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DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTOUT . . . A NATURAL BYPRODUCT OF MINDLESS CAPITALISM

29 April 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

Capitalism is a great slave, but a pathetic master. This truth unfortunately gets lost in our chase for that elusive dream . . . especially in America, the land that has been marketed as the land of dreams – the great American dream. It’s the dream of being independent masters of our lives, the dream of making big bucks and the dream of being happy – even if that happiness is being bought by money which all of them chase out there. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comforts aplenty. It has upped the living standard of its average citizen to an extent that it stands amongst the highest – even if that is a result of more than 200 years of unbridled growth and exploitation. Thus, the shop window of Americanism looks lucidly attractive; you’ve got all of them standing there – from Bill Gates to Michael Dell – in Tommy Hilfigers and Ralph Laurens! And that is what has made the rest of the world mindlessly chase Americanism, not necessarily happiness or an ideal form of society. All because the shop window looks very impressive and it has been marketed very well. But a deep look inside the shop, of course, tells a different tale. A different world lies behind the designer clothes and the designer dreams, a world that is not quite visible to the starry eyed millions – for whom the American way of life seems to be the ultimate dream – because this other side of the truth about the American society, unfortunately hasn’t found marketers. Thus, we have Indian girls having their dream to get married to an NRI, preferably settled in the US, and Indian middle class fathers dreaming of their sons reaching the Bay area and landing tech jobs, unmindful of the second class life they end up leading in the US. What goes unseen and almost unheard is that America also happens to be the land that is right amongst the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, the number of single parent families per thousand, the number of old people in old age homes, the number of rape cases per million, the number of suicides, homicides, and of course, the number of college/school shootouts . . . And why not! After all, in a society where ‘what you are’ is equal to ‘what you have’ plus ‘what you consume’, the only way to achieve more is to have and consume more (That’s why we call the US a consumerist society, and its culture, consumerism), and therefore, be constantly driven towards higher profits and materialism. Expectedly, this materialism comes at a cost that the world is paying today. This is the reason why we have millions dying of curable diseases in Africa and other lesser developed countries, while the rich grow richer. Their growth will be reduced, if they were to start thinking of the poor. So what do they do to justify their greed for more? They most shrewdly propagate and market a ridiculously primitive law of the jungle for our 21st century civilisation, the ‘Law of Survival of the Fittest’! The interesting thing about material things is that they only give an illusion of happiness; and even such happiness always is momentary in nature. Ergo, at this juncture, you feel you are the happiest person in the world, after buying your new car or flatscreen TV, and just a few days later, these are the very possessions that cease to make you happy, because you are already thinking of a bigger car or a bigger TV. While you chase the bigger car to become larger than life in order to be happier, you sacrifice those that have the maximum power to make you happy – family, emotions and love. Prolonged abstinence in employing emotions finally destroys them; and you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry eyed moron (Yes! America also happens to be the land, which has the maximum number of dry-eyed people). And then, while chasing after neverending desires, one day you are left alone . . . probably divorced, without children, and in an old age home (If not that, the situation is more often close to that, than not) . . . and suddenly, you realise that there is emptiness all around . . . and you land up in a Deepak Chopra workshop to find out the real meaning of life – or whatever he is capable of explaining. But by then, it’s really too late. By then, you have made profits out of arms, and engineered wars to keep that industry alive. You’ve sold guns across counters at Wal-Mart and made more profits. You’ve lobbied that guns should be made accessible to the common man, and all for the sake of profits. You’ve created an end result of a society increasingly becoming devoid of emotions; not a society where man was born with all the natural traits of love, bonding and emotions, but a society which has succeeded in making one fall prey to the idea of greater happiness through endless materialism, in making him appreciate the bombing of countries and killing of millions, because the profits from the war would help accumulate more materialistic assets . . . This is the society that finally creates an emotionless monster, who gets satisfaction in killing 33 innocent students for no cause, no reason and for none, but himself. It is the utter destruction of spiritualism and the total focus on endless self-gratification at the cost of others and their lives that has left America today with the maximum number of young school and college going kids taking up guns and shooting others in the most horrendous manner possible. A country with so many single parent families and divorces, neither can bring up its children any better, nor could influence Cho Seung-Hui – the Korean who took those lives – any better.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Time to kill the foreign pill!

22 November 2013 |Dr. Arindam On America

Back in 2003, George Washington University started the GWU India Project, a project that gave dramatic insights into how the 'business' of lobbying works to a nation's detriment. Private companies and associations were found to be the funding entities for R&D and consulting; and in turn, these entities got public policy and judicial decisions fabricated and influenced to their benefit with respect to Intellectual Property (IP). Many views on critical agendas were deliberately made one-sided, in favour of these so called funding entities. Various US lobbyists were part of these efforts and tried to manipulate decisions and views of many Indian lawmakers and thought leaders.
Foreign Pharma has always kept a close eye on Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers and related drug legislations, especially as most of our manufacturers are infamous for producing low cost generic unbranded drugs, whose branded versions are being sold at prices that are phenomenally high and out of reach of those millions of Indians who are waiting for lifesaving drugs and struggling with treatable diseases. And this generic drugs clearly work to the detriment of foreign pharma companies.
Consequently, US pharma giants have been continually lobbying politically with their government to pressurise the Indian government to insert a cap on permits that are issued to domestic companies for making low-cost copies of patented drugs. Even companies like Pfizer and Merck met the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) to lobby against compulsory licenses being issued by India. For the uninitiated, a compulsory licence is a permission issued to any local manufacturer allowing him to produce the so-called ‘copied versions’ of patented medicines without any prior permission of the original patent owner. For instance, Novartis’ anti-leukemia drug Glivec costs an unaffordable Rs. 1.2 lakh per month, while its generic formulation, made by domestic manufacturers, costs nothing more than Rs. 8,000. In another similar case, in March 2012, India’s Patent Controller issued a compulsory license to an Indian generic manufacturer to produce Sorafenib Tosylate, which was being sold by Bayer for $4500 per person per month in India as kidney and liver cancer medicine.
In June 2013, around 170 members of US Congress, in a written request to President Obama, asked him to express his resentment to India about India’s IP and patent acts. And mind you, handing out compulsory licenses is nothing illegal and is nothing that is a radically new convenient policy designed by us. On the contrary, this is done based on India’s right under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, which empowers India to “allow a third party to produce a generic version of the drug in question by granting a compulsory license.” Previously, in March 2013, Senator Tom Carper, during a US Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s 2013 trade agenda, tagged India’s compulsory licensing policy as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘frustrating’; in June 14, 2013, Joe Biden also commented that such policies can act as obstacles in the business environment.
Since the last few years, the Indian pharma industry has seen numerous high-profile mergers and acquisitions, wherein big foreign pharma firms have been rapidly taking over their Indian counterparts; one of the latest examples being Aventis Pharma, which recently acquired a Mumbai based pharma company named Universal Healthcare. This year, US pharmaceutical company Mylan succeeded in a $1.6 billion acquisition of Agila Specialties. Agila was a pioneer in the production of vaccines and generic injectable-drugs. Similarly, Daiichi Sankyo bought controlling stakes in Ranbaxy Laboratories, while Sanofi did the same with Shanta Biotech in 2010; and Abbott Laboratories with Piramal Healthcare.
Such rapid cannibalisation by foreign firms will kill the very concept of essential drugs and even generic drugs. Around 70 drugs are tagged as essential drugs and are sold at relatively lower prices, as these are regarded as essential life-saving drugs. However, with MNCs now controlling most of the generic manufacturers, these drugs would find themselves off from the counters of the chemists. What could be more ironical, and to be very straightforward, more shameful for a nation than the fact that more than 770 patents out of 1000 odd patents were awarded by Indian authorities to foreign drugs manufacturers in FY 2010-2011. Of the total 3400 drugs patents awarded by Indian authorities between 2005 and 2010, a whopping 3000 plus went to foreign pharma giants, with foreign players like Eli Lilly and Co, Pfizer, Novartis and Bayer AG being the leading players.
In December last year, I wrote an editorial on how patents are anti-poor. I would like to quote a few lines from the same editorial again, just to reiterate the argument again that patents and similar such policies are more for the rich and for enlarging the hole in the pockets of the poor. I quote from the said editorial: “In his book called Sex, Science and Profits, Professor Terrence Kealey argues how there is absolutely no need to give patent rights to anyone for 30 years, when in reality the cost of research studies with high profits can be recovered back in three years on an average. By exploiting such a mindless number of years of patent rights, companies fool us on the costs of research and rob the poor worldwide of their dues. Not just that, unduly long-term patents keep essential medicines extremely expensive and away from the reach of the poor – and patents also additionally slow down innovation.
“Every technology and formula kept patented for 30 years consequently means there would be much slower progress on further extensions to that technology or formula due to the patent-gifted monopoly. History is evidence that the moment the patent right over a technology has concluded, the progression on that technology has become extremely fast compared to the past years of hardly any innovation – like in the case of the steam engine... And while the time period of patent rights for every other sphere can still be debated, in the arena of medical sciences, this must be changed with immediate effect. Additionally, policies similar to the Indian National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 – which puts a cap on the prices of 652 popular medicines – must be notified with an immediate effect and should necessarily be expanded to include not just life-saving high cost patented medical drugs, but also high cost medical treatments and operations.”
The Indian government should immediately pass regulations that can empower and encourage more domestic generic drugs manufacturers and save them from irrational acquisitions. Leaving generic drug companies without any governmental and legal protection would only lead to a dramatically negative effect on the Indian society, something that India can ill-afford now or ever.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Of threats, fears, inaction...and America

31 January 2014 | Dr. Arindam on Indian Economy

Joseph R. Biden Jr. just became the first US Vice President to visit India in three decades. While India considers this to be a proof of its popularity and widespread influence, there is The People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) proving us all wrong. PLA crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) into India for the nth time this year alone! That China is bullying India has become more a common headline these days – and during a time when India is busy with some ineffective verbal tactics to cajole and persuade its adamant, powerful neighbour. But all along, we’ve seen China adopting the carrot and stick approach while dealing with our nation. How have we reacted? Actually, the more pertinent question is – have we?
History stands testimony to the fact that India – more often than not – chooses to sit back and take the blow (or many blows-after-many!) than being proactive in its foreign policy. Is there a wiser justification to the fact that even a much smaller (and weaker perhaps) State like Pakistan has dared to wage war with us as many as four times in the last 65 years. Today, it even executes terror acts in our country. Still our authorities choose to remain still and silent! And presently, with great camaraderie between China and Pakistan, the two foreign forces are working hard to make their fellowship count – against their common neighbor. The two have in recent times only magnified India’s external and internal security concerns! China isn’t just the only culprit – Pakistan is enjoying giving the “poke” too. If China has shown disregard for the sanctity of LAC, Pakistan is flouting cross-border ethics in Chimur & Ladakh.
That the United States is increasingly feeling the heat from China – whose ambition clearly is to eclipse US as a global geopolitical and economic superpower – is a fact unknown to only a few. Under such a circumstance, US wants to cook a potion to neutralise the Chinese poison. There is also deep resentment in America regarding Pakistan, as time and again it has come to public light that the country covertly works against the interest of US and its people. From giving shelter to Osama bin Laden to becoming a haven for a host of small and large, organized and unorganised terror groups, like the Haqqani network (that engages in war against US-led NATO forces and the govt. of Afghanistan and is said to have support from influential elements within the Pakistani security establishment), US is increasingly finding Pakistan an unmanageable rogue State.
Joe Biden’s visit to India is therefore to drive home the point (to PM Manmohan Singh and Co.) that US wants to “rebalance” its position in Asia, under the prospect of rapidly changing political and economic scenario in the region. That Biden’s visit came close to the heels of another visit by an American statesman (John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, who discussed on diplomacy, economy and environment) is sign enough that American lords are not completely pleased with the balance of power in the Asian arena. They want something to change. And fast.
It is clear that US is putting special emphasis on India as a growing power in Asia and encouraging it to play a bigger role in shaping US’ interests in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. What is paradoxical about India’s (foreign policy) ideology is that while on one hand the nation is expressing concerns to US that the exit of NATO from Afghanistan could quickly tilt the balance of power back in favour of Taliban, on the other, American insistence of a bigger Indian role in the region is being met with avoidance! It is hard to understand the hesitation on the part of India to do so, except for the fact India perhaps doesn’t want to escalate its cost by doing so (and would rather concentrate on advancing its economy per se – a policy that US followed for a long time in the nineteenth and twentieth century till the Second World War). However, the difference in geopolitical dynamics lies in the fact that US was not threatened from outside like India is at present. If we allow Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan and they resume exporting terrorism – the cost incurred thus in preventing and repairing the losses would be much higher.
As for China, its efforts to control the waters of the Indian Ocean can be countered by India, with help from US, as the Americans themselves are hell bent to give one back to China as a restraining tactic. All South-Eastern and Far Eastern nations that surround the Chinese borders are growing increasingly insecure of China and are ready to befriend the Americans to meet their purposes. Countries like Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Japan are all American allies and the Obama administration is leaving no stone unturned to bring other neutral countries in the region that are feeling excessively threatened by and dissatisfied with China (like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) in its orbit of influence. Under such circumstances, India has the great opportunity to be on the right side of history by playing a meaningful role to combat its biggest adversary and a country that is proving to be portentous of great danger to India.
However, all geopolitical activism will come to naught if our economic performance slips. And that’s the second agenda of Biden’s current tour. He publicly expressed concerns over our economic condition to the Indian business elites in Mumbai. The excitement of American business delegates that accompanied George Bush and later Barack Obama has all but vanished as foreign investors currently face many impediments to investment, like high entry barriers, poor infrastructure, and unabated political corruption. Even PM Manmohan Singh acknowledged the slowing down of our economy (to Biden) and just before his visit, the union government allowed a number of pro-reform measures like 100 per cent FDI in telecom, 49 per cent FDI in defense and passage of the Food Security Bill. However, with an eye on General Elections next year, it will be difficult for the UPA government to curb populist welfare measures, thereby further worsening the already disappointing state of our current account and fiscal deficits.
Indian neutrality is all welcome. That has been the case since 1947. India maintained its non-aligned status with both US and USSR. But even then, India had the support of the Soviet Union. Now, as we enter the second half of 2013, with a new world order emerging, India should enter a new phase of friendship with the United States, whilst maintaining its independence and sovereignty.
A lighthearted rapport with America may help India ward off many an evil eye that stare at its borders and threaten its national security. Shaking America’s hand on the basis of mutual trust could even help improve India’s economic and social state. Question is – how pure should this spirit of familiarity and fellowship with America be?

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

How the cause of humanity never appeals to Americans, while war mongering comes naturally!

31 January 2014 | Dr. Arindam on Indian Economy

I had been quite upset over the completely politically motivated Oscar award for the Best Picture to a rank ordinary, non thrilling, slow paced, average film called Argo, specially in the year when Lincoln was released, and Django Unchained – with its heart in a similar place and with film making par excellence – was released! So when a friend of mine suggested to me that we watch a slightly older film called Charlie Wilson’s War, saying that it was based on a true CIA operations story, I was least interested. I thought that it was one of those films that had been again made to lobby for American ‘heroism’ at the cost of putting another nation down. I couldn’t have been wronger. After seeing the movie, I wondered how I had missed this gem when it was released! Never too late I guess.
Charlie Wilson was an American Congressman (elected 11 times from Texas to the US House of Representatives, from 1972 till 1996) who became the first civilian to be decorated with the Honored Colleague Award by the CIA. He had achieved no less a feat. Almost single-handedly, this man could be credited with bringing an end to the Cold War era and the breaking down of erstwhile USSR (Yes, he was also unabashedly a party loving, womanising Congressman – but he made no bones about it or about hiding the fact).
The film is about how, in less than a decade – starting early 80s when USSR invaded Afghanistan brutally – Charlie Wilson influenced the CIA budget for covert operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan to support the Mujahideen forces and increased the same from a mere 5 million dollars to 10 million dollars initially, and then subsequently to 20, then to 40, then 100, then again to 250, to 500 and finally to a billion dollars! And that, mind you, is what they officially accepted! And all this money was to be used to paradrop high end arms to the common men and boys of Afghanistan so that they could fight the mighty USSR and defeat them! And they did! By firing down hundreds of Russian fighter jets and blowing off almost as many Russian tanks with handheld bombers and high-end guns! Of course, the rest, as they say, is history! The mighty USSR conceded defeat and pulled out of Afghanistan, the Berlin wall came down and USSR broke down!
The reason I wrote about it all is not to explain how America won the Cold War! It’s about what happened post that! The CIA operative who gave all the knowhow to Charlie Wilson, on how to beat the Russians, tells him post the victory that the biggest mistake now would be to leave Afghanistan ravaged. Young boys would go back to find their homes destroyed and families killed. He insisted that America build schools and health facilities and rebuild the country before leaving. Charlie went back to the Senate to ask for funds for building schools in Afghanistan. Of course, this time he asked for a meagre one million dollars! Yes, you read it right! Just one million. Imagine the comparison – one billion to ravage the nation, but just one million to rebuild it! Shockingly, the Committee rejected his proposal, commenting, “Who cares about schools in ‘Pakistan’...”. Yes, Charlie did counter that it was “Afghanistan” he was talking about which won the war, and not “Pakistan”. But the committee was dismissive about it with a “Yeah... whatever” attitude! Charlie himself wrote subsequently, “Yes, it was a great war... A great feeling... But at the end, we screwed it all up!” What he didn’t write was that at the end of the war, they created Osama bin Laden!
Yes, that’s exactly what had to happen when a country was left devastated with high quality arms in the hands of the common man and the knowhow of where to get it all from, but without access to education, health and livelihood! There is, of course, no doubt that the most ever wanted terrorist on Earth was a creation of the Americans. What, however, amuses me is the unbelievable lack of heart and humanity in American policies! They have now done the same in Iraq and again in Afghanistan – left these countries devastated and bleeding! And this time, the cost of war has been one humongous trillion dollars!!! I remember, when I was a child, my father used to say that it amused him no ends how Americans in the 1960s had spent 32 billion dollars on the war in Vietnam to keep it away from swerving towards communism, whereas the reality was that nobody should have cared if one literally invisible country took to communism! The same money could have been poured into India; and India would have become a developed nation and would have never moved towards communism (those days, with India’s proximity to USSR, the fear of India eventually taking up the communist ideology was real).
And that’s exactly what I wonder today! 600 billion dollars would be good not just to remove health and education problems from India but to make it a nation with a living standard comparable to Chinese living standards! Another 400 billion would do the same magic not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but additionally, the whole of Africa put together! Yes, that could have been the alternate use of this one trillion dollars! And it would have benefitted the Americans far more. War benefits only their arms industry and of course it helps them capture oil! But an alternate investment plan to develop Africa and India would have meant another five uninterrupted decades of boom for their entire economy! For more purchasing power here in the hands of these two huge land masses would mean more sales of Coca Cola, Apple and Chevrolets etcetera! For years to come! War mongering, it seems, comes naturally to Americans than spreading peace, love and humanity! These are huge strategic blunders and I only hope humanism soon prospers in capitalist nations. That’s the only way to global peace.

