Peace & Justice

Wednesday afternoon at Modesto Peace/Life Center

Wednesdays, the Peace/Life Center is usually open from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. Bring brown bag lunch. Come by for some coffee or tea or to chat or to see a film or browse through various books and magazines. Beverages will be provided.

My fellow Americans - Peace Essay Contest 2008 Awards


What issues do local students think are important for our presidential candidates to address?

That is the topic of the 2008 Peace Essay Contest, and 759 fifth to twelfth graders in Stanislaus County have submitted their concerns. Finalists have been chosen and the judges will gather to pick the winners in early February.

We have invited each political parties listed on the Stanislaus County ballot to send a representative to the awards reception in March to receive a set of all those 759 essays.

ACTION: Join us as well on Friday, March 7, 7 p.m. at the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Center on the Modesto Junior College West Campus, 2201 Blue Gum Ave., Modesto

College AI students hosts human rights activist


Modesto Junior College’s Amnesty International Student Chapter at will host its third “Stolen Youth: Lost Innocence” on March 26th, 2008 at 6:00 pm on the MJC West Campus in Sierra Hall Room # 132, 2201 Blue Gum Ave. Admission is free, and open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door to contribute to the charity “Maiti Nepal,” a rescue and rehabilitation center for victims of sexual trafficking.

Chivy Sok, co-director of the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights will be our featured speaker. Chivy, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide, has long been recognized as a leader on human rights and child labor research, education, and training, and is dedicated to promoting education and understanding about genocide, particularly about the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields.

In addition to the inspiring lecture, the documentary film, The Day My God Died, will tell the story of four young women forced into sexual slavery in India. Filmed in India and Nepal, ''The film uses spy-camera footage to take us into Bombay's grim Kamathipura neighborhood, the largest concentrated red-light district in the world, known as ''The Cages." According to the film, some 200,000 prostitutes work here. The average age is just 14, but most will not live long; 80 percent of them have HIV. The evening will include letter-writing opportunities to local and national leaders asking them to advocate policy to end human trafficking and human rights abuse.

Modesto Junior College students wish to create a more aware and inspired community of human rights activists in Modesto and are especially excited about creating positive change in the world through better human rights education here at home.

The Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) for Human Rights, 3543 18th St., Suite 11, San Francisco, CA 94110; (415) 355-4744, ext. 401;

Army failed to meet its own recruitment benchmarks once again in 2007


National Priorities Project

Despite aggressive recruitment efforts, the Army failed to meet its own recruitment benchmarks once again in 2007. You can read about NPP’s national, state and county-level analysis of 2007 military recruits in an Associated Press*

The impact of the Iraq War is evident in the Army’s failure to meet its own benchmarks. Only 71 percent of Army recruits in 2007 had a regular high school diploma, missing the Army’s benchmark by close to 20 percentage points. Department of Defense (DoD) studies have shown that a high school diploma is the most powerful indicators for recruits’ success.

At the same time, the burden of fighting the Iraq War continues to fall disproportionately on recruits coming from low- and middle-income neighborhoods by even greater margins than in 2004. Visit for income breakdowns by neighborhood.

“Once again, we’re staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden,” NPP executive director Greg Speeter noted. “Instead of spending millions more on new enlistment bonuses, we need to change the terms of where these soldiers are fighting and why they’re taking the risk of never coming home.”

To find recruitment data on a particular county or state or to see the full analysis of Fiscal Year 2007 active-duty Army recruits by ZIP code with data on race, ethnicity, age, citizenship, educational attainment and Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) at

Today’s massive publicity of this analysis is hopefully just the start of these numbers fueling the urgency to bring the troops home. Please let us know how you use them.

* AP article at:

Visit the National Priorities Project at

Nicaraguan Women’s cooperative in danger

From NicaNet

The Nueva Vida women’s sewing cooperative, the Fair Trade Zone, is in danger of losing its land, building, and free trade zone status, thereby putting 50 people out of their jobs that they have worked so hard to maintain for the last nine years. The fledgling Genesis spinning plant cooperative, only days away from setting its first post in the ground, is also in danger of losing the land where they will build their factory, all the work they have put into their project for the last year, and the opportunity to create full-time employment for 60 people and their families. These are only two examples of the negative impact that legal attempts to seize the land would have, resulting in the closing of all of the Center for Development in Central America’s (CDCA) projects in Ciudad Sandino.

