Thursday, June 30, 2005

The sobering of America

US foreign policy is getting better - and that's partly because Iraq has got worse

I guess America is a nation sobered by reality. The reality of debt and lost jobs. The reality of rising China. Above all, the reality of Iraq.

This new sobriety was exemplified by President Bush's speech at Fort Bragg on Tuesday night. Beforehand, as the camera panned across row upon row of soldiers in red berets, the television commentator warned us that the speech might last a long time, since it was likely to be interrupted by numerous rounds of heartfelt applause from this loyal military audience. In fact, the audience interrupted him with applause just once. Once! Lines that during last autumn's election rallies drummed up a certain storm ("We will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins") were now met with a deafening silence. Stolidly they sat, the serried soldiers, clean-shaven, square-jawed, looking slightly bored and, in at least one case that I spotted, rhythmically chewing gum.

Bush ploughed on with his sober, rather wooden speech, wearing that curious, rigid half-smile of his, with the mouth turning down rather than up at each end. A demi-rictus. The eerie silence made him look, at moments, like a stand-up comic whose jokes were falling flat; but of course this was no laughing matter. Afterwards, the same television commentators who had warned us to expect rounds of applause speculated, with an equally authoritative air, that the White House had suggested restraint to this audience, so it would not look as if the president was both requesting blanket coverage from the television networks and exploiting the nation's military for the purposes of a party-political rally. But then perhaps soldiers who actually risk their lives for Bush's policies in Iraq, and have lost comrades there, would not have been in a great mood to applaud anyway. Afterwards, as he mingled with the troops in the hall, their faces showed little more than mild curiosity at the prospect of meeting their commander-in-chief.

Bush's Fort Bragg speech once again presented Iraq as part of the global war on terror - the Gwot. He mentioned the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks five times; weapons of mass destruction not once. We have to defeat the terrorists abroad, he said, before they attack us at home. As freedom spreads in the Middle East, the terrorists will lose their support. Then he made this extraordinary statement: "To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

Consider. Three years ago, when the Bush administration started ramping up the case for invading Iraq, Afghanistan had recently been liberated from both the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists who had attacked the US. There was still a vast amount to be done to make Afghanistan a safe place. Iraq, meanwhile, was a hideous dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. But, as the United States' own September 11 commission subsequently concluded, Saddam's regime had no connection with the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was not then a recruiting sergeant or training ground for jihadist terrorists. Now it is. The US-led invasion, and Washington's grievous mishandling of the subsequent occupation, have made it so. General Wesley Clark puts it plainly: "We are creating enemies." And the president observes: our great achievement will be to prevent Iraq becoming another Taliban-style, al-Qaida-harbouring Afghanistan! This is like a man who shoots himself in the foot and then says: "We must prevent it turning gangrenous, then you'll understand why I was right to shoot myself in the foot."

In short, whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a crime, it's now clear that - at least in the form in which the invasion and occupation was executed by the Bush administration - it was a massive blunder. And the American people are beginning to see this. Before Bush spoke at Fort Bragg, 53% of those asked in a CNN/Gallup poll said it was a mistake to go into Iraq. Just 40% approved of how he has handled Iraq, down from 50% at the time of the presidential election last November. Contrary to what many Europeans believe, you can fool some of the Americans all of the time, and all of the Americans some of the time, but you can't fool most Americans most of the time - even with the help of Fox News. Reality gets through. Hence the new sobriety.

I don't want to overstate this. One is still gobsmacked by things American Republicans say. Take the glorification of the military, for example. In his speech, Bush insisted "there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces". What? No higher calling! How about being a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an aid worker? Unimaginable that any European leader could say such a thing.

None the less, here are a few indicators of the new sobriety. First of all, neocons are no longer calling the shots. The nominations of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank and John Bolton to be ambassador to the UN actually show they have been kicked upstairs. There is little talk now of proud unilateralism and America winning the Gwot on its own. Everyone stresses the importance of allies. Bush quoted with approval Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, on our shared interest in a stable Iraq, and proudly averred that "Iraqi army and police are being trained by personnel from Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Australia and the United Kingdom".

The state department, under Condoleezza Rice, is setting out to repair old American alliances and to forge new ones. One of America's most dynamically developing alliances is with India, a country in which America is also much loved. If anyone in Foggy Bottom (the wonderfully named neighbourhood of the state department) feels a twinge of schadenfreude at the crisis of the EU, they are not showing it. They want a strong European partner too. On Iran, which even six months ago threatened to become a new Iraq crisis, the US is letting the so-called E3 - Britain, France and Germany - take the diplomatic lead. Even with the election of a hardline Iranian president, military options are not being seriously canvassed. And if the European diplomacy with Iran does not work, what is Washington's plan B? To take the issue to the United Nations! What a difference three years make.

Schröder is right, of course. It would be suicidally dumb for any European to think, in relation to Iraq, "the worse the better". Jihadists now cutting their teeth in Iraq will make no fine distinctions between Washington and London, Berlin or Madrid. Any reader tempted to luxuriate schadenfreudishly in the prospect of a Vietnam-style US evacuation from Baghdad may be woken from that reverie by the blast from a bomb, planted in Charing Cross tube station by an Iraq-hardened terrorist. But it is a fair and justified historical observation that American policy has got better - more sober, more realistic - at least partly because things in Iraq have gone so badly.

This is the cunning of history.

Adapted The Guardian

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mon ami

Tanseer

I've known Tanseer for most of my life. We have been together since pre-nursery. Tanseer is without doubt one of the few chaps, I can count on, in an astonishingly self-centered melange'. He is a hot-balled bugger. I often pull his leg, call him darky -- kaav -- and chide him about his age. Infact we are both the same age,24. He is no less. He pulls all the punches to be on offensive, calls me all sorts of nasty things -- which I don't mind a wee bit -- and occassionally comes up with some brilliant sparks of humour.

He used to be very aggressive in our school days. That cocky arrogance that teenage thrusts upon you. Tanseer revelled in being a little bully. We used to be bench-mates and he wouldn't particularly scare me. Infact we liked each other's company. Moreover, Tanseer was a gal's boy. Girls loved him a lot. I thought they were all bananas. How could they like this moron?

He is cooling his fat ass in Baku, Azerbaijan. Of all the places! A multi-tasking bloke. Doc-manager-tennis player-lover boy and a pal-to-die-for. I often thank God for crossing my paths with a handful of very special people. He is in the select list.

Tanseer has changed now but this change is for good. He is more sober, more well-behaved and he talks more suavely these days. One thing about him hasn't changed. His 24 carat heart.

I won't expose him more. I guess many people surf this site.

Need I say more.

Sameer Bhat




Few places on the face of earth can be as enchanting as Kashmir. Wish I get marooned in this hut with my love!!!
Pic Sam

Tanseer, one of my best friends with his girlfriend Melana

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Latest on Milosevic

Jail changes Milosevic, but he sticks to his story

By Marlise Simons The New York Times SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2005

THE HAGUE

Four years behind bars have inevitably changed Slobodan Milosevic. His white hair has receded, his stomach is bulkier, his English has improved. Since he arrived, handcuffed, at the United Nations jail in The Hague on June 28, 2001, he also has become less blustery, perhaps the result of blood-pressure medication or the sheer drudgery of his long trial on an array of war crimes charges.

Once given to bursting into tirades and dismissing his indictment as a fraud and his trial as a farce, Milosevic, the former Serbian president, has become steeped in the case's 200,000 pages. These days, he sits in the dock flanked by carts full of binders, which he frequently consults. He addresses his three judges sitting high on the dais, rather than turning to the public gallery, which has been mostly empty.

But Milosevic's old mind-set remains intact.

Day after day, he has tenaciously stuck to his own version of what happened during his 13 years in power, which led to three wars and killed more than 250,000 people. Serbs were not responsible for the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, he contends, but were forced to defend themselves from aggression.

Contrary to charges in his indictment, Milosevic says there was no plan to create a larger country for all Serbs and no atrocities were committed. Yes, people died, but they were fighting, or were bombed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This view of history has been much on display in the months since Milosevic began calling his own witnesses to defend not just himself, but also the Serbian national cause. The prosecution rested its case last year after bringing 114 witnesses to the court and presenting written testimony from 240 additional witnesses to buttress its lengthy charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The trial, which began in February 2002, has already set a record for longevity in international law, and the end is not in sight.

So far, Milosevic, who acts as his own lawyer, has presented close to 30 witnesses, among them former aides, old Communist Party friends, historians and a forensic specialist, as well as outsiders including a French Army colonel and several senior Russian politicians. He has used almost 40 percent of the 150 days allotted to him, but his lawyers say he plans to call dozens more witnesses.

