Friday, July 29, 2011

Palestinians fear for ancient West Bank water source

Bedouin Falah Hedawa herds sheep in the Rashayida area, in the desert between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and the Dead Sea,

July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

* Israel demolishes cisterns restored to harvest rainwater

* Old cisterns, many ancient, rehabilitated in recent years

* Israel West Bank authority says cisterns in firing zones

* Bedouin say Israel aims to drive them off land

By Tom Perry

RASHAYIDA, West Bank, July 28 (Reuters) - Hewn from rock, the cavernous cisterns which dot the desert beyond Bethlehem have for centuries harvested winter rain to provide shepherds and their flocks with water through summer.

Under a baking sun, an elderly Bedouin explains how cisterns he remembers from childhood, many of them restored to full working order in the last few years, are once again helping his goat-herding community to survive.

That, he concludes, is why the Israeli authorities who control the West Bank have demolished at least three in the area since November.

"Maybe they are doing this to make us leave. We will not leave," said Falah Hedawa, 64, sitting on cushions in his tent home pitched in the hills that slope down to the Dead Sea.

Out into the desert, a stagnant pool marked the spot where one of the cisterns, chiselled out of a hillside, had stood until its recent demolition. A mud trail on the otherwise dry ground indicated where the water inside had drained away towards a wadi, a valley which becomes a river when the rain falls.

Israel has demolished 20 rainwater collection cisterns in the West Bank in the first half of this year, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which monitors conditions in the Palestinian territories.

Their razing is part of a marked acceleration in demolitions of Palestinian structures in "Area C" -- the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel exercises total control.

Defined by interim peace agreements concluded between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, Area C is where all of Israel's West Bank settlements are located.

In the first half of 2011, more Palestinians lost their homes in Area C than in the whole of 2009 or 2010, OCHA says. Many of them were Bedouin. A total of 342 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in the area so far this year.

Typically, demolitions are carried out on the grounds that the structures, some of them as simple as tents, have been put up without Israeli permission -- something Palestinians say is almost impossible to obtain.

As for the cisterns, the Israeli civil administration for the West Bank says that in at least two cases, probably more, it took action because they were located in military training zones where live fire could pose a danger to people using them.


That, Palestinians say, is just an excuse, part of a system of Israeli restrictions designed to curb their development while allowing the settlements to grow.

The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) behind the cistern rehabilitation project are deeply concerned: the Bedouin, who number around 27,500 in Area C, are some of the poorest of all Palestinians.

Rehabilitated, the cisterns have been providing them with a free water resource, easing their reliance on expensive tankered water that they have to tow to their encampments by tractor.

By reviving old cisterns, the project leaders hoped they could sidestep tight restrictions on the construction of new water infrastructure -- a factor which the Palestinian Authority says has exacerbated water shortages across the West Bank.

"These cisterns are licensed by history," said Nadi Farraj, a Palestinian agricultural expert who has helped to rehabilitate around 140 old cisterns in the last four years.

The Bedouin talk of cisterns dating back to the Nabatean era, some 2,000 years ago. During their rehabilitation, workers drawn from the Bedouin communities have uncovered artifacts including Ottoman-era military helmets.

At one remote desert site, amid stone structures believed to be the remnants of an early Christian church, workers found parts of ancient mosaic floors while rehabilitating two cisterns where goats are today taken to drink.

"It's clear they have been here a long time -- from the days of our ancestors at least," said Ibrahim Moussa, sitting in the shade underneath a rock outcrop as he watched over his herd.

Photographs taken during restoration work reveal cavernous spaces, buttressed by supporting columns and archways. Not all the cisterns are underground. Some consist of pools dug at the end of wadis to trap the rainwater flows.

Reaching the remote sites is often the hardest part of the work, Farraj says. Once there, workers must remove sediment, waterproof the walls with plaster and then rebuild collection channels that funnel the rainwater into the cistern.


In the desert outside the town of Zaatara, one cistern bears a Christian symbol which shows that it predates the 7th century spread of Islam from the Arabian peninsula, said Ahmad Abou Rabada, a local notable.

The cistern is one of two where Israel ordered a halt to restoration work in June on the grounds the area was within a firing zone. Abou Rabada said firing had not been heard there for years.

"They have presented many excuses," he said.