What was done?

The CDCA solicited emails to be sent to the First Lady of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo, requesting that she, as a strong defender of poor women throughout this country, investigate this attempt to steal from these cooperatives that are made up in their vast majority of poor women who have worked so long and so hard to better the lives of their members.

Good news

Word has come from the Office of the Attorney General of Nicaragua, Hernan Estrada, asking CDCA to please tell their network that they are paying attention and working on our case, and to please stop sending emails so other emails can get through.

ACTION: For the most up-to-date information visit

Crisis continues in Pakistan


At 6:15 a.m. on December 27, 2007, my brother in Karachi, Pakistan, called to tell me that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated. I started my day watching GEO News, a Pakistani Urdu news channel, which is still banned in Pakistan but it can be accessed online. Then I turned on CNN and Fox News. I was surprised by the wall to wall coverage of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

While Pakistani police were busy cleaning the assassination site with powerful hoses, the “experts” on CNN and Fox News had already blamed Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremists. What astounded me was the portrayal of Benazir Bhutto in the U.S. media. I did not recognize the Benazir Bhutto they were talking about. She was being sanctified by the media. We were told that she was the only hope for democracy in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government also pointed fingers at Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremists, but it did not do an autopsy, required by law in such circumstances. It did not allow the doctor who declared her dead to speak to the media. In the next three days the government gave three different explanations of her death; she died of 1) shrapnel from the bomb, 2) a gunshot bullet, 3) hitting her head on the lever of the sunroof.

The current crisis in Pakistan started in March 2007 when Pervez Musharraf dismissed the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. In response to protests by lawyers, the Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry in July. Then under a U.S. brokered deal, Musharraf agreed to let Benazir Bhutto, exiled leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, come back to Pakistan with the hope of forming a Bhutto/Musharraf led government. But Bhutto’s return on October 18, 2007 was marred by the explosion of a bomb that killed 140 supporters and just missed her during a procession from the Karachi airport.

Civil unrest continued and Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3, 2007. He suspended the Constitution and dismissed the Supreme Court. Only four of the seventeen judges agreed to take the oath for the new Supreme Court under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). The judges who refused to take the oath were put under house arrest. Musharraf hand picked more judges to form the new Supreme Court. He also shut down some private TV channels. This led to protests by lawyers, journalists, and some students. Benazir spoke out and was also put under house arrest for few days. She blamed Musharraf for not providing her with proper security and charged that the government refused to make an appropriate inquiry into the October 18 bombing.

What is the real story of this beautiful, strong woman and what political interests did she represent? Would she have been the savior of Pakistan?

Benazir Bhutto did lead her party, Pakistan Peoples Party, to victory in two elections and she became Prime Minister twice. Both times she was dismissed for corruption and incompetence. She was still popular, but she was no democrat. She inherited the leadership of PPP from her father and declared herself “chairperson for life.”

Her first term began in December 1988 following General Zia ul-Haq who came into power by deposing Benazir’s father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zia died in an airplane crash in 1988. In an election after Zia’s death, Benazir Bhutto, at age 35, became the first female Prime Minister of an Islamic country. She lasted 20 months. It was at the end of the Soviet-Afghan War. The U.S. spent over $50 billion to supply arms and equipment to Mujahideen fighting Soviets in Afghanistan. The Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, and some elements in the Pakistani Army were the conduits via CIA to recruit and train fighters who Bush now calls “terrorists” but Reagan called “freedom fighters.”

Benazir’s second term began in October 1993 and lasted 3 years. It ended up with a dismissal amid accusations of nepotism and undermining the justice system. Her second term also coincides with the rise of the Taliban and their capture of Kabul.

Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is now co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party with their 19 year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Zardari was a minister in Benazir Bhutto’s cabinet and was known as “Mr. 10%” in Pakistan. He was getting 10% of every contract issued by the government. The couple embezzled over $2 billion.

Pakistan’s history and geography shed some light on Benazir’s assassination, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and on the current political crisis. Pakistan, a very young nation, was carved out of British India in 1947 as a home for Muslims, but has yet to become the democratic country envisioned by its founders. In the beginning Pakistan was influenced more by United Kingdom, but in the last 50 years the Pakistani government has been profoundly affected by U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Pakistan is surrounded by Iran, Afghanistan, China, and India. To the southeast are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. To the north is Central Asia including the other “stans” – Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. To the west is the Middle East with huge reserves of oil and the current focus of the Neocon’s hegemonic agenda.

