Lessons from Chernobyl 30 Years Later

Source: history.com

Source: history.com

Each April 26, apart from recalling the anniversary of my first ever hard drive crash, I wonder if we have learned anything from Chernobyl.

Thirty years ago on this day, easily the worst peacetime nuclear disaster occurred on this planet. And it leaves us with a big question.

Can nuclear installations be trusted in the hands of the government near population centers?

I wonder why Chernobyl has not made the answer easier for us. Clearly not. Chernobyl is not just a reflection of the horrors of nuclear technology, but it is also an insight into the mindset of the bureaucracy in a country with a massive government.

Granted, such a design mistake has not been repeated since, yet that is not the only danger involved in nuclear reactors.

We probably do not realize the extent of irreversible damage nuclear radiation could cause. Actually, we clearly don’t.

 

Chernobyl released at least 100 times more radiation than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, according to the BBC. Other sources consider the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone uninhabitable for humans due to dangerous Cesium radiation levels, and that the inhabitable zone would remain dangerous for the next 20,000 years. That’s shocking.

Not to mention the terrible toll the disaster has taken on animal life in the region, with suppressed biodiversity and startling diseases emerging among newborn and children as a result of genetic mutations.

 

Chernobyl disaster literally turned the neighboring Pripyat into a ghost town, which sends chills down your spine.

The nuclear radiation from the disaster spread out as far as Sweden and Western Europe.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

We may hear about it on a day like this, but we never really believe that a nuclear spill or meltdown as in the case of Chernobyl could last for thousands of years.

As of January 2016, 439 nuclear reactors are operating around the world on five continents. While there is no doubt that nuclear technology has only improved over the years and most scientists consider nuclear technology very safe, it hardly changes the lethality of a possible accident.

Fukushima could not have been a harsher reminder of our vulnerability. If a highly advanced industrial nation such as Japan cannot handle the breakdown of a nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a natural disaster, even worse can be expected from countries with far poorer government infrastructure, such as Pakistan and India.

As a matter of fact, some reports suggest that the fallout from Fukushima is far worse than Chernobyl and Hiroshima and that the worst effects of the accident are yet to materialize. However, the reporting of the risk has largely to do with the politics of the source as well, there is little doubt that Chernobyl was incomparable in its consequences due to its meltdown nature.

Fukushima also reveals is that no nuclear facility is completely disaster proof and that the potential fallout is nothing short of an environmental apocalypse.

I leave this post by pondering what to make of nuclear energy policy. Nuclear energy has its benefits as clean energy and the probability of nuclear accidents is considered very low. Furthermore, with maintaining nuclear weapons becoming almost a necessity for world powers, why not just take the risk of building nuclear reactors for power generation as well?

After all, they are well protected anyway.

But isn’t the risk of the pervasiveness of civil nuclear power plants unique in its own right? Despite the fact that most of the warnings about the potential danger of this mode of generating power are dismissed as pure alarmism.

Clearly, the only lesson that is visible after 30 years is that we are only building more nuclear reactors.

But what if we were building around our neighborhoods, with our own hands, the same disaster that we feared and dreaded so much during the uncertain Cold War?

Sadly, the evidence that we have witnessed over the years is just too overwhelming to ignore.

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Why the Enemies of Islamic State Outside America Should Root for a Republican President in 2016

Source: Daily The Nation

Source: Daily The Nation

Do you believe that the votes of American citizens matter in shaping the future of the world?

Do you also happen to believe that the United States has been following a disastrous foreign policy over the years, creating more chaos than good?

If yes, then chances are that you must blame the 2003 invasion of Iraq for destabilizing the Middle East.

I do too, and that is why I think people sharing these beliefs, and those who want to destroy the Islamic State should root for a Republican President in 2016.

We don’t just need a hawk in the White House, call the candidate a neo-conservative, if you like, but one who is interested in completely eliminating ISIL and one who believes in establishing a permanent ground force in Iraq. I very much wish Hillary Clinton would be that candidate, but the sort of focus and commitment that you can expect from candidates on the Republican side.

