July 2006

[The Israel bombing of Qana yesterday was not the first such attack on this town. The horrendous picture above is from a similar bombing there in April, 1996, when as many as 300 villagers were killed.]

In a syndicated commentary on July 28, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman illustrated the journalistic malady that exemplifies biased reportage masquerading as informed analysis. While in Damascus he picked up a copy of the English-language Syria Times and noted an ad box that read “The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity.” He continues:

“I thought: What a perfect way to describe the Middle East today – going back to some pre-modern era? Alas, the Syria Times was not trying to be ironic. It turned out the headline was the title of a book about the 18th century. But had it been a news headline, it would have been apt. (more…)

One of the major casualties of war is the opportunistic rise of God-talk. Before the American Civil War preachers north and south saw their political differences along religious lines. Slaveholding advocates below the Mason-Dixon line viewed blacks as the cursed children of Ham, forever branded to be servants to the Japhethetic spiritual (and plantation-owning) heirs of Noah and Abraham. Liberal abolitionists up north proposed the novel idea that Uncle Tom was the kind of man Jesus died for and who a nation should go to war over. World War I America road the crest of a revivalist movement leading to the current evangelical wing of conservative Protestantism and “death to Darwinism” bannerism. After World War II the pulpit not only was bullied to save wayward sinners but warned of the immanent takeover of America by godless Commies. Now we have the debacle in Iraq in which President Bush entered the fray on the apparent advice from a heavenly father (certainly not the logical assessment of Pentagon planners). Look out God, here come the self-righteous mantra bearers once again. (more…)

In the aftermath of September 11th, when the US government was asked to restrain any impulsive retaliation against the Taliban-led Afghanistan, every politician was very aware that the War on Terror was not a conventional war. It is particularly difficult to frame the War on Terror’. We don’t need Hobbes to remind us that wars need states, armies, governments, and, last but not least, diplomats and diplomacy to stop them. We also should consider the problem of how to define ‘terror’. In a strict definition of the word, we can say that War on Terror is a tautology as war inevitably uses terror to force the enemy to surrender. So I can reduce the rhetoric expression ‘War on Terror’ to its basic meaning of “Terror on Terror.” In the aftermath of September 11th and its consequences, Terror on Terror makes more sense indeed.


Indonesia and Malaysia Ready to Send Troops to Mid-East
The linked article above is fascinating view of the current crises in the Middle East from Asia, particularly form the world’s largest Islamic nation, Indonesia and its neighbor Malaysia. Those who are informed by the likes of Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis or Sam Huntington would assume that the headline refers to the readiness of the Muslim nations to go fight jihad in support of the Hezbollah. And they would be WRONG!

Instead, the article talks about how these nations are encouraging the UN Security council to take quick action to end the active fighting and to establish a peacekeeping force. And when that peacekeeping force is established, they will send troops. (more…)

I am very depressed because of what is happening in the Middle East. I had decided to respect my hopes and wait until the end of this inhuman craziness before expressing my feelings and comments. Now, I have to admit that the craziness will probably go on for a long while yet.

So, I have decided to take refuge from all these illogical and brutal military actions by hiding and sheltering within my scholarly armour. I shall leave to others, more expert than myself, the condemnations, the scream of supports, the sharp indignations, the terrorist labelling, and the human rights mysterious and magical spells. I am an anthropologist, an academic. My only defence to all this mindless madness is to try to make sense of it; of course, in a flood of useless words, fragile quotations, and gothic cathedral constructions of the intellect, which, however, cannot save even half of one life. So, here my shelter from the bombing of unwished contemporary realities. (more…)