Monday, January 31, 2005
Then they took their pick from all the despotic practises that they've been nurturing all over the globe: detention without trial (pace Chile under Pinochet, Nicaragua under Somoza, Guatemala (decades later Clinton said sorry), Brazil, Chile, Iran, Indonesia; torture under detention (please visit previously-mentioned countries again); state assassination (please re-visit, but please also add Israel); and the so-called gamekeepers are now themselves the hippy-happy poachers. All these in preparation for what's coming up next, a superpower that's nearly bankrupt, that relies solely on raw military power.
But yet there's still something they are able to teach Iraq, post-Enron, post that other famous accounting company that did shred some documents for them. Now they're able to teach Iraq...financial accountability.
Faced with the news that almost US$9.4 billion of Iraqi oil revenue is missing, US auditors immediately blamed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). But former head of the coalition, Paul Bremmer — remember him? — replied that the auditors had failed to understand the context in which the Authority was operating.
The BBC quoted him as saying this: "Western accounting standards could not be applied in the midst of a war."
The CPA, when they took over the running pf Iraq (as they probably are still doing now), took over control not only of the Development Fund for Iraq (created May 2003, by UN Resolution), but also about $2 billion from the Oil-For-Food Programme and from frozen Iraqi assets, "to be used in a transparent manner to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people." The UN set up the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) to audit them, but last year, when they tried to do the audit, not only did the Authority refuse to co-operate, but also refused to hand over US audits of lucrative contracts given to the US company Halliburton, the sole beneficiary of their post-war largesse.
On June 28 last year the British-based charity organisation Christian Aid released a Report entitled: "Fuelling suspicion: the coalition and Iraq's oil billions". They said that up to $3 billion of Iraqi oil export revenues had gone missing.
On a conservative estimate, the US may well be getting about $150 million worth of oil from Iraq every month, and they spend about $5 billion a month there to make sure that the telephone lines, power supply, water and fuel are always in short supply. Ask any Iraqi and they'll tell you more. Congress also approved an aid package of $18.4 billion for Iraq in October 2003, of which they've spent just a little bit more than sweet Fanny Adams on the country and the people. Meantime, they also ear-marked $20 billion of Iraq's own revenue for anything and everything that they could think of for their post-invasion caper.
How much does $1.4 billion weigh? Fourteen tons. They once had to transfer that sum to a bank in 3 helicopters, then they paid it in without obtaining a deposit slip from the teller.
This Business of War
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Funny that there's no party fighting this election on a platform that the US must pull out immediately. But there're many things designed to distract. Sistani's fighting hard with funds from Iran, they say (who? we're not sure), maybe to avoid attention from Allawi's funny money. Then the Shiahs will outnumber Sunnis by several votes to none, the fault lines are being drawn out already. One thing that'll come out of all this for sure is the vindication of it all, that all those lies and invasion and force have been well worth it for democracy.
This is the self-defining democracy of the Neocons that's nothing like what you know. There can be detentions without trial because all that's too precious to waste on 'terrorist' suspects and unruly people; everything's fair in war and love of democracy now. These are the people who are bringing democracy to this earth, people who exempt themselves from the international criminal court, who completely disregarded the United Nations in their determination to go on the assault, who lied and fabricated evidence to justify their pre-planned attack.
So what shape will new democratic Iraq take? I've heard it said that it'll be full of little factions and bigger contenders that'll be tugging in this direction and that that it'll be remarkably like, er Israel.
If elections worked they'd have banned it yesterday. This election's designed by people who want it to be as safe as the proverbial house, unless of course if you happen to be living in Falluja.
Safe As Houses
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
"And all at once,No raving, loony Baptists this time, but hot from the Big Apple. This was their idea of good-time social commentatin' last week at station Hot 97 FM in the US of A.
You could hear the screaming chinks,
And no one was safe from the wave,
There are Africans drowning,
Little Chinamen swept away,
You could hear God laughing,
'Swim, you bi****es, swim.'"
How do you account for behaviour like that? Hard to say, really, even if it's supposed to be a tsunami parody, and even if the station's apologised after receiving a protest note from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations. How did they have the gall to even think of airing this obnoxious piece in the first place?
America is a country of mostly decent people, there's not a shred of doubt, but it's the mood that's pervading the country really, when people can be taken to mass-detention without even the slightest hope of a fair trial, when distant countries can be bombed to the glory of the fatherland, when those who're not with us are against us, when Fox news churns up foreigner-is-bad news all day.
