A Coalition, A War, And The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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In what can only be called a ‘coalition of the bought’, one that includes some of the best military dictatorships and some of the most retrograde societies in the Middle East, we have launched into yet another illegal, unauthorized war in the region.

The US has launched, with the support of perhaps one of the most vile coalitions put together – filled with nations that behead people as a form of ‘law’ – to go after a group that beheads people as a form of military tactic. To say nothing about the fact that the UN has been reduced to a mouthpiece uttering nonsense about ‘humanitarian crisis’ as a way to hide its collusion and its complete abandonment of its charter and responsibility. No resolution has been even considered to sanction this entire ridiculous, ultimately useless campaign. No debate. No discussion. Not even an attempt at a fake ‘consensus’. Of course, the pusillanimous US Congress was entirely by-passed – such an inconvenience this bloody democratic structure of our Republic that it is best avoided completely, and is sucking on green-colored lollipops given to it by the corporations.

And our left-leaning think tanks – always reactionary, always happy to simply accept the inevitability of American transgressions of the law, justice and human rights, will not issue reports about minor, specific, constrained ‘violations’ of ‘international law’ that the Americans should be held accountable too, while of course remaining silent about the wider illegality and disaster unfolding. The willing partners to the imperial party, these think tanks will eventually provide the intellectual fertilizer to help us forget how we got into this mess.

So here we go again….Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and now Syria. Wars upon wars upon wars all justified on the basis of demons our very interventions keep creating. It’s a gift that never stops giving….Actually, if you listen to the propaganda coming out its amazing how familiar it all sounds:

In a CENTCOM statement, it added the US military had taken action to disrupt an “imminent attack” against the US and Western interests by “seasoned al-Qaeda veterans” who had established a safe haven in Syria.

Right. The old playbook has just been pulled out and the mouth pieces are simply reading from script. ‘Imminent threat’ – reminds me of the nonsense Brennan uttered in so many speeches. ‘Western interests’, which could mean anything including that the ISIL men are breathing from ‘our’ atmosphere. ‘Seasoned al-Qaeda veterans’ – didn’t we cut off the head, murder the leader, declare victory, see our frat boys and girls pumping fists and grabbing their crotches in celebration just some months ago? So where do the veterans get their seasoning? The same old lies, the same old demons, the same of ‘threats’ and the same old trick where we do not acknowledge that today ‘American interests’ is nothing but an euphemism for American imperial want to own and control regional resources and governments

Oh, the games we will play. And trust me, The New York Times, Time Magazine and the other brochures of the US State Department and The Pentagon will send its finest stenographers to publish fear-mongering stories each day. Oh, and other stories with lots of facts and statistics about ‘fighters killed’, and ‘pin.point accuracy’ and the requisite ‘women saved’ stuff. Get excited. I can’t wait to read this stuff, since I only last read it a few months ago. Now they just have to change Afghani names, and Iraqi names for Syrian names and….oh, why bother!

The rush to violence. After all, it is the only language ‘they’ understand. The closure of all political options. The refusal to consider any and all possible means of disarmament. The ejection of a genuine engagement and commitment to regional stability that would require us to stop imagining that the oil in the region is ours to take and use as we please, the ignorance of the genuine needs and struggles of the people of the region, the refusal to countenance actual democratic movements and governments, the reduction in arms and cowardly support to Israel – the main source of vile and violent politics and occupation in the region, the slow but steady commitment to diplomatic involvement and negotiations, the castration of the UN as a genuine space for debate and conflict resolution, the constant prioritization of short-term profit over long-term and meaningful involvement, the constant paranoia and racism that can never be reduced.

It can only be war. It can only be guns. It can only be murder and blood shed.

So many keep asking me ‘what is our alternative’. Common sense and diplomacy would be one. A pull back of all military advisers and our arrogant military-driven world-view would be another, a ratcheting back of our World Bank and IMF goons in the region to disentangle capital’s interests in facilitating violence yet another. But perhaps most importantly, a nuance, intelligent and serious interest in the very region that is important to us would also be a start. A commitment to specific principles, including the prioritization of diplomacy and negotiations with all regional governments and leaders. A willingness to highlight non-interference another action that would be key. A commitment to fair and equal trade arrangements and an acceptance that we cannot be responsible for consuming the lion’s share of the Earth’s resources. There were repeated moments when diplomacy and negotiations were scuttled in the rush to war, not the least before the invasion of Iraq. There were repeated moments when patience was over-ridden by gun-toting idiocy. None of these new wars are against groups of governments that were of any threat to us. But by choosing the language of violence we now find ourselves with an adversary that has learned to speak. The fact that we are living in a world where people scoff at the idea of diplomacy tells you a lot about how our imaginations and our courage have lost out to our fear and our paranoia. The mere fact that there are alternatives, including one that takes seriously the need to sit and speak to even those we fear and loath, and to find a negotiated, mutually acceptable and compromised way ahead, is simply dismissed as naive and silly. And therein lies our poverty of thought and intellect. Unable to connect our $4.00 per cup coffee in the morning to our $4 trillion in wars, we sit and throw up our hands and ask ‘What else can we do?’ But there is so much that we can do, but our government has chosen not to. It has chosen its arrogance and behaved with stupidity. It has chosen a coward’s path, one that it has been on since the end of WWII, and since it realized that it was easier to beat them into submission than to speak to them into accommodation. Now, the harvest of blood we have so gleefully sown keeps reaping its violent harvest and we keep wondering what the hell is going on?

This is only getting worse.

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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