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On Other Blogs: Blacksmiths of Lebanon

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arrest Warrent Issued for Sudan's Bashir: Debunking the Arabist Line

Well the precedent has been set and an arrest warrant has been issued for President Bashir of Sudan. The warrant accuses him of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and needless to say the immediate Sudanese reaction has been one of condemnation of neocolonial white interference and bla bla bla. You know the drill. I also imagine the reaction on the nationalist quasi-leftist arab street to be of a similar nature. Naturally, the interference of the international community is to be condemned, while the killing of black africans is ok. The white man cannot interfere but it is fine for the arab to rampage... Lets take a look at the following sample from the angry arab.

This arrest warrant is a joke, of course and will not be taken seriously outside of the offices of the New York Times. I mean, let us say that Bashir (a lousy dictator with very low intelligence level and a skill in turning into a buffoon before a crowd, with a history of cooperation with Western governments--overt and covert) is responsible for much of the bloodshed in Darfur, his record pales by that (if you count the numbers of victims) of George W. Bush. I mean, will that body issue an arrest warrant for Bush or any American president if he/she were to drop a nuclear bomb on an entire country or continent? Of course, not. But then again: how can the White Man resist the temptation to preach and sermonize? The White Man can't resist that opportunity.

Alright, clearly there is anger there. But let us dissect the argument a little bit more carefully.

"The arrest warrant is a joke".
Maybe, but maybe not. It is certainly useless in the short term but in the long term it is not inconceivable that we see Bashir is shackles before a court of law. It happened in the former Yugoslavia, why not Sudan.

"Bashir's record pales in comparison to Bush's ...".
That is an irrelevant argument, since justice in one case does not preclude justice in another. Moreover, it is a subjective argument and relies on where one places value. If equal value is placed on all human life regardless of its ethnic composition, and if human suffering is condemned regardless of the color of its skin, then no, Bashir's record does not pale in comparison to Bush's. On the other hand, if one values Iraqi life more than Darfurian life, then perhaps it does pale... Also, I am not quite sure how that macabre calculation worked. Do we tally up all the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan regardless of who killed them (e.g., Iraqi Shias, Iraqi Sunnis, the Taliban...) , then add all the murders and rapes, regardless of who perpetrated them and assign the blame on all of them to Bush? I haven't done that ugly math, but I am sure that even then, Bashir's record does not pale in comparison to Bush's...

"How can the White Man resist the temptation to preach and sermonize?"
I don't know. But how does that differ from the Angry Arab man blaming the white man for everything? Was the self righteous white man on horseback in south Darfur killing and raping? Was the self righteous white man providing tank cover and air support agains the Darfurians? Or was it Bashir's rule that enabled those acts? When will the angry arab stop and unequivocally condemn atrocities committed by (seemingly) equally angry arab dictators. Preaching and sermonizing is one thing. Enabling atrocities is a different thing. It is Bashir who is on trial for war crimes here, not those who preached for his arrest.

Final Points
My main point in writing this post has been to deliver the following message. We need to resist the temptation to enable atrocities by using "yes, but..." arguments. Atrocities are bad. period. Those who commit them must be brought to justice. period. If there are other places in the world where atrocities are being committed, then the perpetrators should also be brought to justice. You wouldn't release one murderer because you can't catch another one, would you?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Glimmers of Hope

In the midst of the ongoing festival of the absurd that comprises the politics of Lebanon, every now and then some glimmers of hope appear.

Sometimes they are in the form of an unexpected gesture by a young minister, who recognizes the right of citizens to withhold information about their religion from the state. At other time hope manifests in the actions of those who strive and fight for a better tomorrow - one where two people can choose to get married not under the supervision of a bearded male and where a woman's rights are not restricted to what the chauvinistic societies of yore gave her.

Yet other times an article reminds you of the existence of those whose beliefs you may not agree with but who fight lifelong battles for your right to hold your beliefs and to live your life free from the shackles of religion.

Finally, every now and then, some courageous few appear from the depths of societal oppression and marginalization to fight for their rights in the most civilized of ways.

These beacons of light amidst oceans of darkness give me hope that the tide of liberty can swell and grow, until it touches those whose minds have turned to stone and those whose hearts have turned to steel, until one day all the oppressiveness of Lebanon cannot contain it. And so that its people - as culturally, socially and religiously diverse as any, can stop trampling on one another and break free from their self imposed shackles.

Until then, let the festival of the absurd resume.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

George Carlin, Modern Man

I was watching PBS the other day and came across "George Carlin: The Mark Twain Prize" (given to him posthumously)... Everytime I see bits of his performances I am stunned by how much of a wordsmith he was. Below is a sample.

"I’m a modern man, a man for the millennium. Digital and smoke-free. A diversified multicultural, postmodern deconstruction that is anatomically and ecologically incorrect. I’ve been uplinked and downloaded, I’ve been inputted and outsourced, I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a hightech lowlife. A cutting edge, state of the art, bicoastal multitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond!

"I’m new wave, but I’m old school, and my inner child is outward bound. I’m a hotwired, heatseeking, warmhearted cool customer, voice-activated and biodegradable. I interface with my database, my database is in cyberspace, so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive and from time to time I’m radioactive.

"Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin' the wave, dodgin' the bullet and pushin' the envelope. I’m on point, on task, on message and off drugs. I’ve got no need for coke and speed. I've got no urge to binge and purge. I’m in the moment, on the edge, over the top and under the radar. A high concept, low profile, medium range ballistic missionary. A streetwise smart bomb. A top gun bottom feeder. I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps and run victory laps. I’m a totally ongoing big-foot, slam dunk, rainmaker with a proactive outreach. A raging workaholic. A working rageaholic. Out of rehab and in denial!

"I’ve got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant and a personal agenda. You can’t shut me up. You can’t dumb me down because I’m tireless and I’m wireless, I’m an alpha male on beta blockers.

"I’m a nonbeliever and an overachiever, laid back but fashion forward. Upfront, downhome, low rent, high maintenance. Supersized, long lasting, high definition, fast acting, oven ready and built to last! I’m a hands-on, footloose, kneejerk head case pretty maturely post-traumatic, and I’ve got a love child that sends me hate mail.

"But I’m feeling, I’m caring, I’m healing, I’m sharing-- a supportive, bonding, nurturing primary caregiver. My output is down, but my income is up. I took a short position on the long bond and my revenue stream has its own cashflow. I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds and I watch trash sports! I’m gender-specific, capital intensive, user-friendly and lactose intolerant.

"I like rough sex. I like tough love. I use the “F” word in my e-mails and the software on my harddrive is hardcore -- no soft porn.

"I bought a microwave at a mini-mall; I bought a minivan at a megastore. I eat fast food in the slow lane. I’m toll-free, bitesized, ready-to-wear and I come in all sizes. A fully equipped, factory authorized, hospital tested, clinically proven, scientifically- formulated medical miracle. I’ve been pre-wash, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged, post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped, vacuum-packed and I have an unlimited broadband capacity.

"I’m a rude dude, but I’m the real deal. Lean and mean! Cocked, locked and ready to rock. Rough, tough and hard to bluff. I take it slow, I go with the flow, I ride with the tide. I’ve got glide in my stride. Drivin' and movin', sailin' and spinnin', jivin' and groovin', wailin' and winnin'. I don’t snooze, so I don’t lose. I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road. I party hearty and lunch time is crunch time. I’m hangin' in, there ain’t no doubt and I’m hangin' tough, over and out!"