woensdag, september 22, 2004

Coup odds

In another example of the brazen fascist tendencies of the current US administration - and I don't abide the promiscuous use of the term 'fascist' (unlike a certain turncoat English journalist that lives in Washington D.C. and whose last name sort of rhymes with bitchin') - the Pentagon is restricting international access to the Federal Voting Assistance Program [sic] website - the U.S. agency that helps Americans who live overseas register to vote.

The International Herald Tribune is reporting that attempts to log on to the site are blocked if they originate from one of several foreign ISPs. The Pentagon has confirmed that it is blocking traffic from these ISPs, but won't say why.

According to Salon, covering the same story, one unnamed Defense [sic] Department official believes that this is entirely due to the fact that overseas voters as a group are considerably more progressive than the U.S. population, with 'one recent Zogby survey, for example, show[ing] that voters with passports supported Kerry over Bush by a margin of 55 to 33 per cent.' (Although, according to the CBC, of the 400,000 to 600,000 Americans living in Canada, a large proportion live in the kinda-like-Mississippi-but-colder province of Alberta, so that sort of skews things a bit more in Bush's favour north of the 49th)

'"This is a completely partisan thing," [the] Defense Department voting official told Salon.

'"There is no way in hell that this is not a deliberate partisan attempt to systematically disenfranchise a large Democratic voting bloc," the official said.'

Now, this comes on top of news in August that the Pentagon had cancelled plans for internet voting for the half a million U.S. troops stationed abroad. Could that possibly have been because as far back as autumn 2003, reports were trickling in that sizeable numbers of troops in Iraq were turning Democratic? This week, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the vocally anti-Bush soldiers in Najaf:

'"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."'

And today, Reuters reported that

'Millions of U.S. citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters, will be blocked from voting in the Nov. 2 presidential election because of legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks, according to civil rights and legal experts.

'The largest category of those legally disenfranchised consists of almost five million former felons who have served prison sentences and been deprived of the right to vote under laws that have roots in the post-Civil War nineteenth century and were aimed at preventing black Americans from voting.

'But millions of other votes in the 2000 presidential election were lost due to clerical and administrative errors while civil rights organizations have cataloged numerous tactics aimed at suppressing black voter turnout.'

And then, back in July, Newsweek reported that U.S. counterterrorism officials, 'citing what they call[ed] "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, review[ed] a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack.' The review followed a request by the head of the Department of Fatherland Security, (and issuer of Mumia Abu Jamal's death warrant) Tom Ridge, of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that they analyse what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election.

I tell you, if, come the third of November, we see tanks in the streets of U.S. cities and a suspension of their Constitution, I will just calmly walk down to the bookies and collect my winnings.

I mean, what are the odds on a military coup in the U.S.? They've got to be pretty good, eh? I've never gambled in my life - not for any moral reason, I just think it's stoopid - so I'm not totally familiar with how this whole betting thing works, but I reckon I could get a tidy little dividend from wagering, say, that there will be a coup before the end of the year.

I don't think I'd get rich from the bet, mind - it's not like I'm betting the Beatles are going to get back together before Christmas or anything.

Ooooh baby, baby, it's a wild world

International terrorist

Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens and author of such hits as 'Peace Train', 'The First Cut is the Deepest' and 'A is for Allah', was denied entry to the United States yesterday because he was on not one, but a number of border protection watch lists.

Reportedly, his Washington-to-London flight was re-routed to Bangor, Maine - where, presumably, if he had been a terrorist, would only have been able to blow up some lobsters and Angela Lansbury - and was detained for questioning.

And fucking right too. Jesus, that hippie fucker deserves the full Gitmo-Abu-Ghraib-plunger-handle-up-the-ass treatment just for writing the drippy-as-shit 'Morning Has Broken', which I was forced to sing in Grade 5 choir:

'Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word'
And while we're at it, let's go get Peter, Paul and Mary and their dastardly Puff-the-Magic-Dragon folk-terrorism. I'm sure they're probably holed up in some
Hamburg bedsit with the Chieftains and the Kingston Trio cooking up gallons of nitro-glycerine out of fertiliser and liquorice allsorts and planning some Hoboken shopping-mall massacre.

