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‘Is that thing still going on?’: Kabul on the end of bin Laden

May 3, 2011

Early yesterday morning in Kabul, we woke to a phone buzzing with text  messages and turned on the TV just in time to catch president Obama announcing that the terrorist America had been chasing for around a decade had been killed. Seriously, for real.

(He turned out to have been right under our allies’ nose, actually, but thanks, Pakistan, we can always count on you when  we need a frontline state.)

 As the news became clearer, we started thinking about the wisdom of venturing out for the day. The past week had been unusually tense even by Kabul’s standards, and the city has been on high alert since the Taliban thoughtfully sent out a memo announcing the launch of its spring offensive. To decode the  situation, we did what we usually do and consulted our housemate, a  veteran of the jihad and a learned professor of economics. Was it safe  to go to work now that OBL had been killed, we asked?  “Sure,” he  said, as he shrugged on his own backpack and prepared to leave for office. “Nobody in this city remembered that he was alive anyway.” Read more…


Money Don’t Buy You Love… Just Friendly Legislation: UK Edition

February 9, 2011

The Big Society

The BBC reports on new research that shows that over half of donations to the UK Conservative Party, the present party of government, came from the firms or individuals from the City of London, the financial heart of the country.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is a not-for-profit organisation, examined records of donations held by the Electoral Commission and Companies House.

It concluded that last year, City donations totalled 50.8% of all money given – up from just under 25% in 2005, the year in which Mr Cameron became Tory leader.

Fortunately a Conservative Party spokesman quickly stepped in to remove any misconceptions that this suggests that the Party is somehow representative of the interests of the rich and richer.

On the very day that the chancellor raised another £800m in tax from bankers – having already introduced the toughest rules on bankers’ pay anywhere in the developed world – it beggars belief that anyone could claim that donors to the Conservative Party are influencing policy.

Beggars belief, dammit!! Oh but, wait they’re not actually bankers?

The research indicated that the majority of big City donors were hedge fund managers and brokers rather than bankers.

Dr Stuart Wilks-Heeg, a lecturer on social policy at Liverpool University, said the findings “raise issues about how influenced and impartial the Conservatives are”.

We're all in this together!

Hmm… Doctor Wilks-Heeg, I wonder. I mean the Conservatives are the party of One Nation, the Big Society now right?David Cameron is nice guy… his forehead is slightly too big, but then Labour Party leader David Milliband’s head is so disproportionately large it looks like at any moment it might bring him toppling to the ground… and compared to the average UK politician he appears relatively, well, nice and normal. Perhaps these people are simply donating because they approve of the Conservative parties foreign policy, or plans for the future of the NHS, or schools? After all, people that work in hedge funds are humancitizens too!

Oh, wait what now? Read more…

Egypileaks: What the Egyptian Uprising Tells Us About the West

February 6, 2011

Wiklileaks seemed ultimately to show the world what we already knew: stories of collusion, cynicism and hypocrisy at the heart of the mechanisms of power.  Real politics is Realpolitik and the rest is just the window-dressing that propagates the myths we need, not because we necessarily believe them, but because somehow in this our age of comfortable cynicism we have succeeded in making our peace with the utter falsity of the public face of the world. Cue depression-party.

There are of course other ways that these myths get exposed, such as recent events in Egypt. When western interests conflict with liberal ideology and its rhetoric, the results are spectacular dance of twisted logic. The story as it is playing out with regards to Egypt goes something like this… Read more…

Two faces of regime change

February 1, 2011

Today as a million people gather on the streets of Cairo in a show of power that surely must bring down their oppressor of almost 3 decades, Hosni Mubarak,  the eight years that have passed since George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a small “coalition of the willing” removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq by military might seem a strange, almost anomalous period. Perhaps more pertinent still it was five years ago that Condoleeza Rice declared Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”, as unsuccessful attempts were made to bomb Hezbollah into the past, the same Hezbollah that now essentially governs Lebanon in all but name.

