Tagged: South Asia

Japan’s resurgent nationalism pours salt on the wounds of war

Nanjing Massacre
Verdict of the International Military Tribunal

A Japanese cabinet member visited a shrine seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime aggression on Wednesday, pouring salt on a fresh wound after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pilgrimage there last week drew sharp criticism from China and South Korea.

Internal Affairs Minister Yoshitaka Shindo said he thought his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine was unlikely to become a diplomatic issue…

But Beijing and Seoul have repeatedly expressed anger over politicians’ visits to Yasukuni, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honored along with those who died in battle.

Both China and Korea suffered under Japanese rule, with parts of China occupied from the 1930s and Korea colonized from 1910 to 1945. Japanese leaders have apologized in the past but many in China and South Korea doubt the sincerity of the apologies, partly because of contradictory remarks by politicians.

China condemned Wednesday’s visit, which it said exposed Japan’s war crimes and attempts to “challenge the outcomes of the world’s anti-fascist war“…

Underscoring the deteriorating ties between Asia’s two biggest economies, China said its leaders would not meet Abe after he visited Yasukuni on Thursday, the first visit by a serving Japanese prime minister since 2006.

The quality of Reuters commentary continues to deteriorate. They end the article with one of those fatuous boilerplate sentences famous in diplomatic annals: “Experts see his visit as an attempt to recast Japan’s wartime past in a less apologetic light and revive national pride.”

Which experts, working for which governments — and what sort of national pride is raised by visiting a memorial best-known even in Japan as important to the nation’s greed and brutality to all other Asian nations? There are beaucoup alternatives popular among the Japanese people.

Can you imagine Angela Merkel or Giorgio Napolitano paying a visit of remembrance to Hitler’s bunker or the Esso station in Milan where Mussolini’s body was laid out for the public to spit on. Do you think President Obama should wander through Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina to visit Jesse Helms’ grave? The last and most unrepentant racist elected to the US Senate on a platform of opposing civil rights for non-white Americans – forever!

Right-wing nationalism in Japan only means one policy in the last century of Asian history. Military might and political will commanded to serve Japanese corporate Zaibatsu.

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U.N. report politely asks U.S. to ‘clarify’ use of drones in conflicts – 18% of deaths are civilians

Civilians account for almost one fifth of the deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan over the past decade, a U.N. report says…Of the approximately 2,200 Pakistanis who have died in drone strikes, the report says 400 (18 percent) were not militants…

Ben Emmerson, a U.N. special rapporteur who wrote the report, said that Pakistani officials who provided the number indicate that, “owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate.”

Some 31 civilians have been killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan and between 12 and 18 in Yemen in the past 18 months, the report added.

The 22-page report was released ahead of a debate on the use of remotely piloted aircraft scheduled for next Friday at the U.N. General Assembly, The Guardian reported…

Emmerson contrasted British and U.S. policies on drone usage. He said Britain’s Royal Air Force “thoroughly scrubbed” its intelligence before authorizing the use of drones. As a result, he said, there had been only one incident in which civilians were killed.

The CIA’s use of drones had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency,” Emmerson said. Consequently, the United States has not revealed any data about the number of civilians killed or injured by drone strikes.

He called on the United States to “further clarify” its policies about the use of drones and to declassify information about the use of drones in counter-terrorism activities.

Here in the States we’re faced with the Pentagon, Defense [War] Department officials, the White house [regardless of who's in office] and Congress ready and willing to legalize attacks upon foreign soil around the world. They will figure out some way to satisfy themselves – if not the public – about the death of civilian non-combatants under any circumstances.

This is how the US manages transparency.

May was the most violent, the deadliest month in Iraq for years

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.

The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.

The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…

Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…

Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…

On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.

One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.

But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.

The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.

It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.

The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.

Genetically tracking human migration — via mice

They may be small, but the information mice can convey about the movements of humans throughout history is mighty, according to a Cornell researcher.

Jeremy Searle, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, explores the global distribution of small mammals and has found that house mice (Mus musculus) are ideal biomarkers of human settlement as well. Where people go, so do mice, often stowing away in carts of hay or on ships. Despite a natural range of just 100 meters and an evolutionary base near Pakistan, the house mouse has managed to colonize every continent, which makes it a useful tool for researchers like Searle.

…Searle and co-author Eleanor Jones…showed how mice hitched a ride with the Vikings and set up colonies in areas where the Norwegians settled, such as the British Isles, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.

Previous research conducted by Searle at the University of York supported the theory that Australian mice originated in the British Isles and probably came over with convicts shipped there to colonize the continent in the late 18th and 19th centuries. He came to the conclusion by using evolutionary techniques to analyze mitochondrial DNA, comparing modern-day mouse populations from Australia with those from their likely regional source in Western Europe.

In the Viking study, he and his fellow researchers in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden took it a step further, using ancient mouse DNA collected from archaeological sites dating from the 10th to 12th centuries, as well as modern mice…

Using mice as a proxy for human movement can add to what is already known through archaeological data and answer important questions in areas where there is a lack of artifacts, Searle said…

Mice are living artifacts. They can tell us where people have moved in the same way a piece of pottery might tell us where an Etruscan merchant went. And because of the wealth of genetic data we can collect from mice, they might actually tell us much more than a piece of pottery,” Searle said.

I love this. His next study carries forward tracking mice from South Asia to East Africa. A study in genes, transportation and unintended consequences.

India measures itself against a China that couldn’t care less

It seems to be a national obsession in India: measuring the country’s economic development against China’s yardstick.

At a recent panel discussion to commemorate the 20th anniversary of India’s dismantling parts of its socialist economy, a government minister told business leaders to keep their eye on the big prize: growing faster than China. “That’s not impossible,” said the minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, who oversees national security and previously was finance minister. “People are beginning to talk about outpacing China.”

