The French Revolution, according to Albert Camus, produced no artists but did give birth to two cultural notables. In fact, he goes so far as to say that they were the only notables: a gifted journalist by the name of Camille Desmoulins; and the under-the-counter-writer, the Marquis de Sade. The only poet, he stressed, was the guillotine. How disturbingly fitting then, that Desmoulins found himself the subject of the guillotine alongside Georges Danton in 1794, the victim of false charges. The word, like a cruel joke, did eventually kill him.
Irrespective of how one feels about the direction taken by various Arab revolutions in the last three years, a few facts remain incontestable. Arab revolts began in the streets of poor, despairing Arab cities, and Arabs had every right to rebel considering the dismal state of affairs in which they live. Few disagree with these two notions. However, the quarrel, in part, is concerned with the cost-benefit analysis of some of these revolutions, Syria being the prime example. Is it worth destroying a country, several times over and victimizing millions to achieve an uncertain democratic future?
“In Yemen today, the US embassy is closed to the public. Officials telling CNN there is credible information of a threat against Western interests there,” a CNN news anchor read the news bulletin on May 08.
This is CNN’s Yemen. It is a Yemen that seems to exist for one single purpose, and nothing else: maintain Western, and by extension, US interests in that part of the world. When these interests are threatened, only then does Yemen matter.
A few of our favorite stories from April.
In this list we’ve included an analysis of President Barack Obama’s hesitation to use military intervention in places like Syria and Ukraine by Peter Lee. A piece by Gary Sands titled, “Dragon v. Godzilla: How Far will the U.S. go to Reassure Japan?,” which looks at how far the United States is willing to go to reassure Japan in the face of heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. Nicole Wenstrup’s review of Robert Oprisko’s Honor: A Phenomenology, which examines how society’s are structured. Ramzy Baroud’s “The Moral Crisis at the Heart of Obama’s Mid-East Peace Effort,” which looks at the failure to reach a Middle East peace agreement and how one man, Martin Indyk, can be faulted more than any other Obama administration official, and Himanil Raina’s “Clausewitzian Perspectives on Russia’s Actions in Ukraine,” which is an analysis of the crisis in Ukraine by examining it through the eyes of the 19th century tactician and military general, Carl von Clausewitz.
We’ve also included for your consideration, a piece that examines the tainted legacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari titled, “Ahmadinejad is Gone, and so is Ahmadinejadism!” Three pieces by Binoy Kampmark, “Deceptive Gyrations: Rebasing the Growth of the Nigerian Economy,” “The Poverty Incentive: Making the Poor Carry the Refugee Can” and “Whaling Contradictions: Japan, Australia and the International Court of Justice.” Also included is a piece on Afghanistan’s historic presidential election by Afghan writer Fahim Masoud titled, “Afghanistan’s Day of Truth.” Finally, we’ve added a piece by Patrick Hall and John Lyman, “Has Putin Overplayed his Hand in Ukraine?,” which examines whether Vladimir Putin has crossed a bridge too far and lacks a long term strategy.
An Interfaith panel and several Muslim organizations are upset over the film, The Rise of al-Qaeda, depicting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attackers as Islamic jihadists. They do not want the world to believe the hijackers that carried out the heinous attacks against the United States were linked to al-Qaeda, a radical Islamist movement founded by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1987. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, as per their website, represents “An educational and historical institution honoring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance.”
Nineteen jihadists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks–fifteen came from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon, and one from Egypt. Osama bin Laden, the planner, was indoctrinated by Wahhabi preachers–a fundamentalist Sunni Islam sect– having its origins in Saudi Arabia. Killing of infidels had become a justifiable act in the teachings of the Wahhabi doctrine. Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the United States took root in 1991, when the Saudi monarchy invited the U.S. to use their soil as a staging area for the military incursion into Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. Bin Laden was upset that the Saudi government would allow American boots on their soil. As a result he declared a “jihad” against the United States, stating it was not permissible for infidels to step onto the sacred soil of the “Land of the Two Holy Mosques, Mecca and Medina.”
“One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Carl Bloice, Foreign Policy In Focus columnist and blogger, and long-time African-American journalist, negotiated that journey with power and grace. Right up to the moment when he lost his long battle with cancer, he was contributing to the website Portside and struggling to complete a column on the Middle East. He died in San Francisco April 12 at age 75.
