Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Between terrorists and the Met

Perturbed by todays tabloid headlines accusing the family of the brazilian killed by police on the tube of hogging the headlines, that they got more help form the Met than the families of those killed by the terrorist bombing.
All i can say is its not a bloody competition, nobody is denying the families sufered horribly in losing loved ones but the fact is the Met shot a man dead then lied about it- there needs to be a thorough investigation, its not like we're ignoring the catching of terrorists. so in britan now we get to be afraid of not only terror bombings but also that we might be shot dead for no reason than we share a postcode with a terror suspect.

although on the bright side it shows the Met are not as racist as we thought, they will shoot anyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

the tabloids also shrieked that 1 in 7 terror suspects are asylum seekers, omitting the fact that most terror arrests have in fact not resulted in any actual charges. they frankly would love to sccream that all asylum seekers are potential terrorists as there nothing the tabloids love better than to kick those who have escaped persecution and threats of death in another country. in fact why britan is still considered a safe haven when we have an overtly hostile environment where several asylum seekers have been murdered in cold blood and many of the others locked in detention centres is beyond me. i am probably more ashamed of that than anything else my country has done in recent years, apart obviously from the fucking of Iraq.

also read today of a US christian broadcaster who called for the assasination of chavez in venuzuala, calling hima dictator who was impoverishing his country and that the coup the US supporeted was popular, even though chavez was democratically elected, the coup ended when the people refused to support it and he has made great strides in the eradication of poverty. the fact that the accusation could be more easily aimed at his country was obviously lost on him, as was the fact that if someone in venuzuala had said that about bush the US probably would have
invaded before he finished the sentence.
Interesting thoughts about the long relationship between india and china. what with them being the likely superpowers of the 21st century, given their size, population and long history of civilisation (far longer than Europe's or North America's) they are always worth looking at. The i thing is that their relationship now is very similar to what it has been throughout history. i remember reading somewhere accounts of chinese scholars going to india in the early part of the first millenium in order to gain knowledge. They had acquired from india, not only the religion of buddhism but also information on medicine and other important ideas. that journey mirrors todays relationship, of china sending students to India's silicon valley in order to learn more about software design. though china is wealthier and more powerful than india at present it lacks valuable knowledge, it is a major producer of computer hardware, but in software terms lags far behind india.
culturally too it will be interesting to see how global culture is changed by the increasing consumer voice of India and china. while in britan now we end of consuming almost anything american, even when it has no relevence to us and is culturally alien. the best case of this is films which cover things like baseball or american football, they mean bugger all to us. i can see a situation where asian culture becomes the major one exported to us, the fact that i am sure in the next few years software programs will be able to easily dub films into any language without any trouble. it can already be seen in the way the influence culturally of japan has changed the cultural climate in europe and america, not only in the huge demand for Manga comics and films but in terms of japanese films, which are being remade by hollywood, theough rarely with any great degree of success but featuring a list hollywood actors.
It has to be understood that the West is no longer the cultuarl powerhouse it was only a few years ago. i am sure the US will be able to dominate culturally for a few years yet but asia is comiong up swiftly behind.

Friday, August 12, 2005


have been thinking recently of the West's changing view of the Muslim world- from the Orientalism outlined by Edward Said to the current situation. while the opinions of the west have changed in many ways the underpinning assumptions have not. the arab world is still largely viewed as a static monolithic thing, forinstance it is referred to as the Middle east, the Muslim world or the arab world when those are overlapping but in many ways very different entities- for uinstance pakistanis and Kurds are not arabs yet they are Muslim, lebanon is arab yet largely christian. How the middle east is viewed has become particulalry focused in recent years and opinion very polarised-there is a widespread belief that the Muslim world is a single creature,a monolithic other consisting of repressed burkha clad women, bearded fundementalists and ageing despotic regimes.
it is most intersting however that despite this continuity of misunderstanding there has been some change in how the muslim world is viewed in the west. where it once considered a overly sensuous place, where the peopple had no use of reason or the finer thoughts of post enlightenbment Europe it has now been de sexualised. There is no talk anymore of harems of dancing girls or opium dens. that projection of repressed european desires is no longer necessary, we have enough of our own dancing girls. The fact is though that muslim women are not allowed any agency of their own, it is assumed they simply accept cultural opression, that they are forced to cover themselves- not that they might have cultural values of their own that are not that of the Talbian but neither are they exactly Western. As was witnessed in the debate over headscarves in France it is a massive culutalr misunderstanding on the wests behalf. They do not see to realsie that it a realtive issue- that wearing of clothes is dependant of cultural climate. we would not expect English children going to school in africa to be foreced to go naked because it was the local custom. The fact as well that even our own grandmothers used to cover their heads, and that for a very long time men uniformly wore hats.
the essence of orientalism is the lack of viewing ones own culture from an impartial standpoint, that it attempts to frame the other in terms with no comaprisons with western culture. the constant misunderstanding is due to a lack of questioning of our own cultural values, a lack of awareness that culture is fluid.
the fact that the debate in britan at the moment revolves areound whether Muslims should accept british values without the thought that british culture is constantly changing. the british values of a tory minister would not be the same as mine, neither would it be the same of a tory miniser of the 1950's- we as a country are constantly assimilating new ideas- we all eat curries, watch american films and TV series, drink tea or coffee- none of these origianlly british asnd all of them relativly new. we would frankly not recognise the britain of the past, culture is an ever chganging dialogue and one that is utterly individual.
We should too assume that in the Muslim world the same is true, that the return to fundementalism is much the same as the idea of the return to old fahioned values. they too believe as our tory ministers and cheerleaders in the press do that culture is static, that everything is either right or wrong and that there can be only one unchanging and unchallengable perspective.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Iran, Iraq and the Kurds

