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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pakistan Closes US Supply Route - RIAZ KHAN

Pakistan suspended truck shipments of U.S. military supplies through the famed Khyber Pass on Tuesday after launching an offensive against militants who are trying to cripple Washington's war on a resurgent Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. military said a temporary closure of the key supply line was not a problem, and praised the campaign in the rugged hills of northwestern Pakistan where al-Qaida leaders _ including Osama bin Laden _ are believed hiding.

The operation came amid tensions between Pakistan and its eastern neighbor, India, triggered by last month's terror attack in Mumbai, which the Indian government and Washington have blamed on Islamic extremists based in Pakistan.

Pakistan urged India to pull back troops that it claimed had been sent near their border after Islamabad began moving troops toward the frontier. India said it had done nothing to aggravate tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Both countries also appealed for calm.

Israel's Lie Machine is Working Flat out By Stuart Littlewood

While the murderous assault on Gaza continues, I notice there's a briefing document on the website of the Israeli Embassy in London which has a lie in every line. The West's mainstream media repeat them, and even the most senior TV and radio interviewers don’t bother to challenge them.

The document is a transcript of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's statement to the Israeli press dated 27 December 2008 – a day that will live in infamy. It is a perfect example of the falsehoods used to dupe not only us westerners but Israel’s own people. The statement shows how the regime's view of itself is constructed on a web of dishonesty and self-delusion.

For example:

• "Israeli citizens have been under the threat of daily attack from Gaza for years."

Palestinians have been under harsh Israeli occupation for 60 years.

• "Only this week hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities."

Only one in 500 Qassam rockets causes a fatality. How many thousands of Israeli bombs, missiles, rockets, grenades and tank-shells have been blasted into the crowded city and towns of the Gaza Strip by Israel’s high-tech weaponry?

• "Until now we have shown restraint. But today there is no other option than a military operation."

The only legitimate option for Israel is to end the occupation and withdraw behind its 1967 border, as required under international law and UN resolution. Israel has been killing Palestinians at the rate of 8 to 1 since 2000, and children at the rate of nearly 12 to 1 (B’Tselem figures). This is somebody’s idea of restraint?

• "We need to protect our citizens from attack through a military response against the terror infrastructure in Gaza."

Self defence is not a right exclusive to Israel. Palestinians have an equal right to protect their citizens from the terror tactics of Israel.

• "Israel left Gaza in order to create an opportunity for peace."

Israel never left Gaza. It still occupies Gaza's airspace and coastal waters and controls all entrances and exits.

Pakistan's Probe Finds Local Links To Attacks On Mumbai

Pakistani security officials say a top Lashkar commander, Zarar Shah, has admitted a role in the Mumbai attack during interrogation, according to the security official, who declined to be identified discussing the investigation. "He is singing," the security official said of Mr. Shah. The admission, the official said, is backed up by U.S. intercepts of a phone call between Mr. Shah and one of the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the site of a 60-hour confrontation with Indian security forces.

A second person familiar with the investigation said Mr. Shah told Pakistani interrogators that he was one of the key planners of the operation, and that he spoke with the attackers during the rampage to give them advice and keep them focused.

The person said Mr. Shah had implicated other Lashkar members, and had broadly confirmed the story told by the sole captured gunman to Indian investigators -- that the 10 assailants trained in Pakistan's part of Kashmir and then went by boat from Karachi to Mumbai. Mr. Shah said the attackers also spent at least a few weeks in Karachi, a crowded Arabian Sea port, training in urban combat to hone skills they would use in their assault.

The Leftist and The Leader - Maniza Naqvi

TA: You made a deal. That’s that! I won’t have it any other way. It makes perfect sense. You were simply double crossed. And now we are here. In this mess. A solution to the crisis is available. This would require Mr Musharraf's replacement by a less contentious figure, an all-party government of unity to prepare the basis for genuine elections within six months, and the reinstatement of the sacked Supreme Court judges to investigate your murder without fear or favor. It would be a start. Who murdered you?!

BB: It won’t bring me back, Tariq. Light that candle. Who murdered me? Some will blame me for my death—The deal I should not have made. The SUV sun roof—that I shouldn’t have popped my head out of. And the photographer, the American photographer the one right in front of my car? You know the one whose lens I could not resist? Some will say I was dying for a photo op—And then Tariq some will say, I had to prove YOU wrong----So think about that. The Left, sends people to their death, people who want to earn YOUR respect. When all you do is abuse and heap accusations, calling people corrupt, fat, arrogant, liars, disappointments. Leaders are those who don’t disappoint the Left. Leaders never disappoint the Left. Leaders are those who act. The Left just reacts. The Left writes, reads, and is READ. Leaders act, do, die. Tell me Tariq did you ever suffer? Did you ever go to jail? Did you?--Remind me—when—for how long? But tell me Tariq, how many did you send to their jail sentences? To their deaths? How many died reading you? So Tariq, I lead----You are read. Live Tariq. Live long---with that. And this.

TA: Selfish and wrong—that’s what you are. So many choices to do things differently and you didn’t.

BB: No Tariq—you have that wrong—I am a leader I have no choices. You think that leaders have choices? They have none...

Israel is the opium of the people, and other Arab taboos - MONA ELTAHAWY

"Why aren't you, as an Arab lady, writing about Gaza?"

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel's bombardment of Gaza had killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to tow the party line: Hamas is good, Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you're not Arab enough, you're not Muslim enough, you're not enough.

But what to say about a conflict that, for more than 60 years, has fed Arab and Israeli senses of victimhood and their demands to stop everything else we're doing and pay attention to them because what's the slaughter of anyone else - be they in Darfur or Congo - compared with their own? Hasn't it all been said before?

And then the suicide cyclist in Iraq made me snap and I had to write, to lament the moral bankruptcy that's born from the amnesia rife in the Middle East.

We honour the dead by smashing through the amnesia until we break through to the taboos and continue to smash. Talking to Hamas? Israel should do it if it will end the violence. Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians should do it before their states fail for the sake of Palestine.

Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab country after another to fail in the name of Palestine....

Dan Rather, CBS newsman's $70m lawsuit likely to deal Bush legacy a new blow

As George W Bush prepares to leave the White House, at least one unpleasant episode from his unpopular presidency is threatening to follow him into retirement.

A $70m lawsuit filed by Dan Rather, the veteran former newsreader for CBS Evening News, against his old network is reopening the debate over alleged favourable treatment that Bush received when he served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. Bush had hoped that this controversy had been dealt with once and for all during the 2004 election.

He claims breach of contract against CBS. He has already spent $2m on his case, which is likely to go to court early next year. Rather contends not only that his report was true - "What the documents stated has never been denied, by the president or anyone around him," he says - but that CBS succumbed to political pressure from conservatives to get the report discredited and to have him fired. He also claims that a panel set up by CBS to investigate the story was packed with conservatives in an effort to placate the White House. Part of the reason for that, he suggests, was that Viacom, a sister company of CBS, knew that it would have important broadcasting regulatory issues to deal with during Bush's second term...

Shaheen Sehbai: Zardari given enough rope to hang himself

The one question that I am repeatedly asked by everyone, believing that I have been quite close to Asif Ali Zardari during his days of self-exile and forced expulsion from politics for many years, is how long he and his government will survive.

It is hard to answer this very loaded and complex question almost on a daily basis, especially when people think everyone who comes to Washington from Pakistan knows something more than they do. So I have decided to pen down my answer.

My considered opinion is that the present Zardari-led set-up will not last long as it has been structured on a wrong and distorted political premise as result of which the key players who have emerged as main power wielders were never in the picture, neither of Benazir Bhutto’s PPP, which actually got the votes and won the seats in the February 18 elections, nor anyone else. And these new players have failed to establish their political legitimacy and moral authority through their actions after coming to power.

These power players do not have any political ideology, they do not believe in the established principles of democracy and parliamentary process enshrined in the constitution and most important of all, they do not have a following among the masses, which is necessary for any political government worth its name.

What has happened is that in extraordinary turbulent circumstances, the Zardari Group of the PPP has taken over the party, out-manoeuvring the others through opportunities created by circumstances followed up cleverly by a web of deceit, chicanery and in some specific cases simple lies and cheating. Taking full advantage, Zardari formed a group of his cronies who had nothing to do with the PPP or its politics for years. Who could imagine that Rehman Malik, Farooq Naek, Babar Awan, Salman Farooqi, Husain Haqqani, Hussain Haroon, Dr Asim, Dr Soomro, Riaz Laljee, Siraj Shamsuddin, Zulfikar Mirza, Agha Siraj Durrani and many other smaller but tainted friends and associates of Mr Zardari would suddenly take over every important position and start calling the shots?

