Debating Iraq in 2014: Wrong All Over Again

Debating Iraq in 2014: Wrong All Over Again.

Writers such as Glenn Greenwald and intellectuals such as Chomsky have been repeatedly pilloried by the ‘left, liberal’ media for suggesting that dissent in America remains difficult, if not near impossible to articulate particularly around questions of the national security. The argument has been that America allows dissenting voices in its press and public spaces, the evidence of which is that both Greenwald and Chiomsky can publish freely, and speak freely.

This argument is disingenuous at best. It ignores the incredibly overwhelming efforts made in the media to create a clear consensus around specific issues of war, violence, race, imperialism, capitalism and democracy. In this noise-chamber of the predictable, the few voices of dissent reflect not so much a space for free-speech, but a desperate effort to manufacture a facade of ‘debate’ without ever quite bringing into question, or without ever quite distancing ourselves from the consensus.

This was blatantly evident in the recent appearance of Snowden on NBC by Brian Williams – true, Snowden said his piece – but the voice of authority and editorial control – that of Williams, closed the interview by yet again undermining Snowden, and closing the discussion with the suggestion that indeed he had broken the law and that his actions were what needed to be prosecuted and challenged. The consensus was defined and underlined.And so here in all our discussions about Iraq – the consensus is clear: we cannot accept or acknowledge the devastation of Iraqi society that our war left, to say nothing about the 12 years of near-genocidal sanctions that broke the back of this nation.

We want to forget that for the last 20 years the USA and its European allies have placed Iraq under social, political, economic and military pressure that should rightfully be considered a war crime, and genocidal. Our policies and practices may have resulted in over a million dead, and tens of millions displaced, a cultural heritage scattered and destroyed, raw resources siphoned and stolen, corruption, criminality, brutality, torture, disappearances, hunger, poverty, rising child mortality, sectarian violence, drugs, weapons, and a complete breakdown of any moral and ethical glue that the society may once have had, are completely and absolutely our fault. Saddam Hussein was an amateur in comparison to the horrors we unleashed and continue to do so.

So to then sit and listen to these vile, and sick men debate Iraq as if it was nothing more than a cultural pathology, an immature society, a bizarre national entity, and to have them suggest that the solution is more violence, more war, more bombs and more brutality, makes you realise that man possesses an near infinite capacity for evil and hideousness, and perhaps most so when he can dress in a bad 2-piece suit, and be given the respectability of a TV stage and an agreeable host.


No other city can make me feel as alone as I do here. I can stand in the midst of a crowded street and feel the passing bodies of thousands who do not see me. I can sit in a cafe and never be noticed. I can walk into a room and have no one notice me: Conversations that are not interrupted, glances that do mot inquire, greetings that are not meant to be heard or answered. I can walk for hours and I may as well be in a desert. All around me full and busy lives, a commotion of schedules to keep, meeting to get to, friends to sit with, and places to be at. Surrounded in a sea of people all of whom seem to have too much to do.

I walk slower. I sit longer. I say less. I wait more. I bring books. Scribble in notepads. I feel the summer rains. I caress my thoughts. I long for a voice calling out my name. A coincidental meeting of a friend. A stranger who wants to strike a conversation. An encounter. Ideas. Thoughts. Readings. Concerns. All within me and none to speak to about them. Most simply walk away from boredom or exhaustion. These isolating concerns, these distancing protests, these off-putting arguments, these tiresome polemics – she described them as thus once and walked away. What do you do if you fear being seen because it may mean being unseen?

Friends send Facebook messages with suggestions that may help. All the suggestions however I actually work hard to avoid so that I can forever be alone, awash in this noise, but cocooned in the privacy it affords me.

How Much Should We Pay For Art? Or How Often Will We Ask The Wrong Question?


How Much Should We Pay For Art? –

There is no beauty. No morality. No value to passions. To place for imagination. No worth to creativity. Yes, There is no beauty.

Each time I take a train from New York to Washington D.C I stare out at the wasteland that exists outside the train window. I have often wondered at the mindset and values of a society that can so mindlessly produce such hideousness, and be so indifferent to any sensibility of the aesthetic, and of the beautiful. It is a classic utilitarian landscape – barren, shredded, violated, exploited, harsh, dark, inhuman, dying – an industrial, utilitarian reality produced by a man who has reduced everything; humans, land, forests, earth, water, air, place, to a commodity whose worth is only measured in its money and sale value. Nothing else matters. The industrial parks are utilitarian, the housing estates are merely utilitarian, the lives are culled to the absolutely most efficient utility. A vision of man reduced to machine, in the service of machine.

