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Archive for the ‘Our Wars’ Category

Official Statement From Defense Of Human Rights, Pakistan And The Continuing Struggle For Justice For Pakistan’s Missing

In Our Wars, The Daily Discussion on August 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

Amina Masood Junjua forward me the following this morning and I am posting it here as an act of support. For those of you unfamiliar with the work of this amazing woman, and the campaign for justice for those Pakistani’s who have become victims of the irrational, unjust and unquestioned tentacles of the ‘war against terror’ and have disappeared into Pakistani and American detention, torture and elimination. Her’s is a campaign inspired by the disappearance of her husband Masood in 2005. She has been instrumental in helping me meet families of those who have been picked up by the Pakistani military, intelligence and police, as part of my larger work on the impact of the ‘war against terror’ on the lives of ordinary Pakistani citizens.

From left to right: Reema Hayat, 3 yrs, Arshi Hayat, 6 years, Khoshair Osama Hayat, 10 years, Ali Sufiyan Hayat, 12 years, Abubakar Hayat, 14 years. Children of Shokat Hayat who disappeared into police and intelligence custody on 15th March 2009 and has not been heard of since. Copyright Asim Rafiqui from the series ‘Not Interesting If It Is Not Madness’

The writer and journalist Malcolm Garcia wrote an extensive piece about her, her campaign and the issue of the missing in Pakistan in a piece called “The Missing” which appeared in the October 2010 issue of Guernica Magazine.

Today, on the auspicious day of Eid being celebrated across the Muslim community, Amina sent out yet another plea. I am reposting it here in support for her campaign, and as another voice demanding justice and due process, the rights promised to all Pakistani citizens, regardless of their crimes or background, by the nation’s much tattered constitution.

Below is an excerpt, and you can read the original statement EidStatement2011:

Year 2011 has turned into a doubly sorrowful symbol for the families of Missing persons of Pakistan as International day of the victims of enforced disappearance and Eid fall on consecutive days. This year has an another significance because from today United Nations has also officially marked it as the International day of the victims of enforced disappearance.

For some of us it is the first Eid without one of our family member, for some it is fifth and for some of us it is tenth. But we are not talking about deceased family members whom one bury with their hands instead these are the missing loved ones subjected to enforced disappearance. Here one must remember that “Enforced Disappearance” is a legal term of international law coined by United Nation’s legal instruments. It denotes a disappeared or missing person who has been kidnapped and detained illegally by state run institutions, placing them outside the protection of law; the very institutions which are created and constituted to prevent citizens from all atrocities including kidnapping. It is like being robbed by your own watchman.

There are abundant and over whelming evidences, affidavits and eye witnesses which have already confirmed the presence of loved ones in the custody of local agencies, many of whom have been handed over to foreign agencies. The irony of the situation is that ex president Gen Perwaiz Musharraf and ex minister of interior Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao have authenticated, with a criminal pride, in their books and media statements that they have been enforce disappearing Pakistani citizens in exchange for American dollars. Even more distressing is the fact that the crime of enforced disappearance has accelerated in the present democratic government. We assert that if Gillani government denies this fact than it means that they have no control on agencies who are still in pursuit of American money.

The perpetrators of this crime not only kidnap people but harass their families so much that most of them don’t dare to launch a complaint. More than 1200 families have contacted and registered their cases with Defence of Human Rights. Due to different hurdles and lack of enough funds Defence of Human Rights is representing only 322 cases in Supreme Court. Punjab stands at number one with 174 cases whereas KPK , Balochistan, Sindh, Azad Jammu Kashmir, Islamabad Capital Territory follow with 96, 19, 25, 7, 11 cases respectively.

In a Statement by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or involuntary Disappearances to mark the first UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances it asserts, “Unfortunately, enforced disappearances continue to be used by some States as a tool to deal with situations of conflict or internal unrest. We have also witnessed the use of the so-called ‘short term disappearances,’ where victims are placed in secret detention or unknown locations, outside the protection of the law, before being released weeks or months later, sometimes after having been tortured and without having been brought in front of a judge or other civil authority.

This very worrisome practice, whether it is used to counter terrorism, to fight organized crime or suppress legitimate civil strife demanding democracy, freedom of expression or religion, should be considered as an enforced disappearance and as such adequately investigated, prosecuted and punished.”

On this day Defence of Human Rights Pakistan wants to draw your attention to the thousands of Pakistani families which are aggrieved for years whose loved ones, brothers, fathers, husbands, sons, daughters and even children are abducted by local and foreign intelligence agencies.

From official Eid Statement of the Defense of Human Rights, Pakistan

The procedures and tactics used by the Pakistani military, intelligence, political and police establishment against its own citizens are largely in violation of its own laws. These procedures have been utilized against domestic dissidents e.g. those from Baluchistan, and others who dared speak out against our American ally.

Justice in Pakistan is often a conundrum, frequently a miscarriage and almost always a luxury. However, we have in the need to serve the interests of this war of choice, dispensed with even these pretensions. People are simply being abducted and lost into the darkness of a domestic and international detention and torture machinery that may today be one of the largest multi-national businesses in the world.

For some of us the question is not of guilt, of criminality, of an inappropriate fundamentalism, or the crime of seeking truth and ideas of justice on the wrong side of the master narratives being dictated from Washington D.C. They are questions of due process, rights, representation and constitutionality. This may shock some, but I believe that event the worst of Al Qaeda deserves his / her day in court. As the Norwegians are demonstrating with their arrest and prosecution of the mass murderer Breivik, due process of law and protection of the humanity of a citizen is perhaps the best means of curtailing further acts of violence and criminality.

The hysteria that has been used to simply eliminate Pakistani citizens, and the many so-called humane, left leaning, liberal voices who have offered justifications for summary executions (and they say the tribal areas are wild!), rampant war and mass killings, is dismaying and frankly abhorrent. They speak often about a ‘war against pakistan’ or a ‘war on pakistan’, and yet had nothing to say as our and American bombs began to rain down on our citizens in the frontier regions. Apparently for such left liberals the idea of Pakistani citizenship and its associated rights does not extend too far from the cushioned elegance of their drawing rooms in Islamabad or Karachi.

We celebrate Eid with a heavy heart, as we have for many years.

Eid Mubarak to everyone.


The Afghan War Now On The Menu Or What Happens If You Stick Your Head Really Far Up Your A**

In Essays On Embedded Photojournalism, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars on June 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm

MREs — Meals Ready to Eat — photos of everything on the menu for soliders from many different cultures who are all fighting in Afghanistan © Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network via Lens Culture

The embedded photojournalist is now so bored that he is photographing food. You can see the entire piece by clicking on the image above.