Your request is being processed... Hezbollah Restrained By Domestic Politics Watches From Sidelines

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah guerrilla movement _ widely seen as the Arab world's most effective force against Israel _ is a staunch Hamas supporter but has so far held its fire as its Palestinian ally faces down Israel's assault in Gaza.

Hezbollah possesses a formidable arsenal of rockets and missiles that bloodied Israel during a monthlong war between them in 2006, but is constrained by its own domestic political goals and fears of Israeli retaliation.

Once considered as just a fighting force backed by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has seen its political power in Lebanon grow since 2006. With Israel threatening massive retaliation if Hezbollah renews its rocket bombardments, that influence could come into doubt by Lebanese reluctant to be drawn into another war.

So Hezbollah is instead calling for protests in Lebanon and across the Middle East to pressure Arab governments to act against Israel.....

Israel & Palestine: Force Is Never the Solution

Taking advantage of the lame duck Presidency of Bush, the deliberate distancing of President Elect there-is-only-one-president Obama, the holidays in the West and the attending low emphasis of politicians, Israeli Air Force launched a devastating attack on Gaza.

Israel in the non NPT signatory Occupier in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Golan and East Jerusalem, aided (up to 5 billion a year) and abetted by the West.

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmood Abbas is perceived as an Palestinian Uncle Tom and he was soundly beaten in the elections by Hamas.

The infamous US dichotomy re: democracy sprung into action and immediately cut off all aid to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also twisted its allies and lackeys' arms (including Canada's) to do the same. This US amnesiac approach is well documented and understood globally. Do as I say, not as I do.
Hamas leadership did not go to the same school.

This latest foray into the Gaza Strip would wane away sooner or later. But the violence and "terrorism" it would spawn would perpetuate the cycle for long.

Can anything be done to avoid the unnecessary spiralling of violence? I have written about the solution before here: Peace With Dignity: Another Gift For Israel

Criticizing Zionism is NOT anti-Semitism. States do not exist without an “official” map. Israel has to exist. Its citizens have a right to live in peace and harmony within its defined borders. They forget that to ensure this its neighbors should also have the same rights.

Both Israel and Palestinians have to demonstrate more effectively that they want to live in peace and do not want to kill, maim, expel from their land. It is for them to deliberate and decide if this should come under One State of Two State solution.

The world should help them reach this decision but should not refrain to remind Israel that it should curb its policies of occupation, subjugation, ethnic cleansing, and terrorising.

We should encourage initiatives that will let all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, with dignity, justice and guaranteed fundamental human rights in secure borders, as enshrined in the various UN resolutions.

To remove misgivings, doubts and suspicions, international bodies including the UN, the European Union, OIC should be enlisted to provide guarantees. Peace in the region is not to be equated with death for the state of Israel.

Israel portrays itself as the David but acts as the Goliath in the region. Here are the (boxing preliminary) statistics of Israel and the Palestinians of the occupied Gaza Strip.

The Occupier Goliaths

High quality tanks 970
Medium and low quality tanks 1830
APCs, IFVs, ARVs, LCVs 6930
Self-propelled artillery 1204
Combat warplanes 875
Transport warplanes 84
Training warplanes 171
Military helicopters 286
Heavy SAM batteries 25
Warships 13
Submarines 3
Patrol boats 50 50
nuclear bombs over 300-500

The Occupied Davids

Five major militant factions operate in Gaza. These are the Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad; the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which is loosely tied to Abbas' Fatah faction; the Popular Resistance Committees, a shadowy umbrella group; and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The size of the groups is unclear, but they are equipped with assault rifles, mortars, anti-tank missiles, homemade rockets and other explosives.


The point neoconzix in Israel and the West refuse to fathom: force is never the solution.

To The University Students Of Pakistan By Zulfikar Ghose

The young writers’ acquaintance with literature, what little there is of it, has been in the classroom where the discussion centres upon socio-political ideas or an interpretation passionately argued in the jargon of some trendy French guru. Therefore, I say to you: your writing comes from your experience of the world and your special place in it; your experience comes to you through your senses and what your senses receive are not ideas but a complex perception of things; ideas are a function of language, not of reality, and when you create an interesting language to represent that reality then, and only then, you will have created interesting ideas. This has been said by many other writers, it is to them a self-evident truth.

It is not ideas, not merely the content, but style, what we call the writer’s unique voice when it uses language in a compellingly distinctive form, which generates the aesthetic bliss.

Your freedom to be an artist of whatever kind is a sacred principle which no one may challenge. Indeed, the quality of your work will bear a relationship with how deliberately, stubbornly and unwaveringly you resist ideological pressure and assert your freedom to serve no cause, to accept no censorship, but only to be yourself. Listen to what Chekhov said back in 1888:

‘I am not a liberal, not a conservative, not a gradualist, not a monk, not an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and nothing more…. I hate lying and violence, whatever form they take... stupidity and tyranny reign not in shopkeepers’ homes and in lock-ups alone: I see them in science, in literature… I regard trademarks and labels as prejudicial. My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom — freedom from force and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves.’

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day Four: Gaza War Postings - Jamal Dajani

Near Nahal Oz, Israel -- The Israeli "all-out war" on Gaza has entered its fourth day leaving more than 363 dead and 1,800 wounded. Israeli troop movements on the Gaza border point to an imminent ground battle in the upcoming few days. On Monday, the Israeli military declared the Gaza border, where tanks, artillery and troops are massing for a possible ground offensive, a closed military zone.


Reporters are being barred by Israel from going into Gaza to cover the carnage. Many have been relegated to reporting from behind Israel's declared military zone, some report from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and rely on phone dispatches by stringers in the Gaza Strip. The best television coverage I've seen so far comes from Al Jazeera; the most provocative comes from Hezbollah's Al Manar. The Israeli coverage on IBA TV and Ch 10 reminds me of FOX News during the Iraq War with a focus on military strategies, graphics and interviews, with Israeli government spokesmen and generals.

Real Ways to Stand With the People of Gaza by Tom J

A few suggestions for action, and you can supply others in the comments.

1. Stay informed.
An increasingly invaluable resource is The Electronic Intifada. Listen to Palestinian voices and solidarity activists who are on the ground in Gaza.
Listen to listener sponsored radio, like KPFA. Flashpoints has excellent interviews with people on the ground. You will not hear much from the military generals , for that you have CNN.
2. Donate so that the people of Gaza may live
Israel's starvation "diet" is causing a humanitarian catastrophe, and may actually cause more casualties, in a quiet way, than the US-supplied bombs that fall in city centers in Gaza. Children are especially vulnerable. There is also a dire situation of lack of medical supplies, as Israel restricts the amount of aid allowed into Gaza. Now with thousands of massacre casualties, i can't imagine what this can be like. You can make a difference. Join the Middle East Children's Alliance in sending much needed medical aid to Gaza. It would be cool to let them know Daily Kos sent you.
3. Advocate for a new US policy in the Middle East
Our political work must not end on election nights. Politicians, with few exceptions, will do nothing for human rights unless they are pushed, prodded, and forced to do so. When Congressman Ron Dellums was first elected to Congress, he offered at every congressional session a bill to impose sanctions on the Apartheid system in South Africa. For many years, only a handful of congresspeople joined him. All that changed when a strong movement started on the street demanding change. How much more so is our work needed now for a change in US policy.

Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood - Mustafa Barghouthi

This is a guest post written by Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative. These comments and views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Huffington Post. Barghouti is a former secular candidate for President of Palestine and has been a strong advocate of non-violent responses to Israeli occupation. Barghouti is thought by many to be a leading contender in the next Palestinian presidential election. Perspectives have also been solicited from various national leaders and incumbent Knesset leaders in Israel.

Here is a link to an interview that Steve Clemons did with Barghouti in July 2008 regarding Barack Obama's trip to Israel and Palestine.

Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood

The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning, the 27th of December, and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.

The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel's promised that this is 'only the beginning' of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.

What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.

Eric Margolis: 2009: Another Year of Living Dangerously

Here are world hotspots we should be watching in 2009:

*America's $13.7 trillion bubble economy will continue collapsing. After decades of intoxication on the steroids of reckless borrowing and cheap credit, America is going to have to go into rehab and detox, enduring enormous, prolonged pain.