I also believe that it has been the foreign policy of President Obama which has led to the current chaos that Iraq and Syria are in. Ever since the rise of ISIL, we have seen President Obama rejecting and belittling the threat has only made matters worse, and only recently he has taken stricter military action.

President Obama relies mostly on air power and drone warfare for his war strategy. Just as his presidency was a reaction to the war overdose during the term of George W. Bush, he probably is allergic to the idea of deploying ground troops as an occupying force.

At this point in history, the world needs the moral leadership of the United States to get rid of this horrific state of affairs in the Middle East. A lot of US citizens assert why the United States should be a part of a regional sectarian conflict. They are right. The United States does not have to be the sole participant of dealing with ISIL, but it must lead the world to that goal. However, that requires a leader that could rally the world around the cause as George W. Bush did during his term.

The world is prepared to take on ISIL, even including Saudi Arabia and Iran, despite their clash of interest in terms of the balance of power in Iraq and Syria. The problem is that the lives of the people of the Middle East cannot be left at the mercy of terrible authoritarian regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, who both have a record of backing terrorist or militant groups for their own political advantage.

Now that Iraq and Syria have reached this state, long term NATO forces must occupy these states in order to ensure the stability required by the citizens migrating to other parts of the world. This is why Western forces have been stationed in high risk regions such as South Korea. The need for such forces is far greater in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan than anywhere else. Such relative stability has been brought in Afghanistan and Iraq was relatively stable as well when George W. Bush left office.

I only wish the Democratic Party had brought more ideas about fighting ISIL in this race. Both the candidates have expressed commitment to fight ISIL, but the issue is given very low priority in the Democratic forum of ideas and is barely even discussed. Sadly, Hillary Clinton’s election would simply mean the continuation of the foreign policy of President Obama for at least 4 more years. If Bernie Sanders win, who knows what the US foreign policy would be. The stakes are too high for any such choices.

Quite frankly, if it were not the issue of foreign policy and ISIL, I would hardly see any reason for someone outside the US to have their interests attached with a candidate. Particularly at a time when a more aggressive US intervention in the Middle East is the need of the hour and one that involves ground occupation. I am sure that the people and leaders of the rest of the world, including Europe and the Middle East, would be watching the 2016 race with similar concerns.

There used to be a time when the Democratic Presidents used to initiate military action abroad, from FDR and Harry Truman to JFK and LBJ. Not that I miss the Democrats being the internationalist hawks, which they still are, but the approach of the political parties have changed since then. Especially since the war overdose of Bush 43 Presidency and President Obama’s allergy to troops on the ground as a reaction.

While most people would like President Obama’s approach, the world cannot afford it. At least, the Middle East cannot afford it any longer. A President with more assertive military leadership and one who seriously believes in destroying ISIL is needed to bring the Middle East back to order.

I know how some people are worried about the immoral and dangerous prospects of a conservative Republican President, but the only immoral and dangerous force that I see in the world is the Islamic State. And the closer the next President is to George W. Bush in approach, the better are the odds of eliminating it.

Let’s get rid of the Islamic State first. Then we can return to our lovefest with the Democratic candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Yazidi Sex Slave Survivor Nadia Murad Taha Speaks Out Against Islamic State

Source: freedomfund.org

Source: freedomfund.org

If you ever wanted a glimpse into the horror that ISIL has forced millions of people in Iraq and Syria to live through, then listen to the nine-minute speech of this young girl at the United Nations Security Council.

If this does not shock any humanitarian soul, or convince someone that the Islamic State should be destroyed once and for all, I don’t know what will.

Her name is Nadia Murad Basee Taha. Her family was massacred and she was sold and abused by the barbarians at the helm of the sex slave trade that the Islamic State was so eager to to take up. It was almost the reason that they have been eyeing to target the Yazidis for. The trauma and torture that this young girl and thousands more like her went through are simply unimaginable. And the fact that she is brave enough to be here, campaigning against ISIL sends shivers down your spine. This is the sort of courage you can hardly imagine.