And this at a moment when civilians continue to die in an unjust war, an illegal war, and an absolutely unnecessary one. Things are so bad that our erstwhile puppet, a one Mr. Hamid Karzai, is complaining about it and doing it loudly. But of course, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, such expression of ‘freedom’ are not for the people we are apparently there to ‘free’.

No, it is best that we continue to use our media to repaint this bloody, shoddy and shameless military frat-party as some noble, casual, innocent, benign dinner party. I hate to say this, but someone has to call such rubbish work precisely what it is: rubbish.

Our cameras, and hence our society’s eyes, are turned to the banal and seriously ludicrous. Perhaps I will say nothing more than to counter-point this fine, artistic presentation of food with this also very fine, journalistic presentation of the consequences of once the food has been digested – the waste that we do not want to look at.

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In a fine piece called The Magic Realism Of Body CountsMohammad Idress Ahmad pointed out:

At the end of 2009, the Pakistani daily Dawn calculated that, of the 708 people killed in 44 drone attacks that year, only 5 were known militants. Earlier that year, The News, Pakistan’s other major English-language daily, had calculated that between January 14, 2006, and April 8, 2009, 60 drone attacks killed 701 people – of whom only 14 were known militants.

This is only the tip of the ice-berg. We don’t want to think about what is happening inside Afghanistan itself where no journalists or other institutions have bothered to keep count. To say nothing about the criminality, corruption, and sheer waste that are the lives of the people of Afghanistan under our ‘gourmet’ occupation has been completely erased from our view. That Afghanistan remains, after over 10 years of an American presence and an American controlled, and mind you, illegitimate, puppet government, on the most dangerous country for the very Afghan women we apparently went to liberate and stay there to protect, is simply shameful.

Trust Law Graphic

This is under our benign watch. This is after eleven years of an American style Mc-democracy and its only getting worse. And yet none of the daily socio-economic pathologies of Afghanistan makes it to us out here in the ‘civilized’ world. It is simply erased from our eyes because we are too busy cozying up to our ‘boys and girls’ and studying the menu!

In the face of atrocities, killings, maiming, torture, indefinite incarcerations and a general atmosphere of repression and military occupation, it is shocking that individuals, publications and institutions think that works such as this is worthy of production, publication and promotion. As a citizen of a country involved in multiple illegal and brutals wars, and where we avoid a serious discussion about the consequences of these wars for the people we are waging them for and against, and the legality them, this kind of work only comes as yet another slap in the face leaving me feeling mocked and humiliated.

I mean, we aren’t even trying to be seriously anymore. There are photographer’s producing stories about the joys of post-war Iraq, in complete denial of the psychotic reality of the ‘client’ state that we have created there. This is sheer and simple obfuscation if not blatant propaganda. These are serious war, with massive human and social consequences, to say nothing about devastation and death, and we just don’t give a damn! Why even go! Why not just do a different story, but one at least that is real, and has meaning, and reflects a genuine intellect and critical engagement. Why bother to do this?

This is not even serious anymore.

The Most Beautiful Girl They’ve Seen Or The Embedded Photojournalist Gets Picked Up!

In Essays On Embedded Photojournalism, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars, Photography on May 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Creative Common Copyright Fab34

I have argued this again and again, and have been reviled and criticized for it again and again. And yet, nothing produced by any of the many number of reporters and photojournalists who have chosen to embed with the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan has convinced me to change my mind that embedded journalism is many things but never journalism.

It has been with nothing but great dismay that I have watched photojournalism’s highest awards and recognitions go to work that was produced in conditions and restrictions that we would have denigrated and mocked had they been imposed by one our ‘flavor of the year’ enemy states. I doubt that any reportage done from an embed with the Soviet Army that invade Afghanistan in 1979 would have been considered a crucial and appropriate documentation of the war in Afghanistan. And yet, we are ourselves happily convincing ourselves that ‘our’ boys are in fact producing crucial and appropriate documentation of our wars.

I was reminded of all this as I read a fascinating and funny piece by Peter Van Buren in Le Monde Diplomatique called ‘The War Lovers’ where he begins by asking the most relevant question we often avoid:

What is it about the military that turns normally thoughtful journalists into war pornographers? A reporter who would otherwise make it through the day sober spends a little time with some unit of the U.S. military and promptly loses himself in ever more dramatic language about bravery and sacrifice, stolen in equal parts from Thucydides, Henry V, and Sergeant Rock comics.

I have made my own arguments about the embed approach in a number of pieces, including The Transformation Of Pathology Into Pathos Or The Military Does What It Does And It Does It Well, and Wrapping Photographers Into The Packaging Of War, and a partial tongue-in-cheek piece called How We Refused To Embed With Brittany Spears, and Fighting Ghosts And Selling The Good War Or Why Are The Toy Soldiers On The Front Lines!, and others of course.

But there is a fascinating insight in Van Buren’s piece that is worth thinking about. He points out that in fact the embedded reporter has tremendous access within the military, to its soldiers, and even to classified details coming across over the wire. They also have more liberty to report what they saw than we may imagine. And yet, few do. Van Buren’s argument for why the military can allow this to happen and not worry is striking, pointing out that

…the military wasn’t worried..[b]ecause its officials knew perfectly well that for reporters the process was — not to mince words — seductive…[E]embedding with the military felt like being invited in — no, welcomed — for the first time by the cool kids.

And the camaraderie and companionships that develop ensure the appropriate voice and the appropriate check on serious reporting. As Van Buren continues:

You go out with the soldiers and suddenly you’re riding in some kind of armored, motorized monster truck. You’re the only one without a weapon and so they have to protect you. Instead of making fun of you and looking at you as if you were dressed as a Naughty Schoolgirl, they’re cool with it. Bored at only having one another to talk to, fellow soldiers who eat the exact same food, watch the exact same TV, and sleep, pee and work together every day for a year, the troops see you as quite interesting. You can’t believe it, but they really do want to know what you know, where you’ve been, and what you’ve seen — and you want to tell them.

For women, it works similarly, but with the added bonus that, no matter what you look like, you’re treated as the most beautiful female they’ve seen in the last six months — and it’s probably true.

Of course, we reporters and photojournalists never talk about this. As always, there is such little self-reflection within the practitioners of the craft that it is staggering to think that they are being asked to go out and document the world for us. In fact, in a world drowning in images, they may be producing the permanent and definitive images of a world. And it is an image where the ‘other’ is increasingly and consistently seen through the sights of a gun. Or, as Van Buren points out, through …wet dreams passed on to the public.

