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Medicine Science

Polio Eradication Program Suspended In Pakistan After Aid Workers Shot 223

Hugh Pickens writes "Jamal Khan reports that the United Nations has suspended its polio vaccination drive in Pakistan after eight people involved in the effort were shot dead in the past few days. The killings dealt a grave blow to the drive to bring an end to the scourge of polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries where the crippling disease still survives. Militants accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the vaccine makes children sterile. Taliban commanders in the troubled northwest tribal region have also said vaccinations can't go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in the country. Insurgent opposition to the campaign grew last year after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake polio vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country's northwest. The Pakistani government has condemned the attacks against aid workers, saying they deprive Pakistan's most vulnerable populations — specifically children — of basic life-saving health interventions. A total of 56 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan during 2012, down from 190 the previous year, according to the U.N. Most of the new cases in Pakistan are in the northwest, where the presence of militants makes it difficult to reach children. Clerics and tribal elders were recruited to support polio vaccinations in an attempt to open up areas previously inaccessible to health workers. 'This is undoubtedly a tragic setback,' says UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe, 'but the campaign to eradicate polio will and must continue.'"
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Polio Eradication Program Suspended In Pakistan After Aid Workers Shot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:09PM (#42363271)

    Seems like every backward region I've ever been too has been awash in conspiracy theories, urban legends, and superstitious horseshit. Worked down in South America, where every illiterate countryside hick seems to think Americans are trying to steal their organs (resulting in shit like this []). Worked in India, where half the hicks think that clean water is just a ruse to poison them. Even worked in a ghetto, where the rumor was that whitey was putting chemicals in menthol cigarettes to make black men sterile.

    So it doesn't surprise me that backwater Pakistanis believe that Christians are out to give their kids drugs to make them hate Mohammad (or whatever other crazy crap runs through those heads), disguised as these things called "vaccines." Combine that with a CIA sleight-of-hand and a Taliban which is happy to use any excuse to show it's still relevant, and you get a lot of kids who are now going to die from a disease the rest of the world eradicated long ago.

    Fuck, just look at this idiot [] as the perfect example of what happens when you mix base stupidity with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

    It's all well and good until said hillbillies start killing people or getting them killed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:13PM (#42363325)

    Your sentiment is not lost on me, but that is why we must remember we cannot force our ways or our means of producing a safe and poductive society on others. This is a bit of case for the prime directive.

    There's no way to win this issue without completely destroying these peoples autonomy. Whats worse 100,000 cases of polio or cultural eradication?

    Thats not to say we shouldnt freely provide information, or allow people to ask us for help, that contradicts there beliefs, but we should be careful how we do it.

  • Pakistan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arcite ( 661011 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:16PM (#42363361)
    Pakistan is a beautiful country, particularly in the North. And their food is fantastic, the people are hospitable. It is tragic that the government there has little desire or ability to keep a lid on these extremist wackos. Pakistan is indeed a dangerous country.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:23PM (#42363479)

    Judging from your subject heading, I thought you were talking about the USA and as I read your post, I was thinking that everything you say could be applied to the good old USA so I'm not sure what your point is...?
    TFA seems to have the theory that it was the US operation of a fake polio campaign as part of the effort to get Bin Laden that led to the current Taliban violence against polio workers. Probably a reasonable assumption.
    Also... ignorance is never "all well and good"... and simply any group of oppressed (by their govt., the US govt., their feudal landlords, etc.) people "hillbillies" is ignorant.

  • Re:More info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:25PM (#42363499)

    Actually I will blame the CIA.

    They went and took an urban legend and made it true.

    Now when the Taliban says "We killed aid workers because they were spying on us." we can't say they are full of shit anymore.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:29PM (#42363541)

    Whats worse 100,000 cases of polio or cultural eradication?

    There have been cases in history where cultural lobotomy has been a good thing. So, 100k cases of polio win hands down.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:29PM (#42363551) Journal

    I hope the families of the slain sue and are successful in getting bazzzilions of dollars out of the idiot Americans.

    So the Sikhs that were killed in the wake of 9/11 [] as "blowback" should sue the Taliban and Al-Queda?

    Man, "justice" sure is fucked up where you're from.

    Oh yeah, and Americans are idiots.

    Ah yes, it is the entire American populace that are idiots. Yep, we were all part of everything you just said. Not one of us opposes it. All of us act together uniformly. No one protests. Man, for people who like to criticize Americans as racist bigots, they sure could look in the mirror from time to time.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:31PM (#42363573) Journal

    The problem is that Pakistan isn't run by anyone, or rather there are two parallel governments and much of the country's chaos stems from the friction and competition between the official civil government and the army on one side and the vast labrythine security services on the other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:33PM (#42363601)

    Children that are best left to die instead of be raised in poverty and misery by brutal misogynist savages.

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • Re:More info (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:38PM (#42363649) Journal

    Ya, blame the CIA the same way you'd blame the police when a bank crook shoots a hostage.

    I was wondering how many posts it would take for someone to twist this to blame the US for not dancing in a way sensitive to dictatorial murderers.

    The only thing I blame the US for is letting the doctor go to jail instead of rescuing him. This is the US fleeing Vietnam and letting all the South Vietnamese who helped us fall into the hands of the North, writ small.

  • Re:More info (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:55PM (#42363821)


    Very stupid bad people used a very paranoid conspiracy theory for the justification of killing people.

    The CIA went and made that conspiracy theory true.

    You can't see how that is a very wrong thing to do?

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:56PM (#42363839)

    The problem is that most "cultural lobotomies" have been performed by ethnic discrimination, terror, or simply mass killing.

    Aye, that is a problem. I guess that it all boils down to the fact that until recently, for a very long period (approximately from the end of the Neolithic), there has been very little value put on a human life. And in many parts of the world, it still is.

  • Re:More info (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:57PM (#42363853)

    GP's point is that it's not a "hillbilly conspiracy theory" if the CIA was actually putting agents in among aid workers. If they did that, they are endangering the aid workers by making them a legitimate target of (admittedly informal) counterintelligence.

      I'd bet $20 that you didn't blame the U.S. military for the deaths of Iraqi civilians back when Saddam had placed his military bases in among them,* but blamed Saddam instead. You'd have been justified, but you can't have it both ways.

    * (Actually, you'd be a little less justified. The costs of placing a base away from a water source in a desert are prohibitive for a cash-strapped nation, and everywhere there's a water source, there are also people who you can't afford to displace. The CIA has no such excuse for using aid workers as human shields. Dick move, CIA.)

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:57PM (#42363861) Journal

    There's no way to win this issue without completely destroying these peoples autonomy. Whats worse 100,000 cases of polio or cultural eradication?

    Even if one is happy to stand back and let the colorful natives be colorful(either because you'd rather not pick on their culture, or because it's just too much of a pain in the ass), the trouble in this case is that anywhere polio is allowed to remain endemic is a reservoir just waiting for a stroke of bad luck to make it back into the wider population.

    Were the threat to local children some sort of non-contagious local superstition, we'd have the luxury of deciding whether or not to play cultural relativism. With polio, though, the question is whether we hunt it down wherever it hides, incidentally pissing off some locals and saving some babies, or whether we put up with the risk of having a serious outbreak at any time, almost anywhere...

  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @05:09PM (#42363985)
    Well, there is being against something, and then having a high profile example of exactly what you were paranoid about, which resulted in the assassination off a major figure in your organization... it would be like if it came out that the US government actually was spreading mind control chemicals from jet engines or started sending UN troops to secure little backwater towns. Believing in a conspiracy makes people paranoid, but having actual confirmation of that conspiracy, at least in part, can push people over when it comes to action.
  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @05:14PM (#42364037)

    That would be like sending in the army to end racism in the south so that you can hand out bottled water.

    Well, sometimes you do need to send in the 101 Airborne. []

    Not saying that this is the case here – but it’s not something you want to dismiss outright.

  • by runeghost ( 2509522 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @05:24PM (#42364137)
    Perhaps the residents of those "backward regions" know their history? It's full of literally centuries of treaty-breaking, double-dealing, resource exploitation, regicide, land grabs, ethnic cleansing, biological warfare, slavery, and cultural destruction at the hands of white Europeans. Why should they trust us? Because, "When we say it's for your own good, we mean it this time, really"? Add in things like the CIA's little Osama-hunting stunt and Obama's chronic missile-lobbing and the only thing that surprises me is that there isn't of this sort of violence.
  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @05:37PM (#42364269)
    Of course since they remain a viable reservoir of the virus, it can and will continue to attempt to expand beyond their borders.
    They are a viral cesspool that threatens to infect everyone.
    Ok, that was a bit dramatic, but the point is, you can't leave a viable infectious reservoir if you want to eradicate a disease.
    Look at smallpox. There was a massive campaign to inoculate everyone on the planet. The got pretty close to that goal, and no area was left untouched. Now, the only smallpox you are going to see are the samples still held by certain organizations. Most of the doctors and scientists want even those samples eradicated, but a few fools have been preventing that for over a decade. (I could list why their excuses are invalid, but this isn't the place.)
    They are just trying to do the same thing with polio. This can only be effectively done with diseases that reside exclusively in humans.

