Jogging Our Memory Or Jogging Our Morality Perhaps?

Denis Halliday, the UN humanitarian coordinator, who later resigned in protest, called the sanctions regime against Iraq ‘genocidal’. When asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl if the deaths of nearly 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it, the then US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, replied ‘We think the price is worth it.” Details »

Unintended Consequences Or Why Development Aid Can Kill

I came across a rather disturbing report recently (thanks to Wronging Rights) released by the Nordic African Institute of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Titled The Complexity of Violence: A critical analysis of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) it is a critical examination of how crimes of sexual violence in the Congo are depicted, documented and reported on. Specifically the report challenges the prioritized focus on sexual violence, as something ‘abnormal’ and different from other forms of violence, and the undue and highly publicized attention given to it by international health, aid and media organizations. Details »

The Subtlest Cut

It’s difficult to know how to react to this rather strange piece of writing that appeared in a recent issue of Time magazine. Written by the photojournalist James Nacthwey, and titled Haiti: Out of the Ruins, it is a remarkable exercise in historical amnesia and imperial erasure. Nacthwey, a man who has a long history white-washing American wars and violence, claims that: 

They [the Haitians] continue to endure their history — a crescendo of privation and hardship, matched by strength, pride and dignity. Their nation was born in the conquest of slavery; it has been shaped by poverty, struggle and faith.

No, not quite.

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To Hear Or See An Haitian Once The Party Has Died Down

There is something terribly indecent about it and we have to be honest and acknowledge it. The hoards of photographers and wanna-be photographers, most eyeing each other and copying each other so that they may not get ‘left behind’, that have descended on Haiti since the devastating earthquake there remind me why I have felt so alienated and disconnected from this entire craft. The specious justifications of ‘bearing witness’ or that ‘…news pictures help drive a response of aid’, just no longer ring true.

Rarely have so many people used so many clichés so repetitively to justify an act (the news photograph) so lacking in engagement for so long. Decades since photographers started using the language of ‘concerned photographer’, a new generation continues to parrot the same language, and continues to hide its real motivations – determined more by careerism, a pursuit of awards, or just plain bravado, behind a veil of moral, and messianic language of ‘bearing witness’, and ‘in the hope that it will change things’. I am hearing it all over again in Haiti and its driving me nuts!

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‘Going Muslim’ At Fort Hood Or How Rabid Simplicities Masquerading As Insight Just Sell More Magazines

It did not take long for overtly racist explanations to be offered. Before facts come fantasy, and before truth comes tabloid opinions masquerading as insight. And it arrived not in some radical, fringe magazine but in the pages of the international magazine Forbes by one of their regular contributors. (I of course ignore the determined Islamophobia of outlets like Fox News.) Details »

Saying ‘Fuck Off’ In Muslim And Why I Say It So Often!

I was days away from penning a piece about how we should neither ask or give ‘collectivist’ explanations for acts of violence carried out by people 1) using Islam as a justification, 2) with Arabic/Islamic/Muslim names, and 3) veiling their illegal, violent and inhumane activities behind a language and rhetoric of Islam.

But Ali Eteraz beat me to it, and did it more articulately and with greater clarity. By the way, I have quoted from Eteraz’s works in the past. He has also recently published what looks like a fascinating memoir. The book is called Children of Dust and chronicles his journey from a village in Pakistan to the USA where he remained the rest of his life. Details »

Offering Silence To The Oppressed

An exhibition called ‘Beware The Cost Of War’ recently opened in London.

Reading about it in the New York Times ‘Lens’ blog left me deeply disappointed and concerned.

Let me explain.

(Aside: Yoav Galai, the curator, is someone I have called a friend for some time now and I hope that he will forgive me for this very critical review of what is something he clearly put a lot of work in to. It is not personal, but merely a reflection on this propensity in our world to fear speaking, to raise a voice, to add details and specifics where generalizations only confuse, perpetuate injustices and acquit the guilty. I am sorry Yoav. I must say my piece.) Details »

Fear The Pushtun Bogeyman

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Engaging the Muslim World. He has a regular column at Salon.com. and writes the Informed Comment blog.

He has now written what I think is the first piece that connects modern day American imperialist paranoia in Afghanistan to 19th century British imperialist paranoia in Afghanistan. Details »

Wrapping Photographers Into The Packaging of War

They took the New York Times on a war tour. The Battle For Pakistan it was called when the magazine finally published the photographs their boys had so carefully constructed and bought back. They had all the elements that would suggest valor, fear, desperate battles, the struggle of ‘a state’ against an unseen but clearly fearsome enemy. Though to my eye it appeared to be a lot of pictures of Pakistani soldiers ‘posing’ – the kinds of pictures I know these soldiers often pose for whenever I have had to photograph them. They know the routine – it is a veritable war zone cat walk, Pakistan’s Next Top Soldier! There are ‘buckets’ of IEDs, emptied villages, men behind bars wearing their self incriminating, evidence acceptable in our modern courts of war, skull caps and beards. The Battle For Pakistan, a nation of 170 million, with a cultural and ethnic diversity that baffles most, was apparently being fought against a few hundred men with outdated guns and plastic buckets IEDs!

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Fighting Ghosts And Selling The Good War Or Why Are The Toy Soldiers On The Front Lines!

The silence is deafening. As American troops are dropped in on Afghanistan to fight their fantasy war, there is no sound from our defenders of truth and checkers of power i.e. the media, about the operation, its objectives, our continued presence in the country, our blood thirsty allies, our ‘pretend’ Afghani democracy, our support of drug lords and genocidal manaics, our consistent killing of innocents and our blind faith in our own righteousness and unquestioned right to trample on another people and bend them to ‘our ways.

The glory of war is being sold on the front pages of our newspapers, none of which have the courage to ask what they know is in fact a fake war, aimed at a poor and defenceless people, fuelled by the ‘intelligence’ and advice of a group of venal, corrupt, blood thirsty and power hungry clique of Afghani warlords, drug barons and oil huckster!

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