He fears it is now only a matter of time before the civil administration demolishes the cistern.

The demolitions have drawn U.N. condemnation. DanChurchAid, a Danish NGO that has financed the project, says five of the cisterns it has worked on have been demolished this year, three by Israeli forces and two by Jewish settlers.

"I find it extremely concerning. The whole Horn of Africa and the Middle East are facing major droughts this year," said Mads Lindegarde, regional representative of DanChurchAid, part of an NGO coalition that has formed The Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group in the Palestinian territories.

"To destroy ancient water cisterns and water resources in general is madness, but particularly in a situation where people are suffering from an extreme lack of water," he said.

The demolitions are compounding a water crisis across the West Bank, said Shadad Attili, head of the Palestinian Water Authority.

"I have a water crisis everywhere, especially in the area classified as Area C," he said. "I fail in providing water to those people. Supposing I have a water source, I have to get approval to lay a pipe, but I don't, so these people are relying on the cisterns," he said.

"What message are they sending? 'Leave this land' -- this is the only message they are sending," he said.

Though Israel denies seeking to displace the Bedouin by such methods, it does have a plan for resettling them in built communities.

"They will get land for free, electricity, water, which will probably improve their situation," a spokesman for the Israeli civil administration said. "They can't keep moving from place to place and land is limited."

"This is the only solution with the Bedouin."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who Owns America? Hint: It's not China

A close-up look at who holds America's debt.

By Thomas Mucha

July 23, 2011 "GlobalPost" -- Truth is elusive. But it's a good thing we have math.
Our friends at Business Insider know this, and put those two principles to work today in this excellent and highly informative little slideshow, made even more timely by the ongoing talks in Washington, D.C. aimed at staving off a U.S. debt default.

Here's the big idea:

Many people — politicians and pundits alike — prattle on that China and, to a lesser extent Japan, own most of America's $14.3 trillion in government debt.

But there's one little problem with that conventional wisdom: it's just not true. While the Chinese, Japanese and plenty of other foreigners own substantial amounts, it's really Americans who hold most of America's debt.

Here's a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:

Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)
So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.

Lily Pads (Cooperative Security Location), FOS (Forward Operating Site), MOB (Main Operating Base)

In past ten years U.S. has expanded military network throughout the World
by Rick Rozoff
(Friday, July 22, 2011)

The unprecedented expansion of American military presence throughout the world in the last decade, in support of and consolidated by attacks and invasions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, has been marked by the Pentagon securing new bases in several continents and Oceania.

In the past ten years the U.S. has gained access to and expanded and upgraded dozens of bases abroad, in most every case in nations that had been off-limits to it during the Cold War and even the last decade of the 20th century.

These include multi-service (Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy) main operating, forward deployed and pre-positioning bases, storage and logistics facilities, base camps, air and naval installations, a global strategic airlift operation, interceptor missile and related radar bases, unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) launch pads, satellite surveillance sites, permanent training programs and centers, new regional task forces and even a new overseas military command: U.S. Africa Command, which takes in 54 nations, almost 30 percent of the member states of the United Nations.

Individually and in conjunction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. has deployed or will soon do so armed forces to new locations ranging from “lily pads” to strategic air bases from the Baltic Sea to South America, Southeastern Europe to Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa to Central and South Asia, the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus to Central Europe, the South Pacific to the Black Sea.

The countries affected (as of last count, proceeding through the alphabet) include:

•Netherlands Antilles
With the activation of the Northern Distribution Network to supply the nearly ten-year war in Afghanistan, all but two of fifteen former Soviet Republics – Moldova and Ukraine – have been incorporated into troop and equipment transit routes for the world’s longest armed conflict: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In January the Russian government announced that U.S. and NATO flights over the country in support of the Afghan war had reached “up to 4,500 flights in one direction in a year.” The next month Voice of Russia, citing Foreign Ministry figures, revealed that 15,000 U.S. military personnel and over 20,000 tons of cargo had crossed Russian territory en route to Afghanistan since October of 2009.

In recent years the U.S. has led military exercises on a regular (at least annual) basis, frequently with NATO and Asian NATO allies, in Bulgaria, Romania, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Cambodia and throughout the African continent (with Flintlock, Africa Endeavor, Natural Fire and Africa Partnership Station operations).