"You can expect I will be asking for a prolongation," Milosevic told the judges at a recent hearing. "My aim is to present the truth, and that takes time." The judges apparently believe he is stalling. They often instruct Milosevic to stop asking leading questions, and not to waste time with repetitive and irrelevant evidence. "I'm disgusted with your performance," Patrick Robinson, the presiding judge, said at one point, abruptly cutting off the microphone.

Fearing that it will take months before Milosevic addresses the war in Bosnia, a crucial part of the case, the judges have also suggested sitting for longer hours or four times a week, rather than the current three.
But that drew quick objections from Milosevic, who argued that his chronic heart disease would not allow it. If his condition improves, he said, "then this place should be advertised as a kind of spa for treating health problems."

The trial's current focus is the 1999 war in the Serbian province, Kosovo. Milosevic has devoted much time and effort to that conflict because, as president of Serbia at the time, he can be held directly accountable for any proven atrocities by its security forces.

"We want to show that yes, there were crimes," said Branko Rakic, a legal adviser to Milosevic, "but it was not our policy, and the authorities reacted and punished them." General Obrad Stevanovic, the deputy interior minister in charge of the police and the highest-ranking Serb official to appear, has testified for the past month without shedding much light except on his loyalty to his former boss.

He gave lengthy accounts of police rules, weaponry and ammunition, and said repeatedly that the police could not have committed any crimes because their role was to uphold the law. His constant denials that the police had killed civilians in Kosovo infuriated the lead prosecutor, Geoffrey Nice. Explain to the court, Nice said, how the bodies of Kosovar families came to be buried in a police compound and were then moved to another police compound. The general said he had no knowledge of that.

Nice quoted from a letter from a Serbian Army general, Nebojsa Pavkovic, complaining that the Serbian police were committing "murder, rape, plunder, robbery," while attributing the crimes to the army. Stevanovic: "These are serious allegations by the army against the police which I was not aware of." The routine of examination and cross-examination was suddenly upset on June 1 after Stevanovic acknowledged that the Serbian police had been on duty in Bosnia and Croatia, but performed only common tasks, such as "traffic control and crime prevention."

Nice then showed a videotape depicting the execution of six Muslim men by a Serbian paramilitary police unit as part of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. He asked Stevanovic if he recognized anyone in the unit, known as the Scorpions. No, the general said, they were not part of the regular Serbian police force. Prosecutors say that in 1995, the Scorpions were part of the secret police.

Since the videotape was shown, the Serbian authorities say, six men appearing in it have been arrested. Many commentators have called the videotaped executions "the smoking gun," but any link to Milosevic, as head of the police forces, has yet to be established. Prosecutors obtained the videotape only recently, and they cannot enter it into evidence until they reopen their case.

Milosevic said the film had been tampered with.

History of the war in Kosovo


Historical Background

The NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia beginning on March 24, 1999 did not occur in a vacuum but rather followed ten years of regional conflict and aggression inspired and orchestrated by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Until 1991, Yugoslavia was one nation comprised of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Serbia was further divided into two autonomous regions; Kosovo and Vojvodina. Each republic and both autonomous provinces in Serbia had a seat on the federal presidency and had a considerable amount of autonomy in local affairs. With one notable exception -- Bosnia -- each of the republics roughly represents a distinct ethnic group. Today each of the republics of the former Yugoslavia use their own language, but they are all Slavic languages similar to Serbo-Croatian.


The Rise to Power of Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic came to power in 1987 with the rise of Serbian nationalism following the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet communism. He became a hero overnight in Serbia when in 1987 he went to Kosovo to qualm the fears of local Serbs amid a strike by Kosovar Albanian miners that was paralyzing the province. In a famous speech televised throughout Serbia, he told the waiting crowd of angry Serbs, "You will not be beaten again." Few Serbs were either beaten or oppressed in Kosovo (a few incidents were blown way out of proportion), but this did not matter to 8 million Serbs who felt deep historical grievances and welcomed a strong figure, such as Milosevic, who might restore their place in history.

By 1989, Milosevic was firmly in control of the Serbian republic and embarked on a campaign to consolidate his power throughout Yugoslavia. On the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo -- where the medieval Serb kingdom was defeated by Ottoman forces -- Milosevic presided over a massive rally attended by more than a million Serbs at Kosovo Polje, the exact location of the historic battle fought on June 28, 1389.

One of his first acts following this historic event was to rescind the autonomy enjoyed by Kosovo and institute draconian martial law in the province. Kosovar Albanians were fired from their jobs, their schools were closed, they were denied access to state-run health care, and they lost administrative control of the province. The situation also effectively gave Milosevic additional votes in the federal legislature.

This ushered in a decade of hell for the south Balkans. Milosevic and other Serb ultra-nationalists embarked on a campaign to create a Greater Serbia, unifying under one nation all areas where Serbs lived and driving out all minorities through a genocidal process euphemistically called ethnic cleansing.”

The Disintegration of Yugoslavia
By 1991, the republics of Yugoslavia began clamoring for independence, inspired partly by watching Milosevic's grab for power in the federal capital of Belgrade and also by their own historic desires for independence.

Slovenia--the republic closest to central Europe--was the first to go in the summer of 1991. With almost no Serbian minority, Belgrade put up only brief resistance before backing off after a six-day war and allowing Slovenia to secede from the federal structure.

Unfortunately, this was not the case with Croatia. While 79% of the republic was Croatian, 12% was Serb and this group was not ready to become a minority. The Croatian Serbs had legitimate concerns, especially in light of the Croatian leaders using inflammatory nationalist rhetoric. The Serbs of Croatia suffered terribly during WWII, and the contemporary provocation by the Croat nationalists, was proving too much for Serbs.(Croatian fascists allied with the Nazi occupiers during WW II).

The Serbs responded in a manner that was to become commonplace during the next eight years. Their response was completely disproportionate to the problem. In Croatia, they declared their own mini-state and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Most infamous was the siege of Vukovar, where more than 10,000 civilians were killed and the first major war crime of the ensuing wars was committed. Serb paramilitaries emptied the Vukovar hospital of Croatian patients and executed them in a nearby field.

With a cease-fire negotiated in the fall of 1991 by U.S. diplomat Cyrus Vance, the Serb forces partially pulled out of Croatia and began repositioning their troops and heavy weapons in neighboring Bosnia. While the Serbs refused to abide by the terms of the cease-fire in Croatia and return territory, they simultaneously embarked on the most bitter assault to gain control of Bosnia.

Bosnia has a sizable (31%) Serb minority with close ties to Belgrade. Milosevic by this time was in firm control of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), the fourth largest military in Europe. He also supported a UN-engineered arms embargo on the region, preventing the newly formed governments of Bosnia and Croatia to procure weapons, while Milosevic had complete control of the arsenals of the former Yugoslavia.

On April 6, 1992, the Bosnian Serbs launched a campaign of aggression against Bosnia with the siege of Sarajevo and the ethnic cleansing of the Drina River valley and the Bosnian Krajina (north and northwest parts of the country). The Bosnian government, headed by Alija Izetbegovic, was ill prepared to defend the country with no army and only a poorly equipped territorial defense force.

During the next three and a half years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the support of Milosevic in Belgrade, laid waste to large parts of Bosnia, killing more than 200,000 civilians and forcing half the population, two million people, to flee their homes. Tens of thousands of women were systematically raped. Concentration camps were set up in Prijedor, Omarska, Trnopolje, and other areas. Civilians were shot by snipers on a daily basis in Sarajevo, a city left without heat, electricity, or water.

Radovan Karadzic, a psychiatrist and poet originally from Montenegro, became president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, with Ratko Mladic as his military commander. Both have since been twice indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for their command role in genocide.

At the height of their power, the Bosnian Serbs controlled more than 70% of Bosnian territory. The failure of the UN to stop the killing in Bosnia seriously compromised its credibility as it neared its 50th anniversary in 1995. The UN already had UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) troops in Sarajevo at the outset of the war because it was their base of operation for the UN mission in Croatia. The UN hoped that their presence would discourage the spread of the conflict to Bosnia. But when Sarajevo came under attack in 1992, the UN forces pulled out to avoid casualties, leaving behind only a small and lightly armed contingent of peacekeepers.” As the situation deteriorated, the UN struck a deal with the Serbs, allowing them to control the Sarajevo airport. In reality, the Serbs allowed the UN to use the airport under de facto Serb control.

During the next three years the airport was the scene of hundreds of casualties. UN humanitarian flights were repeatedly fired upon and Bosnian civilians were killed by sniper fire as they attempted to escape across the tarmac.

Srebrenica
The worst act of the war occurred in the summer of 1995 when the Bosnian town of Srebrenica came under attack by forces commanded by Ratko Mladic. Srebrenica was a UN-declared safe area and guarded by a lightly armed Dutch contingent. This did not deter Mladic, who was intent on taking over the enclave. During a few days in mid-July, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim males were executed by Mladic's troops. The rest of the town's women and children were driven out to nearby Tuzla.

