YOU ARE THE WORKER MONKEY
CUBICLE CUBICLE CUBICLE CUBICLE
DID YOU GET THAT MEMO?
YOUR 401K IS DEAD
::DFRNTLVL© / WORKER-MONKEY
Scarcely two months after the European Union praised Turkey for passing new laws protecting freedom of expression, the authorities in Ankara are using anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute [Noam] Chomsky's Turkish publisher.
Fatih Tas of the Aram Publishing House faces a year in prison for daring to print American Interventionism, a collection of Mr Chomsky's recent essays including harsh criticism of Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority.
Osama bin Laden was not mentioned once, al-Qaida only in passing. The speech was clearly aimed at ushering a new phase in the anti-terrorist campaign, in which links with the September 11 attacks will no longer be the criteria for US military action.
. . . Iran has a democratically-elected president and parliament, albeit constrained by a conservative theocracy. A conflict with the US could set back the development of democracy there by decades. It is unlikely to have the support of Europe, which sees Tehran as a regime to be cultivated and encouraged.
. . . As for North Korea, progress was made in talks between Pyongyang and the Clinton administration towards exchanging Korean disarmament in return for economic aid.
Those talks were abandoned by the Bush team so abruptly that it made observers wonder whether the souring of relations was intended to serve as a justification of National Missile Defence (NMD).
The inclusion of North Korea and Iran in the "axis of evil" serves the same purpose, as both have advanced missile programmes which could - several years down the line - provide the sort of threat that NMD is intended to defend against.
Mr. Ashcroft had decided to throw the equivalent of a blue burka over the exultant "Minnie Lou," as the statue is fondly nicknamed, after seeing pictures of her breast hovering over his head as he announced plans to fight terrorism. His new spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock, said the drapes, a shade she calls "TV blue," are more photogenic than the statues and the "yellow marbly color of the background."
. . . Everyone here knows that cover-ups are what get you in trouble, but they just keep doing it.
Dick Cheney has pulled a TV blue curtain over Enron and the rest of the energy industry's blueprint for fashioning America's energy policy.
. . . The vice president and president are really concerned about the privacy of power. They want to do what they want to do, and be accountable to no one. The stonewalling on the energy task force and the unilateralism on Camp X-ray are two sides of the same coin.
The theme of Bush I is now the theme of Bush II: Trust us, even if we won't let you verify. We know we're right. We answer to no one.
I, for one, want some answers. Let's start with those calico cats and Enron rats.
I think a reading can expose this film for what it is, a crypto-fascist work of historical revision. It's not even revision. It's: "Remember what we used to think? About patriotism? The glory of war? Let's think that again, and really mean it, so that it will be harder than hell to dislodge next time." Which is to say, this is a very dangerous movie.
The cheerful yellow-coloured devices - called bomblets - parachuted to earth from the mother bomb 202 at a time. They are a highly effective killer, deploying, in military parlance, three "kill mechanisms" to slice through the thick armour of tanks, and injure and burn humans.
In the area of Rabat village, half an hour west of Herat, the BLU-97 bomblets have killed 10 people since the bombing ended there in early November.
First, there were the three children from a neighbouring village who wandered over unfamiliar fields to attend a wedding, and thought the small yellow cylinders were toys. By December, the bomblets were killing local farmers frustrated because they could not sow their fields as planting time grew near.
Corporate spin aside, executives do not always prosper most by making their companies great. They can often profit more from creating unrealistic expectations than from delivering consistently impressive results.
Consider two companies. One has a stock price that has appreciated slowly, starting at $20 five years ago and gaining $2 a year, to $30 today. The second company's stock also started at $20 five years ago, then zoomed to $100 after a few years but has since fallen back to $20.
By any reasonable measure, the leaders of the first company have done a better job. Their share price has grown 50 percent, and they have avoided making grandiose predictions that cause Wall Street analysts to set silly targets. The second company has a stock that has underperformed a savings account over the long run, and scores of workers and investors have been burned by false hopes.
Yet if the top executives of both companies had received similar amounts of stock and both sold their shares on a regular schedule, the executives of the second company would actually be ahead. They would have made so much money selling the stock when it was trading near $100 that they would be multimillionaires despite the humbling decline.
. . . when an economic system richly rewards certain behavior, no one should be surprised when that behavior becomes the norm.