Most of the bases where American military personnel and assets have been and are being stationed are preexisting facilities – seven in Colombia, four each in Bulgaria and Romania, scores in Afghanistan and Iraq – but many are new: a missile shield-linked Forward-Based X-Band Radar installation deployed in Israel’s Negev Desert (with a range of 2,900 miles) in 2008 staffed by some 100 U.S. service members; a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile battery moved to Morag, Poland two years later with a comparable amount of military personnel assigned; a Reaper drone operation in Seychelles begun in the intervening year; a transit center in Kyrgyzstan through which an estimated 50,000 U.S. and other NATO troops pass each month to and from the Afghan war front, and so on. Washington will soon rotate F-16 squadrons to Poland and later in the decade will station Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic interceptors in Poland and Romania with complementary radar sites being examined in nations like Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

The recently acquired bases, though hardly of the dimensions of those constructed after the Second World War and the Korean War, or for that matter of the almost 1,000-acre Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, are sufficient for the needs of 21st century American warfare, shifting as it has to long-range bombing and helicopter gunship attacks, cruise and drone missile strikes, and special forces operations.

The ever-expanding range of U.S. military activities reached a new point last month when the Pentagon dispatched a C-5 Galaxy transport plane on a direct, non-stop flight from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware across Canada and over the North Pole, then over Russia and Kazakhstan into the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The Heavy Airlift Wing established by the U.S. and eleven NATO allies and partners in 2009 at the Pápa Air Base in Hungary, the world’s first multinational strategic airlift operation, by this February had “flown more than 3,600 flight hours and delivered more than 13,800 tons of cargo and more than 6,100 passengers for the nations over six continents including missions to Haiti, Afghanistan, South Africa and Europe,” according to U.S. Air Forces In Europe.

The same source also announced early this year that the 65th Air Base Wing moved 15,000 aircraft with 22,000 personnel from 21 nations through the Lajes Field in Portugal’s Azores in 2010 for wars and other deployments in the east.

Air bases acquired in nations like Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Iraq and Romania have been upgraded not only for long-distance military transport but as potential strategic bases analogous in scope and purpose to those developed after World War II in Britain, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

In the second half of the last century the U.S. could boast of military supremacy in – control over – the entire Western Hemisphere, Western and Southern Europe, and most of the Pacific Ocean.

In the new century, with a World War Two-level $729 billion military budget this year and a head of state who boasts of being the commander-in-chief of “the world’s sole military superpower,” its reach spans almost the entire globe.

Make-believe Apocalypse

An Economy Destroyed

Recently, the bond rating agencies that gave junk derivatives triple-A ratings threatened to downgrade US Treasury bonds if the White House and Congress did not reach a deficit reduction deal and debt ceiling increase. The downgrade threat is not credible, and neither is the default threat.
Both are make-believe crises that are being hyped in order to force cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

If the rating agencies downgraded Treasuries, the company executives would be arrested for the fraudulent ratings that they gave to the junk that Wall Street peddled to the rest of the world. The companies would be destroyed and their ratings discredited. The US government will never default on its bonds, because the bonds, unlike those of Greece, Spain, and Ireland, are payable in its own currency. Regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, the Federal Reserve will continue to purchase the Treasury’s debt. If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, then so is the US government.

There is no budget focus on the illegal wars and military occupations that the US government has underway in at least six countries or the 66-year old US occupations of Japan and Germany and the ring of military bases being constructed around Russia.

The total military/security budget is in the vicinity of $1.1-$1.2 trillion, or 70 per cent -75 per cent of the federal budget deficit.

In contrast, Social Security is solvent. Medicare expenditures are coming close to exceeding the 2.3 per cent payroll tax that funds Medicare, but it is dishonest for politicians and pundits to blame the US budget deficit on “entitlement programs.”

Entitlements are funded with a payroll tax. Wars are not funded. The criminal Bush regime lied to Americans and claimed that the Iraq war would only cost $70 billion at the most and would be paid for with Iraq oil revenues. When Bush’s chief economic advisor, Larry Lindsay, said the Iraq invasion would cost $200 billion, Bush fired him. In fact, Lindsay was off by a factor of 20. Economic and budget experts have calculated that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have consumed $4,000 billion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs. In other words, the ongoing wars and occupations have already eaten up the $4 trillion by which Obama hopes to cut federal spending over the next ten years. Bomb now, pay later.

As taxing the rich is not part of the political solution, the focus is on rewarding the insurance companies by privatizing Medicare at some future date with government subsidized insurance premiums, by capping Medicaid, and by loading the diminishing middle class with additional Social Security tax.

Washington’s priorities and those of its presstitutes could not be clearer. President Obama, like George W. Bush before him, both parties in Congress, the print and TV media, and National Public Radio have made it clear that war is a far more important priority than health care and old age pensions for Americans.

The American people and their wants and needs are not represented in Washington. Washington serves powerful interest groups, such as the military/security complex, Wall Street and the banksters, agribusiness, the oil companies, the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and the mining and timber industries. Washington endows these interests with excess profits by committing war crimes and terrorizing foreign populations with bombs, drones, and invasions, by deregulating the financial sector and bailing it out of its greed-driven mistakes after it has stolen Americans’ pensions, homes, and jobs, by refusing to protect the land, air, water, oceans and wildlife from polluters and despoilers, and by constructing a health care system with the highest costs and highest profits in the world.

The way to reduce health care costs is to take out gobs of costs and profits with a single payer system. A private health care system can continue to operate alongside for those who can afford it.

The way to get the budget under control is to stop the gratuitous hegemonic wars, wars that will end in a nuclear confrontation.

The US economy is in a deepening recession from which recovery is not possible, because American middle class jobs in manufacturing and professional services have been offshored and given to foreigners. US GDP, consumer purchasing power, and tax base have been handed over to China, India, and Indonesia in order that Wall Street, shareholders, and corporate CEOs can earn more.

When the goods and services produced offshore come back into America, they arrive as imports. The trade balance worsens, the US dollar declines further in exchange value, and prices rise for Americans, whose incomes are stagnant or falling.

This is economic destruction. It always occurs when an oligarchy seizes control of a government. The short-run profits of the powerful are maximized at the expense of the viability of the economy.

The US economy is driven by consumer demand, but with 22.3 per cent unemployment, stagnant and declining wages and salaries, and consumer debt burdens so high that consumers cannot borrow to spend, there is nothing to drive the economy.

Washington’s response to this dilemma is to increase the austerity! Cutting back Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, forcing down wages by destroying unions and offshoring jobs (which results in a labor surplus and lower wages), and driving up the prices of food and energy by depreciating the dollar further erodes consumer purchasing power. The Federal Reserve can print money to rescue the crooked financial institutions, but it cannot rescue the American consumer.

As a final point, confront the fact that you are even lied to about “deficit reduction.” Even if Obama gets his $4 trillion “deficit reduction” over the next decade, it does not mean that the current national debt will be $4 trillion less than it currently is. The “reduction” merely means that the growth in the national debt will be $4 trillion less than otherwise. Regardless of any “deficit reduction,” the national debt ten years from now will be much higher than it presently is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why the US won't leave Afghanistan

Surge, bribe and run? Or surge, bribe and stay? How US military bases and the energy war play out in Afghanistan.

Pepe Escobar

The Pentagon wants the White House to "hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012"

Among multiple layers of deception and newspeak, the official Washington spin on the strategic quagmire in Afghanistan simply does not hold.

No more than "50-75 'al-Qaeda types' in Afghanistan", according to the CIA, have been responsible for draining the US government by no less than US $10 billion a month, or $120 billion a year.

At the same time, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is "premature". The Pentagon wants the White House to "hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012."

That of course shadows the fact that even if there were a full draw down, the final result would be the same number of US troops before the Obama administration-ordered AfPak surge.

And even if there is some sort of draw down, it will mostly impact troops in supporting roles - which can be easily replaced by "private contractors" (euphemism for mercenaries). There are already over 100,000 "private contractors" in Afghanistan.

It's raining trillions

A recent, detailed study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University revealed that the war on terror has cost the US economy, so far, from $3.7 trillion (the most conservative estimate) to $4.4 trillion (the moderate estimate). Then there are interest payments on these costs - another $1 trillion.

That makes the total cost of the war on terror to be, at least, a staggering $5.4 trillion. And that does not include, as the report mentions, "additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending", or a promised (and undelivered) $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

Who's profiting from this bonanza? That's easy - US military contractors and a global banking/financial elite.

The notion that the US government would spend $10 billion a month just to chase a few "al-Qaeda types" in the Hindu Kush is nonsense.

The Pentagon itself has dismissed the notion - insisting that just capturing and killing Osama bin Laden does not change the equation; the Taliban are still a threat.

Inside Story: Leaving Afghanistan

In numerous occasions Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself has characterised his struggle as a "nationalist movement". Apart from the historical record showing that Washington always fears and fights nationalist movements, Omar's comment also shows that the Taliban strategy has nothing to do with al-Qaeda's

aim of establishing a Caliphate via global jihad.

So al-Qaeda is not the major enemy - not anymore, nor has it been for quite some time now. This is a war between a superpower and a fierce, nationalist, predominantly Pashtun movement - of which the Taliban are a major strand; regardless of their medieval ways, they are fighting a foreign occupation and doing what they can to undermine a puppet regime (Hamid Karzai's).

Look at my bankruptcy model

In the famous November 1, 2004 video that played a crucial part in assuring the reelection of George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden - or a clone of Osama bin Laden - once again expanded on how the "mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat."

That's the exact same strategy al-Qaeda has deployed against the US; according to Bin Laden at the time, "all that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note, other than some benefits to their private companies."

The record since 9/11 shows that's exactly what's happening. The war on terror has totally depleted the US treasury - to the point that the White House and Congress are now immersed in a titanic battle over a $4 trillion debt ceiling.

What is never mentioned is that these trillions of dollars were ruthlessly subtracted from the wellbeing of average Americans - smashing the carefully constructed myth of the American dream.

So what's the endgame for these trillions of dollars?

The Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine implies a global network of military bases - with particular importance to those surrounding, bordering and keeping in check key competitors Russia and China.

This superpower projection - of which Afghanistan was, and remains, a key node, in the intersection of South and Central Asia - led, and may still lead, to other wars in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The network of US military bases in the Pentagon-coined "arc of instability" that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and South/Central Asia is a key reason for remaining in Afghanistan forever.

But it's not the only reason.

Surge, bribe and stay

It all comes back, once again, to Pipelineistan - and one of its outstanding chimeras; the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline, also known once as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, which might one day become TAPI if India decides to be on board.

The US corporate media simply refuses to cover what is one of the most important stories of the early 21st century.

Washington has badly wanted TAP since the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration was negotiating with the Taliban; the talks broke down because of transit fees, even before 9/11, when the Bush administration decided to change the rhetoric from "a carpet of gold" to "a carpet of bombs".

TAP is a classic Pipelineistan gambit; the US supporting the flow of gas from Central Asia to global markets, bypassing both Iran and Russia. If it ever gets built, it will cost over $10 billion.

It needs a totally pacified Afghanistan - still another chimera - and a Pakistani government totally implicated in Afghanistan's security, still a no-no as long as Islamabad's policy is to have Afghanistan as its "strategic depth", a vassal state, in a long-term confrontation mindset against India.

It's no surprise the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army enjoy such a close working relationship. Both Washington and Islamabad regard Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat.

The 2,500-kilometer-long, porous, disputed border with Afghanistan is at the core of Pakistan's interference in its neighbour's affairs.

Washington is getting desperate because it knows the Pakistani military will always support the Taliban as much as they support hardcore Islamist groups fighting India. Washington also knows Pakistan's Afghan policy implies containing India's influence in Afghanistan at all costs.

Just ask General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief - and a Pentagon darling to boot; he always says his army is India-centric, and, therefore, entitled to "strategic depth" in Afghanistan.

It's mind-boggling that 10 years and $5.4 trillion dollars later, the situation is exactly the same. Washington still badly wants "its" pipeline - which will in fact be a winning game mostly for commodity traders, global finance majors and Western energy giants.

From the standpoint of these elites, the ideal endgame scenario is global Robocop NATO - helped by hundreds of thousands of mercenaries - "protecting" TAP (or TAPI) while taking a 24/7 peek on what's going on in neighbours Russia and China.

Sharp wits in India have described Washington's tortuous moves in Afghanistan as "surge, bribe and run". It's rather "surge, bribe and stay". This whole saga might have been accomplished without a superpower bankrupting itself, and without immense, atrocious, sustained loss of life, but hey - nobody's perfect.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for the Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We Own the World

Staying in Iraq: What Foreign Troops?

John Glaser, July 12, 2011

Recent reports of Iranian “interference” in Iraq again note a central tendency in imperial culture: we own the world.
The talk about Iraqi Shiites using Iranian weapons to fight their American occupiers (which is by no means an established fact) was first, but then the other day there were all these warnings about how Iranian forces trespassed across the Iraqi border.

It was treated in the American press as if a foreign army had marched onto the American homeland.
But then, that is precisely how the imperial mindset perceives it: Iraq qualifies as our land because, after all, it’s here on planet Earth.
Since we own the world, our jurisdiction extends throughout the globe and anywhere we see unwelcome feet it’s the equivalent of unwelcome feet on the Texas borderland or traversing Cape Cod.
Of course, nobody sees the 50,000 U.S. military troops, down from 170,000 at one point, (not to mention contractors) as foreign troops. Our army is always indigenous, because we own the world.

And this “waiting game” about an Iraqi decision on U.S. troop withdrawal seems rather superficial to me.
To speculate, I think it is likely that the U.S. is pressuring the Iraqi leadership to “decide” on a continued U.S. military presence there.
Rather absent from the propaganda in the American media about the withdrawal is what everyday Iraqis think about the ongoing U.S. occupation.
To everyone directly involved in the decision making on this issue, public opinion is irrelevant. Good polls asking them directly can be found (last hyperlink), but nothing very recent to my knowledge.
This latest Iraqi public opinion poll, however, shows that large majorities believe the country is going in the wrong direction and that only 2 percent think increased U.S. military patrols are a good option to improve security.

Much of the short term mission in Iraq has been achieved, and the longterm mission – to keep a contingent force there forever, as we have in many other countries around the world – seems to me to be in the works.
After all, you don’t build the world’s largest and most expensive U.S. Embassy (which fully opened only in 2009) if you plan to leave. If only we could get the Iraqis to realize that our troops are never foreign.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Native Orientalists

by M. Shahid Alam
(Monday, November 30, 2009)


"Pakistanis had failed to seize sovereign control over their country at its birth. In August 1947, the departing British had few worries about losing their colonial assets in Pakistan. They were quite confident that the brown Sahibs, who were succeeding them, would not fail in their duty to protect these assets. Within a few years, these brown Sahibs had strapped the new country to the wheels of the neocolonial order. Without effective resistance from below – from intellectuals, workers, students and peasants – these neocolonial managers have been free to cannibalize their own people as long as they could also keep their masters happy."


“The more a ruling class is able to assimilate the foremost minds of the ruled class, the more stable and dangerous becomes its rule.”

-- Karl Marx

A few days back, I received a ‘Dear friends’ email from Mr. Najam Sethi, ex editor-in-chief of Daily Times, Pakistan, announcing that he, together with several of his colleagues, had resigned from their positions in the newspaper.

In his email, Mr. Sethi thanked his ‘friends’ for their "support and encouragement…in making Daily Times a ‘new voice for a new Pakistan.’" Wistfully, he added, "I hope it will be able to live up to your expectations and mine in time to come."

I am not sure why Mr. Sethi had chosen me for this dubious honor. Certainly, I did not deserve it. I could not count myself among his ‘friends’ who had given "support and encouragement" to the mission that DT had chosen for itself in Pakistan’s media and politics.

Contrary to its slogan, it was never DT’s mission to be a ‘new voice for a new Pakistan.’ The DT had dredged its voice from the colonial past; it had only altered its pitch and delivery to serve the new US-Zionist overlords. Many of the writers for DT aspire to the office of the native informers of the colonial era. They are heirs to the brown Sahibs, home-grown Orientalists, who see their own world (if it is theirs in any meaningful sense) through the lens created for them by their spiritual mentors, the Western Orientalists.

Pakistanis had failed to seize sovereign control over their country at its birth. In August 1947, the departing British had few worries about losing their colonial assets in Pakistan. They were quite confident that the brown Sahibs, who were succeeding them, would not fail in their duty to protect these assets. Within a few years, these brown Sahibs had strapped the new country to the wheels of the neocolonial order. Without effective resistance from below – from intellectuals, workers, students and peasants – these neocolonial managers have been free to cannibalize their own people as long as they could also keep their masters happy.

This is not a cri de coeur - only a diagnosis of Pakistan’s misery. It is a misery that only Pakistanis can remedy once they make up their minds to terminate the system that has castrated them for more than six decades. The best time to do this was in the first decades after their country’s birth, when the Western imperialist grip was still weak, and, with courage and organization, Pakistanis could have set their newly free country on the course of irreversible independence.

Grievously, Pakistanis had failed at this task. Pakistan’s elites produced few men and women of conscience, who could transcend their class origins to mobilize workers and peasants to fight for their rights. More regrettably, Pakistan’s emerging middle classes have been too busy aping the brown Sahibs, stepping over each other to join the ranks of the corrupt elites. As a result, Pakistan’s elites have grown more predatory, refusing to establish the rule of law in any sphere of society.

Ironically, the enormous success of Edward Said’s Orientalism, his devastating critiquing of the West’s hegemonic discourse on the ‘Orient,’ has deflected attention from the recrudescence of a native Orientalism in much of the Periphery in the last few decades. Its victory in Pakistan is nearly complete, where it has been led by the likes of Ahmad Rashid, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Najam Sethi, Khaled Ahmad, Irfan Hussain, Husain Haqqani, and P. J. Mir. Not a very illustrious lot, but they are the minions of Western embassies and Western-financed NGOs in Pakistan.

In the euphoria of Edward Said’s success, left intellectuals have nearly forgotten that the West’s servant classes in the Periphery produce an indigenous Orientalism. I refer here to the coarser but more pernicious Orientalism of the brown Sahibs, who are free, behind their rhetoric of progress, to denigrate their own history and culture. A few of these native Orientalists are deracinated souls, who put down their own people for failing, as they see it, to keep up with the forward march of history. Most, however, are opportunists, lackeys, or wannabee lackeys, eager to join the native racketeers who manage the Periphery for the benefit of outside powers.

In the closing years of the colonial era, the nationalists had kept a watchful eye on native informers. In recent decades, as their power has grown several fold, this treasonous class has received little attention from left circles. Post-colonial critics continue to produce learned books and essays on the language, structures, tools, intricacies and even the arcana of Orientalism, but they pay scant attention to native Orientalism. These critics prefer to concentrate their firepower on the ‘far enemy,’ the Western protagonists of Orientalism. Perhaps, they imagine that the native Orientalists, the ‘near enemy,’ will vanish once the ‘far enemy’ has been discredited. In truth, the ‘near enemy’ has grown enormously even as the ‘far enemy’ treads more cautiously.

Quite early, writing in the 1950s, Franz Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth, had sounded the alarm about the treachery latent in the ‘national bourgeoisie’ poised to step into the shoes of the white colonials and settlers in Africa. About this underdeveloped bourgeoisie, he writes, "its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neocolonialism."

"Because it is bereft of ideas," Fanon writes, "because it lives to itself and cuts itself off from the people, undermined by its hereditary incapacity to think in terms of all the problems of the nation as seen from point of view of the whole of that nation, the national middle class will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager for Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the brothel of Europe."[1] Although Fanon was not writing about Pakistan, no truer words – nothing more prescient – could have been written about the brown Sahibs who have managed US-Zionist interests in Pakistan.

To return to the DT, surely some Pakistani – moved by the instinct of self-preservation – could have produced at least one damning monograph documenting the methods that this new flagship of native Orientalism has employed to advance the strategic interests of the US-Zionist confederates in Pakistan and the Islamicate. Oddly, you are unlikely to find even a few articles that shine the spotlight on the DT’s unabashed advocacy of the US-Zionist agenda in Pakistan.

The DT was launched in April 2002, simultaneously from Lahore and Karachi, just a few months after the United States had invaded and occupied Afghanistan, with indispensable logistic support from Pakistan. Was this timing a mere coincidence? Or was the launching of an aggressively pro-American and pro-Zionist newspaper, led by a team of mostly US-trained editors and columnists, an imperative of the new geopolitics created by the Pakistan’s mercenary embrace of the US-Zionist global war against terrorism?

Coincidence or not, the DT has served its masters with verve. Its pages have carried countless editorials justifying Pakistan’s induction into the US led war against Afghanistan, under the cover of the attacks of September 11. The editors and columnists at DT have routinely excoriated the patriots who have opposed Pakistan’s surrender to US-Zionist demands, as naïve sentimentalists unaware of the tough demands of realpolitik. Endlessly, they have argued that Pakistan – with the world’s sixth largest population, a million-strong military, and an arsenal of nuclear weapons – can save itself only through eager prostration before the demands of foreign powers.

In advocating national surrender, these native Orientalists boldly and unashamedly declared that Pakistan’s elites draw their power from Washington, London and Tel Aviv, not from the will of the people of Pakistan. It is an insult that has since been sinking, slowly but surely, into the national psyche of Pakistanis.

Taking advantage of what appeared to be – after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 – the irreversible US assault against the sovereignty of Islamicate nations, Pakistan’s ruling elites openly began broaching the need to recognize Israel. Once again, the native Orientalists at DT were leading the charge, arguing that Pakistan could advance its national interests by recognizing Israel. Their rationale was pathetic in its naïveté. Grateful to Pakistan, the brown Sahibs argued, the powerful Zionist lobby would neutralize the Indian lobby’s machinations against Pakistan in the United States. Only determined opposition from nationalists in Pakistan defeated this treacherous move.

When resistance against US occupation of Afghanistan gained momentum, once again the DT was reading its master’s lips. Shut down the madrasas, they demanded; and, without delay, attack the Pakistanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) who were supporting the Afghan resistance. Repeated US and Pakistani bombings of the resistance groups in Fata, which has killed thousands of civilians, called forth new Taliban factions that have been attacking military and civilian targets in Pakistan. With barely concealed glee, the DT cheers when the Pakistan military carries its war deeper into the country’s towns and villages.

In 2007, when the lawyers in Pakistan took to the streets to demand the restoration of the Chief Justice sacked by the military dictator, the DT did not support them. Instead, it defended the sacking, and repeatedly made the case for a ‘gradual transition’ to civilian rule in Pakistan. A civilian government, they were afraid, might not be as compliant to US pressures as Pakistan’s military rulers.

When elections became unavoidable, the United States and Pakistan’s generals worked on a plan to bring to power the pro-American Benazir Bhutto, the exiled corrupt leader of the Pakistan People’s Party. At US prodding, President Musharraf passed an ordinance withdrawing all criminal cases against the leadership of the PPP. With luck, the US plan succeeded. The openly pro-American PPP followed General Musharraf into power.

Space allows us to list only a few egregious examples of the Orientalist mindset on display in the pages of the DT. As the paper’s chief native Orientalist, Khaled Ahmad, for several years surveyed the foibles and follies of Pakistan’s Urdu media. He berated the benighted Urdu writers for their naïveté, emotionalism, and foolish advocacy of national interests that collided with realpolitik (read: US-Zionist interests). Ejaz Haider, the paper’s op-ed editor, distinguished himself by writing his endlessly clever political commentaries in the racy street lingo of the United States. Did this make him a darling of the American staff at the US embassy in Islamabad?

Consider one more ‘exhibit’ that captures DT’s servile mentality. In a regular column, oddly titled, ‘Purple Patch,’ the newspaper ladles out wisdom to its readers. This wisdom is dispensed in the form of article-length passages lifted from various ‘great’ writers, who are always of Western provenance. Presumably, the editors at DT still believe, with their long-dead spiritual mentor, Lord Macaulay, that "a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia."[2]

Will the departure of Mr. Sethi and his distinguished colleagues make a difference? I doubt if the owners of DT will have difficulty finding their replacements, voices equally shrill in their advocacy of foreign powers. More than at any other time, growing numbers of Pakistanis have been grooming themselves for service to the Empire, as their predecessors once eagerly sought to serve the British Raj. This groveling by Pakistan’s elites will only change when the people act to change the incentives on offer to the servants of Empire. It will only change when the people of Pakistan can put these mercenaries in the dock, charge them for their crimes against the people and the state, and force them to disgorge their loot.

This will take hard work; and some Pakistanis insist that this hard work is underway. It daily gains momentum, and, at some point, the will of the people will catch up with the craven and corrupt elites who have bartered the vital interests of Pakistan and the Islamicate for personal profit. When the ‘near enemy’ has been decapitated - metaphorically speaking – the ‘far enemy’ too will recede into the mists of history.