One Person’s Nightmare Is Another Person’s Non-Violent Resistance Or Eqbal Ahmed Was Right

In Israel/Palestine, Our Wars on May 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm

In the 1970s, he [Eqbal Ahmed] formulated a suggestion, an extremely brilliant one, quite in keeping with his general attitude of non-violent aggressiveness, that the PLO should try to organize a march of Palestinians towards the Israeli borders in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Inspired by the great civil rights marches of the 1960s, Eqbal urged Arafat and company to mobilize as many people as possible, walking unarmed to the border with banners saying “We want to go home.” I remember the look on their faces, when I patiently explained Eqbal’s proposal, of disbelief and mild panic, especially when I emphasized the need for peaceful means and disciplined organization.

Edward Said speaks about Eqbal Ahmed

Eqbal Ahmed, Confronting Empire: Interviews With David Barsamian page xxix

On Sunday, 15th of May 2011, the Palestinians did precisely what Eqbal Ahmed had once advised the Palestinians leadership to do.

Copyright EPA

Then, as now, the Palestinians are a people betrayed by their leadership who lack imagination and genuine courage. And as always, it is the Palestinians themselves who lead, reminding their leaders, and the rest of the world, what it is they are fighting for, and what is justifiably their right. Arafat may have been shocked to hear Eqbal Ahmed’s advice, but it seems that the Palestinians are not deaf to it. As The Economist described it:

ON SUNDAY Israel got an unexpected and unpalatable taste of its nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance.

On Sunday, 15th of May 2011, a few thousand of them marched towards the borders of Israel, and a number of them were shot at and killed as a result. They are as always unarmed and defenseless. And their resistance to Israeli atrocities, injustices and inhumanity has always largely been non-violent. Contrary to the piece in The Economist violent resistance to Israel has always been an exception.

And violent response to Palestinian non-violent resistance has always been the norm. One only has to look at what has taken place at places like Bilin where a well-organized, non-violent resistance to the Israeli separation wall has been met with a brutal crackdown and killings of unarmed protestors.

The Palestinians have not learned the power of a civic resistance. They have been in fact involved in nothing other than that. Each day, with every simple human act, they resist their degradation, dispossession, humiliation and erasure. It is their most powerful and perhaps only weapon.

Your Brain Of Mud Or President Obama’s Magic Show In Cairo

In Israel/Palestine, Journalism, Our Wars on May 19, 2011 at 8:26 am
(Originally written in response to Obama’s first condescending speech to the A-rabs back in 2009. Reposted to reflect that nothing really has changed.)
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“It is well”, I said carelessly “…beware! Play us no tricks, make us no snares, for before your brains of mud have thought of them, we shall know them and avenge them. The light from the transparent eye of him with the bare legs and half haired face [the white man with his magnifying glass] shall destroy you and go through your land: his vanishing teeth shall fix themselves fast on to you and eat you up, you and your wives and children; the magic tubes shall talk with you loudly, and make you as sieves. Beware!”

Qautermain confronts the African Kukuana tribe, from the book King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Ruth Mayer, in her work Artificial Africas, points us to Mary Pratt’s book  Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing & Transculturation, in which Ms Pratt:

…differentiates two main stances in colonial self-stylizations, an imperial ‘rhetoric of conquest’ suffusing the absolutist era and an ensuing rhetoric of ‘anti-conquest’ demarcating the split consciousness of Western travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries, their paradoxical desire ‘to secure their innocence’ in the same moment as they assert European hegemony

she further points out that:

To contain an imperialist system within a rhetoric of anti-conquest calls for confusion … and indeed a highly contradictory symbolic system resulted from the efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable. What I call ‘trick translation’ is perhaps one of the most persistent troupes for casting colonial contact in terms of mutual understanding without abandoning the idea of a clear-cut hierarchy of communication and an European [today American] monopoly of meaning production.

It was an act of ‘trick translation’ that Barack Obama had actually come to perform on June 4th 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.  To offer a language of ‘anti-conquest’, and should we add ‘anti-involvement’, in a region with the most deeply entrenched American political, economic, and military involvement since WW II.

On June 4th 2009, President Barack Obama (a man I voted for!) took the stage on the soil of one of the region’s most despotic and repressive regimes. But more than that, he was standing in the center of the geography of American imperial projections that has been the Middle East since the British, Germans, French and other smaller European nations were forced to leave it in the 1940s.

The Middle East is home to some of America’s most important client states – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates and of course, the unbreakable, Israel. It is also the site of some of her largest military bases and home to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American military and undercover operations personnel. It is the site of her most extensive energy resources and investments. It is the site where she has repeatedly engaged in covert and overt political and military operations to ensure access and control to these energy resources. It is the region where her operatives, military, covert and political, keep a close hand on political and economic developments and work to ensure that the nations of the region remain in the realm of American influence.

But, we are here to weave a rhetoric of ‘anti-conquest’, and I focus on those specific areas of his speech that I felt were particularly obfuscatory and Huxlian (Aldous Huxley being one of the original genius’ to describe a modernity where language becomes the most powerful weapon of war and conquest).

Like a great white hunter confronting a group of cannibals about the eat his friend alive, President Obama arrived with a few rhetorical tricks up his sleeves meant to appease the torridly infantile minds of his audience and hosts by offering them trinkets and hoping to dazzle them with his erudition and ‘respect’ for their histories.

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate

The determination to see something called ‘the Muslim world’ as one large homogeneous entity is the hallmark of a classic Orientalist mind who fails or refuses to recognize that the polity of ‘Islam’ covers a remarkable diversity of people, cultures, ethnicity’s, and most importantly histories and heritages. To say nothing about the horribly embarrassing fact that the largest number of Muslims in fact live outside of the Middle East (Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India contain the largest number of officially defined Muslims), and where many practice regional varieties of Islam that many in the Middle East consider blasphemous!

More importantly, it is an act of the most egregious arrogance and even ignorance to suggest that if there are ‘tensions’ between a people who may be Muslim, and a nation that is in fact imperialistic and colonizing in the lands inhabited by Muslims than it is because of ‘historical forces’ and not because of  immediate military, political and economic realities.

Perhaps I am being naive in believing that it is less the crusades that concern the Palestinians, or their slaughter by Richard the Lionheart, and more the ongoing and brutal military occupation of their lands being carried out by one of America’s favorite client states, Israel!

The hubris of a statement the attempts to erase the entire post-WWII history and engagement of the United States of America in the region of the Middle East, and replaces it with imagined ‘historical forces’ that point to events and imagined acts from hundreds if not thousands of years in the past is staggering! Perhaps President Obama, this self-claimed student of history, needs to return to his college library and pick up a few books on the American entanglements in the region. He could not do badly by starting with Robert Fisk’s  The Great War For Civilization, or Michael B Oren’s Power, Faith & Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 – Present . I could suggest many others.

And to say nothing about the fact that the issues that cripple the Middle East are the least likely to be understood if seen as emerging from the region’s ‘Islamic’ character. They would in fact be better acknowledged if seen, as we see most every other region of the globe, with a careful and rigorous examination of the local and regional political, economic, social and strategic issues that infect the region. The crisis in Lebanon and the crisis in Kuwait have separate, if only tangentially related if that, issues and require a local focus.

