Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Whitewashing colonial history

This action by the French Parliament should be roundly condemned.

France's parliament voted Tuesday to uphold a law that puts an upbeat spin on the country's painful colonial past, ignoring complaints from historians and the former French territory of Algeria. The law, passed quietly this year, requires school textbooks to address France's "positive role" in its former colonies. France's lower house, in a 183-94 vote, rejected an effort by the opposition Socialists to kill the law.

(from Yahoo, temporary URL)

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Swiped from jrjrao, on bharat-rakshak, too precious to lose when the thread is trash-canned:

... just two days ago, the new Paki Tablighi Circus[1] run by Saeed Anwar and Junaid Jamshed was in town, and I had fun listening to them on the radio. As per what I heard Anwar and Jamshed say in their radio interviews, all these Paki "I-love-Bollywood" survey takers are friggin' munafiqs[2] who are going to roast, burn, fry and pickle their musharrafs[3] in Jahannum for all eternity. Anwar's exact words two days ago:

I ask all these Paki wimmen who run off to see (horribly unislamic) things like music concerts. Tell me - will any of them have a uterus which will produce the next Mohammad bin Qasim?[4] The next Salahuddin?? [5]

Funnily, this Saeed Anwar's rant was aired on a Paki radio show called "Sangeet"[6] - a show totally driven by all things Bollywood. And the host of this "Sangeet Radio", a dude also named Saeed, was squirming like a worm on the air when Anwar declared his entire enterprise haraam [7].

Comments by me
[1] Return to/come to Islam movement Also see this.
[2] Hypocrites (worse than infidels)
[3] Part of the anatomy one sits on (this is common Indian opinion, except for the extreme peaceniks, who would run over their grandmother for peace.)
[4] First Muslim invader of India, see section II of URL.. History in Pakistan commonly begins with Muhammad bin Qasim.
[5] Saladin, who turned back the Crusaders
[6] Music
[7] Forbidden by Islamic law.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Afghanistan Watch

An Indian was murdered by the Taliban the other day. Ramankutty Maniyappan was an employee of the Indian Border Roads Organization, and was helping build the 280 kilometer between Delaram, on the Kandahar-Herat highway to Zaranj on the Iranian border. Iran is building the highway from Zaranj to the port of Chabahan. The highway will reduce the route to the sea by a thousand kilometers from the current route, which is via the Khyber Pass to Peshawar in Pakistan and from thence to Karachi.

Currently Pakistan has a virtual stranglehold on the goods entering and leaving Afghanistan, and has not hesitated to use it. Pakistan and its Taliban allies are quite upset about the highway, and the murder of Maniyappan is an attempt to stop the construction.

An Indian civil services officer, a remarkable lady who spent seven months in Afghanistan helping the United Nations organize elections writes

I would not like to get into Afghanistan’s politics, but if the Taliban allow roads to be constructed, they would really be losing control. From their point of view, it would just be logical that they make it as uncomfortable as possible for outsiders to reach areas under their control. As long as donkeys take election material and no international observer can reach remote locations, there is no threat to their domain. I had wanted very much to visit some far-flung parts of my province, but security and lack of roads ruled out any such possibility.

Roads are key to where Afghanistan wants to go, to get to schools and health care centres, to banks and factories, and to provide security to the people who have become accustomed to being afraid and helpless. As long as there are no roads, inaccessibility will keep all the dangerous elements safe. The people of the country showed courage and came out to vote on September 18. They trudged along hilly paths avoiding minefields and thorny bushes and rocks in the direction of progress and self-expression. But they need the roads.

I know Maniyappan would have been proud of the work being done by the BRO to give the people of Afghanistan the road they deserve.

From the US Administration's point of view the situation is uncomfortable. On the one hand, this is a road that its ally, the Karzai government, considers to be vital; on the other hand, this is a project that will benefit Iran; and also the US has repeatedly told India to "respect Pakistani sensibilities on Afghanistan". With battle fatigue setting in in the US, it is a race against time to build Afghanistan enough to resist the inevitable abandonment of that country to the mercies of Pakistan and its surrogates.

Update: This UN (.pdf) map on which you can locate Delaram and Zaranj, gives an idea of how this will help reduce the isolation of Southern Afghanistan, which is the Taliban stronghold.

Friday, November 25, 2005

History: The Partition of India

The Partition of India in 1947 still evokes much bitterness today. A common theme is to blame the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi for the Partition, in that they somehow mishandled Jinnah and the Muslim League. If only they had yielded to some of Jinnah's demands or not let bad personal chemistry intervene or whatever. In particular, Nehru is commonly blamed for the failure of the Cabinet Mission plan, which on the surface would have allowed for a united India. However, these assertions, to my mind, can be decisively proven to be wrong, based on the written record.

Excerpts from the original documents are available, and they show that the Cabinet Mission Plan provided for Pakistan within ten years or less, and with Hindu majority provinces locked into Pakistan. Nehru was right to reject this provision of provinces being locked in; and Jinnah ended up with his "moth-eaten" Pakistan.