Dayton
With a failed UN mission, the credibility of NATO waning, and facing a retreat of UN peacekeepers, President Clinton took the lead in August 1995 and launched a limited bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb positions. This, coupled with a Croatian offensive against the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, forced Karadzic and Mladic to agree to peace negotiations commencing in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995.

The outcome of Dayton gave the Bosnian Serbs 49% of Bosnian territory and established the Bosnian-Croat Federation to control the remaining 51%. The Bosnian Serbs were also obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal and allow refugees to return to their homes. The Bosnian serbs did let that happen for a long time. While no one criticizes the peace brought by Dayton, many recognize that it is unjust for allowing the Bosnian Serbs to control territory that they took through a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign.

In addition, many commentators criticize the structure of the constitution created by the Dayton Agreement, which cements an ethnic divide. Among other measures, what was once the sovereign state of Bosnia Herzegovina is now divided into two entities, one Serbian and the other Bosnjak (Muslim) and Croatian. A non-functioning federal umbrella is headed by a three-member presidency: Serb, Bosniak and Croatian (people must declare themselves as one of these three groups in order to run for office or vote).

The way the government is structured, any ethnic group can block the workings of another group, often simply by not showing up at the legislature. Given all of these and many other problems, it is little surprise that Bosnia Herzegovina presently does not function as a unitary country and that intragroup tensions continue to run high.

Kosovo
During the long years of war in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, Kosovo remained under the tight control of Milosevic. The Kosovar Albanians responded by setting up a parallel civil adminstration, schools, and healthcare facilities. They also resisted the Milosevic regime with nonviolent, Gandhian tactics under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova.

All this time, the Kosovar Albanians hoped the international community would recognize their plight and come to their aid. Despite periodic reports by human rights investigators and international diplomats on gross and systematic human rights violations against Kosovar Albanians, the international community did nothing. The final straw for the Kosovar Albanians was Dayton, when the international community had the upper hand with Milosevic yet completely ignored the problem in Kosovo. The Kosovars even attempted to attend Dayton, but were not allowed to leave their plane and were sent back across the Atlantic. This demonstrated to the Kosovars that the international community was not going to come to their support. It also demonstrated that nonviolent tactics were not going to get the world's attention. Only tremendous human rights abuses as suffered by the Bosnian Muslims would force the world to intervene.

With the situation in Kosovo only getting worse, and tit for tat retaliations by the Serb forces, finally in November 1997, at a funeral for slain Kosovars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) stood up publicly and asked for support from the Kosovo Albanian community. The response by the crowd was overwhelming support. The familiar Serb response was disproportionate retaliation. If a Serb policeman was shot by the KLA, the Serbs would respond by torching a whole village and killing civilians. The first major massacre occurred in the Drenica region in the spring of 1998 when 51 members of an extended clan were killed by Serb forces in retaliation for a KLA provocation. Again, despite detailed reports of human rights investigators, the international community did nothing other than issue Milosevic an empty warning.

The U.S. has a particularly long history of warning Milosevic over Kosovo. As early as 1992, President Bush Sr had warned Milosevic against a crackdown in Kosovo. Clinton reaffirmed the warning upon assuming the presidency and again at periodic stages during his terms. Throughout 1998 Milosevic increased his troop strength in Kosovo and began a scorched-earth policy of destroying whole villages in his attempt to wipe out the KLA. But for each village destroyed, more KLA members would sprout up in defiance. The Srebrenica of Kosovo occurred in January 1999 when Serb forces killed 41 civilians in the Kosovo village of Racak. While international mediators called it a massacre, Milosevic claimed that the slain villagers were actually KLA terrorists in civilian clothes. International forensic experts were soon to prove this untrue.

Rambouillet
In October 1998, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, using the threat of NATO air strikes, negotiated with Milosevic to allow 2,000 unarmed verifiers into the province under OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe) control to monitor the human rights situation and to attempt to forestall further violence. In the end, they proved no more effective than UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. The violence continued to escalate. Finally a group of nations known as the Contact Group (the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) brought both Kosovo and Serb negotiators together in Rambouillet, France, in March 1999 to agree to a peace plan. The agreement called for the KLA to disarm, for Milosevic to drastically reduce his military presence in Kosovo, for autonomy to be restored to the province, and for a NATO peacekeeping force to be introduced. This was too little for the Kosovars, who wanted guarantees for full independence, and too much for Milosevic, who wanted to maintain complete control of the province and would not consider an outside military force on Serb soil.

While negotiations were going on in Rambouillet, Milosevic continued to pour heavy weapons and troops into Kosovo.

NATO, for its part, threatened to bomb the Serbs if they did not sign, or completely abandon the Kosovars if they did not accept the plan. In a tense standoff, the Kosovars finally said they could not immediately sign the document and needed time to present the plan back in Kosovo. Upon returning to Rambouillet, the Kosovars agreed to sign. Milosevic refused.

The international community pulled all monitors out of Kosovo in late March. This was the green light Milosevic was waiting for and he began preparations for a massive sweep of Kosovo as his forces saturated the region. Meanwhile, the U.S. still hoped that Milosevic would give in. Even as the killing had already begun in Kosovo, Richard Holbrooke made one last, unsuccessful attempt to convince Milosevic to sign, explaining in detail what NATO would do to his military infrastructure if he refused.

NATO Bombing
After years of hollow threats against Milosevic and years of Milosevic destroying much of Bosnia and part of Croatia, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and responsible for escalating human rights abuses in Kosovo, NATO was finally determined to move ahead. While always hoping that Milosevic would finally back down with the credible threat of force, NATO did not posses much credibility at that decisive moment.

On March 24 NATO launched an air campaign against Serb military targets in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

Milosevic's forces responded by an all-out campaign to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian population, driving hundreds of thousands across the border into Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro. Heavily armed Serb paramilitary forces, infamous for their tactics in Croatia and Bosnia, descended on Kosovo. At gunpoint they forced thousands of people from their homes, burning their towns and villages afterward. Many civilians were summarily executed. Most had all their money taken and their documents destroyed. Without any independent journalists and human rights monitors left in the region, it is impossible to tell the full extent of the atrocities though many, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, have called it Genocide.

In June 1999, Milosevic agreed to withdraw from Kosovo, and NATO peacekeepers entered the region. Demonstrations in the latter half of 1999 against Milosevic failed to force his resignation. Meanwhile, Montenegro sought increased autonomy within the federation and began making moves toward that goal.

During the summer of 2000, Milosevic called for early elections, hoping to beef up his democratic facade. His plan backfired, however, and voters elected the opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica, a constitutional lawyer. Milosevic initially refused to concede defeat, but resigned after several hundred thousand Serbs took to the streets in nonviolent protest to demand the end of his 13 years of rule.

The already disgraced leader faced further humiliation in April 2001, when he was arrested after a 26-hour armed standoff with police at his Belgrade home. He was charged with corruption and stealing state funds during his 13-year rule. Milosevic surrendered after Yugoslav officials promised him that he would have a fair trial and would not immediately be turned over to the United Nations war crimes tribunal at the Hague. He was, however, turned over to the UN in June. He was charged with committing crimes against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia. In November the U.N. war crimes tribunal charged him with genocide. The indictment stemmed from his alleged activity during the 1992–1995 Bosnian war. He is the first head of state to face an international war-crimes court.

In his trial, which began in 2002, Milosevic defended himself. The proceedings of the trial are still on. Milosevic continues to rot in a Hague prison cell. Too much of a nationalist, who thought he could get away with the blood of innocent human beings.

Sameer Bhat

Friday, June 24, 2005

Art class


I think art will never loose its sheen. Art is always going to live. It lives in the collective consciousness of people. Art knows no age, no religion and no landscape. Art can be anything from an object that evokes an aesthetic reaction-a sense of beauty, appreciation, harmony, and pleasure; or an event which exudes quality, production, expression, or realm of what is beautiful or of more than ordinary significance. I guess all of us are so busy in our candy-floss romances for all things mundane that what starts as a fascination in the concrete of our urban jungles, often reaches an alto in upscale malls and dies in some tasteless cinema. That is our love for junk music and obscene graphics. We seem to have lost that touch -- the feel of real art. I have culled a short glossary of art and I hope all my pals and readers start loving art as much as I am trying to!

Abstract art
Art that departs significantly from natural appearances. Forms are modified or changed to varying degrees in order to emphasize certain qualities or content.

Acrylic
A clear plastic used as a binder in paint and as a casting material in sculpture.

Avant garde

Avant (French) The van or advanced guard of an army. Experimental stuff outside the usual boundaries. Highly independent film that is often the forerunner of a new artistic genre

Baroque
The seventeenth-century period in Europe characterized in the visual arts by dramatic light and shade, turbulent composition, and exaggerated emotional expression.

