Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reasons to be cheery and weary, from near and far.

Pleased to see Ms. Magazine has flagged my book Come From The Shadows in its "Great Reads for Fall" thus: "[Glavin] provides an alternative to the usual Western media portrait, particularly of Afghan women, who rely on foreigners for security while boldly rebuilding their society." The British blog Harry's Place has been running a series of excerpts - my thanks to Gene for getting it going. Thanks as well to the more sensible people who have offered their commentary and joined in the debates. Roundups of reviews and so on here.

From the La Lutte Continue file (it's thick and overflowing): In 2009, 18-year old Gulnaz was raped by her cousin’s husband. Pregnant, she was sent to prison for adultery, and her baby daughter was born in jail. Gulnaz and her child have been in prison ever since, and she's been told the way only way to get out of jail is to marry the man who raped her. Gulnaz has since been sentenced to three years for not reporting her attack early enough. Please sign this petition to President Hamid Karzai: Free Gulnaz now.

Of the 47 different ISAF countries with soldiers in Afghanistan, Canada is uniquely burdened by an overbearing caste of dainty "troops out" elitists. "Not the right mission for Canada," they drone on. For some reason, it's the right mission for plucky little Tonga, faraway Mongolia, tiny Bosnia - Herzegovina and of course that global hyperpower Latvia. But Canada? Don't be silly. We're peacemakers, not war-making lackeys of American imperialism!

The troops-out & peace-talks lobby will not not want you to know this: "Amid interviews with women that included police officers, surgeons, soap opera stars, cleaning ladies, frustrated widows, and hopeful wives, the greatest surprise, Danziger says, was that these women wanted foreign troops to stay. Every single one of them. 'We criticize Afghanistan’s treatment of women, but we don’t listen to Afghan women,' he laments."

Or this: Afghanistan will be unable to fight Taliban after Western withdrawal.

Or this: "We don't think anybody should be negotiating with the Taliban," says Esther Hyneman of Women for Afghan Women, which runs family centers and safe homes for abused women across Afghanistan. "If the Taliban wanted a role in the government, why don't they run for parliament in a democratic election? They don't want a role in the Afghan government -- they want the Afghan government."

Not good: Senior Pakistani officials say NATO helicopters attacked a Pakistani Army post in the Mohmand agency area along the Afghan border late Friday night, killing 26 Pakistani troops. They say the attack was "unprovoked and without reason." My pal Zack Baddorf is in the area. Noting the Pakistani foreign ministry official's comment,"There will still be demands from different segments of Pakistan to seek immediate revenge," Zack wonders out loud: "Like what? Sending militants with arms, money, and explosives into Afghanistan to kill Afghan civilians and American troops?"

From the Arab revolutionary front, Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notices that Arab revolutionaries look to Israel for inspiration, while the Islamist threat of counter-revolution and reactionary chauvinism is never far away: At a Cairo rally, 'One day we'll kill all Jews.' In Syria, meanwhile, Robert Fisk, Nir Rosen and Andrew Gilligan do the dirty work of disinformation for the dictator Assad, Amal Hanano reports in Jadaliyya.

Heartbreaking news: In Azerbaijan, the journalist Rafiq Tagi has died of his wounds. Meanwhile, more out of me on Occumania, about 8':30" into this CBC All Points West program. Days later, shall I say 'I told you so'? Just asking, because here, Occupist ringmaster Kelle Lasn blasts "loony left" for enfeebling his movement, blames the evil MSM for it.

Highly recommended mini-documentary: Seamus Murphy's A Darkness Visible. Note well: "Nobody talks about the people of Afghanistan. It's as though we do not exist."

No surrender.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Robert Fisk, Nir Rosen and Andrew Gilligan: Propagandists for The Dictator Assad.

