Blog Archive – June, 2016
- June 23, 2016
In 1990, it was a Kuwaiti woman testifying how marauding Iraqi troops charged into a Kuwaiti hospital and tore babies from their incubators. In 2001, it was videos of an Afghan woman tied to a pole, stoned to death before a cheering crowd http://www.rawa.org/stoning.htm. (These practices continue despite that nation’s ‘liberation’ by the US and allies).Today, we have a Yazidi sex slave testifying to the American Congress how she was brutalized by her ISIS captors. She pleads: “The US must act”.
The 1990 Kuwait “incubator story”, later exposed as a fabrication, was presented by the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador, part of a major PR campaign by Kuwait and USA. It helped sell the Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm that introduced American troops into Arab Gulf States (they’re still there) to occupy Kuwait and repel the Iraqis, driving them out with brutal, inhuman means that elsewhere would be designated as war crimes. In 2001, images of the Taliban as heartless beasts were spread with the help of western women in their newfound compassion for downtrodden Afghan sisters. (Never mind how Afghan women fared during the Russian occupation, and earlier.) If any liberal anti-war citizens of western democracies had doubts about a military invasion of Afghanistan, they were won over by that widely distributed image of the blue-shrouded female corpse in the execution stadium.
In 2003, unable to locate downtrodden Iraqi women, or desperate Libyan women in 2011, our human rights-driven military planners found other means (Weapons of Mass Destruction and Responsibility to Protect) to destroy those nations.
Things have been somewhat delayed about how western democracies should take Syria and reinvade Iraq. After the Syrian leadership, ISIS is the stated target. For the time being voices of caution prevail-- those aware of the economic costs and the tens of thousands of dead and maimed US military personnel. But the war heroes (“hawks”) in the US legislature and the military establishment are endeavoring to devise a ruse to justify invasion. Enter the Yazidi people—both minority and non-Muslim--with ready women victims. The testimony last week by a Yazidi woman sex slave is the latest in this inexorable campaign. Forget about any Shi’ia widow or orphan, any lost boys and uneducated Sunni girls; forget about poverty and separated families or the rise in heart attacks and PTSD lived every day by millions of Syrians, Afghanis and Iraqis; ignore highly educated women and men working as servants in exile or those millions of parents forced to send their children abroad. Those stories have become humdrum “horrific tales of refugees”. We need a dramatic woman victim.
Yazidi women are not only impoverished and homeless; they are sex slaves too! Somehow these women were able to escape their captors to bring us firsthand accounts. Our media launched its Yazidi campaign last September offering a sequence of unarguable testimonials. The culprit is not war, not occupation, not militarization, not a crushed, dysfunctional state’s inability to provide. It is ISIS!
Somehow these select victims find human rights organizations to introduce them to CNN’s Amanpour; one “brave victim” provides details of the rapes and how, for example, her ISIS brutalizer prayed before and after his assaults on her. Most recently human rights agents brought a woman we know as “Bazi” before a US congressional committee. “The US must act”, this former sex slave tells Congress. She calls “on the USA and other countries to establish a safe zone for Iraqi and Syrian religious minorities…or they’ll be wiped out.”
No one asks about the chaotic outcome of the “responsibility to protect--R2P” rationale for the invasion of Libya, or about how women and men survive there today. In Afghanistan, we hear from the occasional women community leader. But what about the general population of Afghan women, still closeted, still shrouded, probably poorer than ever, subject to drone strikes that kill their children, their uncles and fathers on the only happy occasions, weddings, in their more severely circumscribed lives?
John Pilger is a tireless critic of biased journalism and the supporting role of media in war policies and. He would also agree that human rights organizations work with media to carry out the west’s war agenda, and the exploitation of women are a handy pawn in these assaults. END[ Women as Pawns in the Political War Game ]
- June 18, 2016
I was crossing the airstrip to a small aircraft that would take me to Nepal’s interior. We had left the disarray of the departure hall in Kathmandu airport with its melee of early morning hopefuls anxious to escape the polluted city and fly to a trailhead in search of fresh mountain streams and clean air. Planes are in short supply here and cancellations of domestic flights are common. Although those waiting foreigners seemed remarkably patient with the delays, perhaps attributing the disorder to high altitude. Politics wouldn’t figure into any charming anecdote sent from their holidays in the Himalayas. Neither was I thinking about Nepal’s political troubles at that moment. Not until my colleague directed my attention to a medium sized plane parked on the edge of the tarmac.