Today, North America faces deflation - in the short term. But the US Treasury's reckless printing of billions and billions must eventually create a storm of inflation. A debased US currency, rising unemployment, and destroyed savings will encourage extremism and political violence in the US and around the world. One need only think of post-World War I Germany and Italy for examples. Or the recent riots in Greece's cities staged by hooligans, the unemployed, and anarchists.

Why would Israel bomb a university? Dr. Akram Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 29 December 2008

As a Fulbright scholar and professor of American literature at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I have always preferred to keep silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I always felt that it was my mission to preach love and peaceful coexistence. However, Israel's massive offensive against the Gaza Strip has spurred me to speak out.

Last night, during the second night of Israel's unprecedented attack on Gaza, I was awakened by the deafening sound of intensive bombardment. When I learned that Israel had bombed my university with American-made F-16s, I realized that its "target bank" had gone bankrupt. Of course Israeli politicians and generals would claim that IUG is a Hamas stronghold and that it preaches terrorism.

As an independent professor, not affiliated with any political party, I can say that IUG is an academic institution which embraces a wide spectrum of political affinities. I see it as prestigious university which encourages liberalism and free thought. This personal point view might seem to be biased; therefore, I would invite anyone who would doubt about my assertions to browse IUG's website and research its history. They would learn about its membership in various international academic institutions, the active role its professors play in scholarly research as well as prizes and research grants they have received.

Why would Israel bomb a university? Israel did not only target my university last night. It also bombed mosques, pharmacies and homes. In Jabaliya refugee camp Israeli bombs killed four little girls, sisters from the Balousha family. In Rafah they killed three brothers, aged 6, 12 and 14. They also killed a mother, along with her one-year-old child from the Kishko family in Gaza City.

What else happened in 1909?

* A manual worker earned 23 shillings a week, with a dozen eggs costing a shilling, a pound of butter 1s2d and a pint of beer two shillings. A pair of ladies’ shoes cost 7s11d, a man’s suit 6s11d and a girl’s school frock 2s8d.

* Louis Bleriot became the first man to fly across the English Channel, completing the 22 mile journey from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes. He received a prize of £1,000 for his achievement.

* The University of Bristol was founded on the basis of donations from the Fry and Wills families, notably £100,000 from Henry Overton Wills, the tobacco magnate

* Geronimo, the leader of the native American Apache tribe, died at the age of 79

* Manchester United won the FA Cup for the first time, beating Bristol City 1-0 in front of 71,000 people at Crystal Palace. Sandy Turnbull scored the deciding goal.

* British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton discovered the south magnetic pole

Poem of the week: The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics quotes the tradition that the Persian quatrain-form, the ruba'i, originated in the gleeful shouts of a child, overheard and imitated by a passing poet. "Succinctness, spontaneity and wit" are its essence, the encyclopaedist writes, coolly noting FitzGerald's "venial infidelity to his Persian model". FitzGerald got the rhyme-scheme right but missed the rhythmic subtlety of the original prosodic pattern; some of the quatrains are paraphrased, some mashed together, others invented. Furthermore, Khayyám's 750-plus quatrains certainly did not constitute one long poem.

The 101-verse semi-narrative FitzGerald finally assembled is the product of a ruthless editorial job – but how much poorer English poetry would be without it. His endeavour might more generously be termed "transcreation". Khayyám, an agnostic famed during his lifetime as a mathematician and astronomer rather than a poet, and his mediator, a nineteenth-century English sceptic who believed that "science unrolls a greater epic than the Iliad", may not meet in a true linguistic union, but there seems to be a "marriage of true minds" nevertheless (and, yes, you'll note a passing trace of Shakespeare in FitzGerald's diction).

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Robert Fisk: Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored

We've got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don't care any more – providing we don't offend the Israelis. It's not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel's side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.

Ever since 1948, we've been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis – just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist "death wagon" will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be "liberated". And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise "restraint" – as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas's home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.

Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated "terrorism". So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east – in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? – a well-known man in a turban smiles.

Ben Cohen: Obama's Silence on Gaza is Deafening

Barack Obama had to do two things to persuade the powers that be that he was a viable candidate for President. The first was to assure the financial community that he would commit to a centrist economic platform, and the second was to sell out the Palestinians immediately and jump in bed with AIPAC.

Obama did both, and the consequences will be felt immediately. Economically, Obama has not surrounded himself with the type of people committed to real change. The enormous financial crisis has given him more room to move, but he won't do anything dramatic (like hold Wall St to account, or provide a meaningful bailout to the average American). The results during his Presidency will mean extraordinary pain for the middle classes and poor, while the burden is shifted from those who caused it. It would no doubt be worse under a Republican, but it will not be pleasant.

With the latest Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, Obama's wholesale sellout of the Palestinian people is being felt even more acutely. His unique position to speak up for a bitterly oppressed people has been wasted in the name of political convenience.

Was the 'Credit Crunch' a Myth Used to Sell a Trillion-Dollar Scam? By Joshua Holland,

There is something approaching a consensus that the Paulson Plan -- also known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP -- was a boondoggle of an intervention that's flailed from one approach to the next, with little oversight and less effect on the financial meltdown.

But perhaps even more troubling than the ad hoc nature of its implementation is the suspicion that has recently emerged that TARP -- hundreds of billions of dollars worth so far -- was sold to Congress and the public based on a Big Lie.

The credit crunch narrative -- and the justification for creating Paulson's $700 billion TARP honeypot -- is built on three related assertions: 1) banks, fearing that they'll be unable to meet their own financial obligations, aren't lending money to one another; 2) they're also not lending to the public at large -- neither to firms nor individuals; and 3) businesses are further unable to raise money through ordinary channels because investors aren't eager to buy up corporate debt, including commercial paper issued by companies with decent balance sheets.

Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota's research department -- V.V. Chari and Patrick Kehoe of the University of Minnesota, and Northwestern University's Lawrence Christiano -- crunched the Fed's numbers in an examination of these bits of conventional wisdom (PDF), and concluded that all three claims are myths.

What Is Israel's 'Mission' in Gaza? By Neve Gordon,

But what exactly, one might ask, is Israel’s mission?

Although Olmert did not say as much, the “mission” includes four distinct objectives.

The first is the destruction of Hamas, a totally unrealistic goal. Even though the loss of hundreds of cadres and some key leaders will no doubt hurt the organization, Hamas is a robust political movement with widespread grassroots support, and it is unlikely to surrender or capitulate to Israeli demands following a military assault. Ironically, Israel’s attempt to destroy Hamas using military force has always ended up strengthening the organization, thus corroborating the notion that power produces its own vulnerability.

The second objective has to do with Israel’s upcoming elections. The assault on Gaza is also being carried out to help Kadima and Labor defeat Likud and its leader Benjamin Netanyhu, who is currently ahead in the polls. It is not coincidental that Netanyahu’s two main competitors, Livni and Barak, were invited to the press conference – since, after the assault, it will be more difficult for Netanyahu to characterize them as “soft” on the Palestinians. Whether or not the devastation in Gaza will help Livni defeat Netanyhu or help Barak gain votes in the February elections is difficult to say, but the strategy of competing with a warmonger like Netanyhu by beating the drums of war says a great deal about all three major contenders.

The third objective involves the Israeli military. After its notable humiliation in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, the IDF has been looking for opportunities to reestablish its global standing. Last Spring it used Syria as its laboratory and now it has decided to focus on Gaza. Emphasizing the mere three minutes and forty seconds it took to bomb fifty sites is just one the ways the Israeli military aims to restore its international reputation.

Finally, Hamas and Fatah have not yet reached an agreement regarding how to proceed when Mahmoud Abbas ends his official term as President of the Palestinian National Authority on January 9th, 2009. One of the outcomes of this assault is that Abbas will remain in power for a while longer since Hamas will be unable to mobilize its supporters in order to force him to resign.

Zardari to be PM, father Prez? BY MUHAMMAD NAJEEB

Dec. 29: There could be more political churning in the offing in Pakistan with President Asif Ali Zardari likely to replace Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister and transferring all presidential powers to the Prime Minister by annulling the constitutional amendments former military dictator Pervez Musharraf had effected, a senior member of the ruling coalition says. The politician said that Mr Zardari has taken this decision after a sustained campaign by some members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that he has failed to implement what is being described as assassinated party chief Benazir Bhutto’s political will.