He was a journalist his whole life, although he began his love of words as a poet. Born Jan. 28, 1939 in Riverside, Ca., he grew up in South Central Los Angeles at a time when racism and discrimination were as ubiquitous there as palm trees and beaches. He was one of those people who could not bear the humiliation of silence in the face of injustice and that simple—if occasionally difficult—philosophy was at the center of who he was. Civil rights, free speech, the war in Southeast Asia (and later Central America, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq), women’s rights, homophobia, and the environmental crisis: wherever the dispossessed were voiceless, Carl Bloice spoke for them.
The journalistic credo is a difficult one. The line between corporate sponsored sycophancy and state sponsored guidance is an all too fine one. Little wonder that today’s news scape is awash with such experiments as those of WikiLeaks, or Glen Greenwald’s The Intercept, potent challenges to the numbing twenty-four hour news cycle. The resignation of Russia Today (RT) America anchor Liz Wahl and the off-script outburst by RT employee Abby Martin on the program Breaking the Set have provided yet another example how the Cold War dynamics that lurk beneath the relations of West and East continue to pulsate in discussions. Much of this is fantasy, an attempt to jam events into a historical, necessary frame. Even more of it is palpable laziness, examples of hack appraisals and shallow reading.
Martin made it clear in concluding remarks on March 3 that her position was hers. “Just because I work here, for RT, doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong.” The response from RT was subsequently one of awkward management, suggesting that Martin make a trip under the auspices of RT to cover matters in the Crimea. Get up to speed; get a better picture.
Since I pretty much made a meal out of this issue over on Twitter, I’m returning from 140-character land to share my thoughts on the Fred Kaplan think piece that made the case for denying clemency to Edward Snowden. I was rather bemused by the hosannas this piece attracted from certain quarters. It’s the usual collection of sneering tropes, innuendo, and speculation, marshaled in this case to repudiate a New York Times editorial urging clemency for Snowden. Kaplan puts his gloss on what he regards as Snowden’s vile shenanigans to conclude that Snowden would not agree to get strapped to a polygraph for a pre-deal debriefing about what Kaplan regards as his disingenous statements about footsie with the Chinese and Russians and thereby asserts (in the title of his piece) that Snowden “won’t (and shouldn’t) get clemency.”
Predicating any Snowden clemency on Snowden inserting himself into the maw of the US security services for a preliminary adversarial debriefing is, quite frankly, such an obvious straw man that I’m surprised Kaplan’s piece was taken seriously. But it was, by a lot of people, Ian Bremmer and Josh Marshall among others who, I speculate, are profoundly uncomfortable with what Snowden did and need the feeling that a pound of flesh has been extracted from Snowden’s currently safe, sound, and snowbound borscht-swilling hide in order to get closure.
Every year it is important to recognize news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2013 as recognized by Dispatches From The Edge. Creative Solutions Award to the Third Battalion of the 41st U.S. Infantry Division for its innovative solution on how to halt sporadic attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Zhare District: it blew up a hill that the insurgents used as cover. This tactic could potentially be a major job creator because there are lots of hills in Afghanistan. And after the U.S. Army blows them all up, it can take on those really big things: mountains.
Runner up in this category is Col. Thomas W. Collins, for his inventive solution on how to explain a sharp rise in Taliban attacks in 2013. The U.S. military published a detailed bar graph indicating insurgent attacks had declined by 7 percent, but, when the figure was challenged by the media, the Army switched to the mushroom strategy. “We’re just not giving out statistics anymore,” Col. Collins told the Associated Press. Independent sources indicate that attacks were up 40 percent over last year, with the battlegrounds shifting from the south of Afghanistan to the east and north.
In an effort to consolidate Russian news agencies, the Kremlin has dissolved RIA Novosti and the Voice of Russia. Both agencies will be absorbed into Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), a newly created media conglomerate. Dmitry Kiselyov, a pro-Kremlin television host, made famous for comparing Alexei Navalny’s supporters to Nazis, airing homophobic slurs on air and suggesting that the recent protests in Kiev are the work of the United States and Western governments, will head the new media venture. Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff, said that the decision to close RIA Novosti rested on the economics of the agency and it’s inability to articulate the Kremlin’s policies more thoroughly.
“Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this,” Ivanov said. “We must tell the truth, make it accessible to the most people possible and use modern language and the best available technologies in doing so.” Many RIA Novosti readers [myself included] would suggest that RIA Novosti did just that.
