Syria: Songs of Defiance

This is typically excellent and courageous. The journalist is supposed to be anonymous but they haven’t disguised his voice very well.

An Al Jazeera journalist who was forced to remain anonymous for security reasons offers an unusual but compelling first-person account of a country in turmoil and a revolution in progress in this intriguing episode of People and Power.

Journalists and activists killed in Homs shelling

Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, activists say, as shelling of a district of the Syrian city continued amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

Omar Shakir, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday.

Counter-terrorism?

Our friend Paul Woodward of the indispensable War in Context asks some pertinent questions about the attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia:

Have we reached a quite predictable moment where counter-terrorism needs redefining? In other words, that when car bombings initiated by one state-sponsor of terrorism provoke a counter-attack of the same kind, that we should call such an attack an act of counter-terrorism?

Only last week there was confirmation from U.S. government officials that Israel is a state-sponsor of terrorism, having trained and deployed Iranian dissidents to conduct car bombings killing civilians in Iran. By internationally accepted definitions of terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism, there’s no question these were acts of terrorism and Israel’s role in instigating them makes it a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Now it would appear that Israel is reaping the reward for its own actions as Israeli diplomats have been targeted in India and Georgia. The attack in Delhi appears to have involved the use of the same method favored by Mossad — a magnetic bomb attached to the Israelis’ car by a passing motorcyclist.

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Syria’s injured seek treatment in Jordan

Dozens of people have been killed in the ongoing military assault on the central Syrian city of Homs, according to activists. Opposition groups say at least 6,000 people have died since the anti-government uprising began 11 months ago. With Syria’s makeshift hospitals unable to keep up with the growing rate of casualties, many of the wounded are left with little choice other than to travel to Jordan.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh reports from the Jordanian capital, Amman, on those Syrians seeking treatment across the border, including a one-time Olympian.

Bombing Savages in Law, in Fact, in Fiction

Professor Paul Gilroy chairs this event with Sven Lindqvist, the great Swedish author of over 30 widely translated books including A History of Bombing.

This lecture marks the centenary of aerial bombardment. More than just a military revolution, this development redrew the legal and moral boundaries between civilians and combatants and spread the theatre of war into cities and domestic spaces.

The lecture is part of a joint initiative of LSE Sociology and the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.

UPDATE: In case you are having trouble listening to the whole lecture, you can hear it on the LSE website instead.

What we are Forgetting to Remember: The Social Context of 9/11

by Mike King

September 11, 2001 is a world historic moment, a historical signpost – “9/11” – marking more than a deadly attack, but a moment that truly changed history, one that can help us understand both the past and the present.  This week marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Of the memorials given, documentaries aired and news stories published this week, few will address the causes and effects of 9/11 in a way that gives a sense of the root causes, social context and contradictions that surround that moment and continue to define our present.

9/11 grew out of everything from Cold War contradictions to longstanding political grievances and anti-imperialism in the Muslim world.  9/11 propelled two unending wars, Afghanistan being the longest in US history, bankrupting both State finances and global moral legitimacy.  Despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, and his mysterious burial at sea, and despite the fact that there have been no successful terror attacks in the US since 9/11, the US has lost the “War on Terror” in every other conceivable way.  Whether in terms of lost economic hegemony or in terms Federal budget deficits (and their social effects), largely caused by the costs of wars, or in terms of a loss of geopolitical control over much of the Western hemisphere or North Africa, the US leveraged its Empire to fund a new Crusades which has them clutching to their global thrown with one hand, munitions with the other, as the other world powers and financiers wait for the right moment to pull the rug out from under them, as multiple occupations meet persistent resistance.

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Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

A must see documentary which the Bahraini and Saudi regimes have tried to suppress.

Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

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Kharotabad killings and the cover up

In an in-depth investigation, Mehreen Zahra-Malik reveals the sordid details behind the May 17th murder of five Russian/Tajik civilians by Pakistani security forces near Kharotabad in Baluchistan. This article first appeared on Al Jazeera.

One wounded woman makes an appeal for surrender moments before her body is riddled with more bullets.

Jamal Tarakai had barely sat down to a late lunch on May 17 when he heard gunshots. Leaving his food untouched, he jumped on his motorbike and drove towards the source of the noise. About 200 metres from his home in Kharotabad on the outskirts of the capital of Balochistan, Quetta, was a Frontier Corps (FC) check post. As Tarakai pulled up on the chowk, he saw at least five FC guards shooting into a pile of sandbags, the firing so intense it created a whirlwind of dust, making it difficult for the cameraman to see who, or what, was being shot at so fiercely.

Pulling out his camera, the journalist started filming the scene. At some point, there was a pause in the firing. The dust settled, somewhat, and the lower portion of a woman in a red shalwar-kameez could be seen lying on the ground. She slowly raised an arm and waved it in the air, fingers stretched out – to signal surrender? To seek mercy? The outstretched hand prompted two of the men in fatigues to start firing again, until it was certain anything living on the receiving end was now almost certainly dead.

TV channels immediately began to pump out congratulatory stories, cheering the FC guards for a job well done. Five alleged Chechen suicide bombers, including three women, had been killed in an encounter with security forces, it was reported. The Balochistan Home secretary quickly issued a statement saying the suspects were wearing suicide vests and had hurled hand grenades at the FC, killing one FC guard, Naik Mohommad Sajjad. The Capital City Police Officer, Daud Junejo, said the five foreigners were Chechen militants linked with Al Qaeda; that they had been planning to carry out attacks in Quetta; and that the women had showed the officers suicide vests and threatened to blow themselves up.

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The blood of Dresden

Following is an extract from Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut in which he describes the scenes  of ‘obscene brutality’ he witnessed as a prisoner of war in Dresden which inspired his classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Dresden before the allied bombing

It was a routine speech we got during our first day of basic training, delivered by a wiry little lieutenant: “Men, up to now you’ve been good, clean, American boys with an American’s love for sportsmanship and fair play. We’re here to change that.

“Our job is to make you the meanest, dirtiest bunch of scrappers in the history of the world. From now on, you can forget the Marquess of Queensberry rules and every other set of rules. Anything and everything goes.

“Never hit a man above the belt when you can kick him below it. Make the bastard scream. Kill him any way you can. Kill, kill, kill – do you understand?”

His talk was greeted with nervous laughter and general agreement that he was right. “Didn’t Hitler and Tojo say the Americans were a bunch of softies? Ha! They’ll find out.”

And of course, Germany and Japan did find out: a toughened-up democracy poured forth a scalding fury that could not be stopped. It was a war of reason against barbarism, supposedly, with the issues at stake on such a high plane that most of our feverish fighters had no idea why they were fighting – other than that the enemy was a bunch of bastards. A new kind of war, with all destruction, all killing approved.

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