Its prediction time again and what with the recent sending of Iranian troops to put down popular Kurdish demonstrations on the Iraqi border, patterns become apparent. Firstly the cosy relationship between the new shiite leaders of iraq and the Government of Iran. Fact is bush and co shot themselves in the foot by allowing to be elected a shiite govt that would obvioulsy end up being pro Iranian. What is likely to happen is as the Sunni shia civil war escalates Iran will either be dragged in or drag itself in on the side of the Shia south. Whether america will simply cut its losses and bugger off, reach an agreement with iran or try to soldier on as it has already is open to question, though either way there is little they can actually do about it. The most likely thing is that unfortunately and against the wishes of most Iraqis Iraq will be split into the three main ethnic states, with the northern Kurdish part and te southern shia part being the most important. Obviously this only heightens the potential to conflict as there are many border areas, such as Kirkuk which is disputed largely because of its oil fields.
This weeks events though mark a trend that is increasingly disturbing, that is the spectre of agression against the kurds. Despite their staues as downtrodden minorities in the states of iran and turkey the Kurds in iraq are very powerful, they practically run their own state their, they have the ear of the Americans, and also their military training and most importantly trust. They have been involved with the Israelis and not seeing themselves as arabs means they do not have that great an attachment to the concerns of the other middle eartern states, which is understandable considering a hitsory of oppression by them. as the Iraqi kurds get more powerful and more vocal it may get to the point where the states of Iran Turkey and whatever is left of Iraq decide to do what they have always done to the Kurds and invade. This could easily happen alongside and iraqi civil war as instability breeds instability.
The fact that america in order to try and preserve short term goals will stoke these fires, by sabre rattling against Iran and by using Kurdish Militias against the insurgency and by execerbating the Sunni Shia split will only make things worse.

Interesting case too of the Baghdad sniper, who has been claiming US soldiers for months, some extracts from a guardian article-
"Juba is the nickname given by American forces to an insurgent sniper operating in southern Baghdad. They do not know his appearance, nationality or real name, but they know and fear his skill.
There is never a follow-up shot, never a chance for US forces to identify the origin, to make the hunter the hunted. He fires once and vanishes.
Some worry that Juba is on his way to becoming a resistance hero, acclaimed by those Iraqis who distinguish between "good" insurgents, who target only Americans, and "bad" insurgents who harm civilians.
I heard about this before, and generally think, are you sure its just one guy?
But it is interesting that Iraqi get at least one good hero, in that he kills cleanly and boosts Iraqi national p[ride. There is a lot of psychology in this, the US has always relied on technological superiority and supposedly better training. With this sniper they are being outskilled, he is simply better than them and they have had drilled into them since birth that the US military is the best in the world, that alone is enough to make them sloppy. They do not realise that technology and big muscles are not always going to make tem better than everyone else.
I also like this quote-
"We are professionals. There is a line between a maniac with a gun and a sniper," said Mike, 31, a corporal with a reconnaissance sniper platoon who did not want to his surname to be used.
He spoke during a 24-hour mission on a roof during which his team ate junk food and urinated into a bottle. During daylight they lay on the ground, immobile, to avoid being seen. "It's not a glamorous life,"
he said.
Interesting because A. I don’t see a difference and those who get shot probably don’t really either and B. the fact soldiers eat junk food. Shouldn’t they be all ultra health conscious, especially as a high sugar diet, especially combined with heat, is going to really fuck with their much vaunted skills? Also, just one bottle to piss into?

I also read that most US soldiers in Iraq spend their days in Saddam’s old gyms working out. Bearing in mind putting US soldiers in Saddam’s old palaces was a stupid idea anyway because it leads Iraqis to certain conclusions. They also spend most of their time there injecting steroids, which feeds into that Army belief that in order to be a good soldier you have to look a bit like the Governor of California. Because as we know big muscles not only stop bullets but make you quicker too. Of course steroids are banned but US soldiers get cheap mail deliveries that are obviously not properly checked. Interesting to know what other banned things they get up to, such as drinking and drug taking, shooting random things and people and getting with prostitutes.