It is this refusal to engage the region in its specificity that allows a number of American intellectual, commentators, politicians, journalists and other opinion makers to repeatedly conflate entities like Hamas with others like Hezbollah, the Islamic Brotherhood with Al -Qaeda. In a tribute to the most obscurantist and simplistic ideas perpetuated by classical Orientalists, the American administration and her providers of thought (think tanks, hired intellectuals, lobby and media organizations) continue to aggregate largely diverse and political complex matters that should in fact be examined within their local and regional social, political and regional contexts.


Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing than this statement – a classic Orientalist construction that cleverly claims modernity for ‘the white man’ while falsely praising the natives for their ‘traditions’  (read: backward, anti-modern, unchanging, out-dated, medieval), was that probably none of the luminaries in the audience, representing the worst and most illiterate of their nations, understood what had just been said to them!

And ironically, it was a statement that would have appealed to the most obscurantist and fundamentalists of reactionaries in the audience; the people who in fact work day and night through state control of media, culture, society and speech to ensure that their people remain in the shackles of ‘traditions’ and avoid such modern day comforts such as full and enforceable rights as citizens of a functioning democracy with the rule of law and equality for all. In that room full of hereditary leaders or despots, there could not have been a mind not nodding in quiet agreement at the American presidents endorsement of Islam’s ‘traditional’ values and the threat it faces from the ‘foreigner’s’ modernity, for after all, these same people use this very argument, with the help of their obscurantist mullahs and TV celebrity preachers, to demand that their citizens not ask for such modern innovations such as equal justice under the law, juridical accountability for elected representatives, legal and social ad human rights,  and a representative polity.

But the presence of this orientalist canard was certainly a surprise. Recent works by the historian Jack Good (The Theft of History) and Marcel Detienne (The Greeks And Us have challenged Europe’s belief in her modernity and certainly her assumptions that she was uniquely equipped to facilitate it. As John B Hobson states in his work Eastern Origins of Western Civilization:

“Eurocentrism errs by asking wrong questions at the outset. All Eurocentric scholars (either explicitly or implicitly) begin by asking two interrelated questions: ‘What was it about the West that enabled its breakthrough to capitalist modernity?’ and ‘What was it about the East that prevented it from making the breakthrough?’” But these questions assume that western dominance was inevitable, and lead historians to scour the past for the factors that explain it. “The rise of the West is understood through a logic of immanence: that it can only be accounted for by factors that are strictly endogenous to Europe.”


His words were frequently met with applause. President Obama threw them some crumbs, and they gobbled them up like hungry natives. Condescension were accepted as genuine respect and appreciation by people so devoid of dignity and honor that they will accept false pearls to disguise their being real swine. (I hope people get the colonial reference here!)

They applauded when he spoke to them in the only Arabic phrase he could be bothered to remember; the greeting of Assalaamu alaykum. How touching. Taking a note right out of an off-the-shelf travel guide to sites remote and exotic, Mr Obama did not forget that even ‘attempting’ the local lingo will result in smiles and graciousness!

They applauded when he appeared to respect something called ‘Islam’s’ contributions to European civilization.

Perhaps most had failed to realize that he was referring to contributions that were some 500 years or more old while retaining, subtly of course, the right to all other innovations since then for the more civilized and ‘modern’ Europe. Or the fact that, once again, it was not ‘Islam’ that made these contributions but individuals of questionable Muslim, Jewish, and other uncertain origins who were given deeply to issues of intellectual inquiry and study and open to influences all the way from China and India, who just happened to be living under a Muslim dynasty made these contributions.

Algebra is not a religious achievement – it is a human achievement, produced by men for man and with the effort of man. Religion has had no influence on the creation of this, or the arch or the compass or the other items Mr. Obama seemed to think ‘Islam’ contributed to. To attribute the discover of vaccine to a spiritual, religious, and some would argue, mythical philosphy is ignorant and anti-intellectual. It would be the equivalent of suggesting that Penicillin was a Christian discover, or the splitting of the atom a Jewish one! But apparently such inanities go down well in the Middle East!

(Rather than applaud, they should have hung their heads in shame; there is not a library of note, nor a university of even mediocre repute in all the lands across all the sands in all of the oil drenched nations in this region! That Arabs (and Obama was speaking to Arabs, not Muslims or even a nebulous ‘Islam’) continue to contribute to modernity, science, culture, arts, literature and the future, but must often flee their homelands and do so elsewhere!)

They applauded again when he spoke about Islam’s traditions of tolerance and racial equality. It was bizarre to say the least to offer this conventional sop to a room filled with representatives of intolerant and at times rascist regimes, applauding a philosophical concept alien to the very societies they have created and rule. They applauded when told that Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of the Koran in his personal library – did they imagine that he consulted it for his political and personal affairs, or was influenced by it?

They applauded when Mr. Obama claimed that the 7 million American Muslims enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. What that says about the deprivations of the average American, particularly the African-American community I am not so sure about. Who are these extremely successful and wealthy Muslims we do not quite know. But to make a claim to suggest that in fact in America the Muslims even do better than the Americans is sheer nonsense!

Their success or failure, as that of any immigrant in the USA is independent of their status as ‘Muslims. The Asian American, the West Indian and most recently the South Asian Indian community are highly successful immigrant communities and there is no way to claim that their religious choices are a determinant or a measure of their success. Furthermore, given that America allows only the ‘best and the brightest’  or the very wealthy from ‘other’ nations to come to the country, particularly when they are from Asia and/or the Middle East, it should not surprise us that these immigrant communities in fact do rather well.

But this obfuscation was essential to hide America’s ridiculous and immoral detainment, harassment, incarceration, deportation, and torture of hundreds of ‘Muslims’ either living in America or abroad. It was necessary to say to hide the rendition programs targeting of Muslims, the ‘black’ sites and their exclusively Muslim inhabitants, and the air and environment of overtly racist anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades American print, radio and television, particularly if you are of the conservative kind. And I will not even mention what the Evangelical fanatics and retards have been saying and encouraging amongst their congregations! By the way, I doubt that the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis festering in hovels in Jamaica Plains, scrambling from apartment to apartment to avoid the prying and ‘black’ eyes of the Homeland Security Department, quite fit into this fabulous President Obama statistic.

They applauded when Mr. Obama claimed that
the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. Which left me perplexed because I was sure that I was told that we had invaded Afghanistan to liberate that nation’s women from ‘oppression’ symbolized by the burqa! And yet as devastation and horror now marks that country, with the arguments for the liberation of their women center stage, I wonder if it is not time to bring the daisy-cutters and pilot-less drones back to the USA where apparently women are being given constitution protection for a practice that elsewhere is considered by the Americans to be a sign of their backwardness and oppression!

