Alan Duncan visits Occupied Palestinian Territories

August 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

In July 2011, Alan Duncan, the Conservative MP who is also the Minister for International Development, visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Predictably, he is under assault from the Israel lobby. He is a courageous man who, according to Wikileaks, has already been the target of spying by the US intelligence apparetus. Please do not hesitate to send him a note of support.

Rick Perry’s Army of God

August 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman recently interviewed Forrest Wilder, author of an exposé in the Texas Observer revealing the close ties between radical Christian evangelicals and U.S. presidential hopeful Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas.

A particularly eye-opening interlude occurs around minute 6.40 of the interview and stars self-declared prophet Cindy Jacobs, who explains that the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may be the cause of mass bird deaths in Arkansas.

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

August 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

A must see documentary which the Bahraini and Saudi regimes have tried to suppress.

Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

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The IMF on trial

August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Al Jazeera Empire: Can the International Monetary Fund recover its lost credibility and fix the world economy?

Street Debate

August 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

This reminds me of the debates I saw breaking out in Tahrir Square. And it’s what TV should be like. FlipLife TV took a camera to Clapham and let the people speak.

Birmingham for Tariq Jahan

August 13, 2011 § 3 Comments

by Carol Ann Duffy

Tariq Jahan

Tariq Jahan's son, Haroon, was killed in a hit and run incident during the riots in Birmingham. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

After the evening prayers at the mosque,
came the looters in masks,
and you three stood,
beloved in your
neighbourhood,
brave, bright, brothers,
to be who you were –
a hafiz is one who has memorised
the entire Koran;
a devout man –
then the man in the speeding car
who purposefully mounted the kerb …

 

I think we all should kneel
on that English street,
where he widowed your pregnant wife, Shazad,
tossed your soul to the air, Abdul,
and brought your father, Haroon, to his knees,
his face masked in only your blood
on the rolling news
where nobody’s children riot and burn.

Carol Ann Duffy is the poet laureate. This poem was first published by the Guardian.

These riots reveal some unpalatable home truths

August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Author Hari Kunzru writes on the British riots in an excellent piece for The Guardian‘s Comment is free:

In a society that has abandoned or devalued most forms of mutual assistance in favour of a solipsistic entrepreneurialism, it’s hardly surprising that, faced with the end of the good times, people help themselves. Fear and greed are our ruling passions. That’s true of the kids smashing shop windows to steal trainers. It’s also true of the MPs fiddling their expenses, the police officers taking backhanders, the journalists breaking into phones. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t any of us? The example has been set by our new masters, the one per cent for whom and by whom we’re governed. The ability of powerful actors in the financial markets to socialise risk while privatising profit appears, to the financial peasantry, indistinguishable from organised crime. No reason for the rest of us to stand on ceremony.

One may object to this rhetoric (bankers = looters) on the grounds that markets have social utility, or that bankers don’t beat up shopkeepers (they don’t have to) and sometimes give to charity. One may also feel that any attempt to understand the rioters’ motivations risks shading into justification. The strongest objection to any argument based on social conditions is the oft-made one about individual responsibility: whatever the prevailing economic or social situation, not everyone chooses to behave in a particular way, whether that’s insider trading or knocking over Evans Cycles. However, it’s hard not to think we’ve made a culture in which the strong and swift are encouraged to feel they bear no responsibility towards the halt and lame. Now, as the wheels fall off the global financial system, fear and greed are free to roam unchecked, without bothering to mask their faces.

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Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq

August 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

John Pilger’s 2000 documentary on the effects of economic sanctions on Iraq remains an important testament to the pre-Iraq war history of international crimes against the Iraqi people.

Following footage of George H.W. Bush’s convincing announcement that “You, the people of Iraq, are not our enemy. We do not seek your destruction,” Pilger narrates from Iraq:

What happens when modern civilized life is taken away? Imagine all the things we take for granted are suddenly not available, or severely limited: clean water, fresh food, soap, paper, pencils, books, light bulbs, life-saving drugs. Telephone calls to the outside world are extremely difficult, computers no longer work, when you fall ill you must sell your furniture to buy medicine, when you have a tooth out there’s no anesthetic. No country will trade with yours, and your money is almost worthless. Soon your children become beggars. It’s as if the world has condemned your whole society to a slow death, and all because of a dispute between governments over which you have no control. That’s what has happened here in Iraq, where almost 10 years of extraordinary isolation, imposed by the U.N. and enforced by America and Britain, have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, including half a million young children.”

