Poem of the Indian occupation of Kashmir

Handwara solidarity protest in Srinagar (from Kashmirunheard)

This powerful poem about the Indian occupation is by Kashmiri poet, Ather Zia

In Kashmir: Writing under Occupation

they want us to write. in blood.
and only write. of peace.
they capture our land. make us sow rice that is not seed. kill us. rape. They tell us we are ungrateful. like children – who do not see what is good for them. holding us with many kinds of guns; they grimace at the world calling our blood on their faces –

they sell pens.
we buy with blood.
many of them, from their mythical land come to us, with clean hands, softened in the Ganges. they meet our eyes. that gaze, which through you goes elsewhere. behind their orange irises you see wheels turning. like the innards of a Swiss-watch. precise. surgical.

they sell paper.
so much paper. we buy with blood.
they put the kettle on boil. it whistles. the seduction of tea.
there is no better heaven. our pens poised. the next word will liberate.
an orgasmic lull prevails.
that next sentence. always in arrival. like that justice thing.
meanwhile Ashfaq is no more. Maqbool has gone. Asiya and Neelofar, raped then killed. Afzal hanged. Tufail, buried in two graves. the Ittar seller in Lal chowk disappeared. they found his bones with empty bottles; the kettle whistles.
the tea never comes.
our bones are made tired. waiting.
before the door of law from that over-used Kafka tale. the only thing that grows after this wait, are their swords. looming mightier. and this too, we write.

they exhort us to write. and write. in blood.
of peace. of tulip gardens they grew on soils made fertile with our flesh, and bones.
and write. when they, are at war with us.

Ather Zia is a political anthropologist, poet & short fiction writer. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit.

(Photo is protest in Srinagar in solidarity with minor girl of Handwara who is still in police custody against her will)

Landfill collapse at Guatemala City garbage dump

Landfill collapse Guatemala City (Reuters:Josue Decavele) Apr 30 2016

This is the Guatemala City garbage dump, the largest dump in all of Central America & certainly one of the most notorious in the world. About 500 tons of trash are dumped every day & at least 7,000 people, including children, work from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year collecting plastic, metal, & other recyclables to resell. They are called guajeros or trash-pickers.

Many families live in a slum area near the dump site; many actually build makeshift shacks & live in the dump. It is extremely dangerous to work the dumpsite & just as unhealthy to live nearby. Skin & respiratory diseases are rampant from handling or breathing the stinking chemical & toxic trash. People die in accidents all the time.

There have been repeated methane fires at the site that burn for days but there are also continuous fires deep within the trash mountain. There are also frequent collapses, especially after rain storms. This is not just true at the Guatemala City dump site but in sites around the world.

On Wednesday, there was another massive collapse at the dump & guajeros working the dump were caught unawares. Four people were killed, there were many injured, & at least 24 people are still missing.

For no apparent reason, media is reporting the deaths & missing not as guajeros but as “garbage collectors.” That’s what they call the people lined up here on the crest of the dumpsite when they are almost certainly guajeros. It’s likely the fatalities are far greater than is being reported since there is little control over who & how many are scavenging at any given time.

This is neoliberal waste management in the era which Obama calls
the “most prosperous, most progressive era in human history.”

(Photo by Josue Decavele/Reuters)

The political decline of Norman Finkelstein

The long interview with Norman Finkelstein in Mondoweiss (titled Norman Finkelstein on Sanders, the first intifada, BDS, & ten years of unemployment) requires a critical analysis–actually an excoriation. But how does one plow through so much political cynicism & demoralization, so much misanthropy & disrespect, if not contempt, for Palestinians?

As a textual exegete, Finkelstein is top-notch. As a political thinker, he stinks to high heaven. He has nothing but high hopes for Bernie Sanders but calls Palestinians a defeated people. He has the unmitigated chutzpah to say “BDS is just one more of those hasbara contrivances.”

Finkelstein calls himself a communist whilst he gallops at top speed to the right. He places his hopes in official institutions of capitalist rule like the UN; disdains Palestinian Intifada & the proposal for a democratic, secular state; & denounces BDS as an Israeli gimmick.