And is this the same government that did not go to court to protect the rights of men and women being held at Guantanamo? As men continue to die in American ‘black’ site custody, I find it shocking that legal and judicial resources are available for women’s right to cover themselves where as they have been argued away for men we are torturing, murdering and discarding at unknown locations around the world!

And the inanities continued.


President Obama called the war in Iraq – this most brutal, hideous, illegal and greed based invasion of a nation in recent memory, as a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Quite the soft way to describe an event that was and is in fact nothing less than an illegal, unprovoked, premeditated invasion of a sovereign nation (to say nothing about the genocidal 12 year sanctions regime instituted against the civilian population of a de-armed state!)  led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands, the deaths of nearly a million, the torturing of thousands (pictures of which President Obama recently decided to censor to protect our delicate sensibilities – we are so civilized) and frankly remains a hell hole for those outside the centrally air-conditioned ‘green zone’ and should in fact be a crime prosecutable in the International Court of Justice.

Oh but wait, as President quickly added,  he believes that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Ah, then its ok. For now at least we have a ‘democracy’ that requires private/corporate armed militia to protect politicians, businessmen, journalists and anyone not sanctioned by the many crooks and criminal organizations that now actually control the country while  masquerading behind banners of religions and sects. And for added measure the under cover assassination teams/death squads, massive torture centers, prisons, 24×7 hour private security, walls/dividers, daily 24×7 military patrols, towns like Falujah that remain under marshal law, kidnappings, criminality, a dysfunctional social and civil service, and the entire government under the guidance of our American generals and politicians necessary just to keep this duct-tape kleptocracy together for a little while longer.

Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.

What then are the consequences, Mr. Obama, of the fear and trauma of the Iraqis and the Afghanis who are in fact at this very moment confronted as they are by American tanks and pilot-less drones trying to understand how they will act contrary to their traditions and ideals? Or perhaps we will just blame their actions on ‘Islam’.


Speaking of America’s intolerance of extremism and violence, Mr Obama went out of his way to celebrate Israel. Walking in the footsteps of his predecessor, he proclaimed with great stress America’s ‘unbreakable’ relationship with the country. He even manufactured completely fictitious ‘cultural and historical’ ties. I can’t imagine what ties a group of European religious fanatics determined to create an ethnically exclusive state by intentionally and violently colonizing and driving out its original inhabitants would have with the United States of America? Oh yes, I forgot, it would be the penchant for violent European colonization of native lands, institutionalized and military cleansing of them from these lands, and the celebration of the now completed fact as liberty, modernity, progress and civility, with a neat set of ‘reservations’ for the unfortunately who survived. How silly of me!

It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.

No Mr President, they have not suffered in the pursuit of a homeland. They have suffered in the dispossession of it.

They are waiting not for gifts from America, but for their rights, rights for which we have gone to war for other nations (Bosnia, Kuwait and now would love to for Chad) but remain silent on their behalf.

And in what can only be described as the most contorted reading of history, Mr Obama laid claim to the entire process of decolonization as one of a long heritage of non-violent resistance

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed…from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

I wonder if Mr Obama is reading the same books of history.. I also wonder as President Obama escalates the now senselessly immoral and unjust conflict in Afghanistan if he listening to himself!

The history of colonial Africa, Middle East, South and South East Asia is marked by repeated and consistent armed insurrections and resistance to the colonial enterprise. The colonialists often painted this resistance as ‘minor’ or ‘marginal’ but none of the occupied people, even the Africans who were so savagely raped and enslaved, did not ‘go quietly into the night’. To say nothing about the intellectual, artistic, cultural and political resistance to occupying and colonizing regimes across the globe. Edward Said’s Culture And Imperialism would be a decent place for him to begin to start to understand regimes of resistance to colonial oppression that existed from the very moment the colonialists arrived on the shores of Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Or if Said is too politically sensitive for him, then perhaps he would like to read a fellow African; C.L.R. James’ masterful The Black Jacobins will remind our President of the power of violent resistance in breaking the back of a rapacious and brutal colonizer and usurper.

And if these nations and peoples of the far South and Africa are too complex for him to understand, then perhaps he would do well to remember if nothing else then the American Revolution and the great American war of independence, celebrated every year with great fanfare on July 4th. I believe that General George Washington would take umbrage to the suggestion that violence is a dead end. Or perhaps he would remember the American Civil War, a war that liberated the ancestors of his black citizens and moved America towards the path of modernity. Perhaps if they had followed a non-violent approach…… But then again, the oppressors and users of violence always love to lecture the oppressed about their ‘barbaric’ violent resistance and their need to demonstrate ‘civility’ by adopting a softer and more nuanced tone to the occupiers continued and increasingly military and violent responses!

Notice how the occupier is never told to adopt a non-violent occupation!

And the sheer arrogance to lecture to an unarmed and hopelessly repressed and dehumanized people, while their lands are under brutal military occupation from the only nation in the region that has in fact repeatedly attacked, occupied, summarily killed and displaced lands and peoples across the entire region is sheer mind boggling. The Palestinians are being asked to renounce violence, while the Israelis are being funded with more arms, more jets, more tanks, more training, more excuses for their illegal nuclear weapons program, and more aid packages – all of which continue to go towards and fund the creation of more settlements and more dispossessions and more brutality and more killings and more strangulations.

Continuing what has now become an almost too-boring-to-repeat cliche’s, President Obama placed all the blame for the violence, the intransigence of the conflict in Palestine on the Palestinians. There, in the world he was weaving on that stage in Cairo, where there is no Iraq and no Afghanistan, and no oil and interests, and business connections and shady deals and under handed greed, there was also no nuclear-armed, American funded, religiously fundamentalist, military controlled, ethnically discriminatory pseudo-democracy only for Jews with its American funded M16s and jackboots across the throats of a helpless and desperate people.

Yes, we are told that it is not the military bases, the settlements, the Wall, the check points, the gates, the farm lands, the murdering settlers, the curfews, the summary arrests, the targeted assassinations, the random detentions, the expropriations, the home demolitions, the expulsions, the incarcerations, the discrimination, the humiliations, the bombings, the phosphorous, the slow and daily grinding away at human dignity that are all part and parcel of a highly sophisticated military, architectural, social, political and economic settlement regime. Its the Palestinians with their handful of AK-47s and their donkey carts!

Calling the democratically elected Hamas Government as having ‘some support’ amongst the Palestinians, while calling upon the corrupt and discredited Palestinian Authority to develop a capacity to govern President Obama continued the insistent, anti-democratic approach of supporting the very people the citizenry rejected, while rejecting the very people the citizenry selected.

