A Day in the Life of

Last night I took a break from watching La La Land and headed to Hacksaw Ridge instead. The turnout was spectacular. It was a full house on a weekday. That got us thinking. Friend wondered if it could have anything to do with faith. I liked that thought. I liked it so much I pursued it further. Could it be that they were running commercials for the movie exclusively and extensively on the Christian channels? I hadn’t come across much of a publicity push anywhere else that would explain the turnout. Could it be that a local celebrity preacher name-dropped the movie in one of his sermons? Or could it be that he handed out the tickets himself? Teach a man to fish and he won’t starve for the rest of his life. Direct your congregation to a Mel Gibson film and you don’t need to worry about your sheep going astray.

The movie itself was a mixed bag. The war scenes had me turning towards my friend at least twice with a “did you see that?” expression on my face. A Star Wars or a Marvel movie couldn’t make me do that. Shame on those for disneyfying violence. When you disneyfy violence, you sanitize and degrade it. There’s a way and a need to degrade violence, but that’s by exposing its brutality- not by making the victims faceless and the fights bloodless. Just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re right, Disney.

From one empire to another. We need to talk about the similarities between the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey and Pizzagate. Democrats like to make fun of Trump’s supporters for their gullibility and existence in a post-truth society. The way Democrats look at the Republicans must be the way Chomsky looks at them all. Chomsky views the stories published by NY times the way Hillary supporters look at the fake news stories planted by the alt-right on facebook. The more enlightened you are, the more is your ability to spot fake news apparently. Unfortunately, not many people have the free time or the inclination to reach a level of enlightenment where they begin to question the stories put out by outlets like NY Times. One such person with no time or inclination was the assassin of the Russian ambassador. Poor guy believed all the blame for the devastation in Aleppo could be laid squarely at the door of Russia. Did he know that Assad had offered a way to end the conflict even before it had become all encompassing? Did he know that US and its middle east allies wouldn’t come to the table unless Assad stepped down? Does he know how the American, or for that matter any other country’s, scales tip when the time comes to choose between geopolitical equations and saving human lives? Got to appreciate the cold hearted ruthlessness of the empires, even if they go around in cloaks boasting the values of freedom and democracy and human rights. If you only knew the number of autocratic regimes the US has propped up over the years. We need to support this murderous dictator because we need him in our fight against communism, we need him in our fight against terrorism, we need to depose this leader because he poses a threat to his own people… The problem with badmouthing and calling out the hypocrisy of the empire is people react to it in only one of two ways, and both of them amount to dismissal. Either they go:  We know all of this, tell us something we don’t know; or Okay (I don’t see how any of this concerns me).

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At this point, I could go on and end up like that Charlie Day meme or rehabilitate my image by talking about Blade Runner and Ryan Gosling. The prospect of Roger Deakins and Dennis Villeneuve getting back together to frame Ryan Gosling should be enough to make you forget the crushing despair of having to spend your whole life being manipulated and misinformed- and thank Jesus Christ, it is. What is real and what is reel, when the real is a construct of lies and the reel at least tries its utmost to stay true to itself?

Continued coverage from Syria

Assad doesn’t pose a threat to the wider world. Assad is open to political dialogue. ISIS’s stated goal is to bring about an apocalypse, naturally there’s no negotiating with them. They can only be defeated on the battlefield. Assad, on the other hand, has time and again indicated his willingness to sit down for talks. Assad has as little interest in seeing the world burn as you and I. The members of ISIS would kill their own mothers if they thought that would bring about the end of the world.

Given this background, you’d think the self-proclaimed leaders of the human civilization would do the rational thing and have their priorities straight vis a vis Assad and ISIS. But boy, ain’t that naive!

They don’t want to talk with Assad, they just want him gone. They say this is because of the crimes he’s committed against his own countrymen but even the slightest bit of reading reveals how they’re usually perfectly fine in having as allies and even exporting weapons to countries brutally suppressing their own civilians. So that moral indignation they’re putting on?, it’s just a big pile of elephant shit. And only a noob who doesn’t know his history will fall for that. Tough luck, self-proclaimed leaders of the free world- some of us can see that the emperor has no clothes.

Only reason they won’t talk with Assad is that he isn’t *their bastard*. Only if Assad was Erdogan and the people he was suppressing were Kurds, or he was Saddam and the people he was suppressing were Shias. Then they wouldn’t have had a problem, they would’ve invited him for lavish state dinners.

In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, it looked like the greatest nation on Earth and its allies would finally get their priorities straight. They made noises suggesting they were open to cooperating with Russia and that even before Assad, ISIS had to go. But surprise surprise, only a few days on they were like “Cooperate with Russia? Only over our ISIS bullets- riddled bodies!”

With the shooting down of the Russian jet, Turkey has gone beyond mere non-cooperation- it is now actively thwarting Russia from operating in Syria. Turkey, the country which kept its border with Syria open so that jihadists from all over the world could enter Syria with minimum hassle.  Turkey, the country which sat back and looked on with glee as ISIS pummeled Kurdish cities. Turkey, the country whose President vilified and started a full-blown civil war with its minorities to win parliamentary majority. Turkey, a proud member and indispensable part of NATO, one for which the US is contractually obliged to go into war.

Turkey: Syria :: Pakistan: Afghanistan.

As for the Turkish argument that Russia was bombing its allies in Syria instead of ISIS, why the fuck does the Free Syrian Army still exist? Why are Assad’s military and these Syrian rebels in a war with each other while ISIS is running around establishing caliphates? Why do the western nations continue to arm these disorganized and poorly trained rebels in the hope of overthrowing Assad knowing there’s a high chance of most of these weapons eventually falling into the arms of ISIS? Why are they so obsessed with Assad?