The history of U.S./Pakistan relations starts in 1950 when Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited the U.S. and addressed a joint session of Congress. Pakistan signed treaties with the U.S. in the 50’s, one was the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the other Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) – modeled after NATO. They were mutual defense treaties. In spite of the treaties, the U.S. refused aid to Pakistan twice, in 1965 and 1971, when the U.S. decided to remain neutral.

In 1960, an American U2 spy plane, flown by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down by Soviet planes over its territory. The spy plane flew from Peshawar, Pakistan.

During the 60’s, Pakistan was under the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan, who worked very closely with the U.S. He was succeeded by another military general Yahya Khan. Thirteen years of military rule ended in 1971 with a military defeat and the loss of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh. Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was elected the president of Pakistan.

Between 1971 and 1977, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto mobilized the socialists and progressives in Pakistan by coining the phrase “Islamic Socialism.” The concept had been around long before Bhutto started using it. Some people believe that socialism is close to Islamic teachings of equality and sharing the wealth. While other Islamic scholars and politicians equate socialism with atheism.

As Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s socialism was moving Pakistan away from the U.S., the U.S. was glad to aid and support opposing Islamic parties. For the first time Pakistani Islamic parties were energized. They had had very little influence in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In 1977 Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia ul-Haq. Zia ul-Haq was the best ally Islamic parties ever had in Pakistan. The legal system in Pakistan is based on English Common Law and Islamic Law. Zia ul-Haq promised to usher in an Islamic system and did introduce several ordinances based on Islamic law.

On December 25, 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Pakistan under the military rule of General Zia ul-Haq was already working with the CIA. Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) became very powerful and played a key role in the Soviet-Afghan War. During the 1980’s with over $50 billion in U.S. money, billions more from Saudi Arabia, with the full consent, support, and cooperation from the CIA, the ISI recruited and trained thousands of fighters from several Islamic countries. Thousands of madrassahs, Islamic schools, were opened all over Pakistan with the sole purpose of creating Islamic fighters. These were the Mujahideen that fought against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and ultimately forced the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan in May 1989.

In the 1990’s Pakistan’s ISI created Taliban with the approval of the CIA. After the Soviet Union’s withdrawal, Afghanistan was in chaos during the early 1990’s. Different warlords fought each other and destroyed much of Kabul until the Taliban started their assault in 1993 and took control of Kabul in 1996.

U.S. military aid to Pakistan keeps strengthening the Pakistani Army – an Army that has imposed martial law four times. When Pakistan has been under military rule, the U.S. has had better relations with Pakistan -- more military aid and more cooperation. During the 1960’s, it was Ayub Khan, in the 1980’s it was Zia ul-Haq, and now it is Pervez Musharraf. The decade of the 90’s saw democratically elected governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif until Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif in a military coup in October 1999.

Pakistan was sanctioned by U.S. Congress under the Pressler Amendment during the 90’s. Military aid was reduced and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft was suspended after Pakistan had paid $650 million. Bill Clinton tilted heavily towards India and on his visit to Southeast Asia in 2000 he spent 6 days visiting India and Bangladesh and 6 hours in Pakistan.

When Musharraf took power in October 1999, the U.S. condemned the imposition of martial law, but Bill Clinton was not interested in Pakistan. On January 20, 2001 George W. Bush became President of the United States. After 9/11 everything changed for Musharraf. He was given a choice, “You are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Musharraf chose the U.S. and has been receiving $150 million a month since. The U.S. media portrays Pakistan as an ally in Bush’s “Global War on Terror,” but Musharraf and the Pakistani media consider Pakistan a frontline state in the war on terrorism.

The situation in Pakistan remains grave. Bhutto’s return and assassination, along with Musharraf’s suspension of the Constitution, have exacerbated the political crisis. The U. S. government and the Pakistani military/leadership are increasingly interdependent as Bush’s “Global War on Terror” continues. We can see that the current situation follows a long history of U. S. involvement in the affairs of Pakistan, but it is hard to see that the people of either country have benefited.

Dan Yaseen is an Editorial Board Member of the Community Alliance. He is a native of Pakistan whose family still lives there. Dan has lived in the U. S. for 34 years and in Fresno for 18 years. He can be contacted at