Conceptual art
An art form in which the originating idea and the process by which it is presented take precedence over a tangible product. Conceptual works are sometimes produced in visible form, but they often exist only as descriptions of mental concepts or ideas. This trend developed in the late 1960s, in part as a way to avoid the commercialization of art.

Fine art
Art created for purely aesthetic expression, communication, or contemplation. Painting and sculpture are the best known of the fine arts.

Renaissance
Period of European history at the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of the modern world; a cultural rebirth from the 14th through the middle of the 17th centuries. It literally means rebirth: the revival of learning and culture. Renaissance is a french word and is often used to describe the period in the arts and architecture, from the beginning of the 15th century - usually marked by the work of Masaccio - through to the early to mid-16th century, culminating in the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. During this period, artists work was informed by the art and architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans and through the study of nature. Renaissance is a term usually restricted to work produced in Italy during this period, especially in the cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice.

Impressionism
A style of painting that originated in France about 1870. Paintings of casual subjects, executed outdoors, using divided brush strokes to capture the mood of a particular moment as defined by the transitory effects of light and color. The first Impressionist exhibit was held in 1874.

Fresco
A painting technique in which pigments suspended in water are applied to a damp lime-plaster surface. The pigments dry to become part of the plaster wall or surface.

Oil paint
Paint in which the pigment is held together with a binder of oil, usually linseed oil.

Sameer Bhat

Michelangelo...finest example of Renaissance art!

Pic Sam

Conceptual art

Pic Sam

Baroque, as if in flesh and blood

An acrylic { Wish I got painted alongside the trees}

An avant garde. Check the details, the back-bone runnel

Japanese Garden
Karin Kuhlmann 2003, A fine example of abstract art. Try this at home!

Hold your breath!


Le bateau atelier (The Boat Studio)
1876 { Impressionism } Thats not me in the boat!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's a fright night baby!



I don't believe in superstition and I hate people jabbering about ghouls. Frankly, ghosts amuse me and perhaps intimidate also. Does that mean I actually believe in spooks. May be a scary part of me does. My hairs used to stand up in my childhood whenever I heard a ghost tale and my skin got those goose-bumps. I remember vividly, I hated ghosts because they robbed me of the opportunity to stay alone at home on a dark-evening or rush upstairs to fetch something for mom. As I grew up, I became less scared of these damn creatures. My rational, scientific temper still says that there could be NO ghosts but then science and logic can take a back seat, at times.

Read on...

AUSTRALIA's cricketers have been spooked by the legend of 700-year-old ghosts at their Durham hotel. Allrounder Shane Watson was reportedly so rattled he left his room and slept on teammate Brett Lee's floor, team media officer Belinda Dennett is adamant she saw ghosts while other players have expressed unease about staying at Lumley Castle Hotel ahead of tonight's one-dayer against England.
Local folklore says the hotel is haunted by the ghost of a 14th century aristocrat who was murdered by Catholic priests.

"Several of the players were uneasy, although a lot of them in the morning said they were fine ... but maybe they were just trying to be brave," Dennett said.
"I saw ghosts, I swear I'm telling the truth. I closed the blind in my room before I went to bed. But when I was woken at 4am by my phone, the blind was up again.

"I looked out the window and saw a procession of white people walking past.
"It was amazing, it was scary.
"Then I returned to bed the blind went up again -- and there was someone looking through the window.
"I know I wasn't dreaming because I wrote down the message from my phone and the time."

The historic hotel, which sits on a hill and overlooks the cricket ground, is where lady-of-the-manor Lily Lumley was thrown down a well by a pair of priests when she rejected the Catholic Church.
The hotel is full of dark and tight corridors and the medieval atmosphere is enhanced by all the staff dressing in period uniforms.

This spooky tale continues a bizarre start to Australia's Ashes tour which already has included a stunning defeat to Bangladesh and a drinking scandal involving allrounder Andrew Symonds.

The Australians aren't the only team to be spooked when staying at the castle.

Three West Indians checked out on their 2000 tour because they were so scared while the Bangladesh players, in town for the second Test against England earlier this month, slept three to a room for fear of seeing a ghost.

Sameer Bhat

The lil birdie sat on a tree and I froze her in my lens!
Pic Sam

Love notes


"My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."

The climate is muggy. Lights are erratic. Food looks stale. I'm in the middle of a playground called life. These are times when nothing seems to be in order. In the morning, I saw my friend getting upclose and impish with a common acquaintance. Nothing much, but I don't like my untimely intrusion in people's private lives. It was a brief peek and I gather I didn't look their way a second time.

Work is relentless. I work, read, work, read, sleep and perhaps in that order. I have oflate started fiddling with my cell phone, an intrinsic part of human existence now, in a big way. My bill shot up two-fold. Poor me. I often end up falling for costly surprises, but I have no regrets. As long as I do what I want to, I am content.

I'll start working on my book very soon. I'm sure it will be a masterpiece.

Sameer Bhat

Veiled Praise


By FATINA ABDRABBOH
Cambridge, Mass. { Presenting A NY Times feature}


I CONSIDER my appearance quite unremarkable. I'm 5 feet 8 inches, 150 pounds, fresh-faced and comfortably trendy - hardly, in my view, a look that should draw stares. Still, the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, that I wear makes me feel as if I am under a microscope.
I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare - just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.

The other day, though, I felt more self-conscious than usual. Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.

Frustrated and angry, I moved to another part of the gym. I got on a treadmill and started running as hard as I could. As sweat dripped down my face, I reached for my towel, accidentally dropping my keys in the process. It was a small thing, I know, but as they slid down the rolling belt and fell to the carpet, my faith in the United States seemed to fall with them. I did not care to pick them up. I wanted to keep running.

Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Ma'am, here are your keys." It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.

It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore's act represented all that I yearned for - acceptance and acknowledgment.
There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.

It is up to us as Americans to change how the rest of the world views us by changing how we view some of our own citizens. Mr. Gore's act reminded me that rather than running away on my treadmill, I needed to keep my feet on the soil in this country. I left the gym with a renewed sense of spirit, reassured that I belong to America and that America belongs to me.

Fatina Abdrabboh is a student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


A group of elderly women doing the Wanwun in open. (There are wanwun's inside homes as well)
Pic Sam

Wanwun


Wanwun comes close to madrigals in English. It is a love-song, a melody of mirth sung in unison by more than one person, usually in marriages. Kashmir, my homeland, has a tradition of wanwun. Beautiful women with still beautiful voices tell the stories of love and happiness in a very sing-song fashion. Chorus. They stand like a human chain, arms flung over each other's shoulder and swing like an ancient rhythm. Their carols curl and pop in air. God's sit back and take notice, so do the men.

When a marriage takes place, Kashmiri women always seem to churn new versions of the same old story. The songs sound refreshingly new, however. Two groups of women take the centre-stage. It is oodles of fun. Two groups, 8 each. The rest of the womenfolk sing in tandem. Each group tends to outdo the other. They sing so soulfully. No one wins. The pitch rises and falls and steadies with every note. Add the drumming of Tumbak-naris ( small, hand-held drums) and the atmosphere can turn euphoric.

I miss the native-opera. I miss the thuds. Home is too far. The beats are distant.

Here, check this link.
http://greaterkashmir.com/full_story.asp?ItemID=5775&cat=1

We are a loving lot.

Sameer Bhat

Monday, June 20, 2005


Alice makes me think of my pampered childhood, bed time stories!

Little me

Hot day in June 2005. I keep myself busy with work and reading. Ofcourse music and crisp TV hours also keep me occupied. I am a little upset today. I don't know why. I think I am missing out on something but what can it be. I really can't fathom. Blue-brown images keep flickering in my mind and my hormones do a little trapeze.

I am in my office, right now. It is high noon. I am completely in control yet a part of me is longing for something. I hope the SOMETHING hits me.

I don't pray these days. I don't make love. I don't write too many poems.

I doodle. I dream and I pause.

Lord, adjust my strings.

Sameer Bhat

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Backwaters of Kerala, God's own country

Pic Sam

Friday, June 17, 2005

Man Booker International Prize 2005

Ismail Kadaré is the winner of the first ever Man Booker International Prize.
Kadaré, born in 1936 in the Albanian mountain town of Gjirokaster near the Greek border, is Albania's best-known poet and novelist. He has lived in France since 1990, following his decision to seek asylum stating that: "Dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible... The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship."

From 1986, under the Communist regime, Kadaré's work was smuggled out of Albania by his French publisher, Éditions Fayard, and stored in safe keeping for later publication. Translations of his novels have since been published in more than forty countries.

Booker prize committee:
"Ismail Kadaré is a writer who maps a whole culture - its history, its passion, its folklore, its politics, its disasters. He is a universal writer in a tradition of storytelling that goes back to Homer."