From an important investigative essay by Amal Hanano, in Jadaliyya:

"Bashar al-Assad seemed to realize that no news from his side is not necessarily good news. Perhaps in an effort to generate a more favorable narrative, a selective few have been granted access to Syria. These journalists, like Robert Fisk, Andrew Gilligan, and Nir Rosen, are vaguely not escorted, but not undercover. Their articles are branded as “exclusive,” “unique,” with unlimited access to “all sides,” commissioned to expose a radically different side of the revolution than what currently floods the regional and international media outlets which have been based on the steady stream of daily videos and eye-witness accounts. . .Fisk’s recent reportage reads as if he were speaking directly from the presidential palace, or humble, unguarded, "largeish suburban bungalow," if you are to believe Gilligan. And surprisingly, Nir Rosen’s recent series for Al Jazeera English seems to suffer from the same regime-tainted myopia. . ."

Something seriously stinks about the coverage this trio has offered up as "journalism" about the Syrian uprising. Amal is a fine journalist, and she's spent a great deal of time in Syria lately. Her forensic examination of what Fisk, Rosen and Gilligan have fobbed off on the outside world is a must-read.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cross-Country Checkup on Afghanistan.

A proper nationwide public conversation about Canada and Afghanistan, for a change, thanks to the generosity and curiosity of the host, Rex Murphy, a fellow tribesman, he of Carbonear, pride of Placentia Bay. The CBC people involved (thanks, Anna-Liza) were kind to me. Grand to hear from the soldiers who called in as well.

You can listen to the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revolutionary Suicide.

From my column in today's Ottawa Citizen:

. . . The aborted lunacy of Occupism is now descending into merely a Jonestown of the Imbecilities, with eviction notices and standoffs and arrests breaking up Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Toronto, Occupy Halifax, Occupy Vancouver, Occupy Victoria, and on and on. And as usual, there is a celebrity with a conspiracy theory to explain why. Famous pseudo-documentarist Michael Moore fingers the Department of Homeland Security.

"This is not some coincidence," Moore says. "This was planned and I think the question really has to be asked of the federal government and of the Obama administration.

Why? Why?"

Why? It just could be that maybe the Department of Homeland Security doesn't have its agents doing the devil's work in the bylaw-enforcement offices down at 12th and Cambie in Vancouver, and that ordinary working citizens and taxpayers are growing bored with having their public parks expropriated by people who dump buckets of their own urine on parks board workers.

Just a guess, mind you. Maybe the working people who have been made to pay for finance capitalism's recklessness are getting sick and tired of being told things about inequality and powerlessness that they knew all about before the subject started coming up in Occupist chants and slogans shouted around drum-circles. . .

You can't tell the players without a program. In Shift Magazine, Spencer Sunshine (great name) provides a racing-forum guide:

. . . Much has already been said about the Occupy movement’s refusal to elucidate its demands. On one hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—anarchists, Marxists, liberals, Greens, progressive religious practitioners, etc. On the other hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—Ron Paulists, libertarians, antisemites, followers of David Icke, Zeitgeist movement folks, Larouchites, Tea Partiers, White Nationalists, and others. The discourse about the “99%” (after all, these Right-wingers and conspiracy mongers are probably a far greater proportion of the actual 99% than are anarchists and Marxists), along with the Occupy movement’s refusal to set itself on a firm political footing and correspondingly to place limitations on involvement by certain political actors, has created a welcoming situation for these noxious political elements to join.

So far, the overwhelmingly progressive nature of many of these Occupations has kept this element at bay. But it is only the weight of the numbers of the progressive participants that has done this. There are neither organizational structures within the Occupy movement, nor are there conceptual approaches that it is based on, that act to ensure this remains the case. So it is not unreasonable to expect that, especially as participation declines, some of the Occupations will be taken over by folks from these far Right and conspiratorial perspectives. All participants might rightly see themselves as part of the 99%. The real divisive question will then be, who do they think the 1% are?

Meanwhile, for instances of the opposite of revolutionary suicide, the latest installments in the Harry's Place snippets from my book are here and here. I'm happy they chose the passages that feature the Rasoul sisters, and Alaina Podmorow and Lauryn Oates. If it's a revolutionary spirit you want, those young women have some for you, and I got a kick out of Gene's comment: "And I think I can add without fear of contradiction that they’ve done more for the cause of human rights and human freedom than the Socialist Workers Party and the Stop the War Coalition have done in their entire histories."

Finally, a not completely hostile and inaccurate account of my lecture at UVic on the subject of my book and how it came to pass that I wrote it, here. There was only one question I didn't bother to answer, by the way, and Brandon Rosario's report, also linked on the page, will let you know which one, right away. Here's a wee clip:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In memoriam.