The 'parody', coming at a time when Indonesia, the worst hit country, had to revise its casualty figures upwards to more than 130,000, leaves a nasty after-taste. Of course more Muslims died in the tsuanmi than swam to safety, so perhaps that's excuse enough to sing a little.
§ Immerse yourself in parody, hear the song here.
§ One night in Iraq - think of it as a musical.
Time Off to Parodise
Monday, January 24, 2005
And then they invaded Afghanistan, all in pursuit of rabid Islamists. Yet they were, before that, talking to some of them, including the dreaded Talibans, about some quid pro quo or whatever. And they invaded Iraq, and God how that made those Islamists flip, especially when they couldn't find their Weapons of Mass Destruction. But Saddam an Islamist? Oh don't bother too much about the details or you'll be bogged down, and if you're bogged down you'll let the Islamists fly.
The Islamists must be even more exasperated now, imagine all that way of life all that quality and they've missed out on them all. Enough to make them want to wage a war on this dar al-harb, and the dar has so many gleaming towers, certainly many more than Fallujah that's all ruins and ashes now. Why did they raze down Fallujah? Perhaps it's because some folk there cast their envious eyes towards the progress of the Western world, their beautiful child.
Well, tomorrow, four British detainees will return home from Guantanamo Bay. They'll have a lot to tell about life in prison as conceived by the superior way of life that they were meant to destroy. If they still have their sanity left, that is, and if they can remember what it was that they were detained for in the first place.
The very people who've made them all very jealous have, for the last four years, introduced them to some of their ways: detention without trial, arrest without cause, and torture all the way. Same people who gave us Abu Ghreib, and then those British soldiers who got carried away and trod on the Iraqi lads? The very same, my dear.
Now, the Law Lords in Britain have said that these very acts are even more dangerous than the perceived threat from those Islamists (who're mostly in detention anyway), but the law as we all know, is an ass, and asses and Islamists are travelling mates now.
Now the Law Society in Britain too has come out to condemn all those terror laws in Britain. Try them or release them, they say. What? Try them? What for? How could you put to trial someone who's jealous of us, our way of life, all the way?
And now even the American Bar Association are said to be formulating something close to the views of their British mates, and flipping heck, what's wrong with all these lawyers. Are they jealous of our way of life too?
Yesterday, a young boy who attends a state school in Londra told me that in a class discussion his teacher said that the Japanese were all right because they've adopted Western values and ways. Muslim countries, the teacher said in earnest, will never be like us, because they're not entrenched in these values. The young boy, impertinent lad that he was, asked how Israel — that wall building, Palestinian shooting, land confiscating, olive tree grabbing nation — could be a part of Europe. Well, the teacher said, that's how it was and is my boy.
Before the lad told me that someone he knew, from the same school, was sent to detention for arguing with a teacher. And the subject of the argument was the boy's Palestinian style scarf that he wrapped around his neck to school. "You can't wear a scarf like that," the teacher. The boy argued, and in detention he was at the end of the day.
And then, the same lad again, told me that one day, in discussions, the teacher asked them to show some websites that were illuminating to them in their particular ways. The Palestinian sites were all out of bound, of course. And then the teacher made a suggestion of her own, of a useful site, and her choice was the Anti Defamation League (ADL) which is, as you know, a perfectly harmless, impartial site that behaves in a very gentlemanly way.
So it's spread to schools too, this root of knowledge of what's right and wrong with this world.
Saving the World for Apple Pie
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Acheh has suffered the worst devastation, being smack at the epicentre of the quake. More than 115,000 people were killed there, and now some 700,000 are dependent on aid. And aid has come in many shapes, even the distinct one of the Baptists, who were just last week accused of kidnapping kids for Jesus in Banda Acheh. The Baptists have a very vigorous way of preaching their way as you can see from this announcement put out on the website of the Westboro Baptist Church when they heard that 2000 Swedish nationals had perished:
In Banda Acheh they announced to the world that they were airlifting 300 Muslim orphans to their orphanage in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, where they'd get to work to "plant Christian principles as early as possible". They had permission from the Indonesian government to do that, the Rev Vernon Brewer of WorldHelp told the world, only to be contradicted by an Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa. "We have no knowledge of this," Natalegawa said. They cannot both be right, one of them must have wilfully misplaced his ontological predicates.
