I mean it very specifically. It took place tonight. I was there. Here’s my report. Also below.
It’s late, I’m doing my usual ZNet editing routine, and I want to write something before the night is through. Probably too ambitious. But at the very least I can post this, what looks like an excellent and important project covering the upcoming referendum in Venezuela, something on which there will be abundant misinformation and on which solid information will be important.
Venezuela radio en vivo has some credible people involved and I think it might be a source of such solid information. Check it out.
The most succinct bit of commentary about the US/Israel/Palestine talks at Annapolis come from a piece by Laila el-Haddad who is based some of the time in Gaza. She quotes a mother of eight saying:
“We’re already dead, the only thing we need is to be buried, to be pushed into the grave and buried. It’s already been dug up for us.”
Chomsky’s enraged too, though he notes that he’s trying to keep his composure:
“Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.”
I was in Gaza five years ago now and was amazed by the horror that the Israelis have created there. Every single year it has gotten far worse. It is a complete nightmare. And that makes these sham talks a complete farce.
They would be funny if they were not so tragic. The Toronto Star had a little chart yesterday, with four key issues for the talks – Refugees, Jerusalem, Settlements, Borders. It stated Israeli and Palestinian positions on each of the issues, and “possible solutions” – the possible solutions were the most amusing – each “possible solution” involved the Palestinians giving everything up.
The way the discussion plays out in the media is like an advertisement for the benefits of bad-faith bargaining. Seven years ago the discussion at Camp David was about the same issues, trying to get Palestinians to declare they are happy with their ongoing destruction. Today the destruction is seven years more advanced and the Israelis don’t even have to pretend to give up as much.
Nothing will come out of this summit. Israel doesn’t want anything from it. The US doesn’t want anything from it. The Palestinians can’t get anything from it. Everyone understands that what matters is what the US/Israel do and what they are doing is the same genocidal program that has been unfolding for years. It might help if the media would stop insulting everyone’s intelligence covering this as if it were anything but a sham.
This morning I was interviewed by Jeff Monaghan of the Ottawa community radio station, CKCU. I enjoyed being on the air to talk about Colombia and help build for an event on Thursday where my friend Manuel Rozental will speak. Jeff was kind enough to post the interview online. Listen here if you like…
So the other day the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez, killed the humanitarian accord negotiations that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, was trying to negotiate. You can read earlier entries in this blog for the details – some of FARC’s kidnapped prisoners in exchange for many of the guerrilla prisoners of the Colombian state, and a demilitarized zone. It would have been a start, but you can see from my previous blog entries that I was very doubtful that it would happen. Well, it didn’t, and Uribe decided to kill it in a very filthy way.
This time I’m not talking about Musharraf, but about Uribe, Colombia’s president. Some of the best analysis in English on Colombia comes from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), and this piece on Uribe’s recent bizarre accusations against Colombia’s Supreme Court is one such.
I just finished Ayesha Siddiqa’s important book, “Military Inc.” I’ll say a few words about it – I hope to write something more extensive for ZNet in the coming days or weeks as well. But more from Dawn, first.
The situation in Pakistan hasn’t stabilized and there is still some pressure on the regime to lift the emergency and, hopefully, back off even further. The regime has released some of its opponents from house arrest – though, as in other dictatorships (Haiti’s comes to mind) the high-profile detainees always do far better than the no-profile ones.
It might be better to wait until I know more, but I wanted to say something about what occurred in Gaza on Monday, when a demonstration organized by Fatah to commemorate Arafat was fired upon by the Hamas-controlled police, with seven people killed including one child.
The police claim the shooting was started by someone in the crowd. But this is what police everywhere say when they fire on demonstrators and kill people, so there is no reason to automatically believe it. The stories I read or have seen do not have any explanation of what happened by Hamas.
Knowing a bit of the context might help understand what is going on. Remember that until earlier this year, there was an armed conflict between Hamas, which had won parliamentary elections in 2006, and Fatah, which had traditionally led the Palestinians under Arafat and which was now getting support by the US/Israel to try to oust Hamas. Hamas won the confrontation in Gaza but Fatah won in the West Bank, which caused many remarks about a “two-state solution”, “Gazastan/Hamastan” and “Fatahland”, that would have been clever if they weren’t talking about an unfolding tragedy. The confrontation at the time took the form of an contest between two armed bands.