It’s unconscionable how the world is tolerating the unacceptable entity of the Islamic State. This is just another reminder that the world needs to move against the Islamic State fast.

While I really don’t like what it’s doing to the world, I actually respect the political positions of consistent liberal pacifists, libertarian and conservative isolationists and nationalists. Sure, they can ask the question why their respective countries, especially the United States, should bother about what is happening to the Yazidi, Kurds and other Iraqi and Syrian people. They have every right to ask that question.

But turning the other way is the easiest thing in the world to do. There is a reason why civilized nations of the world find it important to intervene in a humanitarian crisis because somebody needs to stand up for the helpless. Survivors like her speak volumes why Iraqi and Syrian refugees must be accepted to peaceful regions in as many numbers as possible. Imagine losing this life to war and conflict.

Doing so requires moral leadership and a sense of responsibility. I am proud of the fact that the United States delegation introduced her to the United Nations and it is probably the US leadership that would be required to eliminate the Islamic State. The people oppressed by the Islamic State need to be liberated.

If only fighting ISIL were more central to the political discourse around the world than it currently is.

 

Saudi-Iran Conflict: Just the Sort of Diversion the Islamic State Needed

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

Despite an almost unanimous agreement about the evil that the Islamic State embodies, the world is still having a hard time forming a military alliance to take substantial action against the group. From lamenting the consequences of unrelated past foreign military intervention to equating ISIL with other Arab states, there is no shortage of absurd political opinions making excuses for inaction.

At a time like this, it was probably not surprising that the usual suspects of the region were busy making matters even worse in the Middle East. Through some very deliberate measures, Saudi Arabia and Iran have chosen to strain their already tense diplomatic relations seriously.

Things started getting worse when Saudis executed dissenting Shia scholar Nimr Al-Nimr, sparking violent anti-Saudi protests in Tehran during which protestors set the Saudi embassy on fire. As a reaction, Saudi Arabia, followed by UAE and Bahrain, expelled Iranian missions to their respective countries. The region started worrying about a new conflict and Islamic State found just the sort of relief they needed.

Of course, whenever relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran suffer, you can expect increased pressure on Pakistan, both from the Saudi government and from the people at home. While the careful approach the Government of Pakistan has taken in this regard is the way to go, it must be warned to move a step forward in terms of its commitment to fight ISIL. In an ideal world, a military operation against ISIL with Pakistan’s participation should have been underway.

The Gulf states have been facing much criticism for their inaction against ISIL, which have been regularly resisted by Shia militia in Iraq. As a matter of fact, people have been speculating Saudi hand behind ISIL since the extremist group share the brand of Sunni Islam practiced in the kingdom. Now that they have made a military alliance, it is being condemned by some for being meant for exclusively targeting Iran and its sponsored militant groups.

While protesting the Saudi-led anti-terrorism alliance makes little sense, this is the expected consequence of choosing to join a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Probably for spiritual reasons, the local Sunni and Shia population have linked their religious fervor with the terrible political entities of Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively. This is why commentators with this concern have been calling for Pakistan to join a US-led alliance to fight the Islamic State.

So far we have seen a lot of talk about the anti-terrorist alliance but little action. Only substantial military action by the Saudi led alliance would put the conspiracy theories to rest. The lack of action is yet another reason for Pakistan to wonder if it is in the right camp. But then again, fighting ISIL proactively is hardly a priority for nations around the world, and Pakistan seems to be no exception.

This is where the United States and other Western powers would have to lead and work with Saudi Arabia and Iran to focus on eradicating the Islamic State. Unless a comprehensive global alliance is formed for the purpose under the leadership of the United States, it would be difficult to organize the much required military efforts.

We are at a point in history when extraordinary measures are required for the elimination of the evil Islamic State. Global and regional powers, which are otherwise adversaries, need to come together to get rid of this common threat to human civilization, but the local Muslim population is busy squabbling about the power struggle of Iran and Saudi Arabia instead.

