Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Mumbai Killings, Afghanistan and Ramesh Thakur

It is interesting to note that the hawkish Ramesh Thakur [http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=11831 : The Dilemma of Dealing With Terror Central] does not have a word to say about India's involvement in Afghanistan: India is clearly trying to encircle Pakistan. In the event, Pakistan has every incentive to let the Taliban thrive in the west and direct its attacks by proxy (if that's really the case) in the east. India must stop its Afghan adventures.

As for the comparison with India-Pakistan-Bangladesh in 1971, it is hopelessly outdated. That was before both Pakistan and India had nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan know that if it comes to blows, it'll ultimately come to nuclear blows. That would make the Mumbai killings look like a coconut shy! When the two armies met eyeball-to-eyeball in 2001, the whole of South Asia held its breath - Bangladesh's foreign minister voiced concern over the nuclear fall-out in this region.

It appears that for once, Indian politicians are playing a responsible role - they don't want to drag India into a nuclear holocaust. Better to trade and make money than trade nukes. In fact, better even to jettison democracy, than to commit collective suicide.

Also, Thakur has nothing to say about the promised plebiscite on Kashmir. Kashmir is, in the eyes of most Muslims, part of Pakistan, occupied by India.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Logos of Bangladesh


(click above to read article)

Two things conspire to multiply falsehood about Bangladesh: an ersatz nationalism, and a very real domination by western donor governments. The culture of lies that these have created robs even everyday life of its dignity, and sustains a noxious elite that thrives like a parasite on the backs of 'the people'.


Bangladesh's elite claim that the West wing tried to impose 'their' language, Urdu, on 'us'. It is repeated ad nauseum that Jinnah said that Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan; but Jinnah couldn't speak a word of Urdu! "The man who could not speak Urdu could move the Muslim multitude. [35]" According to Stephens, Pakistan experienced none of the language-based upheavals of South Asia. The only fracas he notes was the attempt by Prime Minster Nazimuddin to rank Bengali below Urdu in 1952 [36]. That produced our 'language martyrs' or 'language shaheed', the latter a curiously Muslim word used to denote those who die for Islam. The event was, compared to other South Asian movements, so trivial that Stephens mentions only "some students among the casualties [37]". And under the 1956 constitution, Urdu and Bengali got equal rank, a status confirmed in the constitution of 1962. But 21st February 1952 has lodged permanently in the elite psyche of Bangladesh. It was essential to define the demon 'Other', West Pakistan, though Nazimuddin himself was Bengali.

It is ironic to note that Bengali literature flourished under British rule – when the state language was English. In 1835, Lord William Bentinck had effectively replaced Persian with English, which Muslims refused to learn, and Hindus, who had learnt Persian under the Mughals, quickly adopted [38]. "During this period, Bengali literature produced a spate of novels—satiric, social, and picaresque. [39]" Bankim Chandra Chaterjee's infamous anti-Muslim novel Anandamath appeared in 1881: "a patriotic tale of the revolt of the sannyasis against the Muslim forces of the East India company. [40] "

"To his contemporaries his voice was that of a prophet; his valiant Hindu heroes aroused their patriotism and pride of race. In him nationalism and Hinduism merged as one; and his creed was epitomized in the song 'Bande Mātaram' ('Hail to thee, Mother')—from his novel Ānandamaṭh—which later became the mantra ('hymn') and slogan of Hindu India in its struggle for independence." Of course, the crowning achievement was that of Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize.

That is to say, the official English language, far from muting indigenous literary output, actually stimulated it. If Bengalis were willing to put up with English then, why not with Urdu later? Not because Urdu would have killed off Bengali – but because, as the violent linguistic movements throughout South Asia in the '50s attest, nationalism was on the ascendant, ironically infected by English jingoism. But we shall see the pharisaical nature of our attachment to Bengali.

Besides, whatever the economic differences between West and East Pakistan, ultimately nationalism knows no rationality. The Quebec elite still wish to separate from Canada; the Basques and Catalans want autonomy verging on – if not actual – independence. To claim that nationalism is a rational response to perceived economic inequality would be to assign rationality to a lunatic aspiration. Income inequality has existed in every country – witness Italy's and England's south and north....The latter can argue that the former grew rich on the industrial might of the northern English towns, now blighted through deindustrialization. Therefore, the north should secede from England! Scotland gets a handsome amount of dosh from England, yet the Scottish Nationalist Party wants to secede. It is remarkable that the cinema 'Braveheart' could reignite Scottish nationalism.