Comic relief has become an industry, its own self-justifying premise. In January of this year, BBC2 hosted its Great Comic Relief Bake Off. It had four million viewers, meaning that 16.3 percent of the audience was nabbed between 8pm and 9pm on one specific viewing day. The object of this bakeoff – raising funds for the indigent and needy – were the spectres of the moment.
Comic Relief’s origins were not necessarily intended that way. As its website tells readers, “Comic Relief was launched from a refugee camp in Sudan on Christmas Day in 1985, live on BBC One. At that time, a devastating famine was crippling Ethiopia and something had to be done. That something was Comic Relief.” The paternalist sting, that message of coming to the rescue is notable – the white British hope seeking to fill the impoverished, desperate black void. Assumptions are made: the need to save, the need to help, and the need to identify the suitable victim.
Reuters’ concern-trolling over the low-key Chinese response to the Philippine Haiyan supertyphoon disaster is revealing, in a relatively inadvertent way. Yesterday it was, “China’s meager aid to the Philippines could dent its image,” and today it is, “No sign of help for Philippines from China’s hospital ship.” The Chinese government has not been particularly forthcoming in aid to the Philippines, especially in comparison with the high profile pledges by the United States and Japan, and the dispatch of the US aircraft carrier George Washington and its strike group to provide relief.
There’s a dearth of hard data on exactly why the PRC hasn’t gone all out in opening the aid floodgates to the Philippines, with whom China is locked in an antagonistic maritime dispute. China’s activist hardliner newspaper, Global Times, did weigh in with one editorial urging the government not to snub the Philippines; for the rest, Reuters has been forced to rely on the usual suspects—pundits, Twitterers, and Weibo posts—in order to weave a narrative out of the fact that China has provided less aid than the United States and Japan.
CBS News has apologized for airing a report in October that gave false information about the September 2012 attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. A security contractor told 60 Minutes he had been present during the attack, but later gave a conflicting statement to investigators with the FBI. Reporter Lara Logan said it was a “mistake” to put the contractor on air.
Four Americans died in the attack, including a US ambassador. Ms. Logan, a reporter for 60 Minutes, a storied current affairs program, said on Friday a source had provided false information during a report aired on 27 October. The security official, identified as Dylan Davies, said he had been at the US compound during the 11 September 2012 attack. Mr. Davies reported he had witnessed the attack, fought off an assailant, and later viewed the body of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. But other news outlets subsequently revealed Mr. Davies had told FBI investigators and his employers he was not at the Benghazi compound the night of the attack.
“I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” – Michael Grunwald, Twitter, Aug 17, 2013
He regrets having tweeted it on Saturday. According to TIME Magazine, Michael Grunwald’s endorsement of assassinating WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange via a drone strike was “offensive.” While Twitter is a notorious medium of unreliable guff, its spontaneity, its allowance for rawness, can be a window on the mind. The mind here was particularly disturbed, and disturbing.
What Grunwald, senior national correspondent for TIME has been doing is glossing the language of murder with “statist” hygiene, showing in turn a fascination for pro-establishment rhetoric. In other words, killing Assange would be, in the manner of killing Anwar al-Awlaki, a matter of state endorsement for the broader good. Not palatable but generally acceptable; goodness, even legal, something that could be “justified.” Yes, a few eggs are broken to make a bloody omelette, but (and no doubt Grunwald’s anticipation strikes fever pitch at this point) some things must be done.
Editor’s note: In partnership with YPIA, we are especially delighted to share this list.
YPIA is once again happy to announce its top five young megastars under 40 years old who take time out of their busy schedules to help the African continent. This is an annual award and serves as a precursor to the May release of YPIA’s top 35 under 35. And the winners are:
Jessica Alba, 31
Jessica, who turns 32 on 28 April, has been involved in Africa for several years. In 2010, as Co-Chair of 1GOAL, Jessica went on a campaign to provide education to all children. She joined the ONE team in Senegal and Ghana, and spent a lot of time in South Africa. In 2013, Jessica became the newest global ambassador for Earth Hour, the world’s largest mass participation event that has become the iconic symbol of people’s commitment to protect the planet. She also helped bring awareness to the STUDIO AFRICA initiative by Diesel+EDUN that produces a collection that threads ethical consciousness with creativity. Keep up the good work Jessica and we hope to see you once again in South Africa in the near future!