NWFP and Sadr City: The Myth and the Reality

Poverty does not cause radicalism.
Reading the news on Pakistan and Iraq one would think just because the residents of some area have no access to basic services there is a situation ripe for anti American sentiment.
The fact that Sadr city in Baghdad does not have many basic services, that garbage is not picked up or there is no electricity, services that we take for granted, does not explain why the Mahdi army is active in Sadr city.
[ See, for example, CSM story, U.S. pushes utilities to counter Moqtada al-Sadr
US general in Baghdad says bringing basic services to Sadr City to weaken Sadr and his militia can work this time.
By Howard LaFranchi


http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0428/p01s03-wome.html]

The fact that the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan is poor and lacking almost everything does not explain why the Al Qaeda finds refuge there.
The US spent billions of dollars on aid to Pakistan. This will not destroy the Al-Qaeda in NWFP. The answer is not spending more money on the problem.
There are huge needs for services in poor areas of the world. If the thinking is bettering the lives of the dirt poor in order to fight radicalism, we will go bankrupt before we make a dent in the poor areas.
I was in the NWFP almost two years ago. I was at an area that was flooded. The residents of the area were dirt poor as is, before the flood. The flood melted away their homes and destroyed their meager possessions. Trash was strewn everywhere. People’s belongings, what’s left of them, were piled next to the homes.
Despite that I did not see angry people. The kids were running around playing. The parents were walking around smiling back when we greeted them. I saw a few people sitting next to a flooded house, drinking tea, and chatting. We greeted them and they smiled and invited us for tea despite the fact that the area had a really foul smell.
We distributed blankets. There was a long line for the blankets. It was humid and everyone was sweating profusely. Not one fight or argument broke out. People gladly took the blankets. We could have spent ten times more on them that day and they would have acted the same.
Eradicating poverty is a huge undertaking and thinking of it as a way to fight terrorism is setting ourselves for a hugely expensive undertaking on a good cause that is not really the cause of terrorism and radicalism.

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