Thursday, August 10, 2006

An ode to Peace!

All we are saying is give peace a chance
John Lennon


We inhabit a violent, merciless world. There is so much of pain. Killing. Blood. Gore. Terror. Lies. Double standards. Humans have this tendency of creating chaos out of the most ordered of permutations. Right now, as I post, some diabolical Israeli warplane must be bombing the shit out of a Lebanese village. Smoldering its petrified residents. Alive. A barrage of Hizbollah rockets must be on their way to another café in Haifa. As the politicians of the civilized and the not-so-civilized world slug it out, the agony persists. 24 X 7.

War is so futile. Always. I cried as a kid when I read Hemmingway’s ‘For whom the Bell tolls’. It speaks about the brutality of war. War. It only separates friends from each other. Moms from kids. Wives from husbands. Children from their Dads. As someone rightly remarked, if you give me the money that has been spent in war, I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. Yet I understand this ode can never pass muster. The armament industry will never rest. Or let the planet rest in peace. The injustice has to prevail.

I have been following developments in the Middle East and other conflict zones for a long time. Err…I am not too old, must I add. In the 16 summers of my love for books and the world affairs, I observed only the hollow twanging of war. The misery that violence begets. So many tomes of it. Hatred for one another and for humanity. Americans burning 10-year old girls in Iraq. The insurgents slaughtering worshippers in mosques. Russians carpet bombing Chechen villages. The Chechens hacking to death school children. Israelis humiliating the Palestinian women. The list is long and sad.

There are only blame-games. Slander. Ignorance of other cultures and a lot of indifference. Yet it is love that sustains the world. It keeps the children smiling and the adults hoping. Against hope. But hoping nonetheless. What this planet needs is more mistletoe and less missile-talk.

Amidst this backdrop, I am weary. I think I must shut myself from more of this mayhem. No laptops, no unfolding of abortive suicide attempts -- on British aircrafts -- beamed on Live TV. No bad tidings. Just the fragrance of a thousand daffodils in full bloom. I have decided to go to a very beautiful place where the water is pure and nights are cosy. Where the mountains whistle to you on solitary evenings. Where a blue sky kisses your nose on gorgeous noons. Where the moon appears like a cheese, you want to squeeze and chomp. I am expecting some great company.


God is holidaying. So am I!

See ya soon. Here, I leave you with a couple of images that have haunted us in the days before. There are other images that one never wishes to tear one self from. Let's continue to hope!

Adieu

Sameer
[The next blog will be posted September 1, 2006]

A Lebanese girl quietly lights a candle on the slab of an unknown person, killed in the Isreali bombing


A photo montage of IDF in action -- Isreal-Lebanon war 2006.


Our blue planet: Let there be peace


Those cute butterflies in my garden


The green-peek: A beautiful world.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rain

The drizzle began as suddenly as a cat can blink her eye. It came in blobs. First, small and quiet and then fast and tap-tap-tap. The rain-wiper on my car did its best to shoo away droplets clung to the pane. The stockpile seemed unlimited. I decided to drive on! Soft music continued to cascade and fill my car. Outside countless sluices popped up from nowhere. Harried pedestrians and bitter bikers seemed busy negotiating their way through the water clogged six-way-lane. It is raining Monsoon in India’s capital city and everyone and his neighbor is caught in the downpour. The country may be riding fast on the high horse of development and affluence but at the blink of our cat’s eyelid, the real state of our rueful infrastructure shows up. Chinks in the Armour, as they say!

[The beauty of nature's glower]


However --nothing can take away from me my love for rains. Not the bad roads, maddening muggy evenings with power outages and a million mutinies, as the ever-acerbic Naipaul calls us. The sound of rain on trees, lampposts and lushes across the sidewalks continue to fascinate me. I try to make some sense out of the gentle pummeling of silvery driblets on my car-pane. Upon streams. On dark evenings. I love the hurriedness about it. People trying to run for cover. How it – rains -- bring to life, the bleakest of hopes. I think anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.