The PPP leader, requesting anonymity, said that Mr Zardari is likely to install his father Hakim Ali Zardari or some low profile PPP sympathiser as President to avoid any controversy.

"Within the PPP, there are people who convinced Zardari to become Prime Minister and install his father as President," said the leading politician, adding that if a mother. daughter duo can be PM and Pre-sident in Sri Lanka and brothers could be PM and chief minister in Pakistan, a father-son duo could also occupy the top positions in this country.

Though PPP leaders officially deny any rift between Mr Zardari and Mr Gilani, insiders say that differences have reached the breaking point. "Gilani has plainly refused to obey Zardari’s orders, saying everything would be done on merit," said another party leader.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Bravest of the Brave - Ali Kuli Khan

This is the full article by Ali Kuli Khan. Part of this was published in the News. (the highlights and the emphasis are not mine) ~~t

Plato said “What is honoured in a country is cultivated there”. As I have spent the better part of my life in the Profession of Arms, I feel an urge to honour brave soldiers, who had served as role models in the formative years of my generation. Similarly, since most of the personalities mentioned in this Paper passed away in2008, it will be a befitting tribute if, I am able pay homage before this calendar year closes. Accordingly, since my main purpose is to inspire future generations with tales of Brave Army Lions, I will also be referring to some Lions who are mercifully very much ALIVE and others who may have been martyred earlier. If by this effort I am able to inspire even a few of Pakistan’s future soldiers, I would be more than satisfied; it also goes without saying, that in these difficult times, even a little boost to the national morale will be worthwhile. Allow me also to clarify from the outset, that these are, NOT THE ONLY BRAVE LIONS meriting mention; this is merely a list of people whom I knew personally. Inevitably, there will be others worthy of mention. It will be a great service, if someone else also highlights deeds of Pakistanis whose lives can serve as beacons in these troubled times.

Brig Abdul Shakur Jan,SJ,SI(M).

I first met Capt Shakur Jan 1961 when I joined PMA, where he was one of the platoon commanders; for the sake of those not familiar with life at the Military Academy, allow me to emphasise, that platoon commanders, arguably, exercise the greatest influence in moulding the characters and personalities of cadets. ‘Shakura’ as he was fondly known, was not my direct platoon commander, yet, he and a small band of SSG officers, like Capts Syed and Sikander had a larger than life sphere of influence. Despite the fact that Capt Shakur Jan had no direct responsibility towards me, yet, at the time of my ‘Prelim Boxing Bout’ with Shabbir Sharif (who was destined to become Pakistan’s most highly decorated hero) he went the proverbial extra mile to send me a message through my schoolmate, Badruddin (who also became a recipient of the coveted Sword Of Honour) that “No matter what happens in the bout I must conduct myself gracefully”. Was he conveying the well known and oft repeated dictum, “It is not important what happens to you, but what is important, is how you behave while it is happening to you”; an important lesson most effectively conveyed don’t you think? ! This is one example which illustrates how Brig Shakur Jan influenced lives of those with whom he came in contact; I am certain, there must be numerous other cases in which he had a positive impact on the lives of people.

Another aspect which held him in high esteem with cadets was the perception that he had seen ACTION. I do not think his cadets knew any details of this romantic notion, yet his credibility was so high that we all believed it; whatever the truth, in his subsequent career he more than substantiated this perception!

During the Runn of Kutch Emergency in April 65, Maj Shakur Jan got his first opportunity for direct confrontation with the Indian Army. He more than lived up to his promise when as a Company Commander of 15 FF, he carried out audacious Day and Night Patrolling and like a true commander led his Company in a successful attack on Biar Bet near Jattrai. For his gallantry in action, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ). Maj Shakur Jan fought the 1965 War in the Khem Karan Sector with his Company 15 FF.

In 1971, Lt Col Shakur Jan experienced combat in what was East Pakistan; while he was there commanding 1 Commando Battalion, I was also there flying MI-8 helicopters for the Pakistan Army Aviation. These were bad remorseful days because even though the Indians were heavily involved, it was essentially a Civil War, which to say the least, is distasteful to professional soldiers. Irrespective of what I have just written, these also were times in which both SSG and Army Aviation combined most admirably, to write what were, probably, the most glorious chapters in their respective histories. This was so because the terrain was ideally suited for Heliborne Operations and required men of vision and daring; people like Col Shakur Jan who could inspire soldiers and take them to unimaginable heights. Throughout 1971, countless missions were planned and executed to perfection because of fearless planning and execution by both the SSG and the Army Aviation. Unfortunately, because of the final ignominy of surrender all the good work of heroes like Col Shakur Jan and other gallant soldiers was sadly forgotten or scrubbed. Brig Shakur Jan, in line with the rest of his career, soldiered on bravely till May 1983 when he finally hung up his boots. Like all mortals, he passed away in 2008. Adieu brave friend and teacher.

Maj Gen Mohammad Mumtaz Khan, HJ,SJ

I had known Gen Mumtaz a long time before I had the honour to meet him. This was so because his father Ghulam Rabbani Khan of Mansehra was a great friend of my grandfather, KB Mohammad Kuli Khan.

The first time I met Lt Col Mumtaz was at Khem Karan soon after the Cease-Fire of the 1965 War; My Paltan, 12 Baloch (Sarbakaf) had fought the War in the Hussainiwala Sector, a little South of Khem Karan. As an Intelligence officer I had accompanied my Commanding Officer on his visit to 5 FF battle locations. I was mightily impressed with the composure and serenity of Lt Col Mumtaz ; he certainly showed no ill effects of the recent trauma his Battalion had undergone. The last days of the War had been particularly hard on 5 FF, because as the ceasefire drew closer, the Indian Army became more and more desperate to regain some lost prestige by ousting the Pakistan Army from the Khem Karan Salient. The Indian attacks were preceded with particularly heavy shelling (whose rumble we could hear in Hussainiwala) and were driven with great ferocity; fortunately these desperate efforts were thwarted by the dour defence put up by 5 FF under the command of Lt Col Mumtaz and 2 FF led by Lt Col Fateh Khan.

For his indomitable leadership in the most critical of times Lt Col Mumtaz was awarded a richly deserved Sitara-e Jurat.

In the 1971 War, Brig Mumtaz was commanding 106 Brigade which captured the Hussainiwala Salient; for his intrepid leadership he was awarded the Hilal-e-Jurat. It is very rare that an officer receives both the HJ and the SJ and Brig Mumtaz is one of them. Since I had personally participated in an infantry Battalion Attack in this very Sector in the 1965 War, I know from first hand, how difficult and arduous this Mission must have been. Full marks to Brig Mumtaz and his brave soldiers to have accomplished this task so successfully.

Maj Gen Mumtaz popularly known as ‘Mummy’ soldiered on happily till April 1976 when he finally retired. Till his dying day in 2008, he remained a hugely respected, and most popular figure Rest in peace brave soldier.

Brig Muhammad Hayat, SJ

Popularly known as Brig ‘Makhmad’ Hayat, he was another of the brave souls who departed for his Final Abode in this Calendar year. He was as brave as any of the other soldiers I have or will mention in this Paper, yet, since I did not have close personal contact with him I am slightly handicapped to write from personal knowledge. I could have collected information from others because he was a very popular and respected figure but that would have been second hand information which even Brig Hayat would not have approved.

The first time I heard of Brig Hayat was after the 1965 War, when he was commanding the famous 4 FF in the Sialkot Sector. It was Army lore in those days that he and his Battalion stood like a rock in the face of the Indian Main Effort and sent them reeling back with the help of Almighty Allah and his brave comrades. For his intrepid and cool leadership and his role as CO 4 FF which being part of 14 Para Brigade had thwarted the Indian Armour Attack with heavy casualties, he was awarded a richly deserved Sitara-e-Jurat. Brig Hayat was one of those brave, simple, modest and yet super confident personalities who with his “gravely” voice and his mere presence could inspire his comrades to great deeds of bravery. No wonder 4 FF responded so magnificently to his leadership.

In 1971, Brig Hayat was Commander 107 Brigade (Jessore) in what was the erstwhile East Pakistan. He did exceptionally well in those difficult days and terrain, but like so many others his exploits went unsung because of the ignominy of surrender.

A dignified and honourable man he retired from the Army towards the end of 1974. Brig Hayat was a simple, brave and popular figure who passed in 2008 and is mourned by a large circle of friends and admirers. Rest in peace brave soldier.