At this very moment an alternative history of regime change in the Middle East is being written on Arab streets Read more…

Palestine and the Heralds of Change

January 28, 2011

Dear Palestinians, Honorary Palestinians, and Friends of Palestine,

I am writing you from Al Quds, where there is very little mobility or action on the streets in response to the recently published documents, which prove the extent of the Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with the Israeli government, and by default the Zionist movement in reducing Palestine into a statelette of Bantustans and ghettos. Not withstanding the proof of its willingness to dismiss the right of return, to sell off Al Quds (Jerusalem), to take part in undermining our rights (Goldstone), and to police the Palestinians on behalf of Israel. Many, too many in fact, dismissed the revelations as “Nothing New,” and that they serve no end but to undermine the PA, strengthen Hamas, and bla bla bla…the hogwash carries on. What those documents constitute is a proof that all which we knew or thought we knew or accused the PA of doing cannot be refuted. Regardless of how much Saeb Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas and their cronies, thugs and henchmen bray and bellow, the fact of the matter remains unchallenged and unchanged. They have compromised beyond their license, they have gotten us nothing in return, and they are simply and most certainly mediocre and incompetent to lead the Palestinians.

Add to incompetence corruption, duplicity, bureaucracy, nepotism, torture, totalitarianism and misrepresentation. That is what for the past 20 years, since the Madrid conference, a small clique of under-qualified men, hungry for power, managed the fate of the Palestinian people. Every competent negotiator, arbitrator and politician from Edward Said to Hanan Ashrawi were pushed aside, ignored, misinformed so that Arafat and his men could strike the deal that would rather best serve own personal interest than those of the Palestinians. What we have seen in the Palestine Papers and the ensuing result of their publication and analysis is but a mere glimpse into the extent of how indifferent and corrupt the Palestinian leadership has been since it’s illegitimate assumption of power.

Hamas; the beloved arch nemesis of the PA, the grand fear of Israel, and the rabid terrorist organisation which Read more…

Egypt: The Importance of Solidarity

January 28, 2011

Egypt’s on fire, and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better. The Mubarak regime has cut off telephone and internet access, and the US National Guard has deployed forces to Sinai. In some places electricity and water has also been cut off, and one would deduce that the Egyptian regime thinks it can create a media black out to ‘deal’ with the protests as they please. Unfortunately, the barrier of fear has been broken, and there’s no turning back. Egypt is ours now.

What I’ve been trying to explain to people who ask me about the consequences of this, is that right now, consequences don’t matter. What is happening in Egypt, and the anger on the streets, represents decades of continuous repression on all aspects of social, political and economic life experienced by Egyptians of all stripes: young people struggling to find jobs, lawyers, journalists, Islamists and liberal activists suppressed, beaten and brutalised by the thugs that make up Mubarak’s regime.

The demands of the protesters are clear: much needed political and economic reforms, Mubarak to step down after thirty years of rule. These demands are shared by all in Egypt from various political and social backgrounds. Once these legitimate (and quite frankly, about damn time) demands are met, then we can discuss what will follow.

We will analyze what all of this means in due course, but for now these Egyptians desperately need our support. Change, any change, is better than Read more…

Tunisia: This is Not (Yet) A Revolution

January 17, 2011


"If the people will to live, providence is destined to favorably respond; and night is destined to fold, and the chains are certain to be broken; and he who has not embraced by the love of life, will evaporate in its atmosphere and disappear."

What we all have witnessed in Tunisia over the past week was the First West Asian/North African Revolution since 1979. But, I feel, the term “revolution” may not fit perfectly…yet.

Revolution” is predicated on the fundamental change of power structures. What happened in Tunisia was the removal, ultimately, of the Face of the Power Structure. Ben Ali was the head of a corrupt and repressive regime that governments, particularly in Europe and North America, where all too pleased to glorify and support. All the studies by the World Bank, IMF, and others highlighted Tunisia as a shining beacon for the rest of the region – never mind the torture, the brutality, and the pain of the Tunisian people. Like we are all too fond of saying here at ewz, so long as retired Europeans have a place to frollick in the sun, err…whateverz.

While Mohammed Bouazizi may have ‘sparked’ the revolution, literally, by burning himself after police confiscated his license as a street fruit vendor, the seeds for this were already planted decades ago. The countdown to the end of a dictator always begins when he sits on his throne. In Tunisia, a lot of things had to come together over long periods of time to allow these recent events to move so quickly: for over two decades, the Tunisian people had to bear the brunt of a police state physically, but also socio-economically; years of brutality, economic hardships, the growth of Al-Jazeera and Arab satellite news (which beamed footage everywhere), the Internet and social networking (which allowed people to plan, share information, and mobilize), and WikiLeaks (which added fuel to the fire, by disclosing US Diplomatic Cable documents regarding corruption in the country).

Read more…