This will severely hurt any possible military campaigns that had any chance to be initiated by Muslim majority countries in the Middle and adjoining regions because everyone would need to take a side in this conflict. I appreciate the passion of everyone who wants their countries to remain neutral in the Saudi-Iran conflict, but that would not be the case for long if the situation escalates further.

The recent episode only proves the irresponsibility and recklessness of Iran and Saudi Arabia as regional powers and goes to show that they should be the last countries leading other Muslim majority nations. While it is a good idea expressing solidarity with them and offering military aid for necessary defense and peacekeeping, it would be a disastrous mistake to follow their lead in shaping foreign policy.

This is why it is important for global powers to avoid the distraction of Saudi-Iran conflict and refocus their attention on the threat of ISIL by rallying a global alliance. Pakistan must also play its part as a responsible nation and must distinguish itself with significant participation.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Sharif and Netanyahu: One Handshake I Would Like to See Making News

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

I just came across a post from the Israeli Prime Minister on social media reporting on his interaction with the leaders of the world, including the Indian Prime Minister, in the recent Paris Climate Change Conference. Just imagine for a second the awkwardness of the Israeli and Pakistani leaders completely ignoring each other’s existence during the leader summit. Maybe it would take more than climate change to unite the nations of the world.

During the conference, two handshakes made news, only suggestive of how bad things are between those nations: The one between PM Nawaz Sharif and PM Narendra Modi, and the other involving PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But one handshake that I would have liked to see making news would be between Pakistani Prime Minster Sharif and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

This only takes you to the idiotic foreign policy Pakistan, and a number of other Muslim majority countries, mostly Arab, have been maintaining toward Israel. There is hardly any doubt that Pakistan has been losing a tremendous opportunity for decades by not building its relations with Israel, despite being aligned with the Western alliance that both are part of, including the Gulf Arab states. Let it be issues like defense and security or trade and educational exchanges, the opportunities offered by the diplomatic relations would be unlimited. But only if the people of Pakistan open their minds to them and drop old prejudices for a while, if not for good.

What is even worse is that due to the diplomatic vacuum in the region for Israel, its partnership with India, Pakistan’s primary rival, has been strengthening manifold on the defense front. Pakistanis have the option to keep on whining about how the Jewish people are the sworn enemies of Muslims and are colluding with Hindus against them. Or they could try joining forces with Israel themselves. If the Israelis are being hostile, have the Pakistanis given them a chance to be friends? Even once? Actually, Pakistan’s defense interests are more aligned with Israel than ever with common threats in the region.

We need to understand that the diplomatic boycott of Israel is not just an expression of political hostility, it stems out of antisemitism. We certainly should know better than that. Now that even some Gulf states are opening new diplomatic avenues with Israel, and Arab League members proposing recognizing Israel in a peace plan, Pakistan certainly does not need to be bound by any obligation to them.

Furthermore, since Pakistan’s beef with Israel, as is the case with other Muslim majority countries, is the occupation of Jerusalem, diplomatic relations would put them in a far better position for negotiating peace. Besides, the priority of peace for the Middle East should be the independence and recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state and the protection of the rights of the people rather than pursuing a religious crusade.

Building relations with Israel would be a step forward to improving tolerance and acceptance among the people of Pakistan, who have been conditioned to riot at the very mention of Israel. Pakistan needs to expand its horizons for a brighter future and must not restrict itself with the false obligations of being a Muslim majority state. We need to interact in a saner manner with the global community and the current civilian leadership is capable of bringing about the required results.

It is time to break our shackles and embrace the policy of friendship and cooperation instead of insisting on bigotry, boycott and hate.

It is time to establish relations with Israel and recognize its right to exist.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Pakistan Must Join the Global Coalition Against ISIS

Source: ipp-news.com

Source: ipp-news.com

In a recently reported statement, the representative of the Pakistan military has denied any intentions to send troops as a part of a global coalition for fighting ISIS. I hope I am reading it wrong but the statement is disappointing to say the least and would cast serious doubts about the nation’s commitment to fight terrorist threats around the world. This is only disappointing considering how the Pakistani military has been acknowledged by international leaders for its contribution in the war against terrorism.