Maj Gen Nasir Ullah Khan Babar, SJ & Bar

Before you think or say anything, let me reassure all my readers that I am fully aware that Gen Babar is very much alive even though slightly handicapped because of his recent illness. Those of us who know him would vouch for the fact that even half a Naseer Ullah Babar will be more than a match for most other mortals.

So why have I included him here? Because this is a collection of the brave; all were his friends and I am confident that he would much rather be mentioned with this company of Lions than anywhere else.

Lt Col Babar, ‘Bob’ to his friends came into prominence during the 1965 War, when in a most audacious action as CO 3 Army Aviation Squadron, he landed his helicopter near an Indian Post and almost single-handedly took 70 Indian soldiers as Prisoners Of War; not only that, he marched them all night till he finally handed them over to a Pakistani Unit in Bhimber!!

For this rare bold action Col Babar was awarded his First Sitara-e- Jurat.

In the 1971 War he was Commander Artillery 23 Div and while he was forward of most fighting Arms he was severely wounded with an artillery shell. For his incredible bravery in the face of the enemy he was awarded his second Sitara-e-Jurat, almost within 100 yards of the very place where he had audaciously taken 70 Indian Prisoners Of War in the 1965 War.

Since we are talking of brave soldiers both dead and alive, dear reader, please allow me the liberty of mentioning another exceptionally brave Lion, Gen Iftikhar Janjua. I knew the Gen slightly because he had been my late father’s GSO-1 in that great Exercise of its time, ‘November Handicap’.

I have learnt from reliable sources that while he was commanding 23 Division and war with India became imminent sometime in July/August 71, he totally gave up on drinks that he was known to have enjoyed and started preparing for the impending war in all earnestness; no wonder 23 Div did so well in the 1971 War, because the opposing Indian forces thought there were three Pakistani Divisions operating against them whereas actually there was only one. As we all know, Gen Janjua was one of the few holders of both the HJ and SJ, but he unfortunately died in a tragic helicopter crash during the 71 war; I have made a special mention of him in this article because I want to stress that Gen Janjua as the GOC of an Infantry Division and Brigadier Babar as the Commander Artillery, probably was the most lethal combination that the Pakistan Army has ever put together; both of them were not only brilliant soldiers but also unafraid of anything; quite literally the bravest of the brave. In the end, allow me the indulgence of one last observation. Sometime ago I had asked Gen Babar who according to him was the best general the Pakistani Army had produced; his answer was without any doubt Gen Iftikhar Janjua, because he was a rare combination of being a meticulous staff officer, a brilliant commander and of course he had no peers as far as bravery and drive was concerned. I could not agree more.

Aaker Patel: Our leaders and their writing

I was familiar with the basic lines of Tarana-i-Hind but had not registered its most stirring couplet: Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma sab mitt gaye jahan se, ab tak magar hai baqi naam-o-nishan hamara, till Manmohan Singh recited it in his Punjabi lilt. Iqbal is to be read like Ambedkar is to be read: front to back, and carefully.

His great work is the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, and it is one of the world’s undiscovered classics. His understanding of east and west is majestic, perhaps unmatched in all India. And his defence of religion in the opening lecture is the best I have ever read, and would be an excellent response to recent books by the rationalists Dawkins and Hitchens.

Naipaul’s dismissal of Iqbal, though it is comprehensive, does not appear to have incorporated the reforming side to him. Muslims of course love the middle-period Iqbal of Shikwa and Bang-e-Dara and Javidnama but not the author of the Reconstruction lectures, or the young unifier of India, before he went to Europe.

I have spent many hours talking about Iqbal with my late friend Dr Rafique Zakaria, who said he had a book of Iqbal’s bawdy verse somewhere but could never find it. It is no surprise that the great scholar Annemarie Schimmel chose Iqbal as her muse in India. The man that Pakistan’s Muslims, and perhaps India’s, needed alive after 1947 was not Jinnah, who died in 1948, but Iqbal, who died in 1938....

Eat, drink and be merry: dieting's new philosophy - Amelia Hill

There is a new lifestyle ethos taking the most fashionable by storm. It is less of a diet, more of a magic cure-all. According to a range of A-list celebrities, this universal remedy promises to "break the bonds of diet despotism" while still enabling them to shed excess weight. In addition, this magic bullet is said to cure hangovers, kick-start lagging libidos and relieve premenstrual tension.

The regimen has been adopted by Sarah Jessica Parker, who is apparently particularly keen on nutritionist Esther Blum's advice to start the day with a vegetable omelette with strawberries. Sharon Stone has allegedly ditched her egg-white diet in favour of Blum's advice to fill up on egg yolks and butter. Even the famously thin Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher is considering Blum's dictate to eschew the fat-free life in favour of a full-fat diet, rich in saturated oils.

"We live in a low-fat, fat-free culture, and women in particular have done their bodies a disservice, because we have disrupted our hormones to a quite phenomenal degree," said Blum, author of Secrets of Gorgeous: Hundreds of Ways to Live Well While Living It Up. "We have got ourselves to a stage where we can't comprehend that we need good fats to live a healthy life. We need fat to regulate our hormones. We need cholesterol to make oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone

Slumdog Millionaire's Bollywood Ancestors by Amitava Kumar

Slumdog Millionaire has a pedigree. Its director, Danny Boyle, says there are at least three Bollywood films that inspired him directly. Those films were themselves influenced by a long family tree that stretches back to the last days of the nineteenth century.

Here, then, is a list of Slumdog’s ten most flamboyant and influential Bollywood ancestors:


Black Friday (2004). This film, by young director Anurag Kashyap depicts the March 1993 bomb blasts that tore apart Bombay (as Mumbai used to be called). It was based on a book by journalist S. Hussain Zaidi and filmed in an edgy, realistic style. A famous sequence from the film, a 12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum, is mimicked by Danny Boyle in the opening scene of Slumdog Millionaire, where truant slum-kids take the place of Black Friday’s militants.

Satya (1998) a.k.a The Truth. This film was also cited by Boyle as an inspiration, as was The Company (2002). Both offer slick, often mesmerizing portrayals of the Mumbai underworld. Both films were directed by Ram Gopal Varma, a director with a fine taste for brutality and urban violence. The screenplay for Satya was co-written by Saurabh Shukla (who plays a policeman named Srinivas in Slumdog Millionaire) and Anurag Kashyap, who directed Black Friday; with its intense rhythm and captivating performances, Satya instantly became a contemporary classic in India....

Gaza and Israel: Interview with Amira Hass

What motivated you to dedicate your life to this conflict and becoming the only Israeli journalist living in the territories?

Let me correct you, I'm not the only Israeli journalist, I'm the only Israeli Jew journalist. But it's not a decision, this conflict is our life. It's not by choice, it's there all the time. Also, before becoming a journalist I was very active in the Israeli left-wing and workers right advocacy groups. It has always been a part of my life.

Hass: Gaza is a big prison, and it has been so for the last 18 years.

Reading you and, for instance, Gideon Levy, and knowing Neve Gordon and Illan Pape, one might think that there's a lot of freedom of press in Israel. Surprisingly, I learned it's not like that at all. What's the problem with self-censorship in the Israeli press?

It's not that there is official censorship, it's just that there is an unwillingness of most Israelis to know. So, we have to fight, because nowadays it's more difficult because the papers used to understand their role in the past: to monitor the centers of power. The Israeli media did its role, and let journalists write about occupation. But now, because of changes in the press and political changes, the papers feel that they are not representatives of ideas and the idea of freedom of information, but that they represent the readers. And the readers are not interested, the average Israeli doesn't want to know about these things. You have to fight for everything that you publish, and there is much more space for leisure and "light" information, but nothing concerning the occupation. It's like writing in South Africa during the apartheid, but not about the apartheid.

I noticed a big indifference from Israelis to what happens in the territories. What could be done about it?

Look, people are interested when there are Palestinian attacks, but only interested in the form of "Oh, see how Palestinians attack us", but they don't pay attention to the permanent attack that is involved in occupation. This goes largely unnoticed. You know, this is not a question of journalism. Is a question of activism, a question for the world.