Indians, in fact, seem to talk endlessly about all things China, a neighbor with whom they have long had a prickly relationship, but which is also one of the few other economies that has had 8 percent or more annual growth in recent years…

“Indians are obsessed with China, but the Chinese are paying too little attention to India,” said Minxin Pei, an economist who was born in China and who writes a monthly column for The Indian Express, a national daily newspaper…

It might be only natural that the Chinese would look up the development ladder to the United States, now that it is the only nation in the world with a larger economy, rather than over their shoulders at India, which ranks ninth. And while China is India’s largest trading partner, the greatest portion of China’s exports go to the United States. China’s largest trading partner is the EU – even if it doesn’t fit the NYT editorial template.

Evidence of the Indo-Sino interest disparity can be seen in the two countries’ leading newspapers. The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s house organ, had only 24 articles mentioning India on its English-language Web site in the first seven months of this year, according to the Factiva database. By contrast, The Times of India, the country’s largest circulation English-language newspaper, had 57 articles mentioning China — in July alone.

There are other big gaps. Indian cities, large and small, are filled with Chinese restaurants that serve a distinctly ultraspicy, Indian version of that cuisine. But there are few Indian restaurants in Beijing or Shanghai, let alone in smaller Chinese cities.

RTFA. It rolls on through a chunk of anecdotal information. Useful as far as it goes. And it only goes as far as the NY TIMES habit of continuing the Cold War with China – even though it finally seems to have relented a little over Russia.

Completely lacking from the analysis is where both nations started out. There are many parallels and economics were certainly similar at the end of the 1940’s as both countries stepped out into liberation from a foreign yoke in the case of India and a comprador class intertwined with warlords and bandits in China.

Frankly, the significant historic difference lies in handicaps which India retains. Much of the caste system is unrelenting regardless of lip service and law. China’s bureaucratic corruption siphons off a lot less opportunity and value. India’s cachet of wealth and power held by historically “important” families is closer to Japan’s Zaibatsu than anything in China. Ongoing commitments to religion in India – whether as a cultural anchor or dedicated political parties – hinders the growth of the economy as much as you would expect from theocratic ideologues in government.

Afghanistan worst place for women — India made the top five!

Targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, according to a global survey…

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia feature in descending order after Afghanistan in the list of the five worst states, the poll among gender experts shows.

The appearance of India, a country rapidly developing into an economic super-power, was unexpected. It is ranked as extremely hazardous because of the subcontinent’s high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.

Others were less surprised to be on the list. Informed about her country’s inclusion, Somalia’s women’s minister, Maryan Qasim, responded: “I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth…”

India is the fourth most dangerous country. “India’s central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children,” the survey found.

Forced marriage and forced labour trafficking add to the dangers for women. “Up to 50 million girls are thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,”, the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls…

Monique Villa, the chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said: “Hidden dangers – like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare – are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines…

Empowering women tackles the very roots of poverty. In the developing world when a woman works, her children are better fed and better educated because they spend their money for their family…”

Each country was also ranked in terms of six risk factors including: health, discrimination and lack of access to resources, cultural and religious practices, sexual violence, human trafficking and conflict-related violence.

RTFA for details on each. The core study is available here [.pdf].

I’ve only featured the inclusion of India in this post because – as the article noted – it was the only surprise in the group.

Obama’s Shadow War on Terror


Leading progress towards peace in Yemen

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

RTFA. Long. In depth. Just the beginning of coverage of the war our government wishes to keep secret.

As usual, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Agency vs. agency. One group of political hacks with a set of loyalties vs. another group of political hacks with differing loyalties. Decisions made about who should have the power of life and death – determined by which agency has the least oversight from Congress. As if that mattered.

Plus, plausible deniability for the White House.

US Fortress to be built in Pakistan


Holbrooke and Gilani
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

This Op-Ed piece is typical of Ghori’s rants. Nationalist before democrat, though both interdependent. A retired career diplomat.

The Americans are coming, and coming big,’ according to media pundits in Pakistan. And none should blame them for going over the top because the figures being bandied about are, to say the very least, flabbergasting.

What’s on the drawing boards in Washington and Islamabad are the blue prints for vastly increasing the number of American personnel manning one of the most important diplomatic presence in the 21st century for the Americans in Pakistan. Apparently, Washington feels that its battery of 750 men and women stocking the American Embassy in Islamabad is far too inadequate to cope with the job on their hands. They need to be given a big injection to inflate their muscles. The magic potion said to be brewing would add at least another thousand people on what’s being described as a ‘war footing’…

Though he wanders off into hallucinations suitable to a delusional Right – or Left, a useful question is raised about the purpose and goal of the new Pakistan diplomatic fortress.

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Cucumber Lassi for a hot summer day

I imagine most folks far away from South Asia never have the satisfaction of lassi – as aperitif, dessert or in the Mediterranean style of cleaning your palate between courses of an extended meal. It’s most often sweet, a little or a lot; but, it can be savory. And that’s my preference in the heart of our high desert summer.

For 2:

* 2 cups/ glasses of fresh yogurt – Trader Joe’s organic whole milk yogurt
* 2 small Persian cucumbers cut into cubes – the peel is thin and edible
* 2 small cloves garlic
* zest of a small lemon
* juice of half of that lemon
* a teaspoon of honey [if you like - I do]
* a couple of ice cubes
* no salt; but, you would add a touch in India
* mint to garnish if you have some handy

Preparation:

* Mix all the ingredients top speed in a blender till smooth. My Kitchenaid takes about a minute.
* Pour into tall, chilled glasses and garnish with mint.

It is delicious, refreshing and relaxing.