On the other hand, Pakistan Army has already made statements vowing that the existence of ISIS would not be tolerated in Pakistan. While so far the officials have not acknowledged the presence of the terrorist group in Pakistan, critics have good reasons to question how the threat of ISIS in the region is being downplayed.

However, contributing to the global coalition against ISIS does not necessarily have anything to do with the threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that increased security is required at home, but we also have a responsibility to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

We are not sure whether the Western leaders have really started to rally a serious coalition for ground forces in Iraq and Syria, but this early statement is not a healthy sign. Nevertheless, the need to build such a coalition as soon as possible, and one which many in the West are underestimating, if not undermining, at best.

While the efforts of the Pakistani military must be appreciated for fighting the terror bases in the North Western tribal areas, this does not mean that the war against terrorist threats is over. Pakistan must fulfill its global responsibilities, and the Pakistani civilian leadership should take a stand on the issue.

The war against ISIS is too important to be left to the lack of enthusiasm and reluctance of nations making up the allies. The United States and other leaders of the coalition should pressure Pakistan, among other countries around the world including India and Middle Eastern countries, to contribute their due share.

Pakistan has a proud tradition of assisting the United States in its campaigns against enemies of freedom around the world. From resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and being an inseparable part of the peacekeeping force to stop genocide in Bosnia, Somalia and Sierra Leone to the war against terrorism, Pakistan has been a responsible ally for the most part. It is time to act in that spirit again.

Muslim majority countries must lead the way to battle Islamist terrorist groups organizing themselves in tyrannical states and it is imperative that Pakistan be in the frontline. Pakistan would also be reluctant to take action on ISIS abroad due to its refusal to participate against the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

There has been a particular reluctance to fight ISIS both among Western powers and Sunni majority countries due to their anti-Shia inclination. However, saner political forces both in the West and in Sunni majority countries do not agree on this dangerous and counterproductive way of countering the Iranian influence.

Tolerating ISIS is also a terrible way to hope for the fall of the Assad regime. Probably a more morally and politically correct way would be to launch a mass invasion on Syria, in the manner of the 2003 Iraq War. Both the United States and the EU did not hesitate for a minute to get directly involved to overturn the Libyan regime. At least we can agree that Assad is far worse than Gaddafi. And if removing Assad is not that important, why even bother with that?

You know the world is dealing with a moral crisis when Russia is actively claiming to fight ISIS, and Turkey and other adjoining nations are just silent witnesses. And even worse, shooting down their planes.

There is no doubt that a ground force or any sort of political intervention is not going to resolve the Sunni-Shia rift in the region, and such a coalition should not aim to achieve any nonsensical goals in the first place. However, such a presence is required to ensure the elimination of the Islamic State and to prevent such organized threats from emerging.

Even today, the public opinion and many liberal politicians oppose deploying ground troops. And many of them are asking valid questions, like the UK opposition enquiring if the airstrikes proposed by Prime Minister Cameron would make any difference and what would be the next step.

The current leadership in the West is not thinking about the next step because of the horrors of the Iraq War campaign. Who are they going to help by bombing ISIS? Assad, Russia and pro-Iran forces? And would it be enough to help what is left of the Syrian Free Army that is currently being targeted by the Russians?

Those opposing substantial military action for the liberation of the ISIS occupied territory might as well not bother with the bombings either, apart from surgical drone strikes targeting ISIS leadership. Also, they should make up their minds about what to do about Assad.

Apparently, many people around the world still need to be convinced that ISIS is a threat worth proactively fighting against. Unfortunately, for political reasons or otherwise, the Pakistani military leadership appears to be among them.

It is important to understand that without a long-term occupying ground force in Iraq and ISIS occupied Syria, stability cannot be achieved.