Read his interview at your peril but be prepared for a bad case of political dyspepsia.


Today is 41st anniversary of the fall of Saigon

Tran Thi Thon of No VN army 1965 to 75

This is the 41st anniversary of the fall of Saigon when the North Vietnamese army routed the US military & ended the Vietnam war. Coming out of WWII & the Korean War, the US seemed an impregnable military force. But the Vietnamese regular army & guerrilla forces who had been fighting Japanese & French colonialism for 40 years were politically resolute & militarily steeled.

Women played an important role in the Viet Cong in both the guerrilla & regular army. This woman veteran is Tran Thi Thon who served in the North Vietnamese army from 1965 to 1975 delivering supplies from North to South Vietnam. She said the day she remembers most vividly was when they came across a downed American pilot. He had lost his shoe so she gave him her own & then wiped the blood off his face with a hankerchief. She said, “I felt very sympathetic because he was just another human & he didn’t want to be in this war just like I didn’t.” The pilot told her crew to hide because a US rescue helicopter was on the way & would shoot them but the helicopter never came & the pilot was captured by the Vietnamese.

During one of her missions, her team came across a yellow, cool liquid covering the jungle. To refresh themselves, the team picked the leaves & rubbed the substance on their skin. It was of course Agent Orange. The skin on her body is now covered in scars which she has had several operations to repair. Agent Orange has 24 different symptoms, including cancer & birth disabilities in ones offspring. Her son died of cancer at the age of 35 & her daughter is physically & mentally disabled.

Vietnam is still suffering from the war; many hundreds of children (as in Iraq) are born with catastrophic disabilities & only families to care for them. There are still thousands of land mines & soil contaminated by Agent Orange & Napalm.

Many people are disappointed the Vietnamese regime is going the neoliberal route. But nothing can take away the contribution of the Vietnamese people to humanity when they routed the mightiest military machine in the world & when their struggle showed humanity the power of resistance & international solidarity.

Many people today fighting the yoke of neoliberal colonialism do not have the military advantages of the Vietnamese. Building international solidarity, the second phalanx of opposition to tyranny, is essential to compensate for the lack of military force.

Our fullest respect to the Vietnamese resistance as we rebuild the international antiwar movement to render the same solidarity to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Palestine, & elsewhere.

(Photo by Lonnie Schlein)

Someone is bombing civilians in Syria

Old Aleppo, Syria injured woman (REUTERS:Abdalrhman Ismail) Apr 30 2016

Someone is bombing civilians in Aleppo, Syria. Someone has been bombing civilians in Syria for at least five years. We should be able to agree that it isn’t evil fairies from outer space.

Since only the Syrian regime & its Russian ally have access to aerial power in Syria, it would be major news if US or other NATO warplanes were bombing Syrian territory with barrel bombs & chemical weapons. Most likely they would be shot down by Syrian & Russian warplanes & Armageddon would begin.

Supporting Assad & Putin in bombing entire cities just because the US claims to oppose Assad is the dominant view on the left–making it hard these days to tell the libertarian left from the right.

This is a woman injured by Syrian or Russian airstrikes in Old Aleppo, Syria. Explain to her how it’s for the greater good.

(Photo by Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

The issue of mainstream media comes up rather frequently in discussions on FB. Some claim they disdain it completely & won’t read it because it’s nothing but propaganda.

When I was just educating myself in politics & would ask veterans for advice in what to read, some told me what not to read so I wouldn’t get confused. Partially it was misogyny because a woman shouldn’t trouble her pretty little head about matters she couldn’t understand anyway. And partially it was intellectually insular & an insistence that one only read “authorized” material. Misogyny in a regrettable combination with Stalinism.

People learn by reading as much as they can using their critical faculties. That’s why critical faculties were invented. If one wants to understand what is going on, you can’t just read the usual media sources for liberals & leftists because the left has as many points of view as protestantism & some of them are dead wrong or outright tendentious.