Soon as that denial came from Natalegawa, WorldHelp's Indonesian agent, Protestant minister Henry Lantang issued another statement saying that no, the children had not been airlifted to Jakarta, they were still there in Acheh. WEll, they cannot both be right, the man Lantang and the Rev Brewer, so one of them must've mislaid his ontological predicates in the sudden gush of the flood.
The Reverend Brewer, according to report, was the first person to graduate from the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, in Virginia, where WorldHelp is based. And it is not just Aceh that these Baptists have set their sights on. This is what WorldHelp's website has to say about politics in Iraq:
"Christianity is just starting to spread throughout Iraq. But it could be choked off at any moment if the wrong people come into power in the January 30 elections. As little as $5, provides you the tremendous opportunity to do something that will outlive you and last for eternity in the country of Iraq!"The Achinese are a special challenge to these Baptist zealots. They said this about them on their website — but don't you all go there now as they've already pulled it out. But let me recollect: they said the Achinese are strict sunni Muslims who have been "very instrumental in spreading Islam throughout Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia." But be of good heart, as there's a silver lining in every storm cloud. They added:
"Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel. But, because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel."Why, not a few days ago some Baptist chap in the States was saying that these Muslims in Acheh have not even heard of Jesus, only snag being that in the Qur'an — the holy book of these 'strict sunnis', there is a whole Chapter devoted to Maryam (Mary), where Isa (Jesus) is mentioned once, and throughout the Book, there are 34 mentions of Mary, and 25 of Jesus.
Bringing 'Em Back to Jesus
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Poor Dr Yusuf al-Qardawi has shot into notoriety in the tabloid newspapers in Britain, and even in some supposedly saner broadsheets, particularly The Telegraph. A year ago, if you'd asked any of the hacks now baying for Qardawi's blood who this man with the wrapped up hat was, they'd probably give you a shrug, but now they've all become experts on Qardawiism. And this extends even to gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who now thinks that Qardhawi is more dangerous than the extreme right-wing British National Party (BNP) because he's an Islamo-fascist. Now, that's a new word for you, before which every shade of extremism is pushed into the shade.
Qardawi, has been to Britain many times in the last 25 years, but only now has the press awoken to the 'fact' that he's been plotting to capture Rome. And he's also the one who blames women for being raped, who advocates forced conversion, and who wants everyone stoned who's not in agreement with him. Qardawi the man, in reality, has been attacking the extremism of al-Qaida, expressed regret over the loss of lives during 9-11, has been attacked himself by Abu Musa al-Zarqawai for his 'moderation'. But on the issue of Israel and Palestine he has been vehement, he has urged Palestinians to fight those who've usurped their land and defiled their holy places.
Last year, when London's Mayor Ken Livingstone invited Yusuf Qardawi for a dialogue in City Hall, the Muslim-as-Pariah lobby went into overdrive, with loud protests coming from a Queen's Counsel (who asked the Crown Prosecution Service - CPS - to prosecute Qardawi) and a Labour MP. As it turned out, the QC and the MP were both prominent members of the pro-Israel crowd. Nothing wrong with that, except that the crowd is notoriously tetchy about other people, especially critics of Israel, sharing the limelight. As it turned out, the CPS found no grounds to prosecute Qardawi (maybe they should try Sharon), and Qardawi arrived safely as Livingstone's guest.
And then they presented a dossier to the Mayor listing all Qardawi's crimes against humankind.
So who's been feeding the 'facts' to these zealous media people and protesters to send Qardawi back home? Why, stand up the Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, an establishment that has the visage of an impartial research house but which is actually set up by Ygal Carmon, former colonel in Israeli intelligence. Its co-founder is Meyrav Wurmser, an extreme Zionist who thinks Israeli leftists are a threat to Israel. So what a strange symbiosis there is among this anti-Qardawi crowd: on the one hand there's Peter Tatchell who's urging British leaders to dialogue with leftist Muslims who're not against the banning of the hijab and welcomes gays with a warm embrace, and then there's this virtuous Left itself that's presenting the dossier to Ken Livingstone based on research by a pseudo-impartial establishment whose co-founder hates the guts of the very leftists who're relying on them.
