An Account Syncopated by Death: Littell’s Syrian Notebooks

May 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

syrian notebooksThis review was published at the National.

“The Kindly Ones”, one of the 21st Century’s great novels, is an epic inquiry into the intersection of state power and human evil. Its narrator is supremely civilised but also – and somehow without contradiction – an SS officer engaged in industrial-scale murder. The novel is set in the battlefields and death camps of World War Two.

The author, Jonathan Littell, previously worked for humanitarian agency Action Contre La Faim in various war zones including Chechnya, in whose fate he sees Syrian parallels. In 1996 Chechnya won de facto independence. Then collusion between Russian security services and Islamist extremists weakened Chechen nationalists, made the country too dangerous for journalists, and drained international support. This facilitated Russia’s 1999 reinvasion and the total destruction of the capital, Grozny. The Russian strategy is echoed today in what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius describes as the “objective complicity” between Assad and ISIS.

There are World War Two parallels too. Aleppo is the most bombed city since that conflict. Syria’s refugee crisis is the greatest since 1945. And the Assad regime, like Hitler’s, produces “thousands of naked bodies tortured and meticulously recorded by an obscenely precise administration.”

Perhaps these commonalities explain why Littell chose to bring his clear sight to bear on Syria’s war. He went in, for 17 days in January 2012, with renowned French photographer Mani. The experience led to a series of reports in Le Monde in February, and now to a book: “Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising.”

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Shurat HaDin and The Genocide Legalization Conference

May 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

This week, the organization Shurat HaDin is having a conference titled “Towards a New Law of War”. They don’t hide where their alliances lie, and on their online conference page (nostalgically illustrated with WWII British bombers) you can find their Western-supremacist and racist agenda stated loud and clear:

…exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against non­traditional, non­-democratic, non-­state actors.

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How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

May 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Professor Philip Mirowski author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, explains the intellectual history of Neo-liberalism, what Neo-liberals believe, making capitalists think differently, the role of think tanks in Neo-liberalism, the mythology of market supremacy, how Facebook teaches you to be a Neo-liberal agent, shaming and Neo-liberalism, how policy movements are built, climate and the affordable care act and Neo-liberal power and how the left can respond to Neo-liberal dominance.

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Jeremy Scahill: Dirty Wars – Full Documentary

April 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Dirty Wars is a 2013 American documentary film, which accompanies the book Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill. The film is directed by Richard Rowley, and written by Scahill and David Riker.

Jeremy Scahill on Drone Warfare

April 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Author Jeremy Scahill criticizes drone wars, the Western approach to the Middle East and Canada’s role in the war on terror.

Memories of Galeano’s Fire: My Afternoon with the Late Uruguayan Writer

April 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

eduardo-galeanoMy heart has been heavy since learning over the weekend of the death of the radical and marvelously lyrical Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, whom I had the enormous pleasure of meeting some 20 years ago.

Galeano was an iconic literary and intellectual figure of the Latin American Left, but his work has a global footprint. Arguably among the most influential books of the second half of the 20th century, his landmark 1971 Open Veins of Latin America has been translated into more than a dozen languages and sold over a million copies. It stands with Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Albert Memmi’s The Colonizer and the Colonized, and Gillo Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers, in the pantheon of anti-colonialism and Third Worldism. Hamid Dabashi calls Galeano a “creative voice of an alternative historiography, a mode of subaltern thinking and writing before a number of Bengali historians made the term globally popular.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Shakespeare’s Freedom

April 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt discusses his book, “Shakespeare’s Freedom,” presented by Harvard Book Store. Greenblatt discusses how Shakespeare was averse to the authorities of his time — religion, monarchs, and social structure — and how this spirit manifested itself in his work. (This talk took place on November 15, 2010)

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