I mean, Hell, what are the lyrics of 'Leaving on a Jet Plane', but a secret, coded incitement to smash hijacked planes into buildings?

'All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go,
I'm standing here outside the door,
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn',
The taxi's waitin', he's blowin' his horn,
Already, I'm so lonesome I could die.'

Look! Death! Right there in the last line! The folkies are behind it all! Every time you buy a folk album, you're financing terror! Just like when every time you buy a DVD in Chinatown or download Adobe DVD-authoring software on Kazaa you're helping Osama!

zaterdag, september 18, 2004

(Almost ) Bigger than Judas!

Yes! Second biggest apostate in all Googledom!

(Actually, the biggest apostate on Google is some dude called Julian, whoever the fuck he is. Judas doesn't even rate a mention on the first page of a search for 'apostate'. Dude, if selling out God's only begotten son for thirty pieces of silver doesn't get you up there on the Googlometre, I don't know what will. Maybe quitting The Nation to pump out limp book reviews for the Weekly Standard?)

Why NME journalists should not comment on irredentism in the Caucasus

In the gig report section of this week's NME, out yesterday, there is a review of the Velvet Revolver show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London that happened to take place on the same day the Beslan hostage crisis began that starts off:

'On the very day that a gang of nutcase extremists take a school of innocent kids hostage with every intention of slaughtering them in the name of fuck knows what, we stand and applaud a bund of improbably buff, preposterously rich smackheads for outliving a series of appointments with the Grim Reaper. It's pathetic if you stop to think about it. But don't stop. Don't think. Set tonight aside for some old-fashioned junkie business the way they used to make it.' [italics added]

Let's just examine that - "…in the name of fuck knows what," - and not the random comments about the discouraging site of a super-group composed of three recovering-addict fifths of Guns 'n Roses and a not-quite-recovered-yet Stone Temple Pilot.

I mention this not because I expect NME journalists to have an thoroughgoing understanding of the history of Russian atrocity in Chechnya over the last thirteen years (or go back over a hundred years if you like), but because the ignorance of an NME journalist is entirely typical of most people's awareness of what has gone on in the region. It is right to be horrified at the massacre, whatever the role Russian forces played in accelerating and amplifying the events. But there is an explanation for why this happened.

And that explanation never saw 24-hour-a-day coverage from CNN, TV5, BBC World and Fox News. It never saw the thousands of column inches like Beslan has. It was never condemned by the UN Security Council, the Pope, Elton John and Ronan Keating (and Cliff Richard and Thierry Henry and Ozzy Ozbourne and Richard Branson and David Beckham). Madonna has not dedicated a presumably teeth-grindingly dreadful cover version of John Lennon's Imagine at Paris' Bercy Stadium to its victims. Tom Cruise did not cancel the Moscow premiere of his new movie out of sensitivity to it. No tennis players at the US Open wore black armbands in its honour.

That explanation is the 250,000 Chechen civilians killed by Moscow since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in its attempts to keep the republic within Russia proper. Let's just look at that number again before anyone accuses me of excusing the Beslan terrorists.


- and that's according to the liberal but usually circumspect Guardian. And how many of those were children? Well, we actually have a number for that too: 42,000.

42,000 children killed by Yeltsin and Putin.

Do you want to know how they died? Do you think it was any less barbaric than being forced to drink your own urine to stay hydrated before being blown to bits or shot in the back? Do you really think Russian soldiers were less wicked than the irredentists who took over School Number One?

The Guardian reports that Dr Cerwyn Moore, a British academic who has been studying the emergence of female suicide bombers, has found that 60 per cent of the 15 or 20 confirmed suicide bombers (that have taken part in recent Chechen terrorist actions) had lost husbands, while others still had lost close family members. They are called the Black Widows - these women who make up a sizeable proportion of the militants, who have 'survived' the horrors of the Russian occupation. And then add to the murders of their family members the surety that these women and others have been raped repeatedly by Russian soldiers, as systematically as in Bosnia, and then maybe you can understand why this sort of thing happens.

Imagine you had been killed, along with all your brothers and sisters and your father too, but your mother was still alive, though having been raped over and over by the men who killed you. What do you think your mother would do?

It wouldn't be right, and it's no excuse, but what would she do? What would she do?

From the Guardian:

'Margarita Komoyeva, a physics teacher released the day before the terrible climax in Beslan, said: "One of them told me: "Russian soldiers are killing our children in Chechnya, so we are here to kill yours".'


However, also in this week's ish, the NME does have a list of 1001 deeply useful rock trivia facts. Did you know that Echo & the Bunnymen once embarked on a tour of what seemed like random locations but were actually designed to be in the shape of a rabbit's ears? Also, apparently it was Stuart Sutcliffe's idea to change the name of the band from the Quarrymen to the Beatles. It's true. The NME said so.

Stuart Sutcliffe, by Astrid Kirchherr.

vrijdag, september 17, 2004

Maltese radio spectrum deregulation, aubergines and Echo and the Bunnymen

Wha? Huh? What happened to Victor? He gone for week!

First, he got poorly, and then his left hand had an accident that involved aubergine slices and some very hot olive oil. The yellow puss-ey loveliness in the webby bit between his fingers that resulted from the eggplant/extra-virgin contretemps made writing articles about Maltese radio spectrum deregulation at work more painful than they normally would be and ruled out any non-compulsory typing. Hence the blogless last week.


Before I move on to the now-very-belated-but-earlier-promised meditation on the atrocity at Number One School in Beslan, let me say briefly that moving to Brussels has afforded me all sorts of interesting experiences, not least of which has been discovering that there were great scads of parachute-trousered and crimp-haired French-language new wave music from the early eighties that never really made it across the channel or indeed the Atlantic. It's like stepping into a parallel world where Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen sang in French instead, or finding a trunkful of abandoned Cure recordings that never quite made it out of the studio.

So at the risk of someone remarking 'Oh, well of course I had heard of them. I have three of their albums. Pshaw,' let me recommend 'L'aventurier', by Indochine. It's quite not-bad.

I can hear the derision already. Well fuck off. I hadn't heard of them before.

zaterdag, september 11, 2004

Visit from the happy-clappies

This whole 'Navbar' thing that Blogger has installed on all Blogger blogs (which I figured out how to get rid of yesterday) has increased traffic to the site somewhat, but ApostateW. is now the recipient of some rather random interlopers.

Early this morning, I received a visit via or from West Coast Chaos - a tag-team blog from somewhere in the Fraser Valley - the Bible Belt region of British Columbia - very close to where I'm from (originally, sort of, but not really*), but in many ways, oh so far away. The kids apparently attend Columbia Bible College - one of those 'universities' whose biology graduates can't go and teach in high schools because they never learnt about evolution.

In the 'View My Complete Profile' section of the blog, one of the authors predictably lists as his favourite books Lord of the Rings and The Bible (although, interestingly, in that order and not the other way round, the spotty little...well, apostate), while his favourite movies are Lord of the Rings and Braveheart.

I bet they wear golf shirts that they tuck into their chinos and listen to the Dave Matthews Band too.

(Of course, not everybody from the Fraser Valley is a complete medieval throwback. Back in the Nineties, an independent candidate running for election in Abbotsford used the opportunity to take the piss out of his happy-clappy would-be constituents by legally changing his name to Satan Satan before the writ was dropped and standing on a platform whose single plank was to change the name of the town to Abortsford. Not that the stunt worked, sadly: A few years later the pitchfork-and-torch-wielding locals would be banning
One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dad and Harry Potter from school libraries.)

*If you're interested, b. Cannock, Staffs.,1975; moved to Oshawa, Ont., age 6, 1982; moved to Whitby, Ont. shortly thereafter; moved to Vancouver, B.C., age 12 and 364 days, 1988; moved to Victoria for university, age 17, 1993; Amsterdam and Brussels followed at some distance after that, with multiple extended interludes in London and chav-tastic Wadebridge, which, as you might not know, is in Cornwall.

vrijdag, september 10, 2004

Steele on Russian anti-terror rallies

Interesting point by the Guardian's Jonathan Steele today:

'Large though Tuesday's anti-terror rally was, at least as many people took part in this summer's marches and protests in Moscow and many other cities against Putin's shift in welfare benefits. Instead of getting free transport and medicine, people on benefits - from pensioners and war veterans to those living in the Arctic - will be given cash. Thousands fear it will not keep up with inflation.'

