March 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A very fine speech at the Arab League summit by Syrian opposition leader Moaz al Khatib, which ends with a call to all the gathered Arabs to release their detainees and end oppression and injustice. (English subtitles included)
In the Name of God the Most Merciful…
God’s peace and blessings be upon you all. This blessing comes from a people one quarter of whose population are now homeless, one hundred thousand are imprisoned. They have paid a heavy price for the freedom they seek, with over 100,000 martyrs and a destroyed infrastructure, at the hands of a savage oppressor.Peace and blessings upon you, from a people who are being slaughtered under the watchful eye of the world for two years, and have been bombarded with a variety of heavy weapons and ballistic missiles, while many governments continue to shake their heads and wonder what they should do.
Peace and blessings upon you, from the only people in the world where warplanes bomb bakeries, and the dough is blended with the blood of children and women.
Peace and blessings upon you, from the widows and orphans, the tortured, the wounded and the disabled, the prisoners and the detainees, the refugees and displaced, the rebels and the fighters, and the martyrs that flutter around this wretched world.
Peace and blessings upon you, from a people who will follow the path to freedom, and who posses a will that can destabilize the greatest idol, and a love that fills the world with tranquility, warmth and compassion.
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Christopher Lydon is the worthiest personality to have graced American radio. His skills as a host are admired by every listener to Radio Open Source. But you’ll have to hear the following conversation to appreciate how even as a guest he has few equals. Our friendship was formed over our shared devotion for ideas of the late Tony Judt. But I’m happy to discover that we also have in common a deep love for Hemingway’s prose. Here is Chris discussing Hemingway and Tennessee Williams on Boston Public Radio with Jim Braude and Margery Egan. Don’t miss it because radio does not get any better than this
March 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
A version of this review was published at the Independent.
“The Silence and the Roar” by Syrian novelist and screenwriter Nihad Sirees was written in 2004, long before the roar of revolutionary crowds, and the countervailing roar of gunfire and warplanes, filled Syrian skies.
The pre-revolutionary roar of the title is that of the (capitalised) Leader speaking, and of the crowd celebrating the Leader speaking, and of those being beaten because they aren’t celebrating loudly enough; a roar relentlessly repeated by radios and televisions throughout the city, accompanying the protagonist almost everywhere he goes.
Counterposed to the roar there are two forms of silence: of imprisonment and of the grave. The first holds an ironic allure, for “the most beautiful thing in the entire universe is the silence that allows us to hear soft and distant sounds.”
The narrator is Fathi Sheen, a writer fallen out of favour with the regime, silenced only to the extent that he doesn’t write any more. He’s very pleasant company, amusing and straightforward, his digressions into Aristotle and Hannah Arendt notwithstanding. Over the course of a day Fathi struggles against the flow of celebrant crowds and regime thugs to visit first his mother and then his lover. He’s been content thus far to continue not to write in return for being left alone, but it becomes clear as the hours pass that the Leader’s friends plan to drive a different sort of bargain. The novella is in part a parable of the artist surviving under dictatorship. How does he make space for creation between silent and roaring states of mind? How does he avoid the regime’s Faustian temptations? More generally, how should one resist?
One answer for Fathi and his lover Lama, as for Winston Smith and his Julia, is through sex, which they find to be “a form of speech, indeed, a form of shouting in the face of the silence.”
March 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
John Butler pays tribute to the military industry’s genius for dramatically compressing Orwellian concepts into memorable acronyms.
A song in praise of DARPA, the most exciting arts commissioning agency in the world today.
February 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Black Panther founder Bobby Seale is raising money for a biographical film which will tell the story of his life, the Panthers, and the wider anti-racism struggle in America in the 60s and 70s. It sounds like a very worthwhile project. Full details, and how to donate, can be found here.
April 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
The following is an excerpt from a review by Central Michigan University professor John Robertson, for War in Context, of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work.
With the publication of Belen Fernandez’s The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, Verso Press inaugurated a new series, called Counterblasts, with the intention of reviving a tradition of polemic that it traces back to the fiery political pamphleteers of the 17th century. Obviously, then, Ms. Fernandez was not supposed to produce an impartial, dispassionate analysis of the collected works of the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning chief foreign affairs correspondent. Rather, she has come up with something that the American public in general (and students of US foreign affairs and public diplomacy especially) undoubtedly need more: a systematic, detailed take-down of the neo-liberal bias, myopic US-Israeli chauvinism, and general intellectual shallowness that almost scream to be noticed in Friedman’s writing. Yet, lamentably, Friedman has been enshrined as a sort of American “Everyman’s” go-to guy for understanding what’s happening in the world, what needs fixing, and how “we” can and should do it.
March 10, 2012 § 3 Comments
An interesting documentary about the history of Iran’s nuclear program. There are some smart and forthright observations by historian Avner Cohen about the real motives that animate Israel’s belligerence toward Iran. Parts of the documentary are somewhat uncritical and treat the highly compromised IAEA as if it were an independent body. In his book Target Iran, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter revealed that IAEA has shared classified information from its inspections inside Iran with the Israelis, who in turn have used it for developing their list of potential bombing targets.
In the documentary, Ronen Bergman, who in a recent New York Times Magazine article predicted that Israel will attack Iran (something I find highly unlikely), claims that one point Mossad had sought US permission to assassinate Dr. Abul Qadeer Khan, which he says the US declined. That Israelis might have wanted to assassinate Khan I don’t doubt; but I find it highly improbable that they’d have sought US permission or would have refrained because of US objections.
Is Iran really building a nuclear weapon or are its activities peaceful? And would Israel really attack Iran’s nuclear facilities? We examine a dispute taking place against much sabre-rattling but in which the truth is hard to pin down.
March 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
What role do pro-Israel lobby groups, and AIPAC in particular, play in the US election and why are they courted by those competing to be the next US president? Guests: Professor John Mearsheimer; Larry Greenfield; Hillary Mann Leverett.
March 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Back in March 2010 when Gen. David Petraeus spoke out about the strategic costs to the US of the ‘special relationship’ with Israel and its role in fomenting anti-American sentiment, Mark Perry noted that this wasn’t the first time a senior US official was deviating from the prescribed view of the alliance. Long before Petraeus, Secretary of State George Marshall and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal had both warned President Harry Truman against recognizing the nascent state of Israel. This sentiment has remained consistent among US strategists over the years, especially among military leaders, despite the best efforts of the Israel lobby. Institutions like JINSA were created specifically to cultivate sympathetic individuals in the higher reaches of the military brass. For the most part these efforts have failed: this is evidenced by the succession of CentCom and Joint Chiefs of Staff chiefs who have baulked at the prospect of attacking Iran. The newest chief of CentCom, Gen. James Mattis doesn’t have the independence of Admiral Fox Fallon but even he has been impelled to admit the burdens the ‘special relationship’ places on Israel. Amir Oren of Haaretz reports:
During an annual briefing Tuesday in the U.S. Congress, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of the Central Command, issued a warning about a continued impasse in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He said that the political awakening in the Arab world has caused regimes in the region to be more attentive than ever to the emotions of their populations. The current stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, he declared, cannot continue; what is needed is the renewal of an Israeli-Arab drive for peace based on a two-state solution. The non-resolution of the conflict, he added, exacts a “steep price” and complicates the activities of forces under his command.
November 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Samar Yazbeck, Ibrahim Qashoush, Khaled Khalifa, Rasha Omran, Ali Farzat, Mai Skaf, Samih Shqair – there’s an impressive list of Syrian writers, musicians, songwriters, and artists who have bravely and unambiguously supported the people’s aspirations for dignity. And now the actress Fadwa Sulaiman. Here she is in besieged Homs leading chants of ‘no Salafis, no Brotherhood, the Syrians want freedom’ and ‘One, One, the Syrian People are One.’ Here she is on Jazeera (Arabic) interviewed via skype. And, below, here she is announcing her hunger strike until the prisoners are released and the siege of the besieged cities is lifted. Translation of her words follows after the page break.