Blog Archive

Blog Archive – January, 2013

Ramsey Clark’s 85th Birthday: A Celebration I Wouldn’t Have Missed

January 26, 2013

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The banquet opened with a robust invocation-- a song for the recovery of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez—sung appropriately in Persian by Iranian vocalist Hussain Ajhabeizadeh who accompanied himself on a guitar… no less. Surely this couldn’t have happened in the USA? But it did. New York was indeed the venue of this extraordinary evening, one celebrating the 85th birthday of an extraordinary person, Ramsey Clark.

“Whereas today most Americans do not know the name Ramsey Clark, across the world millions do—wherever people are fighting for justice”, noted the party’s host. She wasn’t speaking of ‘convenient’ justice for ‘selected’ victims as defined by US policy makers, their UN lackeys and a compliant media. we knew she referred to a justice for nations, a justice for truth and parity.

What endears Ramsey Clark to people worldwide is his insistence on a universal justice that respects national integrity and independence, that rejects demonization and marginalization of people who refuse to bow to American demands and accept roles the West assigns them. Nicaragua, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela, Palestine are among nations Ramsey Clark focused his attention over the past half century. Also individuals in US jails: the Cuban Five, Lynne Stewart, Mumia AbuJamal, Leonard Peltier, Aafia Siddiqui, Jamal AlAmin. Few in this country know their names, locked away for decades, imprisoned far from their families. Ramsey’s unremitting role in their struggle is documented by the organization he founded, the International Action Center, celebrating its 20th anniversary this night too.

Attorney Clark and IAC go where even journalists won’t dare. They go there long before professional humanitarians will acknowledge suffering generated by western governments themselves. They go as witnesses to truth. Fortunately for us, IAC is not only dedicated but diligent and productive. Perhaps more important than succor, IAC has assembled a unmatched body of video and written testimony documenting, for example, the years of sanctions against Iraq, the US invasion of Panama, NATO’s Balkan war. Along with the record of Clark’s International War Crimes Tribunals, you can find these on IAC’s rich web site too. And for those curious about Clark’s exceptional career as a lawyer in the US Justice Department, the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, find that online too: www.iacenter.org/gala)

As for the celebratory evening, it was not only affirming but great fun too-- something all activists need from time to time. Nothing wrong with celebrating ourselves, especially behind a figure like Ramsey.

[ Ramsey Clark’s 85th Birthday: A Celebration I Wouldn’t Have Missed ]

Cycling, doping, and interviewing. The Armstrong affair

January 20, 2013

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

If anyone came out of that widely viewed TV program looking good, it is host Oprah Winfrey. She was well-prepared, blunt, persistent, human and humane. Her guest, the now notorious Lance Armstrong, was by contrast wooden, unconvincing, inarticulate and, I felt, shallow… despite his confessions and emotion.

Although I myself bicycle, I was never impressed by the competitive nature of cycling. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to tune in. I actually phoned neighbors so I could watch last night’s Winfrey TV interview with Armstrong.

Why? ‘Though I’d not viewed the champion American cyclist in action, I know Armstrong’s helmeted face from magazine and news articles. Like many of you I read about the doping scandal, Armstrong’s unrelenting denials and the report by the anti-doping agency. Oddly, I found that I had no opinion about whether he doped or if he lied. Not because I didn’t care. But because I’ve become inured to the widespread use of chemicals --to enhance performance, whether in sex, strength, endurance, longevity, beauty— among the famous and the wannabes. It is part of our culture, not only American, but universal. 

No; I tuned in to watch how both host and guest would handle the issue. I wanted to see the masterful TV host Oprah at work with this guy, to witness her empathy and discipline tackling a highly complex issue. How was she going to draw out Armstrong and move him beyond just telling the truth, beyond facts, and into deeper moral issues? A tricky business, notwithstanding legal constraints from lawsuits underway in the case. Oprah did well, and Armstrong confessed. But he was simply unable to explore at a meaningful level, issues of greater significance to us: the power of success, motive, trust, treachery, dishonor. An airing of these questions would have  helped us understand what makes champions, what corrupts power, what feeds the cult of celebrity that drives our society. He could have helped parents and especially our children, intoxicated by celebrity, understand how we are so enchanted by ‘idols’. Surely the level of idolatry associated with sports today is connected with the toxic indulgences of so many celebrities. (Would Barbara Walters have extracted more from Armstrong? I doubt it.)

[ Cycling, doping, and interviewing. The Armstrong affair ]


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