The only democratically elected official government in the very Middle East Mr. Obama claims to be talking to, and it is just not the one that we want.

Israel is in illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It has permanently constructed roads, settlements, military camps and emplacements, check points and gates, a massive Wall, security fences and cameras, farms and industrial estates all across the West Bank and done so with the absolute and complete support of the United States of America who funds these activities through a myriad and complex set of private, corporate and governmental institutions.

It is not there because the Palestinians are ‘violent’ or have ‘rockets’. It has been there because it wants these lands. It has done everything in its power to destroy the prospects of an independent Palestinian state, and only the beltway in Washington D.C. are a handful of people who think otherwise.

Israel’s obligations are not just what President Obama claimed: to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society but in fact to withdraw completely from the West Bank and Gaza to the 1967 green lines, to compensate financially the victims of the 1948 displacements, and to offer restitution both verbal, financial, legal and other to the millions who now suffer thanks to its intransigence, occupations, wars and religiously sanctioned hysteria and radicalism. The settlements don’t just need to be stopped, they need to be destroyed, dismantled, reversed, erased, and along with it the entire occupation machinery of men, tanks, gates, check points, walls, soldiers, settlers, goons, fanatics, businessmen and of course Palestinian collaborators.


And far from distancing himself from the pathologies of religious mysticism and mumbo-jumbo, President Obama sadly chose to pander to it further. Continuing yet another grand orientalist tradition of speaking to ‘the natives’ through the use of what the orientalist imagines is their particular world formulations – they are too stupid to understand our modernity, so we must use our ‘trick translation’ and speak to them about reality in their barbaric tongue – Mr. Obama like a modern day Quatermain decided to end his speech in a ‘one for the road’ chorus of quotations from the 3 religious texts and this shocking and rather insulting statement:

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

President Obama may have pulled off the greatest Evangelical mind tricks in history when he may have convinced a room full of ‘Muslim’ despots and criminal national leaders to join him in the support of a vision fantastically and naively created on the basis of a religious text that has been variously used to different degrees to also justified the inquisition, the crusades, the holocaust and possibly even the recent slaughter of the people of Iraq by an Evangelical, fanatic and religiously drunk American administration.

America engages the Middle East through conquest, investments, manipulations, espionage, education, extraction of resources, training of the military, politics and geo-political entanglements. For some odd reason President Obama can’t see that it can also be communicated with in simple, worldly, adult language without resorting to false and frankly cynical and hypocritical exploitation of religious texts and quotes, like a high school kid desperate to decorate a poor term paper that lacks content but may sound interesting if a few ‘notable’ quotes are thrown in!

As President Obama walked off that Cairo stage to go and bask in the glow of the glory that was being orchestrated for him by his obsequious hosts and minders, a General McChrystal was being appointed to head the operations in Obama’s favorite war in Afghanistan. As Tom Engelhart explained in a recent post on the fabulous Tom’s Dispatch blog site:

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon’s super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)…McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of “manhunters” he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.” Since some of the task force’s men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn’t avoided.

Tomorrow we will explain the war in Afghanistan as that between the liberal values of the United States of America and obscurantist, mysoginist and barbaric values of ‘radical Islam’. General McChrystal, with his legacy of broken souls and bodies, his torture centers and assassination teams, his professionally executed operations of terror and mayhem, will be left to the sidelines and forgotten. Some old orientalists, or obfuscators (perhaps a newer version of a Ahmed Rashid!) will be trotted out to explain why ‘they hate us’.

President Obama stood in Cairo and wove a fantasy. A fantasy that claimed that there is something called ‘Islam’ that he could speak to as if he was speaking to a homogeneous entity. A fantasy that claimed that America does not in fact have interests and protects interests with military and other means in the Middle East. A fantasy that denies the roots of the violence that does in fact plague that region and emanates from within regimes whose despotic and irrational leaders are amongst America’s closest allies. A fantasy where the tiresome, outdated, discredited and artificial construct of ‘the clash of civilizations’ is trotted out to obfuscate the hard political and economic factors that in fact create alliances and foster the conflicts.

The speech on June 4th 2009 will sadly not go down in history as a great moment in diplomacy. There is an air of desperation about the writings that are trying to claim it so. Much like the photo-op in the White House Lawn the day the Oslo Accords were signed, we will drown our fears under misguided hopes and self-imposed delusions while the relentless machinery of imperial power and politics will continue to cut its merciless path through a region cursed with oil and men of supreme venality.

A few hours after this speech President Obama headed to Buchenwald where he said:

I have no patience for people who would deny history

Indeed Mr. President.

Indeed.

ADDENDUM: I was reminded by a friend that in fact there could be religious motivations for the explorations of algebra e.g. man’s need to measure time more precisely, or to work out the geometries and structures of complex domes, mosques or even the decorative patterns that decorated it. A similar argument has in fact been made by Kim Plofker in his new book Mathematics in India – that Indian innovations in mathematics may have been driven by a need for temple designs or astrology. Regardless, as has already been argued, these remain worldly requirements to serve worldly needs and for universal relevance and application must apply consistently across man’s known world. Their measure of innovation comes from their universality, their non-specificity to any one set of beliefs of religious values.


The Dead Can’t Dance And I Refuse To Either Or Why I Insist On Remembering While Others Insist On Drinking To Forget

In Musings On Confusions, Our Wars, The Daily Discussion on May 3, 2011 at 10:06 am

We have invaded two nations because we were told that we must. Both illegally and in violation of all known international law.

We have murdered possibly over a million Afghanis and Iraqis and Pakistanis and others in the process. And continue to kill them at will in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We have displaced and dislocated from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan other millions, forever ruining their lives and humanity. And forever consigning them to the void of suspicion, fear and prejudice.

We constructed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military bases and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now use them for ‘forward projection’ in the so-called war against a noun.

We continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan and use massive military force to retain our jack boots over their necks while funding and supporting illegal and completely illegitimate governments that we described as ‘democratic’ and ‘parliamentary’.

We have invited private militia and corporate mercerneries to the party and given out contracts worth billions to make it appealing for them.

We have detained innocents, including American citizens, indefinitely and still refuse to give them appropriate justice. President Obama willingly continuing the illegal and unjust policies of his predecessors

We have tortured them relentlessly (oh, sorry, we have enhanced interrogated them!)  and strong armed our civilized courts and bureaucratic apparatchiks to justify our actions.

We have renditioned them and sent them off to our ‘allies’ in other parts of the world to be tortured, maimed and killed. And there is no end to this program.

We have illegally eavesdropped on our citizens, violating our own laws in the process. And it continues.

We have sent American men and women into useless wars and watched thousands of them die to cover our lies and greed. And thousands more will die in the coming days.

We have curtailed civil rights and liberties within the USA all in the name of a war against a noun. And there is no turning back.

