Monday, December 27, 2004

Just a few quick words today.

Much is being made of the upcoming electoral crisis in Iraq. The greater fear at this moment is that the Sunni minority will not be able to mobilize in order to produce viable candidates for the parliament. The logic follows that the Sunni minority will already feel itself the loser in the Shia/Kurd mobilization towards democratic representation, and that the continuing violence in the Sunni Triangle is such that will prevent a significant turnout, thus rendering the efforts of candidates brave enough to stay in the race, bow out due to lack of projected turnout. Taken one step further, the Sunni Minority will then find itself grossly underrepresented, and the Shia and Kurd government will draft a constitution with its own interests in mind. The pundits conclusion is that this will likely sow the seeds of a long overdue civil war.

I however, due not buy this scenario, not entirely anyway. The biggest obstacle to Sunni participation is not Sunni alienation at suddenly being the powerless minority, but the Coalitions inability to stamp out an insurgency that has yet to manifest itself as being a truly popular movement among moderate Sunnis. The Sunnis themselves have every incentive to participate in elections, precisely because they are outnumbered nearly three to one. What good would a sectarian crisis due to such a minority. The problem thus lies in the lack of political organization within Sunni dominated areas as a result of constant warfare. If the US really wants to avoid a civil war, they will find a way to deal with the insurgency that does not further deteriorate the delicate acquiescence of moderate Sunnis, and of an Iraqi population that wants to simply move on.

Tomorrow, the Wolves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Dangers of my growing gut

I have been neglecting the blog. There is simply no excuse. However, don't think I am at a loss to manufacture one. The reelection of George Bush, the death of Arafat and the uncertainty of the future PA, the continuing violence in Iraq. Well its hard to stay focused and positive, it is difficult to continue to spend time engaged in the details of despair, the stories of death, and the myriad unknowns that surround the world of war and peace. Ultimately, I had to retreat a bit, and, as they say, relax and enjoy myself a bit.

Ok, I am done enjoying myself.

Mr. Blair has just finished a visit to Israel and Palestine. He seems pretty well bent on strengthening the position of Mahmoud Abbas and the ostensibly new PA. For Blair, this is an opportunity to gain some credibility both at home and in Europe. The sense is that Blair, by aggressively pursuing a return to the roadmap, can make up ground that he has lost in Iraq. It has long been the ambition of American Presidents to find a solution to the Mid-East conflict, and now it seems to be the ambition of an English Prime Minister. Yet Blair's initiative seems a bit premature, inasmuch as the leadership of the PA has yet to be established, though it seems unlikely that anyone will emerge other than Abbas. For Blair, this is less a strong possibility than a foregone conclusion. Perhaps a concession to his his American counterpart?

THe new Year will bring the eventuality of Iraqi elections. I haven't yet assessed the range of possibilities at this point, and they will follow in a future post. However, what seems apparent now is that Afghanistan will prove the exception, rather than the rule. I think the ultimate goal of the occupation will not be to see that elections take place safely, as much as that they do not descend uncontrollably into the proverbial civil war that has become the elephant in the room.

More later.

Happy holidays.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pere Arafat

There seem to be conflicting reports coming out of Paris today concerning the condition of Yasir Arafat. If he is not already dead, he likely will be soon. The Israeli government seems to be preparing for worst case scenarios, including widespread rioting in Gaza and the occupied territories. Palestinian authorities, including SAeb Erekat, seem to be taking a rather cautious apporach to announcing developments in the Chairman's situation, which generally leads me to believe the worst.

In a way, Sharon and the US are getting exactly what they have wanted for a long time. Of course, the same applies for many Palestinians, who have long held that Arafat is not the best man for the job so to speak. I tend to agree with them. Among such Palestinians, we find both the preogressive, pro-democratic movements, which had previouly been epitomized by Edward Said, as well as the less-savoury elements in the conflicts, by which I mean the beards.

The crucial elements at play are this: Bush's reelection means that he is likely to pursue the same radical shift in policy that he introduced in the Rose Garden Earlier this year, that is to admit to a significant change of the ground situation, admitting the permanence of a certain pecentage of Israeli settlements. This was also significant in that the decision to alter a long standing policy was done without arafat even being invited to the table. The death of Arafat will likely perpetuate this kind of one-sided diplomacy, at least until a legitimate center can be established within the PA.

