Monthly Archives: January 2010
Obama’s first year
It’s probably a fine opportunity to go back and listen to presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s sober analysis and foresight ahead of Obama’s babble soaked victory. From November 2008, interviewed by Paul Jay of the Real News…
“What we’re seeing is the highest level of resignation and apathy and powerlessness I’ve ever seen. We’re not talking about hoopla. We’re not talking about ‘hope’. We’re not talking about rhetoric. We’re not talking about ‘rock star Obama’. We’re talking about the question that is asked everywhere I go: ‘What is left for the American people to decide other than their own personal lives under more restrictive circumstances year after year?’ And the answer is: almost nothing.” (Interview, RealNews.com, November 4)
More emails, to Examiner, Irish Times and RTE
No reply as yet.
Dear Editors [online and print editors of Irish Examiner],
Email to MetroHerald Editor on Haiti
On page 10 of today’s MetroHerald your piece on Haiti portrays Haitians, quite generally, as murderous thugs, using any available object as a weapon to take scarce food from their compatriots. Is this not highly irresponsible journalism?
While ‘looting’ has no doubt taken place, it should be framed in terms of survival not theft. Partners in Health, a US aid agency working in Haiti has said the ‘security concerns’ are being wildly overstated. One doctor said "misinformation and rumors and, I think at the bottom of the issue, racism has slowed the recovery efforts of this hospital."
“Is this what you want to do with your life? Suck down peppermint schnapps and call Morocco at two in the morning?”
[Starts 24 secs in]
1804 to 2009 (minus 1986 to 2009)
A response to Tony Kinsella’s earlier email.
Surely the recent historical narrative is as important as the period 1804 through 1850. The 20 words you used to portray western intervention since the 80’s as that of a benevolent midwife would have been just enough to mention a coup or two.
This, in my opinion, misleading characterisation tends to validate the calls for US/UN action towards nation building, generated on the back of generous aid pledges. Yet if the past decade is anything to go by these calls are somewhat misdirected.
You characterise Afghanistan’s recent history in much the same way, the word ‘despite’ suggesting that Soviet and US intervention was honestly aimed at nation building.
In the end, it’s what has been left out of these narratives, the similarities between these failed states, as opposed the differences that needs emphasising. A framing we would expect to see reflected in every article and report if the principle actor was say Iran as opposed the US.
Time and Space Constraints
Tony Kinsella’s analysis in today’s Irish Times seeks to identify the underlying reason for the level of destruction inflicted by the earthquake in Haiti, yet it leaves out some inconvenient events from the narrative:
Dear Tony Kinsella,
Reading your account of failing, unorganised states in today’s Irish Times a question occurred to me, is there any particular reason you decided to brush over the last 20 years of Haitian political history with the misleading summary: "the world acted as benevolent if inadequate midwife"?
You also write: "Afghanistan is a failing state despite direct military intervention by the Soviet Union in 1979 and the US in 2001." Is it really fair to say that Afghanistan’s political vacuum is really the result of failed military interventions or would it be more reasonable to say it is partly a direct result of those interventions?
For some other background info on Haiti try Patrick Cockburn over at ZNet.
And while I’m writing this, post title already picked, a response:
Thank you for your reaction. I largely agree with your suggestions but within my 950 word allocation I was trying to emphasise the differences between Haiti and other "failed" states. The factors of French colonialism (in a particularly brutal expression of same), the racist shunning of the newly-independent Haiti by ALL other states 1804-1850, the reparations and subsequent US invasion/occupation are horrific but can, to one degree or another, be found across the experiences of others.
The destruction of ethnic and/or local cultural, social and political networks by the slave trade left Haitians uniquely without other networks to fall back on when their state was destroyed.
The far-from-glorious modern US interventions, particularly those of Clinton and George W, were horrific, but were largely covered by Peter Hallward in last Friday’s Irish Times.
The foreign interventions in Afghanistan have had little positive effect BUT there was not all that much of a central Afghan state under the old monarchy, and Afghans have fallen back on their ethnic/regional structures, rather like Somalis and to some extent Yemenis. By kidnapping Africans, primarily from West Africa, and shipping them across the Atlantic to Haiti, France deprived Haitians of such a fallback option.
Response to the IT’s Bryan Mukandi
Bryan has an excellent post on his blog Outside In where he explains his reluctant conversion due to the global and national events of 2009:
“I am, by nature, an optimist. Really, I am. But over the course of 2009, a cloud of pessimism settled over me.”
Bryan questions whether the reactionary response to the recent attempted blowing up of a plane over Detroit by a Nigerian citizen will have any positive impact:
“does anyone really think that airport security, a hypertrophied ‘intelligence community’, or wars in far off places will rid the world of people like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, let alone the people who armed and trained him?”
I don’t always agree with Bryan, but he hit the nail on the head here. Too often the media becomes enthralled with quick fixes, whether it be cluster bombs or economic sanctions. Only on rare occasions do they do what they are supposed to do, which is inform readers, engage with arguments and discuss and theorise solutions.
It seems increasingly so that all they are concerned with is convincing, ‘leading opinion’ as it were, and more often than not they do this willingly or unbeknownst to themselves, on the behalf of elite powers.
So we can expect strings of articles about what are the best tactics to hunt down suspects in Yemen (this process has already begun), but maybe only one or possibly two articles looking at the root cause of this threat and ideas for a workable, ethical and realistic solution.
I’d suggest though that Bryan shouldn’t go down this road of pessimism / scepticism, he’ll be sure to find it the quickest way out of a part time job…ask Joe MacAnthony.
Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’
“Don’t fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating.” [Guard’s advice to the film’s hero as he is led to the torture chamber]