We have handed over trillions of dollars to the military and to private contractors just as our own economy has gone bankrupt and our citizens are being thrown out of their homes, jobs and futures.

We have handed over trillions of dollars to Wall Street, while the ordinary have been begging for pension handouts and calling it ‘revolutionary’ action. And each time I ask why, I am told that it was the good of the nation. And its security.

We are closing down our schools, reducing our welfare programs, cutting back public and state budgets, taking away what little healthcare we could afford, allowing our infrastructure to rot, corporatizing our congressional and house leadership, inflaming Islamophobia because we have run out of political and public service ideas and all while simultaneously approving more money for security programs, anti-immigration programs, military invasions and wars, and new and improved intelligence programs.

We have been doing this for ten years, and as my nation sinks into economic pointlessness and desperation, I am being told that I should celebrate the killing of a largely if not completely irrelevant ‘Enemy #1′.

I am supposed to forget all this for the sake of a party and a beer. I am supposed to just not ask the hard questions, never look back as Obama so stupidly said Look Forward, Not Backward. 

I am supposed to ignore the sheer hideousness of the fact that what actually got this useless trophy took nothing more than a few months of intelligence work (can bribing the Pakistani ISI be considered ‘intelligence work’?), a small commando unit, and a raid in the city of Abbotabad – one of Pakistan’s largest military cantonment cities and less than hour away from its capital Islamabad?

Am I to believe that no one bothered to look inside what must have been the strangest and most conspicuous house in the entire town – 12 foot walls, barbed wire, clandestine comings and goings, high security controls, etc. to see who may be there? A house smack in the center of a major Pakistani military city, under the very nose of Pakistani and American intelligence. Am I to believe that we waged years of drone wars in the mountains, leaving thousands of dead and tens of thousands displaced, while never bothering to look over the walls of our city offices? If not I, then would not the thousands of dead want to know the answer to this question.

Why do I feel that I have just been made a fool of and am now being told to hold the Star Spangled Banner and dance around like a monkey? Why can’t I get over the feeling that I have just been sold a lemon, and the salesman is laughing while counting my cash?

Perhaps it’s just me but I can’t celebrate or wave this flag. I can’t get past the horrors of these preceding years. I can’t stop hearing the echoes of the arrogant lies, nor the screams of the millions of innocent lives lost to pave the road of our righteousness with their blood and souls. I can’t help but lament this fraud, since nothing changes, and all paranoid fantasies of ‘invading demons’ continue as before. More wars, more security, more torture, more fear, mor screaming hysteria about the dangers to ‘our way of life’.

I beg for mercy. Please don’t ask this American to dance. I beg for mercy. Please don’t demand that this American forget. I beg for mercy, please let this American remember. There is still so much more to come. So much more that I will have to remember for future days when I will be told to forget. Please let me sit here….and remember.

Jean-Bertrande Aristide Returns

In Journalism, Our Wars, Photography on March 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

It remains one of the most difficult stories I have attempted to do. In 2005 writer Malcolm Garcia and I traveled to Port Au Prince to document the targeting of pro-Aristide activists and Lavalas supporters in the weeks after Jean Bertrande-Aristide was forcibly removed from power. The collaboration of the French and American governments in the illegal and violent removal of a sitting, democratically elected President of a sovereign nation was blatant and well documented.

mesnal delarge's sister reacts after seeing the body of her brother who was shot and killed while marching in a pro-aristide rally in port au prince. the haitian national police has frequently fired upon peaceful demonstrators, often right in front of MINUSTAH troops copyright asimrafiqui 2006

The work was exhibit at Visa Pour L’image in 2006 and I remain grateful to Jean-Francois Leroy for giving me a platform to speak about the human rights violations and outright assassinations that our governments (French and American) were actively collaborating in. It was a platform denied to the work by all the major newspapers and newsmagazine in the USA that I had approached.

Jean-Bertrande Aristide has today, after nearly seven years in exile, returned to Haiti. Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! (who else!) has been with him to document this historic moment.

In my original introduction to my project I wrote that:

In early 2005 I traveled to Haiti and found a reality that did not reflect what I had been led to believe. I witnessed an ongoing campaign of violence and repression by Haiti’s current leaders, installed by the USA and France, to eliminate the still vastly popular Lavalas (pro-Aristide) movement and its supporters. Hundreds of Lavalas activists lie without charge in jail while hundreds of others have been killed while protesting in the streets or during Haitian National Police (HNP) raids into strongly pro-Aristide neighborhoods. Entire communities suspected of pro-Aristide leanings have been surrounded by UN (MINUSTAH) and HNP checkpoints and the residents denied services like water and electricity.

And yet both the USA and France have stood firmly behind the ‘interim’ government. Recently the USA decided to restart economic and military aid to this government. This is in sharp contrast to its attitude towards the democratically elected President Aristide whom it placed under economic sanctions in 1995 and then worked tirelessly to topple by funding and courting his opponents. The sanctions withheld nearly $500 million from one of the poorest nations of in the Western Hemisphere and caused severe social and economic devastation in the country. At the same time the US government provided financial and political support to Aristide’s opponents and even arranged conferences in neighboring Dominican Republic for Aristide’s opponents to meet those from Washington who shared similar political views. As Amy Wilentz, a journalist with extensive experience in Haiti, wrote “In a country…where the military has been disbanded for nearly a decade, soldiers don’t simply emerge… they have to be reorganized, retrained and resupplied… and someone has to organize [them].

I admit that there was a strong element of dissent and protest in chosing to produce this work. Malcolm and I travelled to Haiti with no backing of any publication and worked there completely independently of any agency or institutional support. It was risky, and we did some pretty stupid things. Perhaps because we just did not realize what precarious situations we were getting ourselves into. Or perhaps because we were just stupid. Either way, I do remember this as one of the best collaborative experiences I have ever had with a writer. You can read about it in Malcolm’s piece called Descent Into Haiti which was published in April 2005 by The Virginia Quarterly Review. (Sadly the only time I am referred to in the piece, I come across as quite the moron! Malcolm and I are still friends!) Nevertheless, this project as perhaps one of the most demanding, difficult I have done. And one that I, despite its complete publication and distribution failure, remain very proud of.

Jean-Bertrande Aristide has returned to Haiti. And I have to admit, there is a triumphant smile on my face.

We Are Asmaa Mahfouz And We Are Individual

In Our Wars, The Daily Discussion on February 12, 2011 at 6:39 am

Every revolution needs its mythologies, and this may be Egypt’s. But how beautiful, how strong, how clear, how determined, how independent and how human a myth is she!

Where we will go from here, I can’t tell. How many revolutionary movements have stumbled past the euphoria? But nevertheless, past failures cannot be a reason for cynicism and surrender. It is clear that in one powerful act, the Egyptians have erased all the racist, derogatory, reductive, inhuman, arrogant, and ignorant ideas of the Arabs that has pervaded the so-called West.