[Rain through the pane]

The 19th century American poet Henry Longfellow says the best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. It is when the fleecy clouds can hold it no more. The weary earth drinks the drizzle. Rivers lap the rains. Old wells in the countryside stock the reserve. Flowers nod. Gazelles hop. Birds break into a song. Peaches blush. A little rain, I think, is an elixir. Into each life some rain must fall, Longfellow must agree in his mossy grave. Rain never disappoints. It rains on the dead, as much as on the un-dead. The unqueer and queer alike.

God, I may drift. I need to end it now.

Happy rains

Samy

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Double standards Deconstructed

A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy
Benjamin Disraeli (
British Prime Minister and Novelist 1804-1881)

I often wonder why on God’s green earth does US of A support Israel so vociferously. Always. Without fail. In endless debates at the UN. After every blood-bath in Palestinian streets. Month after month. Year after year. Overtly. All the US administrations. Democrats and Republicans alike. No matter who sits perched in the oval office – a scholarly Clinton or a stupid Bush – one is inclined to believe that the benefit of doubt will go to Israel. Now this tiny Jewish country has been involved in an ongoing conlict with Palestinians for well over 50 years. US, one might think, can’t afford to be prejudiced against one party that is the Palestinians – the weaker one – in an open-ended fracas. Are these double standards? Is this Hypocrisy? Hypocrisy, nothing but prejudice with a halo.

The Halo is a welter. A well oiled machinery. In simpler terms it is called the Jewish lobby. Friends of Israel in the US. Its apologists. Its ears and eyes. Its voice. In more specific terms, it is an array of primarily Jewish – though not exclusivist – lobby groups, think tanks, media bodies and special-interest gangs. These assortments find their interests aligned to the Christian right. They lobby like mad. They throw money like crazy. They canvass, fun-raise, run dis-information campaigns, know every actor who matters in the corridors of power, seldom refrain from using sleigh of hand and importantly, they smile at you. There is only one objective. Garnering support of Israel.

Source: The Economist (http://economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7255198)

I didn’t have to keep wondering at this intricate web. The answers, which were always there, came tumbling out when professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government published a paper in the London Review of Books earlier this year. In "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," the highly rated scholars argue that the centerpiece of US policy in the Middle East has been its unwavering support for Israel, and – surprisingly -- that this has not been in America's best interest.

In their view, the "extraordinary generosity" the US showers on Israel— the nearly $3 billion in direct foreign assistance it provides every year, the access it gives Israel to "top-drawer" weapons like F-16 jets, the thirty-two UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel that it has vetoed since 1982, the "wide latitude" it has given Israel in dealing with the occupied territories—all this "might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for sustained US backing.

"In fact, they write, "neither rationale is convincing." Israel may have had strategic value for the US during the cold war when the Soviet Union had heavy influence in Egypt and Syria, but that has long since faded. Since September 11, Israel has been cast as a crucial ally in the war on terror, but actually, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, it has been more of a liability; its close ties to America have served as a rallying point for Osama bin Laden and other anti-American extremists. Morally, Israel qualifies as a democracy, the authors write, but it's a deeply flawed one, discriminating against its Arab citizens and oppressing the Palestinians who have lived under its occupation.

If neither strategic nor moral considerations can account for America's support for Israel, Mearsheimer and Walt ask, what does? Their Answer: the "unmatched power of the Israel Lobby." At its core is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is ranked second after the National Rifle Association (along with the AARP) in the National Journal's 2005 listing of Washington's most powerful lobbies. AIPAC, they write, serves as a de facto agent for a foreign government."

Isreal has AIPAC, the Palestinians have none. Conventional wisdom tells us that it is always better to have someone than to have no one. AIPAC, which has an annual budget of almost $50m, a staff of 200, nearly 100,000 grassroots members and a decades-long history of wielding influence, is arguably the most powerful lobby in Washington, mightier even than the National Rifle Association. The Economist quotes Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister saying “Thank God we have AIPAC, the greatest supporter and friend we have in the whole world.” Thanks to AIPAC, in the US, support for Israel stretches from San Francisco liberals like Nancy Pelosi to southern-fried conservatives like Bill Frist.