The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics Faisal Devji

The Terrorist in Search of Humanity is in many ways a sequel to Devji’s equally provocative 2005 book, Landscapes of the Jihad. In that work, rather than concentrating on the spectacular violence that has been the focus of most experts, Devji argues that al Qa’eda’s real achievement is to have created “a new kind of Muslim”, one whose attachments to the traditions and institutions of Islam are radically unlike those of his predecessors. The new militancy cannot be understood by inserting it into a now-familiar history of Islamic extremism (Wahhabism, Sayyid Qutb, the Taliban, etc.), because what is significant about the jihadis of today is their relation to the present, or even to the future. “Al Qa’eda’s importance in the long run,” Devji writes, “lies not in its pioneering a new form of networked militancy... but instead in its fragmentation of traditional structures of Muslim authority within new global landscapes.”


This do-it-yourself approach to Islam is, of course, anathema to religious authorities. Clerics, backed by their patrons in government, have an interest in monopolising the right to interpret and thereby to reinvent tradition. This right is acquired only after a long immersion in the texts. Devji argues that the jihadis, on the contrary, stress the individual’s ability to interpret the tradition on his own, whether or not he has received a conventional religious education (and most jihadis have not). There is a fascinating debate in militant circles, for instance, on the question of who has the right to declare jihad: can any duly invested cleric do so, or only those who have some practical knowledge of war? Is the source of religious authority the mastery of a canon, or the individual’s experience in the world? For Devji, the jihadis’ confidence in the individual believer’s competence “signals a democratisation of authority in the Muslim world.” Their emphasis on the individual’s ability to make sense of his faith, and to do so without appealing to any institutional authority, turns these “new Muslims” into the vanguard of an Islamic Reformation, a version of what Luther called “the universal priesthood.”

India: The Place of Sex By William Dalrymple

Yet, remarkably, Islamic rule did not disturb the long Indian tradition of erotic writing. The Kamasutra survived and in time even helped to convert to the life of pleasure India's initially puritanical Muslim rulers. Between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries many of the classics of Hindu writing on the erotic were translated into Persian for the use of the princes and princesses of Indian Muslim courts. At the same time there was an explosion of unrestrainedly sensual art and literary experimentation. This was the age of the great poet-courtesans: in Delhi, during the late eighteenth century, the courtesan Ad Begum would turn up stark naked at parties, but so cleverly painted that no one would notice:
She decorates her legs with beautiful drawings in the style of pyjamas instead of actually wearing them; in place of the cuffs she draws flowers in ink exactly as is found in the finest cloth of Rum.

At this period, too, a new specialist vocabulary of Urdu words and metaphors developed to express the poets' desires: the beloved's arms were likened to lotus stalks, her thighs to banana stems, her plaited hair to the Ganges, and her rumauli—a word that was coined to describe the faint line of down that runs down the center of a woman's stomach, just below her navel—to the River Godavari. In this spirit, the Lucknavi Muslim poet Shauq (1783–1871) wrote a series of masnawis—or rhymed couplets—on amorous subjects entitled Fareb-i-Ishq, or The Wiles of Love. At the same time Islamic weavers struggled to produce not the heavy burkhas now worn by their Wahhabi-influenced successors, but ever more transparent and revealing cholis, or blouses, with weaves of wondrous lightness named baft hawa (woven air), ab-e-rawan (running water), and shabnam (evening dew).

Inside Gaza Day 2: A Personal Account

Jan McGirk's Israelity Bites blog has been covering the attacks on Gaza through the eyes of a young woman living there. McGirk says the Palestinian woman, named Safa, has been able to get power for her computer and writes this on day 2:

My parents, siblings and cousins who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest. Hala, my 11 year old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13 year old cousin held on to me during the next 4 explosions, each one as violent and heart stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke .

No Easy Indian Response To Pakistan’s Troop Shift - Somini Sengupta

Though tensions have risen in the past few days, neither India’s governing coalition led by the Congress Party nor its habitually hawkish political opposition is advocating a military confrontation with Pakistan, the country’s neighbor and archrival.

Pakistan’s redeployment of troops late last week to its border with India, from its tribal areas in the northwest, raised fears. The troop movement came a month after the attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, which India says were orchestrated by Pakistan-based militants.

Fear of a conflict in South Asia is unlikely to pass quickly, as Pakistan has resisted a broad crackdown on the militants India says were behind the Mumbai assault.

But for India, many here say, the cost is too high, not just because both sides have nuclear arms. As an Indian official put it, “Almost anything against Pakistan would be messy."

US, UK give Pak ‘clinching’ proof

ISLAMABAD: The US and Britain have given Pakistan “clinching evidence” of the involvement of elements within the country in the Mumbai terror attacks and are dismayed by Islamabad’s pussyfooting.

Intercepts of satellite and mobile conversations between the attackers in Mumbai and the Pakistan-based elements guiding them were handed over to Islamabad by the two countries.

Western diplomats believe Islamabad has “not done enough” in terms of acting on the intelligence given to it and want those behind the November 26 strikes to be prosecuted in a transparent manner.

British and US investigators have amassed a large amount of technical and human intelligence that was also subsequently passed on to Pakistan, Western diplomatic sources said.

A political abyss By Tariq Amin-Khan

At another level, infantilism is on display. For instance, President Zardari readily acknowledged the role of non-state actors without considering that by asking India in the very same breath for the evidence of the involvement of these very non-state actors he was contradicting himself. A contradiction which raises issues of culpability that can be extremely damaging for the country, and as is wont to happen in Pakistan, a penchant to duck under pressure instead of facing it head-on.

In the same vein, the defence minister played the hapless victim in the face of the UN resolution that placed the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jamaatud Dawa on the list of terrorist organisations — declaring that had the government not acted against these groups “Pakistan itself would have been declared a terrorist state”. Such facile logic has more to do with being less than honest on what appears as the government’s complicity in the passage of the UN resolution.


I will identify steps needed to address key problems and issues facing the country:

• An urgent need to have an independent judiciary and to rescind Musharraf’s PCO.
• Compelling and meaningful steps to contain the militancy and sectarianism, but also persuading the international community to have India address the festering Kashmir issue.
• Drying up sources of foreign funds for religious groups.
• Addressing the unresolved national question and the issue of provincial autonomy.
• Universalising accessible free public education as a counterweight to the proliferating madressahs.
• Immediate steps to constructively address issues of poverty and accessible healthcare.
• Sixty years of clientelism to be replaced by a more principled position on the US-led long war or the ‘war on terror’.
• Creatively move towards an economic policy that includes the excluded majority so that there is a shift away from privatisation and other misguided neoliberal policies of the IMF.
• The ruling classes have to decide whether Pakistan will continue to straddle the two domains of feudalism and schizoid capitalist development or pursue more self-reliant economic and social development. Land reforms, however, will have to become part of policy.
• Overhauling the colonial legacies in the justice system, the bureaucracy and the military, and putting an end to the politics of patronage. If there is movement in this direction, then the problems of policing, corruption, speedy justice, democratic participation and governance will start to resolve themselves.

The foregoing is a tall order for sure, but if Pakistan is to remain a viable state these problems and issues will have to be addressed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel Says It's OK to Bomb and Kill People on the Sabbath as Long as You Don't Drive or Turn on Any Lights Scott Blakeman

Israeli authorities assured its people today that you can kill over 200 people and drop hundreds of bombs on the Sabbath, but warned against violating other Sabbath rules like driving a car or turning lights on in the house.

"You've got to draw the line somewhere," said Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense Minister. Barak cited an obscure, never before seen portion of the Torah that said, "Ye shall not work or operate machinery on the Sabbath, unless that machinery happens to be a fighter plane and your work involves dropping bombs on people."

Barak (no relation to Barack Obama who spells his name differently, and is a smart, compassionate human being), also announced that Israel would remove from Sabbath prayer books the line, "Seek peace and pursue it." Barak said the line was "dated", and really didn't work in the context of a heated political campaign. Barak, Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu are vying for the job of Prime Minister, and observers say the one who acts in the most stupid, immoral and ineffective way, has the best shot at winning the election.

M J Akbar: How a mouse in Pakistan became its Man of the Year

It is always useful to apply the Agatha Christie principle in any mystery: who gains from murder? Who gained from terrorism in Mumbai? There is only one winner: the Pakistan Army. The disgrace into which it had been dragged by Pervez Musharraf has been erased; it is wrapped once again in the blanket of confrontation with India. Zardari's amateur attempts at a peace deal with India are dead, a prelude perhaps to his own decline. He will no longer attempt to encroach into ISI space. Pakistan's generals are proving to be excellent tacticians. They have manoeuvered impressively through the terror-crisis to emerge with the local Taliban on one arm, and the Pentagon on the other.