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DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

From Connecticut to Wisconsin to Aurora to Virginia: The American gun culture is a natural by-product of mindless capitalism

15 December 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

Connecticut was just a name to me, till a lecture tour of American business schools earlier this year took me to Harvard Business School. My school time best friend, Shiladitya Ray, was living in Connecticut and insisted I must take a day off and come to visit him. So I took a flight to New York and drove down to the beautiful and postcard like scenic, wooded town in Connecticut - Sandy Hook, Newtown to be precise. We were meeting after two decades so the meeting was great and that's when I also heard of Sandy Hook Elementary School, his son was studying there. When I got up today morning in India and read about the tragic US shooting, the names just killed me. An instant message to Shiladitya and some normalcy returned upon hearing his son was safe. The tragedy however became no less, he had lost some friends and the world lost a lot of faith in humanity.
I had written this after the Virginia Tech shootout and the Wisconsin shootout, and I write again – capitalism is a great slave, but a pathetic master. This truth unfortunately gets lost in our chase for that elusive dream... especially in America, the land that has been marketed as the land of dreams – the Great American Dream. It’s the dream of being independent masters of our lives, the dream of making big bucks and the dream of being happy – even if that happiness is being bought by money, which all of them chase out there. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comfort aplenty. It has upped the living standard of its average citizen to an extent that it stands amongst the highest – even if that is a result of more than 200 years of unbridled growth and exploitation. Thus, the shop window of Americanism looks lucidly attractive; you’ve got all of them standing there – from Bill Gates to Michael Dell – in Tommy Hilfigers and Ralph Laurens! And that is what has made the rest of the world mindlessly chase Americanism, not necessarily happiness or an ideal form of society. All because the shop window looks very impressive and it has been marketed very well.
What goes unseen and almost unheard is that America also happens to be the land that is right amongst the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, the number of single-parent families per thousand, the number of old people in old-age homes, the number of rape cases per million, the number of suicides, homicides, and of course, the number of college/school shootouts... And why not! After all, in a society where ‘what you are’ is equal to ‘what you have’ plus ‘what you consume’, the only way to achieve more is to have and consume more (That’s why we call the US a consumerist society, and its culture, consumerism), and therefore, be constantly driven towards higher profits and materialism. Expectably, this materialism comes at a cost that the world is paying today. The interesting thing about material things is that they only give an illusion of happiness; and even such happiness always is momentary in nature. Ergo, at this juncture, after buying your new car or flat-screen TV, you feel you are the happiest person in the world; and just a few days later, these are the very possessions that cease to make you happy, because you are already thinking of a bigger car or a bigger TV. While you chase the bigger car to become larger than life in order to be happier, you sacrifice those that have the maximum power to make you happy –family, emotions and love. Prolonged abstinence in employing emotions finally destroys them; and you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry-eyed moron (Yes! America also happens to be the land that has the maximum number of dry-eyed people). And then, while chasing never ending desires, one day you are left alone... probably divorced, without children, and in an old-age home (Even if not exactly that, the situation is often closer to what I have described, than not). And suddenly, you realise that there is emptiness all around... and you land up in a Deepak Chopra workshop to find out the ‘real meaning’ of life – or whatever he is capable of explaining. But by then, it’s really too late.
By then, you have made profits out of arms, and engineered wars to keep that industry alive. You’ve sold guns across counters at Wal-Mart and made more profits. You’ve lobbied that guns should be made accessible to the common man, and all for the sake of profits. You’ve created an end result of a society increasingly becoming devoid of emotions; not a society where man was born with all the natural traits of love, bonding and emotions, but a society which has succeeded in making one fall prey to the idea of greater happiness through endless materialism, by making one appreciate the bombing of countries and killing of millions, because the profits from the war would help accumulate more materialistic assets... This is the society that finally creates emotionless monsters, who get satisfaction in killing innocent students in a campus, movie watchers in a cinema hall and shockingly even families, children at a Sikh gurdwara and most painfully even in an elementary school. A country with so many single-parent families and divorces can neither bring up its children any better, nor influence the Adam Lanza the Connecticut murderer or the Wisconsin gurdwara massacre madcap Wade Michael Page with a 9/11 tattoo on his hand, or James Eagan Holmes – the retard behind the Dark Knight Rises massacre – any worse.
Yes, bad laws stemming out of the material system are also responsible. Thankfully and finally more and more Americans are blaming such incidents on weak anti-gun laws of the state. After all Adam Lanza got access to all the three guns from his mother, Nancy Lanza (also killed by her son) who had legally bought all the guns, despite being just an elementary school teacher. The US ban on assault weapons expired in 2004! Among 50 states of US, around 44 states currently have provisions allowing civilians to own guns in accordance with the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Second Amendment, adopted on December 15, 1791, is the right of US citizens to possess firearms. Sweden is another nation, where a string of 19 unresolved shooting incidents has stirred concerns, especially among immigrants. Sweden, like most Nordic countries, too has relatively relaxed gun control laws. Laws can certainly reduce the effects of mindless capitalism that creates such gun wielding monsters. United Kingdom, with strict laws in the course of the 20th century, sowed the seed of a lower gun culture. Their Firearms Act, through various amendments, has totally banned automatic and self-loading guns from public possession. On the other hand, the series of recent shooting incidents in the US has driven pro-gun lobbyists to argue that concealed weapons must be allowed inside college campuses, with a lousy logic that people possessing guns are safer and are capable of self-defense. For records, more than 300,000 Americans have been killed in gun battles over the last decade. In most countries like Australia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, China, firearms for personal protection are not allowed; in Brazil, one can’t carry guns outside one’s home.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

When weapons are to be tested, the Gazas become the casualty!

29 November 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

Since time immemorial, the entire global media fraternity has been divided between Israel and Palestine. While on one hand, a set of media has been strongly supporting Israel, on the other, there has been as staunch a support for Palestine. Amidst all this, the debate still lingers – which one of the two, Israel or Palestine, is wrong? But then, how can one be right and how can the other be wrong? In other words, how can any one of them be right! Supporting any of these nations would essentially and fundamentally mean supporting the very doctrine of war. In no given circumstance has a war been the appropriate route to a solution! Thus, the very discussion of which country is wrong or right gets futile, if one were to view the entirety of the situation through the lens of humanity.
War, has always – especially in recent history – been a tool to display a nation’s military might. It is a way of flaunting newly developed state-of-the-art weaponries and defence technologies. War today provides a platform for selling arms in the open market. It is very easy to deceive the world during any war and to shift global focus from the actual objectives. When United States invades a minnow like Afghanistan or Iraq, the spotlight is shrewdly thrown on perspectives like the clash of civilizations, terrorism, imposing democracy, or removing a tyrant. The majority never notice the underlying and the real reason behind the invasion – to spur the global weapons trade market! Wars give opportunities to developed countries to test and showcase newly developed weapons.
Arms trade is a huge business and it is (and has perhaps always been) expanding globally at a breakneck speed – with the leading player in this space being United States, with its massive infrastructure of research and development of weapons, that invariably warrants rabid marketing and promotion for economic viability. Yes, that’s the word – there are no better promotional strategies for weapons than live demonstrations; and for implementation of the same, the US has been in the want of some scapegoat investees. What can be a better opportunity to display the might of weapons to potential buyers than during a war? Capitulating to that, almost all media channels across the world, 24x7, in their local languages, describe the destructive capacity of these weapons in their breaking news ‘war’ coverage. The result? Free global promotion, which otherwise would have cost millions and would have also come under huge global criticism!
The desperation of American arms manufacturers to test new weapons is evident from the fact that US alone has more than 44 arms manufacturing companies with a combined sales amounting to more than $200 billion (as of 2007, per the SIPRI 2012 report) – more than the GDP of around 150 different nations! Lockheed Martin, one of the largest manufacturers of missiles and space artillery, alone sold arms worth $35,000 million in 2007, which, is seven times the GDP of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The same kind of weapon propaganda goes on unabated in the Gaza Strip, where Israel acts as a testing agent for US arms companies. And all these are not phenomena of the last two decades. Even during the 1960s, the experiments of the US war laboratory in Vietnam were compared to the belligerent and ghastly war crimes committed by the Nazis!
Israel’s bid to engineer the usage of experimental weapons in Gaza is gaining momentum. A weapon in vogue now is a shell containing white phosphorous, which causes terrible burn injuries when in contact with the skin. Under international law, phosphorous is considered as a chemical weapon when used against civilians – yet, Israel is using it, despite having come under an extensive barrage of criticism from international human rights groups. Israel maintains that its arsenal stocks are in compliance with international standards; but the phosphorous shells that it fires, is an anomaly to these claims. It must be mentioned here that the arms that Israel uses are either imported directly from the United States or are developed by independent American arms manufacturers or are built within Israel by a company, which invariably has stakes in/from a parent US weapon maker. For instance, the often used DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) by Israeli forces is one that was developed by the United States. The weapon is in its developmental stage and is being used in Gaza as a testing ground.
In the same light, Uncle Sam’s adventure in Iraq was a foreign mission deliberately designed to set up a living laboratory inside the country to test America’s weaponry improvement. For example, the marines deployed during the second Gulf War were endowed with a specific Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) that was tested against the feeble resistance of Iraq. Apart from LRAD, also in the queue was the Active Denial System that was tested during the Iraq war. Some of the other lethal weapons tested on Baghdad civilians and those in other parts of Iraq were e-bombs, sensor fused weapons, agent defeat bombs and laser weapons. All these weapons were lethal and sometimes were even banned by international human rights groups (one example is the laser weapon, which was banned in 1995). Similarly, built by the General Atomic Aeronautical Systems in January 1994, the much-touted drones, which are being sold across the world now, were first tested in the Balkans. And by 1995, these intelligence gathering unmanned vehicles (UAV) were doing surveillance work over the skies of Bosnia. They were also tested later in the skies of Kosovo; and by 2001, the Predator drones were equipped with Hellfire missiles and got deployed even in places like Yemen as assassination weapons. However, these unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs for short, became famous in the weapons market only after they displayed their destructive might in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.
Whenever the US and other developed nations are ready with a fleet of weapons that needs to be tested, they create an Iraq, Afghanistan, or even a Gaza. War today has morphed into a testing ground for weapons, from where the great arms trade begins! It all started decades ago… and continues as Gaza burns!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Lessons on inner-party democracy from the American elections

15 November 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

Today, India is at a critical juncture with all socio-economic as well as political ills engulfing the nation from almost all possible directions. Starting from a series of bribery scams that are being exposed, to our plummeting ranks in almost all economic indicators – everything corroborates the hope for the rise of a fourth front (considering the third front still exists and is potent) in the form of Arvind Kejriwal’s political debut with India Against Corruption, along with an emerging coterie of social activists, who are gradually morphing the political landscape and are all collectively reshaping the political couture of the nation.
Without even an iota of apprehension, Kejriwal has been able to create a wave of passion and excitement among common Indians for a probable better political future. Through his campaign against political parties and leaders, he has been instrumental in giving a vent to the pent up anger of the public against the corrupt, inefficient and slothful political outfits. However, the top brass of such parties can get their feet wet and get away with it, because even today, there is a dearth of intra-party democracy in almost all political parties in India. This very opacity guards the elite big bosses of the parties, who thus can never be replaced from their esteemed chairs, which eventually provides an incubation environment to corruption, favouritism and intra-party dictatorship. The most potent example of such perceived bravado is the Indian National Congress’s obsession with the Nehru-Gandhi family, whose grip on the party is absolute. Therefore, despite the Congress party and their allies getting embroiled in one expose’ after another involving multibillion bucks, no eyebrows are raised and no fingers are pointed against its leadership from within. None of the Congress members have ever demanded explanations or enquires for the series of scams. The same is true for almost all political parties, except a few... in fact, except too few – which again is a temporary phenomenon. The dictatorial and dynastic rule of political parties is endemic to India; it is just the baton that gets passed from generation to generation.
The root cause for such a contest of attrition of democracy is that our Constitution does not enforce a structure for inner-party democracy and does not account for the fact that the electorate should have the right to choose the leader of every political party. This very loophole of our Constitution is undermined and exploited by almost every political party, who treat their fiefdom as a new business venture to stash up piles of cash and benefit their personal interest. Consequently, the recruitment and development of party members are not based on competencies but rather on loyalty and lobbying. The sycophancy syndrome is most potent with the INC, where they pamper the Gandhi family to the extent of shamelessness. Who can forget the former president Gyani Zail Singh who once said that if Indira Gandhi were to order him to sweep the floors, he would gladly do so with a broom! The same goes for most in the rank and file of the party. Their endless flaws are overlooked in return for their loyalty towards the Nehru-Gandhi family. While INC’s sycophancy is renowned, BJP is no saint either. The leadership at the top has had their lineup loyalists who have been tolerated, nurtured and profited by their respective leaders. Here, candidates are ‘selected’, not ‘elected’. One who is closer to the supreme leader of the party or adds to the party’s coffers is generally raised up the ladder, and not the one who is competent and liked by the party members or the electorate – clearly, a completely non-democratic way of choosing a party member to contest a so-called democratic election.
This is in sharp contrast to the US political system, where, in a transparent and prudent manner, the Presidential candidates are elected by the electorate based on their policies, agenda and brinkmanship. It spells out the continuance of the American dream and why Americans are proud of their democracy, which is par excellence compared to ours. Their election system of deciding on the right candidate is not only empowering the electorate, but also empowering the grassroots level workers, who are the torchbearers of both participatory and populist cultures. They can even discuss and influence party policies to an extent unheard of in India and most other developing nations. The three nationally televised debates between Obama and Romney shaped the final public perception towards them; and such a debate is indubitably the most democratic way of laying one’s claim towards presidency – and giving in to the public to cast their final choice.
It is difficult to understand why such a level playing ground is not created in India’s political structure! Sometimes, even the prime ministerial candidate is not announced before the elections, keeping the electorate in the dark! The eulogy of Obama’s victory notwithstanding, India has every reason to learn a thing or two from America about how partisan battles are fought in a country’s election. Comprehending the importance of party-transparency, China (a country infamous for its non-democratic setup) has adopted an open-cadre system for selecting party members and is promoting intra-party democracy since the last one decade. Similarly, the electoral process is quite transparent and clean in Europe, with corruption, scams and scandals even lower than those in US! That’s because in the peaceful, prosperous and impeccably literate European nations, the electorate will not tolerate tainted and crooked leaders to run the show, quite unlike India.
India is not Europe; it differs substantially in terms of size, population density, demographics, education and income levels. Here, the political elite remain in power as long as they want; and thus, more is the chance of oligarchic strains appearing with time. For example, Jawaharlal Nehru ruled for 17 years and Indira Gandhi for 11 years. A Constitutional curb to the tenure of the President/Prime Minister – similar to the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, which limits the number of years (to eight) that a single person can hold the Presidential post – would halt this phenomenon and drive a leader genuinely towards working for the public. Too much power in the hands of one or two individuals can upset the balance of power and set the ball rolling towards the Great Indian Loot – as has been the case for India, which has been mired by one after the other deals involving union ministers, bureaucrats and big businesses. That is why most countries of the world – even those including the banana republics in Africa and Asia (like Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan) – have enacted tenure limits in their respective constitutions. While Burundi and Sierra Leone have a cap of two five-year terms, Rwanda has a cap of two seven-year terms. The new democracies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, post scrapping their Soviet era political systems, too have restrictions in the tenures of their heads of state.
If that is the norm, and justifiably so, then the lack of a term limit in India is indeed standing in the way of a very efficient and challenge-free democracy in India. The tenure limit should be clubbed with an age cap as well – so that young, energetic and idealist leaders with fresh ideas can chip in and make a mark, similar to the expectations that surround the likes of Arvind Kejriwal. Those like Atal Bihari Vajpayee or even Jyoti Basu of West Bengal were almost bedridden in their final days in office. That is a liability for any government and for the country as a whole! The benchmark should be the likes of John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton or even Barack Obama who infused fresh verve into the social, economic and political system of America with their respective doses of great leadership. For a nation to steer towards real democracy, this very dichotomy of incubating a non-democratic party setup in a democratic system must be instantly and constitutionally erased. Or else, the electorate of the nation would keep electing parties and not visionaries!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Now, The Americans want to shamefully ruin Iran through sanctions