Past Service is just that

Listened a little to John McCain on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC radio this morning. Lehrer and McCain talked about the intelligence leading upto the Iraq war. McCain continues to insist that he sees nothing except honest mistakes.

This following is from memory, you'll have to google to find it all -

- Uranium : There have been the forged documents claiming that Saddam was attempting to purchase processed uranium ore from Niger; these are apparently such crude forgeries that non-experts can easily discover that fact; yet even the President referred to this "fact".

- Terrorism : The intelligence agencies warned the Administration that the information captured al Qaeda operative al Libi was providing was not true. While the Czech intelligence agency thought that the terrorist Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi official in Prague around April 8, 2001, US intelligence thinks it is wrong; credit card and phone records and the lack of any travel records lead them to believe that Atta spent the entire April 2001 in the US. Yet the Vice President repeatedly referred to these as facts linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

- Iraqi Defectors : The "defectors" - all linked to Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi party - all proved to have been telling lies. Either the US intelligence knew it, or we are told, e.g., ( I think the Los Angeles Times tells us) that the Germans were warning the US that the information was wrong, and that the sources were not credible. Yet that information was used as evidence for the war.

- US Analysts : US analysts were uncertain or dissented. For instance, the famous aluminum tubes that supposedly were for centrifuges for uranium enrichment, were rather early on said to be really not suitable for that purpose, but rather for rocket casings.

I think the list is longer and will grow. We know from the Downing Street memo that the Administration was engaged in fixing the intelligence around the policy.

So how do we explain McCain?

Here is the point - yes McCain is a war hero and patriot; but his early sacrifices for his country do not mean that he has retained the moral clarity and the courage of his youth. The same is true, e.g., of John Kerry, who did not run away from battle in Vietnam, nor in the anti-war movement when he returned from Vietnam; but who was most craven during the 2004 Presidential campaign. The same thought occurred to me watching the last hour of debate over the resolution the Republicans offered in the House as a counter to John Murtha. The last person to speak was a Republican war hero from Texas ( I don't recall his name); he had twice the decorations of anyone - yet he spoke the same old lines about the war in Iraq, which, no matter what you think about the intelligence - honest mistakes or deliberate deception - is simply unsupportable with what we know today.

People age, lose the courage of their convictions or grow tired of the fight. Sadly, I also think that those who remain true to themselves are the ones we never hear about. To become a McCain or a Kerry, this quality of truth is subtly eroded, no doubt always for the greater good. We see the same degeneration in Colin Powell who let his optimism and loyalty overweigh any devotion to the truth. Such is the cost of power.

Update: Steven Clemons has a collection of information. #5, article by Senators Reed and Levin, is particularly important, because it contrasts what US intelligence was saying on a particular date, as per recently declassified documents, with what the Administration was saying. I don't think McCain can spout out the Republican talking points, and retain any claim to being an honest Joe.

Update2: Paul Krugman

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thiru Kural

The Kural is an ancient book of maxims, written in Tamil, one of the classical languages of India. It may be a bit tactless of me to quote this section on Thanksgiving Day, traditionally given over to feasting on turkey.

  • How can he practice true compassion Who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?
  • Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless, Nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.
  • Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: One who wields a weapon ad one who feasts on a creatures' flesh.
  • If you ask, "What is kindness and what is unkind?" It is not killing and killing. Thus, eating flesh is never virtuous.
  • Life is perpetuated by not eating meat. The clenched jaws of hell hold those who do.
  • If the world did not purchase and consume meat, There would be none to slaughter and offer meat for sale.
  • When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh Of another creature, he must abstain from eating it.
  • Perceptive souls who have abandoned passion Will not feed on flesh abandoned by life.
  • Greater then a thousand ghee {clarified butter} offerings consumed in sacrificial fires Do not do sacrifice and consume any living creature.
  • All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration Of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat.

  • (from the Kural)

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    India's Wall of Sorrow

    India has been suffering from terrorism for a long time. The victims of terrorist violence are one long blur of statistics, their reality somehow diminished in being converted to numbers. After the Delhi blasts of October 29, I felt that there should at least be names attached to the victims, and possibly more information, if available. To avoid any association with my political views, I started an anonymous blog, India's Wall of Sorrow.

    It has been more difficult than I expected. The violence is daily, scanning the newspapers is profoundly depressing. Very little information is available about the victims; the newspapers do not connect the dots. E.g., Abdul Ahad Chopan was killed a few days ago; the very same newspaper reported on the killing of Ghulam Mohammad Chopan, son of Abdul Ahad Chopan, in 2001. Are these related? The newspaper does not say. Chopan appears to be a common surname of people from a particular district, so it is impossible to say. Chopan Sr. was a cook for a police battalion, and it seems possible to me that the terrorists killed his son, and then him for "collaborating" with India. What might Chopan's story be? Did he spend the last few years of his life constantly looking over his shoulder? Was he merely an ordinary person seeking to make a living? Was he something more, say, an undercover agent?

    Then how right is it to intrude into other people's grief? I believe people often most want privacy when dealing with tragedy.