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.

Archaeology of Revolutionary Knowledge

My review of Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire which first appeared in Guernica.

As tsar Alexander III sat down for an evening’s entertainment at the St. Petersburg opera in late 1887, he little knew that the performance would be upstaged by one far more dramatic. Shortly after the curtains rose, a slender, goateed man with azure eyes, dressed in robe and turban, got up from a box nearby and proclaimed loudly: “I intend to say the evening prayer—Allah-u-Akbar!” The audience sat bemused and soldiers waited impatiently as the man proceeded unperturbed with his evening prayers. His sole companion, the Russian-born intellectual Abdurreshid Ibrahim, squirmed in fear of his life.

Jamal ud-Din al-Afghani was determined to recruit Russian support in his campaign against the British. Having failed to secure an audience with the tsar, he had decided to use his daring as a calling card. The tsar’s curiosity was duly piqued and Afghani had his hearing.

This could be a scene out of Tolstoy or Lermontov; but so extraordinary a figure was Afghani (1838-97) that inserting him into fiction would have compromised verisimilitude. So, renowned essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra has opted for the genres of historical essay and intellectual biography to profile the lives of Afghani and other equally remarkable figures in From the Ruins of Empire: The intellectuals who remade Asia.

The book is a refreshing break from lachrymose histories of the East’s victimhood and laments about its past glories. It concerns a group of intellectuals who responded to the threat of western dominance with vigour and imagination. Together they engendered the intellectual currents that have shaped the last century of the region’s history. Continue reading “Archaeology of Revolutionary Knowledge”

Obama’s torture policy

Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines returns:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised a new direction. Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

Continue reading “Obama’s torture policy”

Palestine: State of play

Our friend Tony Karon joins Rashid Khalidi, Peter Beinart and Ethan Bronner on Al Jazeera’s Empire.

The dawn of a Palestinian state has been a long time coming. After 65 years of dispossession, 45 years of occupation, and 20 years of failed peace attempts, on Thursday Palestine took one step closer to joining the community of nations. With a final vote of 138 to 9, an overwhelming majority of nations at the UN General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. This upgrade puts Palestine on par with the Vatican, and also could allow Palestinian claims to be filed in the International Criminal Court. This recognition came just days after another in the long line of catastrophes Palestinians have faced. Under a brutal Israeli bombardment of Gaza, nearly 200 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Empire asks: Must the Palestinian dream of a state be Israel’s nightmare? And what does the path to a just solution look like?

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy under Obama

Eminent international relations scholar John J. Mearsheimer takes the measure of Obama’s Middle East policy under the lobby’s influence in this highly informative talk delivered at Turkey’s Koç University.

O’Reilly v Stewart 2012: The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium

Jon Stewart and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly faced off in “the Rumble 2012” debate last night at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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