"Their victimhood is an invention," observed The Economist of the Scots in a disturbing article [41].It observed that Tony Blair, Helen Liddell, Robin Cook, Derry Irvine and John Reid were all Scots – and Scotland had its own parliament and executive. During the World Cup, the bestselling newspaper The Daily Record urged the Scots to cheer on every opponent of the English team. And, more frighteningly, incidents of bullying of English children at school rose alarmingly; ChildLine Scotland recorded a sudden surge in calls from hapless English children. "Scots seem to have an enormous chip on their shoulder," observed the head of the Confederation of British Industry who blamed Scotland's weak economy on its failure to attract English investment. Ross Finnie, a Liberal democrat minister, retorted eloquently with "English prat".

Consider the career of Slobodan Milosevich. As leader of the Serbian communist party in 1986, he turned Kosovo into a crusade – merely to advance his political career. He revived the cult of Prince Lazar, who had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks six hundred years ago – and on June 28 1989, he turned the anniversary into a national event [42]. Who was the victim here? Was any rational calculation at work? Yes, from Milosevic's point of view – he advanced his career. But what about the people whose emotions he stirred? Were they behaving rationally? Nationalism brooks no reason.

Nationalism, of course, was a West European, Franco-German, idea: it spread to Asia by means of conquest and subsequent reeducation of the natives. That the experiment of the nation-state was bound to fail seems, in retrospect, obvious. And fail it did, throughout South Asia, according to Tambiah. "In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the attempt to realise the nation-state on a Western European model has virtually failed. The nation-state conception has not taken deep roots in South Asia or generated a wide-spread and robust participatory ‘public culture’ that celebrates it in widely meaningful ceremonies, festivals, and rituals [43]."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Terrorism in Canada

If others, whom you had trusted, enslave your people and ship them overseas, then would you retaliate? It would be abnormal human nature not to.

Louis XIV had a colony in Canada (that is, what was to become Canada). He liked slaves (they all did) and he felt that the Iroquois would be good slaves – galley slaves. The governor of Canada then abducted even friendly Iroquois and carted them off to the Sun King (or was it Sun God? Never mind.)

In what is supposed to be the bloodiest episode in the history of Canada, the Iroquois came down on a village called Lachine, a few miles above Montreal. On the night of August 4 1689, one thousand four hundred Iroquois descended on the village and engaged in an orgy of massacre.

A few weeks later, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, arrived to take charge. According to an historian, " He belonged to that school of military action which knows no scruple in its methods...."

Now, that's terrorism for you. You enslave a people, then expect them to continue to be friends, and when they retaliate, you use the vilest methods possible. The Canadians had it coming, as any disinterested reader must acknowledge. The villagers of Lachine paid for the foreign policy of their kings. All so familiar.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another rigged election?

Did Bangladesh have a free and fair election? Westerners think so...but then they would, wouldn't they?

According to a reliable bureaucratic source, the election of 2001 was rigged in favour of the right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by the wife of General Zia, against the Awami League. A brilliant mathematical analysis reveals fraud in two out of three elections: "One example concerns an analysis of the last three elections in Bangladesh. The 1991 election showed no strange results. For the 1996 election some 2% of results were problematic. And fully 9% of the results in 2001 failed the test. The 2001 election was fiercely contested. Yet monitors from the Carter Centre and the European Union found the election to be acceptably, if not entirely, free and fair. Tests like Dr. Mebane's one could provide monitors with quantitative estimates of exactly how free and fair an election has been....*" And that's the last thing that western election monitors in banana republics would want!

