Voices

by Wislawa Szymborska

You scarcely move your foot when out of nowhere spring
the Aborigines, O Marcus Aemilius.

Your heel’s mired in the very midst of Rutulians.
In Sabines, and Latins you’re sinking up to your knees.
You’re up to your waist, your neck, your nostrils
in Aequians and Volscians, O Lucius Fabius.

These small peoples are thick as flies, to the point of irritation,
satiation and nausea, O Quintus Decius.

One town, another, the hundred seventieth.
The stubbornness of Fidenates. The ill-will of the Faliscans.
The blindness of Ecetrans. The vacillation of the
Antemnates.
The studied animosity of the Lavicanians, the Pelignians.
That’s what drives us benevolent men to harshness
beyond each new hill, o Gaius Cloelius.

If only they weren’t in our way, but they are,
the Auruncians, the Marsians, O Spurius Manlius.
The Tarquinians from here and there, the Etruscans from
everywhere.
The Volsinians besides. The Veientins to boot.
Beyond all reason the Aulercians. Ditto the Sapinians
beyond all human patience, O Sextus Oppius.

Small peoples have small understanding.
Stupidity surrounds us in an ever-widening circle.
Objectionable customs. Benighted laws.
Ineffectual gods, O Titus Vilius.

Mounds of Hernicians. Swarms of Marrucianians.
An insect-like multitude of Vestians, of Samnites.
The farther you go the more there are, O Servius Follius.

Deplorable are small peoples.
Their irresponsibility bears close watching
beyond each new river, O Aulus Junius.

I feel threatened by every new horizon.
That’s how I see the problem, O Hostius Melius.

To that I, Hostius Melius, reply to you,
O Appius Pappius: Forward. Somewhere out there the world
must have an end.

Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1996. Poem courtesy of Andrew Bacevich.

“Diplomatic Immunity” or Murder with Impunity? And Who’s a Diplomat Anyway?

triple murders, a suicide, and the unraveling of a spy and a covert war…

by Huma Dar

On Thursday, 27th of January, 2011, while the world was busy watching — or ignoring, as the case might be — the inspiring Egyptian Revolution, in broad daylight, in a very busy part of Lahore (Pakistan), in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses, American contractor, Raymond Davis, murders two or by some accounts even three people: Muhammad Faheem (aka Faheem Shamshad?) (age 26), Faizan Haider (age 22), and Ibad-ur-Rehman.  Davis shoots the former two, who had allegedly threatened to rob him, from within his locked car, with seven bullets — each bullet expertly and fatally finding its mark.  The windshield shows the piercing trajectory of the fatal bullets, but otherwise remains miraculously unshattered.  Davis, then, emerges calmly from his well-equipped car (see descriptions below), shoots Faizan from the back while Faizan was running away (how “dangerous” is that?! does the excuse of “self-defence” hold when one of the victims was running away?), takes photographs and videos of both his victims with his cellphone, gets back into his car, and drives off unruffled, to flee the scene.  Faizan Haider was still alive — he expired later in the hospital.  What an act of “responsibility” from a “diplomat” of the self-ascribed global policeman!

Continue reading ““Diplomatic Immunity” or Murder with Impunity? And Who’s a Diplomat Anyway?”

Pakistan: A Deficit of Dignity

M. Shahid Alam

Pakistan’s rulers and ruling elites may well be thinking that the wave of people’s indignation that started in Tunisia and is now working its way through Egypt, Jordan and Yemen will never reach them. Perhaps, they are telling each other, ‘We are safe: we are a democracy.’

The Arabs who are pouring into the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen are not protesting only against their dictatorships. Simultaneously, they are also protesting against governments that have sold their dignity and bartered the honor of their country. Nearly, all the Arab rulers are self-castrated eunuchs in the courts of foreign powers, who have turned their own countries into police states, and who jail, maim, torture and kill their own people to please their masters.

The Arabs are venting their anger against elites who have stymied their energies by turning their societies into prisons. In complicity with foreign powers, these elites have ruled by fear, blocking the forward movement of their people because this movement collides with the imperialist ambitions of Israel and the United States.

It is true that Pakistan has had ‘elected’ governments alternating with military dictatorships. Increasingly, however, these governments, whether civilian or military, have differed little from each other. The priority for both is to keep their power and US-doled perks by doing the bidding of the United States and Israel.

Starting in the early 1990s, Pakistan hurriedly embraced the neoliberal paradigm that emanated from Washington. Hastily, successive ministers of finance and privatization – all of them IMF appointees – went about dismantling Pakistan’s industries, selling off for a song its state-owned enterprises, and empowering Pakistan’s elites to engage in unchecked consumerism.

