Saturday, March 31, 2007  

Memories of subjugations past...

(colonization, 1945)

Thought I would post this and invite dialog. I am (probably stupidly) hanging around a scruffy little exchange about colonization on in the comments section. To head off any mis-understandings right now- I love the Arabist and think Issandr and co are doing a great job. (see side bar for link).

However, there seem to be some people on the exchange who are under the impression colonialism was good for the colonized. Hmmm, if this were consentual minor S&M sex, I could see how that might work...but it wasn't, and I have lived in enough post-colonial environments and done a lot of work (academic and artistic) on post-colonial issues, that I strongly beg to differ. I personally feel that colonialization continues to poison the body cultural long after the infecting agent has left.
A friend, M. takes a very pragmatic view- 50 years should be enough to move on, but then this view comes 60 years after the end of the Raj. D. , I and several others, like A., another M., N., R., the K's and probably A. from Marrakech, don't quite see it that way as we come from a Francophone experience. As D. puts it- sure, the rhetoric of victimhood gets worked out, but then a low burning rage sets in.
Driss Chraibi says in an interview with Lire- je colonise le colonisateur dans sa propre langue. (I colonize the coloniser in his own language). Which is what many Indian writers do as well- I think of Gosh, Iyer, Seth, Mukherjie, and I am in awe of the beauty of their language. The Francophone/Beur writers twist and curve French to make it their own and in doing so, create a text that sings with third party meaning.
But does that indicate a nostalgia for subjugation and second class (if that) status, or is it making the best of a slightly poisonous inheritance?

I'd be really interested in what other people think, ex-colonials and others. Although some (like M.) may consider post-colonialism done, in my own life and in the work of fellow artists, it still runs through us- and whether we stand on the fringes of American Empire, or somewhere within the inner margins- I think it is still a valid issue to ponder.

What do you think?


(courtesy of Old Amerian


Oh, dear...

This is what happens when you let little boys play Monty Python. They grow up to be bitingly funny and on the mark.
Call that humiliation?

No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch

Terry Jones
Saturday March 31, 2007
The Guardian

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.

And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

· Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python

Friday, March 30, 2007  


This interesting message brought to you via Skippy (and first mentioned by James over at Left End of the Dial). Apparently Skippy has been hanging around Little Persia in LA, whence this snap.

Why the street grafitti in this vein, you might ask? Well, if you didn't ask, you should. It appears we may all wake up one day and find we have taken Tehran, invaded Isfahan, conquered Qom, what have you. According to this and that on the blogosphere, Russian Intelligence predicts a Spring offensive. Thankfully this did not happen on Norouz, but may in time for Orthodox Easter, a symbolism not unwasted on the US (as in the hanging of Saddam on the first day of Eid), but certainly not wasted east of Rome.
While the US has been itching to mix it up with Iran for months now, enter a new and fascinating scenario:
The British Sailors: act I, II and III, co-produced by, in alphabetical order, Great Britain, Iran and the United States
Not, may I point out, accompanied by music by Gilbert and Sullivan or even Andrew Llyod Weber.
Act I is currently playing, Ladies and Gentlemen, at least the part in front of the curtain.
Act I seems to be going like this: in the prologue, the US seizes several Iranian diplomats in Iraq and detains them. The curtain goes up and Iran has seized a number of British sailors, claiming they have gone into Iran's waters. The Brits produce a map suggesting, nay, stating, Iran has committed a crime in detaining the crew. But wait! What's this? The map is potentially old, wrong and a ploy. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray has challenged the accuracy/versacity of the map while Tehran claims to have footage of the incident, that includes, they now say, repeated forays into Iranian waters.
Shades of the summer the Cedar Revolution got burned to a crisp due to arson?
This being the 21st century, no such spectacle would be complete without a mediated component.
Let's reel in the TVs and see, shall we?
Ah yes, the parading of the captives. Apparently several, including the female crew member, apologized for being in Iranian waters. . I haven't seen the video myself but I have seen stills, and while the three sailors don't look thrilled to be there, they don't look physically mistreated, either. The NYT has a transcript of Leading Seaman Faye Turney's on camera statement.
Much has been made in the British sector of the fact that Turney was seen wearing a scarf- it's black alright, but hardly tied like a hijab- she's not wearing chador and she looks more like a younger babushka doll.
What wasn't seen (as another writer has pointed out - I'll reference when I find it again)- were orange jumpsuits, guns pointed at them, signs of torture, shackles or hoods. Which is because the show isn't being staged by the Americans at this point.
Besides, this kind of background casting is very expensive- but I digress.
The point to be made is that no one should be paraded in front of the cameras like this.

Act II: will be brief. The curtain closes on the West wringing its hands over the appearance of the sailors on Iranian TV and rises on impassioned pleas for their release on the part of the Brits, careful posturing on the part of the US, and the bullying of the UN to declare more sanctions by them both while Mohammed El Barradei reprises his role in the 2003 production of the W Shock and Awe Show (a yet to be completed passion play), saying Iran poses no threat as a nuclear-capable state. The curtain falls on deaf ears as Barradei's soliloquy draws to its ineffective close.

Act III: the beginnings of Act III are currently classified- suffice to say, the Americans firmly believe that one good turn deserves another- and something has happened- a soldier was killed on the Iraq/Iran border, whatever - something the equivalent of the slap the French Ambassador recieved from the Dey of Algiers- and we're off - with the British taking the lead for a short time before the US outmaneouvers them to steal the show.
But because this is primarily an Anglo-American production (the Iranian participation ceases at the end of Act II), the production is not actually complete and there is talk of a fourth act, as yet still classified, but we understand it involves Iraq, disgraced exiles and an oil barrel or two.
There is a strong possibility that Rice will pronounce the epilogue at the final curtain- since by now- the production will have taken on profoundly Shakespearean tones.

Joking aside- this does not bode well for any of us. Iran did something possibly unbelievably stupid- it remains to be seen about the map- and W is once again herding us to the brink of a destructive, pointless conflict that will lead to more misery everywhere, and possibly the collapse of the US as we know it.

Do not, do not follow this man blindly. He has ruined us- but I do not hold him entirely responsible. I hold the American people primarily responsible. What is wrong with you that you cannot see what is happening? How can you let this happen to us? What has happened to you? This is no longer the country I grew up in and I hate and dispise you people who continue to support this travesty of an administration.

Sunday, March 25, 2007  

The View from Ramallah

UT:What are the prospects and how should the peace process, which has been almost moribund now for quite some time, certainly since Hamas' electoral victory last year, be revived?

AS: First of all, the peace process was nonexistent for the last six years, not since Hamas' election a year ago.

UT: Well it was certainly nonexistent during this violent second intifada in which there was virtual warfare between Israel and the Palestinians.

AS:If you go back to the (former U.S. Sen. George) Mitchell Report, it says that the second intifada started as a nonviolent movement, and it was the ferocious repression of the Barak government then that pushed a few unwisely to use the little weapons they had. But the peace process was nonexistent the last six years. And by the way, this is one of the major reasons why Hamas won the legislative elections; nonexistence of the peace process for the last six years and the unconvincing nature of that process in the previous years. I believe in the need of a third-party (intervention). So I personally believe that the American role is decisive. In my analysis, I always – even in my dealings with the State Department – often speak of what I call the self-inflicted impotence of the American administration. America is a superpower all over the world except in its dealings with Israel. And up to now, we have witnessed what I call static diplomacy. You're not unaware that Dr. (Condoleezza) Rice has been there in the area in the last few months nine times with very little fruit of that agitation. And I perceive, indeed, that America should be more vocal, visible and assertive. We have a wonderful window of opportunity if the players want to capitalize on it. The Arab world is available for historical compromise, was available for that compromise for years.

Afif Safieh, Palestinian Representative to the US, was in San Diego last week to give a presentation to the San Diego World Affairs Council. This interview appeared in today's (Sunday) San Diego Union Tribune (UT) paper. While some of the interview is ok, Safieh was interviewed by members of the UT editorial board, who, to me, seem to have been singularly unprepared for the interview. The tenor and scope of some of the questions are poor and indicate a weak grasp of the subject, inapproporiate for a major metropolitan daily with some recent pultizers.
They had a unique opportunity to understand the Palestinian position, especially in light of last year's events in the West Bank and Lebanon, the Mecca Accords, and now Mubarak's move against Egyptain bloggers and the Egyptian Constitution, and Rice's oddly ineffective (personally, I think they are very effective- window dressing is never asked to be profound or intelligent) jaunts around the region.

You can read the rest and judge for yourself.

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