The other likely outcome of this will be the splintering of Hamas into a radical armed faction, and one that will attempt to broaden the agenda and seek legitimate political authority. I won't place a time frame on this, it may be a rather rapid process, being that the destruction of Hamas Leadership has already weakened its overall cohesion. Is it possible that Hamas does not take the road of groups like SinnFein or the Akali DAl? Of course, but I doubt it. The fact is that Arafat has for a long time now been losing legitimate authority over security operations because Hamas has been in the ascendant. Hamas also knows that once it can attain proper political authority, it can no longer be held to the margins by either the Israelis or the international community. The difficulty lies in making a clean break with militant operations, which would otherwise mar the legitimacy of political operatives.

wait and see, that is the lesson of the day . . .

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Of Heartache and tears . . .

Last nights election came down to some stupid state that I have never been to, and have absolutely no intention of going to. I think it is called Ohio, but I can’t be sure. Anyways, perhaps the single most significant election of my lifetime was concluded while I slept. I am a great sleeper. On the morning of 9/11 my neighbor came to wake me and tell me the towers were on fire. I told him, please no games, can’t you see I am trying to sleep. So yes, once again, I have slept through one of the single most important moments of American History. But I feel better now having told you that.

Of course, I know well that to talk about Ohio in such a way betrays a rather Philistine understanding of the electoral system. What does the Kerry defeat reveal, really? Over an above, it means that things are drastically worse than we had previously thought. The failure of the left and progressive ranks is not in the inability to articulate a vision for America, whether it be reformist or altogether revolutionary. There is no shortage of programs. The problem seems to lie in the inability to translate the language of those programs to the broader population. How can the left go from having internalized its beliefs and living out the ideals and ideas that sustain it, while also making a convincing case to the all the people who currently support the regime. Bush’s victory was, I dare say, decisive. The fact remains that the left is left squabbling and complaining, and indeed put besides itself. We cannot imagine how such a thing could happen. Yet it happened, and this time without the clear legal and constitutional conflicts of 2000. So perhaps the problem is that the left has been a bit too sure of itself, too comfortable in its truth, warmly bundled up in baby blankets of uncritical belief.

And here, I admit to playing the same game. Is there really such a thing as the “left” in America? Well, surely there is, but is it something that can be described as uniform and monolithic? Indeed, the answer is emphatically no. Thus far, the hegemony of the idea of difference has allowed the left to content itself with being defined as a set of movements whose ultimate aims may at some point intersect, like a series of Venn diagrams of target audiences. But those movements are themselves fueled by their singularity as specific critiques. More often than not, if there is some sense of cohesion, it takes the form of critiques of globalization and capital. The left has at least this as a unifying theme, that so many of the particular social justice issues can be reduced to a discussion of the intersection of power and capital. Of course, one easily wedges into this line, and disrupts the problem of capital-critique by examining the participation of the rebels within the framework of the very same system. It is old, and perhaps not particularly interesting to accuse such movements as hypocritical, nut this is a central argument that is easily cast by those who find left-oriented ideas to be beyond the pale.
My goal at this point is not to simply describe what comes next. I don’t know what comes next. What I do know is that, the republic is resilient, and Bush being reelected may force those of us on the left to rethink the way we have been conducting ourselves. WE need to ask what it is not that is not being communicated, and we need to stop playing the blame game. Critique of power is infinitely valuable. But it also has to be constantly renewing. We cannot allow ourselves to flog the dead horse and fall into the kind of solipsism repetition that allows our political enemies to accuse of naivete and infantilism.

So lets start discussing the future, because I can guarantee you Karl Rove is thinking about it as we speak.

Friday, October 29, 2004


I seem to have forgotten that this blog exists. Ok, so I will try again and keep this up to date. With things the way they are in the world, I hope you can forgive my laxity.

In any event, I am at work, so I won't be able to do anything in detail. That will have to wait. Moreover i don't
actually have a topic for a post in mind, yet.

Tomorrow, tomorrow . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Ok, alot has happened since my last post. The death of Rantissi, the proposed pullout from Gaza continued violence in the Shia south and Falluja etc. I Don't know that I have really made sense of it all yet, so I won't try and synthesize it all right now. Mostly, I will attempt to focus only on a very general swath of analysis.

