Friday, October 07, 2005

ZINDA MAGAZINE Volume XI - Issue 52 - 5 October 2005

Zinda Magazine (homepage)

The website works on a scroll, so all the articles are on the same page.

N.B. the piece "Assyrians reject Iraq constitution".

This wiki entry on Assyria is useful background. Wiki: Assyria

For those of you engaged in the question of Turkey's entry into the EU, this might be instructive: wiki: Armenia


Its not something I suddenly thought up. In fact, its so obvious one might forget or omit to say it. This is that the best western values and culture are worth mentioning and praising in the face od an onslaught of criticism of the West. By that I do not back-against-the-wall negative defensiveness, but defend as in proud.

The obvious false (i.e. unfair) opposition is the heavenly music of Bach, say, as set against the desert silence of the Taliban: silence except for the gentle wafting of the trails of magnetic tape from broken cassettes. We have all seen that on some documentary or short piece of news footage. But it is an image we all might hold in our minds when we are selecting what we think is good about our life and history.

In other words: instead of whining and muling "What have we done wrong for them to hate us?", we must proactively show that we have something worth keeping. I for one love music and feel this is one of the greatest messages we can send to anyone hell bent on a New Caliphate, which is a ridiculous and quite unnecessary change in an increasingly inter-connected world. But asking what our best features is something we should do more of as we puzzle over crises such as the quagmire in Iraq, or the never ending conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Today on BBC Radio 4, Frank Gardiner { 2 }was the guest on Desert Island Discs. There doesn't seem to be a link to the programme yet, probably because it was only aired for the first time this morning, 9 a.m., GMT. As we listen to his Bach selection (he did choose some Arabic singing too, which I will find the name of later, which was beautiful) we must ask ourselves whether this is what it amounts to: Bach or no Bach. Certainly western music won't be played under the rule of the New Caliph. Presumably, since the west is going to blown up to create this new world, the science and technology, art and literature is going too?

Strange that the boys who were brain-washed into murdering innocent people in London on 7/7 were not Arabs, who have legitimate grievances which the West can do a lot to solve, but Asians or West Indians who took to fundamentalist Islam. They would have probably grown up with radios blaring out the pop music of the day, and heard a wide variety of the best of classical music, even if by accident rather than design, through watching TV dramas and films with much good music in the sountrack.

Apart from music there are other good things about our societies which they too could have concentrated on rather than the worst features. It is said ( So what do you have to do to find happiness) that we have evolved a rather negative mind which searched out the worse and gets all miserable in the process.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The debate is why was Iraq invaded and what is going to happen? Is Britain, for example, despite the government leak about Iran's role in supplying armour piercing bombs which have been responsible for the deaths of 8 British soldiers in the Barah area, and Blair's fresh comments that we are going to stay till the time is right to leave, going to jump ship when a full-scale revolution develops in the south?

And America? They are going to stay longer than many think in some form or another - probably mostly intelligence centres across Iraq plus airbases in Kurdistan.

America decided to invade Iraq to make the world a safer place. It might be an instructive exercise to examine other places around the world which America considers dangerous, apart from Iran and North Korea. With this in mind it seems Venezuela might be a good starting point:

Hugo Chavez - showing the US who's master

Hugh O'Shaughnessy, Monday 10th October 2005

This mentions the U.S. government still haven't reprimanded "Pat" Robinson over his remarks about rubbing out Chavez.

Reading this article with a liberal-democratic eye, one can see the problem from both the
Venezuelan middle-class's point of view and of other S. American countries which are still pretty authoritarian: helping the poor is not the way they see things ought to be done because they want a pool of ignorant cheap labour as the bottom line, as does the U.S. of A. It takes one back to Maggie's era: her great success amounted to destroying big industry (in order to demolish the large union's power) and creating a low-wage economy which Blair has inherited. He has done virtually nothing to increase the minimum wage to a generally acceptable level of say £6 per hour, because having people in work and topping up with benefits paid out of taxes is preferable to higher wages and a labour market skewed towards to 'buyer' rather than the 'seller' of jobs.

The point of all this is that despite all the tripe-talk in international affairs about freedom and democracy, the bottom line is cheap labour, wherever it is. America will not be happy if labour costs around the world are raised by people such as Chavez. Venezuela = oil (10% of U.S. oilcomes from there). America would prefer to create mayhem in Northern South America than allow oil prices to rise for people like Chavez to run his social projects.

And in the same vein, though the stated reason for invading Iraq was Saddam and his threat to the region and his association with some terrorist groups, the actual reasons seems to be (1) protecting Israel (2) a long-term strategy to maintain supplies of oil.