Pervez Musharraf used to talk too much. General Ashfaq Kayani has been accused of talking too little. For philosophy he clearly turns to Clausewitz rather than Gandhi. But Pakistan's Mouse of the Year in January 2008 has emerged as its Man of the Year by December.

The View from Abroad: Palestinian Bloggers Spurred to Action Following Israeli Airstrikes

This piece was originally published on Global Voices Online.

Following the end of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, violence and tensions have escalated between Israel and Gaza. Today, Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza in what the AFP calls "one of the bloodiest days of the decades-long Middle East conflict." So far, the death toll in Gaza is at 210 and rising.

The Palestinian blogosphere, which is made of Palestinians and supporters around the world, is furious with what they perceive to be needless actions from Israel. No Justice No Peace...The Big Picture, an honorary member of the Palestinian blogosphere, spoke out:

200 dead, 750 wounded, and for what? For Qassam rockets which have killed <>All in the name of "self-defense". Please. This is immoral offense, and indiscriminate killing, and, by god, if you hold elections and call it a democratic process then deal with the results in a civilized manner, but not quarantining Gaza, withholding funds, petrol, electricity, medical supplies, humanitarian ships, ad UN mandated observers from entering Gaza and then wonder why home-made rockets are being fired (with no sophisticated guidance chips or any chance of doing massive damage).

Return of the storytellers

By any reckoning, 2008 was a poor year for fiction and an exceedingly good one for non-fiction. Few really exceptional novels were published (a fact illustrated by the drabness of the Booker shortlist), whereas some outstanding non-fiction titles appeared. Moreover, it was non-fiction that did the better job of getting people talking. We know all about "outliers" and "nudges", about Cherie Blair's hairdresser and Dylan Jones's boycrush on David Cameron. By contrast, practically the only work of fiction to generate any chatter was Sebastian Faulks's Devil May Care

This pattern, it is safe to say, is not going to repeat itself next year. In 2009, it won't be works of non-fiction, but novels that command the majority of attention. This is because an unusual number of high-profile (and therefore newsworthy) novelists publish new books - and lots of those books are going to be unusually interesting.

Gaza massacres must spur us to action Ali Abunimah

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine ( provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The million dollar question that still remains unanswered By Amir Mir

I expected better from Amir Mir in this excerpt from his forthcoming book, but found this full of cliches and recycled theories and innuendos - the most outlandish one here is that Scotland Yard is somehow compromised when its findings backed the government version ~~t

However, almost a year after Bhutto’s assassination, it appears that her murder case has been thrown into cold storage by none other than her own party’s government. President Zardari, who had stated soon after the murder that "She talks about her murderers from her grave," is now reluctant to order a fresh investigation by the local agencies and keeps insisting on an UN-sponsored probe. Therefore, it seems that like all infamous murder cases, the mastermind of the Bhutto murder will also remain a shadowy figure on whose role people will only speculate about in whispers.

Excerpted from Amir Mir’s newly published book "The Fluttering Flag of Jehad" published by Mashal Books

1,001 flights of fancy

These magnificent volumes are the most ambitious and thorough translation
into English of the Arabian Nights since the age of Queen Victoria and the British empire.

  1. The Arabian Nights: Tales Of 1,001 Nights
  2. Translated by Malcolm C Lyons with Ursula Lyons
  3. Penguin Classics

The translations from Arabic by Malcolm Lyons, a former professor of Arabic at Cambridge, are clear and idiomatic and neither prudish nor sleazy. His wife, Ursula Lyons, as well as helping with the Arabic, translates from 18th-century French three of the most famous stories, "Aladdin", "Ali Baba and the 40 thieves killed by a slave girl" and a Sindbad voyage, for which no old Arabic text survives. Robert Irwin, a great devotee of the Nights, has supplied an introduction to each volume on the character of the stories, their transmission over the generations, and their influence on modern European and eastern literature. It would make as fine a Christmas present as any Christian could want.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Khalid Hasan on Pakistani NeoCons

Veteran journalist Khalid Hasan calls Shireen Mazari and Ahmad Quraishi Pakistani neocons.

One cybercon who answers to the name Ahmed Quraishi writes on December 24, “We have a government with shady characters in key places, strongly backed by the Bush administration, acting and behaving as if they were representing a US occupation government in Pakistan.” Under “recommendation”, he proposes, “We need to start a witch-hunt in Pakistan to cleanse our academia and public life of such self-haters and defeatists who poison the minds of young Pakistanis about their homeland. Such academics and human rights activists should not be allowed to hide behind the freedom of expression.” The two “traitors” he refers to are Pervaiz Hoodbhoy and Asma Jehangir.

The other one he singles out is Shireen Mazari:

It is pointless to inform her that the envoys’ conference had been scheduled for some time and was not summoned because of Mumbai. Mazari also wrote that “in the Mumbai aftermath, we chose to prevent our allies from rallying around us in the UN Security Council.”

Ann Coulter, I should explain, is a neocon American figure who urged the bombing of Mecca and who wrote, “Liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America’s self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant.”

Baithak will wait with eager anticipation when Khalid Hasan would come out and declare ambassador Hussain Haqqani our NeoCon in DC.

Khalid Hasan on Pakistani NeoCons

Slow News Day? Israel Fills In - Jamal Dajani

Jerusalem- News quickly spread to the Old City of Jerusalem just minutes after Israeli F-16 bombers launched a series of air strikes on the Gaza Strip, killing and injuring dozens of people. According to Ramatan News Service operating from Gaza more than 155 people were killed and scores of others were injured when Israeli missiles destroyed security compounds run by Hamas in the center of Gaza City. Hamas quickly vowed to carry out revenge attacks on Israel in response to the air strikes.

Moments before the news of the strike hit Jerusalem, the Old City was bustling with Christian pilgrims who came to the Holy Land to celebrate Christmas. Around 1 PM, shopkeepers in the Old City of Jerusalem began closing their storefronts to protest what many Palestinians call "a massacre in Gaza," leaving many foreign tourists bewildered and confused. Many passersby gathered in front of a gift shop a few feet away from the historic Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief) watching the Al Jazeera Channel, which was broadcasting live images of the aftermath of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza.

The last strike —Rafia Zakaria

The territorial objectives of survival and maintaining sovereignty are cited as the unchallengeable imperatives that make the use of nuclear capability a necessity. Yet when one looks at the pictures and objects that remain testimonies of the terror unleashed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one cannot help but wonder whether even these imperatives are worth the near indescribable levels of human suffering that were unleashed in August 1945.

Does being Indian or Pakistani brand human beings with a history of hatred that cannot be transcended even when it is witness to the legacy of such suffering? The answer in these dismal days is unknown, and this uncertainty points to the necessity of unearthing the human beneath the Indian and the Pakistani. More Here

Last order - Nick Laird

Any poem that takes nature as its locus must also be conscious, even in refusing, of being a hymn to it in its sickness. Since no poem can be written about nature in ignorance of its dereliction, nature poetry has become eco-poetry. We possess a new fact, new by its indisputability: nature does not belong to man, but man belongs to nature. This poetry doesn't necessarily mean a poem needs to be a rant against chainsaws - though why not? - but rather that it manages to connect the hidden interior of humans with their outer mapped world.

In the 1920s, Wallace Stevens could write, in "Anecdote of a Jar":

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill,
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild . . .

50 Things We Know Now (We Didn't Know This Time Last Year): 2008 Edition

Well, well, well. Wasn't 2008 a newsy little year?

Believe it or not, stuff happened that had nothing to do with the presidential election, gas prices or Michael Phelps. Not that you'd have an easy time sifting through all the media debris to find the information that actually meant something.

With so many distractions, you probably didn't hear that using Facebook makes you a better employee, or that drinking wine can help you avoid lung cancer, or that doing tai chi makes life easier for asthmatics. (Unless you do it in a public park wearing something approximating pajamas, of course. Then you just look silly.)

For those and other warm, delicious infomuffins, we humbly present our list of stuff you know this year that you didn't know this time last year. Feel free to unleash these at your New Year's Eve party:

1. Dogs appear to experience jealousy and pride. Previously, only humans and chimpanzees were thought to suffer those emotions.

Read About It...

Pinter in verse: a selection of his poetry

Though his reputation was built on his work as a playwright, towards the end of his life, Harold Pinter turned again and again to poetry - a cleaner, clearer medium through which to express his growing political outrage.