“That Turbo Prop M16 is Chinese-made; it was bought by Nepal. Another of the same model, a gift, is expected: two-for-the-price-of-one, you can say.” Nepal could use more aircraft, with not infrequent crashes and regular over-bookings on domestic flights. As for the undelivered Chinese turbo prop, “It’s being held up”, my companion replied. He exhibited the lighthearted cynicism that Nepalese now apply to all public announcements, especially when officials are involved.
I recalled seeing a recent front page article where a minister announced that irregularities in the registration of a Chinese aircraft would delay its arrival. “Too much aid from China is not welcome.” Was this another case of India blocking Nepal’s economic exchanges with China?
“Maybe. Or maybe Boeing, American. Or Airbus. Europeans and Americans may be unhappy with China’s overtures in Nepal. India too; Delhi influences everything that happens here.”
India and Nepal are bound together in a myriad of ways with India being the overwhelmingly dominant partner. Nepalese were painfully reminded of this when India supported a severe and sustained economic blockade on its land-locked northern neighbor. With Nepal’s dependence on India for heating fuel and petrol for transport— two of many essential commodities ranging from paper and wood to rice and fruit, also manufactured items and packaged/processed food and beverages—life across much of Nepal came to a halt. It was the heating gas and transport fuel embargo that caused unprecedented hardships in population centers, especially the capital. It left people embittered and reassessing their relation with India.
The boycott was launched by the Mahdesi people unhappy at what they considered marginalization, when last July, after years of delays, Nepal’s new constitution was signed. Mahdesi-Nepalese, inhabiting a wide belt of land along their shared border, maintain close ties with India. They decided to utilize this strategic position to express their discontent with the constitution and press for better representation; thus the blockade of goods (from India) entering Nepal through their region.
That internal Nepal crisis took on greater significance when the Indian government was seen as reinforcing Mahdesi demands. Indeed India instructed Nepal to amend its constitution in line with Mahdesi requests. Nepal’s leaders were neither able to secure India’s co-operation nor to negotiate a solution with the steadfast Mahdesi.
As the blockade wore on (lasting for seven months, including winter, although it began to ease somewhat earlier) Nepalese began to seek an alternative. Not easy, since its northern border cuts through the almost impenetrable Himalayan mountain range. Tibet to the north is vast and undeveloped but is nevertheless Nepal’s best access to China. It would be years before a viable route through there could bring essentials like fuel on the scale needed. Although during the blockade China began sending limited supplies to its stricken neighbor.
Even with the end of the blockade, anti-Indian sentiment in Nepal remains high. Over many decades observing Nepal at close hand, I’d not seen Nepalese so angry and disappointed with their neighbor, a place where many of them have studied and where they seek medical treatment, with a culture close to their own, the source of their evening television entertainment. Those millions of children who experienced hardships created by the blockade may well remember that injury for years to come.
Enter China: ties between it and Nepal have moved far beyond a few specialized items produced in Tibet. Today Chinese travelers are a common sight in the capital and on trekking trails. Chinese retailers operate shops in the tourist quarter of Thamel, selling curios and garments and managing hotels and restaurants. Chinese-made household items, electrical goods (in competition with Indian manufactured goods) are for sale across Nepal. China also provides significant development aid to Nepal. An indication of envisioned future growth is the offering of classes in Mandarin at least one major Kathmandu language institute.
When the earthquake struck Nepal last year, China was seen through a new and favorable prism as it competed with India to provide disaster relief. Both neighbors rushed to Nepal’s assistance and they’ve matched each other in terms of pledges for reconstruction. On the ground at that critical time, I myself witnessed the efficiency with which Chinese aid workers operated; one heard frequent complimentary remarks by recipients of that assistance. Urgent supplies arrived from China by air while Chinese bulldozers opened the blocked roads along the quake-damaged Tibet-Nepal route. Contrasting with praise of Chinese relief efforts were complaints about India. (Rumors circulated that India’s military charged into Nepal when the quake struck without Nepal’s approval, also that Indian media exaggerated India’s relief contributions. Although it is acknowledged that huge quantities of needed supplies arrived from India, and India facilitated overland shipments sent from other parts of Asia.)