It has recently been said - whether true or not that Saddam had converted from petro-dollar to euro-dollar in 2000 and that Iran plans to do so in 2006. This would be the bottomline for the U.S., not whether Iraq becomes or a democracy or how many Iraqis die while the occupation forces are in Iraq.

All this is analogous to a triple agent: they said it was WMD and terrorism but we know it was oil -- they promised freedon and democracy -- while allowing chaos, we forget all about oil.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Whose al-Qaida problem?
Sasha Abramsky in Opendemocracy, 4 October 2005, asks.

Much of the left’s opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s anti-terror campaigns – voiced by figures like Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk, George Galloway, Naomi Klein, and John Pilger – has blinded it to the need to engage with real problems and threats, says Sasha Abramsky.
This is a continuation of what I was writing using Pilger's John Pilger blames Basrah on the British and Elias Akleh's,
Al Zarqawi and his “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” are inventions of the occupying forces

My words:

...creature of technique. Both Pilger and Dr. Dr. Akleh have similar methods: an admixture of correct facts, wrong facts, ridiculous (and even unnecessary) assertions and incorrect conclusions, inside a general claim which is known to be widely accepted, such as ' There is injustice in the world'. But the inaccuracy, unfounded assertions mixed with reasonable ones, plus sets of untruths together, side by side, with the undisputed facts are meant to link the two in the mind of the reader. That's the point: this is a technique not an argument.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The British Record on Partition
Reprinted from The Nation, May 8, 1948

Comments by Jared Israel, Emperor's Clothes

If you want to do some history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict this is the one to read.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Another kid like myself in Baghdad but this time in the 60s/70s He mentions,"Shortly after we left, Saddam Hussein took power." We left in '58. They arrived 1961/2 at the height of the rein of the generals: Bakr, etc.

My childhood in the Middle East

Tommy Atkinson



In searching for something about radio wars (nothing yet), came across:

1951-1953, Egypt: Nasser, the “Moslem Billy Graham”

By Athar Jamil, Political Correspondent, Kcom Journal.

There was a BBC radio programme (possibly a docudrama) once which went into this use of radio in the Middle East, which is a fascinating story.

N.B. the document still retains the Google colour coding for my search for 'Nasser' and 'radio'.

Andrew Sullivan: How America tiptoed into the torture chamber

The Sunday Times Review, 3 October 2005


Great American hero in the making, Ian Fishback. But don't forget some simple things: governments are elected by peoples but are not to be equated with peoples. That's why you find half the people in the US and the UK against the war in Iraq with their governments hell bent of continuing to occupy Iraq or finding it increasing difficult to find a way out. This shows one of the failures of democracy.

Governments come and go, their main representatives retiring to peaceful and lucrative lecturer tours,the odd world-wide book launch, a smattering of university or think-tank sinecures, a string of directorships in companies selling Africans things they don't need. Take our soon-to be retiring Prime Minister, Tony Bair, who blatantly lied to his electorate to get Britain involved with America in Iraq. All, of course, will be revealed in the massive tome that will be ghost-written for him as part of his bid for immortality in political history. By then the moment for blame will have pasted. He will no longer be held responsible for any unintended consquences, because that is not how the democratic game works. A week is a long time in politics, as they say.

By then Iraq as now constituted, may be no more. Though many will remember the way the politicians who are now in power in America and Britain decided they had to hoodwink their own peoples in order to invade Iraq, in the main it will be forgotten about or at least put aside as further crises appear on the horizon. In Britain our new Prime Minster, Brown, will feel happy to withdraw his military forces from Iraq, barring an occasional plane fly-over to assist in the air defence of Iraq, on the unspoken grounds that he wasn't personally responsible for sending them in, though he will give some other convoluted and disingenuous reason.

Democracies are extremely limited but their adherents live under the illusion that they are not, just because capitalism has proved so successful. Politicans constantly attempt to persuade their electorates democracy as we now have it, is the climax vegetation of the political ecology.

Islamists pick on the weaknesses in democracy (debate, uncertainty, confusion,political opportunitism, short-termism, et al) to argue for undemocracy. Historically, democracy is only 23.59 of the 24 hour political clock. The tradition in the UK, as we are constantly reminded by drama-documentaries on our kings and queens, was to torture, hang, draw and quarter traitors, who would in effect be the members of the opposition in todays money.