Johan Perera reported form Sri Lanka that “it seems the ritual of voting in the Third World is not so much for the purpose of democracy, but is rather for the purpose of legitimising stable government.” His observation was based on what had been happening in Sri Lanka’s 2000 elections. “Election observers attached to the local monitoring bodies, People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), expressed shock and revulsion at what they saw happening in the Kandy district on the day of the election. They saw armed gangs of 20 to 100 going about from polling station to polling station....The rigging of the election that took place in the Kandy district extended to many other parts of the country. In the election monitoring offices in Colombo, telephone calls and faxes came in a flood from the election observers in the field. They gave detailed accounts of what was happening....In a post-election statement, the Election Commissioner stated that in the context of the conditions that apply in the Third World the election should be considered satisfactory....Unfortunately, it was not only a chastened election commissioner who thought this way. The teams of foreign observers from the European Union and British Parliament seemed to think that way too.”**

* The Economist, February 24 2007, p 82
** Report published in Holiday, Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 20th, 2000, page 4

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who saved Israel in 1948? No, not America! Guess again!

Today, western governments fulminate against Iran's president for allegedly wishing the destruction of Israel (through sheer mistranslation).

Where were the western governments when Israel was nearly wiped off the map in the 1948 war? If it hadn't been for a most unlikely saviour (from the present perspective) called Joseph Stalin, who ordered a timely and decisive shipment of Czech arms, Israel would not have been there any longer.

Why didn't western governments lift a finger to help Israel then? This is the question posed by Norman Finkelstein in his book "The Holocaust Industry". His answer may not be wholly satisfactory, but his question is perfectly legitimate.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hear ye! Hear ye! Genocidaire to prevent genocide!

"Preventing genocide is what one of Barack Obama's advisers call 'a problem from hell'. But this week a group called the Genocide Prevention Task Force published some helpful guidelines for the president-elect. It is a serious group, led by Madeleine Albright (a former secretary of state) and William Cohen (a former defence secretary). And its report is steeped in good sense."

The Economist, December 13th 2008, p 44

Not so fast!

Did you say Madeleine Albright? She who said that the killing of over a million Iraqi children through sanctions had been 'worth it'?*

This woman (?) is going to prevent future genocides?

Maybe somebody should tell her that she herself is a genocidaire.

Maybe it takes one to know one. But now I've heard everything.

"Health Ministry Statistics say that the incidence of abnormal births has increased 400-fold since 1991. The Iraqis also say that, all told, 1.7m children have died because of the various effects of UN sanctions."

The Economist, September 14th 2002

Thursday, January 1, 2009

US Ambassador Votes in Bangladesh Election

Why did the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty, want the nationalist (described fallaciously as 'secularist') Awami League to win the election of 2008 – which they did, with a two-thirds majority?

This is not the first time that an election has been rigged on the sly – the last election of 2001 was rigged in favour of the BNP and its cronies, according to a reliable bureaucratic source (as well as mathematical analysis, see http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_RSPPSQS) .

After all, it was the United States (plus Europe) that wanted the two banshees – I mean, begums – out of power, permanently. This was the famous "minus-two formula", backed by the western donors and the army (itself backed by the donors). After all, these two women – Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia – were giving democracy a bad name and creating another failed, Muslim state: the last thing the west needed.

But the minus-two plan backfired: there can be no alternative leaders in Bangladesh because there can be no democracy in Bangladesh. The old dynasties were destined to remain, as in India and Pakistan.

So, Plan B, it seems, was to allow elections, but make sure the anti-mullah Awami League won a landslide (like the pro-mullah BNP did in 2001): the world can still be shown that Islam and democracy are not oil and water.

The 2001 experiment – allowing the pro-mullah party and indeed quite a few mullahs to win – had not worked. The idea then was to co-opt the mullahs into the democratic process: but the best-laid plans....

Now what?

Militants have sworn to assassinate Sheikh Hasina. Perhaps the west will allow that to happen, and then ask the army to take over (again). That would be a Machiavellian minus-one policy.

At any rate, westerners know that democracy will never work so long as these two women are there, with their blindly loyal followers. Not that George Bush is out, will Barack Obama continue to try and spread democracy? Or is he pragmatic enough to realise that some things just aren't possible? After all, it was under Bill Clinton that Pervez Musharraf took over power in Pakistan. His team is back in Washington, and they do not appear to have an evangelical passion for the worldwide expansion of democracy.

At any rate, it all depends on Washington – not the people of Bangladesh.