The Madhesi embargo was started before earthquake relief ended and long before collapsed homes and schools could be rebuilt, also just as winter was approaching. In Nepal’s desperate search for fuel at that time, China came to the fore. It would not be a simple solution since the quantities needed could only be provided by road through Tibet and across Himalayan passes. Supplies might be insufficient but the concept of expanding routes from the north was pursued. (By October, at the height of the blockade Nepal and China signed two treaties, one on trade and a second on fuel supplies). A viable rail link or a pipeline into Nepal from the north seems implausible; in the recent crisis the China option was of limited benefit.
Yet China’s reputation in infrastructure engineering is legend; having achieved a rail route across China into Tibet, an extension through the Himalayas, however fantastic, is possible. Indeed a month ago, China dispatched what appears to be a symbolic train delivery to Nepal. The international shipment departed from Lanzhou westward covering 2,431 kilometers of rail up to Shigatse (Tibet); the next 564 kilometers are by road from Shigatse to Kyirong (on Nepal’s border) with the final 160 of highway ending in Kathmandu. Accompanying this news there’s talk of a tunnel from China into Nepal right through the Himalayan range. Given what Chinese engineers have accomplished elsewhere, such a venture is not unattainable.
What eventually happens depends more on Nepali politics, and China and India’s determination not to jeopardize their own growing co-operation. Internally Nepal’s leadership is weak and unstable, subject to factionalism and corruption. Leaders from across the political spectrum lack negotiating power, political support, or any vision to follow through with a substantive long-term Chinese policy. On its side, it’s doubtful if China would jeopardize a stable relationship with India to change the status quo in Nepal. Meanwhile India and Nepal are reportedly finalizing plans for an oil pipeline from the south. END
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/17/china-or-india-does-nepal-have-a-realistic-choice/[ India or China: Has Nepal A Realistic Choice? ]
- June 13, 2016
Muhammad Ali Revisited? Yesterday, We Primed Ourselves to Proudly Declare Who We Are. Today, Is This Agenda A Judicious One? By Barbara Nimri Aziz
Attorney Hassen Abdellah, my colleague and erstwhile radio co-host had just returned from the jenazah service for Muhammad Ali in Louisville. Abdellah and I plan an hour-long radio special this Wednesday at 7pm on a local radio station . It would be an opportunity to share Hassen’s testimony, to talk about sports and social activism, and to dialogue with listeners about the great, departed Muhammad Ali.
The full impact of Sunday’s mass shooting at an LGBT club in Florida has not yet hit America’s public consciousness; be assured however, it will soon be taken over by the monster anti-Muslim anti-immigrant machine here. That horrible and saddening event in Orlando will surely feed Donald Trump’s alarmism and his campaign against Muslims. It will provoke even the most tolerant and patient to reassess their positions.
Before Wednesday evening, our WJFF station director may cancel the planned program. If not, how can we proceed with our celebration of Muhammad Ali in what will doubtless be a volatile atmosphere when the media begin their attacks? I am unsure how we can handle it.
Most troubling is how this kind of disruption, interruption and diversion from our essential activist and educational agenda occurs with awful regularity month after month for decades. Whether a dictator’s dangerous whims, or a raging Zionist campaign, The Hague tribunal’s pursuit of selected war criminals, a careless remark by an inarticulate member of our community or by a Muslim head-of-state, a lop-sided TV debate with a media-illiterate Arab spokesman, a PLO miscalculation, a school textbook with too much truth about Palestinian history, humdrum statements by our talented writers decrying violence and reminding the public what we are not --always what we are not-- never getting to what we are; daily bombings in our homelands, young talented journalists assigned to cover war and suffering rather than education, architecture or literature, relentless accounts of hardships endured by any Muslim woman, kidnapped schoolgirls, flogged journalists.
It’s so hard to maintain our noble agenda— to follow the sisters’ proud declarations at last week's beautiful memorial: “I Am Muhammad Ali”.
Stay tuned Wednesday evening (www.wjffradio.org). Pray that Allah awards us the patience and journalistic prowess we so need moving forward.
Meanwhile consider setting aside a few hours to view the 2 hour, 15 minute procession of Ali’s final journey through his hometown in Kentucky and the full 3 hour memorial service (now distributed –co-opted, as always--by NYT but originally filmed, I believe, by Fox10 TV Phoenix, Arizona). Then decide for yourself what Muhammad Ali signifies and can still give meaning to.