MEMRI also monitors the Middle Eastern press and provides translations for the western media who're ever grateful for their pret-a-porter work. But MEMRI has an interesting approach to the art of translation, as Brian Whitaker, the Guardian's Middle East editor has pointed out. A sample of what Whitaker thinks about MEMRI is quoted by Mayor Livingstone in his rebuttal of the anti-Qardawi dossier:
"In your Special Dispatch 151, for instance, you translated an interview given by the mufti of Jerusalem to al-Ahram al-Arabi, shortly after the start of the Palestinian uprising. One question the interviewer asked was: 'How do you deal with the Jews who are besieging al-Aqsa and are scattered around it?' MEMRI translated this as: 'How do you feel about the Jews? — which is a different question. That left you with a reply in Arabic which didn't fit your newly-concocted question. So you cut out the first part of the mufti's reply and combined what was left with part of his answer to another question.Responses to the Mayor's statement in the press and on the net are indicative of this Muslim-bad mindset; with Tatchell disingenuously adding this: that he's in effect protecting Muslims from themselves.
"During the US presidential election, MEMRI was responsible for translating a statement by Osama bin Laden which was used as the basis for a report that Al-Qaida was threatening terrorist attacks against US states who voted for Bush while offering peace to those who voted Democrat. This was used by pro-Republican media as a means of discrediting Kerry. The translation was quickly exposed as inaccurate and the report as baseless."
The press, of course, are always eager to jump through the Zionist hoop whenever someone who credibly attacks Israel emerges. None mentioned that a group of Jewish Rabbis welcomed Qardawi at the airport. And few cared to react to Livingstone's statement beyond regurgitating weasel words.
§Rabbis welcome Qardawi
§Rabbi Weiss welcomes Qardawi
§OnLine discussion on Qardawi's visit
Thanks for the MEMRI
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Well, does it all matter? Maybe in a way it does; maybe in many ways it doesn't. But here's wise words from fellow blogger EastSouthWestNorth when the results were out:
"This type of event serves the important function of presenting the list of Asian websites, which would otherwise reside only inside the head of this Simon guy and only sometimes highlighted in his Asian By Blog reviews. For example, I would never have known about Jalan-Jalan but for this event."So fame, at last, dear reader.
But for me it's also gratifying to note that the best Malaysian blog award goes to a name that I have in my Handrolled List here, Di Bawah Rang Ikang Kering, run by the inimitable Pok Ku. Well done, Sir, you've made your impact on your readers, and you have your driving licence to prove it.
It's especially humbling to note that Jalan-Jalan started as a plea for direction on July 9, 2003. The name was chosen because it indicated a restless mind, having wandered and still wandering, and I also wanted to gather all those travelling years that I'd gathered. But one could not look at the world without also noticing the amount of suffering there, so slowly Jalan-Jalan inclined towards that; I had no intention at all of being political. The occasional notes of the original still remained, of these, I got most satisfaction when I started Growing Up In Trengganu, a series that gained me a handful of regular readers.
In blogging you have dark moments, when you feel like throwing your hands up and go, without ever coming back. But I was inspired by the perseverance of notable fellow bloggers like Mohsan of Je Blog, and Pak Adib, The Reader, and they kept me going. And thanks too to my silent supporter who's now started her own blog here.
Once again, my thanks to all you good people.
And I thank My Mother and Father...
All these men were arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the flimsiest of evidence — most with no evidence whatsoever. It was demonstration of the wide swoop of this war against terrorism, reminiscent of the sweep in Indonesia that brought an obscure Indonesian General, Suharto, to power, leaving a trail of almost a million dead, and several hundred taken into isolation to Buru, an island far away. I was reminded of Buru when reading the autoboigraphy of the late Indian poet/journalist Dom Moraes recently. Moraes was one of the few journalists who went to Buru and met, among others, the famous Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. There Moraes also saw many child prisoners, taken in the grand swoop when Suharto blasted himself to power. They were merely kids who followed the street demonstrations in the turbulent year, but they were taken away nevertheless, and in Buru they served as sex slaves for their Indonesain army 'guardians.' That was the part of the book that nearly brought me to tears.
So Guantanamo had a model, they've tried it all out elsewhere — imprisonment without trial, guilty without charge, isolation, living in conditions of extreme hardship and torture. This is the shape of democracy to come, and no rewards for guessing who engineered the coup in Indonesia.
This news of the impending release of the British prisoners comes just after it was announced that the Americans had planned to detain those prisoners for life, without access, without trial, without cause. Some are reportedly going insane, others, God knows under what pressure, were reportedly asking for the Bible about a year ago, round about Christmas.
