Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

A Reply to Noam Chomsky: America’s Imperial Power Is Not in Decline

August 4, 2013

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Aletnet has posted an article by Noam Chomsky entitled America’s Imperial Power Is Showing Real Signs of Decline. Chomsky cites as proof of his claim the fact that the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) has passed a resolution condemning the countries that refused to allow Evo Morales’s plane to enter their airspace last month. However, I doubt that this resolution will have any concrete results. What is of greater significance is the incident that led to this resolution in the first place. The U.S. apparently pressured four countries – France, Italy, Portugal and Spain – into denying passage through their airspace to the President of Bolivia, in the belief that Edward Snowden might be on his plane. In doing so, these countries not only violated international law, they insulted the leader of a resource-rich nation. So, the U.S. got four governments to act against their own best interests. That’s a pretty impressive display of political power, if you ask me.

Chomsky argues that the U.S. no longer wields as much influence over Latin America as it once did. This is true, but a major reason for this is that since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. foreign policy has shifted its focus to the Middle East and southern Asia. The U.S. now wields greater power in that region of the world than ever before. The U.S. carries out drone attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen with impunity. The U.S. now has military bases set up throughout the region. The Arab Spring was a setback, but the U.S. has since been able to reassert its influence in the countries involved.

Empires don’t always get what they want. When the British empire was at its height, the British suffered a military defeat in Afghanistan. A resolution passed by Latin American countries is no proof that the U.S. empire is in decline. Neither is Putin’s refusal to extradite Snowden.

Chomsky wants to believe the U.S. is in decline when it really isn’t.

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The Legend of Bhagat Singh

January 13, 2013

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After reading my review of The Baader Meinhof Complex, a friend of mine recommended that I watch the 2002 Indian film, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, which also touches upon the question of what tactics should be used in the struggle against injustice. Although Bhagat Singh (1907-1931) is little known in the U.S., he is famous in India for his role in the Indian independence movement. He rejected Gandhi’s notion of non-violent resistance. He was a founding member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, which sought to organize a mass uprising against the British. When the Indian writer, Lala Lajpat Rai, died after being beaten by the police, Singh and his comrades killed a British police officer in revenge. Later, they threw bombs in the Indian National Assembly, with the intent of getting themselves arrested. Singh hoped that his speeches at the trial would inspire the Indian people to rise up against their colonizers. His trial received considerable attention, and for a time he became as popular as Gandhi. However, this did not stop the British from executing him.

This film shows Gandhi in an unflattering light. It accuses him of dropping his demand that the Viceroy commute Singh’s death sentence so that he could get a political pact with the British granting limited rights to Indians. Given all the adulation given to Gandhi in both India and the West, it’s interesting to see a film that portrays him in a negative manner. In effect, it accuses him of being willing to sacrifice principle in order to get an agreement with the British.

The director, Rajkumar Santoshi, paints the story of Singh’s life in broad strokes. He doesn’t spend much time on character development. Singh (Ajay Devgan) appears fearless and wise almost from the time of his birth. And in true Bollywood fashion, there are musical numbers. Singh sings. He sings (twice) while he is on a hunger strike, and he sings while he is going to his execution. The Legend of Bhagat Singh emphasizes Singh’s advocacy of Hindu-Muslim reconciliation. (Singh came from a Sikh family, but he became an atheist at an early age.) Santoshi clearly wanted to remind his fellow Indians of Singh’s politics, which are more relevant than ever with the sectarian violence that has sometimes taken place in that country in recent years. No doubt Santoshi thought that following the conventions of Bollywood would give the film more appeal, although I’m told that it actually did not do well at the box office. In all honesty, I could have done without the singing, but I found this a compelling film nonetheless.

The War in Gaza

November 17, 2012
      I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let’s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was.
      – Moshe Dayan

Those who support Barack Obama should ask themselves what he has done about the current war in Gaza that Romney would not have done. The Obama Administration has endorsed this act of sheer insanity by the Israeli government. According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the Hamas Leader, Jabari, had been working on a ceasefire with Israel when he was asassinated. Clearly, the Israeli government does not want peace. And since Obama has endorsed this, he clearly does not want peace either. We are in the age of endless war. We have drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The Obama Administration is angling to find some way to keep at least some troops in Afghanistan after 2014. It gives the government officials an excuse to give money to their friends in the defense industry while cutting social spending. It gives them an excuse to spy on their own citizens and to meddle in other country’s affairs.

Randolph Bourne once said, “War is the health of the state.” For Israel, and increasingly for the U.S., it is becoming the state’s whole raison d’etre.

West is West

May 3, 2012

This past weekend they had the Disorient Film Festival here in Eugene. It is dedicated to films by and about Asian-Americans. The best film I saw at the festival, however, is West is West, which is not about Asian-Americans, but British Pakistanis, but it nonetheless deals with similar themes as the other films at the festival, such as problems of cultural identity and tradition, so its inclusion is appropriate.

West is West is a sequel to a British film titled East is East, which I haven’t seen. You do not, however, need to have seen the earlier film to enjoy this one. The film tells the story of George Khan (Om Puri), a Pakistani immigrant, who, with his wife, Ella (Linda Bassett), runs a fish and chips shop in Salford, outside of Manchester. He believes that his son, Sajid (Aqib Khan), has no respect for his Pakistani heritage, so he decides to bring him along on a trip to Pakistan.

There, George is re-united with his first wife, Basheera (Ila Arun), whom he abandoned thirty years ago to go to England. She has never forgiven him for leaving her, which makes the situation awkward for everyone. What’s more, Sajid rebuffs his father’s attempts to teach him about Pakistani culture. Things get really complicated when Ella suddenly shows up.

West is West is a funny, bittersweet comedy about people caught between two cultures. It gets a bit “feel good” in the second half, but not objectionably so.

At the screening I attended, the film’s producer, Leslee Udwin, spoke. She said she had been having trouble finding an American distributor for the film. One company had almost picked it up, but they backed out at the last minute. They told Udwin that they didn’t think Americans would be willing to see a film about Pakistanis, because they see Pakistan as “Enemy Number One”. I find this sad. I think it also shows a condescending view of American audiences. Surely, the success of A Seperation has shown that Americans are interested in seeing films that show Muslims in a sympathetic light.