Haven't posted on Beslan yet. Been mulling over its significance. Will do so tonight. I mean, hey, it's Friday night and what could be better than spending Friday night in, contemplating Caucasian irredentist terrorism with only a bottle of rough Spanish red wine for company?

The C.P. killed off the P.O.U.M. in the Spanish Civil War, and still we supported the Republic against Franco

In a very disturbing, irrational development, members of the Iraqi resistance have kidnapped four Italian hostages from Un Ponte per Baghdad (A Bridge to Baghdad), an Italian left-wing NGO that opposed the sanctions against Iraq, opposed the war and opposes the occupation.

From the report on the kidnapping on Democracy Now:

'On Tuesday 20 men armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols with silencers stopped vehicles in a busy commercial area of the capital and raided a building housing the humanitarian organization A Bridge to Baghdad, which has operated in Iraq since 1992. The gunmen took Italians Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, along with Iraqi staffers Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnaz Bassam. Witnesses say the gunmen dragged Bassam away by her hair screaming.

'A statement posted on an Islamic Web site by a group calling itself Ansar al Zawahiri, claimed responsibility and said the kidnapping marked "the first of our attacks against Italy." The group demanded that Italy withdraw its troops and "stop killing Muslims in Iraq and cooperating with American forces."

'During the more than a decade of economic sanctions against Iraq, most humanitarian organisations refused to operate in the country. But A Bridge to Baghdad defied that in the belief that the suffering of civilians should not be used as a political bargaining chip. The group opposed the sanctions, it opposed the invasion, and it opposes the occupation. In Italy, the group has been a leading critic of the government's decision to join the US-led coalition.'

Now let's not be sentimental here. I, and anyone else in the anti-war movement cannot abandon our opposition to the occupation simply because it's one of our own that has been kidnapped. If we fold now, then all we do is show our lack of empathy for every other civilian who has been killed by the Iraqi resistance. Pro-war so-called left types like Hitchens, Johann Hari, Norm Geras and the tankies over at Harry's Place will surely dangle this abduction in the face of the anti-war left with a swaggering, spitting I-told-you-so.

But we must not let them have their juvenile moment.

Of course this is a stupid act made by those who are ignorant of the anti-war movement. More than that: it is wrong and the four should be let go. Of course. But still we must support the resistance.

And we can support the resistance in spite of this, and indeed in spite of the other beheadings and kidnappings, because if it is easy enough for Hitchens and others to support the war but oppose and find sickening the murder and torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, then it should be simple enough for us to support the resistance while opposing attacks on civilians.

And let us not forget that as we denounce these and similar acts there is silence at best and endorsement at worst by our opponents over the between 11,000 and 13,000 Iraqi civilians killed by Coalition troops. When have Hitchens, et al denounced those deaths? Never. They say that there were 'minimal casualties' due to the exquisite discrimination of our smart bombs.

Ask yourself: which is worse? The beheading of a few dozen N.G.O. staff, Filipino truck drivers and Nepalese construction workers - as wicked as all of this is - or thousands and thousands of families and, God, how many children bombed from on high? The difference between the thugs that make up part - and only a part - of the resistance is that they at least have the gruesome honesty to film their rabid, lupine acts and send them to al-Jazeera for the world to see, while the US and UK just bark at stroppy reporters that they 'don't do body counts'.

What were Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt's comforting words to Iraqis who were disturbed by television images of civilians killed by coalition troops? “Change the channel.”

And let's add to that 13,000 the at least 4,000 civilians killed during the bombing of Afghanistan - some 1,000 more than were killed on 11 September in New York and Washington. In the attack on the village of Kama Ado, 100 of the village's 300 residents were killed in one night. U.S. forces denied the attack occurred, but journalists who visited the village saw massive bomb craters, houses turned to rubble, scattered children's shoes, dead cows and sheep and graves that told them otherwise. Not that, despite the visit by journalists, you've heard of Kama Ado before, while you've certainly heard of or even seen beheadings in Iraq. That might have something to do with memos like the one sent to reporters at Florida's Panama City News Herald by executives:

'DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan.'