    Ok, some people are going with the Star Trek Prime Directive excuse. In Next Gen and later, the wimps writing for them interpreted it as a total hands off let them suffer version. In the original series, it was a don't mess with their development kind of thing. Curing a plague was ok, so was evacuating a doomed planet. On the other hand, you don't set yourself up as gods, provide them with advanced tech or science, or force a non-space faring planet into the federation.
    In the New stuff, they'd totally let everyone suffer and die, and then wring their hands metaphorically and congratulate themselves on not interfering in the development of another culture.
    In the Old stuff, they'd have provided a vaccine and aided in it's distribution and then congratulate themselves on saving vast numbers of peoples lives among the primitive culture, and making it possible for them to continue to develop on their own.

    Yes, I watched a lot of Star Trek when I was younger.

    One of the problems some people are overlooking is that vaccinations need to go to the people, the people can't really go to the vaccines, or at least not the distances and locations that would be required if they had to go to the major cities. Few people have the kind of transportation necessary, and leaving your own area, ESPECIALLY if you are a tribal, it is an immediate and large risk to your survival and well being. It would be great if the government would provide security escorts for the aid workers, but again, it's not going to work in the boonies out there. Some tribal territories would consider that a hostile act, and either not cooperate, or actually try to kill everyone involved.
    As to the CIA thing, I hadn't heard of it, and am somewhat doubtful without further documentation. On the other hand, that's the kind of bullshit the CIA is know for doing, even though I'm pretty sure it's against international law. Even if it isn't against international law, it is a horribly stupid thing to do as it will put all humanitarian aid personnel and projects in jeopardy for years if not decades. It's something no intelligent, rational, or ethical person would do. In other words, right up spy alley.

    As to the Taliban, they've already proven they'll say and do anything to force people to follow and obey their power. They have proven themselves to the world to be irrational unreasoning scum of the worst sort. They don't want outsiders in their territories and will happily lie, steal, cheat, and kill to get their way.
  • by damienl451 ( 841528 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @05:42PM (#42364331)

    Easy. 100,000 cases of polio is much much worse. The kids didn't ask to be born to parents who have strange ideas and there are many aspects of the local culture (honor killings? Systematic and systemic discrimination against women?) that should disappear. Cultural eradication is a good thing if it means that mistaken beliefs about the world get rooted out, and especially if it causes active harm to others. I won't be shedding any tears if a "culture" that rejects something as innocuous as vaccination disappears.

    That being said, I agree that imperialism is a bad idea, and much of the backlash against "the West" is due to real grievances. For instance, bombing weddings and killing children is not a good way to show how great Western civilization is. Neither can you shove your values down people's throats and expect them to embrace them. But if some cultural practices (genital mutilation for instance) were to be abandoned, I'd be very happy. And, when it involves children whose only mistake was to be born in the wrong part of the world, cultural relativism doesn't seem very appropriate to me.

    Not to forget that appealing to "culture" is often a way for the powerful to cement their privileges and continue to exploit marginalized groups. Thus the various dictators who explain that human rights are a Western construct and that authoritarianism is part of the local culture. Or people who want to keep girls ignorant and submissive because their culture/religion says women are inferior to men.

  • Re:More info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @06:02PM (#42364551)
    Sorry, but no. This operation was equivalent to painting a red cross on your vehicle so you can get closer to the bad guys before opening fire on them. (In fact it was almost precisely that). In doing so, they painted a target on the backs of medical workers for the next 50 years. It's a nightmare come true for Doctors Without Borders and similar organizations, and they have condemned it.
  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:13PM (#42365337) Homepage Journal

    What would buddha do?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:25PM (#42365921)

    You don't get the danger. Most children in the west aren't vaccinated against Polio (makes no sense here and there's a small risk involved to the child), in Africa very few children are vaccinated at all in large areas. I don't know about South America or China, but I doubt the situation is much better. If even one of those tribal children gets out* with the disease, it will kill thousands and maim tens of thousands of children, maybe hundreds of thousands. This has happened before, and it is an absolute certainty it can happen again. This is what happens to ~30% of infected children take a look [].

    Those are the stakes. To be extremely frank, I'm ambivalent on whether it would be moral to nuke this disease out of existence. Nuking this disease would easily help more people than it would hurt, even if it does hurt millions.

    The conspiracy theories of these tribes, killing and sterilizing anyone perceived as different, are simply what they would do themselves if they could. They probably perceive doing that as part of their religion. They may even be right about that, I don't know. Fortunately those aid workers don't share their religion.

    * very sorry to put it that way

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @12:07AM (#42366981)

    The conspiracy theories of these tribes, killing and sterilizing anyone perceived as different, are simply what they would do themselves if they could.

    The US performed covert military operations disguised as medical aid with the goal of assassinating people in Pakistan. It's not an irrational conspiracy theory, it's their daily life.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato