all sides commit to establishing a working society.

And that entails having everyone with competing interests to seek mutual understanding and agreement, compromise through honesty and mutual respect.

It’s the failure to represent others fairly that I have a problem with in Joya’ critique. Yes, the behavior of American troops who killed several Afghans for sport and then bragged about it is outrageous, an offense to the Afghanistan military and the American people, and it should be punished. At the same time, though, Joya’s blanket condemnation of the American presence in Afghanistan is overstated.

Moreover, she claims that that Afghanistan would be better of without the American/Nato troops. It is hard to envision Afghanistan at this time solving its problems without help in stabilizing the country and controlling the insurgency. In an ideal world none of it should be necessary: the warlords would be tried for criminal behavior, Pakistan and Iran and India would not meddle in Afghanistan affairs, and the Americans would keep their troops home. Tragically, no one lives in an ideal world.

How is the problem of power to be solved in Afghanistan? When mobs can overrun a UN compound and kill several expatriates and a half dozen Afghans because they are offended by another outrageous act [Quran burning by a daft and foolish minister in Florida]; when Malalai Joya herself cannot show herself in Afghanistan for fear of being murdered in the streets — then there remains a fundamental problem of how to establish a functioning society. Mechanisms for the exercise and control of power have to exist in any society. Also, because human beings have differing opinions and perspectives they must practice the courtesies of social life: describing offenses accurately and fairly; also seeking ways of confronting each other with respect. Such conventions seem critical if progress is to be made in establishing institutions of governance that will ensure safe and effective social relations.