Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Hamid Karzai, the Cypher in Green Robe
Headline in The Washington Post:
U.N. Finds Airstrike Killed 90 Afghans
Most of Fatalities In U.S.-Led Attack Said to Be Children
From Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize (Literature, 2005) acceptance speech:
"Who was the dead body?
Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?"
By Candace Rondeaux and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 27, 2008; A01
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 26 -- United Nations officials in Afghanistan said Tuesday that there was "convincing evidence" at least 90 civilians -- two-thirds of them children -- were killed in a U.S.-led airstrike last week that caused the Afghan government to call for a review of U.S. and NATO military operations in the country.
Kai Eide, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, said local officials and residents in the western province of Herat corroborated reports that 60 children and 30 adults had been killed in an Aug. 21 military operation led by U.S. Special Operations forces and the Afghan army.
In a statement, Eide called the incident a "matter of grave concern to the United Nations" and said he had "repeatedly made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must be considered above all else during the planning and conduct of all military operations."
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have increased their reliance on air power since last year, causing a corresponding increase in civilian deaths. The Herat assault appears to have caused the largest civilian loss of life attributed to U.S. forces since the war began in late 2001.
See: Death Came to Zarghun Shah, East of Kabul
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The Seasons: A Month Before Autumn Equinox
Pajaro Dunes * A Poem by Robert Haas * Reading Patrick Leigh Fermor
A warm Sunday. We haven't had too many warm days this summer. Between overcast days and forest fires, clear, blue sky has been absent. Labor Day is around the corner. Of course, we could get a few blistering days as summer's parting kick.
Pajaro Dunes, where I was earlier this month, was not cold but the sun stayed out of sight most of the time.
Images of Pajaro Dunes
"Tahoe in August" by Robert Haas
"What summer proposes is simply happiness:
heat early in the morning, jays
raucuous in the pines. Frank and Ellen have a tennis game
at nine, Bill and Cheryl sleep on the deck
to watch a shower of summer stars. Nick and Sharon
stayed in, sat and talked the dark on,
drinking tea, and Jeanne walked into the meadow
in a white smock to write in her journal
by a grazing horse who seemed to want her company.
Some of them will swim in the afternoon.
Someone will drive to the hardware store to fetch
new latches for the kitchen door. Four o'clock;
the joggers jogging--it is one of them who sees
down the flowering slope the woman with her notebook
in her hand beside the white horse, gesturing, her hair
from a distance the copper color of hummingbirds
the slant light catches on the slope: the hikers
switchback down the canyon from the waterfall;
the readers are reading, Anna is about to meet Vronsky,
that nice M. Swann is dining in Cambray
with the aunts, and Carrie has come to Chicago.
What they want is happiness; someone to love them,
children, a summer by the lake. The woman who sets aside
her book blinks against the fuzzy dark,
re-entering the house. Her daughter drifts downstairs;
out late the night before, she has been napping,
and she's cross. Her mother tells her David telephoned.
"He's such a dear," the mother says, "I think
I make him nervous." The girl tosses her head as the horse
had done in the meadow while Jeanne read it in her dream.
"You can call him now, if you want," the mother says,
"I've got to get the chicken started,
I won't listen." "Did I say you would?"
the girl says quickly. The mother who has been slapped
this way before and done the same herself another summer
on a different lake says, "Ouch." The girl shrugs
sulkily. "I'm sorry." Looking down: "Something
about the way you said that pissed me off."
"Hannibal has wandered off," the mother says,
wryness in her voice, she is thinking it is August,
"why don't you see if he's at the Finley's house
again." The girl says, "God." The mother: "He loves
small children. It's livelier for him there."
The daughter, awake now, flounces out the door,
which slams. It is for all of them the sound of summer.
The mother she looks like stands at the counter snapping beans."
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Tango King Dispute
Amusing, to us perhaps. To tango lovers in Latin America it is not so. And, therefore, the heated arguments between Uruguay and Argentina over the right to claim the late Carlos Gardel as a native son are taken very seriously.
Gardel and his suave good looks, stylish clothes, and melodious voice remain alive in the hearts of many people in Latin America long after his death in 1935 in a plane crash. However, until recent claim by Uruguay that Gardel was born in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, no one disputed that Gardel was Argentinian.
Daniel Schweimler, BBC News, wrote:
He was an early playboy, an international superstar who came to a tragic and premature end in a plane crash in Colombia in 1935. Gardel is to Argentina what Frank Sinatra is to the United States or Edith Piaf is to France.
So while driving through northern Uruguay recently, I had to take a second look when I saw a sign pointing to Carlos Gardel's birthplace and museum.
How cheeky can you get? It is like Canadians saying that Sinatra was not really born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Or the British claiming that Edith Piaf really hailed from Basingstoke in southern England.
Gardel is as Argentine as a big lump of juicy steak being barbequed by gauchos out on the pampas. But not according to the Uruguayans, and they have the evidence to prove it - or so they say.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Seasons: Is August the Cruelest Month ?
August is the month when wars start.” When the late rock writer Al Aronowitz penned that line in his August Blues he spoke more truly than he knew. The current hostilities between Russia and Georgia are only the latest in a series of modern crises and conflicts that have all broken out in what the novelist Edna O'Brien called the “wicked month” when ordinary people and politicians alike should be at their most relaxed and sunning themselves on Southwold sands, but have just as often been plotting wars and starting rumours of wars.
The very name of the month has a martial ring. August is named after Augustus, first of the Roman emperors, who was himself a successful general. His adopted father, Julius Caesar, was one of the great commanders of history and, after Caesar's assassination in 44BC, it fell to Augustus to hunt down and defeat his uncle's murderers, Brutus and Cassius. He followed this up by defeating his great rival Mark Antony at the sea battle of Actium, leaving himself as the single unchallenged ruler of Rome.
The death of Solzhenitsyn resulted in hundreds of items in the media. There is no question about his courage in writing One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), followed by The Gulag Archipelago.
The Other Side of Solzhenitsyn
Times OnLine August 5, 2008
- In common with Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn's indictment of autocracy sat oddly - to Western readers at least - with his wider philosophy. He was hostile to the notion that Russia should adopt liberal constitutionalism. He was committed to the values of the Russian Orthodox Church against the corrupting influences of Western materialism. He was fervent in his belief in the unity of Russia and the Slavic peoples. In a notorious interview last year, Solzhenitsyn defended the regime and foreign policy of Vladimir Putin. Some critics have even accused Solzhenitsyn of anti-Semitism - one parallel with Dostoevsky that is certainly unfair.
- "Russians are debating -- what should be done? Some say: Return to the roots, to the old Russia. Solzhenitsyn maintains that czarist Russia was a splendid country, "rich and flowering" (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, How to Rebuild Russia). Then, unfortunately, the Bolsheviks came and ruined everything. And yet witnesses of that earlier epoch paint a less idyllic picture of Russia." -- Ryszard Kapuściński Imperium
According to Young, Solzhenitsyn castigated the policies of Boris Yeltsin, saying the leader stripped Russia of prestige, while embracing President Vladimir Putin. “This was the sad paradox of Solzhenitsyn's final years,” Young writes. “The man who used his Nobel Prize to start a fund for political prisoners kept quiet about the new political prisoners of Putin's regime.”
In the Moscow Times, Yevgeny Kiselyov expresses a similar opinion. “Solzhenitsyn's proposals for how to improve conditions in Russia were naive, at best,” according to Kiselyov. “And how can we regard him as ‘the conscience of the people’ when he remained silent during Russia’s greatest tragedies, at times when the people needed moral support from an authoritative figure the most?” he said, citing instances like the start of the war in Chechnya and the Beslan hostage crisis.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Time of the Hucksters
Of course, we should have the right to change our minds about issues. John McCain and Barack Obama are doing that. But they make you wonder how far they will go to move away from previously held positions. Call them flexible, yes. Both are doing somersaults in the hope of winning the support of Americans hurt by high energy prices.
"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."