March 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
I had the pleasure of meeting Haid, a Syrian civil-society activist, in Berlin last year. Please listen to his message:
February 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
I’m honoured that the wonderful poet Golan Haji has translated the prologue to my novel-in-progress for al-Arabi al-Jadeed. Here it is:
3 فبراير 2015
December 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
A slightly shorter version of my review of Pulse editor Idrees Ahmad’s devastating dissection of the neoconservatives and their deeds appeared at the National.
Meticulously researched and fluently written, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s “The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War” is the comprehensive guide to the neoconservatives and their works. The book’s larger story is of the enormous influence wielded by unelected lobbyists and officials over the foreign policies of supposed democracies, their task facilitated by the privatisation and outsourcing of more and more governmental functions in the neoliberal era. (Similar questions are provoked by the state-controlled or corporate media in general, as it frames, highlights or ignores information.) The more specific story is of how a small network of like-minded colleagues (Ahmad provides a list of 24 key figures), working against other unelected officials in the State Department, military and intelligence services, first conceived and then enabled America’s 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, a disaster which continues to overshadow regional and global relations today.
The first crop of neoconservatives emerged from a Trotskyist-tinged 1930s New York Jewish intellectual scene; they and their descendants operated across the political-cultural spectrum, in media and academia, think tanks and pressure groups. Hovering first around the Democratic Party, then around the Republicans, they moved steadily rightwards, and sought to form a shadow defence establishment. During the Cold War they were fiercely anti-Soviet. Under George Bush Jr. they shifted from the lobbies into office.
The neoconservative worldview is characterised by militarism, unilateralism, and a firm commitment to Zionism. Even the Israel-friendly British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said of neocon Irving Libby: “It’s a toss-up whether Libby is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day.” The neoconservatives aimed for an Israelisation of American policy, conflating Israeli and American enemies, and adopting their doctrine of ‘pre-emptive war’ from Israel’s 1967 war on the Arabs. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
I wrote this feature in summer 2012 for the “Pakistan?” special issue of Critical Muslim.
On the Kuwait Airways flight from London to Islamabad, the unusually boorish flight crew handed us disembarkation cards that the government of Pakistan requires all international arrivals to fill. Besides our passport numbers, addresses and reason for visiting, the form asked if we had been to Africa or Latin America in the past week. The purpose of this question was unclear except perhaps as a means to boost national self-esteem by implying that Pakistan is healthier than those two continents. With the only pen in my row, I helped five other passengers fill their forms.
At Islamabad’s decrepit Benazir Bhutto International Airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find the immigration staff making no undue effort to inconvenience new arrivals. Former president Pervez Musharraf’s successful effort at gender-balancing has markedly improved the behaviour of male airport staff. After sailing through immigration and customs, I became conscious of the disembarkation card still in my hand. Not inclined to take chances, I asked an officer where to deposit it. He hadn’t a clue, nor did anyone else. Finally, a customs official took the card from my hand and threw it into a waste basket. I wasn’t asked for it again.
What is still known internationally as the Islamabad Airport is actually based in the city of Rawalpindi. As the historic Grand Trunk Road passes through its crowded precincts, its name changes twice—to Peshawar Road and The Mall. We drove North-West on the Peshawar Road, past the General Head Quarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army which in 1895 had served as the launching pad for the Malakand Field Force, the British colonial army’s counter-insurgency campaign against the recalcitrant frontier. The sanguine details of this campaign were preserved in vivid detail by a young Winston Churchill who was also serving as a correspondent for The Times. More recently, on 10 October 2009, the GHQ was the site of a bloody raid by a group of 10 militants who breached its defences and triggered a hostage crisis which ended with 9 soldiers, 2 civilians, and 9 assailants dead.
October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
So said Milan Kundera. And because Assad’s western apologists are determined to overpower, let us preserve the endangered memories and remind people once again what the conflict in Syria is all about.
VETO is a short film sheds light on the current Syrian Revolution and the circumstances behind the transformation from peaceful movement to an armed revolution. VETO takes you through the last two years of this unbearable suffering with over 100,000 Syrian victims and more than 5 million displaced people, and a clueless world about how to stop this horrendous crime! VETO was made in 2012 and was nominated for the Documentary of The Year Award in Germany 2013 and was highlighted by several international media outlets.
September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Betrayal & Ambivalence: Syrian Activists Wrestle with ISIS, Intervention & the Fate of Their Country
September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
When Dissent magazine recently invited me to write an article on ISIS and intervention, I thought to pick the brains of various Syrian activists, writers and intellectuals. The correspondence that ensued became the article, which appeared on the Dissent blog yesterday. Here’s my introduction:
Conspicuously absent from the debate about ISIS and U.S. intervention—both in the mainstream and in the leftosphere—are Syrian voices. ISIS and U.S. officialdom occupy center stage, leaving the perspectives of Syrian civil society activists and writers out of the equation. While hardly surprising, this omission is troubling.
In an attempt to remedy this imbalance, I asked several Syrians—longtime activists and intellectuals from a range of backgrounds, including Kurdish, Palestinian, and Assyrian Christian—what they think about the ISIS crisis and Western intervention.