When Andrew Sullivan remonstrates about his adopted country using torture in extremis, he is actually putting his finger on one of the glaring weaknessess of democracies such as America: governance is bound in with economics. Elected governments are not principally the way societies such as ours chose to retain order or to promote fairness, within and without, but the way economies are grown, with the protection of citizens, law and order, seen as an integral part of that growth and properity (hence a failure to tackle such obvious problems as pollution and envirnomental degredation, such as stripping the tropical rainforests, because it conflicts with the god growth).

If those who governed were nothing to do with how its citizens made a living, except in so much as it made laws for the fair competition in the marketplace, health and safety and non-exploitation of workers, etc., what in essence would be the bare minimum - with an emphasis on making sure individuals , rich or poor, can live in peace and health - then the desire for foreign adventures, the competion between economies, should lessen. The rules would be different, politicians would have restricted powers.

In essence, this goes back to the old, weary, critique of nationalism. When so much is talked about globalisation, it is pathetic more is not made of the failings of nationalism, which for all the talk of patriotism in places like the States, is all this patriotism amounts to. But the answer cannot be found in any neo-Marxist or fundamentalist religious stance, even if they can be stating points. The internet shurely provides a clear notion of how democracies can operate: the nearest analogy I can think of is the spectacle of a swarming of a massive flock of starlings, which was on TV the other night. The flock build in number as it flies back and forth, till at a certain 'critcal mass', many thousands of birds, patterns are created in the sky which one hads to be reminded are the result of the complex actions and reactions of individual birds. Someime the patterns break into two distinct clumps. But hey can coalesce again.

This works is through constant and immediate feed back within a system that will break down if the individuals don't stick to the rules. There may well be a leader in there, but it is more likely to be some built in set of rules which creates the unbelievable patterns: unbelievable because it seems impossible (and as we watch the patterns we are distracted from the knowledge it is created by individual animals) to be so coodinated.

How can we devise a political system which will act like a starling flock? How can we make sure though elected by us, our governments actually do what we want? In this current crisis Blair ignored a vey large anti-war demonstration because he was thinking of something bigger and further into the future (possibly) which he knew, as an elected politician, he could not discuss with his own people. Though in a civilised and mature democracy this ought to be possible. Blair went round the country pre-war drumming up support and attempting to persuade us of the properness of action against Saddam. But many simply couldn't see it. They may not have been very knowledgalble about the Middle East, but it doesn't take more than a few facts to come up with "It'll probably be a mess". People don't like wars.

The long-term desire of the major industrial powers to secure their energy supply is quite natural and perfectly understandable. Nations are discreet units despite their interconnectedness. We would think America extremely foolish if they let themselves be starved of oil with the attendant decimation of their economy. If there was only one plate of food left, individuals would probably kill each other to obtain it. Why should be expect organised conglomerations of people to act any differently? No other country in America's position would sit back and await their fate. But the greater questions about growth economies and protection of the environment have not even been asked let alone answered. It's the lemmings walking backwards, eyes shut, over the cliff.


Dr. Elias Akleh

“I believe it is the Americans who are doing this, pretending it is Sunnis, so there will be a civil war and they can control our wealth.”

Now we know. By the way he didn't say it - he just quoted it as the authentic Arab voice - the genuine indisputable asserto-grievance - as if it were a fundamental truth which no one could deny. When things get to this pass, we have to wonder whether people just appear to live in one universe, but in fact slip in and out of parallel ones.

Al Zarqawi and his “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” are inventions of the occupying forces
Dr. Elias Akleh

The Iranian Threat: The Bomb or the Euro?
Dr. Elias Akleh

I did not intentionally look for the first article. The second followed from looking to see who the good doctor was. There is a third link futher down. Of the three the one on the petro dollar is of most interest: is this correct one asks? And if so, it is very interesting.


The other two are typical of what swashes around the Middle East media. Lethal in half-formed, susteptible minds: fuel for greater fantasy and tragedy. It brings to mind the Radio Wars between the various parties during the height of Arab nationalist fervour in the 50s, when, say, Nasser, would on air call fellow Arabs not of his persuasion everything under the sun, especially to do with camels and dogs, in the high flown rhetoric for which Arabs are well know. In return, they would on air, call him even worse things combinations of things mistly to do with camles and dogs (which I remember, is keleb). Rhetoric: great from a poet; deadly from politician.

Dr. Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit-Jala, living in the US.

The third article by By Dr. Akleh:

Mosques, Churches and Synagogues

has a single, very robust comment at the bottom:

You've told youself so many lies that now you believe them yourself. By any objective measure, Islamic countries are the most intolerant societies in allowing religious centers for other religions. Palestinians have been agitating about the Jews destroying the al Aqsa mosque for 60 years and miraculously it is never damaged. The "alleged" temple under the mosque is the foundation of Christianity and Judaism. It is the reason Mohammed visited the place and is attested to by dozens of ancient sources. Your smarmy all humans are brothers stuff at the end of your article is merely self-serving, self-deluding, claptrap you recite to cover up your lack of respect for other religions and your incessant whining, victimization as a Moslem, It is scary that people like you are so blind to your own dishonesty.

I Llukens

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

which I hope he will not object to me repeating.

Experts or non-experts writing about their areas of expertise or related concerns cannot always be right on everything. This is partly because they tackle so much. In the end their output becomes the creature of technique. Both Pilger and Dr. Dr. Akleh have similar methods: an admixture of correct facts, wrong facts, ridiculous (and even unnecessary) assertions and incorrect conclusions, inside a general claim which is known to be widely accepted, such as ' There is injustice in the world'. But the inaccuracy, unfounded assertions mixed with reasonable ones, plus sets of untruths together, side by side, with the undisputed facts are meant to link the two in the mind of the reader. That's the point: this is a technique not an argument.

What is the definition of propaganda? Who was really good at it?

According to my online dictionary:

1. The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.

2. Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause: wartime propaganda.

3. Propaganda Roman Catholic Church. A division of the Roman Curia that has authority in the matter of preaching the gospel, of establishing the Church in non-Christian countries, and of administering Church missions in territories where there is no properly organized hierarchy.

(Didn't know the last one)

Or are we dealing with agitprop (a word not used much nowadays) :

Political propaganda, especially favoring communism and disseminated through literature, drama, art, or music: “It also is a conspiracy movie, agitprop against today's targets, big government and big business” (George F. Will).

[Russian, short for otdel agitatsii i propagandy, incitement and propaganda section (of the central and local committees of the Russian Communist party); name changed in 1934.]


The Future of Iraq: Democracy, Civil War, or Chaos?

Michael Rubin, Middle East Review of International Affairs, September 2005


Ignore the provenance of the MEF, or the author, have a look at this. Do read the interview with John Mearshiemer which I linked to earlier. This from, sums up his position: realistpolitik. Well worth the effort, though long and in two parts. I always like a man who has changed his mind: you know where he is coming form (or think you might do). This is his authority to speak on these matters.


The point is admirably shown by weblogworld that anyone can have a go.
Though every day Joes like myself, pontificating from a weblog, with the gaps in our knowledge or understanding (or arguments if there are any), will be open to a worldwide audience, many of whom actually do understand things: this the ultimate peer review. If anyone reads you that is.

I do wonder, sometimes, whether time spent writing to a weblog, which in so many cases amounts to little more than the venting spleen, getting something or other off sundry chests, would be better spent reading the experts.

This is what one might term the domain of iWorld (has someone already used it in some other context?) which roughly amounts to the dangerous feeling of empowerment the access the to internet gives the user: the instant access to facts and ideas via the search engine;
The ability to set up a weblog in a few minutes to express one's view.

The whole feeling as if one is a newspaper magnate and in the cut of thrust of the newspaper or TV office. All almost completely delusional. People tend to an authority. They (I) want to know what the expert thinks. It is only then, one feels, that verisimiltude is being approached.

How can you tell what are facts and what lies, disortions, red-herrings, exaggerations, pure propoganda? Well, for one, wherever you are starting from, it all takes time. Take your time to read and consider. Write less. No one's reading it. Learn for yourself more. Think about the ability to communicate and what might be worth communicating.

The outpourings in weblogworld on such important issues as Iraq are just that: massive bit streams lying out there in servers across the world but which few read. 'Because it is there' seem to be the watchworld. I don't feel comfortable with the notion that I can write publicly as and when. I have to feel it is actaully saying something useful. This should apply to the likes of the professional commentators too. But poor souls, they have to make a sou, so are forced almost to write from an old, worn-out template of their convictions and prejudices, ad infinitum, ad naseam, as if they were writing the same article they wrote about Cambodia 40 years ago. Endlessly re-cycling the one good idea they thought they had is not always good enough.


I just got a quote from Richard Ingram's biography, Malcolm Muggeridge: while in Russia as foreign correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, as it was then called, he met American journo A.T.Cholerton, well known amongst people who know such things for saying in reply to a question about the confessions in the infamous 1930s Stalinist show trials : 'Everything is true except the facts.' He was also responsible for coining the phrase 'Habeas Cadaver' as the Russan equivalent of 'Habeas Corpus'.

memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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