Thursday, November 27, 2014

Syria Snapshot

Twitter exchange this morning.
More at this link.

@edwardedark OK. 3rd party stabilisation. CFs. Transitional body. New constitution. Elections but no senior people who ordered war crimes?

.@KreaseChan when u have credible means 2 bring 2 justice rebels who shelled& killed my cousin while geting groceries we can talk about that

@edwardedark I'm sorry to hear that. If you want to talk seriously without the grandstanding & trolls you have my email

.@KreaseChan yes I'm sorry, apparently demanding equal justice for war crimes is obviously tantamount to grandstanding & trolling

@edwardedark no not u trolling (yet) just the regime apologists in your orbit. As said, happy to expand this discussion away from here.

.@KreaseChan no need to discuss anything privately mate, if u have something to say about bringing equal justice to #Syria, say it publicly

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Snapshot

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is becoming a landmark event with symbolic significance bigger than the bare facts of the case. Yesterday Congressman Lewis compared it with Selma but President Obama felt otherwise. In any case, the national response is huge. The number of young black men killed by police has always been inappropriately large, but the trend appears to be accelerating.

The responses of individuals and communities affected continues to be overwhelmingly peaceful but with a growing undercurrent of impatience. Destructive mobs are responsible for millions of dollars in property damage and black communities bear the brunt of those losses, but a non-violent core remains durable and hopeful.

A video linked at Codeblack Life has already received over three thousand comments. Snipped below is a snapshot of the "top comments" from Facebook. 
DCJ Father God we need you right now in the name of Jesus. I speak peace in Ferguson and in cities beyond as this spirit of violence has to stop!

AR The police dont have to kill us, we're doing it ourselves by acting out. This make the police job even easier, Stop the violence and pray instead. God will prevail.

MO  They are looting and destroying lifetime of other people's investment who didn't kill Brown!!! They must be stopped by any means necessary.

GAM Why do we destroy are own community?

SNC If everyone would have flipped it on them... And went HOME... they wouldn't have nothing to bomb. I get it. Very unfair verdict... Why give them ammunition ??? Go home... Pray. Come up with a better plan of action. Your doing exactly what they want... So why get mad ?

MRD Black Friday Boycott 11/27-11/29/2014

DE  Are yall forgetting how the crowd is doing to that town? I guess so.... they aren't harmless by no means, they wanna act a fool then this what happens, it don't matter about our race by no means it's how you act and they think nothing should happen. Smh come on ppl wake up.

KH Brothas and Sistas just Go Home as NOTHING will be accomplished as all your doing is proving them right from all this after the verdict was read!

DM Cash Crew It never belonged to us anyway ...#History

TB Lord Jesus have mercy! Just pray! All you can do is pray! Although justice was not served, we all have to answer to HIM one day. And that judgement is the ultimate you lived your life, how you treated people...etc. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective and God hears the prayers of the masses.

BO  Those small bombs are smoke canisters and bean bags. Y'all are kinda of embellishing a bit. Look, you should never wrestle with a man with gun. I'm just had Brown just talked to the police or not resist he would be alive right now and that's a fact. He made a poor choice, and made a selfish decision to attack the officer. He didn't think about himself or his family that loved him. Had he did, he would be alive. To all my brothers and sisters just follows the rules and use common sense and you will live to see another day.
Like · Reply · 85 · Yesterday at 2:39am


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Does the Obama Era Echo the Arab Spring?

An essay by Amro Ali written in May appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. The parallels between what happened in Egypt since 2011 and what has happened in America about the same time are striking. Here is my Facebook reflection...

Read and reflect on this Egyptian commentary written in May.

Idealistic, mostly young people, energized by the Arab Spring in 2011 soon saw their dreams torn to pieces. After dislodging Mubarak, a military dictator, they watched the Muslim Brotherhood bully its way to power, followed by another military takeover. As military heroes often do, the general in change slipped smoothly from a military uniform into civilian clothes as his title changed from general to president -- supported by a critical mass of the population.

As I read this essay an uneasy similarity with America's flirtation with Barack Obama played in the background. Is it my imagination or do the following parallels have no meaning?
...a medical professional, trained to save lives, tells me that a death sentence for 683 people should be carried out, though he will feebly concede that it may be a “bit harsh.”
How different is that casual indifference to the deaths of thousands elsewhere, whether they be Mexican students, Liberian villagers, thousands in Gaza or victims of gun violence in our own country?
[A ministry officer] tried to explain that torture was limited to specific cases, that it does not strike him as morally wrong, that it is not as a widespread as popularly thought, and that the global media exaggerates it—“We treat Brotherhood detainees with utmost respect.” <<
Does that not echo what has been widely reported about treatment of "detainees" in Guantanamo?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Read for yourself. Then tell me I am deluded. Reassure me, please, that it makes no difference that religious extremists, science deniers and xenophobic super-patriots now have a parliamentary majority in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court -- that the next presidential election won't complete a checkmate of the whole government. And persuade me, please, to quit imagining that all of these trends are orchestrated by wealthy power brokers who have fine-tuned their skills at manipulating a majority of an electorate eager to follow their guidance.
The Disorient Express: Egypt and the Language of Darkness
By: Amro Ali

“Inevitably, our opinions cover a bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe. They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can imagine.” – Public intellectual Walter Lippman, 1922.

With emotions running high on the eve of the 1952 coup, one of Nasser’s colleagues panicked and was close to tears. Nasser said firmly: “Tonight there is no room for sentiment. We must be ready for the unexpected.” The colleague soon regained his composure and asked Nasser, “Why did you address me in English?” Nasser laughed and replied, “Because Arabic is hardly a suitable language in which to express the need for calm.”

Whether or not this is truly the case—and I am not convinced that it is—the Arabic language today is certainly living up to Nasser’s perceptions, as it is being used to intentionally bring about anything but calm. A schizophrenia increasingly pervades Egyptian colloquial speech, empowering people to express wildly irresponsible and impulsive views and actions and yet expect positive outcomes—sadly, one frequently encounters such behavior these days.

It is easy to see the extent to which media discourse has affected public conversation, even to the level of hearing a news anchor’s sentence be unconsciously mimicked word-for-word the next day by members of the public, such as, “Egypt is not ready for democracy and needs a strongman from the military to rule it” and “Why does Sisi even need a policy platform?” That is not to mention the media-inspired accusations and conspiracies that infiltrate next-day conversations. This might not be unusual in many parts of the world, but in Egypt, it can have severe or even fatal consequences—opinions are shaped and inflamed here by an inexhaustible imagination that can leap from suspecting every tourist of being a spy to nodding at (if not cheering for) a mass death sentence.

This is an Egypt where an old lady feeds some birds, asks about my well-being, and in the same breath, tells me the massacre of over 600 people at Raba’a was necessary; an Egypt where a medical professional, trained to save lives, tells me that a death sentence for 683 people should be carried out, though he will feebly concede that it may be a “bit harsh.” My usual response to people with such opinions is for them to go personally tell the parents of the 683 (or other victims) why their children need to be executed. This usually causes something of a short-circuit in their imagination, but few actually change their minds on the matter.The road to the presidential election is now paved with fear and suspicion, harming society’s mental and economic well-being. The result is a climate that renders the vision for the country described in Sisi’s interviews, despite their melancholy and opaqueness, to appear as all that Egypt can hope for. The inevitable problem herein is that if it takes hysteria to bring a man to the presidency, it will take hysteria to continue to legitimize his presidency. A “platform” of security and stability cannot be maintained without consistently invoking the scarecrow of chaos.

At the core of such interactions lies an overlooked, foundational problem that can shed light on the nature of the public’s irrational and uncompromising stance towards anything that falls outside the state line. This problem involves the accumulation of individual anxieties stemming from experiences that are reported and imagined, rather than directly felt and observed. As a result, an uncontrollable, collective national resentment has evolved that extends, disturbingly, to the point of turning a blind eye towards, or actively whitewashing, unjustified deaths. This darkness spreads although—or perhaps because—few are actually encountering real life threats on any appreciable scale.

The train to Cairo

On trips to Cairo, I have come to find that interactions with the passengers I encounter on the Alexandria to Cairo train set the tone of my trip to the capital. Beside me most recently was an armed forces cadet and an Interior Ministry junior officer. As all the seats had already been sold, the three of us (and a few others) were forced to stand for the two-and-a-half hour trip.

The cadet abused his position to probe into my life, starting with the xenophobia-inspired question “Are you Syrian?” (I’m often mistaken for a Levantine because of my light complexion and altered Egyptian dialect from having lived abroad). He asked me why I was heading to Cairo, to which I replied that I was attending a funeral. He asked where in Cairo, and I replied Mohandessin. No answer could satisfy him. In fact, the stern way he first stated his occupation—“Armed Forces”—was a futile attempt to knock me off balance.

The Interior Ministry officer steered the conversation away from my destination, and we began talking about Australia. I was struck by the way that he casually spoke in a way that perfectly echoed statements mouthed off by state media. He asked me about my Ph.D. research and how Australia was different from Egypt. Then, he asked the predictable question:“What do they think of us?” I replied that they probably are not happy with Egypt at the moment, given that one of their citizens (journalist Peter Greste) is languishing in jail. I then turned the conversation to the use of torture by the Ministry. He tried to explain that torture was limited to specific cases, that it does not strike him as morally wrong, that it is not as a widespread as popularly thought, and that the global media exaggerates it—“We treat Brotherhood detainees with utmost respect.” On asking my religion (this questioning is second nature to Egypt), I was able to satisfy him that I am indeed a Muslim. Despite all the above, he then went onto explain how religion is not being applied correctly in the country.

Despite both of us being around the same age and engaging each other politely, the implicit feeling was that there was an invisible wall between us—a wall that was put there by historical and exclusionary hegemonic forces. In the end, we could only agree that Egypt is going through a generational struggle and that the young are disadvantaged throughout the county—I left with a feeling that I will cross paths with him again someday.

1984 in Tahrir Square

Standing outside the Hardees in Tahrir Square while waiting for a friend, I decided to take a number of photos to kill time. At a news stand, I saw George Orwell’s 1984 and snapped a photo of it, tweeting the words “a very timely piece of work.” In an ironic moment soon after, the police came by and, as a crowd of eight of them gathered, they pulled me in to their nearby, makeshift security office. They searched through the last photos on my phone and asked me countless questions. I explained the reasons behind each photo—that is a book cover I took an interest in; that was a road accident; that is graffiti; that is a panoramic shot of Tahrir. They grew alarmed at one photo of Muhammad Mahmoud Street where I had snapped a “creative” night shot through barbed wire. I somehow managed to reassure them that was just a harmless attempt at artistry.

Ultimately, the decision to let me go was not based on my words alone. After showing my Egyptian ID card and my University of Sydney card, the senior officer smiled and decided to let me go. The officer who pulled me, though, chose to take one last shot: “Are both of your parents Egyptian?” I answered: “Yes, my mother and father, may he rest in peace, are both Egyptian.” He looked at me sternly, handed back my cards, and responded, “May he rest in peace.” What most frightened me in this case was that somehow my heritage presumed my innocence, and doing a doctorate reassured them that I was “respectable.” What about others who are detained and who do not fit into this culture- and class-based security framework? The language of darkness has its subtexts.

The funeral of Bassem Sabry

The funeral I was attending in Mohandessin was that of Bassem Sabry. Having communicated with Bassem online but never having been able to meet him only further fuelled my anguish. The feeling was not unlike what I feel when thinking of the goals of the revolution that were always talked about and yet have remained elusive.

Beyond serving to mark the tragedy of losing a great human being, Bassem Sabry’s funeral was a surreal showcase of myriad key players involved in the darkness enveloping Egyptian politics now, fighting either for or against it or simply riding its wave—weary human rights workers, life-endangered journalists, veteran activists, opportunistic political figures, brown-nosing media personalities, despondent intellectuals. People who would normally be at each others’ throats were calmly gathered, though avoiding eye contact. It was like Sabry’s funeral invoked an uneasy truce for that one night as the Quranic recitations played on. At one stage, while seated next to TV comedian Bassem Youssef (who spoke in an ominous tone), I told him that he had little to worry about, as his fame gave him some sort of immunity. He replied: “You think two million Twitter followers can save me against a regime? A regime that arises to defend special interests will be more deadly than one that defends political interests.” He should know—he has been pushed onto the front lines against the insanity that has gripped the nation.

Sabry’s funeral was the funeral of part of the inheritance of the January 25 revolution as well—the language of hope. That night, the Cairo air was filled with the vibes of December 2010, yet unlike then, the political language of darkness has exposed a serious absence of empathy and forgiveness in the public discourse that endangers any aspirate for a positive outcome. It was as if empathy and forgiveness, Sabry’s defining characteristics, were two inheritances that had been lost.

Followers of the hyper-nationalist trend are just like those advancing religious fundamentalism, minus the beard. Both are showing themselves to be destructively intolerant—the former more so these days—and incapable of accommodating the rich and diverse tapestry of Egypt.

But is all hope lost?

As I came back to Alexandria, I decided to take a boat ride in the Mediterranean with friends to get away from all the madness—no Sisi posters out there on the water, thankfully—and to reflect on the past few weeks. The sailors who I encountered had this remarkable demeanor that made them seem detached from the political upheavals, and a glow of hope radiated from their faces. The simplicity and fortitude of the sailors made a mark on me. An explanation was soon coming.

I came back home to a friend who had shared a story of a distressed man who, in 1973, had sent a letter to author E.B. White saying that he had lost faith in humanity. The man received this response:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock as a contribution to order and steadfastness. Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But, as a people, we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time, waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.”

I can think of many remarkable human beings who fight tirelessly for social justice, some of whom I met for the first time at the funeral. They, like many others, are battling to establish the right conditions to affect, positively, the volatility of human nature. It is not that Arabic is hardly a suitable language in which to express the need for calm. It is that the true definitions of freedom, social justice, and democracy have yet to triumph over the state’s definitions of these terms. This state of affairs, however, cannot endure for long.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Who Defeats ISIS? -- A Twitter Exchange

Ekrem ‏  Can you kindly explain who is going to stop the barbaric regime and Shia militants if al Qaida/ISIS is destroyed?

Awdnews ‏ The Saudi prince warns Americans from looming ISIS terror attacks on U.S. soil

Peter Pyke   Quite frankly, both #alqaeda & #Daesh are CIA creations. Intended to allow #UKUSA to annihilate all opposition for #Israel.

@EN_AWDNEWS What about continuous American/Saudi terror attacks on Syrian soil? 

Edward Dark ‏  @ekremuk that's a very silly question. the #Syria regime & Shias are not a serious danger to global security, the ISIS & Al Qaeda are

Ekrem ‏  I asked you to kindly explain, not to insult. I obviously know that. But helps me to understand where you stand. Unfollowed

Hubert ‏ 
Not agree. Enough boots, weapons and airborne strikes to degrade ISIS and al Nusra. But: rebels also must disappear!

Edward Dark ‏  its those forces you don't like, the regime & Shia militias, who are the only ones capable of stopping ISIS/Al Qaeda in #Syria now --  perhaps this might change your mind: … 
In a major setback to President Assad, the second city – Idlib – narrowly
escapes falling to jihadists as rebels storm provincial governor’s
office and set about executing senior regime officers.

Robert Fisk reports from Damascus

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Comment by Todd Shea

It's possible to embed a Facebook status post but I found out when I do that nothing else can be added. So the following is a comment by Todd Shea left at a status post by Chris Thompson posing a question -- a short version of "where is the outrage of Muslims at the horrors of extremists?"
Israel and ISIS ~ Not comparing Apples to Oranges, but curiously Outrage to Crickets ~ where are my Sunni friends (and Shiite) in Pakistan, USA, Europe et al condemning the acts of these miscreants with the same outrage/fervor in social media shown to the Palestinian innocents in the early days of the Gaza invasion? If it is fear, I understand. And let's just skip the "Mossad created ISIS" nonsense ~ shukriya very much.
It's a question that has been repeated by those who don't seem to realize that we all live in the same glass house, and throwing stones is not all that smart.  Todd Shea left this telling response. I have taken the liberty of breaking it into paragraphs. Todd is sometimes like a charismatic Christian speaking in tongues -- when he gets going it just comes pouring out until he's done. JB
Hi Chris, Maybe because it really is Apples and Oranges, and maybe it's also because the corrupt bought-and-paid-for U.S. Congress and leaders of the United States of America have enabled BOTH the pure evil of ISIS with an illegal and woefully mishandled war in Iraq that never should have happened which has totally destabilized the entire region AND the pure evil of Israel's disgusting murder and oppression of Palestinians for 68 years. I don't see many Americans on my Newsfeed expressing outrage for what their government has done. I hear crickets about THAT. 

If Americans had half the sense of passion and outrage against their government's unjust behavior as they do a bad call in a football game, the World's problems would likely be solved in a few years. 
  • Where is American outrage over Kashmir and Tibet and the People of Saudi Arabia? Deafening silence because of money and power. 
  • Why do we stand on top of our ivory tower and criticize Human Rights abuses when our own wussy mental midget brownshirt wannabe police kill unarmed black men, murder homeless people, sexually abuse defenseless women, beat the crap out of any citizen who dares to assert their Constitutional rights and then get in their armored vehicles and menace our already oppressed communities in full military gear as if they are our occupiers? More crickets.
Maybe it's also because the American media plays up one thing and ignores or distorts the other because it's a hungry and greedy monster that knows exactly where its feeding trough is. 

All that being said, I don't know about your FB newsfeed but mine is full of condemnations of ISIS from my many Pakistani, Pakistani British and Pakistani American Friends. There's a dozen other reasons I could offer, but one thing should be obvious to anyone who is willing to be fair: America's leader's have done a piss poor job of being the "Lone Superpower" and Leaders of The World since Pakistan helped them bring down the Berlin Wall, only to be left holding the bag with 4 million Afghan refugees who still live in Pakistan. 

If you are a true leader, you take responsibility for the bed you have made and you clean up your messes and atone for your sins, not create more of them for Humanity to suffer. Most of The World and many Americans are past tired of American and Israeli arrogance. 

Let's face it Chris, too many Americans are a bunch of cowardly racist bullies who have terrorized non-white people for centuries (with the Holocaust against The Native American Indigenous Peoples, stealing their land and resources and their very spirit away from them, and stolen the labor that built this country's riches with the Holocaust of slavery, continued institutional racism against our African American Brothers for more than a century, having a bunch of coward pussies for police officers whose departments nationwide allow brutality with no accountability and who hold open disdain for true hero cops starting with Frank Serpico, the installation and empowerment of tyrants and dictators in the post-colonial world (who we know damn well have raped, murdered and oppressed their own people for generations when we are supposed to stand for Liberty and Justice for ALL) selling our very souls just for the pursuit of the Almighty dollar and control of resources and allow our corporations to go into developing nations and do things that they would go to prison for in America, and so much more. [Whew! See what I mean?]

Yes, we saved the World from The Nazis, but that doesn't absolve America from its many sins and evils. Yes, we saved the World from Communism (again, with the help of Pakistan), only to find out that Capitalism hasn't worked out too well for anyone in the long term except the military-Industrial Complex and the top 1% elite of this pathetic and dangerously imbalanced World. Considering myself to be a Human Being FIRST, The Just God that I believe in doesn't let that bullshit go on forever...
Thank you, Todd for what you do and all your good work. Keep it up and be encouraged to continue to speak out for what is right.