The power and the influence of the Israel lobby and the negative effect it has had on US policy is amazing. Deep. Complete. An insight: Source: NY times. (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19062) Any discussion of AIPAC's activities must begin with the policy conference it sponsors each year in Washington, a combination of trade show, party convention, and Hollywood extravaganza that seems designed to show AIPAC's national power.

On Sunday, March 5, 2006, the start of this year's gathering, five thousand pro-Israel activists from around the country crowded into the Washington Convention Center. During the next three days, they listened to speeches, sat in on panels, chatted at receptions, and attended a book signing by Natan Sharansky. The crowd included more than a thousand college and high school students, mobilized through AIPAC's ambitious campus advocacy program. Speakers included a cross-section of Washington's political establishment—John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Senators Evan Bayh and Susan Collins, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt—as well as all three Israeli candidates for prime minister (speaking via satellite from Israel, where they were campaigning). On several giant screens around the hall there flashed alternating clips of Adolf Hitler denouncing the Jews and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowing to destroy Israel. The show ended with a fade-out to the post-Holocaust vow "Never Again."

The next day, members of the conference marched to Capitol Hill to lobby for AIPAC's top legislative priority—the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. Drafted with AIPAC's help following Hamas's recent electoral victory, the bill placed so many restrictions on aid to, and contacts with, the Palestinian Authority that even the Israeli government, seeking more flexibility, had expressed some unease about it. Already, though, the bill had more than two hundred sponsors in the House; now, to press the point, supporters of AIPAC held meetings in more than 450 congressional offices.

At dinner that night, AIPAC Executive Director How- ard Kohr, as he does each year, read the "roll call" of dignitaries in attendance. It included a majority of the Senate, a quarter of the House, more than fifty ambassadors, and dozens of administration officials. Reciting the names took twenty-seven minutes in all, with each name greeted by a roar, the loudest going to Joe Lieberman.

The conference ended the next day with a speech by Dick Cheney. The Vice President used the occasion to deliver the administration's sternest warning yet to the government of Iran, promising that it would face "meaningful consequences" if it continued to pursue nuclear technology. "We join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Cheney declared to loud applause. For the AIPAC faithful, Cheney ranks as a true American hero.

It is no rocket science. Pro-Israel politicians always get what matters in the power structure: funds, good-press and reverence. Influence. A free furtherance to go up the order. A platform and fulcrum too. Any pro-Palestine voice – or pro-Lebanon now-- is shamelessly scuttled. Maligned campaigns, dis-information, drying up of funds, bad press. Applying the theory of with us, against us! Simple.

With all key guys -- Bolton, Perle, Wolfowiltz, Rummy, Cheney et al on their rolls, the hugely influential banking lobby in US in their back pocket, a clearly conservative government at helm, the AIPAC knows its strokes. Nothing misses their radar. They scan campuses, cruise the media, tweak here, toggle there and the road to white house is always smooth for them. No one dares to trammel their trek. The trek, gentlemen, is always biased, racist and often smells of prejudice.

That is, my friends, the reason of the US halo.

Sameer

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A blue Evening

I’ll keep it short. A very good friend of mine, who works with me, tells me that I am harsh on myself. I often tend to be self-critical and can be pretty relentless at that. I think we need a bit of self-flagellation at times. It only helps us keep things in near perfect shapes and aligned to the shifting situations around.

I have another weird component in me. I dream a lot. It was one of those blue-tinted dreams last evening. I saw the stitching on my shirt change color from green to electrical. Or florescent, was it! The world’s most enchanting pair of eyes floated in front of me. Magical, seditious and adorable. Angel, Am I dead, I thought. This must be heaven!

I could hear the bells toll in my head. Suddenly the phosphorescent lights went off. As if one a cue, rains came. In showers. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the beautiful image in front of me, perched on the couch. Basking in the glow. There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that shines. The face has both!

There are times when we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. They laugh with us on solitary evenings. They sit silent with us on noisy noons. Laugh along over un-scheduled dates.

Ah, the lovely laughter. The flowered remnants of which, go on long after I am awake.

And only I am not harsh on myslef, others too are!

samy