Pakistan needs to be an inseparable part of this ground force.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Resolving The ISIS Crisis is All About Helping Syrian Refugees

Source: bbc.co.uk

Source: bbc.co.uk

One of the aspects about the ISIS and Syrian Civil War conflict that many liberal leaders in the West get absolutely right is responding to the plight of the Syrian refugees. We must never forget that the suffering of the local population of Northern Iraq and Syria is why ISIS has been revealed to be such a force of evil. While war seems almost never-ending around the world, we have not seen such a major and troubling refugee crisis in the recent years.

It is important to understand that making moral decisions in the wake of this war is clearly a political choice. Political entities may choose to make them or not, as they deem fit to serve the interests of their constituents. If anyone refuses refugees to enter their political jurisdiction, they have the right to do so, but it is just a question of asking if it is the right thing to do.

Probably the worst reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis in the wake of Paris attacks came from several Republican governors, disappointingly including Presidential hopefuls John Kasich and Chris Christie. The latter even refused to consider accepting even an orphan under the age of five answering a hypothetical question, which is shocking how such rhetoric is coming from those who are considered relatively moderate candidates. Apart from defying the founding values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this rhetoric is not going to help America’s image is a leader for the liberty-seeking persecuted individuals around the world. As terrible an idea as it is, keep them in isolated camps if you must, but let them escape the certain death of a warzone and the dangers of hostile neighboring borders.

The conservative reactionaries, including the French’s late arrival to the war against ISIS, are all symptoms of the fact that most Western political entities see fighting ISIS only for defending their borders as opposed to intervening to prevent their atrocities. Sadly, the fearmongering of the conservative hawks that helps the war effort is a double-edged sword that harms the humanitarian cause of aiding the fleeing refugees as well. Though the same is true for the humane pacifism of the liberal doves in hurting the support for the much needed military campaign.

At least some of the conservative politicians in the United States have only advocated a halt in accepting refugees than completely denying them entry. While it may sound reasonable to some, such obstructions are not going to help the Syrian refugee cause at all, and would only prolong the misery of the affected families.

Many people are concerned that the Syrian refugees would not share the liberal values of the West. So what? Firstly, refugees are not necessarily immigrants, and even if they believe in Sharia, they do have a right to live in safety instead of a warzone. Furthermore, these refugees should be treated as individuals instead of stereotyping them as fundamentalists.

It is important to imagine how the lives of thousands of families and individuals in Syria have been destroyed forever by the devastation of war. They are certainly not alone in experiencing the misery in the recent times, as people in North Western tribal areas in Pakistan, South Sudan, Northern Iraq and Afghanistan have also seen mass displacement due to conflict. Nevertheless, war is not being crueler to the Syrian people than any other at the moment, and many of them need a second shot at life.

I believe that both the occupation by ground troops and accepting Syrian refugees are fundamental to defeating ISIS. Others may see only one of them as the right way to go. However, the most humane choices remain to be pushing for both a ground occupation eliminating the defacto rule of ISIS state and occupation for stability, as well as ensuring that peaceful Syrian civilians remain safe from the terrors of a warzone. Only professional military troops should handle the scenario and ensure the gradual transition to peace.

Just like taking military action against ISIS requires a global coalition, facilitating Syrian refugees is the responsibility of the entire global community as well. Ideally, each resourceful nation, including Pakistan and India, should play its part in some way.

Critics often point out how Gulf Arab states have not taken in enough, if any, refugees. These countries are not the only ones who have not offered their due, though you can hardly blame the Syrian refugees to be turning to Western democracies instead of the discriminatory dictatorships in the immediate neighborhood.

It is becoming abundantly clear that the world, especially the Middle East region, clearly lacks the necessary moral leadership, with the exception of the United States and the United Kingdom to counter ISIS effectively. Ironically, these indeed were the powers which led the disastrous Iraq War with supposedly righteous intentions. Nevertheless, the sort of moral leadership that President Obama has displayed championing support for the Syrian refugees is a beacon of hope for the downtrodden of the world. This is why liberty-seeking individuals around the world turn to the United States for doing the right thing.

There really is no other argument for accepting refugee other than the humanitarian need to do so. As I said earlier, it’s just another choice that we have to make.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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