Pilger’s latest documentary, “The War You Don’t See”—an investigation into the media’s role in war—can be viewed online (outside of Australia) for $4.99.

More Lost by the Second

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

by Kathy Kelly

Afghan women and children wait as U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan soldiers search their home during a night raid in Farah province. (Associated Press)

It’s a bit odd to me that with my sense of geographical direction I’m ever regarded as a leader to guide groups in foreign travel.  I’m recalling a steaming hot night in Lahore, Pakistan when Josh Brollier and I, having enjoyed a lengthy dinner with Lahore University students, needed to head back to the guest lodgings graciously provided us by a headmaster of the Garrison School for Boys.  We had boarded a rickshaw, but the driver had soon become terribly lost and with my spotty sense of direction and my complete ignorance of Urdu, I couldn’t be any help. My cell phone was out of juice, and I was uncertain anyway of the needed phone number. I bumped and jostled in the back seat of the rickshaw, next to Josh, as we embarked on a nightmare of travel over unpaved, rutted roads in dizzying traffic until finally the rickshaw driver spotted a sign belonging to our school – the wrong campus, we all knew – and eager to unload us, roused the inhabitants and hustled us and our bags into the street before moving on.

We stood inside the gate, staring blankly at a family that had been sound asleep on cots in the courtyard.  In no time, the father of the family scooped up his two children, gently moving them to the cot he shared with his wife so that Josh and I would have a cot on which to sit.  Then he and his spouse disappeared into their humble living quarters. He reappeared with a fan and an extension cord, wanting to give us some relief from the blistering night heat.  His wife emerged carrying a glass of tea for each of us.  They didn’t know us from Adam’s house cat, but they were treating us as family – the celebrated but always astonishing hospitality that we’d encountered in the region so many times before.  Eventually, we established with our host that we were indeed at the wrong campus, upon which he called the family that had been nervously waiting for our errant selves.

This courtyard scene of startling hospitality would return to my mind when we all learned of the U.S. Joint Special Operations (JSO) Force night raid in the Nangarhar province, on May 12, 2011. No matter which side of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border you are on, suffocating hot temperatures prevail day and night during these hot months.  It’s normal for people to sleep in their courtyards.  How could anyone living in the region not know this?  Yet the U.S. JSO forces that came in the middle of the night to the home of a 12 year old girl, Nilofer, who had been asleep on her cot in the courtyard, began their raid by throwing a grenade into the courtyard, landing at Nilofer’s head.  She died instantly.  Nilofer’s uncle raced into the courtyard. He worked with the Afghan Local Police, and they had told him not to join that night’s patrol because he didn’t know much about the village they would go to, so he had instead gone to his brother’s home.  When he heard the grenade explode, he may well have presumed the Taliban were attacking the home.  U.S. troops killed him as soon as they saw him.  Later, NATO issued an apology.

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Waiting for the Barbarians

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The classic poem by Egyptian-born Greek poet Konstantinos Kavaphes (C. P. Cavafy) from which J. M. Coetzee took the title for his great novel.  This translation by Richmond Lattimore first appeared in The Kenyon Review in 1955. 

C. P. Cavafy

Why are we all assembled and waiting in the market place?

It is the barbarians; they will be here today.
Why is there nothing being done in the senate house?
Why are the senators in session but are not passing laws?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
Why should the senators make laws any more?
The barbarians will make the laws when they get here.

Why has our emperor got up so early
and sits there at the biggest gate of the city
high on his throne, in state, and with his crown on?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive them
and their general. And he has even made ready
a parchment to present them, and thereon
he has written many names and many titles.

Why have our two consuls and our praetors
Come out today in their red embroidered togas?
Why have they put on their bracelets with all those amethysts
and rings shining with the glitter of emeralds?
Why will they carry their precious staves today
which are decorated with figures of gold and silver?

Because the barbarians are coming today
And things like that impress the barbarians.

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