In response to winning the prize, Kadaré comments:
"I feel deeply honoured by the award of the Man Booker International Fiction Prize.
"I am a writer from the Balkan Fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness - armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on.
"My firm hope is that European and world opinion may henceforth realise that this region, to which my country, Albania, belongs, can also give rise to other kinds of news and be the home of other kinds of achievement, in the field of the arts, literature and civilisation.
"I would like to take the prize that I have been awarded as confirmation that my confidence and my hopes have not been misplaced."

The Man Booker International Prize seeks to recognise a living author who has contributed significantly to world literature and to highlight the author's continuing creativity and development on a global scale.

Harvey McGrath, Chairman of Man Group plc, comments:
"Ismail Kadaré's novels shine a light on the mores of his native Albania. His writing reflects not only the complexities of a nation coming to terms with its freedom, but also his own personal experiences, and make him a worthy recipient of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize."

Ismail Kadaré will receive the prize of £60,000 and a trophy at the Award Ceremony on 27 June 2005 in Edinburgh.

His works include:

My Century (Shekulli Im) 1961
The General of the Dead Army (Gjenerali i Ushtrisë së Vdekur) 1963
Why These Mountains Brood (Përse Mendohen Këto Male) 1964
The Wedding (Dasma) 1968
The Castle (Kështjella) 1970
Chronicle in Stone (Kronikë në gurë) 1971
The Great Winter (Dimri i Madh) 1977
The Three-Arched Bridge (Ura Me Tri Harqe) 1978
Broken April (Prilli i Thyer) 1980
Gjakftohtësia 1980
The File on H (Dosja H) 1981
Literary Works (Vepra Letrare) 1981-1989
The Concert at the End of the Winter (Koncert në Fund të Dimrit) 1988
The Pyramid (Piramida) 1992
Albanie 1995
The Palace of dreams (Pallati i ëndërrave) 1996
Poèmes 1997
Froides Fleurs D'Avril (Spring Flower, Spring Frost)2000
Elegy for Kosovo 2000
The life, game and death of Lul Mazreku (Jeta, loja dhe vdekja e Lul Mazrekut) 2002


Sameer Bhat

Princess of Hearts!!!

Download "England's Rose" (Candle in the Wind) wav file (2.5meg).
This is the original version, as sung by Sir Elton John.
Pic Sam

Di, accident or assassination??


May you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed itself
where lives were torn apart.
You called out to our country,
and you whispered to those in pain.

Sir Elton John ' Candle in the Wind'
At Diana's funeral

On August 30, 1997, Lady Diana Francis Spencer, better known as Princess Diana died in a fatal road accident shortly after midnight in a tunnel along the Seine River at the Pont de l'Alma bridge less than half a mile from the Eiffel Tower. Her lover Dodi Al Fayed -- son and heir -- of the billionarie Mohammad Al Fayed, owner of London's posh Harrod's chain and Fayed's chauffeur Henri Paul died with her.

Although the British royalty and much of world media quickly passed the death as a mere accident, I always, like many others had my share of doubts. I never fancied a conspiracy theory. The suspense was always there. Her death was squarely put on Paparazi -- the commercial photographers who constantly tailed Diana -- and were apparently following her car on motorcycles that fateful night.

However, just beneath the apparent creamy obviousness, there lay a lot of royal scum. First, Di was proving to be a a huge embarrassment to the Bristish crown. She confessed of her affair with James Hewitt, her fitness instructor much to the chagrin of the establishment, which felt that she was giving a bad name to the Royal palace. There were many of them -- Philip Dunne, Stephen Twig...the massaeur, Cristopher walley, Hasnat Khan. I think she was love-lorn. Nodoubt this was adultery but Charles was also responsible for it in a major way.

It is an open secret that Diana never got along very well with her hubby, the future King of England -- Charles, Prince Charles. Well, Charles, is at best a stony-faced pampered blue-blooded good-for-nothing. And Charles' extra-marital flings were always famed. His clandestine affair with Camila continued well into his fairytale marriage with Diana. Diana once famously remarked in an interview on the BBC programme Panorama that " there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded". She was clearly refering to Camila parker Bowles, who has since married Charles and now holds the rather corny sorbiquet of Dutchess of Cornwall (Eh..the royals, Do we really care about their titles).

Diana was an eternal romantic and a rebel. Her open criticism of the palace intrigues and her ex-husband -- they seperated on December 9, 1992 -- drew flak from many royal sympathisers. As Diana's confidence grew, so did her sense of style. She was a photographer's dream; tall, slender and beautiful. Her hairstyle was much copied and she rapidly became the most photographed woman on the planet. Her popularity soared to the ranks of superstardom. The general public adored her and even famous people idolised her. Her fans included Wayne Sleep and Pavarotti. She did an incredible amount of work for AIDS patients and landmine affected children of the world. The image of her walking through a cleared area of a minefield in Angola with a visor covering her face adorned every newspaper. The fact that she was wearing a simple blouse and jeans gave the image depth. Diana was not Her Royal Highness (HRH) anymore but she already had a royal spot in the hearts of millions of her fans around the globe.

Around this time, Di came close to Imad Al-fayed (more famously know as Harrod's heir, Dodi). She spent time in the company of Dodi. Diana did not seem to mind being photographed with him. It was known Dodi spent £50,000 on a 'friendship ring' when they returned to the Ritz Hotel in Paris on their way home to Britain. This was 1997.

I think it was about time when the Royalty and British intelligence agencies started getting worried about the whole affair. Mohamed al-Fayed -- Dodi'd father -- is a highly controversial Egyptian-born tycoon who lives in London and owns, among other properties, the exclusive Harrods department stores. He has been embroiled in the shady side of British politics and, despite his persistent efforts to win British nationality, has failed to do so. Mohamed Al-Fayed had been friends with Diana's father, the late Earl Spencer.

Other explanations reflect Dodi's Islamic faith. Diana had to be killed because the British government could not accept the mother of the future king involved with a Muslim Arab; or marrying him; or converting to Islam; or giving birth to a Muslim son.

In 2004, CBS showed pictures of the crash scene showing an intact rear side and an intact centre section of the Mercedes, including one of a unbloodied Diana with no outward injuries, crouched on the rear floor of the vehicle with her back to the right passenger seat - the right rear car door is completely opened. These pictures caused uproar in the UK, and spurred a lawsuit by Mohammed Al-Fayed.

Speculations that Princess Diana's death may be more than an accident have gained momentum, after recent discoveries -- June 2005 -- revealed that her chauffeur reportedly received mystery payments amounting to 142,000 dollars, just weeks before she died in the car he was driving.

British detectives investigating the tragedy have fuelled speculation that Paul was being paid by British secret service agents, by revealing the staggering sums he received from British banks just before the fatal accident.
Financial investigators have also revealed Paul had staggering amounts of money in 13 bank accounts around the world, despite earning just 38,000 pounds, a year as a driver for Paris' Ritz hotel. Money was drafted over to Paul from accounts in England. As far as the investigation is concerned, this is a crucial breakthrough.

We might never know the truth. Or we may...Three decades from now. History channel may reveal it on a Saturday night exclusive. God only knows.
I wish Diana all peace in the afterworld!

Sameer Bhat

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Trivia


"Rhythms" is the longest English word without the normal vowels, a, e, i, o, or u.

The "O" when used as a prefix in Irish surnames means "descendant of."

Of all the words in the English language, the word "set" has the most definitions

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, and purple.

The ridges on the sides of coins are called reeding or milling.

The side of a hammer is a cheek.

Victor Hugo's Les Miserables contains one of the longest sentences in the French language - 823 words without a period

Sameer Bhat

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Glorious legacy


Minaret de la grande mosque - Ulu camii - Siirt

Siirt marketplace

Siirt 'A prince's birthplace'


June 14, 2005

Thousands of miles away from the bustle of Newyork city is a small, beautiful and serene township called Siirt. Siirt is in south east Turkey. It is home to the gallant kurds. I shall take you -- my readers -- to the ancient alleys of Siirt in these next few para's. Hope you enjoy the jolly historic trip.

Siirt is a province in Southeast Turkey where legend and fact are mingled in the colourful story of its past. According to a legend told about the founding of the city -- which I read last night -- a local lord had a beautiful daughter whom he had decided to give in marriage to someone important from another clan. The girl was in love with a shepherd named Ali, but her father did not listen to her objections and she was obliged to give in to his wishes. The wedding day came and the wedding procession, with the bride riding on a horse, set out for the bridegroom's village.

On the way the mournful strains of a flute were heard. The girl realised that it was Ali playing and called out to him, 'Run Ali! Take me away.' The shepherd galloped up beside her on his horse, pulled her onto the saddle behind him, and the couple were soon out of sight. Some time later a village was built on the spot where the elopement had taken place, and it was called Seyirt, meaning 'run', after the girl's cry to her beloved on her way to the wedding. In time Seyirt became Siirt.

{ Fast forward to 1980's: In the lovely glade of these romantic airs of Siirc, a prince is born ... a product of love and passion}.