Muhammad Ali Revisit? Yesterday, We Primed Ourselves to Proudly Declare Who We Are. Today, Is This A
- June 06, 2016
When someone famous or very wealthy dies, individuals rush to the fore with anecdotes about when their personal encounters with him or her, all to demonstrate perhaps that they too may have had a role in his/her greatness. So my first reaction to some of the fatuous statements in today’s media, reported by (mainly) men who had met Muhammad Ali, was impatience. They’re opportunists, I thought. Theirs is another testimony to record the passing of a special person yet by someone who had no role in his greatness, they are insignificant. Yet, as one of those insignificants, I now find myself wanting to give testimony, even from my distant perch.
Praise to this man who graced the earth and offered such beauty and truth to so many of us, in so many places in so many lives and across the planet.
He proffered so, so much--athletic excellence, grace and humor, pride and courage, political sophistication, teaching by example and by his prowess in boxing, his gentle, determined assertion of his beliefs and his principles.
I would like to think that Muhammad Ali’s embrace of Islam contributed to the excellence of his accomplishments. Certainly he felt so. He said so. His Black Nationalist statements and beliefs were eventually underpinned by his identity as a Muslim and his assertion of his values as a Muslim, this against widespread opposition and resistance from others. (Although there may be many today who’d deny this.)
Muhammad Ali’s pride in his Muslim name, his rejection of his ‘slave name’, his public worship as a Muslim, his defense of his Muslim beliefs were all part of his growth and his truth. Certainly he learned from Black Muslims like Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X, but that was still a time in American history when religious enlightenment of this kind was hardly recognized. For such a public figure, a hero to so many especially outside the US, and as an undisputed champion in a highly competitive sport, to publically and with such exaltation, embrace Islam was part of Muhammad’s revolutionary power.
Then, in what might be called the second phase of his life, his illness with Parkinson's disease, surely his faith fortified his willingness and ability to continue to work as a public figure, to harvest charity for others and remain a living source of joy for those who might meet him and touch him. Few public figures who endure a handicap on that scale can continue to give so much to others.
No one would dispute that Ali is in a class unto himself. There is-- there was-- no other like Muhammad Ali. Today his passing into the realm of Allah has given us another chance to remember some of what he accomplished, to listen to his words, to watch videos of him in action, to learn more about his achievements and to better comprehend what a gift he is.
I became aware of Muhammad Ali only with my emerging political consciousness late in my life. Not living in the USA during the 1960s, my gaze was never directed to this controversial, flashy youth when he first won accolades as a sports champion, not even during his Viet Nam anti-war declarations, nor following that when he was banished from the sport and publicly vilified. Finally however, in 1997 I was introduced to a newly released documentary film “When We Were Kings” (http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/06/05/when_we_were_kings_captures_muhammad_ali_in_his_prime.html) that recorded the 1974 boxing match in Zaire, Africa. Apart from Ali’s boxing talent, there was plenty in that film that demonstrated to me the exceptional character, brilliance and pride of this young man. I was smitten.
Thus began my drive to learn more about Muhammad Ali. Repeatedly I was rewarded with joyous, funny wisdom, winsome images and sounds and declarations that firmly remain in my memory and my heart. I nourish a quiet admiration and inspiration from all that I’ve learned about Muhammad.
How could such an irrepressible brave and spirited ‘pretty’ soul emerge out of a country I had become ashamed of, this ruthless warring nation, a country that seems mired in self deceit, committed to its imperialism, a nation that harbors such divisiveness and inequality? Could this ugly ‘America’ take credit for the beautiful spirit in Muhammad Ali? Could this Muhammad have emerged in any other oppressive, apartheid nation? Could a rough and sometimes brutal sport have nourished such grace and joy? Could Muslim faith sustain such courage and poetry?
I guess that is why Muhammad Ali is so special. The world rejoices in this gift.
“I am America; I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”
- a poem.. a song..
- "Al-Quds" by Ameer el-Shu'ara, Palestinian poet, in Arabic
- Qur'an Surat Al-Shams
from 'Approaching The Qur'an', CD.
- Book review
- Monica Ali's
reviewed by .
- Tahrir Team
- Read about Nadja Middleton in the team page.
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