Terry Glavin is dead.

Not me, the other one. A really, really good man. His death came to my attention only today.

Terence Michael Glavin was a committed, dedicated, hardworking and effective idealist. From his younger days teaching immigrant railroad workers how to speak English to a career in CUSO and then CIDA, his contributions made the world a better place. After his time in Jamaica he found himself, for all intents, the first Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, after that country's independence was recognized when it broke from Pakistan in 1972. He went on from there to serve in Haiti and Guyana / Suriname, and then Africa.

Over the years, our paths crossed - almost. More than once I was mistaken for him, and he for me, in casual introductions. I once got a letter from one of his highschool sweethearts, and I thought it was from one of mine that I had forgotten until I realized she was a heck of a lot older than me and when I read the bit about what a great dancer I was, that clinched it. Must be the other guy.

As far as I can determine he was a very distant relation, the descendant of a branch of the family that had emigrated from Ireland ages ago, and if I'm not mistaken they settled in the Ottawa Valley.

Sleep soundly, Terry.

About "our" culture as much as it is about "their" culture.

My preoccupation with Absurdistan, I mean.

This past week: An except from Come From the Shadows in the National Post on Monday, another excerpt on Tuesday. Elsewhere, the fine British blog Harry's Place is running excerpts/snippets. Here, here, here and here.

Tomorrow, this is going to be amusing.

One of my concerns is the hysterical amnesia that animates the public debates about Afghanistan. I'm in favour of remembering.

The way Canadians will remember Afghanistan years down the road was the subject of a piece I wrote for the Canada's "Metro" dailies, for Remembrance Day. And the way we will remember and honour our soldiers' sacrifices in Afghanistan was the subject of a half-hour conversation I had with Jordi Morgan of the Maritime Morning show out of Halifax, on Remembrance Day.

Eyes right:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Imran Khan Is A Liar.

Farhat Taj: "His ideas are uncritically accepted by his urban supporters who have no clue about how FATA was ‘won’ by the Taliban. Imran Khan may win the next elections with the support of the military establishment whose strategic agenda he is religiously promoting, but he must remember that — as told to me by several tribesmen across FATA — ‘tribal memory dies very hard’. This implies that the tribal people will never forget what al Qaeda and the Taliban did to them. Imran Khan must remember how he might go down in the tribal memory: standing with the assassins of those sons of the tribal soil who gave their lives in resistance to the Taliban and al Qaeda. "

All here.

Earlier: Imran Khan is a has-been cricketer and multimillionaire playboy who wants to reach out to the Taliban and supports Pakistan's fascist blasphemy laws.

Directly related.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A serendipity.

There's an excerpt from Come From the Shadows in today's National Post. I'm pleased.

I'm also pleased in a schadenfreude kind of way, I confess, because the excerpt the Post chose exposes the howler that masqueraded as a book review in the Winnipeg Free Press that I earlier noticed as a review of a book I did not write, which alludes to contents the book does not contain, attributes wild claims to me that I do not make, refers to passages in my book that do not exist, has Afghans telling me things they never said and recounts events in my book that did not occur.

If you read the excerpt in the Post, you may end up laughing out loud at how absurdly that very passage was misrepresented in the Winnipeg Free Press by a certain Joseph Hnatiuk, who wrote: "He feels reports about widespread hatred for western influence are dishonestly presented by mainstream media, citing western TV coverage following a riot at a co-ed high school in Daste Barchi near Kabul in 2009. If Glavin's witnesses are to be believed, the riot was organized not by locals but by Iranian-backed ayatollahs, expressly for the benefit of western cameras, featuring a mob using an incongruous, all-inclusive chant, 'The school is a dirty nest of Christians, communists and prostitutes.' "

My book exposes the lie of "widespread hatred for western influence" in Afghanistan, incidentally, but if you read the excerpt you will find no mention of Hnatiuk's "western TV coverage" of the Daste Barchi riot. It contains a first-hand account from the Marefat school principal ("if my witnesses are to be believed"), and no allegation of riot-staging for "western cameras," from anyone, and not even any mention of any cameras of any kind, western or otherwise. Hnatiuk couldn't have done a more ridiculous job of outright invention even if he were working directly for some propaganda bureau in Tehran.