12 January 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

Woodrow Wilson once said that, “A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender. Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force. It is a terrible remedy. It does not cost a life outside the nation boycotted, but it brings a pressure upon the nation which, in my judgment, no modern nation could resist.” Rebutting the same, decades later, Omar Bongo, former President of Gabon, argued against the use sanctions, commenting, “...It is important to observe that when Europe or the United Nations impose sanctions that are supposed to be aimed against a certain regime, usually millions of people end up being directly punished.” With time, the very objective of sanctions has undergone a full transformation – today, sanctions are used mostly for strategic gains than anything else.
The United States and its allies (particularly Israel) are closing in on Iran! With a thumping majority (100-0), the US Senate last month approved sanctions prohibiting foreign financial institutions from undertaking any business with the Central Bank of Iran. After a series of sanctions that have been regularly imposed on and off, the US government’s latest sanctions against Iran (signed into law by US President Obama on December 31, 2011, as a part of the act titled H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012”) are clearly the strictest ever. In his official statement on H.R. 1540, available at the White House website, Obama uses the word ‘military’ 14 times, with ‘defense’ being used only 9 times – this makes the aim of the law very evident! For records, more than 15 sanctions have been imposed on Iran till date!
Post the latest set of sanctions, the Iranian national currency – Rial – immediately lost its value by almost 15-20 per cent and is currently being exchanged at its lowest-ever rate of around 17,000-17,500 Rials to a dollar. The sanctions curtail other countries too from buying Iranian crude oil. The US through the latest sanctions can also debar parties that are trading with the Central Bank of Iran from having correspondent banking operations in the United States.
The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) has been passed by President Obama with an ensured funding of $662 billion that apart from imposing sanctions on Iran will also review Iran’s military capabilities. This is of utmost importance in case US plans to wage a war against Iran in the near future! Not surprisingly, all this is amalgamated with one of NDAA’s main objectives – which is to ensure energy security of NATO.
The most audacious part of the Act is that NDAA has unilaterally slapped these sanctions in such a manner that it can impose penalties on any third party that dares to trade with the Iranian Central Bank! The official aim of this sanction, as cited by the US administration, is very basic, yet highly tactical – Iran’s revenue streams are expected to be stifled, and consequently Iran is expected to have no money to advance its nuclear program! However, such a reasoning seems silly and juvenile! How on the earth would US be able to strangle Iran from achieving its nuclear ambition when they have gloriously failed in the past to deter even poor and impoverished countries like North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, in spite of imposing several sanctions on these nations? The situation may soon boil up to a scenario that resembles the implication of Iraq in the 1990s. Failing to ruin Iraq through sanctions, US ultimately resorted to war.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not the first time that America has targeted Iran. On June 9, 2010, the Obama administration had slapped extremely hard sanctions on Iran; banning the delivery of major military equipment to Iran and prohibiting international financial and asset transactions of Iranian corporations. In fact, Iran is not the lone target of America in the region as Syria has been party to the NATO’s ire and has been facing sanctions since 1986. A month and a half ago, the European Union and United States imposed new and renewed sanctions on Syria on the ground of suppression of its rebels, but interestingly remained silent on the same kind of repression in Yemen and Bahrain!
US has always imposed sanctions and embargoes on the pretext of national security and eventually invaded the target nations after making them economically and politically weak. Iraq has been a crying example of the same. And in Iran’s case, neither has US been able to prove any negative use of the atomic and nuclear facilities that Iran possesses (the International Atomic Energy Agency has no concrete evidence against Iran), nor were they ever able to prove the presence of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) some years back in Iraq. The entire fable created around WMDs in Iraq ended with a mere apology from America’s end.
As a matter of fact, the perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudi and Pakistani nationals. Pakistan is internationally infamous for harbouring numerous terror groups and was shamefully responsible for providing sanctuary to even Osama Bin Laden. But neither Saudi Arabia nor Pakistan had to face sanctions post 9/11 like those being faced by Iran. Reason? They have been following US diktats word by word! And the lesser said about Taliban, the better for the US, as it’s quite well accepted that the Taliban has been America’s own creation.
The US trade embargo against Cuba is five decades old and was described as “ineffective and detrimental” by Obama himself in September 2010. Pakistan also did face military sanctions much before by the US (a 15 year embargo that ran from 1990 to 2005 on the sale of F-16 fighter/bomber aircraft); but that didn’t deter the country from purchasing weapons from elsewhere. In similar lines, sanctions have had results quite opposite the objectives for which they were enacted. Human rights abuse and societal demotion were strongly visible in nations like South Africa (faced sanctions between 1960s-1970s), Haiti (1990-1994), Iraq (1990-2003) and the former Yugoslavia (1992) and went against the very objective of the sanctions that aimed at protecting of human rights. The arms embargo imposed on South Africa (during the 1960s) was also found to be counter-productive. The then Pretoria regime responded to the sanctions by developing a large-scale domestic weapons industry called Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor). Similarly, the sanctions on Yugoslavia didn’t prevent the Bosnian war and eventually pushed the nation into poverty and destitution.
The sanctions on the so called rogue nations like Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, or North Korea have added only to the miseries of their impoverished citizens rather than trouble the government. Sanctions could not overthrow any government anywhere in the world, especially in modern political history. Be it Milosevic of Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussain of Iraq or Taliban controlled Afghanistan. In these cases, NATO had to resort to war to achieve its goals. As I mentioned, the only victims of sanctions have been innocent citizens. Almost one million Iraqis died on account of sanctions between 1991 and 2001! Post Cold War sanctions have accounted for more deaths than the numbers that have died because of WMDs throughout history! Ironically, it has also been observed that most of the time, the regimes targeted by sanctions actually become stronger (during the period of sanctions) through corruption, black marketing, illegal arms trade, political lobbying and smuggling.
There are many more cases that can be pointed out. US and its allies are almost aloof to various dictatorial and oppressive regimes like those in Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Swaziland, Somalia and many more, especially the North African and oil-rich nations. For the uninitiated, US has vested interests related to trade and oil in these nations. It has imposed some sort of sanctions on Zimbabwe but more because of UK’s insistence as the British expatriates were being persecuted there!
Never have sanctions reaped any of the desired results. The concept of sanctions dates back to 431 BC when Athens imposed a ‘Megarian’ sanction on Megar. Eventually, this led to the infamous and prolonged Peloponnesian war. A study by the Institute for International Economics (IIE) in 2003 revealed that sanctions have only succeeded 33 per cent of the time globally. In 2010, the IIE extended their research and empirically proved that US had achieved its foreign policy objectives only in 13 per cent of the cases (where it imposed sanctions) between 1970 and 1997! This is despite the fact that US has been the frontrunner in the sanction imposing race. Since 1995, US has imposed around 90 economic sanctions on other countries. US had also slapped sanctions against India and Pakistan following their nuclear tests but subsequently lifted them as their strategic interest was not being met with the sanctions. Anyway, the lifting of sanctions in South Asia is more to free Pakistan than for India! In the post 9/11 era, US needed Pakistan’s help in fighting terror emanating from Afghanistan, and waiver of the said sanctions was the incentive, which subsequently led to huge military aid from the US to Pakistan (aid that was eventually used for sponsoring terrorism against India).
Without the slightest doubt, the current sanctions against Iran are going to hurt not only Iran but other nations too. China, India, and a considerable part of Europe would face a dearth in oil supplies; apart from these nations, even other nations that have significant bilateral and multilateral ties with Iran will face much difficulties during trade. Iran’s main means of sustenance is oil revenue, which supports more than half of its annual budget, as per figures revealed by IMF! By the end of July 2011, the annual revenues earned in Iran from oil exceeded $56 billion, as reported by the US Energy Department. Undoubtedly, the US interest in Iran is driven purely by oil – otherwise, they wouldn’t have made so much of a hue and cry for a regime change. A US-backed puppet government would make it easier for the US to redirect oil to their nation. Sounds quite similar to the Iraq and Afghanistan saga, doesn’t it?
US defense secretary Leon Panetta himself has admitted that Iran is not making a nuclear bomb yet! But given the double standards that US follows and political objectives they hide behind a hypocritical veil, Iran can’t expect a fate better than what was meted out to Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, after ruining Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is all set to capture Iran’s oil wealth. After all, all major OPEC nations are under their control... Well, all except Iran. But then, this move of Obama would never be easy, as politically and economically, Iran has much better resilience than other similarly placed nations. America should not underestimate Iran’s dedication to its self-respect, its courage to battle alone and its defiance against the might of NATO, just to protect its sovereignty.
A war or even a sanction at this point of time would ruin the US economy as well – something that happened post the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All in all, Obama should not forget that in such situations, a winner loses more than the loser! But then, for oil, clearly there seems to be no difference between Obama and George Bush.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

America's Great Game and the shameful ruin of Syria

06 September 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

First it was Afghanistan, then Iraq, after that it was Libya and now Syria! The targets of US intervention in the civil war of the Middle East are never ending. The US supported (first clandestinely and then openly) the separatist movement in Syria and a civil war in full swing has been the result, a war that has brought with it violent confrontations between President Assad and his Islamist population. Sowing the seeds of instigation have been the hawks of American foreign policy like Fouad Ajami and many more (for the uninitiated, Fouad Ajami – advisor to the former United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as well as close aide and associate of Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defence and lead architect of the Iraq war – had been a staunch supporter of the Iraq war)! And now, America is playing the same game in its war cry against Syria. If the Iraq war were to be a benchmark, then we clearly know that there is practically no repentance in the American establishment towards the destruction of Iraq, which was essentially carried out under a false pretext of Saddam Hussein allegedly possessing weapons of mass destruction – in fact the war was justified and defended in Washington, not even considering the fact whether Bush had the moral right to issue such a decree to attack another nation. In the same lines, America brought its one-time friend Libya literally to ruins by aiding the rebels against the government.
In politics, they say, history repeats itself! In July last year, by a 326-90 vote, the US senate passed a critical military spending bill, thereon allocating more than $600 billion for defence and military purposes. The bill specifically allocated money for training the US military for war with Iran. Furthermore, the bill included specific plans on mobilization of fighter aircraft, arms & ammunitions for war against Iran by all possible routes viz. sea and air.
Within a month after the military spending bill was passed, Obama ordered a new and highly incisive war strategy, which had its roots in this bill. Obama signed a secret order that empowered the US army to help Syrian rebels against the Assad government. This order will also allow CIA, in particular, to aid the rebels with all sorts of tools and techniques (including arms and resources) to fight Assad’s regime. To put it in better words, it would allow rebels to augment their revolt to a level of full-fledged war, of course with full support from America. US has now forced even its so-called fair weather allies – namely Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many more – to help these rebels in all possible ways they can.
A New York Times report reveals thatCIA is now actively facilitating arms and weapons transfer to Syria via Turkey, which not only is adding fuel to the on-going friction but is also making the entire revolt extremely violent and tragic. This may force the current regime to use deadly weapons against the rebels, which in turn would act as a veil for the West to intervene and eventually declare a full-fledged war against the country. A UN report found out recently that war crimes and atrocities were being committed not only by the Syrian forces but also equally by the rebels; clearly, the war is playing exactly according to the tunes that America wanted. It finally doesn’t matter how the war escalates; as long as it does, America would have a justification for Iraq part II.
Interestingly, a broken Syria will fulfill America’s 2013 Iran war ambition too. With Syria’s collapse, Iran would be left isolated in the region and would have virtually no support. This very war would weaken Iran, a country that has been pushing for a new front in the northern tier of Middle East along with Syria and Lebanon; and these three countries would have been the key players in the region, which is the one of the leading reasons that has made America act against Assad.
Interestingly, ‘safety zones’ and ‘no-fly zones’ have already been created in Syria by United States, which is evocative of the run-up to the second Gulf war that flattened Iraq. The building blocks of military strikes are increasing with each passing day. Even though farsighted voices inside US are advising the establishment to withdraw from the region, the Obama administration in its desperate bid to win the November Presidential election would try to win some brownie points from its electorate by removing the perceived ‘villain’ in Syria.
Moving further, the reasons for America’s (and its allies) interest in Syria’s war is not confined to chopping up Iran but also includes their greed in expanding their ownership over oil and gas reserves. A recent US Geological Survey found around 100 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the Levant Basin which interestingly also covers Syria. No other country, except for Syria, could have created issues for US and its allies if they were to indulge in energy exploration in the above mentioned basin. Thus, it becomes far more important to America that Syria be controlled by a puppet government that follows American diktats to the tee. For records, US has already imposed sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act over the Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol, which apparently supplied fuel to Iran in the recent past! With Hillary Clinton openly meeting the so-called Syrian ‘opposition’ leaders in Istanbul in August 2012 and claiming that she was already planning for Assad’s ‘departure’, it’s a no-brainer how shamefully entrenched America wishes to be in Syria’s – and the Middle East’s – future governance.
As I mentioned earlier, if one traces back in time, everything that is happening in Syria is simply a rehash of the way that Libya and Iraq were destroyed, with leaders of both countries ignominiously dead. Almost a decade back, US attacked Iraq to overthrow the corrupt government and later installed a dummy pro-American government – today, America has a complete control over the entire oil reserve of Iraq. Similarly, it is exploiting Libya in all possible ways it can. And we’ve not even touched the topic of Afghanistan in all this. Is Syria too facing the American wrath because of the huge oil and energy reserves that its geography encompasses? Of course yes.
But in all this, American might end up paying a heavy price for their proxy wars in the Middle East. If US attacks Syria, chances are that Iran might get involved too. In that case, in a frantic bid to defend itself, Syria – or even Iran for that matter – can use chemical, biological or even other weapons of mass destruction that would cast disaster in the Middle East. And if the US openly starts a full-fledged war with Syria, Iran will have full justification to openly seek the nuclear weapons armament route. With the recent NAM summit showing open support to Iran and opposition to America, Iran has shown that it’s no spring chicken when it comes to international diplomacy. So America’s war with Syria clearly could be a self-defeating one with no solution of any problem in sight. With American establishment spokespersons increasing their threats to newer levels in August and September, the probability of US openly attacking Syria has increased to levels never seen before. America cannot be allowed to attack Syria! It’s not just entities like NAM, but entities like EU and UN which must immediately act against US. The world must stand together to halt Uncle Sam in its dangerous aggression right now.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

How the cause of humanity never appeals to Americans, while war mongering comes naturally!

25 April 2013 |Dr. Arindam On America

I had been quite upset over the completely politically motivated Oscar award for the Best Picture to a rank ordinary, non thrilling, slow paced, average film called Argo, specially in the year when Lincoln was released, and Django Unchained – with its heart in a similar place and with film making par excellence – was released! So when a friend of mine suggested to me that we watch a slightly older film called Charlie Wilson’s War, saying that it was based on a true CIA operations story, I was least interested. I thought that it was one of those films that had been again made to lobby for American ‘heroism’ at the cost of putting another nation down. I couldn’t have been wronger. After seeing the movie, I wondered how I had missed this gem when it was released! Never too late I guess.
Charlie Wilson was an American Congressman (elected 11 times from Texas to the US House of Representatives, from 1972 till 1996) who became the first civilian to be decorated with the Honored Colleague Award by the CIA. He had achieved no less a feat. Almost single-handedly, this man could be credited with bringing an end to the Cold War era and the breaking down of erstwhile USSR (Yes, he was also unabashedly a party loving, womanising Congressman – but he made no bones about it or about hiding the fact).
The film is about how, in less than a decade – starting early 80s when USSR invaded Afghanistan brutally – Charlie Wilson influenced the CIA budget for covert operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan to support the Mujahideen forces and increased the same from a mere 5 million dollars to 10 million dollars initially, and then subsequently to 20, then to 40, then 100, then again to 250, to 500 and finally to a billion dollars! And that, mind you, is what they officially accepted! And all this money was to be used to paradrop high end arms to the common men and boys of Afghanistan so that they could fight the mighty USSR and defeat them! And they did! By firing down hundreds of Russian fighter jets and blowing off almost as many Russian tanks with handheld bombers and high-end guns! Of course, the rest, as they say, is history! The mighty USSR conceded defeat and pulled out of Afghanistan, the Berlin wall came down and USSR broke down!
The reason I wrote about it all is not to explain how America won the Cold War! It’s about what happened post that! The CIA operative who gave all the knowhow to Charlie Wilson, on how to beat the Russians, tells him post the victory that the biggest mistake now would be to leave Afghanistan ravaged. Young boys would go back to find their homes destroyed and families killed. He insisted that America build schools and health facilities and rebuild the country before leaving. Charlie went back to the Senate to ask for funds for building schools in Afghanistan. Of course, this time he asked for a meagre one million dollars! Yes, you read it right! Just one million. Imagine the comparison – one billion to ravage the nation, but just one million to rebuild it! Shockingly, the Committee rejected his proposal, commenting, “Who cares about schools in ‘Pakistan’...”. Yes, Charlie did counter that it was “Afghanistan” he was talking about which won the war, and not “Pakistan”. But the committee was dismissive about it with a “Yeah... whatever” attitude! Charlie himself wrote subsequently, “Yes, it was a great war... A great feeling... But at the end, we screwed it all up!” What he didn’t write was that at the end of the war, they created Osama bin Laden!
Yes, that’s exactly what had to happen when a country was left devastated with high quality arms in the hands of the common man and the knowhow of where to get it all from, but without access to education, health and livelihood! There is, of course, no doubt that the most ever wanted terrorist on Earth was a creation of the Americans. What, however, amuses me is the unbelievable lack of heart and humanity in American policies! They have now done the same in Iraq and again in Afghanistan – left these countries devastated and bleeding! And this time, the cost of war has been one humongous trillion dollars!!! I remember, when I was a child, my father used to say that it amused him no ends how Americans in the 1960s had spent 32 billion dollars on the war in Vietnam to keep it away from swerving towards communism, whereas the reality was that nobody should have cared if one literally invisible country took to communism! The same money could have been poured into India; and India would have become a developed nation and would have never moved towards communism (those days, with India’s proximity to USSR, the fear of India eventually taking up the communist ideology was real).
And that’s exactly what I wonder today! 600 billion dollars would be good not just to remove health and education problems from India but to make it a nation with a living standard comparable to Chinese living standards! Another 400 billion would do the same magic not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but additionally, the whole of Africa put together! Yes, that could have been the alternate use of this one trillion dollars! And it would have benefitted the Americans far more. War benefits only their arms industry and of course it helps them capture oil! But an alternate investment plan to develop Africa and India would have meant another five uninterrupted decades of boom for their entire economy! For more purchasing power here in the hands of these two huge land masses would mean more sales of Coca Cola, Apple and Chevrolets etcetera! For years to come! War mongering, it seems, comes naturally to Americans than spreading peace, love and humanity! These are huge strategic blunders and I only hope humanism soon prospers in capitalist nations. That’s the only way to global peace.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Russia is no Iraq and Putin is no Saddam...are we heading towards a revival of the cold war era?

30 December 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

The resounding victory of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in the recently held Duma elections was a sort of a referendum for Putin and his style of functioning for the last eight years. Putin, undoubtedly, has emerged a victor. His anointment of Dmitri Medvedev as the new Presidential candidate in next year’s elections also makes sure that the legacy of Putin and his policies are here to stay. This might be good news for Russia – and many of its allies – but certainly not for the US. With the disintegration of USSR in 1990s and the subsequent end to the Cold War, the world had gone through a dichotomy of feelings – relief on one hand, and paranoia on the other. Relief, because the end of the Cold War meant a virtual annihilation of a possible nuclear clash between the two giants (US and USSR). The sense of paranoia however persisted as the end of Cold War also meant that the world became unipolar with the US emerging as the sole superpower and entering into prolonged of war-mongering – something that they never dared to during the cold war era due to USSR’s categoric and strong stance against such imperialistic activities. For the rest of the world, therefore, peace was a by-product of Cold War. In fact, to sustain this current unipolar state, the US, through its foreign policies throughout the 90s, did everything possible to make sure that the new reincarnation of USSR – Russia – never stood on its feet again. On a parallel front, Russia’s prescribed form of liberalisation, privatisation of the state-owned enterprises and exchange rate policies, created a new generation of oligarchs who completely drained Russia of its resources. So while Russia bled, the rich oligarchs became richer through their organised racket, which kept on siphoning money from Russia. Fortunately though, all these came to a gradual halt and took an abrupt U-turn with the sudden ascent of Vladimir Putin, an erstwhile KGB spy. The Putin era marked the beginning of a virtual repair and overhaul of Russia to what it is today. To be honest, the resurgence of Russia has been nothing less than dramatic! From the verge of bankruptcy, this mercurial country literally came up to have a forex reserve of more than USD 300 billion in 2006 and annual FDI inflow of USD 30 billion plus in the same year. Russia’s external debt, which was its main concern, has also come down to less that 40% now, while the inflation has stabilised to less than 10%. All this has been possible because of Putin’s initiative to curb the downslide of Russia by strangulating the oligarchs and by giving a new lease of life to two of Russia’s major levers – arms and oil trade. It is through these two, along with a certain amount of export of metals, that Russia is trying to call the shots today. Piggy-backing mainly on these, the GDP is nearing a trillion dollars. But the ascent of Russia means that the rivalry, which was in hibernation for quite sometime, is well on its way back. While with many of the Central Asian countries – starting from Ukraine to Georgia (who are still woefully dependent on Russian gas to see them through the chilling winters) – Putin, has never missed an opportunity to play around with the gas prices, he has not even spared Western Europe on the same, adding to the displeasure of the US. Also, for the last few years, Russia has been only second to the US when it came to export of arms. No wonder, most of the sale of such weapons happened to states that are not too friendly to America. Be it Iran, Syria, Venezuela or China, Putin wholeheartedly supported them by essentially following the American philosophy of ‘business first’. Thus, with increasing GDP and economic leverage, came the effort to get back lost ground. Putin started making himself heard in most meetings of the UN Security Council or G-8. Racing against all opposition, Russia has also continued to supply uranium to Iran for its ‘civilian’ nuclear purposes. At the same time, American efforts to create Anti-Ballistic Missile shields in Poland and Czech Republic have further aggravated the tension between the two, as Putin sees this as an aggressive posture on the part of the Americans. The Russia-UK relationship has also hit an all-time low in many years. All this clearly indicates that Putin is aggressively trying to revive Russia’s lost glory. All this also means a beginning of a neo Cold War phase for the world at large. While Putin is not really an angel, after almost a decade and a half of American dictatorship in the world, this new phase might be a welcome change, ushering in global peace. In the given scenario, it would be interesting to observe how the US attempts to contain Putin’s aspirations of regaining Russia’s lost glory, as it very well knows that Russia is no Iraq and Putin is no Saddam! .

