Binyavanga Wainaina: Rewriting Africa

Among other things, Binyavanga Wainaina is author of ‘How to write about Africa‘, a biting satire on Western writings on Africa. (See video below the fold.)

It is time to change our image of Africa. Critics say that for too long now, aid organisations, foreign diplomats, politicians and journalists have been stuck looking at this vast continent as a convenient photo-opportunity to illustrate victimhood and desperation. And few men are more forceful in advocating a change in how we perceive Africa than Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina. Talk to Al Jazeera sat down with one of the continent’s most influential young authors to explore why the world is still not understanding Africa, and how to break the lens of media distortion.

What next for Venezuela?

Following his election victory, Nicolas Maduro is expected to be sworn in as president of venezuela later this week.

However, those expecting a repeat of the easy win Hugo Chavez enjoyed last October were left shocked after official results gave Maduro only a slender margin of victory.In keeping with the tone of an often bitter election campaign, the loser, Henrique Capriles, has called the win “illegitimate”. He also demanded a full recount, something to which Maduro has agreed.Nevertheless, the narrowness of Maduro’s win – even once confirmed – will raise questions about his leadership.

Foreign policy and Fuzzy Maths on the Scott Horton Show

I was on the Scott Horton Show yesterday to discuss my recent article on the dubious numbers that have been used to conceal the real scale of Iraq’s tragedy.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a sociologist and editor of Pulsemedia.org, discusses the highly contested estimated number of Iraqi deaths due to the 2003 US invasion; why Iraq Body Count (the media’s go-to source) vastly under-reports casualties; how “excess death” statistical studies work; and how low-balling the costs of war – in terms of blood and treasure – distorts the public debate.

True costs of Iraq War whitewashed by fuzzy maths

This article appears in The National. (Also see my earlier article on the causes of the war)

‘So many’, wrote TS Eliot, reflecting on the waste land left by the First World War. “I had not thought death had undone so many.”

This notion is unlikely to cross the minds of those surveying the devastation left by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The most frequently quoted fatality figure – about 115,000 Iraqis killed – is shocking. But compared to major conflicts of the past century, it is a relatively modest toll. The Battle of the Somme alone killed three times as many. More were killed by a single bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

Former British prime minster Tony Blair, and then-US vice president Dick Cheney, were perhaps conscious of this when they expressed “no regrets” on the 10th anniversary of the war last month.

That the perpetrators of an aggressive war should accept the lowest costs for their folly is unsurprising. What is less explicable is why so many supposed critics of the war are crediting the same estimate. Brown University’s Costs of War project and the Centre for American Progress’s Iraq War Ledger use it as their main source.

You can read the rest here.

Ruins of Empire with Pankaj Mishra

The Victorian period, often viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by many Asians as a catastrophe. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover, a vast intellectual effort would be required.

Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire, explores the historical fallout of the end of the Qing, Ottoman and Mughal empires with historian and filmmaker Michael Wood. (See Pulse’s review of Mishra’s book)