There. I feel better now.

Plus the great British blog Harry's Place has a bit on my book today as well, which also, coincidentally, takes a portion of the same excerpt. My warm regards to HPers to Gene for the notice.

Afghan Lawmakers to Americans inside the beltway: Give your dang fool heads a shake.

“U.S. officials should stop talking to the Haqqani Network. It is the ISI that is important,” Abdul Rahim Ayoubi, an Afghan parliamentarian leading a ten-member delegation of Afghan lawmakers to Washington, has gently suggested. But this is the lesson the Americans still refuse to learn: “The Haqqani Network is just a name. It is really an ISI and Pakistani military network."

It's going to be a long hard slog before it sinks in. The Washington Times article, for instance, refers to a "Sirajuddin Haqqani" when he's really the Taliban Quetta Shura commander Sirajuddin (Zadran), and "Haqqani" comes from the name of the Talib grad school madrassa in Akora Khattak, Pakistan, known as Darul uloom Haqqania, which has dispatched thousands of alumni over the years to murder and suicide-bombing mayhem campaigns in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Punjab, Balochistan, and other such places. Haqqania alumnus Mullah Omar is the Taliban (which just means "students," incidentally) fuhrer figure.

It looks complicated, I admit. You can't tell the players without a program (oh look, here's one - it's a Haqqani "family tree" in pdf format, published by the Institute for the Study of War). The point is, we have Pakistan to thank for all of this, and the American imbeciles who continue to allow Pakistan to get away with it.

If you want a glimpse into the cesspool of paranoia, conspiracy-theory and Islamist wingnuttery that passes as intelligent and sober analysis in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency leadership, have a look at this. It was not written by some jihadist underwear bomber graduate from a fashionable London college. Its author is General Mirza Aslam Beg, Pakistan's former chief of army staff.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, known to Pakistani liberals as "Taliban Khan," is all over the news lately. "A liberal in Pakistan today means anyone who is a slave to US policies," he says. His rising star has gone meteoric in recent days. That should tell you something about just how maggot-infested Pakistani politics has become: the most serious challenge to the corrupt Zardari regime is a has-been cricketer and multimillionaire playboy who wants to reach out to the Taliban and supports Pakistan's fascist blasphemy laws.

Ordinary Afghans are fed up to the teeth with all this: Protests have been staged by Afghan youths objecting to statements made by Pakistani public figures. And Afghanistan's media and civil society have moved to the forefront to resist perceived efforts by their eastern neighbor to fill the vacuum as the West looks to exit their country.

It's not just Pakistan, either. For a front-row view of the Iranian Khomeinists' disgusting subversions in Afghanistan, here's an excerpt from my book, Come From The Shadows, in today's National Post.

Afghans are not much impressed with the Karzai government's benefactors, either. The crash in real estate prices in and around Kabul's posh Sherpur district reveals a lot.

Most of the homes were built by Afghanistan's corrupt political elite on land stolen from the poor and the state in 2003. While some in the international community objected, others, including mercenaries, embassies, the UN and television journalists, scrambled to pay tens of thousands of dollars in rent, and moved in. Now the prices are imploding, but ordinary Afghans, as usual, are between a bloody rock and bloodier place: "If the foreigners leave, the warlords will just take our land," said Mohammad Gul, a shopkeeper. "Otherwise the Taliban will come back and the fighting will start again."

Meanwhile, in Afghan politics, the emergence of the centre-right Hezb-e Haq wa Edalat (Right and Justice) coalition is a healthy sign for the moment, but I suspect it will end up being mainly a platform for former interior minister Hanif Atmar and a reactionary defense-line against the efforts by Abdullah's Taghir wa Omid (Change and Hope) coalition to overhaul the Afghan constitution to strip it of its most absurdly anti-democratic provisions.