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

The story of the war on terrorism and the millions of dollars made by the PMCs.

10 August 2008 |Dr. Arindam On America

When the body bags of American soldiers started their return journey from Iraq, it was reason enough to revive the haunting nightmares of the Vietnam war. A war where several hundreds of thousands of American soldiers had to pay with their lives for an ideological war between the American and Soviet policymakers. A war whose end was not in sight for forty long years and which served little for the betterment of mankind, except for the eternal tension of an incumbent war – or what was commonly known as the Cold War era. For President Bush and his coterie, it was too much of a risk not to mitigate the domestic backlash against the body bags and continue with the loot of Iraq. And yet, the stakes in Iraq in terms of oil reserves and the potential contracts for reconstruction were too luring to be given up just for the sake of preventing the body bags from coming home. After all, the body bags are nothing but a petite collateral price for the big Iraq pie in the offing. In these days of outsourcing, what better way can there be to manage to contain the American casualties and yet make a business out of security than to outsource it?
Thus, comes the concept of Private Military Companies or PMCs. Their job? To go to Iraq and protect the American assets using personnel armed to the teeth and professionally trained. And like what most of the American corporate do in terms of hiring personnel from developing countries, the PMCs do the same. And poorer the country from where they recruit, the better the deal is. Consider Blackwater, by far the biggest beneficiary of President Bush’s Iraq engagement. This company has made it big simply by recruiting thousands of former military personnel from Latin American and Asian countries. Most of the countries like Peru, Chile, Fiji and Nepal have high incidence of poverty and unemployment. And under such circumstances, it is not difficult to find recruits who are left with just two options: either face abject poverty in their home country or accept the lure of dollar payments for fighting it out in some of the most hostile terrains of the world, that too, for a foreign country!! Recent reports state that most are paid anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000 per month. For the likes of Peruvians and Chileans and several others from Latin America or Asia, getting $1,000 is like a reverie, given the situation back home. And for the likes of Blackwater and the US government, it serves the dual objective of not bothering about casualties, because in this skewed world, even the deaths of a hundred Chileans or Peruvians do not equal to saving the life of a single American.
There cannot be probably any worse way to exploit the helplessness of a beleaguered lot of such impoverished countries than to send their men to fight a war – which is not all theirs – for the sake of nothing else but capitalist and imperialistic ulterior motives, greed and profits. And it goes without saying that many such personnel, when they go back home, resort to many human rights atrocities and create a vicious environment in their home countries, something which Chile, one of the largest suppliers of personnel in PMCs is witnessing. But for the American Private Military Companies, most of whom have been started by war veterans and who have strong political connections, they are probably extremely thankful to the American public for creating the outcry against the body bags, because had it not been so, the American PMC wouldn’t have grown this far today. This industry, which is worth more than $100 billion annually, has grown manifold since the onslaught of the Iraq war.
Today, estimates say that 40 cents of every American tax dollar is being spent on this, and in Iraq alone the costs are upwards of a staggering $2 billion per week!! Worse, there are reports that already the American armed forces are witnessing an exodus in the ranks of their armed ranks, who are taking premature retirement to join the PMC where the American soldiers are even paid to the tune of $1,000 a day.
Apart from Blackwater, some of the biggest American PMCs include the likes of AirScan, C3 Defense, Dyn Corporation, Jax Desmond and Tactical Response Service. Not just this, the business of PMCs has spread far beyond Iraq, into African countries and elsewhere. (Albeit, wherever there is conflict and wherever there is Western interest to be protected). For example, Titan Corporation, a San Diego-based PMC has its operations mostly in Benin. And unfortunately, everywhere it is the people from developing countries who are being used as dispensable trash. There have been several instances where people have been contracted and yet neither been given the promised compensations nor have been medically taken care of in case of injury. In the absence of any regulation and complete immunity from local prosecution that these PMCs enjoy, it is not surprising that such practices are common. Moreover, there has several other instances of atrocities being committed by the personnel of PMCs on the local population, the most gruesome being the killing of 17 innocent civilians by personnel of Blackwater in Baghdad.
The objective of governmental armed forces of any civilised country is to contain conflicts and mitigate it as far as possible, while attempting to reduce the influence of armed forces in running the country as much as possible. But the lure of huge money and the business involved is making conflict a viable and profitable proposition. Therefore, for the likes of Blackwater getting such lucrative contracts from the government, they would never want the intensity of insecurity and threat perception to come down. More the people remain terrorised, bigger the business opportunity. And if there is no threat, they might even create one just to keep the business going. After all, that’s what the fiscal bottom line-driven cowboy capitalism stands for!! .

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Even Palestine is a case of American double standards

08 June 2008 |Dr. Arindam On America

Recently I came across a very interesting analysis in the Wall Street Journal, adapted from Mr. Douglas J Feith’s (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy - July 2001 till August 2005) memoir - “War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism”. As per Mr. Feith’s analysis – “between September 2002 and 2003, President Bush delivered nine major talks about Iraq. There were, on an average, approximately 14 paragraphs per speech on Saddam’s record as an enemy, aggressor, tyrant and danger, with only three paragraphs on promoting democracy. In the next year – from September 2003 to September 2004 – Mr. Bush delivered 15 major talks about Iraq. The average number of paragraphs devoted to the record of threats from Saddam was one, and the number devoted to democracy promotion was approximately 11”. Clearly indicating the double standards of President Bush and his Administration on the Iraq issue!
However, it is not just with Iraq. President Bush has been maintaining almost similar double standards for Palestine as well (the entire Middle East region)! So while on the one hand he maintains the ‘democracy’ rhetoric for the region, on the other he has been silently supporting Israel’s campaign for Palestine! It is no secret that America has been morally and financially (it is reported that the total aid from US to Israel since 1973 has been a whopping USD 140 billion!!) supporting Israel in their bid to capture Palestine. And it is also a known fact that the way President Bush has gone about supporting Israel’s cause, probably no other American President has done it ever. In fact on the contrary ex American President Jimmy Carter has been extremely critical of Israel’s stance, terming it as a humanitarian crisis and had been advocating a two state solution for the region. Even American mainstream media and other civil activists have been reporting time and again on how the US has been financing Israel’s occupation in the West Bank.
In one of the most interesting cases, it has been reported that President Bush has supported Israel to build a 400 mile wall in Palestine, to protect Israel from the Palestinians!! It does not stop at that, and in fact for all his keenness to bring about democracy in the Middle East region, President Bush had rejected the democratically elected Hamas (since Israel brands Hamas as a terrorist outfit) revealing the double standards of the President! The fact is that American support has made the situation so bad since the second intifada (i.e the second Israel–Palestine conflict that started in September 2000) almost 5,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 30,000 injured. A report by the UN states that almost 40 per cent of the West Bank has been taken over by Israel, and for the residual territory it has been broken it in dozens (with a staggering 612 checkpoints and roadblocks) in such a manner that they stand clearly separated from each other, all by American support! UN also states that things are getting bad to worse as the Palestinian population is on an explosion, growing almost thrice of that of Israel. And being on a perpetual receiving end, most of the new generation Palestinians are in no mood of any peace process or talks.
In fact, even Israel has also lost a lot in this war. It is estimated that almost 1,000 Israelis (soldiers and civilians put together) have lost their lives since 2000. But then what is most unfortunate is the manner in which American had been a mute spectator and the way President Bush had been supporting and almost sponsoring this bloody war! No wonder that it is just on account of American support that Israeli policies towards Palestinians has been subjected to more than 62 UN resolutions, yet they manage to escape!! It is on record that they have been constantly violating UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, and they can do that only on account of American support. This is just one another case wherein America has been blatant in terms of violating UN resolutions without showing any respect towards it!!
I’m sure that just like the rest of the world, even America knows that the only solution to the Israel- Palestine conflict is the formation of two states as was decided during the Oslo Accord in 1993! Even researches state that majority of Israeli population also support the peaceful formation of Palestine. But then looking at the way things have been happening in the region, it clearly gives an indication that resolution of the conflict is definitely not in America’s interest, otherwise they would not have kept the conflict alive. So as the Palestine conflict grows bigger, more cities get bombed and more bodies fall and we see more of American double standards…

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

End to American double standards

31 January 2014 | Dr. Arindam on Indian Economy

The kind of double standards practiced by America for decades, even as it arrogantly talks about democracy and preaches the virtues of free speech, dissent and human rights to the world from a pulpit, is a shame to say the least. The fact is, be it Latin America, Asia or Africa, America has always supported brutal dictators who have tortured and killed their own citizens in the most horrific manner. Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Bolivia are classic examples from Latin America. South Korea and Indonesia were classic examples in Asia; and Pakistan, of course, is the ultimate showcase of American double standards. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was the foe, American strategic cowboys used to argue that propping up unsavory dictators in strategic pockets was a necessary evil because America had to stop the march of Communism, which apparently was supposed to be far worse when it came to freedom, free speech, dissent and human rights. After the Soviet Union disappeared and Communism was no longer the enemy it was for decades, many had hoped that America would actually help other nations move away from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes to democracies. Sadly, those hopes were belied and crushed when America started citing the Global War on Terror as an excuse to encourage and prop up nasty dictators. Of course, most of these dictators happen to be now in the Arab world whose oil reserves are the real reasons for American interest rather than the mumbo jumbo and nonsense double speak about democracy and human rights.
Many readers of this magazine were not born in 1979 when the first people’s movement swept across a country in West Asia – better known by American strategic cowboys as the Middle East. I am talking about Iran, the country that America is trying very hard to isolate, punish and even pulverize if given half a chance. For decades prior to 1979, the ruler of Iran – the Shah – was a staunch ally of America, as well as of Israel. In fact, the Americans had installed the reign of the Shahs in Iran by happily encouraging a coup against a popular and democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, because that man had refused to bow down to the diktats of Uncle Sam. In comparison, the Shahs were deeply unpopular, extremely authoritarian and ruled Iran ruthlessly with an iron fist – using torture, detention and even murder by its secret service to smother dissent. All of a sudden in 1978, America was caught napping as popular protests by citizens swept through the cities of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini came back from exile and the Shah had to flee Iran in disgrace as the country became an Islamic Republic. Since then, the “staunch ally” Iran has become an implacable enemy of America.
There was a sense of ironic deja vu as I read with excitement about citizens in Tunisia rising in popular revolt and throwing out the dictator – a staunch American ally who ruled that country ruthlessly for more than two decades. That sense was reinforced when reports started pouring in from other Arab nations about citizens marching on the streets demanding that their hated dictators give up power to the people. Egypt has become a symbol and icon of the suppressed aspirations of millions of Arabs finally finding an outlet. The President Hosni Mubarak – again an American plant – has ruled Egypt like a classic dictator for more than 30 years and. Mubarak was in the process of trying to install his son as the next ruler when the sudden wave of protests engulfed his country. More than the people’s revolt in Tunisia – which actually opened the doors and the floodgates for citizens in other Arab nations – it is Egypt which is causing more sleepless nights in Washington. As of now, Egypt, to use that familiar clich again, is a staunch ally of America and even a de facto ally of Israel. It is the only major country in the Arab world to have formally diplomatic as well as outwardly cordial relations with Israel. It is also the acknowledged leading nation and leader of the Arab world. What happens in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria has a huge impact on the rest of the Arab world. Of course, citizens in Arab nations have been watching in helplessness, frustration and rage till now as Egypt repeatedly winked at the atrocities committed by Israeli troops against innocent Palestinians in the name of fighting terror. Cables released by WikiLeaks also show that the United States has had no illusions about the regime. Washington and its allies now stand thoroughly exposed for using aid of over $2 billion a year and silence over internal repression to turn Cairo into a crucial agent of their regional policy, particularly in suppressing demands for justice for the Palestinians. The Egyptian people's uprising is showing the world that this highly prized Western ally is utterly devoid of legitimacy. And without doubt, that message will echo through every other dictatorship in the region.
As of right now, a nightmare is haunting Tel Aviv and Washington over the nature of the regime that will take over eventually in Egypt. The best case scenario for the strategic and foreign policy cowboys in America and Israel is a situation in which Egypt evolves from a strong arm dictatorship to a country ruled by a moderate Islamic party like in Turkey. Incidentally, Turkey is yet another staunch ally of America and Israel in that region of the world awash with oil, which is increasingly taking a stand that goes against the stated strategic interests of America and Israel. In the recent past, Turkey even sent a ship on a humanitarian mission to help Palestinians whose life had become a living hell because of a blockade imposed by Israel. That ship was attacked and stormed by Israeli troops, killing Turkish as well as American citizens who were going to Palestine on a mission of peace and empathy. No wonder, relations between Turkey and Israel have soured dramatically after the event and many have even started nursing fond hopes that an ‘Islamic’ Turkey will become the new leader against an Imperial America and its ally Israel. Egypt becoming another Turkey will surely become a headache. But it will be a nightmare if the country falls into the hands of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization that gave the Al Qaeda number two Al-Zawahari to the world – take control of the country and emerge as another Iran, implacably hostile to America and Israel. And don’t think for a moment that such a situation will never come to pass. Who had ever dreamt even in 1978 of Iran becoming what it is now in 2011?
No one had thought that citizens of the Arab world, suppressed for so long and denied both political and economic opportunities, would be in a position to rise in revolt against the dictators. But Tunisia showed the way and a firestorm is sweeping across the Arab world. In fact, many analysts are calling this the ‘Soviet Union’ moment for America as history turns full circle in a wickedly ironical way. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it was at the peak of its military might – an undisputed and arrogant Imperial power that nurtured, nourished and supported the assorted dictators who ran Communist paradises in East Europe. But Afghanistan became a symbol of the limits of Soviet power. It is a known fact that the fiasco in Afghanistan triggered events that led to virtually all dictators being ousted in East Europe and even the Soviet Union eventually disintegrating. Now, America has invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands in a brutal manner using whimsical after whimsical excuse. And it is fighting a war against terrorism in Afghanistan that seems to kill more innocent civilians than actual terrorists. What has started in Tunisia could become the bellwether for America facing its Soviet moment in the Arab world. For too long, it has propped up dictators even as it preached the virtues of democracy and human rights. And now, the people of the Arab world are finally saying enough is enough. The multi-billion dollar question is: will America and Israel accept that it is inevitable for new regimes to emerge in the Arab world, those which would be no longer staunch allies and may actually take stands that would go against the strategic interests of America and Israel? If US and Israel don’t accept the inevitable and instead try once again to stifle the genuine aspirations of the Arab people, there is little doubt that America would earn the undying hatred and enmity of Arabs on the street.
There is a lesson here for India too. In past, by refusing to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India lost a huge amount of goodwill in the Arab and the Muslim world that Pakistan exploited brilliantly. Now, the pendulum is swinging the other way and India is taking a public stance against Iran just because the new strategic partner America is pressurizing it to do so. If India needs to earn brownie points in the global image race, there’s no better a chance than now. India must openly support the process that will throw out the dictators of the Arab world – sooner or later. If not, it would have lost many friends and friendships in the Arab world when new regimes inevitably take over.
To me, the uprising in Cairo is nothing short of a civil revolution! And it has the potential to not only transform the political scenario of the Middle East region but also every other region wherein anarchy and dictatorship have been the mainstays! Right now, for example, China's 457 million Internet users (and 180 million bloggers) can no longer use the Chinese word for "Egypt" in microblogs or search engines. Why is China worried about controlling the usage of the word ‘Egypt’ on the net? The government's goal is to pre-empt any contagion effect that popular uprisings against autocracy in the Middle East might have in China, which might inspire the country's ranks of discontented! Although India might not have gone to the extent of China, but our national media too – most certainly in silent conspiracy with the government’s wishes – had been conspicuously silent over the entire issue for a good 10 days. Even now, it is not giving the kind of importance that it should be to the behemoth socio-political upheaval in progress. On the other hand, if we were to benchmark media’s ideal role, then one should be looking up to the Arabic satellite TV channel Al Jazeera, which has been giving rock solid support to people's causes, inspiring Tunisia's brave people who ended Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule, and also going the full distance to support Egyptians. In fact, one needs to admire the overall influential role played by Al Jazeera –the standout voice of aggressive, independent journalism in the Arab world in channeling popular discontent through the region. Egypt seems to have already shut down the operations of Al-Jazeera – blaming it for encouraging the country's uprising – clearly demonstrating that the repressive powers of the central government are still functioning.
What is important now is how Tunisia’s revolution and Egypt’s uprising are interpreted and implemented, within the country and outside it. Ben Ali’s fall may prove to be an isolated event – each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way. Still, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all contain political and demographic ingredients at least as perilous as those that combusted in Tunisia: youthful populations, high unemployment, grotesque inequality, abusive police, reviled leaders, and authoritarian systems that stifle free expression. All I can conclude is that the Arab world has for far too long suffered from religious extremism and dictatorship. In today’s connected world, where every one has similar access to what’s happening across the world, it’s tough to have any repressive religious viewpoint or regime attempting to tie people down for too long! It’s time for the Arab world to accept this reality. This current wave of revolution will not only remove the American backed dictators, but hopefully replace religious extremism by much more moderate values of the kind that will help the Arab world to integrate in a far more democratic manner with the rest of the world – something similar to what Indonesia is attempting. And that, truly, would make it a change of a civilization.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

The sham of democracy in USA amidst disappearing journalists!!