While his output was not held in universal regard within the poetry community (Don Paterson famously dismissed his "big sweary outburst[s] about how crap the war in Iraq is" in his 2004 TS Eliot lecture, with a withering "anyone can do that"), he was nevertheless awarded the Wilfred Owen award for poetry, bestowed biennially on a writer seen as continuing Owen's tradition, for his 2003 pamphlet, WAR. Michael Grayer, chairman of the Wilfred Owen Association, described his poems as "hard-hitting and uncompromising, written with lucidity, clarity and economy".

Several of Pinter's poems first appeared in the Guardian. Read a selection, dating back to 1995, below.

Poem (17 January, 1995)

Don't look.
The world's about to break.
Don't look.
The world's about to chuck out all its light
And stuff us in the chokepit of its dark,
That black and fat and suffocated place
Where we will kill or die or dance or weep
Or scream or whine or squeak like mice
To renegotiate our starting price.

Cricket at Night (3 June, 1995)

They are still playing cricket at night
They are playing the game in the dark
They're on guard for a backlash of light
They are losing the ball at long leg
They are trying to learn how the dark
Helps the yorker knock back the off-peg
They are trying to find a new trick
Where the ball moves to darkness from light
They're determined to paint the scene black
But a blackness compounded by white
They are dying to pass a new law
Where blindness is deemed to be sight
They are still playing cricket at night

Order (12 September, 1996)

Are you ready to order?
No there is nothing to order
No I'm unable to order
No I'm a long way from order
And while there is everything,
And nothing, to order,
Order remains a tall order
And disorder feeds on the belly of order
And order requires the blood of disorder
And 'freedom' and ordure and other disordures
Need the odour of order to sweeten their murders
Disorder a beggar in a darkened room
Order a banker in a castiron womb
Disorder an infant in a frozen home
Order a soldier in a poisoned tomb

Brinksmanship in South Asia: A Dangerous Scenario

Here are some serious words from Shuja Nawaz who also lends an ear to Centcom. Hope cooler head previal ~~t

There cannot be a limited war in the subcontinent, given the imbalance of forces between India and Pakistan. Any Indian attack across the border into Pakistan will likely be met with a full scale response from Pakistan. What makes the current situation especially dangerous is that both are now nuclear weapon states with anywhere up to150 nuclear bombs in their arsenal. If India and Pakistan go to war, the world will lose. Big time.

It was in India’s own interest to strengthen the ability of the fledgling civilian government of Pakistan to move against the militancy within the country. But it seems to have opted for any threats to attack Pakistan, threats that, if followed up by actions, may well derail the process of civilianization and democratization in that country.

India must recognize the constraints under which Pakistan operates. It cannot fight on two fronts. And it lacks the geographic depth to take the risk of leaving its eastern borders undefended at a time when India has been practicing its emerging Cold Start strategy in the border opposite Kasur. Under this strategy, up to four Integrated Battle Groups could move rapidly across the border and occupy a strategic chunk of Pakistani territory up to the outskirts of Lahore in a “limited war”.


The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) conducted an analysis of the consequences of nuclear war in South Asia a year before the last stand-off in 2002. Under two scenarios, one (with a Princeton University team) studied the results of five air bursts over each country’s major cities and the other (done by the NRDC alone) with 24 ground explosions. The results were horrifying to say the least: 2.8 million dead, 1.5 million seriously injured, and 3.4 million slightly injured in the first case. Under the second scenario involving an Indian nuclear attack on eight major Pakistani cities and Pakistan’s attack on seven major Indian cities:

NRDC calculated that 22.1 million people in India and Pakistan would be exposed to lethal radiation doses of 600 rem or more in the first two days after the attack. Another 8 million people would receive a radiation dose of 100 to 600 rem, causing severe radiation sickness and potentially death, especially for the very young, old or infirm. NRDC calculates that as many as 30 million people would be threatened by the fallout from the attack, roughly divided between the two countries.

Besides fallout, blast and fire would cause substantial destruction within roughly a mile-and-a-half of the bomb craters. NRDC estimates that 8.1 million people live within this radius of destruction.

Sodomy Laws Are Rooted in British Colonialism By Nergui Manalsuren

Although 66 countries signed a statement at the United Nations on Dec. 19 affirming that human rights protections extend to sexual orientation and gender identity, activists note that dozens of nations still criminalize homosexuality and seven impose the death penalty.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says that the oppressive legacy of British colonialism is at the heart of many of these laws that penalize consensual sexual activity among adults of the same sex.

According to a report titled "This Alien Legacy", launched last week, more than half of the world's remaining "sodomy laws" derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860.

The law, known as Section 377 under the Indian penal code, was designed to set standards of behavior, both to "reform" the colonized and to protect the colonizers against "moral lapses".

It was the first colonial "sodomy law" integrated into a penal code, and it became a model for countries across Asia, the Pacific Islands and Africa -- almost everywhere the British imperial flag flew

CIA warns of nuclear war in subcontinent Amir Mir / DNA

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has warned the Bush administration of a possible nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan could spill over into Jammu & Kashmir, prompting Indian leaders to take aggressive and retaliatory action, according to the CIA.

In assessing the security situation in the region, a CIA report observed: "Continued turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan will spill over into Kashmir and other areas of the subcontinent, prompting Indian leaders to take more aggressive pre-emptive and retaliatory actions.

"India's conventional military advantage over Pakistan will widen as a result of New Delhi's superior economic position… Changing military capabilities will be prominent among the factors that determine the risk of war."

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Intersection of Poetry and Politics

Frost was the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration, and there have been only two others in the almost five decades since: Maya Angelou, at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, and Miller Williams, at Mr. Clinton’s second, in 1997. (Some would include, with an asterisk, James Dickey, who composed a poem that he read at Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala but not at the inauguration itself.) Now America is about to meet its fourth inaugural poet, a 46-year-old Yale professor named Elizabeth Alexander.

“To have great poetry there must be great audiences, too,” Walt Whitman said. He was talking about the quality of a poet’s readers. But there is little doubt, given the intense global interest in President-elect Barack Obama, that Ms. Alexander’s verse will be broadcast to more people at one time than any poem ever composed. This may not be American poetry’s Academy Award moment. But it is, for Ms. Alexander, an outsize platform.

What the world will hear at Mr. Obama’s inauguration is the work of a woman whose verse makes a sharply different kind of music from that of any of the inaugural poets who have preceded her. The principal obsessions in her four books of verse — race and history, love and family — are played out in poems that can buzz with an electric and angular ellipticity, as in “Emancipation,” printed here in its entirety:

Corncob constellation,
oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.
Gris gris in the rafters.
Hoodoo in the sleeping nook.
Mojo in Linda Brent’s crawlspace.
Nineteenth century corncob cosmogram
set on the dirt floor, beneath the slant roof,
left intact the afternoon
that someone came and told those slaves
“We’re free.”

Your request is being processed... Five-Year Intelligence Assessment: Terror Threat Driven By Instability In Middle East, Africa

The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political "turmoil," the assessment said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains "the highest priority at the federal level." Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. "The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things," he said.

Marked "for official use only," the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.

Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems....

Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter dies at 78

LONDON (AP) -- British Nobel laureate Harold Pinter - who produced some of his generation's most influential dramas and later became a staunch critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq - has died, his widow said Thursday. He was 78.

Pinter died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, according to his second wife Antonia Fraser.

In recent years he had seized the platform offered by his 2005 Nobel Literature prize to denounce President George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the war in Iraq.

But he was best known for exposing the complexities of the emotional battlefield.

His writing featured cool, menacing pauses in dialogue that reflected his characters' deep emotional struggles and spawned a new adjective found in several dictionaries: "Pinter-esque."

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."

No bread in Gaza Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine

Yesterday, after I finished my lecture at one of Gaza's universities, my wife asked me to bring some bread from Gaza City. All bakeries in our area have stopped operating because of the lack of flour and cooking gas due to Israel's 18-month siege of the territory.

I drove throughout Gaza City to try to find some bread for my four children, instead finding a miserable scene. On the drive back to my home in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, I saw dozens of people lining up in rows to get bread from al-Yazji Bakery. I quickly realized that it would take one or two hours until it would be my turn in line, by which time I might not find bread at all. So I continued my drive back to Maghazi, without bread....

The Nobel Prize speech: 'The truth is elusive, but the search is compulsive' Pinter

In 1958 I wrote the following: "There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.


The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the "international community". This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be "the leader of the free world".