In fact, Siirt is a city of great antiquity, home to many different civilisations, beginning with the Hurrians, who were succeeded in turn by the Medes, Persians, Parthians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and finally the Ottomans. Siirt was battled over and invaded time and again and perhaps survived 'out of respect for the memory of saints, great men and mystic scholars.

Only the minaret of Siirt Ulu mosque, which dates from the 12th century, has been preserved in its original form. The mosque was constructed by the Seljuk ( name of my pal ) ruler Mugizi-din mahmut in 1129. The minaret of the mosque, which is decorated with turquoise tiles, is slightly tilted. Nearby, the Aydınlar Caddesi, a main street known locally as Tillo Road, leads in one direction to Cumhuriyet Square in the city centre, and in the other to the junction where roads branch off to the towns of Şirvan, Pervari and Aydınlar. This street marks the boundary between the old and new districts of the city.

Minibuses from surrounding villages and towns set their passengers down on Aydınlar Caddesi. Many of them bring cheese, eggs, honey, nuts, terebinth seeds, terebinth soap, fruit and vegetables to sell, and vie for a pitch on the pavement. People wearing caps, turbans and the headdress known as puşi consisting of a length of cloth with the end hanging down behind, and young boys carrying loads on dilapidated hand carts complete the scene.

Siirt is built upon seven hills, ( just imagine 7 hills -- nature at its best) at the top of almost every one of which is a mausoleum belonging to dervish leaders known as şeyhs. These mausoleums give their name to the hills on which they stand, and people come here to offer up prayers. Two other tombs which attract large numbers of visitors are those of Veysel Karani in the town of Baykan to the northwest of Siirt, and that where İbrahim Hakkı and İsmail Fakirullah are buried in the town of Aydınlar just east of the city.

Streets off to the right from Tillo lead to the old-fashioned shopping centre, where the narrow streets are covered by canopies of canvas and plastic. Here there are all kinds of shops selling carpets, cheese, cereals, stoves, clothing, wool and furniture, mixed up with the workshops of craftsmen like blacksmiths, weavers, leather workers and repair shops. There are also many kebab houses selling the famous local speciality büryan. It is a pit roast cooked in a tandır oven (a relation of the Indian tandoor). The meat, always young lamb, is hung in the tandır and the cover sealed tightly with clay so that it cooks in its own steam.

The old quarter of Siirt is the place to see the traditional houses, unique to this province, known as cas, the term for the gypsum limestone of which they are made. These houses are brown in colour with ornate doors and window frames. Unfortunately those that remain are falling into disrepair.

The city was once famed for its copper ware, but this craft is on the decline, and just a few coppersmiths such as Nasri Bakırcı are still to be found working here. The mainstay of the local economy is agriculture and animal husbandry. The remote location of the city and mountainous terrain have impeded industrial development in Siirt, and many people have moved away in search of work over recent years.

The main crops are cereals, cotton and the large local pistachio nuts which have the highest oil content of all varieties. The pistachio trees produce their first crop seven years after they are planted. Stock farming is mainly confined to sheep and goats, particularly the angora goat. The fine glossy hair from these black and brown goats is used to make the Siirt blankets which are so famous throughout Turkey.

Local wool and goat hair is hand woven into various textiles. At one time the main product was the tents used by semi-nomadic tribes like the Alikan, Duderan and Garisi, who spent the summers on the mountain pastures with their flocks, but this custom has now died out. However, the traditional herb cheese made with a species of wild garlic gathered in the mountains is as popular as ever, and can be found in delicatessens in Turkey's major cities.

One of Siirt's foremost beauty spots is Taşbaşı. This is a gorge with intriguing rock formations through which the River Uluçay races along its winding course. The view is spectacular. Closeby lies the Billoris thermal spa, where the large pool is open to men and women alternately every hour. The spa is open seven days a week, and people of all ages come here for cures in the hot sulphurous water ( 35 degree C hotwater). After bathing in the water , they say, you feel revived and energetic. I want to take a dip!

This fascinating city with its warm hearted people and its saints and lovely springs is the hometown of my sweet friend, whom I call prince, lovingly.

Hope you enjoyed the trek with me!

Sameer Bhat

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Global megastar proven a bit odd

Michael Jackson is officially not guilty of the child abuse, it is about time our focus swung back to his music. Let us examine the facts: Pretty much everything he produced up to and including Thriller -- 29 million units sold worldwide -- is touched by genius. I want you back is officially the best pop song of all time. The rot set in after Bad. Smooth Criminal was probably the last half decent single. (Although the blog has a secret respect for Black and White - it's actually a decent song to dance to. Give it a try.)

The case of Jackson then reveals a more profound musical conundrum. Why do pop musicians get worse with age, while pretty much every other artist in their field gets better? Think about it. When Dostoevsky reached his forties he wrote the Brothers Karamazov. When Beethoven wrote his 9th Symphony no-one was saying 'he's completely sold out, I prefer the early symphonies, they had more edge'.

But look what happened to the Beatles, the Stones, Prince, Sting. Age in pop musicians means inevitable decent into mediocrity and obsolescence. And death is just cheating. Let's not delude ourselves that John Lennon wouldn't have produced some Frog Chorus-type aberration by the time he was 50. So we can't even blame Michael Jackson for making rubbish music. Once he hit a certain age he had to obey the inexorable law of pop.

Sameer Bhat

The Madrassa Myth

By PETER BERGEN and SWATI PANDEY
Washington: A NewYork Times Special

IT is one of the widespread assumptions of the war on terrorism that the Muslim religious schools known as madrassas, catering to families that are often poor, are graduating students who become terrorists. Last year, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell denounced madrassas in Pakistan and several other countries as breeding grounds for "fundamentalists and terrorists." A year earlier, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld had queried in a leaked memorandum, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"
While madrassas may breed fundamentalists who have learned to recite the Koran in Arabic by rote, such schools do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist. Indeed, there is little or no evidence that madrassas produce terrorists capable of attacking the West. And as a matter of national security, the United States doesn't need to worry about Muslim fundamentalists with whom we may disagree, but about terrorists who want to attack us.

We examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners. We found that a majority of them are college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering. In the four attacks for which the most complete information about the perpetrators' educational levels is available - the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, and the Bali bombings in 2002 - 53 percent of the terrorists had either attended college or had received a college degree. As a point of reference, only 52 percent of Americans have been to college. The terrorists in our study thus appear, on average, to be as well educated as many Americans.

The 1993 World Trade Center attack involved 12 men, all of whom had a college education. The 9/11 pilots, as well as the secondary planners identified by the 9/11 commission, all attended Western universities, a prestigious and elite endeavor for anyone from the Middle East. Indeed, the lead 9/11 pilot, Mohamed Atta, had a degree from a German university in, of all things, urban preservation, while the operational planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, studied engineering in North Carolina. We also found that two-thirds of the 25 hijackers and planners involved in 9/11 had attended college.

Of the 75 terrorists we investigated, only nine had attended madrassas, and all of those played a role in one attack - the Bali bombing. Even in this instance, however, five college-educated "masterminds" - including two university lecturers - helped to shape the Bali plot.

Like the view that poverty drives terrorism - a notion that countless studies have debunked - the idea that madrassas are incubating the next generation of terrorists offers the soothing illusion that desperate, ignorant automatons are attacking us rather than college graduates, as is often the case. In fact, two of the terrorists in our study had doctorates from Western universities, and two others were working toward their Ph.D.
A World Bank-financed study that was published in April raises further doubts about the influence of madrassas in Pakistan, the country where the schools were thought to be the most influential and the most virulently anti-American. Contrary to the numbers cited in the report of the 9/11 commission, and to a blizzard of newspaper reports that 10 percent of Pakistani students study in madrassas, the study's authors found that fewer than 1 percent do so. If correct, this estimate would suggest that there are far more American children being home-schooled than Pakistani boys attending madrassas.

While madrassas are an important issue in education and development in the Muslim world, they are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States. The tens of millions of dollars spent every year by the United States through the State Department, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and the Agency for International Development to improve education and literacy in the Middle East and South Asia should be applauded as the development aid it is and not as the counterterrorism effort it cannot be.

Peter Bergen, the author of "Holy War Inc.," is a fellow at the New America Foundation. Swati Pandey is a research associate there.

Adapted NY times, 2005.

Shame Rumsfeld

While reports of widespread human rights from the infamous Guantanamo bay continue to pour in, there are new revealtions, confirming my worst fears. Don Rumsfeld -- aka Rummy -- US defence secretary approved the use of 16 strong coercive methods in interrogation of select detainees in Gitmo camp in Guantanamo Bay, including forcible injections with fluids, being grilled in proximity to military dogs and straddling by a woman soldier, Time magazine reported on Monday.