Here, in this block of streets that has now become immortal, a people have once again reminded the world of Arab history and the Arab determination to make their own history. For what racism, and orientalist tripe takes away from another people is their agency, their ability to define and influence their fate. Reductive ideas of another people imbue them with ‘essences’ and remove from their individuality. It is a reductive representation of a people who has crippled Europe’s ability to hold on to its humanity, its morality, its common sense. As Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gül, said while addressing the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly:

Racism and xenophobia represent a major cause of concern …they lead governments and political elites to take a tough line on immigration. Roma and travelers, Muslims or Jews, and more generally, those who are different, experience hostility and social exclusion in many [European] societies.

There is a rise in electoral support for political parties which portray immigration as the main cause of insecurity, unemployment, crime, poverty and social problems. The rise in popular fears about immigration and minorities has led to larger popular support for marginal political parties…

European Muslims have perhaps been more affected than others by these tendencies, particularly after the terrorist attacks since September 11 in New York, Madrid, Istanbul and London. Muslims in Europe are very diverse not only in their geographical origins and cultural heritage, but also in their ways of interpreting and practicing their faith.

Yet, there is a misperception to view these diverse communities as a unitary one defined by religion. This is fundamentally at odds with “European values”. It is the time to remember and honor those values.

Gül was reminding the European’s to see past the habit of attaching ‘essences’ to people, and to see them in their complexity, diversity, breath of history and at best, their individuality. All the things that we have refused to give to the Arabs. Just as we have denigrated their women by constantly presenting them as repressed, oppressed, singularly under the jackboot of the Arab man. And yet here they were suddenly on our television screens and our internet pages – on the forefront and as equal participants in the protests in Tahrir Square. The Arab woman – denigrated, repressed and erased by the paranoid obsessions of a Western people who consistently refuse them agency, individuality, complexity and completeness. The Arab woman has become beyond history, transformed into an object of European self-righteousness, and removed from life and from materiality. So maybe we could start here, with one woman, Dr. Aida Seif El-Dawla, and see here as an individual, and then begin to complete the story of the Arab woman

As Yasmine El Rashidi points out in a a piece in The New York Review Of Books:

Women had begun to take on a special importance in the protest movement, and over the weekend I watched hundreds of women circle Tahrir Square chanting for equality—most of them veiled. Men had stood aside, cheering them on. The last time Egypt had witnessed this was probably 1919, when the feminist Huda Sharaawi led a women’s march, also downtown, also by parliament, demanding the same. “It’s incredible,” the novelist Ahdaf Soueif, who was there, had told me. “We are seeing women being treated as citizens. In fact, we are thinking of issuing a statement, as women, asking to end this gender predicament once and for all.”

There have been a number of articles on the fact that women have been at the front line of these protests. You can see a few at Recent coverage of Egyptian women in protest can be found in a number of mainstream sources, including the Huffington PostNY TimesLA Times and Foreign Policy. Quite a change from what has been said about the Arab woman in the past.

These are activists fighting against a regime the West, and the Americans, have offered unquestioned support and succor for over thirty-five years! Dozens of women were attacked and beaten by pro-Mubarak groups during the protests. The women were there and on the front lines. Arab women, complete with their hijabs and other symbols of their apparent ‘backwardness’ and ‘repression’, fighting the powers of real political backwardness and repression.

An American commentator called this the first Arab revolution. There could not have been stupider, more ignorant comment. The Egyptian’s alone have consistently and repeatedly risen up against repression and occupation, and not just against European occupiers, but their own. They rose up against Napoleon’s army in 1798, fought the monarchy in 1881 and 1882, staged an insurrection against the British in 1919 and 1952, and rebelled against Sadat in the 1977 food riots and against Mubarak in 1986.

And now it is 2011.

The revolution is not just on the streets of Cairo, but also in the minds of so many commentators, pundits, intellectuals, writers, academics, and ordinary citizens, who finally see that history is being written, that the Arabs are going to write their own. Anyone who thinks that this moment in time will not have an impact on the realities on the ground in nations like Iraq where we applied some of our finest Orientalist simplicities and erasures, believing that ‘they’ had to be ‘taught’ civility, government and political manners at the point of a daisy cutter. It was with shame and disdain that we watched and heard the cowardly excuses and vagaries of the likes of Barack Obama, the hideous justifications for repression by Tony Blair and so many others who speak the language of rights, liberty and civility, but live lives of violence, inhumanity and bloodshed. They failed to realize that we have been watching, listening and understanding for hundreds of years. That their words, their carefully woven lies, have not worked for decades. And they will not in the future. The struggle will continue, just as it will here on the streets of Cairo.

The revolution may falter, may be usurped by other powers. But these people will be back. Again and again. We are writing our own history. And many more will remember the Asmaa Mahfouz and her gigantic voice in the annals of history than the pusillanimous niceties of our ‘great’ leaders, the dwarfs to history that they have shown themselves to be.

Today, we celebrate the Asmaa Mahfouz’s of this world. Thank you.

Suheir Hammad…Need I Say More

In Israel/Palestine, Our Wars, Poetry, Writers on February 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Thanks to PULSE.

TEDWomen seems to recognize that a woman’s voice demands its own stage. Once you listen to some of the speakers you find a refreshingly interesting set of perspectives. Certainly, as you listen to Suheir Hammad you find something missing from so much our blathering pundits, intellectuals, politicians, military ´boys & girls´: courage, clarity and conviction.

Here are the words

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin beak for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain’t
louder than this breath.

Amen.

Watching Crowley Crawl Or How Incisive Questions Can Reveal The Hypocrisies Of An Imperial Apparatchik

In Israel/Palestine, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars on January 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

This was nothing if not embarrassing – the hypocrisy of State Department representative P.J. Crowley, and the administration and imperial system that he so mindlessly represents, may as well be tattooed across this forehead. The news anchor tears through Crowley like a hot knife through butter, leaving him grasping for more lies and even deeper obfuscations. The anchor’s laugh at the end of the interview pretty much says it all, and pretty much reveals what the common man in these ‘allied’ nations with their billion dollar US military aid programs knows and understands. Worth watching.

My favorite part was this snippet – when asked whether the US Government was talking directly to President Mubarak to express its concerns, Crowley returns with this gem:

Crowley: We want to make sure that Egypt does not interfere with the use of social media, that is a fundamental right as clear as walking into a town square. We are making these points clearly to Egypt publically and privately

Anchor: Beyond social media though, rubber coated steel bullets are being fired, hundreds are being detained in notorious prisons, perhaps we should be emphasizing that more than the Twitter or Facebook issue?

Snap!

There is hope yet!