Continue reading “Pakistan: A Deficit of Dignity”

People Power in the Middle East

M. Shahid Alam

From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.

It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.

As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.

Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?

Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Continue reading “People Power in the Middle East”

Is Pakistan’s ‘Monkey Show’ Coming Apart?

M. Shahid Alam

For too long now, the government of Pakistan – at its highest levels – has looked like a monkey show staged by the United States of America.

The USA picks the mercenaries from Pakistan’s wealthy and corrupt elites who are eager to play the part of the monkey. Once in office, they act upon cues that are called by the US plenipotentiary in Islamabad or elsewhere. The monkey master says, Give us transit rights; the monkey obliges. He says, Join our war against Afghanistan; the monkey obliges again. He says, We will bomb your people, you take the blame; the monkey obliges again. The monkey never disappoints.

All that the monkey master has to do to keep this monkey show going is to toss a few peanuts to the monkeys in the show for every act well-performed.

Of course, in order to try to fool the Pakistanis, the monkey master complains periodically that the monkey is not “doing enough.” The monkey replies that the master is not “giving enough” – peanuts, that is.

How long is this monkey show going to go on?

How long will Pakistanis stand for this humiliation?

Continue reading “Is Pakistan’s ‘Monkey Show’ Coming Apart?”

Empire Abroad, Surveillance At Home

Download mp3.

The cover of McCoy's book is deep red, dark blue, and a sepia white. The photo is of a several ranks of Philippine military troups. The man in front salutes, while an American flag flies overhead.I have an obsessive interest in the history of empires, but a lot of the information in this fascinating lecture by Alfred McCoy was still new to me. I hope you find it as useful as I did. (via Against the Grain)

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the US engineered its conquest of the Philippines. According to Alfred McCoy, the security and surveillance methods introduced and refined by the US in the Philippines were brought home to these shores, for use in domestic policing, intelligence, and other repressive techniques and systems that had profound consequences for civil liberties.

Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State U. of Wisconsin Press, 2009

The Awakening According to Antonius

Damascus after French Bombardment, 1925.

Originally published at the Muslim Institute.

I never managed to finish T.E. Lawrence’s vastly overrated “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. It’s a poorly written, narrowly partial and self-dramatising account of the Arab Revolt against Turkish rule during World War One, as poor a rendering of history as one would expect from Lawrence, with his poor Arabic, poor knowledge of the Arab nationalist movement, and his strange belief that he could pass as an Arab, despite his blond hair and stumbling speech. I got as far as his description of the Syrians as “an ape-like race.”

A far, far better book on early Arab nationalism is George Antonius’s “The Arab Awakening,” which covers the period from Muhammad Ali’s brief unification of Egypt and Syria in the 1830s to the struggle for Palestine in the 1930s.

Continue reading “The Awakening According to Antonius”

Mark Weisbrot on Haiti

This picture of a U.N. peacekeeper throwing tear gas in Haiti is featured on the U.N. website. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, D.C. and co-writer with Tariq Ali of the Oliver Stone documentary “South of the Border”, has published an illuminating piece in the Comment is Free section of the Guardian. Variously touching on U.S. foreign policy in general, the WikiLeaks cables on Haiti (apparently it is necessary for the U.S. State Department to know how many drinks the Haitian president can handle), and the ignominious role played by MINUSTAH — the U.N. force in Haiti — Weisbrot writes:

People who do not understand US foreign policy think that control over Haiti does not matter to Washington, because it is so poor and has no strategic minerals or resources. But that is not how Washington operates, as the WikiLeaks cables repeatedly illustrate. For the state department and its allies, it is all a ruthless chess game, and every pawn matters. Left governments will be removed or prevented from taking power where it is possible to do so; and the poorest countries – like Honduras last year – present the most opportune targets. A democratically elected government in Haiti, due to its history and the consciousness of the population, will inevitably be a left government – and one that will not line up with Washington’s foreign policy priorities for the region. Thus, democracy is not allowed.

Continue reading “Mark Weisbrot on Haiti”

Chalmers Johnson, RIP

Chalmers Johnson

The great Chalmers Johnson is no more. An examplary scholar, Johnson metamorphosed from a hardline Cold Warrior into one of the most formidable critics of the American Empire, mapping its ever expanding imperium of bases. His 2000 book Blowback was prophetic, and his subsequent books The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis have been equally prescient. Each one is a must read.

Here is (to the best of my knowledge) the last recorded interview with Johnson in which he discusses his latest book, Dismantling the Empire, which I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet:

Continue reading “Chalmers Johnson, RIP”

Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media

by Huma Dar

At a groundbreaking seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi, India, on October 21st, 2010, the minutes record that Arundhati Roy, the prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, asserted that

[Kashmir] has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc… the Indian state has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people. Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media”

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