December 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Bradley Manning, a private in the US army, has been accused of perpetrating the biggest intelligence leak in US history.
Now a military judge is trying to determine whether Manning should face a court martial. He could face as many as 22 specific allegations in the charges that include aiding the enemy and espionage.
« Read the rest of this entry »
December 13, 2011 § 3 Comments
With Inside Story Americas, Shihab Rattansi has really elevated the quality of the show. Rattansi is in my view Al Jazeera’s best anchor and the following is a rather superb show with an excellent selection of guests. Don’t miss.
December 10, 2011 § 5 Comments
Following are excerpts from my long essay on Wikileaks and the Palestine Papers which appears in The Arabs Are Alive, the first issue of Critical Muslim, edited by Ziauddin Sardar and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab.
British journalist Gary Younge once quipped that the English nation only exists for 90 minutes during a game of football. As the webs of social relations that tied nations together have frayed under the neoliberal assault, societies have fragmented, existing only as imagined communities in spectacles, especially war and sport. The Wikileaks cables revealed little about Tunisia or Egypt that the individual citizen did not already know. But it was the spectacular manner of the revelations that turned a mass of atomised and jaded individuals into an angry nation clamouring for dignity. As witnesses to the spectacle of the global phenomena that was Wikileaks and the local tragedy that was Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisians had coalesced into a community around the common source of their humiliation.
If Mohamed Bouazizi’s spectacular act was born of desperation, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s was born of ingenuity. By using the prestige and resources of five of the world’s leading news organizations, Assange ensured a global audience for his revelations. In his earlier experiments he had discovered that dumping a mass of data online, however sensational, generated little public interest. Information, like any commodity, is also subject to the laws of supply and demand. Truth has never been in short supply, but it needs amplification to have an impact. An obscure website might draw those actively pursuing a story, but masses who are mere passive consumers of news will have little reason to upset the bliss of their ignorance. For it to have an impact the information will have to be thrust into people’s faces.
November 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The first issue of Critical Muslim, a quarterly magazine in book form co-edited by Ziauddin Sardar and me, will be in the shops in January. More on that at a later date. Today I’m finishing off a long essay on Syria, Iraq and sectarian hatred for Critical Muslim’s third issue. Amongst the books I review in the essay are Fanar Haddad’s indispensable “Sectarianism in Iraq” and Nir Rosen’s “Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World,” which is also indispensable, in a different way. As a taster, here’s the section on “Aftermath.”
For a mix of contextual analysis and gripping reportage, the reader will find no better book than Nir Rosen’s magisterial “Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s wars in the Muslim World”.
Most Western correspondents were flown into Iraq unable to speak Arabic, largely ignorant of the context, to pass their time attending coalition press briefings or embedded with the US military. Their reports were heavy with simplistic labels (‘the Sunni triangle’, for instance) and ignored non-sectarian nationalism and class issues. Rosen’s writing on Iraq is the polar opposite of such parachute journalism. He speaks Arabic for a start, and blends in physically as a result of the “melanin advantage” bequeathed by his Iranian father. More to the point, he is courageous and energetic, going where few outsiders would dare, whatever their skin tone. He’s a reporter of the best kind, capable of locating pattern behind the copious detail. So he doesn’t merely report the mosque sermons he attended, or his encounters with militiamen and their victims, but accurately interprets and reads between the lines. His descriptions of time, place and personality are vivid, with not an ounce of orientalism added. His lack of sentimentality combined with his obvious sympathy for the people of the region make him the perfect candidate to voyage into the sectarian heart of darkness.
November 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The following is a the second half of an interview conducted by the new NYTimes eXaminer with PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. Read the first half here.
Q: Did you come away with a lower opinion of Friedman or of the people and institutions that continually give him platforms to spew his idiotic, loathsome views? I find it so telling that, when Friedman did his “suck on this” performance on Charlie Rose, Rose just nods and leans in for the next question instead of calling Friedman out for saying one of the most offensive things ever said on television. Or to put it another way: Do you think the New York Times would allow one of their columnists to consistently dehumanize entire groups of people – to the point of openly calling for civilian deaths in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq – if those people weren’t Arab/Muslim?
Unfortunately, Orientalist dehumanization is institutionalized in US media discourse, the result being that there is no overwhelming public concern when over a million Iraq lives are lost thanks to America’s bellicose projects or when 1400 Palestinians perish in a matter of 22 days at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.
It is utterly appalling that neither Charlie Rose nor anyone else in the US establishment media took issue with Friedman’s obscene proclamation, and that he was never required by his employer to apologize for it in the interest of maintaining a pretense of objectivity. One can imagine the uproar that would have ensued—and over which Friedman himself would have presided—had, for example, Yasser Arafat instructed Israelis to suck on things, or had Osama bin Laden justified 9/11 with similar terminology. Friedman, on the other hand, is permitted to continue blissfully peddling his contemptuous analyses of the Arab/Muslim world, such as his 2007 assessment—with regard to the US military—that Iraqis “don’t deserve such good people… if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids.”
Of course, it is safe to assume that most Iraqis exhibit normal human affection for their offspring, including for those millions of offspring that have been killed, maimed, displaced or otherwise made to suffer as a result of a US military-inflicted sucking, and that the half a million Iraqi children previously killed by US-championed sanctions were probably also loved by their parents.
Even if Charlie Rose et al. fail to comprehend that sucking orders do not qualify as proper journalistic etiquette, they should at least be able to comprehend that Friedman’s argument for why the sucking should occur is in complete defiance of logic. According to Friedman, Iraqis must be made to suck so that the US can effectively combat the “terrorism bubble” that has developed in “that part of the world” and that poses a “fundamental threat to our open society,” something Americans discovered on 9/11. However, this very same Friedman also explains that the real threat to “open, Western, liberal societies today” consists not of “the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables – the boys who did 9/11.” The resulting argument—made by someone who himself criticizes the Bush administration for implying a link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein—is that war against deterrables whose weapons are not the problem will solve the problem of undeterrables who are the weapons and who by definition cannot be deterred anyway.
November 6, 2011 § 5 Comments
Billed as “an antidote to the ‘paper of record’”, the NYTimes eXaminer‘s Advisory Council is composed of such distinguished figures as Richard Falk, Phyllis Bennis, and Edward Herman.
See Phil Weiss’ comment on the interview at Mondoweiss.
Q: Why Tom Friedman? And can you talk a little about how the book is organized?
A: My decision to write the book was not the product of any sort of long-standing obsession with Thomas Friedman, whose journalistic exploits I remained mercifully immune to for most of my existence up until 2009.
Then, about midway through that year, the idea came to me suddenly when I noticed the $125 “Russian breakfast” option on the room-service menu at my five-star Havana hotel.
Kidding. In 2009 I watched with simultaneous fascination and horror as Friedman flitted on pedagogical missions from Lebanon to Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine to Africa, where he discovered the root cause of oppression in Zimbabwe by going on safari in Botswana.
Later that same year, Friedman’s decades-long lecture to the Arab/Muslim world on how to behave reached new levels of absurdity with his pronouncement according to which:
A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.
Arab and Muslims are not just objects. They are subjects. They aspire to, are able to and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world.
Arab/Muslim subjectivity was of course called into question not only by the fact that Friedman in this very same article instructed the Islamic world to engage in a civil war equal in ferocity to the US civil war, but also by the fact that—approximately 10 days prior to criticizing the infantilizing of Arabs and Muslims—he had remarked to an amused Fareed Zakaria of CNN that Afghanistan was like a “special needs baby” adopted by the US. (Friedman had refrained in this case from throwing in his regular complaint that the US was “baby-sitting a civil war” in Iraq—a complaint he apparently felt was not irreconcilable with his own declaration of the need for an Iraqi civil war.)
October 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
by Alli McCracken
“Assault? Who — or what — did I assault?” I asked the police officer incredulously as I sat in his office at the police station, handcuffed to the wall. “Well, looks like it was Leon Panetta himself,” the officer responded as he flipped through a pile of paperwork.
Me? A 22-year-old mild-mannered peace activist, assaulted the Secretary of Defense? I had simply tried to tell him how I felt about the wars. On the morning of October 13th about 25 activists who are occupying Washington DC, as part of the nationwide occupations, went on a field trip to Congress. We wanted to attend the House Armed Services Committee hearing where Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, and Martin Dempsy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying about “lessons learned by the Department of Defense over the preceding decade” and “how those lessons might be applied in the future in light of anticipated reductions in defense spending.” After all, these hearings are open to the public. And shouldn’t we have a say in where our money is being spent?
As a peace activist with the group CODEPINK for the past 10 months, I have done my fair share of sending letters and emails and delivering petitions to our government representatives, asking them to stop pouring trillions of our taxpayer dollars into the endless cycle of death, destruction and reconstruction halfway across the world. There are so many critical things that we could spend that money on here in America, such as education, healthcare, helping the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, the veterans.
September 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
American University of Beirut professor Omar Dewachi writes at Al Akhbar English:
Washington’s planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq next December is hailed as a turning point for the country. But the war on Iraq was much more than a military battle under the banner of regime change. It was an attack on the social body of a people that predated the 2003 invasion and will outlast a nominal troop withdrawal. As the world marks the ten years anniversary of 9/11 used as a pretext to invade Iraq, reflecting on the burdens of this war is a reminder that 20 years of violent US intervention will take decades to erase.
George Bush’s declaration of ‘war on terror’ in the wake of 9/11 took place one month after I arrived in the US to embark on my doctoral studies in anthropology. An unending war was unleashed with dramatic consequences on the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and the US. After 2003, members of my own family fell victim to the occupation and the sectarian violence, while others were completely uprooted from the city of Baghdad. The war was being felt in the US, as men and women of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were subjected to physical, symbolic, and bureaucratic violence through torture, surveillance systems, and the new cultural economy of blame and accusation.
In 2003, I began my research on the effects of years of warfare in Iraq by mainly looking at the exodus of Iraqi doctors and the ‘un-doing’ of the Iraqi health system during the 1990s. I was already familiar with the topic. I had trained and worked as a medical doctor in Iraq during the 1990s, where I lived through the collapse of one of the region’s most developed health systems. As a doctor working under sanctions, I struggled in my everyday with the rapid deterioration of the whole country’s infrastructure, the lack of medical supplies, the migration of the medical staff, the dismantling of the service infrastructure, and the mounting of the regime’s coercive violence. We wrestled daily to stock low supplies of saline solutions, cannulas, disposable gloves, and antibiotics. Hospital structures began failing with the absence of maintenance and supplies, as many were on the UN sanctioned list of ‘dual use.’ This was not merely a war on a rogue political regime; it was a war on the social body in Iraq.
September 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
by Mike King
September 11, 2001 is a world historic moment, a historical signpost – “9/11” – marking more than a deadly attack, but a moment that truly changed history, one that can help us understand both the past and the present. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Of the memorials given, documentaries aired and news stories published this week, few will address the causes and effects of 9/11 in a way that gives a sense of the root causes, social context and contradictions that surround that moment and continue to define our present.
9/11 grew out of everything from Cold War contradictions to longstanding political grievances and anti-imperialism in the Muslim world. 9/11 propelled two unending wars, Afghanistan being the longest in US history, bankrupting both State finances and global moral legitimacy. Despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, and his mysterious burial at sea, and despite the fact that there have been no successful terror attacks in the US since 9/11, the US has lost the “War on Terror” in every other conceivable way. Whether in terms of lost economic hegemony or in terms Federal budget deficits (and their social effects), largely caused by the costs of wars, or in terms of a loss of geopolitical control over much of the Western hemisphere or North Africa, the US leveraged its Empire to fund a new Crusades which has them clutching to their global thrown with one hand, munitions with the other, as the other world powers and financiers wait for the right moment to pull the rug out from under them, as multiple occupations meet persistent resistance.
September 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
by Gareth Porter
In the commentary on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the news and infotainment media have predictably framed the discussion by the question of how successful the CIA and the military have been in destroying al Qaeda. Absent from the torrent of opinion and analysis was any mention of how the U.S. military occupation of Muslim lands and wars that continue to kill Muslim civilians fuel jihadist sentiment that will keep the threat of terrorism high for many years to come.
The failure to have that discussion is not an accident. In December 2007, at a conference in Washington, D.C. on al Qaeda, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin offered a laundry list of things the United States could do to reduce the threat from al Qaeda. But he said nothing about the most important thing to be done: pledging to the Islamic world that the United States would pull its military forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and end its warfare against those in Islamic countries resisting U.S. military presence.
During the coffee break, I asked him whether that item should have been on his list. “You’re right,” he answered. And then he added, “But we can’t do that.”
“Why not,” I asked.
“Because,” he said, “we would have to tell the families of the soldiers who have died in those wars that their loved ones died in vain.”
His explanation was obviously bogus. But in agreeing that America’s continuing wars actually increase the risk of terrorism against the United States, Benjamin was merely reflecting the conclusions that the intelligence and counter-terrorism communities had already reached.