Wednesday, January 24, 2007

For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth
Buffalo Springfield

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

I wish I knew. I wish I could see.

There is one thing I can tell you tho'...

Its all pretty Ducked-up Alfredy!

Wooopsa daisy, that shoulda been;

pretty Fucked-up Already!

but really, there is only one response:

Revolt! Now!

OK or nothing!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iran Awakening

Iran Awakening By Shirin Ebadi
Reviewed by Sean Badal

On December 10th 2003, Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to do so. It was largely for her work as a human rights activist and her support for children’s rights. There was widespread controversy about the award, with many, both inside and outside Iran claiming it was politically motivated. Well, what is the darn point of awarding the peace prize if it isn’t politically motivated – even helping the poor is politically motivated these days. Just ask Jimmy Carter. Hell, just ask that other JC who was nailed to the cross for helping the poor.

In her book Ebadi chronicles the extraordinary series of events that led to the winning of the prize.

Ebadi was working as judge during the Shah’s regime when the revolution happened. Like many Iranians, she was a fervent supporter of the revolution and enthusiastically welcomed the overthrow of Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was installed by the US in a CIA-planned coup that overthrew Iran’s first democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh. The Americans and British were pissed off that he dared to use Iranian oil for the benefit of the Iranian people.

If there is one thematic link in all three of these books, it is in the almost mythical presence of Mossadegh. He crops up all over the place, a wistful remembrance of a (perceived) time when things were better.

For an insight into the full horror story on how Mossadegh was deposed, see here.

And if you think it was all in the past, historical baggage, I have one word for you.


The whole dirty bag of tricks is currently played out again by those scheming bastards in Washington.

As we all know, things didn’t quite work out in Iranian. There was no golden age of democracy under the mad mullahs. Ebadi charts her despair as the religious fascists tightened their screw with their own unique brand of woman-hating government. She lost her jobs, her life was constantly in danger and the Iranian middle class just seeped away, leaving for greener pastures. It is a sad and devastating tale, and the author’s great courage is the only thing that sustained her.

Somehow she shines through and lives to present a truly inspiring story.

Published by Rider Books – 2006

We are Iran

We are Iran By Nasrin Alavi
Reviewed By Sean Badal

It’s a bit weird seeing blogs in print format. I’ve never really liked it. They always remind of those faux blogs that get published in the Financial Times cos they look so trendy.

What’s the point, you might well ask.

Well, there’s the language barrier for one thing. Most of the blogs published here were written in Farsi, a language of which my knowledge is limited to about five words (and that’s excluding all the Persian words that have crossed over into Urdu and Hindi).

Another is a sense of cohesion in the manner in which the information is presented (indeed the book is so judiciously edited that sometimes it feels like one voicespeaking. Not a good thing when you’re presenting disparity). Even if you did speak Farsi, you be hard-pressed to wade through the sheer volume presented here. Iran apparently has more bloggers than most other countries. There are approximately 64 000 bloggers online in Iran and Farsi is the fourth most popular language for blogging.

The author’s purpose is of course overtly political. Iran has a repressive regime and one that is getting worse, certainly from a media point of view, so the voices that come through are unfiltered and raw.

And what voices they are!

Poignant, ghoulish, miserable, poetry and politics – all mixed up to provide an extraordinary glimpse into the life of ordinary Iranians (okay, they might not be so ordinary as they have access to computers and most come across as middle class) but this book is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

Published by Portobello Books – 2006

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran By Jason Elliot
Reviewed by Dean Badal

I’ve left the best for last.

Jason Elliot’s book is a distillation of a couple of trips that he made to Iran, to the cities of Tehran, Persepolis, Isfahan, Mazandaran, Yazd and a few other places. I’ve not used the word “trip” lightly – there’s something hallucinatory about the writer’s journey – as if he was chewing qat the whole time but still in possession of all his faculties.

The author’s font of knowledge is truly frightening. The bit where he reels of a list of Persian accomplishment to the store of human knowledge is breathtaking and all the sadder, now that this great nation is ruled by a bunch of religious thugs.

Although there are interesting vignettes of people and places, Elliot’s serious obsession is in the architecture of Iranian, mostly ancient architecture. He is very dismissive of modern construction, and rightfully so, as anyone who has ever travelled to the middle east and seen the horrors inflicted on the landscape of once great cities, knows.

Now, I’ve never been a lover of books as objects of beauty, but I have to say (at the risk of sounding metrosexual) that this book is ravishing.

Someone else wrote that this book would make a great birthday present for Tony Blair, and for George Bush - if only he wanted to learn. I concur, but doubt very much it’s going to happen, but hey Cherie, if you reading this, PLEASE slip it into your husband’s stocking.

Published by Picador - 2006

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Own Private Iraq

Hell's bells and buckets of shit! Long Time No Blog (LTNB), yes, but I've had plenty of other crises, like xmas, to deal with... but hey, Happy New Year and all that crap.

So what's happened in the interregnum?

Saddam: swung. Bush: took the piss out of the American population with his "urge-to-surge speech". Iran: carried on working on a civilian nuclear program. Israel: practised bombing raids against Iran. US Naval Command: deployed a second carrier group into the Gulf and crashed into civilian shipping. Iraq
: Got hit with a new oil-privatization deal.

What a mess.

Should I start a deadpool website on when exactly the date of the start of the 3rd World War actually began? As will be recorded by future history books? My vote is for December 11, 2000, the date on which the country bumpkin was handed the US Presidency by the Supremes.

Here is the real rub of it all; George's little war is really being fought by hired guns:

100,000 mercenaries, the forgotten "Surge"

By Barry Lando

01/10/07 "Alternet" --- - What is striking about the current debate in Washington - whether to "surge" troops to Iraq and increase the size of the U.S. Army - is that roughly 100,000 bodies are missing from the equation: The number of American forces in Iraq is not 140,000, but more like 240,000.

What makes up the difference is the huge army of mercenaries - known these days as "private contractors." After the U.S. Army itself, they are easily the second-largest military force in the country. Yet no one seems sure of how many there are since they answer to no single authority. Indeed, the U.S. Central Command has only recently started taking a census of these battlefield civilians in an attempt to get a handle on the issue...

The private contractors are Americans, South Africans, Brits, Iraqis and a hodgepodge of other nationalities. Many of them are veterans of the U.S. or other armed forces and intelligence services, who are now deployed in Iraq (and Afghanistan and other countries) to perform duties normally carried out by the U.S. Army, but at salaries two or three times greater than those of American soldiers.

They work as interrogators and interpreters in American prisons; body guards for top U.S. and Iraqi officials; trainers for the Iraqi army and police; and engi-neers constructing huge new U.S. bases. They are often on the front lines. In fact, 650 of them have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion

Their salaries, are, in the end, paid directly by the U.S. government - or tacked on as huge additional "security charges" to the bills of private American or other contractors. Yet the Central Command still doesn't have a complete list of who they are or what they are up to. The final figure could be much higher than 100,000.

The U.S. Congress, under Republican control until now, knows even less.

Yet these private contractors man their own helicopters and Humvees and look and act just like American troops.

"It takes a great deal of vigilance on the part of the military commander to en-sure contractor compliance," William L. Nash, a retired general, told the Washington Post. "If you're trying to win hearts and minds and the contractor is driving 90 miles per hour through the streets and running over kids, that's not helping the image of the American army. The Iraqis aren't going to distinguish between a contractor and a soldier."

But who, in the end, do these contractors answer to? The U.S. Central Command? Their company boss? Or the official they've been assigned to protect?

A recent case in point: The former Iraqi minister of electricity, who had been imprisoned on corruption charges, managed to escape in broad daylight in the heavily fortified Green Zone. Iraqi officials claim he was spirited away by con-tractors from a private security detail that had been hired when he was minis-ter.

Which raises another question. Who has jurisdiction over these private contrac-tors if they run afoul of the law in Iraq? Also, are they supposed to follow the Geneva Conventions? Or George W. Bush's conventions?

For instance, according to The New York Times, although 20 civilian contractors working in U.S. prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq - including Abu Ghraib - have been charged with mistreating prisoners, none has ever been successfully prosecuted.

Another point, which brings us back to the discussion about increasing Ameri-can troop levels in Iraq: It would seem that the Pentagon could outsource a "surge" by a simple accounting sleight of hand, quietly contracting for another 10,000 or 20,000 mercenaries to do the job, and the Congress and press would be none the wiser.

Barry Lando, a former 60 Minutes producer, is the author of "Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush." He also blogs at

100 000 mercs??? And a good number of these are South Africans??? I have no time for my fellow country persons who are classifiable as dooses.

As far as I am concerned, these are so-called "South Africans" who must be considered as war criminals who should be jailed immediately! Thankfully, we have laws against mercenaries, and right now I'd support a tax increase, just to fund an interevtion force who brings these mercs to justice.

Bearing in mind that these mercs, whose numbers can be inreased without any "report mechamism", at any time deemed necessary, we all should bevery afraid, because, what is clear is clear is that George W. is dead set on expanding his war.

What we all need to realise is that George's war touches all of us - you are either for or against it, and we all have to be clear in our choice of which side we are on.

But add to all of this, that which what we don't quite really appreciate, yet; just how this World War III has already been privatized!

OK. But what if... now... already? Oh! OK Now!