Assad going will be a big blow to the likes of Iran, and Hezbollah, and Russia. And that will make the likes of Saudi Arabia and Israel and hawks from the cold war era very happy indeed but shouldn’t terrorism trump geopolitical considerations at least for a little while? Apparently not. The hegemon knows the best after all. They want their geopolitical gains goddammit, the Syrian people can go to hell and ISIS? ISIS can be dealt with later on as well, chances to overthrow the Assad regime and break the Shia coalition’s back don’t come around too often. Or so goes the memo in the Pentagon.

We need to talk about the sectarian rift

Stop simply calling them bombings of Beirut and Baghdad. Be a bit more specific. Call them for what they are. Call them concerted sectarian killings of Shias. At a time when Shias are being persecuted as vehemently as Jews were in another, it becomes our duty to acknowledge the fact, to throw a semblance of a spotlight upon it. It’s the least we can do.

Those Muslim clerics calling for peace would do more good and be more useful if they were to just declare and accept Shias as Muslims. This Saudi-Iran Sunni-Shia conflict is even more embedded than the Israel-Palestine conflict, how else would you explain Saudi and Israel ganging up on Iran?

The Sunni-Shia conflict, like any battle between ideologies, is a major detriment to world peace. Would the situation in Syria have deteriorated as much had Iran and Saudi not had their own agendas? Assad and his Russian backers were willing to strike a deal early on but the Americans and Saudis were unwilling to strike up any deal with Assad, simply because he was an Alawite and close to Iran and Russia. These crusaders for freedom and democracy didn’t give a damn about the Syrian people, they just wanted the “Shia axis” broken. So, from that moment on the West and the Gulf monarchies with a little bit of help from Turkey got busy funneling weapons and resources to whoever willing to fight Assad. Many of these weapons unsurprisingly ended up in the hands of ISIS because that’s what happens when you arm militias. Now, France too was part of the Western coalition that backed Assad’s opponents, and thereby to a certain degree responsible for the clusterfuck in Syria. And when the refugees borne out of this ill-advised interruption and escalation turned up at the European borders, those in the know termed it a case of the chicken coming home to roost. The refugees were what the Europeans reaped for the crisis they deepened. Maybe if America was reachable by boats, the Yankees would be a little less arrogant about stirring up shit?

What happened in Paris has nothing to do with refugees of course. They are both victims. Anyone saying otherwise has a political party that wins votes when people feel xenophobic. What happened in Paris is what’s been happening to Shias at the hands of intolerant Wahhabism. Wahhabism holds that anyone not a Wahhabi is an infidel and deserves to die. The Saudis love to spread this message and fund madrassas around the world for this purpose. Teaching hatred it seems is a basic tenet of Wahhabism. I am not saying that all madrassas are bad, I am just saying that every madrassa connected with Wahhabism is bad.

In a world straining under the violence caused by extremist Sunni groups, it is the Shias who act like canaries in a coal mine. A world where Shias are safe is a world where all of us are safe.

Going back to Paris, it’s natural that some of us feel a tighter bond with Paris than with Beirut or Baghdad or any other city, for that matter. Paris after all is a modern day civilizational beacon. A city so iconic, not even the Nazis could bring themselves to bomb it. They had no trouble bombing London.

People who look at Paris just as a western city where white people reside are betraying their cultural ignorance. They don’t know what it is to be human. Paris is the best of us. Paris should always be the last city standing. Protect Paris. Be outraged for Paris. Hurl yourself in harm’s way for Paris!

This has been a fifth grade production.

If you read what I have to say about Syria, I have a gift waiting for you

A rightfully wary Obama draws an arbitrary red line. He draws it at the usage of chemical weapons. They do get used, but at the hands of the rebels whom his government supports.

When the news of the usage first broke out, the Republicans were quick to call Obama out for not taking any decisive action. Decisive action for the grand old white men meant arming the rebels. Obama, for his part, was cautious enough to not place the blame squarely on the Syrian government without sufficient evidence- a prudent stand given how they were quick to draw to conclusions following the Houla massacre and ended up with eggs on their faces. However, some spin doctors are now putting the spin by blaming the government for failing to secure its chemical weapon caches. Color me aghast.

Jon Stewart, ever so admirable on domestic issues and ever so ignorant about international squabbles, jumped the gun and poked fun at the possibility of the Americans having to convince Putin’s Russia on the seriousness of the crimes purportedly perpetrated by the regime. How about staying out of this conflict, Jon?

So, there you have it. The rebels and their opportunist backers are more villainous and intractable and devoid of sympathy for the suffering of the common Syrian than the supposed main villain in the piece, a certain Bashr Al Assad.

As a reward for bearing through an insight into a regional conflict, I now present your gift. The gift is a passage from a book written by Walker Percy. Enjoy.

“Her bottom is so beautiful that once as she crossed the room to the cooler I felt my eyes smart with tears of gratitude. She is one of those village beauties of which the South is so prodigal. From the sleaziest house in the sleaziest town, from the loins of redneck pa and rockface ma spring these lovelies, these rosy-cheeked Anglo-Saxon lovelies, by the million. They are commoner than sparrows, and like sparrows they are at home in the streets, in the parks, on doorsteps.”

 

Postscript: The Russians have spoken some momentary sense into the Americans, for they have now dropped the pre-condition of Assad’s resignation. This won’t go down well with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the rebels; and as such, America, itself, may change its position once again. Be that as it may, best case scenario would be America and Russia joining hands and annihilating all those who oppose a settlement through political dialogue. Now, that’s a pipe dream.