But why now? Cynics will say that in this election year, the ailing Labour Party are doing their utmost to win back Muslim votes. They'd ignored pleas for help these last years, Moazzam's father had himself gone to America to plead for his son, but Blair and his cohorts merely turned a blind eye. But now, Muslim votes are precious again, but no matter, those prisoners must be released, or at least tried in proper courts of law, at whatever cost.
Pray to God that those Brits will return home soon, and pray still for those who are still there, in Guantanamo. But, while this handful of prisoners are going home, the Americans are back in...Indonesia.
But they never left it in the first place, do I hear you say?
Home from the Bay
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Just over a month ago I wrote in to British Telecom on behalf of a friend, asking them to disconnect a telephone line in the friend's house, which is unoccupied. And then I gave them my address and contact number so that the last bill could be redirected.
About a week before Christmas the telephone line in our house suddenly went dead, but by some miracle of technology, our broadband connection remained intact. Then, just a few days ago, this too went dead, but in the flurry towards Christmas and the new year, we just left it at that.
A propos the broadband I contacted the service number which took me to a man in Bangalore, India, who tested this and that, but soon he too got disconnected. Then, another try took me to a lady in New Delhi who also tested this and that, then said that technical assistance would be with me within the week. Any chance of talking to anyone in Londra? Have you got the phone number of this technical wizard? Negative to both.
Then, probing British Telecom again they read out a letter from me to them and only discovered their mistake as they were trying to justify their act. So who's to blame?
Not British Telecom because they never thought to apologise, not the man and woman in India who make my broadband work (or not); so it's just the hibbie-gibbies and the tilt of the globe.
But I've looked at the other side, and at the things that make us sad, and say O Almighty God, I'm thankful for what we have.
Litttle Trouble Spot
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Cartoon from the Independent.
Sad to see Acheh, sunken in sorrow and invaded by Johnny-come-lately do-gooders. Perhaps the world has forgotten the Aceh that awoke to dead bodies sprawled in the streets, as a lesson to those who dared object. Acheh was an awkward state for Jakarta's Presidential Palace. Acheh has had its share of bloodletting and bodies sprawled in the streets before this disaster struck.
It struck a chord too when a BBC interviewer reminded Colin Powell of the US do-goodin' mob: is it all right that you Americans are giving the Muslims aid? Or something like that. The BBC is always looking for new angles, granted that, but at times like these? Bad taste, no doubt, about that.
And poor Colin, what did he say? He said later that these poor people aren't used to devastations like that. Just like the poor Iraqi civilians aren't used to being bombed from a high place, to the silent dust of Depleted Uranium (DU) slowly gnawing on their flesh and blood, and then having homes lost because carpet bombing is better than a soft attack on the face of the devil. Don't you find it odd that forces that were so used to destroying lives in the whole of last year are now trying to do the saving work? Perhaps folk have forgotten that in the coup that brought in Suharto in the second half of the last century took more than a million lives. And who backed that? The Brits for one — its ambassador sent out a lie that went halfway round the world before truth could find its other boot. Then the US of Aid, all there to fight the forces of bad. And now they're back — and the UN be damned — we want to get there ourselves. Did you cringe when some US panjandrum vilified the UN as the world's most inefficient organsiers of aid? Did you know how much of the billions of cash for Iraq fell by the wayside?
Then Tony Blair came back to little fanfare in Blighty, assailed by the press. This same Tony Blair who came to the fore when Princess Di died and hailed her with a spin-doctored phrase of the People's Princess. This same man who raised his head from his load of work to plead for Deirdre Barlow when she had to go behind bars. Er, who's Deirdre Barlow? She's a character in an English soap, for goodness sake! Blair the Gulf War warrior was on holiday in Egypt when the tsunami struck, and it took him 4 days to resurface with a sorrowful word.
This Tsunami disaster is sad. The world is once again in a Princess Diana mood, but for how long? So far the only man who's come out with little credit in Blighty — while the Foreign Office is attacked for its unthinking attitude even to its own citizens, and while the tills continue a-tinkling in the credit card companies and banks, from snipping commissions from funds for aid — the only man who's come out with some semblence of decency is Gordon Brown, the man who'd like to be King. He worked his guts out over the long holiday break to ask lender nations to write off debts to nations now still reeling from the flood, or at least withhold those devlish interest rates. Let's see what they'll do with that once the excitement dies out.
And it's clear for all to see now, that for all his Iraq gung-ho, for his stiff-upper lipped barefaced attempt to prop up the Iraq WMD myth, the man Blair has clearly lost the plot.
After the Flood
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Happy New Year