Showing posts from August, 2021

Go back to Afghanistan? Men like McMaster and Panetta are addicted to war / How the American empire dug its own grave / Let’s Take the Profit Out of War

All empires die. The end is usually unpleasant. The American empire, humiliated in Afghanistan, as it was in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, the Bay of Pigs and in Vietnam, is blind to its own declining strength, ineptitude and savagery. Its entire economy, a military Keynesianism, revolves around the war industry. Military spending and war are the engine behind the nation's economic survival and identity… with each new debacle the US turns larger parts of the globe against it... It has no mechanism to stop itself, despite its numerous defeats, fiascos and diminishing power... The mandarins who oversee our collective suicide, despite repeated failure, doggedly insist we can reshape the world in our own image. This myopia creates the very conditions that accelerate the empire's demise… The Soviet Union collapsed, like all empires, because of its ossified, out-of-touch rulers, its imperial overreach, and its inability to reform itself. We are not immune from these fatal diseases. We si

Goodbye Saleem / सबके मेंटर थे सलीम किदवई

NB : Saleem was a dear personal friend and colleague at Ramjas College, in the University of Delhi. Both of us were also alumni of St Stephens College, albeit separated by a couple of years. He was a gentleman to his core and a brilliant historian. On the rare occasions he spoke in Staff Council meetings, he was heard with great respect. His students loved him: two moving tributes by them may be seen in this post. We shared many experiences during the turbulent years we were there: he retired a year before me, in 1993.  There are deeply personal memories, too. I was present at Saleem's 40th birthday party, that seems so long ago now. And in February 1982, when I was assaulted in consequence of a movement in Ramjas College, Saleem was the first to call my parents in Bombay to inform them of what had happened.  Saleem remained intellectually active after retirement, producing two books of high calibre, one on same-sex love in India (co-authored by Ruth Vanita) and the other on Begum

Kamala Thiagarajan: The mysterious disappearance of the world's longest shrubbery

The natural living barrier was described as "utterly impassable to man or beast", and snaked across India from the Indus River to the Mahanadi. But why doesn't anyone remember it?    In a second-hand bookstore in London, in late 1994, author Roy Moxham made a discovery that would consume the next three years of his life. Wedged in the footnotes of a colonial-era book published in 1893 that he had just purchased, was a fascinating, long-forgotten piece of Indian history. The ancient fabric that no one knows how to make The forgotten medieval fruit with a vulgar name The mystery of the lost Roman herb In the book  Rambles and Recollections of an Indian official  by Major General WH Sleeman, in a chapter called  Transit Duties in India – Mode of Collecting Them , was a startling reference to a "customs hedge" – a natural barrier that the book described as becoming "gradually a monstrous system to which it would be almost impossible to find a parallel in

Bhaskar Sunkara: The media is lambasting Biden over Afghanistan. He should stand firm

NB: Will someone ask America's spin-artists a simple question: who gave the American establishment the right to carry out 'nation-building' projects wherever and whenever they deem fit? Have they noticed that this 'building' more closely resembles a wrecking ball? DS During the Trump years, publications like the New York Times and Washington Post presented themselves as the last defenses of freedom against creeping authoritarianism. The latter adopted a  new slogan , “Democracy dies in darkness”, and spent millions on a Super Bowl ad featuring Tom Hanks extolling the importance of journalism as a profession. But for all this talk of “defending freedom”, the mainstream media has a history of reflexively defending militarism, foreign interventions and occupations.  Biden – who dared fulfil a campaign promise and end America’s longest war – is learning this the hard way. As  Eric Levitz recounts  in New York Magazine, the media has created a public backlash against Bi

Robin McKie: Is deep-sea mining a cure for the climate crisis or a curse?

Trillions of metallic nodules on the sea floor could help stop global heating, but mining them may damage ocean ecology   In a display cabinet in the recently opened Our  Broken Planet exhibition  in London’s Natural History Museum, curators have placed a small nugget of dark material covered with faint indentations. The blackened lump could easily be mistaken for coal. Its true nature is much more intriguing, however. The nugget is a polymetallic nodule and oceanographers have discovered trillions of them litter Earth’s ocean floors. Each is rich in manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper, some of the most important ingredients for making the electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels that we need to replace the carbon-emitting lorries, power plants and factories now wrecking our climate. These metallic morsels could therefore help humanity save itself from the  ravages of global warming,  argue mining companies who say their extraction should be rated an international priority. By

Thom Hartmann: Myths and lies about Afghanistan's role in 9/11 live on, Bush and Cheney escape justice / Karen Greenberg: The Endless Shadow of the War on Terror