The Pentagon said on Friday that the raid on Hazar Qadam, 60 miles north of Kandahar, destroyed a huge Taliban arms dump, killing about 15 people. At least 27 "relatively senior" Taliban were captured and taken to an American military detention facility in Kandahar, it said.
Yet villagers yesterday insisted the US troops had been badly misled. They said the victims of the attack at Hazar Qadam were headed by an ethnic-group leader called Haji Sana Gul, who had just disarmed a number of Taliban fighters still holding out in the area.
His brother Bari Gul said the men spent Wednesday night in the local madrassah, or religious seminary. Before dawn the next day US troops swept in, killing several people in the madrassah, including Haji Sana Gul himself.
Young Somalis packing ramshackle cinemas to watch bootlegged copies of Black Hawk Down cheer as they see Somali gunmen shooting down American helicopters and killing Rangers.
. . . The film coincides with increasing speculation that American forces may soon be involved in Somalia again because al-Qaeda sympathisers are believed to be hiding in the country. Most residents would rather see America returning as a friend, helping to rebuild a nation that has had no government since 1991.
“There is nothing left to bomb in Somalia. It is ruined,” said Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, programme director of the Centre for Research and Dialogue, a peace institute in Mogadishu. “Why break down the door when you can turn the key?” He also gave warning that if Washington opted to use its old ally Ethiopia as some sort of proxy army, it would unite the Somali clans against it. “If they send Ethiopians, every Somali will go and get his gun.”
The US government is blocking an international drive led by Britain to increase aid for the world's poorest countries in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks.
. . . Washington is already one of the least generous donors - despite being the world's largest economy - devoting just 0.1% of national output to its international aid effort.
Britain and other, more generous donors, had hoped that the renewed US interest in multilateral action during the war on Afghanistan would help bring about a change of heart regarding aid within the Bush adminstration.
The American attitude has provoked disquiet among fellow donor countries and outrage among the development charities.
"It seems the US will only tolerate multilateralism à la carte, and development, global redistribution and the interests of the poor are now off the menu," said Henry Northover, a policy adviser at Cafod, the Catholic aid agency.
Instead of discussing increased aid budgets, Washington wants the conference to focus on how poor countries can improve their own economic performance through further market liberalisation.
My guess is 6 months from now we'll see nary a word in the press about Enron, its pack of thieving executives, and its financially incestuous relationship with virtually the entire administrative apparatus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No matter how sordid the reports grow, they soon will drift from the pages of the press as though nothing ever happened. So we might as well ponder the story's obituary now. While its pathology is a bit indirect, it's still easily diagnosed.
It's no secret--in fact, it's touted--that George II's prime ministerial sidekick, Dr. Karl Strange-Rove, has had his boss reading presidential history books so the big guy can learn how to be a really, really good president or at minimum look like a really good president. I'd wager that as Karl was sifting through White House library books filed under "Niccolo Machiavelli and Friends," he stumbled across a volume containing this wisdom from Harry Truman's secretary of state, Dean Acheson: "Bipartisan foreign policy is the ideal for the executive, because you cannot run this damned country any other way except by fixing the whole organization so it doesn't work the way it is supposed to work. Now the way to do that is to say politics stops at the seaboard--and anyone who denies that postulate is a son-of-a-bitch and a crook and not a true patriot. Now if people will swallow that, then you're off to the races."
. . . Odds are that in this go-around George will scoop up more than a half-million bucks from the most unconscionable frauds in American business history, follow much of their friendly policy advice, and walk away from the whole sorry mess with nothing but the money. That's the liberal media for you.
One thing, though, is pretty much bankable. Once the "war" in Afghanistan draws dangerously close to an end or some "partisan witch hunt" crawls dangerously close to a beginning, I wouldn't give a plugged Argentinean peso for the prospects of any country that so much as ever winked at the Taliban regime. It should first look up, then duck, because raining bombs and Marine incursions are about the only things in its future. The administration will make sure of that, just to help keep any bothersome Enron stories off the front page and away from the evening's headline news.
Rumors swirled earlier this month that the world's largest oil services provider was on the verge of bankruptcy. As the company's shares hit a 15-year low, Halliburton took the highly unusual step of issuing a statement insisting that all was well.
"We're not even close to being insolvent," said Cedric Burgher, vice president of investor relations. "We're a healthy company."
Healthy, that is, except for paying out more than $150 million in recent damages for asbestos cases and having about 260,000 related lawsuits still pending.