What might be happening now is that Fatah may have changed its tactics and is trying to topple the Hamas government using political mobilizations and demonstrations, invoking Arafat’s memory and, now, provoking repression which will reveal Hamas to be callous to people’s suffering and to be acting like a repressive government rather than the leaders of a liberation movement. Such tactics could be much more successful, especially if Hamas responds as it has been doing, with not only firing on the demonstrations, but also arresting Fatah members, etc.
What makes this so much more painful to witness is that it is all going on at the same time as Israel’s tortures, destruction of villages, arrests, kidnappings, all continue without any interruption, as a glimpse at IMEMC will show.
So Benazir Bhutto is back under house arrest – the regime is trying to prevent her from leading a major protest, a cross-country caravan. The regime has also tried to placate international opinion by promising elections in January. But the Americans have said they want the emergency lifted as well – that was their reply.
The counterinsurgency continues in the border areas with Afghanistan. This story, not all of which I understood because I don’t know all the actors involved, describes what seems to be a situation in which different groups of militants from the region where there is active fighting with the Pakistani military are also fighting each other – a kidnap between supporters of Maulana Fazlullah captured Maulana Mohammad Ali alias Maulana Nider.
Another really odd development, that I don’t think is just at “normal” levels but I could be wrong, seems to be that there is more frequent fighting in Kashmir, with the Indian army claiming to be killing “militants”, several in recent days.
I’m on Tarek Fatah’s mailing list and he’s been sending around interesting material on Pakistan. This article from the UK describes some of the Pakistan spy agency’s tactics and how they tried to use sex blackmail to bring the Supreme Court to heel. When that failed, there was always the coup and simply firing them.
Tarek Fatah also takes issue with Haroon Siddiqui, who I have to admit I don’t often read. Tarek Fatah wrote this about Siddiqui: ‘While Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star describes Pakistan’s Military dictators as having “been personally financially honest and, for the most part, have provided stable government”‘, which struck me as an appallingly ignorant thing to say, if Siddiqui had in fact said it.
Confused because on the one hand, the analysis is at an elite level, about how clever Musharraf is and the moves he’s taking to stay in power, and takes the parochial, “Canadian interests in the region” view of matters, which is among the least interesting ways for Canadians or anybody to look at this situation. And on the other hand, his criticisms of Benazir Bhutto and the judges are based on Bhutto having foreign support and the judges not having street credibility (I won’t speculate on the status of Siddiqui’s street cred since my point is that is an uninteresting game to be playing). Bhutto does have a past that includes elite maneouvering and massive corruption. But her current role and potential role are such that she could be very important in getting rid of a dictator – and one that is as “foreign” supported and imperial as any out there. The same goes for the judges – again, leaving aside that I’m again unsure from where Siddiqui can criticize Pakistani judges for being elite figures – they were overthrown by Musharraf because they exposed the corruption and tortures of the military and because they were trying to uphold some basic legal framework.
As for Siddiqui’s argument that the Americans won’t dump Musharraf because they’ve given him $10 billion, there are plenty of comfortable villas in the first world that house former dictators, heavily invested in by the Americans, that left their countries when the Americans told them the game was up. It’s not worth picking up after someone like Siddiqui on this matter at much more length – but it’s an inconsistent analysis, out of touch with history and out of touch with important elements of what is going on, and presumptuous beyond his knowledge or understanding. It thus combines some of the worst elements of Canadian mainstream punditry, which I probably pay more attention to than it’s worth.
It still seems to me that the good scenario is one in which popular mobilization and pressure from the outside topple Musharraf and have an election that gets a civilian government in power. That won’t get rid of the military’s power, it won’t get rid of the Americans next door in Afghanistan, it won’t get rid of the other structural and regional problems in the country and in South Asia, but it will give people in Pakistan who have been fighting so valiantly all these years a bit more breathing room and space to maneuver. The bad scenarios are multiple.
Reading the incredible Pakistani daily newspaper the Dawn, it is difficult to link what is happening in the regions with what is happening in the capital.