The landscape always fills me with dread. It makes me think of what life would be life if I had no value other than that of the work I produced, or the service I provided to a corporation. It reminds me of what life would be like if everything that made me frail, fragile, uncertain, doubtful, cautious, curious, expressive, questioning, and creative, would be set aside. A life lived simply to survive. A life measured by quantities and measures defined by others. By this false god called ‘the market’ i.e what will someone else pay for what I am and what work I can do. A slave life. A reduced life. A utilitarian life. A life where one does not assume leisure, or pursue needs beyond that to feed, reproduce, work and die. A work of machines. And in a society that has culled itself of anything and everything beautiful, unable ever to imagine the need to create something simply from the need to create, or to see that humans are not individuals, nor products, but part of a society, a community, and an ethos for which they actually live and create. To see that the meaning of human society is to create something that is beautiful, and worth working for, and not the other way around i.e a society that is created simply for work.

A barren life. A torn apart life. A shallow life. A utilitarian life. Details »

Media Lens – The Great White ‘Nope’ – Genevieve Jacobs, Paul Mason and Alain De Botton

Photojournalistm’s obsession with ‘presentation’ – the singular conviction that new tools, toys, social media platform, greater use of graphics, cooler website designs or multi-media, are the answer to the problems of their craft, reflects an ideology that erases corporate owner and political influence.

This argument was taken up in this excellent piece about journalism, and the ideological blinkers that remain in place not on journalists, but also those writing about journalism.

Media Lens – The Great White ‘Nope’ – Genevieve Jacobs, Paul Mason and Alain De Botton.

In their criticism of Alain De Bottom’s new book The News: A User Manual, they point out:

De Botton really is arguing that ‘presentational techniques’ should be a key focus for media reformers, who need to deal with the fact that ‘no one is particularly interested’ in news. (p.98)

The solution, then, ‘is to push so-called serious outlets into learning to present information in ways that can properly engage audiences. It is too easy to claim that serious things must be, and can almost afford to be, a bit boring….

…Key problems with the media are thus identified: they don’t try hard enough to be interesting, they’re too boring, they’re too focused on negative events – a desperately superficial and misguided analysis.

The entire onus is placed on presentation, and on the individuals (editors, writers, photographers etc.). This is a classic example of confusion and obfuscation because it refuses to recognize the institutions that own, operate and influence media and journalism – corporations that own them, economic interests that finance them (advertisers and other corporations), and governments that use them for political agendas and dissemination of ideologies (capitalism, free-markets, invasions, wars, etc.) behind moral and legal language. Or, to put it more succintly:

Like the endless promotion of wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, perhaps – including the Guardian and Independent’s tireless advocacy for the West’s supposed ‘responsibility to protect’ – despite the clear disfavour of readers and viewers. In fact, the financial needs of newspapers mean that they cannot afford to advance ideas which fail to find favour with the 1 per cent, and above all the 0.1 per cent, which owns and controls them.

Yet again, most all this is also missing in photojournalism’s debate with itself. Instead, what we have been offered is not a honest debate about the way media institutions are operating, or the restrictions of embedded journalism, or the cozy relationship with corporate power, or the ways in which news is angled to reflect government or our political and imperial interests, but instead on presentation toys: Instagram, other social media, multi-media techniques, etc. etc.

Is the debate going to widen? Is there a festival, a school, a panel or even a group of photojournalists who will come together to explore these critical questions, and re-examine their own works to see what now needs to be done differently?


How Alain de Botton plays safe with the news | Jonathan Cook’s Blog

Because real events in much of the world, especially the developing parts of it, reveal the ugliness of the west’s pursuit of its interests, the real job of foreign reporters is to equivocate and obfuscate – in fact, to betray the truth. “Presentation” is not concerned with clarity and generating interest, as De Botton assumes; it is designed to conceal the true goals of western foreign policy.

via How Alain de Botton plays safe with the news | Jonathan Cook’s Blog.

Jonathan Cook once again takes on this strange habit most of us have of making excuses for mainstream media’s mediocrity, but without ever confronting the real political and economic forces that explain it. Instead, there is a propensity to lay the blame on individuals and departments, and to claim that this is mostly a question of the pursuit of the market or the quick sensationalist sale.

Jonathan Cook argues instead that it is part of the plan – the obfuscations and confusions that are ingrained in the way news is reported, particularly foreign news, is part of its design. It is meant to veil the hidden hand of Western political and economic interests and instead present the world, and our actions there, under the mask of ‘human rights’ or ‘violations of international law’ or ‘asiatic despotism’ or other such legalistic or culturalist explanation.

What is erased is our involvement, and hence, our reason for the interest. At any one time there are only certain news stories, conflicts, or pathologies that capture the media’s attention. The question then is, why? What drives a certain prioritization, and what drives it away. Why Darfur at a certain time, and then why not Darfur today?

Photojournalism has kept silent on this front, choosing instead to engage in vacuous and trivial debates about social media platforms, digital cameras and other such nonsense. It has revealed itself to not be a serious journalistic enterprise by refusing to engage with the serious questions of journalism in our time. Photojournalists seem to be unaware of the role they play in the priorities and structures of imperialism, nationalism and corporation interests. In fact, with only pictures to offer, they are the perfect foils for an attempt to reduce a complex political and social issue to a series of hysterical and simplistic generalizations, whether cultural or other.

There is a debate and a discussion completely absent from photojournalism and I remain confused why this is so. There isn’t a photojournalism festival, competition, reward, community, or secret society, that seems to be prepared to take itself seriously and engage in the hard questions of power and news, politics and media, corporatization and political agendas, imperialism and capitalism etc. and how photojournalism has been a hand-maiden to it, or cab be a means of understanding and questioning it.

Podcast: Hassan Abbas on militancy and the pause in Pakistan drone strikes | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Podcast: Hassan Abbas on militancy and the pause in Pakistan drone strikes | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Hassan Abbas offers us further evidence of his idiocy. Its remarkable the glee with which these clowns love to contort language, mutilate history and most hideous, veil State violence and interests that are principally responsible for bringing us to the mess that we are in. The so-called ‘militancy’ Mr Abbas is a result if State sanctioned violence, double-cross and lies. It is aimed not at drones, which are rightfully seen as an aspect of a broader campaign of war and domestic-occupation, but at the State, its civilian institutions, its military and its policies of repression, murder, disappearances, displacement, racism and indifference. The Pakistani State uses violence indiscriminately and hence tells the people that it only understands violence.

Marriage Will Never Set Us Free – Organizing Upgrade

Marriage Will Never Set Us Free – Organizing Upgrade.

Against marriage (not love, mind you, but the institutional, social control and power-domination nature of marriage). 

And for my many single-women friends who are in a tizzy about where life is going, this paragraph was apt:

…marriage is about controlling people and property for the benefit of white people, wealthy people and settlers. It does so under the cover of a consumer-driven mythology about love. US popular culture is permeated by a set of myths about sex and romance that feminists have long worked to analyze and dismantle. We are told that people, but especially women, have empty, useless lives unless they are married. Women are encouraged to feel scarcity about the ability to marry—to feel that they better find the right person and convince him to marry them quickly—or else face an empty life. In this equation, women are valued only for conforming to racist and sexist body norms and men are also objectified and ranked according to wealth. These myths drive the diet industry, much of the entertainment industry, and certainly the gigantic wedding industry ($40 billion per year in the US), which is based on people’s terrified attempts to appear as wealthy, skinny, and normative as possible for one heavily documented day. Feminists understand the scarcity and insecurity that women are trained to experience about love, romance and marriage as a form of coercion, pushing women into exploitative and abusive sexual relationships and family roles. Media messaging about how essential marriage and child rearing is for women to have a meaningful life is part of an ongoing conservative backlash against feminist work that sought to free women from violence and unpaid domestic labor.


N.Y.U. Crisis in Abu Dhabi Stretches to Wall Street –

NYU management is ‘shocked’ at the labor practices required to build their Potemkin-university in the Gulf.

N.Y.U. Crisis in Abu Dhabi Stretches to Wall Street –

A couple of things to note:

the feigning of ‘surprise’ at labor abuse and violence in the Gulf is simply nothing more than nonsense. the brutal, exploitative and violent regimes of immigrant labor that has built the neo-liberal wet dream nations in the Gulf are well known, well document, academically researched and eye-witness confirmed and have been for decades.

two, the arguments NYU is using to express ‘shock’ are the same that corporations ilke Nike, Adidas, The Gap and others used when someone revealed the horrifying conditions in garment sweatshops in Haiti, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan and elsewhere. Its the ‘we contracted’ out argument – one that is also used by the local factory owners when their workers die in fires and what not. Basically, it is a ‘fob off’ argument that lays the blame on someone else.

Marian Young in her work ‘The Responsibility for Justice’ however has argued that there is a chain of responsibility in any corporate / business value-chain that extends across geographies. And the principal responsibility lies with those who have their hands of the most power in the chain i.e .the billion dollar corporations.

It is NYU, with its billions, much like Nike and others, who create their fantasy products on the grounds that labor will be cheap, and profits high. What we call ‘globalization’ – what others know is nothing more than capitals search for exploitable and cheap labor and its determined reduction of any barriers (other than human) that can facilitate this exploitation behind the ‘sing-a-long’ giddiness of silly slogans like ‘the world is getting smaller’ (it is also getting more brutal, unequal), is a known structure of business and these corporations are all happy partners in it. It is only when someone reveals a crisis that they go into ‘lets handle it with a public frown’ mode and pretend that it is all ‘shocking’.

This article clearly reveals NYU’s complicity in all this, and Sexton’s hypocrisy in claiming that NYU contracted things out. The oldest excuse in the book made by the oldest professionals on Earth….

Bad Science

Bad Science

Its remarkable how often people repeat the false claim that medicines, and medical products are expensive because of the investments in new research required to produce them. But the facts are quite the opposite: new medicines for serious diseases are not what are prioritized, more research is still publicly funded, pharmaceutical firms spend most of their money on promotion, advertising and sales related activities, and also a huge chunk of their funds on patent protection and lawsuits to defend their right to extortionist pricing practices. These are the same corporations responsible for the HIV related genocide in Africa (see: and other hideous, capitalism-justified practices, that remind us how quickly morality and ethics are cast to the site in the pursuit of the ‘invisible hand’ of the market. No, the ‘invisible’ hand is manipulating the very idea of science and what it means to do it. There seems to be absolutely no corrective mechanism since we have also swallowed the lie that government is ‘interventionist’ and hence destructive. The one institution that is there to act as a negotiator between profit and public welfare has absconded and is busily lining its own pockets at the expensive of lives and the broader public good.

College Student In Hunger Strike To Protest Pakistani Enforced Disappearances

College Student In Hunger Strike To Protest Pakistani Enforced Disappearances.


How forgettable is this act of this young man?

How erasable is Pakistan’s continued brutality, and dehumanising policies in Baluchistan? It is shocking to me that there are so many journalists who will speak about how ‘terrorism’ (whatever that is!), is on the rise in Pakistan, and how its a problem that is simply out of control and that the State has the right to do something about it. And yet they will do this without even a nod towards the fact that all ‘terrorism’ has a political context, and all ‘terrorism’ is in fact politics by other means.

They cannot seem to get their head around a narrative that is about connections, inter-relationships and context. Its as if ‘terrorism’ can only be discussed as a phenomenon in and of itself, with no material history from which it emerges. They cannot comprehend that that if a State labels acts of violence ‘terrorism’, it is doing so to erase the political context and sensibilities, ones that the more often than not, the State has created, to distract them from this context itself.

There is no such thing as ‘terrorism’ in Pakistan. There is a large amount of reactionary political violence aimed against a State that has subjected the citizens of the country to massive State violence and closed off all avenues of political discussion, debate, negotiation and voice. Today, in the face of overwhelming evidence of State machination and political venality, it is simply irresponsible, immoral and anti-intellectual to call any act of violence ‘terrorism’. It is politics.

And as this young man lies dying, we would do well to remember that it is also this closure of political hope and participation, that has lead to his desperate need to use ‘asymmetrical warfare’ techniques i.e hunger strikes, much like those used by prisons in Guantanamo and Bagram, the occupied people of Palestine, the brualized communities in India’s East provinces, the people of occupied Tibet and so many more, to simply have a say, to be heard, to be allowed a place on the table of society and humanity.

The State will refuse. It will subject the people to more violence and murder, censor the media, and then claim that it is ‘terrorism’ i.e a political voice that then emerges, that is the issue.

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