And healthy for a company whose stock closed Friday at $10.06, a far cry from its 52-week high of $49.25.
And healthy for a company whose accounting firm is Andersen, the same outfit that badly bungled its handling of Enron's books, destroying important corporate documents and leaving shareholders twisting in the wind.
. . . Still, Cheney got out just in time. When he exited as CEO, Halliburton's shares were trading near an all-time high of $54. Cheney, severing his financial ties to the company, raked in $22 million cashing in his stock options.
[The treatment of prisoners] undermines the claim by the US to be fighting al-Qa'ida on behalf of the "partnership of nations" and in the name of universal human values. It may not have been the intention to subject the prisoners in Camp X-Ray to torture by sensory deprivation, but the US has an extraordinary inability to realise how such pictures will be seen around the world – as proven by the fact that they were taken for and issued by the US Navy itself.
The evidence of the use of torture by US troops in Vietnam was one of the causes of the collapse of the moral case for that war. Yet since 11 September, the US administration and media have seriously discussed the possibility of torturing terrorists to extract information about future threats.
The need to maintain international support for the campaign against terrorism does not seem to feature in America's insulated discussions about what to do with those detained in Afghanistan. Hence the inability to see that harsh treatment, designed to impress US domestic opinion that no chances are taken with security, will be read as deliberate humiliation in parts of the world which might sympathise with Osama bin Laden. In particular, the forced shaving of prisoners, on grounds of hygiene because they are "infested with lice and other parasites," according to one Pentagon official, takes the unnecessary risk of offending Muslims who could otherwise be persuaded that al-Qa'ida has hijacked their religion.
American intelligence officials and high-ranking military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety, in a series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus. "Dirt got through the screen," a senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment.
Inevitably, any conversation about tension between India and Pakistan turns to the issue of nuclear weapons. Both countries have warheads and the means to deliver them. (India's capabilities, conventional and nuclear, are far greater—between sixty and ninety warheads—while Pakistan is thought to have between thirty and fifty.) A retired C.I.A. officer who served as station chief in South Asia told me that what he found disturbing was the "imperfect intelligence" each country has as to what the other side's intentions are. "Couple that with the fact that these guys have a propensity to believe the worst of each other, and have nuclear weapons, and you end up saying, 'My God, get me the hell out of here.' " Milton Bearden agreed that the I.S.I. and RAW are "equally bad" at assessing each other.
At a special parliamentary committee meeting, some MPs said it would go against Canadian values to allow the country's soldiers to turn over prisoners to U.S. forces.
"We can't outsource our moral obligations," Liberal MP John Godfrey said, adding that the prisoners are "still human beings, and before we commit, before we approve, we've got to sort this out."
The British-led International Stabilization Assistance Force inside Afghanistan plans to transfer any prisoners it captures around Kabul to Afghan authorities.
But Canadian troops are working under the United States, which considers captured Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to be illegal combatants, rather than prisoners of war. Critics said that means they are not automatically subject to the humane standards of treatment prescribed in the Geneva Convention, placing Canada's military in the awkward position of having to decide whether it is morally acceptable to turn its prisoners over to the U.S. military.
Bonus question: If the captives don't count as prisoners of war, as the U.S. claims, then why have Americans been so insistent from the start on calling this a war, rather than a police action?
After Sept. 11, says Laura Bush, divorce is down, weddings are up and 'families have come together.'
In fact, fewer folks are taking vows and more are splitting up, says the available data, and hounds are twice as likely as husbands to get wifely attention.
After Sept. 11, says Colin Powell, secretary of state and once the nation's top soldier, more Americans want to be all they can be.
Maybe, if they can be right where they are. Enlistment figures haven't budged.
After Sept. 11, are more Americans finding religion? Definitely, people tell pollsters. Are they going to church more? No, say the same respondents.
After Sept. 11, says just about everyone, Americans got a little nicer.
Except for that murder spike in Washington, D.C.
And the shoplifting in Denver.
And the looming crisis at the charities.
And the baby boomlet? Urban mythlet.
. . . the potential benefits for the US are enormous: growing military hegemony in one of the few parts of the world not already under Washington's sway, expanded strategic influence at Russia and China's expense, pivotal political clout and - grail of holy grails - access to the fabulous, non-Opec oil and gas wealth of central Asia. If the Afghans behave themselves, they even may get to run the pipeline.