NB:  For many decades now, the world has been held hostage by the American election cycle, and the criminal tendencies of American Presidents. Our short memories, our weakness in resisting propaganda; and the degeneration of journalism into op-ed commentary by spin-doctors have contributed to this. The rise of violent Islamist movements has a great deal to do with Saudi Arabia, a long-time ally of the USA and UK; they have never been motivated to  bring about 'regime-change' in the Saudi monarchy. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan  (1979-89), Islamist guerillas were encouraged and provided with arms by the USA and shelter by Pakistan. Their leaders were welcomed by President Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1983. Without Pakistan's support there could never have been a successful outcome (in the sense of Soviet withdrawal) of that war. Nor should we forget that between 550,000 and 2 million Afghans died during the Soviet occupation, due to bombing and other mi

Madam Jeanne Louise Calment (1875-1997)

Meet Madam Jeanne Louise Calment , who had the longest confirmed human lifespan: 122 years, 164 days. Apparently, fate strongly approved of the way she lived her life. She was born in Arles, France, on February 21, 1875. The Eiffel Tower was built when she was 14 years old. It was at this time she met Vincent van Gogh. "He was dirty, badly dressed, and disagreeable," she recalled in an interview given in 1988. When she was 85, she took up fencing, and still rode her bike when she reached 100. At the age of 114, she starred in a film about her life, at age 115 she had an operation on her hip, and at age 117 she gave up smoking, having started at the age of 21 in 1896. She didn't give it up for health reasons; her reason was that she didn't like having to ask someone to help her light a cigarette once she was nearly blind. In 1965, Jeanne was 90 years old and had no heirs. She signed a deal to sell her apartment to a 47-year-old lawyer called André-François Raffray. H

Feminist Dissent statement in solidarity with Afghan women and all those fighting fundamentalism: Fear is their weapon, Courage is yours

Feminist Dissent  views with horror and dismay the betrayal of the people of Afghanistan and all those fighting fundamentalist movements everywhere. Before and since the August 15th 2021 takeover of the country by Taliban, we have watched news of protest marches and heard Afghan women speak out. We are in awe of their steadfast courage in the face of brute force. Feminist Dissent  sees fundamentalist movements as modern political movements of the far right which use religion to exercise authoritarian control, especially over women. The Taliban was never seen by us as simply a form of medievalist Pashtun tribalism, and certainly not as a liberation movement. The dominant views from the ‘anti-imperialist left’, Western ‘peace’ movements, Western governments and counter-terror establishments converge in ways that both stereotype and sanitise the Taliban. The deal struck between the US and the Taliban which excluded the Afghan government, civil society and particularly women, had a hor

Vanessa Andreotti: If we lose the Amazon, our world will lose its future

Brazil is voting to legalize the destruction of the Amazon forest and the extermination of Indigenous peoples, the forest’s last line of defense.    I t is not just the people of Brazil who will suffer in the face of their government’s smartly coordinated attack on humanity’s future. All of us, across the world, are set to suffer the consequences of the tragedy unfolding before us in the Amazon. You may be asking, ‘Why should I care?’ In a world of competing crises, it’s certainly a fair question. But the future of the Amazon rainforest must be a priority – if we lose it, we lose our future. Proposed legislation and a landmark case in Brazil’s highest court would remove laws that protect the Amazon rainforest and many other ecologically sensitive areas, and would also have a severely detrimental effect on the rights of Indigenous peoples. The government plans to open the Amazon and other protected areas to predatory mining, logging and farming….

Book review: Approach to Battle: Training the Indian Army during the Second World War

Approach to Battle  is an excellent and meticulously researched narrative of pure vanilla military history. It explores the transformation of the Indian Army from a bloated, undertrained, and poorly led force during World War I and the early years of World War II into a fighting machine that gave the British Empire one of its most comprehensive military victories of WWII at the Battles of Kohima and Imphal during the Burma campaign in 1944. Breaking new ground and embarking on research that would otherwise seem dull for military historians who revel in writing about the heat and the dust of actual battle, Alan Jeffreys, an accomplished British military historian who specializes in the study of Britain’s colonial Indian Army, has probed the heart of any fighting force that goes into battle—its doctrine, training, and leadership. Alan Jeffreys.   Approach to Battle: Training the Indian Army during the Second World War Reviewed by  Arjun Subramaniam Published on  H-Asia (August, 2021)

George Monbiot: Dead Line - Future corporate profits are officially more important than life on Earth

The human tragedy is that there is no connection between what we know and what we do. Almost everyone is now at least vaguely aware that we face the greatest catastrophe our species has ever confronted. Yet scarcely anyone alters their behaviour in response: above all, their driving, flying and consumption of meat and dairy. During the most serious of all crises, the UK elected the least serious of all governments. Both the  Westminster government  and  local authorities  continue to build roads and expand airports. An analysis by WWF suggests that, while the last budget allocated £145 million for environmental measures,  it dedicated £40 billion  to policies that will increase emissions. Astonishingly, it is  still government policy  to “ maximise economic recovery ” of oil and gas from the UK’s continental shelf. According to the government’s  Energy White Paper , promoting their extraction ensures that “the UK remains an attractive destination for global capital”, which is “the be