Hosni Bubarak and Prince Abdullah, two of our closest Arab allies, have recently stated that anti-American sentiment is at an all time high. This is of course to be expected. However, what does this translate to? The historic shift in policy vis-a-vis the Palestine question is of course indicative of the problem. Moreover, there seems to be no hesitation on the part of the administration to effectively condone extra-judicial killings by the Israeli Defence Force. I may have intimated that the events of May (the rise of al-SAdr, the Spanish bombings, the Yassin assasination) marked a turning point in the so called war on terror, and now we are starting to see the what this shift effectively entails. For one, the shift seems to be leading to a radical approach to the Palestinian question. Never before has such a decision as the pullout in Gaza been undertaken without the PA even being at the table. Ultimately, this, combined with the assassinations of Yassin and Rantisi, will lead to a further disintegration of Arafat's popular power, and the increased influence of Hamas. One can speculate then, that this decision to sideline the participation of the Palestinian Authority is strategic, aiming at the delegitimization of the potential central organizing premise (HAMAS) thus ensuring that popular leadership in Palestine is left out altogether. If the PA can't protect the Palestinians from the diplomatic backroom maneuvors of Bush and Sharon, Hamas will retake a central role in both poltical enterprise as well as armed resistance, thus rendering them personna non grata at the negotiating table. It is unlikey that Hamas, in light of recent events, will soon show a Sinn Fein type of character and find some way to access diplomatic arrangements.

More later . . .

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


As I remarked in my previous post, there is a seige in Falluja. Many of you probably know that the occupation is currently positioning to do the same thing in Najaf, the holiest site in the Shiite tradition. Now clearly, this is where things get a bit dicey. I won't go into details about what this seige might mean if it goes badly. I would prefer to wait and see. However, I would like to share a bit of history. One of the things about a lot of Americans (myself included) is that I don't imagine we have a very good understanding of Islam, either religiously or historically. This may be obvious, but rather than simply point to the bare-faced reasons for our ignorance, allow me to take a moment to shed to a little light:

"The valley that Abraham wanted to buy is called the Valley of Peace (Wadiu's-Salaam), and it is related on the authority of the first Imam, that Ali once said that this ValIey of Peace is part of Heaven and that there is not a single one of the believers in the world, whether he dies in the east or west, but his soul will come to this Paradise to rest.2 "As there is nothing hidden in this world from my eyes," Ali went on to say, "I see all the believers seated - here in groups and talking with one another."

How Najaf was given its name is explained in the tradition. At first there was a mountain there, and when one of the sons of Noah refused to enter the Ark, he said that he would sit on this mountain until he would see where the water would come. A revelation came therefore to the mountain, "Do you undertake to protect this son of mine from punishment?" And all at once the mountain fell. to pieces and the son of Noah was drowned. In place of the mountain a large river appeared, but after a few years the river dried up, and the place was called Nay-Jaff, meaning, "the dried river."3

And so as per the prediction of Abraham, Imam Ali was buried here.

this is taken from a website, "History of the shrine of Imam Ali ibn muhammad"

Monday, April 12, 2004


Just a few quick words. As you may have noticed, the idea here is to make some sense of the current global crisis, particularly as it applies to the war in Iraq. The kind of analysis that I hope to offer depends largely on the broader historical moments rather than the ever-present news flash of casualty numbers or fire fights.

I do want to say a couple things about the current siege at Falluja. Reports are emerging that suggest that the Marine battalion laying siege to the Sunni "stronghold" claim that the over 600 dead are bodies of militants. Of course, the doctors and attendants at the local clinics claim otherwise.

I am not going to overstate the obvious here. The situation on the ground and its eventual evolution into either chaos or pacification will bear out the truth. What I would like to point out is something that Virilio has suggested in "Strategy of Deception," in the context of the Kosovo conflict. That in both cold-war conflicts and those since the collapse of the USSR, military interventions by the United States often distinguish themselves from the "traditional" idea of warfare in as much as there is a disproportion between civilian and military casualties. The amount of dead US soldiers in the Vietnam conflict rings in the ears of all who lived through those times, though rarely do we here of the 2-3 million Vietnamese civilians who lost there lives. Virilio suggests that the concept of mutually assured destruction that was inaugurated by Hiroshima and intimated at in a different way by the holocaust suggested that the Clausewitzian vision of war as an extension of politics means war against civilian populations. We are seeing this nightmare scenario played out in Iraq, magnified in the siege of Falluja, in which the people who we seek to liberate, now fall victim to the guns of the liberators. I

Some would love to suggest that the conflagration is the result of bad Pentagon planning. I would say the probably was planning any of this at all. You don't need a Pentagon meeting to understand that occupation is a bad idea. Even if you believed in spreading western democracy, only a fool would be so regressive as to put American boots on soil that had hardly cleared the footprints of the British. Falluja will come to symbolize the lesson that seems all too hard for the West to learn: Occupation is a losing venture. Forget about the fact that we are currently attempting to occupy a country in place and time that has had long enough to realize that Western powers no longer can afford or even sustain empires as they once did.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Whatcha say about my imam?

Ok, sorry for the goofy title.

Just a few brief comments. Apparently the narcoleptic is turning into my Iraq war journal. I won't apologize, simply write.