25 May 2008 |Dr. Arindam On America

I recently came across an intriguing research, conducted by a Washington based research group. The research analysed the news reports for the month of April and found out that the American Presidential campaign has taken up almost 33% of the editorial space, followed by general economy which took almost 6%. The Pope’s visit and the Texas polygamy case equally shared an editorial space of 4% each. It is intriguing that as bodies of innocent American soldiers and that of equally innocent Iraqi’s kept falling, it could garner only 3% of editorial space!! It is not to draw any conclusion whether the American Presidential campaign is more important than Iraq, but then the media coverage in itself indicates that though Iraq is a burning global issue, the American media doesn’t feel likewise, otherwise it would not have given a mere 3% space. And the bigger issue here is that by reducing media space over a period of time, the American media is systematically trying to take Iraq out of people’s memory as well. In fact a careful analysis and one would realise that some media houses have gone ahead in terms of justifying American engagement in Iraq!! So much for the great American democracy where an independent and honest media is supposed to form the key pillar!!
It is not a recent phenomenon, but for long, great thinkers of the likes of Noam Chomsky had been extremely critical about the manner the American media had been manufacturing and disseminating news! In fact in his book Media Control, Prof Chomsky had elaborately talked about the history of American media propaganda machinery! Also that it is no secret that today, American media is controlled by five big media conglomerates and has been seemingly evident, time and again, that they have been covertly catering to American Administration’s interest! It is a fact that mainstream media has always shared a very cosy relationship with the American Administration and has been the apparent mouthpiece of it. It is also a fact that Pentagon had time and again used media to build up reasons to engage with Iraq! Not just that, the same was done to build up the progressive image of Afghanistan after the American military engagement in the region! In fact this arrangement had worked wonderfully well with the media houses as well. For that matter, it doesn’t make any sense for General Electric to report about Iraq, through MSNBC, simply because it is only on account of Iraq that their production lines for Apache helicopters have been running full! Though unfortunate, the fact remains that for years American news and information has been commoditised and has been blatantly sold to American households. And worse is the fact that this media industry has had such a dominating strong stranglehold that reporters who investigated and reported truth got stifled.
If this sham and pretence of democracy in America by control of information dissemination is not good enough then like the mystery of disappearing kids from Delhi – as in our cover – there is the mystery of disappearing journalists from the world who dare to report truth against America. It has been reported from various alternate media sources that the American Administration had been targeting media houses and journalists who had been trying to do investigative journalism and report the true picture. A case in point here is Al Jazeera. Post-Afghanistan engagement, Al Jazeera had been actively covering news from the region and it is no secret that their office in Kabul was bombed in 2001. It can also be confidently said that other than rampant arrests of Al Jazeera journalists, the US Administration was also responsible in bombing the Sheraton Hotel in Basra, Iraq, where the only guests were Al Jazeera correspondents, who were reporting from that city. There are reports that state that since 2003, almost 127 journalists and around 50 other media workers have been killed. Looking at these numbers it almost seems like a cleansing drive against true and factual reporting.
It is not that by doing all this President Bush and his Administration is able to cover up there misadventures, as it is also evident from his popularity rankings which are on a perpetual slide. But then, it is not President Bush’s popularity which is a matter of concern, the bigger issue here is that such kind of concocted media reporting and propaganda has strong repercussions. No doubt the effect of such media campaigns are damaging but then when it happens in the world’s largest democracy it is even more damaging. As it is an universally known fact that a sustained lie communicated over a period of time becomes a larger truth and worse is the fact that such lies are shaping the minds of the future generations of Americans. This generation is unfortunately constantly fed with manufactured information, which will go on to build their convictions and opinions about everything in life. It is not that the current Bush Administration had ruined the current and future generations of Iraq and Afghanistan; in the process they are also ruining the thought processes of future generations of Americans without them even coming to know about it! Its amazing that the country which keeps screaming about the positives of democracy is actually the most dictatorial in its own ways. It is called the dictatorship of the capitalists... they dictate and decide how people think!!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

I Wonder What The Us Administration Would Have Done, Had A Bhopal Like Gas Tragedy Happened There...

11 June 2010 |Dr. Arindam On America

I wonder what the US would have done, had a Bhopal like tragedy happened out there. If on account of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre– which unfortunately took 2995 innocent lives, including that of not-so-innocent 19 terrorists, and injured almost 6000 people– they demolished a complete nation in search of one individual, I wonder what would have they done if someone’s negligence had killed a staggering 22,000 innocent people, including children and women, and had caused permanent damages for another 120,000 people and affected some 5,50,000 people in some way or the other! If something like this would not have triggered a demolition drive, like they did in the former case, just on account of the merit of the crime (as World Trade Centre was an orchestrated crime and Bhopal tragedy was a criminal negligence), I am sure they would not have let any nation safeguard the perpetrator of the crime, like they have been doing with respect to Warren Anderson, the former CEO of Union Carbide India Limited, for so many years. In fact, no other nation would have left the US to be at peace, had something similar happened with them. But then the US cannot alone be blamed for such duality, as they can take such an audacious step only when the nation in question is India. It is outrageous that the Indian government allowed Anderson to flee, post the tragedy!
It was the intervening night of 2nd and 3rd of December of 1984, when a Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) and other toxic gases leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited factory located in Bhopal– turning a sleepy town into a morgue, almost overnight. The tragedy has been recorded as the worst industrial disaster in recorded history. It is just not that scores of people died on the spot, but the ones who survived succumbed to permanent fatal injuries, forever. Thousands became orphans and homeless and in a matter of hours an entire generation became the victim of someone’s blatant negligence. It was not that the effects of the lethal MIC were unknown to the perpetrators, nor was it that the union at the UCIL never notified the hazards of the leak much in advance, but nothing was done to mitigate the same. It has been a conspiracy wherein everyone, starting from the US Administration to the government of India to the local state government– has been hand in gloves with each other. Otherwise, how can one explain that immediately after the tragedy, the key culprit, Warren Anderson, was arrested and was immediately released within a matter of two days by the Madhya Pradesh police? How can one explain that he was conveniently declared a fugitive when he audaciously did not bother to revert to the CBI summons? How would one explain that even after he was declared an absconder by the court, the government still remained silent for almost ten long years! And finally, when the government woke up in 2003 to do a formality by sending an extradition order, the US government conveniently denied the request!
In fact, the ordeal of the bereaved never ended. It was so very unfortunate the way the Indian government bargained on behalf of the bereaved families, and how shamelessly it shortchanged them! After filing a claim of USD 3.3 billion in the US courts, the government finally settled for an out of court settlement of a measly USD 470 million. Though in the name of compensation some pittance has been given to the victims, but if reports are to be believed the government has not been able to disburse the entire compensation. In fact the delay in compensation created an entire ghost economy of racketeers who siphoned off the compensation in the name of ghost victims.
As if all this was not enough, to further dig the wounds of the victims of Bhopal, after 26 long years of deceit and agony, the court just delivered a mockery of justice by sentencing all seven accused, including Keshub Mahindra, the then Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) chief, to a mere two years of imprisonment and a fine of measly Rs one lakh each. What more, the court has already granted a bail!
So while Anderson enjoys a comfortable life in the US, Keshub Mahindra and seven others are out on bail, and politics is as usual– the agony of Bhopal Gas tragedy victims continue. Going by the sequence of events, what looked like a tragedy then looks like a homicide now!!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

WHY OBAMA IS OF NO USE TO INDIA

29 October 2010 |Dr. Arindam On America

Praising American presidents has not been quite my forte! However, I celebrated Obama’s Presidential victory wholeheartedly (read my editorial in The Sunday Indian, issue dated November 9, 2008) because I almost believed that he held a promise that American presidents in the past have rarely held! He really could have been the change the world was waiting for. Recession had shown its ugly face once more in the greedy capitalist world and Bush had left a near criminal legacy behind. There was no better a time for Obama to prove his worth. But forget bringing the world out of recession, Obama has not even been able to do anything to bring the USA out of recession! Of course, if we were to believe the Nobel Committee and its choice for the Nobel Prize in Economics this year, then there is nothing wrong with the capitalist system and nothing much to be done at all but match the existing unemployment with the existing jobs vacant in various companies! Ludicrous... just like their Peace Prize to Obama was! Obama’s campaign was all about “Yes, we can!” The truth is he hasn’t accomplished much of what he had promised – especially during his election campaign. Among his other failures, he has failed to keep one of his key promises – on closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, and also on providing relief for illegal immigrants. Even after a year, Gitmo is still active; and no concrete steps have been crafted for illegal migrants. What is now a global joke is that his promises of closing Gitmo and solving other human rights issues were part of the parcel that won him the coveted Nobel Peace Prize! It was Obama who initiated talks on global warming and announced his plans to organize a series of climate talks. Back in 2008, Obama had projected himself as a “citizen of the world”. But then, this same Obama, the perceived harbinger of optimism, now blames developing nations for global warming! This reminds me of President George W Bush who, during his tenure, discarded the Kyoto Protocol on similar grounds. In similar manner, during a State-of-the-Union speech on January 27, 2010, Obama promised something that is quite the opposite of what he had stood for in his campaign days. Instead of talking about green jobs and climate change policy, he discussed his plans on nuclear power, oil, gas, coal and bio-fuels! That’s change indeed! Nobel laureate Obama’s biggest global failure has perhaps been regarding the Iraq and Afghan issue, where he had committed during a formal announcement of a new Iraq strategy at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on February 27, 2009, that “under the new plan, the US will remove all combat troops (from Iraq) by August 31, 2010.” Systematically delaying the troops’ withdrawal has been akin to breaking the promise. Similarly, Obama still is to remove his troops from Afghanistan – where there is blatant genocide being carried out under the garb of a peace process – and is finding all possible excuses to stay back. One wonders if the Nobel Peace Prize winner is actually unable to shift out of Afghanistan due to the $1 trillion worth mineral wealth in the land! The mother of all disasters in terms of doing the opposite of peace though is that, on October 25, 2010, the Obama administration ‘waived’ off sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, thus making iteasier for countries in the dark continent to make use of underage troops. In a memorandum to Hilary Clinton, he wrote, “I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the [Child Service Prevention Act]". And for records, recruiting underage soldiers is a human rights abuse in most of the nations. Even Noam Chomsky stated in an interview last month that President Obama “is involved in war crimes right now. For example, targeted assassinations are war crimes. That's escalated quite sharply under Obama. If you look at WikiLeaks, there are a lot of examples of attacks on civilians.” Yet, Obama retains the coveted tag of the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace! A couple of months back, PolitiFact found that Obama has kept around 91 of his promises out of 500! But then, this is not a peculiar phenomenon with Obama. Breaking promises is a trend with American presidents, and Obama is no different! Take for instance Woodrow Wilson who promised to keep the US out of World War I and ended up pushing the US into the same war. Then came Herbert Hoover in 1928, who, in his presidency speech, pledged to end poverty and promised “a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage” – but eventually gift ed the US ‘The Great Depression.’ On similar lines, Franklin D. Roosevelt graciously failed to fulfill his 1932 pledge to maintain balanced budgets and to keep the US out of World War II as he bombed Japan and his government’s spending increased from 8.0% of GNP to 10.2%. The national debt, in turn, doubled from 16% to 33.6%. Richard Nixon promised resolutely in 1968 to ‘quickly’ resolve the Vietnam War, but he didn’t! George H.W. Bush Senior promised in 1988, “Read my lips: No new taxes!” and then went on and increased taxes. And as far as his son George Bush is concerned, the least said the better! Let me now come to Obama’s much hyped visit to India… If numbers speak volumes, then Obama’s recent approval ratings in India, just a few weeks before he lands in the country, should be enough to gauge his popularity and acceptability in India. The approval rating of Obama has dropped by 13 per cent – from 31 per cent in 2008 to 18 per cent in 2010 – as per the latest Gallup Poll. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the approval rating of Obama has improved in Pakistan where the rating has almost doubled from 10 per cent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2010, all thanks to the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill and massive flood relief work. Obama’s current approval rating in India is one of the lowest in the 18 Asian countries, for all predictable reasons. Even the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a new report said that “most of what the US government can do for India lies in the broader global arena, and most of what India needs at home, it must do for itself.” The report further argued that “expectations for a partnership between the two countries in the near term are unrealistically high and overlook how their interests, policies, and diplomatic style will oft en diverge.” President Barack Obama recently made his stand very clear in India’s outsourcing business and announced that tax breaks should go to companies that create jobs in the US and not overseas. Furthering his anti-India stance, Obama in August this year signed into law a legislation to secure the US-Mexico border by massively hiking work visa fees, ignoring concerns over a “discriminatory” provision that will largely hit Indian IT firms. But then, his stance against outsourcing to India is not good enough reason for why he is of no use to India. One need not look far though for the reasons. In spite of Wikileaks and other documents proving Pakistan’s perception about India, Obama contrarily is confident that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would remain secure and had said, “Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.” Obama’s pro-Pak and anti-India ideologies are clear from the way he has approved multi-billion dollar aid packages to Pakistan, in spite of the fact (which was actually revealed by Western media!) that a large pie of this money is redirected for funding terror plots against India. In 2009, Obama outrageously supported Pakistan and made statements regarding America’s huge strategic and national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable. If audacity has to re-defi ne itself, it should take a lesson or two from the US-Pak relationship. Even after a series of Wikileaks and other anti-Pak documents coming to the fore, America, as recently as on October 22, 2010 has announced a whopping $2.29 billion military aid to Pakistan to bolster its army's anti-terror capabilities, ignoring India's concerns about how Pakistan continues to divert a huge portion of such assistance for anti-India plans. To top this, Hillary Clinton applauded Pakistan’s role in fighting terror and said that she feels that there is “no stronger partner when it comes to counter terrorism than Islamabad”... And all this when just a few weeks are left for Obama to visit India. If Obama’s Pakistan inclination is not good enough to explain that he is a man of double speak like all past American presidents – and perhaps his job is to blame for that – then let’s talk about China. Obama’s view seems to have tilted away clearly from democratic India and towards the dictatorial China; and all this because of obvious reasons. Recently, as on September 20, 2010, US President Barack Obama said that China's rapid economic development is in the interest of the US economy. He further commented, “It's good for us that China has done well.” No doubt that this statement is more to please China and fortifies the US-China trade ties. With more than 1.3 billion people and an economy that is predicted to surpass the American economy in a few years to come, China has become the US' fastest-growing major overseas market. As per the US International Trade Commission, US exports to China was worth $69.6 billion while imports was a whopping $296.4 billion in 2009 alone. Th us, a total trade volume of $366 billion is quite signifi cant. China’s indispensability for US has grown to an extent that, in order to appease and please Beijing, Obama transformed his Strategic Economic Dialogue into the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, thus silently taking off human rights issues from the bilateral agenda – which may have soured the budding affair. This is evident from the last Asia visit of Obama, where he appointed China as the official ‘monitor’ of Asia and asked the country to look into the Kashmir issue, knowing very well that China is supporting Pakistan in their anti-India plans and that China itself has still not returned back Indian territory it occupied decades back. In November 2009, while visiting Japan, Obama said the US was seeking “pragmatic cooperation with the emerging giant of China, noting Beijing's partnership in jump-starting global economic recovery, its support for stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and its commitment to the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Obama further said, “The rise of a strong, prosperous China can be the source of strength for the community of nations.” All I can conclude is that going by the precedence, India has no reasons to feel optimistic about his visit. And Indian policy makers have no reason to formulate policies in order to appease Obama during his visit just out of excitement. Already, organisations like WalMart have started to lobby for a 100% FDI in the Indian retail sector. And I am sure the likes of WalMart would try to push through their agendas during this visit of Obama. It is significant that the Indian policy makers see through this and take correct decisions which are more oriented towards the nation’s future than an American future in India. I reiterate again that it is not that I have anything against Obama personally – and I admire his leadership qualities that made him win in a land that is known for its racial discriminations! But given all that is past, I know for sure that Obama’s visit would not benefit India in any way, just like his becoming the President of America has not benefitted Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Africa and even his own homeland the United States of America!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Change Has Come To America; But I Doubt It’ll Make Any Difference To Asia!

