Tuesday, 29 November 2011

More articles, and sad news

Dear everyone,

Dorothy Brown is no longer with us in person. She died on 28 November.  Her funeral is at All Saints Church, 284 Ponsonby Road on Friday, Dec. 2 at 1.30 pm.
Dorothy has had a distiguished career as an educator and passionate peace advocate, as well as being a wonderful mentor for many individual searchers in person and in small groups, including our ecumenical discussion group in New Lynn. The Aotearoa-NZ Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust owes much to Dorothy's hard work and persuasive powers in getting it started.


A new study gives us the truest picture yet – in contrast to the CIA's own account – of drones' grim toll of 'collateral damage'
Clive Stafford Smith                Guardian/UK                    11 August 2011

George Orwell wrote of V2 attacks on London in 1944. Yet, there are many more in Britain who identify with that voice, speaking 67 years ago, than with events that are a regular reality in Pakistan today.
This week, a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism gives us the best picture yet of the impact of the CIA's drone war in Pakistan. The CIA claims that there has been not one "non-combatant" killed in the past year. This claim always seemed to be biased advocacy rather than honest fact. Indeed, the Guardian recently published some of the pictures we have obtained of the aftermath of drone strikes. There were photos of a child called Naeem Ullah killed in Datta Khel and two kids in Piranho, both within the timeframe of the CIA's dubious declaration.
The BIJ reporting begins to fill in the actual numbers. It's a bleak view: more people killed than previously thought, including an estimated 160 children overall. This study should help to create a greater sense of reality around what is going on in these remote regions of Pakistan. This is precisely what has been lacking in the one-sided reporting of the issue – and it doesn't take an intelligence analyst to realise that vague and one-sided is just the way the CIA wants to keep it.
The BIJ's study is everything that the CIA version of events is not: transparent, drawn from as many credible sources as possible and essentially open. It is clear about where its material comes from and what the margin of error may be. You should look, and you should engage, not just with the bare numbers, but also some of the stories: the attack on would-be rescuers by drones that had lingered, circling over the site of a previous strike, and opened fire – on the cruel assumption that any Good Samaritan must be a Taliban Samaritan; or the teenager who lost both legs when his family home was hit.
Sadaullah was 15 when the missiles, aimed at a militant leader who was never there, struck a family gathering, killing his wheelchair-bound uncle and two cousins. When he woke up in hospital, he was missing both legs and an eye. "The injured who survive with their severed limbs, they often tell me, 'you cannot really call me lucky'," says his lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar. "This is not London or Islamabad. There are no facilities for the disabled in Waziristan; such people can have zero opportunities ahead of them in life."
The primary question the CIA should answer is how it comes to be conducting an undeclared and illegal war in Pakistan, which is nominally a US ally. But beyond this, every time we read news of the latest drone strike in Pakistan, we need an honest assessment of the civilian casualties – and of whether we feel comfortable with an unaccountable spy agency carrying out killings on a military scale (the CIA's strikes now outweigh the firepower used in the opening round of the Kosovo war).
We also need to think about what it is like for ordinary people to live under George Orwell's circling threat, wondering whether it is going to strike, or to die away into the distance. And to note what lengths the CIA will go to silence human rights lawyers such as Akbar, who are trying to break the cycle of violence by bringing victims' cases against the CIA through the courts.
Or we could think in terms of enlightened self-interest: what do these strikes do to people's views of the US and its allies? Sixty-seven years after Orwell warily wondered whether he would be the next victim, how many angry relatives of a Waziristan child are plotting an attack on London or Washington, DC?
The BIJ study begins to bring the CIA's covert war out of the shadows. Since we may all become collateral damage, we should be grateful to them.

by Rick Salutin    Toronto Star   November 25, 2011 

This is a time of rejuvenation for non-violence. The Occupy movements were built on what one writer called “the courage of young people to fly into conflict on Gandhi’s wings.” The Arab Spring won its tenuous victories non-violently. A leader of the Tunisian Islamist party said recently, “I wish in the West they would focus on our non-violence when they talk about Islam, how the masses of people did not react to the incredible violence thrown at them.” He meant this in contrast to the bloody civil war that Algerian Islamists fell into after being robbed of their election victory in 1992.
The U.S. civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King in the 1950s and 1960s was a high point for non-violence. But that was also a time when young activists were enthralled by freedom fighters and national liberation wars. Among African-Americans, the Black Panthers challenged King. They said change must come “by any means necessary,” and they preferred guns.
The non-violent movement itself lacks an extensive history. If you exclude Jesus of Nazareth (turn the other cheek) due to ambiguity (I come not to bring peace but a sword), it fills a small bookshelf with brief texts — as if the idea was to do something, not write something — over a short time span. It includes Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King and, near the start, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He wrote The Masque of Anarchy in 1819 after the “Peterloo” massacre of protesters against economic crisis and lack of democracy by British cavalry. It was called Peterloo as an ironic comment on Britain’s defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
Shelley proclaimed: “Let a great assembly be/ Of the fearless, of the free . . . Stand ye calm and resolute,/ Like a forest close and mute,/ With folded arms and looks which are/ Weapons of unvanquished war . . . With folded arms and steady eyes,/ And little fear, and less surprise/ Look upon them as they slay/ Till their rage has died away/ Then they will return with shame/ To the place from which they came . . .” It’s probably the first depiction of non-violent action. I particularly like his use of “assembly,” still common in the Occupy movements.
Now think of Black Bloc actions during the G20 here, like the clip of a masked protester bashing an ATM on Queen St. frenetically, which was replayed endlessly. It wasn’t violence against people, it was against a thing. But contrast that to Shelley’s image and you catch the active, even menacing nature of true non-violence. The Black Bloc attack things; the non-violent refuse to attack people, and confront them with their own violence instead. It’s far scarier. Ben Kingsley caught this ferocious quality of Gandhi’s non-violence in the 1982 film.
Or think of University of California Davis occupiers being pepper sprayed last week by a Darth Vaderish cop as they sat impassively (shades of a Mountie spraying Vancouver protesters at APEC in 1997). There’s a sense of cowardliness in the sprayer versus purposefulness among the sprayees. It’s Shelley’s image. The police look fearful and diminished. You see them cringe a bit as the crowd chants, Shame. They might look even more intimidated if everyone stayed utterly silent, “calm and resolute, like a forest close and mute.”
These writers were aware of each other. Gandhi often quoted Shelley, during strikes or protests. (I’ve never understood why strikes aren’t treated as a core component of the non-violent tradition.) King said he discovered non-violence through Thoreau. Tolstoy’s last letter, in 1910, was to Gandhi.
There’s also a theme in non-violence that has to do with wishing not to recreate what you hate through the very act of opposing it. I can relate to that. In Gandhi’s introduction to Tolstoy’s Letter to a Hindu, he says: “It is for us to pause and consider whether, in our impatience of English rule, we do not want to replace one evil by another and a worse.” Thoreau wrote: “What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.” 
Thoreau’s perfect little essay appeared in a collection called A Yankee in Canada. Its title is Civil Disobedience, with the stress, I like to think on “civil.”
© 2011 Toronto Star          Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and critic .

Wadah Khanfar   Guardian/UK                    27 November 2011
Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time. And tomorrow Egypt's elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.
In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the "problem" of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists' gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.
First, we must define our terms. "Islamist" is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end.  This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear. Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe "strategic patience" instead.
Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.
However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.
Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali's regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement's leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women's participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.
The Islamic movement's approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes.  Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.                        [Abridged]

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