One of the detainees on whom these muscular strategies were used for interrogation was a top Saudi suspect Mohammed al-Qahtani, who is widely believed to be the so-called 20th hijacker, a compatriot of Osama bin Laden and a man who had tried to enter the US in August 2001 to take part in the terror strikes, the magazine said quoting secret logs obtained by it.

The logs spanned 50 days in the winter of 2002-03, from November to early January, a critical period at Gitmo, during which the 16 additional interrogation techniques were approved by Rumsfeld for use on a select few detainees, including al-Qahtani, it said.

The logs give a detained account of the measures used against the captive in the prison, many of which have been criticised by the rights groups. The log showed that interrogators poured bottles of water on al-Qahtani’s head when he refused to drink and called this game "Drink Water or Wear It".

Time magazine said it obtained the first documented look inside the highly-classified realm of military interrogations since the Gitmo Camp opened. The document is a secret 84-page interrogation log that details the interrogation of ''Detainee 063’ at Guantanamo Bay, the magazine said, adding it reads like a night watchman’s diary.

The log records every time al-Qahtani ate, slept, exercised or went to the bathroom and every time he complied with or refused his interrogators’ requests. Chief Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita was quoted as saying that the log was compiled by various uniformed interrogators and observers on the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Gitmo as the interrogation proceeded. It is stamped 'Secret Orcon’, a military acronym for a document that is supposed to remain with the organisation that created it, Time said.

A Pentagon official who has seen the log describes it as the "kind of document that was never meant to leave Gitmo', it added. Al-Qahtani’s resilience under pressure in the fall of 2002, Time said, led top officials at Gitmo to petition Washington for more muscular counter resistance strategies.
After the new measures are approved, it said the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation changed dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthened. The quizzing started at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozed off, interrogators roused him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.
According to the log, his handlers at one point perform a puppet show "satirising the detainee’s involvement with al-Qaida.'

He also had to stand for the playing of the US national anthem. His head and beard were shaved. He is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of "Space by a Female", and he becomes especially agitated by the close physical presence of a woman.

Sameer Bhat

Monday, June 13, 2005

Istanbul through Selcuk's lens


A panoramic view of Green horn, Istanbul's seductive curves.
Pic Selcuk

Prince and his pics

My Turkish pal selcuk went gading with his bevy of friends after his exams finished. He sent me some amazing pictures of Istanbul. And some of his own. I reckon he is a very private person, so he has strictly instructed me not to upload his pictures on my blog. I think that is fair. All of us must have a modicum of privacy in our little lives. Only we, jounalists are a little shameless. We go on the TV, we come on newspapers. We blabber and we jot. We write about everything under God's vanilla sky. From New york to New Delhi, we are the same.

So I'll have to content with these two spectacular pictures. Well clicked, as they say. For a perfect picture, a real photographer must put his head, his eye and his heart on the same axis, as the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once remarked.

sameer bhat

Julius Caesar

He is an enigmatic historical force. Caesar was the first and last dictator to rule Rome. His military genius, as displayed in the Gallic Wars (58–50 BC), enabled Rome to extend her empire permanently to the Atlantic seaboard, but his ruthless ambition led to the breakdown of the Republican system of government at home. Never one to allow himself to be blocked by constitutional niceties, in 60 BC he joined with Pompey and Crassus (the so-called First Triumvirate) to protect his interests in the state, and in 49 BC, to avoid being humbled by his enemies at Rome, he led his army across the R Rubicon into Italy and plunged the state into civil war. Victory over the Pompeian forces at Pharsalus (48 BC), Zela (47 BC), Thapsus (46 BC), and Munda (45 BC) left him in sole control at Rome. He did not disguise his absolute power, taking the title ‘Dictator for Life’ in 44 BC, and allowing himself to be paid extravagant honours which suggested he was aiming at regal and even divine status. This was too much for many Republican-minded Romans, and under the leadership of Brutus and Cassius they conspired to murder him. His brief period of power left him with little time to carry through the many reforms, social, economic, and administrative, that he had intended. It was left to his great-nephew and heir, Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) to reap where he had sown, and also to learn from his mistakes.

I try to deconstruct the myth and the legend...that Julius Caesar was!

Julius Caesar, one of Ancient Rome's most famous individuals, was born into a wealthy family 100 BC - or near to that year. Julius Caesar joined the Roman Army in 81 BC and was the first Roman army commander to invade England which he did in 55 BC and again in 54 BC.

After serving in the Roman Army, Caesar developed an interest in politics. He became a driven man who wanted to get to the highest positions in Roman politics. In 65 BC, Caesar was appointed an 'adele' and put in charge of public entertainment in Rome. This was a very important position as the citizens of Rome expected quality entertainment. It was believed by those who ran Rome that the people could be kept happy and content if they had access to varied and enjoyable entertainment. Caesar took to the post with zeal. He put on games and festivals for the people. As a result, he became very popular with the poor of Rome - a considerable part of the city's population. He also courted the friendship of Rome's richest man, Crassus.

On the way to Rhodes in 75, Caesar was captured by pirates. This famous story reveals, in miniature, the man he was becoming. At the time, the eastern end of the Mediterranean was swarming with pirates; Roman citizens (the higher rank, the better) were tempting prey for ransom. Caesar's ship was captured near Rhodes; he was held captive for 40 days. Sending away his staff to borrow his ransom (50 talents or 12,000 gold pieces which he had insisted his merits warranted), Caesar joked easily with his captors, ordering them about with amused disdain. He "had often smilingly sworn, while still in their power, that he would soon capture and crucify them; and this is exactly what he did." [Suetonius]. As soon as he was released, Caesar begged forces from local officials and, returning, neatly captured all the pirates and arranged for their prompt crucifixion.

In 59 BC, Caesar was appointed a consul and in 58 BC he went to Gaul (France) where he served as governor. He was successful in this position and conquered even more land for the Roman Empire. Caesar was a brilliant general and commanded an army of over 50,000 loyal men. His success at a military level all but guaranteed the loyalty of his soldiers. But he was seen by some as a cruel man solely driven by expanding his own personal power. As a result, he made enemies of important politicians in Rome itself. Some senior army generals, such as Pompey, were also very concerned about Caesar's intentions.

In 49 BC the Senate ordered Caesar to hand over his army to their control. He refused. Instead Caesar advanced on Italy but paused at the line that divided France (Gaul) and Italy - the River Rubicon. Roman law said that a governor was not allowed to leave his province. Caesar ignored this law, crossed the Rubicon and advanced to confront his enemies in Rome. The Senate considered this to be a treasonable offence but there was little they could do. Caesar had a very powerful and experienced army and his opponents were fragmented. Pompey was killed in Egypt in 48 BC. For the next three years he picked off his enemies one by one whether they were in North Africa, the Middle East or Europe.

He served his first campaign in Asia on the personal staff of Marcus Thermus, governor of the province. On being sent by Thermus to Bithynia, to fetch a fleet, he dawdled so long at the court of Nicomedes that he was suspected of improper relations with the king. Caesar's physical vitality perhaps partly accounts for his sexual promiscuity, which was out of the ordinary, even by contemporary Greek and Roman standards. It was rumored that during his first visit to the East he had had homosexual relations with King Nicomedes of Bithynia.

There is no doubt of Caesar's heterosexual affairs, many of them with married women. Probably Caesar looked upon these as trivial recreations. Yet he involved himself at least twice in escapades that might have wrecked his career.

If he did in fact have an affair with Pompey's wife, Mucia, he was risking his entente with Pompey. A more notorious, though not quite so hazardous, affair was his liaison with Cleopatra. By dallying with her at Alexandria, he risked losing what he had just won at Pharsalus. By allowing her to visit him in Rome in 46, he flouted public feeling and added to the list of tactless acts that, cumulatively, goaded old comrades and amnestied enemies into assassinating him.

Caesar served with the Governor of Asia before transferring in 78 to military service with P. Servilius Isauricus in Cilicia. After Sulla's death, he returned to Rome. Thus, in his early 20's, Caesar had won the highest military decoration for personal courage the Roman state could bestow upon a soldier and gained valuable experience in provincial warfare and administration. Politically, he had a leg up on the ladder of Roman success, just now beginning.

Caesar returned to Rome in 45 BC as a dictator. However, he allowed the Senate to continue working - except that he replaced disloyal senators with his own appointments of loyal men. Caesar should have used his position to make powerless those he had removed from the Senate - but he did not. Caesar did not take away their wealth and these men plotted against him.

On MARCH 15, 44 BC, Caesar was murdered by those politicians who feared that he was too obsessed with his own importance. His murder took place at the Senate House in Rome. After his murder, Rome was divided as to whether it was a good thing or not.