Britain has stepped up the pressure on the US to provide assurances about the fate of the captured al-Qaida and Taliban fighters - at least three of whom are believed to be UK citizens - held in a special prison at the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"We are requesting further information about legal representatives, legal rights, how the US plans to prosecute the detainees, possible sentences, and what they could be charged with," a Foreign Office official said.
Short of offering a blank sheet of paper, it is difficult to convey the supreme indifference with which the fate of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is being greeted in the United States.
The Sunday newspapers, given the chance to stick their teeth into the story not related to terror since September 11, were full of the Enron affair.
The talk shows, even the serious ones, used the issue mainly for light relief. "I think the idea of being sedated for a 27-hour flight ought to be an option the airlines might want to start offering," said a speaker on CNN's Capital Gang.
In March 1993, Enron hired Bush's Commerce secretary, Robert A. Mosbacher, and his secretary of State, James A. Baker III, to line up contracts for Enron around the world. As Enron's representative, Baker--later George W.'s Florida election strategist--even went on a trip accompanying the ex-president to Kuwait to do big business in the nation Bush had fought the Gulf War to save.
The trip was criticized by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who said that he had turned down millions in proffered deals to do business in Kuwait after the war.
"I represent 540,000 American men and women, not some private company," said Schwarzkopf. "They were willing to die in Kuwait. Why should I profit from their sacrifice?"
The guy was out there like a contestant on "Survivor" ("I haven't had a shower in two weeks!") crossed with Ted Nugent ("I have to defend whether I'm carrying a six-shooter? It's just ridiculous!"), filing reports that made him sound like the offspring of an unholy one-night threesome between Clint Eastwood, Ernest Hemingway and Janet Reno.
. . . Just like a bounty hunter, isn't he? Some reporters go for that objectivity thing and take it to an extreme--but not Geraldo. On the same day he filed for "Hannity & Colmes," he told Britt Hume that "the rat [bin Laden, of course] deserted the sinking ship five days ago during that phony cease-fire. ... Hopefully, he won't be a free man for long."
American military leaders are less biased when discussing the hunt for bin Laden. Check out Rivera's cheerleading as he described how a bin Laden stronghold in Tora Bora had been penetrated:
"We had a great day yesterday, the United States, the good guys, a tremendous victory. ...It was a beautiful thing to see, especially after the ebb and flow of the battle over the last several days, and it was especially appropriate that on the third-month anniversary of Sept. 11th that Osama bin Laden is learning about that old American saying, 'What goes around comes around.'...What we smelled today is the smell of victory."
Oh man. Lt. Col. Kilgore lives! "You smell that, son? Smells like ... victory!"
But lest you think Geraldo was only interested in the scent of blood, he showed a lot of heart, too--as he was quick to tell us on another edition of "Hannity & Colmes." Noting that the Afghan freedom fighters were woefully underdressed for the brutal winter, Rivera informed Fox News Channel viewers that the "Fox patrol" had arranged for a truck to deliver "100 pair of socks, so we're going to start clothing these warriors from the bottom up ... so we can rest easy at least their feet'll be warm when they go into battle ... it's the beginning of our private compassionate, you know, help for our allies."
Well, not exactly private, but if Geraldo doesn't toot his own horn, who will? Besides me, I mean.
He is a warrior. He is a cowboy. He is a courageous journalist and a compassionate sock-giver. He holds his head high, even as sniper fire nearly parts his hair and media sniping bites at his the butt. [sic]
::Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times: Geraldo's hunt: That's entertainment
On the face of it, the sudden political storm over Enron is puzzling. After all, the Bush administration didn't save the company from bankruptcy. But then why did the administration dissemble so long about its contacts with Enron? Why did George W. Bush make the absurd claim that Enron's C.E.O., Kenneth Lay, opposed him in his first run for governor, and that the two men got to know each other only after that race? And why does the press act as if there may be a major scandal brewing?
Because the administration fears, and the press suspects, that the latest revelations in the Enron affair will raise the lid on crony capitalism, American style.
. . . while Enron has imploded, other energy companies retain the administration's ear. Just days before the latest Enron revelations, the administration signaled its intention to weaken pollution rules on power plants; late last week it announced its decision to proceed with a controversial plan to store radioactive waste in Nevada. Each of these decisions was worth billions to companies with very strong connections to Mr. Bush. CBSMarketWatch.com declared, in its story about the nuclear waste decision, that "one group of major energy-business political donors just hit the jackpot."
"All the mountains are shaking," says Khali Gul from Kaskai, a small hamlet a few hundred metres from the Americans' target. "We are very afraid of these planes. We just want this to stop."
In the capital, Kabul, delegations come and go. Aid workers draw up charts for reconstruction; diplomats leave their calling cards with the interim government. As America's war on terror entered its 100th day yesterday, the world speculated on its next venue: will it be Somalia or Sudan; Yemen or Iraq?
Here, in the mountains of Zhawar, there is only war. US warplanes are destroying, day after day, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. Overnight, the bombing was so heavy the windows shook in Khost, a town 22 miles from America's latest theatre of war.
January 7 Two air strikes on Zhawar Kili. A navy F-14 drops two guided bombs on a building believed to be part of a terrorist training complex. Later in the day a navy F-18 drops two bombs on a bunker.
January 10 Nine bombers and tactical aircraft drop guided bombs on buildings, caves and tunnels in Zhawar Kili
January 11-13 : Continued bombing of Zhawar Kili using B-52 and B-1 long range bombers, and Navy F-18 strike aircraft
January 14 Heaviest bombing of the week, according to reports from Zhawar Kili. The Pentagon says it is trying to destroy caves to prevent al-Qaida or the Taliban using them to regroup. A spokesman says the operations at the camp are complete, and the campaign will shift to cave and bunker complexes elsewhere
Although no one has suggested that Mr. Bush has done anything wrong, the connections between his presidency and Enron are uncomfortably close.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks, reports surfaced of Carlyle's involvement with the Saudi Binladin Group, the $5 billion construction business run by Osama's half-brother Bakr. The bin Laden family invested $2 million in the Carlyle Partners II fund, which includes in its portfolio United Defense and other defense and aerospace companies. On October 26, the Carlyle Group severed its relationship with the bin Laden family in what officials termed a mutual decision. Mr. Bush Sr. and Mr. Major have been to Saudi Arabia on behalf of Carlyle as recently as last year, and according to reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into the flow of money from the bin Laden family. Carlyle officials declined to answer any questions regarding their activities in Saudi Arabia.
. . . We may not see Osama bin Laden's brothers at Carlyle's investor conferences any more, but business will go on as usual for the biggest old boys network around. As Mr. Snow puts it, "Carlyle will always have to defend itself and will never be able to convince certain people that they aren't capable of forging murky backroom deals. George Bush's father does profit when the Carlyle Group profits, but to make the leap that the president would base decisions on that is to say that the president is corrupt."
Carlyle officials bristle at such talk. They described their recent stock sale as just plain good business that benefited a wide array of investors, including pension funds like those of California's state employees.
Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman said that neither the company nor its managers, directors and advisors have ever personally lobbied for . . . government contracts now in the hands of United Defense and other Carlyle subsidiaries and investments.
Of Carlucci, Carlyle's board chairman, and his friendship with the current Defense secretary, Ullman said: "I assure you he doesn't lobby. That's the last thing he'd do. You'd have to know Carlucci to know he'd never do that, and you'd have to know Rumsfeld to know it wouldn't matter."
The United States' new special envoy to Kabul once lobbied for the Taliban and worked for an American oil company that sought concessions for pipelines in Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, has arrived in Kabul amid much publicity. As the representative of the country that put the new government in power, he has a highly influential position.
In one of his first press conferences, Mr Khalilzad condemned the Taliban as sponsors of terrorism and vowed the US would continue the military campaign until they and their allies in Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network are eradicated.
But in 1997, as a paid adviser to the oil multinational Unocal, he took part in talks with Taliban officials regarding the possibility of building highly lucrative gas and oil pipelines. He had drawn up a risk analysis report for the project that would have exploited the natural reserves of the region, estimated to be the world's second largest after the Persian Gulf.
The Bush administration is walking away from a $1.5 billion eight- year government-subsidized project to develop high-mileage gasoline- fueled vehicles. Instead it is throwing its support behind a plan that the Energy Department and the auto industry have devised to develop hydrogen-based fuel cells to power the cars of the future, administration and industry officials said yesterday.
. . . Experts say that commercial production of cars with fuel- cell engines is 10 to 20 years away.
Does anyone believe that the status of Afghan women will change greatly after the first photo-op schools for girls, with a few hundred token students, have been adequately featured in our press? Or that we will ever hear much about anything in Afghanistan once we have destroyed what we came to destroy?
. . . The point of the propaganda effort on women's rights was that the subject should be on people's minds when it counted, when our bombs were blowing the limbs off peasants. Aroused concern in America over those rights blunted potential criticism by middle-class women to the bombing. It made the sensibilities of soccer moms safe for Bush. And, like all the best propaganda, it started with truth.
Commander Matthew Klee, a spokesman at the US central command in Tampa, Florida, had reassuring news: "Follow-on reporting indicates that there was no collateral damage."
Some of the things his follow-on reporters missed: bloodied children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair, butter toffees in red wrappers, wedding decorations.
...for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents -- many emblazoned with warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy" -- show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew.
John Ashcroft can relax because people have been listening to their Inner Ashcroft. I know this for a fact because I'm one of them. As a writer and editor, I have been censoring myself and others quite a bit since Sept. 11. By "censoring," I mean deciding not to write or publish things for reasons other than my own judgment of their merits. What reasons? Sometimes it has been a sincere feeling that an ordinarily appropriate remark is inappropriate at this extraordinary moment. Sometimes it is genuine respect for readers who might feel that way even if I don't. But sometimes it is simple cowardice.
. . . If you don't watch what you say, you risk getting run over by the Great American Umbrage Machine. The U.S. political system protects freedom of speech from formal suppression better than any other nation on earth. But American culture is less tolerant of aberrant views and behavior than many others, and that tolerance has eroded further since Sept. 11. And as conservative culture warriors like to point out—or, indeed, complain (as in the political correctness debate)—a society's norms are set by the culture as much as by the political system. In a country like Great Britain, the legal protections for free speech are weaker than ours, but the social protections are stronger. They lack a First Amendment, but they have thicker skin and a greater acceptance of eccentricity of all sorts.
Trying to hold the government together will be a key task, and the US air raids are among many issues threatening to split the interim administration.
Paktia, just south-west of the Tora Bora cave complex, is a focus of current bombing because it is a suspected hideout of any fighters, including Osama bin Laden, who may have escaped last month's US pounding.
A Qalaye Niazi villager, Janat Gul, told Reuters he was the sole person from his 24-member family to survive Sunday's pre-dawn attack by helicopters and jets. "There are no al-Qaida or Taliban people here," he insisted. Haji Saifullah, head of the tribal council, invited US forces to inspect the village, claiming 107 civilians died, including women and children.
The children were not playing, not even crying, and many were too weak to walk. Some sucked at their clothes and hair, seeking nutrition anywhere. Others lay in bundles on the ground. Old women stretched out hands, fingers blackened and eaten away by frostbite.
Walking through, hands grabbed at me. "A tent", "a sheet of plastic", "a piece of bread", came the pleas, voiced through parched lips while women thrust small babies at me, sobbing. Not one had any food; all claimed not to have eaten for more than a week.
There is anger that the outside world keeps talking about Afghanistan yet seems to them to be focusing only on ousting the Taliban and Osama bin Laden rather than tackling the conditions which led to them taking over the country.
"When the Taliban fell we thought the international community would help us," complained Zarha. "I'm so angry and depressed I even dream of leaving my children here and walking away. If you are a mother can you imagine ever saying that?"
Pushing her veil off her hair, Bibi Gul said: "Now I can show my face whereas under the Taliban I wouldn't dare walk around like this or I would be beaten. But what is the use of that if every night you go to bed with empty stomachs?
Forced to make do outside the camp itself, the newcomers pitch whatever shelter they can muster on a barren plain littered with human waste. Families without any shelter are forced to dig foxholes in the frozen earth to escape the biting wind. The lucky ones have a few tattered blankets or torn plastic sheets as cover.
A stone's throw from the foxholes is one of the many graveyards on the camp's edges. The small size of the graves is clear evidence that most of the buried are children. With the coming of the winter snow, the number of graves will grow.
. . . While the west was striking at the Taliban, many in Maslakh kept a keen ear to the radio, listening for updates. With little fighting in Herat province, they expected a quick response from western governments. Aid was thought to be on its way. But with next to nothing showing up, they feel bitter and let down.
"You are just taking pictures," one woman at the camp said to me. "You are not here to help. We can't eat pictures. We are dying. We need food and medicine."