22 January 2009 |Dr. Arindam On America

I still remember the early morning of November 4, 2008, as the US Presidential election results started pouring in, I realized that something unbelievably historic was happening in America. I just couldn’t stop wondering how a Black – African American (since so many mails and messages have told me!) – could become the President of the United States of America; the same country that had earlier re-elected George Bush as the President! The whole experience was so tumultuous! I couldn’t help recall old books about America that I had read. Books about the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln had presided over; the war that eventually resulted in the emancipation of blacks. As I wrote in my editorial in The Sunday Indian on November 9, 2008, my favourite book, of course, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book – which passionately documented the immense pain of black slaves – is perhaps the greatest read for any human wishing to understand the meaning of the term ‘depth of character’, and is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. And on January 21, 2009, I relived the whole gamut of those emotions seeing Barack Hussein Obama emotionally taking his oath to become the 44th President of the United States of America. That day again, I actually felt that historical figures like Lincoln and Stowe did have the biggest path-breaking roles to play in changing the character of modern day America.
My appreciation for Obama is immense, and this appreciation does not simply come from his becoming the President; but from his becoming President for all the right reasons. He demanded change from his fellow Americans, not simply in economic outlook or policy orientation, but in something graver; he beseeched them to realise that in the hardships of today should not be forgotten the intensity of the American character of past. Despite all research to the contrary – that a Black presidential candidate stood no chance against the white combine of America – Obama committed passionately to his steadfast belief that American character was deeper than suspected, wider than speculated and more intense than believed by Americans themselves... and he won... a win that is not only as brilliant as the brilliance of all his outstanding speeches combined – for I have rarely seen a more powerful and emotional orator than him – but a win that mirrors Obama’s greatness as proved by his commandingly devastating books – for Obama is great not just because of the words he speaks, but because of the greatness of the words that he has written in his books, which conclusively prove his magnificent character. I go as far as to say, and perhaps demand, that after his eight years as US President (!), Obama should be made the Secretary General of the United Nations for at least a decade more; for the world needs as amazing a leader as Barack Obama if we ever want to even take a shot at one day having true global peace and equitable development of the masses.
But even as I write this, Obama faces daunting challenges in Asia. And the least of those challenges that I’m worried about is Obama’s illogical disposition towards the outsourcing conundrum, with respect to specifically India. Obama has flatly commented that he wishes to restrict the outsourcing business to countries like India. But Obama, for all the gallery motivating statements, would fail double time on this issue. To discourage government departments from outsourcing is one thing, but forcing most competitive American multinationals to follow the example? Leave in high end software consulting and development, in this era of economic deceleration, there is no way that sensible global corporations would follow Obama think to stop IT outsourcing to India simply because of a patriotic appeal, especially when the cost benefits are dramatically expansive, sometimes even reaching 90% cost reductions.
Obama’s biggest challenges lie rather in foreign policy in Asia. And I have many questions. In Iran, Obama faces his predicament, as Bush faced supposedly in Iraq. Iran, and its clearly undiplomatic-mouthed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have regularly threatened the US about their intentions to go nuclear. Obama’s challenge lies in the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (after which came the present Iran Sanctions Act), which was in reality put in place in 1995 by the Bill Clinton establishment. The question is, will Obama go against this Act to create his own new liberal politico-think? That has a very slim chance of happening. And under what logic will Obama justify to Iran – which technically has a democratically elected government and was even a close ally of America till 1979 – that a nuclear deal can be signed with India but not with Iran?
And that leaves Obama with a neighbouring headache, remnants of the Bush era – Iraq! Obama has claimed he’s ready to pullout troops from Iraq and relocate them to Afghanistan. And this when the Afghan President Karzai has implored Obama to stay out of Afghanistan... How then would Obama ensure that the weekly bloodied ethnic battles between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq – which occur despite US presence – would not become more regular, god forbid daily? Will Obama also come clean about past US mistakes and reimburse to Iraq the losses they have suffered on account of stolen oil, a devastated economy and a destroyed society, all because of the US? I suspect Obama will not!
If there is North Korea that is threatening to go nuclear for a second time – and Obama’s predecessors have tried everything from hardball to soft pedal the Kim Jong clan – then there is China that is so strong economically that forget criticising China’s clear human right indiscretions, Obama might have to look towards them for an economic bailout in the future. If there are Arabs who’ve been well fed on US money for years and were the main reasons for inflation (by manipulating oil prices to reach historic highs), then there is Israel that only needs a justifiable excuse and a bloodthirsty Hamas to bomb everything in sight in Palestine. Will Obama come out strongly against all of them, now that he is the President? Slim chance again...
And perhaps the worst expected response of the Obama camp will be to the Pakistan issue. Will Obama continue to irrationally mollycoddle India to ‘take it easy’ despite huge casualties in the Mumbai attacks and despite clear evidence of the Pakistan administration’s complicity? I believe that the spineless Indian politicians will actually make his task easier. But the truth is that if Obama, like his ill valued predecessor, continues to finance Pakistan and its leaders in spite of their being a terrorist state, a major part of the Indian populace – which fervently wants to believe in him – would lose complete faith in him and the values that he stands by. For in his response to terror in Asia – especially in the Pakistan-India conflict – lies his biggest nemesis. Slight Pakistan, and Obama risks losing a critical geographical military beachhead in attacking al-Qaeda targets in border regions. Slight India, and Obama risks losing long term support from an economic superpower of the future.
Unfortunately, to top it all, Obama’s fight to save the American economy would take precedence over every other global issue; for the solution to the current slowdown will require a long term structural repair program engineered by global governments, and Obama’s focus would completely be diverted to this issue for most of his first term at least. And that is the irony of it all; that though the world expects gargantuan change from a person who personifies the promise resounding in his words, most of the change would occur in the American continent only. And Asia, for most of it, will remain unchanged... lakhs would continue dying of poverty, many more would suffer ill-health, and lakhs more would succumb fatally to hunger. Asia will sadly remain unchanged.
But that in no way takes away an iota from Obama the fact that history, and future, will never remain the same. In my November 9, 2008, editorial, I was compelled to write: “Above all, it is the United States of America which won today at least the hearts of millions like me all over the world, because today, America has shown that it has in it to finally give respect to a black man at the highest level possible; and this surely will change world history forever.” Today, in Barack Hussein Obama, I see Uncle Tom’s deep emotion resounding in the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., a dream that had beseeched the character of Americans to change to a moment in history when a man would be judged by the content of his character and not by the colour of his skin. Today, in Barack Hussein Obama, I see that undeniable moment in history... And I would not give that up for anything!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

How the Arab uprising is a "Change of Civilisation" and how it brings an end to the American double standards. Also what India must learn

04 February 2011 |Dr. Arindam On America

The kind of double standards practiced by America for decades, even as it arrogantly talks about democracy and preaches the virtues of free speech, dissent and human rights to the world from a pulpit, is a shame to say the least. The fact is, be it Latin America, Asia or Africa, America has always supported brutal dictators who have tortured and killed their own citizens in the most horrific manner. Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Bolivia are classic examples from Latin America. South Korea and Indonesia were classic examples in Asia; and Pakistan, of course, is the ultimate showcase of American double standards. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was the foe, American strategic cowboys used to argue that propping up unsavory dictators in strategic pockets was a necessary evil because America had to stop the march of Communism, which apparently was supposed to be far worse when it came to freedom, free speech, dissent and human rights. After the Soviet Union disappeared and Communism was no longer the enemy it was for decades, many had hoped that America would actually help other nations move away from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes to democracies. Sadly, those hopes were belied and crushed when America started citing the Global War on Terror as an excuse to encourage and prop up nasty dictators. Of course, most of these dictators happen to be now in the Arab world whose oil reserves are the real reasons for American interest rather than the mumbo jumbo and nonsense double speak about democracy and human rights.
Many readers of this magazine were not born in 1979 when the first people’s movement swept across a country in West Asia – better known by American strategic cowboys as the Middle East. I am talking about Iran, the country that America is trying very hard to isolate, punish and even pulverize if given half a chance. For decades prior to 1979, the ruler of Iran – the Shah – was a staunch ally of America, as well as of Israel. In fact, the Americans had installed the reign of the Shahs in Iran by happily encouraging a coup against a popular and democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, because that man had refused to bow down to the diktats of Uncle Sam. In comparison, the Shahs were deeply unpopular, extremely authoritarian and ruled Iran ruthlessly with an iron fist – using torture, detention and even murder by its secret service to smother dissent. All of a sudden in 1978, America was caught napping as popular protests by citizens swept through the cities of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini came back from exile and the Shah had to flee Iran in disgrace as the country became an Islamic Republic. Since then, the “staunch ally” Iran has become an implacable enemy of America.
There was a sense of ironic déjà vu as I read with excitement about citizens in Tunisia rising in popular revolt and throwing out the dictator – a staunch American ally who ruled that country ruthlessly for more than two decades. That sense was reinforced when reports started pouring in from other Arab nations about citizens marching on the streets demanding that their hated dictators give up power to the people. Egypt has become a symbol and icon of the suppressed aspirations of millions of Arabs finally finding an outlet. The President Hosni Mubarak – again an American plant – has ruled Egypt like a classic dictator for more than 30 years and. Mubarak was in the process of trying to install his son as the next ruler when the sudden wave of protests engulfed his country. More than the people’s revolt in Tunisia – which actually opened the doors and the floodgates for citizens in other Arab nations – it is Egypt which is causing more sleepless nights in Washington. As of now, Egypt, to use that familiar cliché again, is a staunch ally of America and even a de facto ally of Israel. It is the only major country in the Arab world to have formally diplomatic as well as outwardly cordial relations with Israel. It is also the acknowledged leading nation and leader of the Arab world. What happens in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria has a huge impact on the rest of the Arab world. Of course, citizens in Arab nations have been watching in helplessness, frustration and rage till now as Egypt repeatedly winked at the atrocities committed by Israeli troops against innocent Palestinians in the name of fighting terror. Cables released by WikiLeaks also show that the United States has had no illusions about the regime. Washington and its allies now stand thoroughly exposed for using aid of over $2 billion a year and silence over internal repression to turn Cairo into a crucial agent of their regional policy, particularly in suppressing demands for justice for the Palestinians. The Egyptian people's uprising is showing the world that this highly prized Western ally is utterly devoid of legitimacy. And without doubt, that message will echo through every other dictatorship in the region.
As of right now, a nightmare is haunting Tel Aviv and Washington over the nature of the regime that will take over eventually in Egypt. The best case scenario for the strategic and foreign policy cowboys in America and Israel is a situation in which Egypt evolves from a strong arm dictatorship to a country ruled by a moderate Islamic party like in Turkey. Incidentally, Turkey is yet another staunch ally of America and Israel in that region of the world awash with oil, which is increasingly taking a stand that goes against the stated strategic interests of America and Israel. In the recent past, Turkey even sent a ship on a humanitarian mission to help Palestinians whose life had become a living hell because of a blockade imposed by Israel. That ship was attacked and stormed by Israeli troops, killing Turkish as well as American citizens who were going to Palestine on a mission of peace and empathy. No wonder, relations between Turkey and Israel have soured dramatically after the event and many have even started nursing fond hopes that an ‘Islamic’ Turkey will become the new leader against an Imperial America and its ally Israel. Egypt becoming another Turkey will surely become a headache. But it will be a nightmare if the country falls into the hands of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization that gave the Al Qaeda number two Al-Zawahari to the world – take control of the country and emerge as another Iran, implacably hostile to America and Israel. And don’t think for a moment that such a situation will never come to pass. Who had ever dreamt even in 1978 of Iran becoming what it is now in 2011?
No one had thought that citizens of the Arab world, suppressed for so long and denied both political and economic opportunities, would be in a position to rise in revolt against the dictators. But Tunisia showed the way and a firestorm is sweeping across the Arab world. In fact, many analysts are calling this the ‘Soviet Union’ moment for America as history turns full circle in a wickedly ironical way. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it was at the peak of its military might – an undisputed and arrogant Imperial power that nurtured, nourished and supported the assorted dictators who ran Communist paradises in East Europe. But Afghanistan became a symbol of the limits of Soviet power. It is a known fact that the fiasco in Afghanistan triggered events that led to virtually all dictators being ousted in East Europe and even the Soviet Union eventually disintegrating. Now, America has invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands in a brutal manner using whimsical after whimsical excuse. And it is fighting a war against terrorism in Afghanistan that seems to kill more innocent civilians than actual terrorists. What has started in Tunisia could become the bellwether for America facing its Soviet moment in the Arab world. For too long, it has propped up dictators even as it preached the virtues of democracy and human rights. And now, the people of the Arab world are finally saying enough is enough. The multi-billion dollar question is: will America and Israel accept that it is inevitable for new regimes to emerge in the Arab world, those which would be no longer staunch allies and may actually take stands that would go against the strategic interests of America and Israel? If US and Israel don’t accept the inevitable and instead try once again to stifle the genuine aspirations of the Arab people, there is little doubt that America would earn the undying hatred and enmity of Arabs on the street.
There is a lesson here for India too. In past, by refusing to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India lost a huge amount of goodwill in the Arab and the Muslim world that Pakistan exploited brilliantly. Now, the pendulum is swinging the other way and India is taking a public stance against Iran just because the new strategic partner America is pressurizing it to do so. If India needs to earn brownie points in the global image race, there’s no better a chance than now. India must openly support the process that will throw out the dictators of the Arab world – sooner or later. If not, it would have lost many friends and friendships in the Arab world when new regimes inevitably take over.
To me, the uprising in Cairo is nothing short of a civil revolution! And it has the potential to not only transform the political scenario of the Middle East region but also every other region wherein anarchy and dictatorship have been the mainstays! Right now, for example, China's 457 million Internet users (and 180 million bloggers) can no longer use the Chinese word for "Egypt" in microblogs or search engines. Why is China worried about controlling the usage of the word ‘Egypt’ on the net? The government's goal is to pre-empt any contagion effect that popular uprisings against autocracy in the Middle East might have in China, which might inspire the country's ranks of discontented! Although India might not have gone to the extent of China, but our national media too – most certainly in silent conspiracy with the government’s wishes – had been conspicuously silent over the entire issue for a good 10 days. Even now, it is not giving the kind of importance that it should be to the behemoth socio-political upheaval in progress. On the other hand, if we were to benchmark media’s ideal role, then one should be looking up to the Arabic satellite TV channel Al Jazeera, which has been giving rock solid support to people's causes, inspiring Tunisia's brave people who ended Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule, and also going the full distance to support Egyptians. In fact, one needs to admire the overall influential role played by Al Jazeera – the standout voice of aggressive, independent journalism in the Arab world – in channeling popular discontent through the region. Egypt seems to have already shut down the operations of Al-Jazeera – blaming it for encouraging the country's uprising – clearly demonstrating that the repressive powers of the central government are still functioning.
What is important now is how Tunisia’s revolution and Egypt’s uprising are interpreted and implemented, within the country and outside it. Ben Ali’s fall may prove to be an isolated event – each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way. Still, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all contain political and demographic ingredients at least as perilous as those that combusted in Tunisia: youthful populations, high unemployment, grotesque inequality, abusive police, reviled leaders, and authoritarian systems that stifle free expression. All I can conclude is that the Arab world has for far too long suffered from religious extremism and dictatorship. In today’s connected world, where every one has similar access to what’s happening across the world, it’s tough to have any repressive religious viewpoint or regime attempting to tie people down for too long! It’s time for the Arab world to accept this reality. This current wave of revolution will not only remove the American backed dictators, but hopefully replace religious extremism by much more moderate values of the kind that will help the Arab world to integrate in a far more democratic manner with the rest of the world – something similar to what Indonesia is attempting. And that, truly, would make it a change of a civilization.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

To set a new global order which entails a green and peaceful earth, a Hillary Clinton and an Al Gore combination is no more a matter of choice

28 October 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

To set a new global order which entails a green and peaceful earth, a Hillary Clinton and an Al Gore combination is no more a matter of choice, but an imperative! The choice of Al Gore as this year’s recipient of Nobel peace prize is a pleasant relief for all those who have otherwise given up all hopes about the cause of a greener and better world. In fact, from the very beginning, Al Gore’s contribution and his continuous efforts on environmental issues have posed a striking contrast to the another man who eventually became the President of United States in 2000. From the year 2000 onwards, while Gore and his Intergovernmental Committee on Climatic Change strived hard to caution the world about the ensuing dangers of global warming, George Bush and his coterie have been doing everything possible to make the Kyoto Protocol a non-starter. One just wonders what would have happened if the United States’ Supreme Court verdict of the year 2000 Presidential elections had essentially gone in favour of Gore instead of George. Well, if not anything else, at least the world would have been a much better place to live in. More so because the hundreds of thousands who have either died, injured or have got impoverished by various US ‘engagements’ and the subsequent civil wars, would perhaps have not faced the same. Though the war against terrorism as a whole was not completely unjustified, the kind of collateral that this world has had to pay in damages is surely too big a price, and that for killing a few hundred perpetrators. The comparisons between Bush and Gore, as well as the lists of endless opportunities lost to make this world a better place, never seem to end. The period from 1992-2000, when Al Gore was Vice President in the Clinton Administration, were the years that saw major structural changes in the US economy, many being engineered by Gore himself. He came down heavily on the bureaucracy and brought in major cost cutting in federal expenditure to bring parity between revenue and expenses in the federal budget. All this was made possible by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, in which Al Gore had a crucial role to play. Eventually, the endeavours of the Clinton-Gore duo reduced inflation and incidence of unemployment in the US by a substantial margin. While economic growth neared 5%, the incidence of unemployment came down to below 5% after a long period of time. Contrast this with the condition of the US economy right now – thanks to the camaraderie of George Bush and his version of ‘rights’ and wrongs, the US current account deficit is around $800 billion, with external debt hovering around $12.25 trillion (as on June 30, 2007), public debt is a mammoth 65% of GDP now, while the count of number of grieving mothers who have lost their sons in the so called war on terrorism is countless. Even the US defence budget has increased to an incredible $532.8 billion, which incidentally does not even include the expenditures in long term research and development of new weapons systems. How ironic that the US is still not a secure place to live, eh! Not just this, interestingly, in the year 2000 Presidential elections, while Al Gore was busy promoting environmentally friendly and sustainable development, George Bush was busy preparing American engagements with Afghanistan and Iraq. What more, Al Gore’s integrity as a global leader – and one who is concerned about human lives and welfare of mankind – emanates from the fact that he was even against the US invasion of Vietnam in his early years. The question now is where should the world go from here and what should Al Gore be doing beyond this. Well, winning a Nobel Peace Prize is no doubt an enormous achievement, but in a world where there is a serious paucity of leaders with integrity and genuine concern for the earth, Al Gore has to again lead from the front. At this point in time, the world – and especially Americans – badly need leaders like him, who can once again instil the faith of people in the power of using peaceful means to achieve ends. And in this context, it would not be asking for the moon if the people of the world, and Americans in particular, once again ask him to contest the forthcoming Presidential elections. Though his prejudice (and memories of the humiliations and fraud through which he was defeated in the 2000 election) might still be fresh in his mind, in the greater interest of mankind and to prevent this world from nearing a possible annihilation, it is time that this Nobel Peace Prize winner – a brilliant documentary film maker, and one of the most successful Vice Presidents the US has ever had – should keep aside everything else and shoulder this global responsibility. It is not just for an ideal ‘American dream’, but also to set a new global order which entails a green and peaceful earth, that a Hillary Clinton and an Al Gore combination is no more a matter of choice, but an imperative!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

The US should have a special ......

09 September 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

The US should have a special ‘Thanks giving day’ for India, looking at the manner in which premier Indian Institutions have been supplying talented manpower to them, absolutely free of cost!!! I repeat, absolutely free of cost! And from a pool of amazingly brilliant students across India! For long I have been advocating the fact that the Government of India should levy a tax from all those students of the country’s premier institutions who go overseas and join various global corporations. In fact, I’ve also been advocating that not only such students, but also the companies hiring them should pay a tax for recruiting students from premier technology and management schools of the country. And so it was good news when recently a Parliamentary Standing Committee of the HRD Ministry recommended that students from many of the premier institutes of the nation – predominantly those which run on substantial state subsidies – should be levied some sort of tax (a ‘graduate tax’ or an ‘exit tax’) if they take up overseas jobs. This would also apply to the organisations that recruit such students, whereby they would be levied an annual tax for recruiting manpower from the country. Well, for many it might seem to be a retrograde step in this era of globalisation when we talk about free movement of goods, services and manpower, but then such a tax is a logical imperative, considering the dismal state of education infrastructure in India.
But even before I come to the state of education infrastructure of the country, I fail to understand why, in the first place, should the tax payers’ hard-earned money, which goes into subsidising the cost of education of the students of these premier institutions, be squandered by letting them go to enrich bottom-lines of foreign companies in a foreign land? Considering the cost that the Government of India incurs in educating an IITian – around Rs.20,00,000 (and another Rs.12,00,000 to Rs.13,00,000 if they end up doing a post-graduate management programme in any of the IIMs and making most of their engineering education redundant, which is true in most cases) – and also that all this comes from the tax payers’ money, it is ridiculous to let them go without letting them pay up for the subsidised education. The same holds true for students of other premier institutes as well. To an extent that though the poorest of the poor of this country might not contribute directly, they still do so indirectly (in the form of indirect taxes), then why should their money, instead of being spent on their basic wellbeing, be spent on those who, at the first chance, would want to exit this country after availing of all the benefits from it?
Secondly, it is no secret that for any business to sustain and grow, the most critical resource is human capital. And when these global multinationals come hunting for the same in India, why should they be allowed to shop for free for this all-critical resource? It is even more ridiculous to allow this at a point in time when the Indian economy is on a growth trajectory and most of the Indian companies are starving for talent! Thirdly, to levy a tax is also logical simply because the state of primary and secondary education in the country is in a dismal state of affairs! Taxing would enable mobilising revenues to create more centres of academic excellence, which can feed talent in a sustained manner to the talent starved India Inc.
Now the question is, what should be the ideal tax structure? Logically, the ‘graduate’ or the ‘exit’ tax should not only cover the entire subsidy, but along with it the interest component on the amount that remains invested on such students till they graduate. Moreover, any investment in education provides returns over the entire lifetime of any individual, so a proportion of minimum 5% should be earmarked as a contribution by the government towards them. And as far as the hiring companies are concerned, they know the value that each and every employee adds to their existing businesses; a proportion of that value could be earmarked as tax on an annual basis. It is not that India would be the first country to levy such taxes as there are other countries who have done similar. But then we have more pressing reasons for such taxes. Given our sickening performance in the social sector (health, education and employment), it is nothing less than being ludicrous to first let our talent leave to the developed world just like that and then not to charge a tax on it.
Finally, the tax – if and when applied on the exiting students and the overseas companies – can become a positive step only if it is applied in the right manner. It has to be remembered that the ultimate aim should not be to merely impose an ‘exit’ tax, but more than that, to create a mechanism to make sure that in the future they would prefer to stay back instead of making the ‘exit’ a habit! Till then, I’ll wait for the India Thanksgiving Day in the US to become a reality...