Plutarch gives the responsibility for persuading Brutus to turn against Caesar to Cassius, who had a personal animosity against the Dictator and a "peculiar bitterness" against anyone more powerful than he. In addition, Brutus allegedly was pestered, in the last months of Caesar's life, by anonymous appeals calling upon him to rid the state of the tyrant, as his ancestor had done. Cassius had gathered a conglomerate of senators willing to assassinate Caesar but all agreed that the conspiracy could not succeed without the idealistic glamour that Brutus' participation would bring to it; he was the essential man to give the enterprise political legitimacy.

44 On February 15, Caesar appears at the Lupercalia as dictator perpetuus (for life), in the dress of the ancient kings of Rome; refuses the diadem of kingship offered by co-consul Mark Antony, along with the title of king. Announces he will leave Rome for Parthia on March 18. 60 Republicans, led by Brutus and Cassius, join in conspiracy to murder him. On the Ides of March (March 15), attending the Senate for the last time, Caesar is stabbed to death. His last words, to Brutus, in Greek, were "and you too, child?"

Thus curtains came down on the life of one of histroy's most powerful kings!

Afterword

The Roman Empire included most of what would now be considered Western Europe. The empire was conquered by the Roman Army and a Roman way of life was established in these conquered countries. The main countries conquered were England/Wales (then known as Britannia), Spain (Hispania), France (Gaul or Gallia), Greece (Achaea), the Middle East (Judea) and the North African coastal region.

In Rome’s early years, the state lived in fear of its more powerful neighbour, Carthage. The Carthaginians were great traders in the Mediterranean Sea and as the Romans wanted to expand into this trading zone, a clash was inevitable. In 264 BC, the Romans and the Carthaginians had their first war. In a series of three wars, known as the Punic Wars, the Romans eventually defeated the Carthaginians. However, this took over 100 years to accomplish and the wars eventually ended in 146 BC. In the second Punic War, the Romans lost several important battles – the most famous being against the Carthaginian general Hannibal. However, by 146 BC, the Romans were strong enough to capture the city of Carthage in Northern Africa. Carthage was burned to the ground and all signs of the city were destroyed by the Romans as a sign that the power of the Carthaginians had disappeared forever.

With Carthage defeated, the Romans became the most powerful Mediterranean state. The victory over the Carthaginians gave the Romans all the opportunity they needed to expand their power in the Mediterranean. The more wealthy and powerful the Romans became, the more able they were to further expand their empire.

The Romans were not content with conquering land near to them. They realised that land further away might also have riches in them that would make Rome even more wealthy. Hence their drive to conquer Western Europe. At the height of its power, around AD 150, Rome controlled the greatest empire ever seen in Europe at that time. Many of the conquered nations benefited from Roman rule as the Roman way of life was imposed on those conquered societies. Roman public baths, roads, water supplies, housing etc. all appeared in Western Europe – though many fell into disuse after the Romans retreated back to Rome.

Ironically, the sheer size of the empire, which many marvelled at, was also a major reason for the collapse in the power of the Romans. The Romans had great difficulty in maintaining power in all of their empire and supplying their army was a major problem as their lines of communications were stretched to the limit. The power of the empire rested with the success of the Roman Army. When this success started to weaken, the empire could only start to collapse.

Sameer Bhat

Saturday, June 11, 2005


A great pic. One of my favs. Infact the photographer was a maverick.
Pic Sam

Salah...blue denims and mature confidence. CA, Berkeley, US
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US of A
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Maharaja's cottage and the stripped shirt! What a combo.
Pic Sam

S-W-S....Frolicking in the green's near the Prez's home.
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20-somethings....Nostalgic times. Sweet kashmir, so far, so romantic!
Pic Sam

Office babes....Jo and Gur
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Suhail, bosom-buddy, NY
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Suhail, Waseem and Sameer! Inseperable trio!
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Did I hear someone say attitude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prince of attitute. NY May, 2005
Pic Sam

Friday, June 10, 2005


A touch of B&W
Pic Sam

Thursday, June 09, 2005


And from the waters, here comes....PEDRO!
Pic Sam

Pedro, enjoying his juice!
Pic Sam

Farewell to bombs

A poignant human interest story carried by CNN on June 9, 2005 about an Iraqi civilain -- one of many thousands of innocents -- all victim's of Bush's illegal war in Iraq. Trigger happy and immmature American GI's are repeatedly mistaking the ordinary sods for terrorists in the war-zone.

A family's tragedy in the fog of war

Father says all four kids died after U.S. tanks fired on car

By Sasha JohnsonCNN Washington Bureau

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Even as Daham Kassim sits in his brother-in-law's comfortable suburban St. Louis home, his thoughts constantly turn back to his native Iraq and the tragic events that brought him to the United States.

On or about March 25, 2003, the beginning of the Iraq war, Daham, his wife, Gufran, his brother, and their four young children piled into the family's white Peugeot and headed north out of Nasiriya to escape the chaotic U.S. bombing and fighting.

They had waited all morning for a violent sandstorm to subside, but fear of being caught in the crossfire prompted Daham to leave despite the bad weather.
"There is sandstorm there and I don't see. I see nothing because sandstorm. So there is four or three tanks American tanks in the gate, Nasiriya gate," he says.
Daham says he stopped his car and after about a minute the tanks opened fire, instantly killing his 2-year-old and 9-year-old daughters.

He says two American troops approached his car. He remembers they called themselves "Chris" and "Joe."
"I saw them take my son, Mohammed ... it is difficult to breathing," he says, describing his son's grave condition. "My daughter, the fourth one, my daughter, Zainab, is still OK as I see her."
Daham was gravely injured, suffering gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs and face. Gufran was shot in the chest and the blast broke both of her arms.
Mohammed, age 6, died minutes later.

Daham, Gufran and Zainab were taken to a U.S. field hospital a few miles away, but were moved to the Nasiriya Air Base hospital that evening when their beds were needed for wounded American troops.
"It is very, very cold," he says, remembering that night. "Then my daughter, Zainab, said, 'Pop, it is very cold.' But you know, I have nothing to help her, because I can't stand up. ... My legs is also broken. And my wife also, the two arms are broken. It is difficult to help my daughter, and [she] also died."
Daham and Gufran were eventually moved to the USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, where they stayed for approximately one month.

There, Daham's right leg was amputated and according to hospital ship records provided by Daham, his "poor" prognosis improved steadily.

The Kassims eventually returned to Nasiriya and were admitted to Nasiriya General Hospital on May 3, 2003.
The U.S. military cannot confirm or accept responsibility for the incident involving the Kassim family.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps said the Marines found "an incident reported up the chain of command that appears similar to what Mr. Kassim tells CNN."

Maj. Douglas Powell issued a statement saying that in late March "the Iraqi regular army and Fedayeen" [Saddam Hussein's specially picked troops] were implementing tactics such as using "civilian vehicles to drive close to and fire upon Marines."

In response, "hasty checkpoints" were set up, and in the engagement most closely matching Daham's account, the Marine statement said the civilian vehicle "failed to stop and was engaged. ... Based upon all the facts, it was determined the shooting did not violate our rules or engagement nor the law of war."

A Freedom of Information Act request yielded no written records about the incident. The lack of documentation can be blamed on the hectic pace of war and the tragic nature of conflict, Powell said.
Daham has written records of his U.S. military-supervised medical care. He also was able to obtain the death certificate for his 5-year-old daughter, Zainab, from the Army at the Nasiriya Air Base hospital.
Zainab's cause of death on March 27, 2003, is listed as "blast injury causing penetration of skull and exposure of brain."

An Army spokeswoman verified the document and said the number "000-00-027" listed in the "Social Security number" space on the form means that Zainab was the 27th Iraqi civilian to die at the base hospital.
While Daham is grateful for what the United States has done for Iraq and empathizes with American parents who have lost their children, he says what he really wants is an apology from the U.S. military.
"They don't care my story," he says. "The American government, I mean, and the American Army, ... but in the other side there is many, many American people help me."

Daham and Gufran were able to come to the United States because of Keith Lindsey, who runs Lindsey Manufacturing, a California-based company that specializes in emergency power restoration.
Before the accident, Daham was the director of the electricity system in the southwestern region of Iraq. Lindsey arranged for a six-month visa for the Kassims so Daham could acquire new skills and seek medical treatment.

Since their arrival in January, Daham's brother-in-law, Ihsan-Al-Yasiry, has arranged for pro-bono prosthesis and rehab care for Daham and English classes for Gufran.
Daham is only one of an untold number of Iraqi civilians injured since the start of the war. There is no reliable count of the number killed, although the Web site www.iraqbodycount.com puts the number at as many as 25,000.

"There is many people, many families like my situation, really. And this need help and support and stand with them, not leave them with no asking, nothing. This is not, not, not a way to live, not a way to understand each other," he says.

Daham and Gufran were scheduled to go back to Iraq the week of June 6. The couple has applied for an extension, because Gufran is now two months pregnant.
"No one can feel or imagine what we suffer what we felt. But we [are] looking for to start our life, this is what we want," Daham says. "We need help and support and everything to start our life again."