You have to learn intellectual discernment, what’s important, what’s speculation, what’s verifiable. You have to understand the official narrative in order to challenge it. You have to compare as many sources as you can & when you read them, you have to figure out what their point of view is. Sometimes sources aren’t only media but also the reports of human rights groups & activists. Reality is complex & you can’t impose a template upon it, a political agenda that suits your biases.

Those who eschew mainstream media express an anti-intellectual tendency & a distrust of their abilities to learn how to understand what is going on. Thus their reliance on others to tell them. One can read mainstream media without being corrupted–& must read it to develop critical analysis skills. It’s not a badge of honor to ignore it but a symptom of distrust gone wild.

US Pentagon concludes US bombing of hospital in Afghanistan last October was unintentional on their part so not criminal. The families of those killed or “injured” (a term which covers a multitude of disabilities & dismemberments) will receive compensation between $3,000 & $6,000. Chump change & an outrage, because as the Pentagon sees it, Afghans are not Americans so not human & their lives have little value.

There is no political mission more imperative than rebuilding the international antiwar movement.

Our fullest solidarity with the people of Afghanistan & deepest regrets the antiwar movement is too fragmented & weak to stay the hand of US-NATO aggression.

“Come on, Bashar, time to leave”

In attempting to counter the BDS movement, Israel & its supporters blither on about the separation of culture from politics & wax sentimental about poetry & music uniting warring factions in the great spirit of “Kumbaya.” Baloney! You can’t harmonize apartheid with justice or tyranny with freedom.

Music is as much an instrument of rebellion against tyranny as is the soundtrack of love. It is regarded suspiciously by dictators which is why many of the troubadours of freedom have been brutally murdered. Israel wants to use it to support colonialism & ethnic cleansing.

It’s hard to remember in the cacophony of misguided political analyses supporting Assad & surrounding the bombing of Syria that it began in 2011 as a popular uprising against the Assad regime. Ibrahim Qashoush was a fireman & poet who led protests opposing & mocking the Assad regime with his anthem “Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar”, or “Come on, Bashar, time to leave.”

On July 4th, 2011, our brother was found dead in a river, his throat cut & vocal cords ripped out. He is hailed as the “nightingale of the revolution.”

We remember him as a troubadour of the revolution & honor him with all those who have died fighting & singing for a world suitable for human beings to live & love in.

This is a video of Ibrahim leading protesters in “Come on, Bashar, time to leave” only a week before he was murdered by the Assad regime.


Assad bombing of Aleppo

A;eppo:Assad bombing (Ameer Alhalbi:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 29 2016

Just so we’re clear on what supporting the Assad regime & foreign military intervention in Syria means:

Making a sarcasm out of the ceasefire, Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo for the past six days have killed over 200 people. The bombing is targeting residential areas & according to witnesses, no neighborhood of the city has not been hit. That death toll is expected to rise. Wednesday they bombed a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders), killing 27 people including children & three doctors. One of the doctors killed was the city’s last pediatrician.

The Syrian military denies bombing the hospital & claims it has not been in residential areas where air raids were reported. Putin made a great display in March of ordering Russian warplanes out of Syria & has previously denied bombing civilian targets. The Russian defense ministry has not been available for interrogation about the current bombing, including of the hospital, even though it is reported that Russian warplanes are involved. So again, it isn’t immediately clear whether the bombing is done by Syrian bombers or allied Russian bombers. But since they work in concert, is there an operative useful distinction?

This scene of people, including many infants & children, being rescued from bombed out buildings or people fleeing the bombing is played out all over Aleppo. Those rescuing them are of course civil defense volunteers, not Assad first responders.

Many people hold stubbornly to support for the Assad regime because it is (at least ostensibly) opposed by the US. The proof of Assad’s political criminality is in the bombing which has gone on for at least five years, killed an estimated 470,000 people, & created one of the most massive refugee crises in the world.

No military intervention in Syria & Iraq! Stop the bombing, including by Syrian & Russian warplanes!

(Photo by Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)