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Saddam''s trial: by the criminal, for the criminal, of the criminal

19 November 2006 |Dr. Arindam On America

The verdict on Saddam is out. The striking aspect of this news coverage were the two contrasting scenarios that evolved in most of the media reports globally. One was that of the celebration (on account of the verdict) within the Shia community of Baghdad, while the other was the contrast of despair and angst amongst the Sunnis. This, perhaps, is not just about Baghdad alone. Throughout the world, reactions have been divided between the Shias or Sunnis. And I have a strong feeling that the ramification of this verdict would be beyond the capacity of Americans to control. Iraq would once again erupt in another round of violence of vengeance, and probably the Sunnis, who have been at the receiving end, would fight back, amply aided this time by the Sunni dominant nations of the Middle East. And if the US stays on, then all that would go back is the number of body bags.I am not trying to justify that Saddam did not get the right verdict, neither am I portraying him as a ‘would be’ martyr. Indeed, he was a brutal dictator who ran a fiefdom in Iraq; and God knows how many he killed. No doubt, he made torture the rule of law; so much so that his Revolutionary Command Council even legitimised the amputation of tongue as a punishment for anyone maligning the President. His sons, Udayy Saddam Hussien and Qusayy Saddam Hussein, were lecherous and mentally sick individuals who derived sadistic pleasure by torturing and raping women. Beheading and limb amputations of political opponents was a part of Saddam’s daily affair. But, my contention is something different. Among all the crimes that he committed during his tenure, why was the massacre of 148 Shias at Dujail in 1982 taken up before others? A report by Foreign and Commonwealth Office of UK states “Human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iraq, have reported the phenomenon of killing inmates in order to cleanse the prisons. In 1984, 4,000 political prisoners were executed in a single prison, the Abu Ghraib. An estimated 2,500 prisoners were executed between 1997 and 1999 in further ‘prison cleansing’ campaigns.” The same report further stated that “Amnesty International estimates that over 100,000 Kurds were killed, or disappeared during 1987-1988, in an operation known as Anfal campaigns, to quell Kurdish insurgency and activities. The campaign included the use of chemical weapons. According to Human Rights Watch, a single attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja killed up to 5,000 civilians and injured some 10,000 more.” My question is, why did the war crime trail have to start with the massacre of Shias in Dujail and not with the genocide of the Kurds? Is it to create a bigger rift between the Shias and Sunnis? Or is it that the US is preparing its ground to exit Iraq (after gaining almost 11% of the world’s oil resource) on the premise of this increasing sectarian violence?The verdict, howsoever correct, would have been more justified, had it been from the UN. A peep into history tells us that Saddam, a monster created by the US, was an erstwhile ally of the US itself, to fight out Iran. In such a scenario, the verdict clearly indicates that for the sake of ‘profits’, Americans can go around the world to punish leaders, kill people and create a fake illusion in the name of justice. Even if I try to convince myself with a more rational reflection that war criminals like him should ideally be punished, and even if we take the context of his crime of killing 148 Shias in Dujail as a revenge for a failed attempt on his life by the underground Al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party, and considering the fact that such brutal and repressive vengeance needed to be punished, some questions remain unanswered. Instead of putting Saddam up for prosecution, shouldn’t one have in fact started with the trial of American Presidents for what they did in Japan (the atomic explosions killed more than 380,000 civilians), Korea (where the death toll was in millions), Vietnam (where casualties were anywhere between 2.5 to 3.8 million), Yugoslavia (the Kosovo war) and the relentless killings that happened in Middle East? Frankly, it sounds nothing less than ‘cold blooded audacity’ when a George Bush says that his country has delivered justice to the people of Iraq.Should not the very first trial have been of George Bush for the havoc that he and his administration created in Iraq? Does he even know how many he has killed due to lack of basic medicines from the time sanctions were imposed on Iraq (since the end of Gulf War I)? Forget about the ongoing civilian causalities, according to UNICEF, more than 500,000 children under the age of five have died since the imposition of sanctions in 1991. Isn’t this a crime on the Iraqis? And if it is, then who in this world gave Americans any right to control and conduct the trial of Saddam Hussein?

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Iran is crucial for the oil pipelines to India and china: that’s precisely why bush will try his best to bomb it

25 February 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

The war on terror was never on terror. With every passing day come more revelations, humiliating and embarrassing, on how the entire concept of weapons of mass destruction was manufactured to suit US President George W. Bush’s plans to capture the Iraqi oil fields . . . and now as the US-dictated dummy government runs Iraq, and almost all oil and infrastructure building contracts are pocketed by American companies (Bush and Dick Cheney it seems had started deciding on the companies like Bechtel, Flour Daniel etc. for awarding of the contracts even before they started the war on Iraq) . . . the result is quiet evident . . . oil prices at one time all set to touch the $100 per barrel mark are now hovering around the half way mark. And Americans are happily guzzling oil in their heavy duty SUV’s . . . after the destruction of the twin towers instead of finding out the al-Qaeda terrorists, Bush started focussing on all those who, according to him, were evil including the Saddam Hussein-led Iraq, the enemies of his ally number one Israel- Lebanon and the Hamas in Gaza and now finally he has started focusing on Iran . . .
The Bush administration has already started its propaganda machinery trying to convince the world as to how Iran is the most evil . . . they are trying to play on the Shia-Sunni sentiment to win some support in the Middle-east too by talking of an alliance with the Sunnis against the Shiite-led Iran. Unfortunately, a large poll of about 4,000 people conducted across the Arab world done by Zogby International clearly reveals that close to 80% Arabs find the US and Israel a much bigger threat than Iran.
Only six percent cited Iran, but obviously! The US is now trying to blame Iran for the blasts in Iraq and their failure to bring peace in Iraq. Also, another thing that they are feeling uncomfortable about is Iran’s new found and growing friendship with the socialist led leaders of Latin America, specially with Hugo Chavez. All these formal reasons and attempts to turn the world against Iran apart, there are more reasons for Bush’s growing inclinations for a war against Iran.
It is a fact that the Iranian oil apart, there is a large volume of oil, estimated at 500 years of reserve, that experts believe lie under the southern part of Caspian Sea that Iran largely occupies (the northern part is under Russian control and therefore totally inaccessible to the US) . . . it is also a fact that India and China together will be the largest consumers of energy and oil in the years ahead. And the future supply of oil to these two countries from Iran is the biggest barrier. Pakistan is already run by an American stooge government and the earlier war for oil pipelines in Afghanistan saw to it that Afghanistan is also under their total control (as far as taking the pipelines are concerned) . . . so it’s Iran that is left in the crucial game of oil pipelines for an easy flow of oil to India and China. The war on Iran therefore is a must keeping in mind the ‘real evil and oil led war instincts’ of Bush. The question is will he have the European Union’s support this time too? The bigger question is will Russia and China still play the role of shameless mute spectators? And the most important question is will the claimant over sole proprietary rights over democracy, the US, again become a dictatorship of the evil, by the evil and for the evil ???

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

WHEN TRUTH HAS MANY SHADES AND COLOURS...

21 January 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

After Saddam Hussein was hanged to death in a barbaric manner, preceded by a mockery of a trial remote controlled by Uncle Sam, arguably the biggest and most brutal bully in the history of the world, news channels like CNN showed sanitised footage of the former Iraqi dictator meeting his maker. If you believed the footage shown by global giants like CNN and Fox News, the hanging, in itself a deeply offensive and repulsive act, was done in as ‘dignified’ a manner as possible. Till a few years back, people like you and me had no choice but to rely on media outlets controlled by the neo-Imperial powers of the West to get information about events across the world. Remember the first Gulf War of 1990-91, when merciless pounding of Iraq by American bombs was shown on CNN almost like a Star Wars kind of movie or a fantasy? Fortunately for the world, media behemoths like CNN, Fox News and even BBC, who behave more like propaganda instruments of the West, can no longer hoodwink people of the world so easily. Take the case of Saddam Hussein. Mobile phone cameras secretly captured the real barbarism of his hanging and what do people of the world get to see? Sectarian security guards heckling, taunting and abusing Saddam moments before the hanging and even worse, his head lolling at a grotesque angle, with bloodied gashes across his neck. Even the most die-hard neo-con would find it tough to defend this outrage and widespread revulsion compelled President George Bush to say that what happened should not have happened. Yet, if news channels like Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Telecosur did not exist, people across Asia, Europe and Latin America would have never got the opportunity of the true face of American Imperialism at its worst. I am certain that CNN, Fox News and BBC would have continued to carry sanitised footage of the hanging, with bland words announcing some meaningless things. Thanks to alternative media outlets like Al-Jazeera, the propaganda tools of the Imperial West could not get away with the duplicity they have been practising for decades. In a rapidly globalising world where giant media conglomerates seek to constantly suppress, twist, distort and even manufacture news from the third world, these alternative media outlets are performing a critical role in history. They are having a powerful impact on people across the world. In any case, genuine democracy means space for opposing and conflicting opinions and points of view. Without these channels, the world would get only one opinion and only one point of view – that of the neo-cons in Washington fantasising about dominating the world – no matter what the cost to human lives and dignity. Once upon a time, there was some conscience left in media in Europe and America. The Vietnam conflict that spanned the 1960s and half of the 1970s was a shining example of a ‘free’, ‘fair’ and ‘fearless’ media from the First World exposing crimes committed by First World leaders. It was brave European and American journalists who exposed the atrocities committed by American troops in Vietnam. It was a series of truthful and horrifying accounts of the war in Vietnam that convinced the American public that their country was involved in something terribly wrong, immoral and even unwinnable. I am sure the First World must still have brave journalists, photographers and cameramen who must be appalled at what is happening in Iraq. I am sure they must be eager to expose the atrocities being heaped upon innocent people in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. But the problem is, where will they expose the atrocities? Surely not in Fox News? Since the 1970s, as compellingly documented and analysed by intellectuals like Noam Chomsky (who has written a brilliant book Manufacturing Consent that exposes the double standards of Big Media in the West), corporate interests have completely taken over the media, leaving no room for dissent. Even as the entire world condemned the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, American media supported it blindly, sent ‘embedded’ reporters who dished out propaganda and generally behaved like a cheer parade. Even now, with almost 70% of Americans disapproving, Big Media still hesitates to call this disaster a disaster. That’s where institutions like Al-Jazeera and Telecosur come into play. The American media and establishment may not like them; but I know that they will at least not parrot the propaganda dished out by the Big Media. And how the American establishment hates these new comers! During the invasion of Iraq, Al-Jazeera was the only channel showing footage and stories from its Baghdad office that was uncomfortable for America. Surprise, Surprise, a precision American bomb and missile destroyed the office of Al-Jazeera in Baghdad!

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

US is setting a shocking precedence by irrationally doling out money to Pakistan!!

29 April 2007 |Dr. Arindam On America

Capitalism is a great slave, but a pathetic master. This truth unfortunately gets lost in our chase for that elusive dream . . . especially in America, the land that has been marketed as the land of dreams – the great American dream. It’s the dream of being independent masters of our lives, the dream of making big bucks and the dream of being happy – even if that happiness is being bought by money which all of them chase out there. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comforts aplenty. It has upped the living standard of its average citizen to an extent that it stands amongst the highest – even if that is a result of more than 200 years of unbridled growth and exploitation. Thus, the shop window of Americanism looks lucidly attractive; you’ve got all of them standing there – from Bill Gates to Michael Dell – in Tommy Hilfigers and Ralph Laurens! And that is what has made the rest of the world mindlessly chase Americanism, not necessarily happiness or an ideal form of society. All because the shop window looks very impressive and it has been marketed very well. But a deep look inside the shop, of course, tells a different tale. A different world lies behind the designer clothes and the designer dreams, a world that is not quite visible to the starry eyed millions – for whom the American way of life seems to be the ultimate dream – because this other side of the truth about the American society, unfortunately hasn’t found marketers. Thus, we have Indian girls having their dream to get married to an NRI, preferably settled in the US, and Indian middle class fathers dreaming of their sons reaching the Bay area and landing tech jobs, unmindful of the second class life they end up leading in the US. What goes unseen and almost unheard is that America also happens to be the land that is right amongst the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, the number of single parent families per thousand, the number of old people in old age homes, the number of rape cases per million, the number of suicides, homicides, and of course, the number of college/school shootouts . . . And why not! After all, in a society where ‘what you are’ is equal to ‘what you have’ plus ‘what you consume’, the only way to achieve more is to have and consume more (That’s why we call the US a consumerist society, and its culture, consumerism), and therefore, be constantly driven towards higher profits and materialism. Expectedly, this materialism comes at a cost that the world is paying today. This is the reason why we have millions dying of curable diseases in Africa and other lesser developed countries, while the rich grow richer. Their growth will be reduced, if they were to start thinking of the poor. So what do they do to justify their greed for more? They most shrewdly propagate and market a ridiculously primitive law of the jungle for our 21st century civilisation, the ‘Law of Survival of the Fittest’! The interesting thing about material things is that they only give an illusion of happiness; and even such happiness always is momentary in nature. Ergo, at this juncture, you feel you are the happiest person in the world, after buying your new car or flatscreen TV, and just a few days later, these are the very possessions that cease to make you happy, because you are already thinking of a bigger car or a bigger TV. While you chase the bigger car to become larger than life in order to be happier, you sacrifice those that have the maximum power to make you happy – family, emotions and love. Prolonged abstinence in employing emotions finally destroys them; and you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry eyed moron (Yes! America also happens to be the land, which has the maximum number of dry-eyed people). And then, while chasing after neverending desires, one day you are left alone . . . probably divorced, without children, and in an old age home (If not that, the situation is more often close to that, than not) . . . and suddenly, you realise that there is emptiness all around . . . and you land up in a Deepak Chopra workshop to find out the real meaning of life – or whatever he is capable of explaining. But by then, it’s really too late. By then, you have made profits out of arms, and engineered wars to keep that industry alive. You’ve sold guns across counters at Wal-Mart and made more profits. You’ve lobbied that guns should be made accessible to the common man, and all for the sake of profits. You’ve created an end result of a society increasingly becoming devoid of emotions; not a society where man was born with all the natural traits of love, bonding and emotions, but a society which has succeeded in making one fall prey to the idea of greater happiness through endless materialism, in making him appreciate the bombing of countries and killing of millions, because the profits from the war would help accumulate more materialistic assets . . . This is the society that finally creates an emotionless monster, who gets satisfaction in killing 33 innocent students for no cause, no reason and for none, but himself. It is the utter destruction of spiritualism and the total focus on endless self-gratification at the cost of others and their lives that has left America today with the maximum number of young school and college going kids taking up guns and shooting others in the most horrendous manner possible. A country with so many single parent families and divorces, neither can bring up its children any better, nor could influence Cho Seung-Hui – the Korean who took those lives – any better.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Ever wondered why, while attacks in Mumbai keep happening, another 9/11 has not happened in the US?

21 July 2011 |Dr. Arindam On America

Mumbai has become a living example of how terrorists can come at their will, kill hundreds of innocents, destroy property worth hundreds of crores, instill a state of perpetual fear in those who manage to survive and thereby blatantly spit on the face of Indian sovereignty, time and again. And the best that we can do is offer condolences for the aggrieved, and wait for the next blast to happen. No doubt, we have attained a state of shameless vulnerability and have almost epitomised it. And that is the reason why since the last few years, the incidence of terror attacks has not only seen an unprecedented surge, but has become increasingly blatant, gory and on the face. It is as if a blast or two a year has almost become an annual ritual. And every such blast also blows away into pieces the resolve that our government had taken during the previous attack – calling it a bold step against terror. And the saga continues...
The matter of the fact is that today, not only do we lack political will and stringent comprehensive laws to counter terrorism, our law enforcement agencies don’t even have a proper clue about the same. So much so, the terrorists are better versed about the loopholes in the existing anti-terror laws and abuse it to the hilt. And why shouldn’t they – not only are our laws old and crying to be updated, but they are also laden with loopholes. In spite of trapping the actual culprits, these laws have been used more to settle political and personal scores. Take for instance the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, better known as POTA, which was used by law enforcement agencies more to arrest people who were innocent rather than actual terrorists. The abuse and misuse of the law was so rampant that the law, for sometime, had to be repealed. For the uninitiated, this law was on the lines of UK’s Prevention of Terrorism Act and America’s PATRIOT Act. However, unlike our law, their laws strengthened the anti-terror operations and aided the counter-terrorism cell.
The same can be reiterated for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which, in spite of providing huge strength to counter insurgency operations, failed to reap any fruitful results; on the contrary, the act was seen being abused by police officers in the north-east region of the nation. The next in line is the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1987 (TADA). This anti-terrorist law allowed police to prosecute criminals who have testified to their crime. Out of more than 50,000 people detained under TADA (by 1992, after which the law was invoked on only a few occasions), only 0.80 per cent were actually convicted. The new modification made in these laws post 26/11, and introduction of section 43A has, rather than making the law comprehensive, given more power to police forces. Every time we bring a new law assuming in good faith that the police or the army will use it for the right reasons, we see them misusing the same laws with impunity. Each of these laws, therefore, should come with stringent punishments meted out for their misuse as well.
A recent report by the US State Department released in May 2011 finds that “India’s counter-terrorism efforts were hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems.” The report further blames our slow, laborious, and corrupt judiciary for delays in closing terror related cases. Even media reports have quoted IB statements that prove how “modules in Kerala are always on standby and prepared for major operations. They say that there are several self-motivated modules in the state which can carry out terror attacks. Major outfits like the IM are aware of this and they have never tried to set up their own modules.” Given the fact that serial blasts, like what was executed in Mumbai last week, does not cost more than a lakh or so of rupees; the execution and mobilising of resources are not only easy but quite hassle-free too. Talking about India’s explosives law would be a matter of further shame. Our explosives act is 127 years old having little or rather no guidelines that can keep a track of the movement of bomb making ingredients. In the US, much personal information, including finger-prints of all individuals dealing with explosives, is maintained and regularly updated.
Thus, wherein we have three major laws related to counter terrorism that are outdated, laden with loopholes and are ineffective and misused, countries like US have arrays of laws covering almost all current and future probable dimensions of terrorism. Legislations like the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, US Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Executive Order 13224, PATRIOT Act clubbed with the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act, Homeland Security Act of 2002, Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act) of 2002, Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, REAL ID Act of 2005 and Military Commissions Act of 2006 leave no space for a terrorist to escape or dodge the system. Probably that’s why the US has never seen another 9/11 again.
Do I need to say any more?