'Our sister paper in Fort Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails."

'DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT.'

And then there is the tale of the thousands of prisoners who surrendered to the US military’s Afghan allies after the siege of Kunduz. According to Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death - a film about the incident, some three thousand of the prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison.

'When the prisoners began shouting for air, U.S.-allied Afghan soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.

'Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.'

So when you read that Chechen militants left their prisoners in School Number One to drink their own urine to quench their thirst, we left our prisoners to drink their own blood.

Our apostate friend has already had a good kicking at Naomi Klein in his Slate column attacking her for her article in the Nation, republished in the Guardian, Bring Najaf to New York - which, if nothing else, suggests that he only read the headline.

'In its "GOP Convention Issue" dated Sept. 13, the editors [of the Nation] decided to run a piece by Naomi Klein titled "Bring Najaf to New York." If you think this sounds suspiciously like an endorsement of Muqtada Sadr and his black-masked clerical bandits, you are not mistaken.'

Which, of course, it was not. What Ms. Klein does do is correctly note how:

'…before Sadr's supporters began their uprising, they made their demands for elections and an end to occupation through sermons, peaceful protests and newspaper articles. US forces responded by shutting down their newspapers, firing on their demonstrations and bombing their neighborhoods. It was only then that Sadr went to war against the occupation.'

She recognises that Sadr is a far from wholesome figure, but that however reactionary his politics, if he has organised peaceful protests and the result was that he was fired upon, he absolutely has a right to fire back.

Then Hitch goes on to clarify who Naomi Klein is to his blinkered and bourgeois Slate readers, exposing to us how far he has travelled that he has to explain who the author of No Logo is.

'Ms. Klein is known as a salient figure in the so-called anti-globalisation movement, and for a book proclaiming her hostility to logos and other forms of oppression: She's not marginal to what remains of the left. Her nasty, stupid article has evoked two excellent blog responses from two pillars of the Nation family: Marc Cooper in Los Angeles and Doug Ireland in New York. What gives, they want to know, with a supposed socialist-feminist offering swooning support to theocratic fascists?'

I am fathomless as to how anyone can still proclaim Hitchens to be a man of the left when, apart from his whole Islamo-fascism-war-on-terror hard-on, he is this dismissive of the global justice movement, (né anti-globalisation movement) - the most dynamic, most internationalist, most successful left manifestation since 1968, or perhaps even 1936. And to invoke the holy name of the Nation's own apologist for Otto Reich and Venezuela's comprador opposition, Marc Cooper, hardly brings his argument any credibility. Mr. Cooper has written extensively in both the Nation and on his own advertisement-happy blog in recent weeks on the essentially reactionary nature of Hugo Chavez! I look forward to his presumed upcoming précis of why Augusto Pinochet should not be tried.

But let us be clear here: neither Klein nor I am arguing that we should support the likes of Muqtada al Sadr specifically.

The left and the anti-war movement should support the resistance in the broadest terms and wish devoutly for the defeat of the Coalition forces. Iraq is under foreign occupation. Legally and morally they have a right to resist militarily, no different from if the UK were under, say, Icelandic occupation (however benign that undoubtedly would be). Of course, if the mullahs maintain their hegemony within the resistance, then we are looking at the potential of an Iranian Revolution-style routing of U.S. forces, which, as in Iran, while being a defeat for U.S. imperialism, would also objectively be a defeat for the Iraqi working class. Thus, as I have said before, the key is for left/socialist/trade union/democratic forces to gain hegemony within the resistance.

But concretely, how do we in the West aid in that? I propose that the European and North American Left begin by organising Iraqi Resistance Solidarity Committees in Western cities, doing fundraising, benefit shows, awareness raising - the usual leaflet-and-bake-sale business that is the bread and butter of being on the left, with the proceeds going to progressive non-collaborationist forces within the resistance and civil society in Iraq. If I am honest, I would say that I don't think the anti-war movement has grasped the importance of this yet. In particular I would argue that given the centrality of the U.K. within the U.S. Coalition, the U.K.'s Stop the War Coalition needs to think beyond the electoralism of Respect - as impressive as some of its results have been - and start building such solidarity committees and organising such fundraisers. First on the list to benefit from such work, to my mind, should be the Workers' Communist Party of Iraq, who reportedly have not inconsiderable support within the nascent trade union movement there and which is opposed to both the occupation and the likes of Sadr - not least because some Islamist elements of the resistance are attacking trade unionists (just as Coalition forces are).