The current insurgency across the south of the country, the continued siege in Falluja, are disheartening certainly. As much as I might like to jump to conclusions and tell you the country is on the brink of a Vietnam-like war of attrition, it is still a bit early to tell. As I have mentioned before, Ayat-allah Sistani provides the barometer. Grand Ayat-allahs are sort of like a cross between a high court judge and a theologian. These guys have patience and they have wisdom, and certainly do not make flippant remarks or actions. Moqtada al-Sadr derives his authority from lineage only, not possessing any of the usual credentials. That was just for clarification.

So as I said, Sistani is the barometer. When he condemns occupation aggression, and not Sadr's actions this is measured. With this, he retains credibility and unity with the most despondent of Shia. The action is similar to Arafat's reaction to Hamas in the past, in which he understood that full fledged allegiance would mean trouble, yet outright condemnation was worse. Sistani may well be the most important man in that country, and even after the handover of power, he will remain the one who decides the immediate future vision of Iraq.

And here is where the handover date is really key. If the level of violence between now and June 30 remains static or decreases, it is likely that Sistani will be able to continue relying upon political pressure rather than force to assert influence. If the level of violence increases, his moderate position may lose steam. The true test comes when Sistani determines the legitimacy of the new power structure. He knows that if he wants the occupation ended, it will end. He is just being patient, like a proper ayat-allah knows how.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I just tried to post a new entry and the website screwed up. So rather than re-type it, i will save it for a little later. In the meantime, go check out Naomi Klein's article on the guardian uk website. its a good one.
strong>Bushwhackin' Ayat-allahs

Its really late. I just finished catching up on the news.

Excellent article by Naomi Klein (NO LOGO) on the Guardian website. Its a worthwhile read for perspective on the worsening situation in Iraq.

I should have said something a long time ago. It was apparent from the beginning of the war, that stability among the Shia was vital to any level of success. Well, at risk of sounding like a doomsayer, it seems that a bad situation is getting worse. It is hard to tell at this point just how persistent a nag al-Sadr will be. However, the fact that al-Sistani has hitherto refrained from an outright condemnation is troublesome. It seems that al-Sadr is here to stay. In fact, perhaps the only people at this point who can effectively deal with him are individuals like the elder shiite leaders who yield broad support. In the meantime, the occupation will now have to deal with both shia militias and sunni holdouts.

Concerning civil war: The occupation forces are put in an increasingly compromised position. Persistent violence can only be met in kind, and that is hardly going to have the effect of creating the type of stability required to adapt and develop democratic institutions. With what seems like the resumption of military operations, the administration will have to deal with a crisis of great proportion. That crisis stems increasingly from the insistence of the turnover date of 30 June. That means you have to pacify a country where the enemies seem to be increasing rather than the opposite, and then hope that the apparatus you constructed for governance actually has not only the means, but the will and the mandate to keep various factions from disintegrating the national fabric.

Recipe for disaster seems an understatement. Of course, I shouldn't make too many predictions. Yet it seems unlikely that the distrust felt among many Iraqis at this point vis-a-vis the CPA will suddenly disappear when the governing council takes over. What is more likely, is that the natural schisms that already exist within the governing council will increasingly come to reflect the population at large. Sistani is key in all this, as his continued moderate stance constitutes the single hope of preventing a full scale shia uprising.

Didn't anybody think of any of this before we started dropping bombs?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I think I had some idea that this was going to be largely about my opinions and thoughts concerning foreign affairs. I still intend for it to be a large part of this project. However, I think I should embrace this kind blog mentality of spontaneity and write whatever happens to be coming to the surface at the moment.

To that effect, I just want to say a couple things about Tagore.

As Indian culture becomes an increasingly prevalent substrate in the American cultural makeup, I want to point to certain nodes which may otherwise be glossed over, both by the average American, and the average Indian alike.

I would suspect that most of the dining experiences people have, when they go out to eat Indian food, they are eating north Indian Cuisine. This may not be entirely true, but for someone who has eaten at a lot of Indian restaurants, this seems to be the case. Also, the two most popular transmissions of culture seem to be bhangra and Bollywood. No knockin either of those.

I have found that in my own experience, the two of the most amazing artistic efforts in India have both come from Bengal. I am referring to the work of filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and poet Rabindranath Tagore.

I will save a more detailed analysis for another time. Suffice to say, these two represent what individuals like Godard or Celan might represent in America. I know I just said a bunch of stuff that requires justification. I will get to that later.

