Intimations of Ghalib

translations by M. Shahid Alam


My absence was God:
His absence grows in me.
If I was not in play, how
Would that go for me?

I had nothing to lose
When she cut off my head.
It sat not on my torso: it lay
Dead upon my knee.

Dead all these years, Ghalib
Comes back to me. We
Talked of present misery:
He always, what might be.

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Misreporting Drone Statistics

On CNN’s website, Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland recently wrote an article including the following graph in which they claim that of the 153 people killed in Pakistan by US drones, none were civilians. These are highly dubious statistics, as I have pointed out elsewhere. And following is a report by IPS News’s Zoha Arshad which challenges these claims with comments from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Chris Wood and me.

Chris Woods of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) believes that NAF has not only underestimated the number of strikes and civilian deaths, but adds that civilian death percentages need to be treated with extreme caution.

“It (NAF) relies only on a small number of media reports immediately following a strike. Sometimes we learn crucial facts days, weeks or even months after an initial attack,” he told IPS.

“In February of this year, for example, a major investigation by Associated Press, based on 80 eyewitness testimonies from civilians in Waziristan, found previously unknown evidence of civilian deaths in 20 percent of the sampled strikes. Unfortunately, NAF has not incorporated these important findings into its data,” said Woods.

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Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Yet Another Example of the World-Class Music Available in Israel

Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, (translated from an interview published in Hebrew by Creative Community for Peace)

Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre seems to have a very formed opinion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Between the Palestinian-led organizations, the BDS National Committee and The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and my own little campaign on Facebook which continuously appealed to them among many others, it’s unfortunate that it never occurred to the band to try and contact the people who asked them not to play in Israel. I hate to write a post-performance letter [1,2,3,4,5], and some may ask what’s the point, but I truly believe that while it may be too late to get you to cancel, it’s it’s never too late to get you to understand. So one more time with feeling: A post-performance analysis and response to the statements of Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre [Hebrew].

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A bad day for torturers

It has been a bad 24 hours for the world’s torturers. First it was Asef Shawkat who oversaw torture in Damascus, now Ayman Mohyeldin is reporting that the Egyptian head of intelligence, the notorious torturer Omer Suleiman has also died in the US. I hope the torturers of Bagram, Guantanamo, Ashkelon, and Chechnya also meet the same fate, not necessarily naturally.

Attack of the Drones

From Al Jazeera’s People & Power series.

The US government’s growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial. As governments are increasingly relying on drones, what are the consequences for civil liberties and the future of war?

Robert Fisk on the Damascus Showdown

The Syrian resistance has struck a major blow. In a targeted attack, it has killed Defence Minister General Daoud Rajha and his deputy, Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat. The blast also killed Hafez Makhlouf the head of interrogation in the general security services and Hasan Turkmani, the head of the crisis committee set up to crush the revolution. Robert Fisk comments:

The Economist has a good report on the vanishing support for the regime inside Damascus.

While the capital’s inhabitants are viewed with contempt by people from Homs and Hama for not joining the revolution with gusto, many Damascenes are working behind the scenes. Businessmen fund food for displaced Syrians. Others open their doors to them, often cramming several families into a single flat. Traders have held strikes. Activists work to keep dialogue going between different sects.

Also, the courgeous Razzan Ghazzawi is liveblogging from Damascus’s Midan district. Visit her blog for the latest.

Guatemalan Femicide: The Legacy of Repression and Injustice

Guatemalan anti-mining activist Telma Yolanda Oqueli Veliz (Photo: James Rodríguez,

by Cyril Mychalejko

This article appeared at Toward Freedom.

One generally overlooked feature of the Guatemalan government and military’s 36-year (1960-96) genocidal counterinsurgency campaign against the country’s Mayan population is the strategy of targeting women with violence.

Rape, mutilation, sexual slavery, forced abortion, and sterilizations were just some of the sadistic tools used in a systematic practice of state-sponsored terror to crush the surviving population into submission through fear and shame via the suffering of their mothers, sisters, and daughters.

In 1999, UN-backed truth commission, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), declared that during the war, “the rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice aimed at destroying one of the most intimate and vulnerable aspects of the individual’s dignity…[and] they were killed, tortured and raped, sometimes because of their ideals and political or social participation…”

Glen Kuecker, professor of Latin American History at DePauw University, said that the gender specific violence was and continues to be part of the government’s counterinsurgency program aimed to destroy the fundamental social fabric of Mayan communities.
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Showdown in Damascus

According to friends and contacts in Damascus, the clash between the Syrian resistance and the regime has intensified. The regime is using artillery and gunships, and, according to latest video reports, bombers too. The brave Razzan Ghazzawi, who is reporting from Damascus, has gone offline. The regime has cut electricity to the city and her batteries have died. Assad’s jets are bombing the oldest capital in the world. Simon Assaf gives this overview:

 Armed rebels took control over key neighbourhoods and are now surrounded. Yesterday regime troops failed to overrun these neighbourhoods and are attempting to put them under siege. But the fighting is now very mobile, and has spread to many areas of the city. Meanwhile every major front across the country is now in battle with orders to hit all regime positions and call for the surrender of troops. The FSA are attempting to cut off the reinforcements to the capital, and stretch regime forces.

Meanwhile, here is the story of survivors from the regime’s earlier assault on Homs.

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