Now, as I have said before, this is the correct formulation within Iraq. Externally, perhaps a loose analogy can be drawn with the Spanish republicans. The Communist Party in Spain steadily gained hegemony amongst republicans, and achieved this by, amongst other tactics - and I don't want to go into a detailed history of the machinations of the C.P. in Spain during the Civil War - but essentially by massacring anarchists, socialists and members of the P.O.U.M. The strategy the C.P. called for ultimately led to the Republic's defeat. The Stalinists of the C.P. were at least as bloody as Sadr and co. and many people knew it, - but does that mean that the non-Stalinist left washed its hands of the republican side, saying 'Neither Franco nor Stalin'? Manifestly not. All good women and men worked for the Republic's victory, despite Stalin's betrayals.

Hence we wish victory for the resistance, and hegemony of the left within that resistance.

Equally so, does this mean we are not horrified by the abduction of the Italians, or anyone else for that matter? No. We are as horrified as we would have been upon learning of the murder of Andrés Nin and other republicans at the hands of the C.P. in the late 1930s. And still we work for the victory of the resistance.

But still, but still…those bastards had better let the comrades from Un Ponte per Baghdad go.

donderdag, september 09, 2004

Freedom of press pre-empted by 15-minute weather report

Last night, US television network CBS broadcast a segment on its flagship news magazine programme, 60 Minutes, that raised questions about Bush's military record, including the first-ever interview with the man who says he pulled strings to get young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.

Except that in a number of locations in the US, the show was never aired. A round-up of the known 'pre-emptions' was compiled by Democracy Now radio:
- In Lubbock, Texas the CBS station aired a pre-recorded show for the St. Jude's Children charity and held 60 Minutes until 1:35 in the morning.

- WTVR in Virginia reportedly aired a special, extended 15-minute weather report at the top of the air that just happened to coincide with the portion of 60 Minutes that discussed Bush.

- WYOU in
Pennsylvania claimed the station had transmitter problems during the hour.

- In Oklahoma, the local CBS affiliate had planned to not air 60 Minutes until 3:15 in the morning but the station caved in following a campaign by the Progressive Alliance Foundation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a long-time critic of Vladimir Putin's policy in
Chechnya, was poisoned on her way to the siege in Beslan.

Her recollection of the poisoning in the Guardian:

"In the minibus [taking Polikovskaya to the plane], the driver tells me that the Russian security services, the FSB, told him to put me on the Rostov flight. As I board, my eyes meet those of three passengers sitting in a group: malicious eyes, looking at an enemy. But I don't pay attention. This is the way most FSB people look at me.

"The plane takes off. I ask for a tea. It is many hours by road from Rostov to Beslan and war has taught me that it's better not to eat. At 21:50 I drink it. At 22:00 I realise that I have to call the air stewardess as I am rapidly losing consciousness. My other memories are scrappy: the stewardess weeps and shouts: 'We're landing, hold on!'

"'Welcome back,' said a woman bending over me in Rostov regional hospital. The nurse tells me that when they brought me in I was 'almost hopeless'. Then she whispers: 'My dear, they tried to poison you.' All the tests taken at the airport have been destroyed - on orders 'from on high', say the doctors."

Russian radio reporter Andrei Babitsky was also prevented from reaching Beslan, according to reports in another Guardian article, 'after he was arrested and sentenced to five day's jail for "hooliganism" at an airport after he was provoked into a fight. He had been trying to catch a flight at Vnukuvo airport and had already been detained by police, who searched for explosives in his bag.'

Then we have the tale of Raf Shakirov, the normally pro-establishment editor-in-chief of Izvestia newspaper, who was fired after his paper produced the frontpage headline "The silence at the top" - hardly an especially robust critique of Putin. Still critical enough though to require his speedy replacement.

So, while America prefers to smother freedom of the press with marathon weather reports than by poisoning reporters, (and I think we can all agree that extending weather reports is the crueller of the two methods) the two countries are clearly both equally on trajectories that take them away from norms of bourgeois democratic freedoms of expression.