The main issue I am attempting to address here, is how post-colonial cultures really gain prominence on the international scene as a coefficient of marketability. As a result, developing states are thought of as having legitimate cultural production based on the availability and visibility of pop-cultural events. Bollywood is significant because it has a star system that mimics that of hollywood, bhangra succeeds because of its crossover with hip hop and garage culture. These are legitimate, no doubt. Nonetheless, they have the effect of doing what any other market based art form has; that of subsuming avant-garde moments in native cultures or, in the case of Tagore populist moments. Those of us familiar with the western film canon will surely mark the importance of the nouvelle vague, but when Bollywood comes to the fore, how many are prepared to discuss the contribution of the APU TRILOGY?

I am not sure what the end of this is, but it seems to me to go to that question which has not yet been answered: How do developing, post-colonial cultures define themselves in a way that can reduce the reliance on Western modes of transmitibility to determine what is constitutive or foundational, and what is derivative. This may drive towards a problem of authenticity, I admit. Though it may equally reveal why it is that these post-colonial cultures are best known in the west by the demands of the market.

I leave it open for now

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

At pibes. High speed nice. Stat's fun. This is absurd, no doubt. Proper update awaits.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I have a longer blog in mind for today. I will post it later tonight. I just wanted to drop a few lines on what I just saw on the TV. Bush doing comedy at some kind of radio and TV event.

He had a slideshow, and he had accompanying jokes. Among them were pictures of him looking under chairs and desks, accompanied by the line "Nope, no weapons of mass destruction under here."

Farking audacious. I am more than a bit troubled. Some might say, hey he has a sense of humour about it all. Yet is it not really a troubling sign that he can make light of the very justification for a war that has put both American soldiers and citizens in harms way? If there not under your chair, then where the fuck are they?

Of course, the idea of making light of things that are seriousness and indeed fatal, is not simply the province of the comedian in chief, nor just the right personality pundits like Dennis Miller and Michael Savage. The left is guilty of the same. I don't want to be too much of a party pooper, but how much energy does the so called progressive, left leaning intelligentsia waste on turning vital democratic dialogue into entertainment? Sure, even us who are interested in solving the countries power problem need a moment to relax and enjoy ourselves, me more than most. But we must be careful not to mistake bush-bashing comedy, or politically charged satire for effective activism.

If you think this is too heavy handed, well, you might be right. Sometimes the best way to inform is to entertain, perhaps an unfortunate outcome of our omnipresent media ecology.

more on this later.

Monday, March 22, 2004

ok, so less than an hour ago, I started this blog, and already I have an update. Don't expect this much kind of dedication in the future. I tend to get enthusiastic at first, then begin to wane. I usually wear myself thin with too many projects at once. but since I am always writing, this is really just an added dimension to an ongoing process. Eventually, I will get my own location for this, rather than blogspot, which is nonetheless pretty cool, in that is simple and free.

I just wanted to take an opportunity before sleep to record a few remarks concerning the assassination of Sheik Yassin. Obviously this is a tragic event. It is unfortunate for all involved, Palestinian and Israeli. It highlights several important points, a few which I will raise currently.

Yassin’s assassination has to date been the most significant in the IDF’s strategy of targeted killing. The fallout of the Ayash assassination is an indelible piece of violent history. This type of retaliatory violence will undoubtedly be visited upon the citizens of Israel. However, I fear that it will be of much more determined and fierce nature. As Rantissi has stated, this means open war. This is not simply an eye for an eye. Yassin’s death raises the stakes and puts a definitive end to any the voices who might have continued to perpetuate the myth of a peace process. There is no peace process, there is only war.

The roadmap for peace has ceased to be relevant. US engagement in the process, however minimal or extensive it might have been, has been for naught. This is truly counterproductive to the so called war on terror. We who live in the reasonable world of facts know that without stability, or at least a minimum engagement of hostilities in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, the war on terror can only be thought of as a war with no end. It may be that regardless of the Israel question, but any sense of forward momentum will be frustrated by an increase in violence. It seems ridiculous then, to call the potential capture of Zawahiri evidence of progress.

Leading me to my final point. We are losing this so called war on terror, and the corporate media, is, despite its sure reluctance, giving us just that story. There can be no way to spin certain facts. Madrid, Yassin, the continual carnage in the Sunni Triangle, what can be said of any of this except that the world is a significantly more dangerous place with the people like Cheney and Bush, Sharon, Mushareff, Blair in power. And the media cannot hide this, even the conservative media of spin and incessant bullying of so-called liberals cannot disguise the fact.

A more detailed analysis once things start to develop from this Yassin business.
Its late and I just found this site and I am gonna give it a try. I was writing something into my WORD journal, when I figured I should just make it available virtually. Anyhow, it means I haven't really anything to say at this very moment. Maybe I will start tomorrow