There's also a good chance that Hezb-e Haq wa Edalat will implode before it does much damage. Any political party that hopes to contain prominent Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar and former Taliban deputy justice minister Mawlawi Jalaluddin Shinwari is going to be a bit of a gong show. The party also tentatively supports peace talks with the Taliban but includes as one of its more prominent founders the fervently anti-appeasement Daud Muradian. I'd say Edalat's shelf life will be roughly the same as ice cream left on a south-facing windowsill.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Pakistan: The Technical Term For Such A Country Is 'Shithole."

In the years to come, the history of the so-called "war in Afghanistan" will be little more than a footnote in a chapter about the lies successive American governments told themselves and the world about Pakistan - that American-subsidized, nuclear-armed, military-industrial crime syndicate with a bribe market for a parliament that masquerades as a UN member state. All we can hope is that chapter won't be in a book about a nuclear holocaust that ended a sickening, paranoid hoax of a country that had held most of its 170 million "citizens" hostage and barely alive on less than $2 a day in the final years before it all went up in flames.

Here's a rare and horrifying glimpse of the reality behind the lies: The Ally From Hell. Excellent journalism from Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder.

And here's a typically revolting recrudescence of Yank excuse-making from Thomas Friedman, under the headline A Long List Of Suckers, who provides Answer # 1953 to the mewling "Why do they hate us?" question: "America today needs much more cost-efficient ways to influence geopolitics in Asia than keeping troops there indefinitely. We need to better leverage the natural competitions in this region to our ends."

Thanks for that, Amreeka.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A book review of sorts. Brandon Rosario is a cheeky fecker. Good for him, too.

Best review of my book yet, and by a 20-year-old cub reporter, Brandon Rosario, in the UVic student newspaper, The Martlet, if you don't mind.

Okay it's not really a book review, but still, it gets to the guts of it. He went through his notes from an hour-length interview and picked the sauciest quotes too, the wee beggar.

“I could have interviewed [the Taliban] anytime I wanted . . . but that’s something I won’t do, I confess, I am a partisan,” says Glavin. “If I had the opportunity I’d call in the fucking drones, make no apologies for it.”

Occupy This & Occupy That: Let's At Least Lighten Up On The Kids, Okay?

From my column today in in the Ottawa Citizen:

"As always during epochs of reaction and decay, quacks and charlatans appear on all sides."

Rex Murphy didn't say that. Leon Trotsky did.

Our pal irony will also record that CBC house redneck Kevin O'Leary couldn't even win an argument about it with that gruesome Occupist non-spokesman and Unitarian elder Chris Hedges. Imagine actually losing an argument with a witch doctor.

And while we're being summoned again to smash the state, can we first notice that no one has done a better job of that than the Wall Street finance capitalists who repackaged billions in bad mortgage debts and fobbed them off as sound investments? That's America for you, we could say, but before we get too haughty up here we might pause to concede all the little ironies that make things awkward for Occupy Canada, too.

Ottawa did not bail out avaricious and decrepit bankers, leaving the working poor to pay the bill. Bay Street's super-capitalists did not disgrace themselves the way their Wall Street compatriots did. Canada's unemployment rate is as low as it's been for most of the past halfcentury, and the Toronto Police Service is actually not the Mukhabarat.

But never mind all that. Here's what's to like.

On both sides of the border, the sneering about the sheeple that has so disfigured the face of radical politics is barely noticeable anymore. After an entire generation of ever-deeper retreats into the cul-de-sacs of identity politics and dead-end irrational antagonism to working-class culture, there's suddenly an acute emphasis on the politics of equality.

At the Canadian street parties, the haters have no discernible influence. "What Is Our One Demand?" may not be much of a slogan but it's a damn sight better than "We are All Hezbollah Now." There are mercifully few blackshirts, besides. Unless I've missed something, not one black bloc hooligan has heaved a pavement brick through a single Starbucks window.

There are kids who are pouring their hearts into this thing. At the first sign that it's getting dragged back down into the same old radical-chic mélange of aromatherapy, deconstructionism and the transgressive catharsis of picking fights with riot cops, the smart ones will bolt. . .

I'll be writing regularly in the Citizen from now on. It's a great newspaper, and it's about to get a lot better with Andrew Potter at the helm as managing editor. Here's Andrew's piece today: The Authenticity Hoax is Dead.

It was nice to find my piece to Andrew's left: