by Sid H Arthur - Iraq 08 Dec 2006 12:55 pm

The Baker Report

Iraq Study Group ReportThe Iraq Study Group, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, presented GWB with it’s report yesterday. As an assessment it is not an anti-Bush document, but it cannot not be anything other than a damning prognostication of the catastrophe has resulted from the invasion of Iraq.

There does not seem to be a single positive outcome of the Iraqi invasion the Study Group could acknowledge. Iraq is now a danger to the world but more critically, for the ISG, a threat to “America’s credibility, interests, and values”.

View complete report (PDF)

The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved. In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected. The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability.

There have been the inevitable unfavourable responses to the report. The Bush administration isn’t likely to embrace the Baker/Hamilton recommendations without giving the political impression that they have better ideas. In fact, those who suggest that Baker’s plans are nothing that Bush is not already doing. Trying to reduce US deaths by moving troops out of the frontline while avoiding any committement to a full US withdrawal.

[Baker] admits a timetable is necessary as part of national reconciliation among Iraqis, but says the conciliation has to be agreed before a timetable can be discussed rather than vice versa. Benchmarks will be outlined for when to let the Iraqi army take the lead role in Baghdad and other provinces, but this is all fiction. The Iraqis will still be able to call on US artillery, air strikes and, as a last resort, ground troops. It smells exactly like the Vietnamisation strategy of the 1970s, which was similarly designed to lessen US opposition to an unpopular war.

And how did Mr Bush and Mr Poodle take the ISG report?

Our prime minister looked pretty rough. But he was James Bond at the poker tables compared with the president. At the best of times - and these are not the best of times - Bush finds it hard to find the right words, so he thrashes about in the hope that some will pop into his head, like wasps into a jam jar. (At one point he called the sectarian attacks in Iraq “unsettling”. It’s a word, I suppose.)

After one long question the president said: “I’m getting older, so you’re going to have to repeat the second part of your question.”

We can all sympathise. You invade a country, and you’re blowed if you can remember why you went in the first place!

His replies grew longer. We were not listening to a coherent argument - instead we were floating down Dubya’s stream of consciousness, hitting a rock, bashing into overhanging branches.

Asked if he could admit he was wrong, he began a meandering reply. “I do know we have not succeeded as fast as we hoped. I know that progress has not been so rapid … I am disappointed by the pace of success.”

Alongside Hirohito’s concession after Hiroshima - “the war has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” - we can now add another majestic euphemism, “disappointed by the pace of success”.

by Sid H Arthur - Uncategorized 08 Dec 2006 11:23 am

The US vs John Lennon

US vs Lennon

It was 26 years ago today.

As they were leaving the Dakota, they were approached by several people who were seeking autographs. Among them was a man who would be later identified as Mark David Chapman. John Lennon scribbled an autograph on the Double Fantasy album cover for Chapman.

The Lennons spent several hours at the studio on West 44th Street, before returning to the Dakota at about 10:50 p.m. They exited their limousine on the 72nd Street curb, even though a car could have driven through the entrance and into the courtyard. Three witnesses (Jose Perdomo, who was a doorman at the entrance; an elevator operator; and a cab driver who had just dropped off a passenger) saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the arch.

The Lennons walked past, and Ono opened the inner door and walked inside — leaving Lennon alone inside the entrance archway. Chapman called out, “Mr. Lennon!” — then dropped into a “combat stance” and shot Lennon four times with hollow point rounds from a Charter Arms .38 revolver. According to the autopsy, two shots struck Lennon in the left side of his back and two in his left shoulder. All four caused serious internal damage and bleeding. The fatal shot pierced Lennon’s aorta.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon, a new documentary by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld traces John Lennon’s life from the period of 1966 to 1976, where Lennon transforms from loveable ‘Beatle John’ to outspoken antiwar activist reviled by the US authorities of the Nixon era.

 

“It seems silly to be in America and not mention Vietnam as if nothing was happening,” Lennon once said during a Beatles interview. Those anti-war sentiments grew when he married Yoko Ono in 1969. The couple held “Bed-In” events in Amsterdam and Montreal to promote peace. Over Christmas, 1969, they took out billboards in New York, Paris, Toronto and other cities that read, “War is Over! If You Want It.” “You’ve got to sell and sell,” Lennon explained, “until the housewife thinks, ‘Oh, there’s peace or war. That’s the two products.’ ”

Not everyone was pleased. “My dear boy, you’re living in a never-never land,” a “New York Times” reporter told him. Nixon loyalist G. Gordon Liddy believed Lennon “was being manipulated” by the likes of yippie activist Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Bobby Seale. The conservative U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond wrote a letter to the White House claiming: “[I]f Lennon’s visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure.”

Thurmond’s initiative led to a Kafkaesque five-year ordeal during which Lennon and Ono lived under constant threat of deportation from the United States. Ono and other confidants of Lennon take us inside his experience of the case. Former FBI agents make clear how seriously they took him. Observers such as Angela Davis, Ron Kovic and Gore Vidal testify to Lennon’s influence on others. In one memorable moment, Nixon’s opponent George McGovern sings a few bars of “Give Peace a Chance.”

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibility and the responsibility that we all had,” Lennon said. “It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse.” This film reawakens his wit, thoughtfulness and optimism for a new generation.

- Thom Powers

 

The U.S. vs. John Lennon is released in the UK today. It’s true to say Lennon’s outspoken activism is more relevant today than ever before.

by Sid H Arthur - Human Rights 06 Dec 2006 03:32 pm

Iran Holocaust Denial Masterclass

Sexy-Sadie Ahmadinejad announced details of a conference questioning whether the Holocaust really happened. This follows an international outcry a year ago when Sexy-Sadie Ahmadinejad described the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis as “myth” fabricated to justify Israel.

The conference will have six panel discussions and an open forum. It will discuss the capacity of Nazi death camps and the impact of the second world war on other national and ethnic groups. Iranian officials say Jewish suffering is played up at the expense of other victims. Manouchehr Mohammadi, the foreign ministry’s research and education officer, said the conference was intended as a platform for open discussion of the Holocaust, which Iran claims is denied in the west.

In Bangladesh, bastards from the same political gutter as Sexy-Sadie, are called Razakars. For them, the Iranian Holocaust denial conference presents a masterclass on how to deny the genocide committed in Bangladesh in 1971. From the Mathematics of a Genocide:

A few Neo-Razakars and some Pakistanis are in the devious game again. They are trying to sow the seed of doubt in the minds of new generation of Bangalees about the severity of 1971 Genocide. One of these Neo-Razakars even had the audacity to say that only about few hundred thousand (150 000 - 250 000) people were killed in Bangladesh. We know why these people are suddenly active again when the Bangladesh election is just a month away. One Pakistani even said that it is nearly impossible for the 90 000 Pakistani soldiers to kill 3 million Bangladeshis in just 9 months time. Let us do some calculations to refute their well design plan. Let us take our calculator and do some calculations based on international data. We shall do this calculation and compare that with those of Cambodia, another land of genocide.

Attempts at denying the Bangladesh Genocide is being legally contested in Federal court in Australia. From wiki:

A case was filed in the Federal Court of Australia on 20 September, 2006 for alledged crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1971 by the Pakistani Armed Forces and its collaborators. Raymond Solaiman & Associates acting for the plantive Mr. Solaiman, have released a press statment which amoung other things says:[33]

Sexy Sadie you’ll get yours yet
However big you think you are
However big you think you are
Sexy Sadie oooh you’ll get yours yet

by Sid H Arthur - Middle East 04 Dec 2006 04:29 pm

Asking For It

Seymour Hirsh writes a long, complex piece (in the New Yorker) about the continuing machinations in Washington DC for the ‘Next Strike’. Yes, war on Iran. The article is detailed, the facts are complex (nuclear intelligence) and the background is far from simple and none of it can be reduced to a simplistic “good vs evil” translation. No one is going to come out of this smelling of roses, so the most startling piece of analysis is that Iran may be inviting a ‘contained strike’ from USA and/or Israel.

According to the former senior intelligence official, the C.I.A.’s assessment suggested that Iran might even see some benefits in a limited military strike—especially one that did not succeed in fully destroying its nuclear program—in that an attack might enhance its position in the Islamic world. “They learned that in the Iraqi experience, and relearned it in southern Lebanon,” the former senior official said. In both cases, a more powerful military force had trouble achieving its military or political goals; in Lebanon, Israel’s war against Hezbollah did not destroy the group’s entire arsenal of rockets, and increased the popularity of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. …

According to the Pentagon consultant, “The C.I.A.’s view is that, without more intelligence, a large-scale bombing attack would not stop Iran’s nuclear program. And a low-end campaign of subversion and sabotage would play into Iran’s hands—bolstering support for the religious leadership and deepening anti-American Muslim rage.”

In other words, Ahmadinejad might be goading the US to cast ‘first blood’ because it will consolidate Sunnis and Shia support, thus making them stronger in the region.

by Sid H Arthur - Middle East 04 Dec 2006 04:04 pm

Debunking the Clash Myth

Ethan Heitner writes, on the excellent TomPaine.com site, a good article about two events that will put the the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ tripe out of service once and for all. But first, what exactly is the Clash of Civilisations myth?

Samuel Huntington’s nonsense 1996 hit, The Clash of Civilizations, holds as its basic premise that the Muslim world as a monolithic whole is historically, genetically incapable of peace and that it is intrinsically opposed to a monolithic “Western world.” The two are destined to fight and one must, in the end, win—us or them. Fortunately a healthy dose of debunking arrived this week.

The “clash of civilizations” is not just a myth, it is a dangerous myth that demands that the United States and Israel use military force to humiliate and conquer Muslim countries to keep them from turning Europe into “Eurabia.” It buys into the apocalyptic dualism of Osama bin Laden and reinforces it—after all, when the West says that Islam is the root of all conflict and must be neutered and brought under Western control, that provides damn good justification for a Muslim to take up arms against the West.

And the two events Heitner mentions are the launch of Al Jazeera English:

[It] is highly important that Americans watch Al Jazeera. It represents for the first time a post-colonial literary shift in the world of cable news: instead of broadcasting a vision of the world based in New York, Washington D.C., or even London, the metropolitan centers of our empire, it is a view of the world from the “periphery.” Watch the first 10 minutes of live broadcast yesterday and note where those stories are coming from: Gaza, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran. For the first time, Americans will be able to see these places not through American filters of American corporate ownership, cultural ignorance and our own self-centeredness. Not to proclaim Aljazeera as any kind of unbiased truth about the world, of course—it has its own filters, its own funders and its own cultural stereotypes to deal with.

And the second, the presentation to Kofi Annan the final report of the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilisations (AoC).

the AoC proposes a number of concrete solutions, including focusing on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, a 50-year-battle at the heart of the world that has moved into a symbolic level for much of the globe. Spain, alongside Italy and France, today announced a new peace initiative, and they have hopes of being the “honest broker” the United States never was.

Unfortunately, few leaders in America have the courage to voice these opinions, and American mainstream punditry seems to continue to focus on maintaining America as an imperial power across the globe (i.e., fixing our imperial overreach, not forswearing it). And Al Jazeera English, so far, has yet to be picked up by a single American cable carrier.

Read the full AoC report here [PDF].

by Sid H Arthur - Bangladesh 04 Dec 2006 02:01 am

Take Back Bangladesh Campaign

Dhaka BurnsOver the last 4 months, extreme violence between rival political activists spilt over into social unrest and mass strikes (hartal) has once again crippled Bangladesh. Public reaction is polarised in a country where few aspects of life have not become politicised.

Traditionally, Bangladesh has always seen social divisions based on deep political rivalries between the political parties. Now those rivalries have riven society in Bangladesh.

Politics is fundamental to Bangladeshis, however even the most hardened activists and political observers have been appalled by the level of violence and antipathy that these presidential elections have generated.

Take Back Bangladesh is a grassroots pro-democracy campaign which rejects the violence, vote-rigging and cynical corruption which has been the tactics of the contesting parties and the ruling BNP alike. This is one of the few expressions of public protest against the massive endemic corruption that has now come to be the byword for party politics in Bangladesh. This is the public saying - ‘Enough of this destructive partisan politics’. I would really love to see more of the same.

by Sid H Arthur - Middle East 28 Nov 2006 12:23 am

On Kuwait

I’m building up to a big vent about the dehumanised treatment of Southasian migrant workers slaving in Kuwait, one of these days. In the meantime, this is Lenin bhai on Kuwait and its Arab-brotherly squeeze on the ‘Iraq Rebuilding’ Project:

Of course, the biggest chunk of all [Iraqi] reparations goes to Kuwait’s state-owned oil industry, but it is, like the Saudi equivalent, a proxy property of Western capital. The deal is, in return for being allowed to shared in the privileges of the Western investors, the British-created Kuwaiti royal family and its narrow penumbra suppress the rest of the population, most of whom are denied citizenship rights. A work force formerly composed to a large of Palestinians who fled to the country in the 1950s, but now migrant workers from nearby states and the Indian subcontinent, continues to build and maintain the economic infrastructure. Only about one fifth of the Kuwaiti workforce are permitted citizenship, and only those who have had citizenship for more than thirty years are allowed to vote (which means the tiny propertied elite is allowed a say in how its loots is managed). Fred Halliday once characterised it, in Arabia Without Sultans, as a new form of slavery: it is one, moreover, entirely at the service of Western investors.

by Sid H Arthur - Pop Life 25 Nov 2006 03:54 pm

The Tosser Within

Personal debt is huge. In the UK personal debt has exceeded £1.25 trillion and at the end of September 2006 it stood at £1,258bn. The growth rate has increased to 10.3% for the previous 12 months which equates to an increase of £109bn.

Total secured lending on homes has exceeded £1 trillion (£1,000 billion) and at the end of September 2006 it stood at £1045.7bn. This has increased to 11.2% in the last 12 months.

In a new initiative, the Tories intend to tackle personal debt to “promote social responsibility and develop greater corporate and individual responsibility”. As part of the campaign, they’ve released a short film which contains this self-improving message:

Inside all of us lives a conniving, dirty little parasite, the tosser within. He wants you to spend, spend and keep spending until you’re in terrible debt. Ignore the tosser inside you. Take control of your money at sortit.co.uk.

It’s quite refreshing to see a political party invoke consumerism, or Shopping & Fucking, in pejorative terms.

In sufism the ‘tosser within’ is known as the nafs, the psyche, the sum of individual or egocentric tendencies, the vanities. All religious traditions, have always been, at their esoteric centres a battle against the inner tosser. A battle, I’ll admit, I’m losing.

by Sid H Arthur - Uncategorized 23 Nov 2006 01:53 pm

The N Word

“Political correctness gone mad” is the formula trotted out by those who oppose PC-creep (see CIVITAS) and hanker for a time when British society licensed the use of stupid and vulgar racism (see the BNP). An example of this is this blogger who thinks it is very clever to call some black criminals “niggers”. The blogger even suggests that the word should be ‘reclaimed’. He’s obviously unaware that the word has been reclaimed but if you’re not Sacha Baron-Cohen or black, don’t even dream of using it if you want to come across as a tactless, unhinged bigot.

Seinfeld

Then there is the unfortunate story of Seinfeld sidekick, Cosmo Kramer actor Michael Richards (first from left), who suffers a career destroying moment on stage because some black hecklers throw his delivery off kilter. After this his lawyers may have made him issue a damage-control apology to save those Seinfeld royalties from meltdown. In the meantime, watch poor old Cosmo die out there.

Most of those who oppose political correctness (CIVITAS and the BNP for example) should consider the protection PC has afforded them. After all, it is Political Correctness which has prevented the English lexicon from admitting a word which is as offensive to white people as ‘nigger’ is to black people. There is no antithetical equivalent of ‘nigger’ that can be used as a racial epithet for white people. That’s political correctness gone mad!

by Sid H Arthur - Politics 23 Nov 2006 12:30 pm

A New Agenda

This week saw the launch of the New Generation Network project. Sunny Hundal and his team of likeminded individuals have used Comment is Free to springboard the project manifesto and a personal statement on the ideas behind the project. The sentiment and concept of this welcome movement is encapsulated in this passage by Sunny:

In calling for a dismantlement of the old order, we must build a new movement on the values of tolerance, freedom of expression and a clear commitment to anti-racism. Prejudice in the form of anti-semitism, homophobia and sexism must be rejected, as should any demonisation of Muslims. And it should be rejected from all corners.

The struggle for equality and better access to public services is a struggle for all Britons not just ethnic minorities. White working-class families also face problems with deprivation, injustice and demonisation. Their concerns should not be ignored or blamed on other groups.

We are not arguing that faith or race based groups should be restricted, but rather that their arguments be treated as one argument amongst many others and on their own merit. They have a right to argue for the enforcement of civil liberties and minority rights but they should be seen as lobby groups, not representatives of millions of people.

We need to foster a climate in which people can have private differences which include religion, language and culture, but also have a public space where such differences are bridged. The right to freedom of speech and expression of culture, faith and public debates must remain paramount.

Each one of us from this modern generation of Britons has multiple identities and we do not ask that anyone surrenders their heritage. Indeed, cultural and religious heritages are, in the main a source of empowerment.

The aim of this manifesto is to declare that too many discussions are framed as “them and us” by politicians, or dominated by reactionaries on all sides. To build a modern Britain at peace with itself we must also hear the voices in the middle that are interested in building bridges rather than stressing our differences.

Can’t say better than that.

Additional comments and articles will be published on CiF over this week and so far we’ve had comments from signitories Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Hari Kunzru.

This is a welcome initiative and long overdue. This project is the culmination of a group of people who have started a discussion about the role of reactionary unelected “representatives” from our communities hogging the airwaves and setting the agenda for communication from both within and from outside of the “communities”. There’s a need to tackle the communalism that is nurtured by defining identities based on religion alone. This phenomenon is most pronounced in the Muslim community but shows all the signs of creeping into the Hindu and Sikh communities.

The manifesto recognises that religious identity is as strong as other identities. That sentence looks easy to read on the screen but believe me, it is a thorn of contention in conservative Muslim communities. But we know individuals live with the duality of traditional and modern lives in the same way they possess religious and “secular” identities. The question is, are religious conservatives ready to agree? I’ve long believed Britain has all the historic and current ‘keys’ in place to qualify it as one of the few places in the world where this debate can be started, intelligently continued and seen to a fruitful conclusion.

The NGN launch has gone extremely well and, judging from most responses, seems to have had a successful reception and reactions have been mostly encouraging.

Munira Mirza’s comment on the NGN is superb. She seems to agree with and even elaborate on some of the manifesto’s points but is unwilling to sign it.

I was disappointed with Gary Younge’s take on the NGN’s decision to “single out” the Hizbut Tahrir for comment and not specifically the BNP. This unfortunately is the simplistic reduction of the HT citation into an “us and them” or “attacking our own” mindset encountered when Asians comment on the narrow politics of the Hizbut Tahrir. The BNP and the HT are not analogous mirror images of each other but we know the danger the BNP potentialises. But we’ve talked the BNP to death whereas the Hizbut Tahrir are not discussed nearly as often in polite company. Gary seems hung up on pinning all the blame on White on Asian/Black prejudice. The NGN manifesto admits the dangers there but is not afraid to address the Asian on White, Asian on Asian and Asian on Black (and vice versa) prejudices too. I’ve posted a comment on Gary Younge’s article on CiF to this effect as well. I have a lot of time for big GY; it’s unfortunate he’s not in support of this initiative.

Other responses are rounded up and being discussed here.

You should read the manifesto and sign the agenda yourself.

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