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Do the Americans want complete anarchy in the Middle East to justify their massive defence budgets?

28 October 2011 |Dr. Arindam On America

After seven odd assassination attempts over the last four decades, it was on October 20, 2011, that one of the most successful Libyan leaders Muammar Gaddafi kissed the most brutal and disgraceful death. Libyan fighters snapped him out of his ‘hole’ and shot him to death. His body, half naked, completely wounded, shambled hairs and bloodied was then delivered as prized possession to Misrata (a city near Sirte) where it was put on public display as a token of victory for the rebels. And with it came an end of the era, which Gaddafi built over 40 years. And with his end, the US again proved its double standards to the world!
Yes Gaddafi was a ruler who made a lot of personal wealth the way perhaps many other rulers in India and many other countries try to do. He ruled with an iron fist but then many other rulers across the world do the same. But here are some facts about Gaddafi. Under his rule and his economic policies, Libya’s human development indicators improved so much that it was ranked as a nation that had highest per capita GDP in Africa, best education index and also an exceptional human development index.
During his rule, women had the best of access to equality in the whole of Arab world. Yes, many people did revolt against him due to his iron fist rule, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the kind of evil that the western media has been trying to portray in the last few months. The ire of the west lies actually in the fact that Gaddafi was the real mastermind behind OPEC that virtually transferred billions of petro dollars from the western coffers to the Arab world. And that is something that the west hasn’t been able to forget or forgive.
Let me state clearly that this is no way an attempt to defend Gaddafi or his iron fist policies. The attempt is to bring forth the American double standards by taking a simple look at the three regimes which have been overthrown in Libya, Egypt and Iraq because there can be nothing more shameful than what US is doing to the entire Middle East and Africa. Not only they have been supporting the dictators with arms but with this act, they have overthrown three most successful regimes of the region to quench their lust for oil.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

Do Americans want complete anarchy in the Middle East?

06 November 2011 |Dr. Arindam On America

After seven odd assassination attempts over the last four decades, it was on October 20, 2011, that one of the most successful Libyan leaders Muammar Gaddafi kissed the most brutal and disgraceful death. Libyan fighters snapped him out of his ‘hole’ and shot him to death. His body, half naked, completely wounded, shambled hairs and bloodied was then delivered as prized possession to Misrata (a city near Sirte) where it was put on public display as a token of victory for the rebels. And with it came an end of the era, which Gaddafi built over 40 years. And with his end, the US again proved its double standards to the world!
Yes Gaddafi was a ruler who made a lot of personal wealth the way perhaps many other rulers in India and many other countries try to do. He ruled with an iron fist but then many other rulers across the world do the same. But here are some facts about Gaddafi. Under his rule and his economic policies, Libya’s human development indicators improved so much that it was ranked as a nation that had highest per capita GDP in Africa, best education index and also an exceptional human development index.
During his rule, women had the best of access to equality in the whole of Arab world. Yes, many people did revolt against him due to his iron fist rule, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the kind of evil that the western media has been trying to portray in the last few months. The ire of the west lies actually in the fact that Gaddafi was the real mastermind behind OPEC that virtually transferred billions of petro dollars from the western coffers to the Arab world. And that is something that the west hasn’t been able to forget or forgive.
Let me state clearly that this is no way an attempt to defend Gaddafi or his iron fist policies. The attempt is to bring forth the American double standards by taking a simple look at the three regimes which have been overthrown in Libya, Egypt and Iraq because there can be nothing more shameful than what US is doing to the entire Middle East and Africa. Not only they have been supporting the dictators with arms but with this act, they have overthrown three most successful regimes of the region to quench their lust for oil.
It is no secret that since decades, US has been a chief supplier of arms to the Middle Eastern countries and especially to those nations where the regime needed it most - to most autocratic and ruthless rulers. In 2009, President Obama has asked Pentagon to sell most advanced weapons to governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Between 2006 and 2009 US supplied arms worth $47 billion to Middle Eastern nations, which was 54 per cent of total arms purchased by the region. It was the American weapons that were used in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt to curb the pro-democratic movements. And why not; it is these countries that collectively provided US with $70 billion through arms trade.
The Obama administration last November struck a deal with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia wherein Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase arms worth $60 billion over the next 20 years including F-15 fighter aircrafts. This is the same country which is criticized for suppressing women’s rights and discriminating against foreign workers. The nation has also come under international human rights radar for practicing unfair trials and arbitrary detentions.
Similarly, US support to Jordan’s government is omnipresent. Last year it gave aid worth $300 million that the government eventually used for curbing political resistance and violating basic rights. Interestingly, the US had made its tie stronger with Turkmenistan that last year received military aid worth $2 million a jump from $150,000 in 2009. This jump is credited to the fact that it eases the flow of arms into Afghanistan and Pakistan and this is in spite of the fact that the 2009 State Department report of the US itself claimed the regime to be an abuser of human rights. Similar is the case of American relations with Uzbekistan (Sanctions against the brutal regime were lifted in 2006 and the Obama administration is all set to refurbish the relationship).
Coming back to the case of Gaddafi, Libya had been a key partner of US in the African region. It is no secret that Gaddafi’s rule of Libya was a transformation from an outcast to a neo-liberal nation for the Western countries. In 1980s through 1990s, Gaddafi’s coveted unflagging support to various national liberation movements that later drew ire from the Western countries, who branded Libya as “terrorist rogue state”! The testimony to it is the bombing by the Ronald Reagan administration that was aimed at assassination of Gaddafi! However, the table was turned in late 1990s - when UN sanctions were lifted in 1999 and US itself abandoned its sanctions against Libya by 2006. It was a case of restoring Gaddafi for American policy benefits! The US also blackmailed Gaddafi to support American policies so that it could give a leeway to Libya on human rights (read, hardliners)! US also had interest in Libya for its arms trade - and essentially suggested - and helped Libya develop its missiles and chemical weapons with American help. Gaddafi chased advanced weapons using petro-dollars and tried to portray himself as the leader of the entire Africa! Gaddafi made windfall gains through oil trade that constituted 30 per cent of Libya’s GDP. The per capita export of oil by Gaddafi eclipsed even that of Saudi Arabia thus allowing the country to achieve the highest standard of living Africa. Now that Gaddafi is gone, Libya is likely to plunge into chaotic misrule. Gaddafi was a secular leader and Libyan Special Services was frontrunner and an ally of United States in fight against terrorism and hunting down Osama Bin Laden. There are now clear fears that after usurping power, the rebel forces can sink into the hands of Islamic hardliners and form another breeding ground of terrorism!
The same story was repeated for Egypt. It has been the beneficiary of $60 billion of US aid in last 30 years! It is a key ally of US in the Middle East and Hosni Mubarak, to a large extent, was an instrumental tool in achieving the same. That was the reason that Obama administration was reluctant to throw its full support behind the Tahrir Square protestors. It is touted that Obama administration helped Mubarak with weapons in suppressing the pro-democracy movement - which eventually made the citizens more hostile towards Mubarak. However, under domestic pressure and to maintain their political image US eventually and conveniently dumped (read: backstabbed) its major strategic ally The change of regime in Egypt - as one would have liked - didn’t really result in a miracle for the country! From the poor peasants to the miniscule business classes - all are facing a huge fall in the living standards they enjoyed before. Moreover, many hardliner Egyptians follow the Salafi brand of Islam (associated as violent jihad against civilians) that is a cause of impediments to the modernization of Egyptian society. Till the end of Mubarak’s regime, it was justified to claim that Egyptian women were one of the most progressive in the Arab world.
Several advancements had been made to improve women’s rights. Several rights such as right to no fault divorce, greater custody of their children were introduced. Under Mubarak’s regime there were handful of women cabinet ministers and about quarter of corporate top posts were occupied by women. Therefore, there was an overall feel-good-factor for women’s rights and women’s voices in Mubarak’s regime. However, after the fall of Mubarak, quite gratuitously, not a single woman was appointed to the committee for drafting the new Constitution. So, the scenario that has unfolded in Egypt is a fierce return of the Salafi image of Islam and is politicizing women as a gambit to dissipate previous progress made for their rights! Apart from intent to discard and abandon women’s rights as equal to men Salafism discounts politics as revisionist and democracy as a domain of the infidels! If the discourse of the present day is allowed to amplify, it can well foretell a day of doom for Egypt - an Afghanistan like situation - terrorized, chaotic and depressed like that of any brutal middle age regime!
Both of these cases were one where US had a little choice as both of these were public outburst against increasingly unpopular rulers. However, in both the case they tried saving these dictators but eventually backstabbed them to keep their hands clean. In the same light, Saddam Hussain, like Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, was supported, sustained, indulged by US only to be abandoned later because of economic and strategic reasons! The US provided Saddam with several billion dollar financial aid, state-of-the-art weaponry, military intelligence and special operations training to be used as bulwark against Iran’s increasing clout under Khomeini. The arms trade of US with Iraq reached sizeable proportions which the Reagan and Bush administrations frequently encouraged, including chemical and biological weapons! Not only weaponry, but US provided all kinds of training as well to Saddam Hussain’s elite Revolutionary Guards on US soil.
A report released in 1994, clearly explained that the biological weapons (disease producing and poisonous) were exported to Iraq under the licensing of US Department of Commerce. However, in 1990 when Saddam attacked Kuwait, American ire fell on Iraq transforming them from an all-weather-friend to an arch rival! After the fall of Saddam Hussain in 2003, the country plunged into total anarchy as terrorism, disorder, bomb blasts, lawlessness, lack of development, utter chaos and misrule became a daily routine. That’s what US did to a perfectly prosperous, wealthy and a progressive nation! Saddam Hussain was a secularist and a liberal leader. He encouraged women’s rights as well. Women were given full time jobs, they were a part of arguably the best education system in the Arab world, were given maternity leave for a whole year, and public day care centers were set up. However, today Sharia law has been enforced where women cannot involve themselves in public life, their freedom of movement has been restricted, abduction and assassination of women is common! The US act in Iraq is a total failure. The people there are far worse off now than what they were during the Saddam regime.
What I am trying to say in simple words is that no doubt Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi and Saddam were dictators. But they were American allies at one time or other They have been supported and encouraged by America over the years like many other brutal dictators in Africa, Islamic fanatics like Osama and rogue nations like Pakistan. From 1950 to 1989, it is the same US that delivered $1.5 billion worth arms to Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and Congo.
Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani bought arms worth $200 million from these same Americans, who also sold $7 billion worth advanced missile defense system built by Lockheed Martin Corporation to the United Arab Emirates. In fact Egypt itself bought almost 90 per cent of its arms from US between 1989 and 2008. Americans have regularly in past and even now continue to support brutal dictators around the world.
However these three who have been overthrown and killed first, were the most progressive of all regimes when it came to women’s rights-a key factor of judging Arab nations, national income, education and other human development index parameters. The question is: what is it that America wants? It has miserably failed to bring any kind of democracy in the Arab or African world nor does it care. It supports the most brutal of dictators and supplies arms to them for its own profits. But apart from this greed to secure oil pipelines in these nations, is it also that America wants these nations to be ruled by Islamic fanatics rather than progressive dictators- the latter clearly being the better of the two evils- simply because social disturbances and conflicts in these nations allows US defense budget to thrive and be justified.
All I can say is that for the sake of their arms industry and greed for oil, it has been successful in overthrowing three strong and progressive nations of the world and reducing them to dumps. While nation after nation is on the brink of a social collapse; for the US, it is business as usual. And it is time that the world must wake up and act against this unilateral dictatorship in the name of democracy.

DR. ARINDAM ON AMERICA

How the extreme Right is screwing America and the extreme Left is screwing India!

19 April 2012 |Dr. Arindam On America

I have been in the United States the last few days on a lecture tour. Every time I come here, I discover more fascinating things about this fascinating country! Though my hectic tour has not allowed me much time, as I would have loved to go through all manners of newspapers and magazines, I have still managed to go through a lot of them. And one thing strikes me as very strange. I mean, most of the media is full of stories about the imminent face off between the Republican Mitt Romney and the Democrat incumbent Barack Obama. But the media seems to have an equal number of stories on the Tea Party, on how the Republicans are waging a war on women and on how Obama has a massive lead over Romney when it comes to women voters in America. One thing you must grant this country – even those from the ‘Left’ ideologies who dislike America so much – the freedom of speech here is genuine and everybody seems to exercise the right to yell their heads off! I was blown away by some of the articles, columns and opinion pieces on controversial issues like Obamacare and the shooting of the Florida teenager by a white man that would have almost surely caused riots in India or would have been banned!
But even as I enjoyed reading about these ideological issues and debates here in America, one thought kept coming back to me. It was about how the extreme Right in America seems to be so ideologically rigid, so stubborn and so divorced from reality. And yes, so obsessed with so called family and Christian values. I was shocked to know that a significant number of people in many Midwestern states of America still think that Obama is a Muslim who goes to a mosque! And I couldn’t help thinking about how, in a way, the extreme Left in India is behaving in a manner similar to the extreme Right in the United States. I mean, if many extreme Right-wing types in America seem to nurture a hatred for Islam, many extreme Left-wing types in India seem to nurture a hatred for Hinduism. And I realized three things that are very disturbing. The first is that the extreme Right in America and the extreme Left in India have a very dominant space in mainstream media. The second is that in their respective countries, they both have an unusual influence on policy making. The third is that such rigid ideological stands and blind opposition to anything that doesn’t suit their worldview is literally screwing both countries.
When it comes to a dominant voice in mainstream media, it does appear as if the extreme Right-wing in the United States has less of it than the Left in India. Look at the two most controversial issues in America now – the healthcare act (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and the urgent need to cut deficits. For both these issues, the liberals seem to get as much space as the conservatives. You also have liberal voices that are blasting the Supreme Court judges in America because they have got a hint that the ideologically Right-wing inclined Supreme Court might declare Obama’s dream healthcare act as unconstitutional. Then again, you have an equal cacophony of conservative and liberal voices about raising or not raising taxes on the rich. You have a Rush Limbaugh who calls a lady student a slut because she wants contraception to be part of her health insurance package. There was a huge outcry and many radio stations and advertisers banned Limbaugh for his remarks. But there were a lot who defended his right to free speech and said the lady had no business to talk about pills and condoms during an important debate over health insurance. But in India, it is the Left that seems to be the dominant voice in mainstream media. I have been following media reports since the horrific riots of Gujarat in 2002 and I have been astonished at the manner in which the extreme Left spews venom and hatred towards the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. A campaign by these secular fundamentalists led to a situation where the chief minister of a state of India was denied a visa by the US almost as if he was a war criminal. I mean, why single out only Narendra Modi to the exclusion of everything and everybody else? Have there been no other riots in India? Have Muslims and Sikhs not been butchered in other riots? Why single out Modi?
The influence of the extreme Right in America and the extreme Left in India on mainstream media is as it is unhealthy. It becomes even more dangerous when you realize how powerful their influence is on policy making. One of the main reasons for the global financial system to come to the verge of collapse in 2008 was the behaviour of immoral and greedy banks and their auditors. Everybody knows it and everybody talks about it. And yet, even a so called liberal like Obama has miserably failed to curb the influence of Wall Street on Washington. Those are corporate lobbies that are dictating terms; and they simply brush aside any honest criticism that alludes to their actions being bad for the country. So scared are even moderate Republicans of the Tea Party and other extremists that not one of them is willing to raise taxes on the rich even by one percent. They keep insisting that they will further lower taxes on the rich because those are the ‘rich’ entrepreneurs who create wealth and jobs. They refuse to accept the fact that the greatest era of America was for four decades after the Second World War when income inequalities were low and the government invested in physical and social infrastructure. In today’s America, the middle class is disappearing and soon you will have only the very rich and the poor. The bigger tragedy is that the influence of the extreme Right-wing on American policy making is creating the worst kind of crony capitalism.
In India, the extreme Left seems to have a similar influence on policy making, and even more dangerous. Since 2004, their influence has led to many policies and bills, which mean well but are disastrous. The extreme Left in India wants the government to be more involved in everything and it refuses to accept a simple fact that high GDP growth rates are a necessary condition for reduction of poverty. No sir, they just want to redistribute poverty and keep a mai baap sarkar in perpetuity. Look at the NREGA. After about seven years, it has been so riddled with corruption and leakages that the government itself has reduced the Budget allocation for it this year. Look at the Right to Education. Sure, it is a great thing to give an opportunity to poor students. But even if 100% of all seats in all private schools are reserved for poor students – leaving parents of middle class and rich children to fend for themselves – there would still be tens of millions of poor kids without access to decent education. There just aren’t enough private schools with enough seats. And you must be joking if you think that Indian villages – where poor children most desperately need access to decent education – have private schools. Talk to the extreme Left about improving public education or about making teachers and administrators accountable and their trade union partners will raise such a dust and storm that you wouldn’t know what hit you. And yes, I must point out another marvelous piece of initiative of the Left called the Communal Violence Bill. If that Bill were to be passed, then those will only be Hindus who would be liable to be prosecuted if there were a communal riot – because then the Indian Constitution will openly admit that only Hindus are capable of communal riots and killing people of other religions! God help India from such do-gooders, I say.
The basic problem with the extreme Right in the United States is that it thinks God is on their side and nothing else is acceptable or tolerable. The basic problem with the extreme Left in India is the same, except that God in this case is either Marx or Mao! Strange and sad, how the two largest democracies of the world are being hijacked by extremists…

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