A fifteen minute weather report. Children's charity variety shows. The barbarians.

vrijdag, september 03, 2004


Very old person celebrating birthday

It's my birthday. Twenty-nine today. I think I will to listen to 'There is a light that never goes out' over and over.

No bloggy for you.

donderdag, september 02, 2004

The war in the gym

I was on the treadmill at the gym yesterday, watching the war (Well, I had a choice of either the war or the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It turns out it was La Paz that was the South American capital that was more than 1,000 metres above sea level, not Rio de Janeiro. I should have known that), watching, you know, tanks and soldiers and buildings off in the distance getting bombed and setting of those brown-beige puffs of dust and smoke just like the puffball mushrooms my friends and I used to stomp on in the woods as kids, the usual stuff, and I thought to myself, "I'm in the gym watching the war. I'm in the fucking gym watching the fucking war….This music they're playing here is really shit."


From the Christian Science Monitor

From al-Jazeera

…so then on came footage of veiled French Muslim women in Paris demonstrating against the abduction of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, the journalists from Radio France Internationale and Le Figaro. Throughout the Middle East and around the world, Muslims have spoken out and demonstrated against these kidnappings.The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), France's official Muslim body accompanied the French foreign minister today on his mission to Jordan to try to win the freedom of the two journalists. The Union of Muslim Organizations in France (UOIF), the main organisation in France organising against the French ban on wearing the veil in public buildings, issued a statement saying it "vigorously condemned the taking of hostages." The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) on Monday urged the group that abducted them to release them without delay. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbollah, Yasser Arafat, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaro, and Muqtada al-Sadr all denounces the kidnappings and called for the hostages to be freed.

And al-Jazeera and the Tehran Times have issued editorials condemning the abductions too.

As a journalist, I am particularly concerned about these two men (not because I care any less about anybody else who has been abducted or worse, but because I cannot help it due to what I do for a living. I cannot help but imagine myself in their situation. They instantly appear in my thoughts) and I feel the same when I read of journalists anywhere being killed or shot or kidnapped. Or bombed or fired upon. And so I am so especially happy to see Muslim media outlets condemn such acts.

I just wish American and British news outlets had condemned with equal force the US government when US forces shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad in April 2003, killing three journalists, or when US forces bombed the offices of al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV the same month, or when the month before, an Arab television crew in Basra came under gunfire from British tanks, or when US forces bombed the offices of al-Jazeera in Kabul during the bombardment of Afghanistan, or when three journalists were killed when US forces bombed the Chinese embassy during attacks of Yugoslavia in 1999, or when US forces bombed a Serbian television station during the same conflict, killing 25 journalists* .

[So, forgive the repetition, but let me get this straight: the US bombed al-Jazeera in Afghanistan, bombed al-Jazeera again in Baghdad, as well as Abu Dhabi TV, and bombed Serbian television, and shelled the hotel in Baghdad that was widely known to house journalists. Hmmm. If I didn't know better, I'd think there was a pattern there…]

There were some publications that did denounce those attacks, mostly the usual suspects - the Guardian, the Independent and, of course, journalists' organisations like Reporters Without Borders, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and unions like the NUJ and the International Federation of Journalists, but that is to be expected, and there were few others.

Attacks on journalists must stop. Period. Whether they come from Islamic militants or from a great height by the US Air Force and RAF.

*Which reminds me, now that we're supposed to feel all palsy-walsy with Clare Short, following the attack on Serbian TV, the then secretary of state for international development said at the time that the building was 'a legitimate target'. I wonder if she considers the French journalists today to be legitimate targets too. [What I wouldn't give to see some UK TV or radio journo invite Ms. Short to come in and speak about the abductions and then spring that question on her, after she had dutifully condemned the attacks and, possibly, the war. 'So, Ms. Short, in 1999, following the UK/US bombing of a Serbian television station, which killed 25 journalists, you described the building as a legitimate target. I presume then that you feel that these two kidnapped journalists are legitimate targets now as well? No? Can you explain what's different then?' Oooh, that'd be great. Squirmy, squirmy, squirmy.]