Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Finally, a reprimand for Ma Ba Tha

It only took the slightest hint of an official challenge for Ma Ba Tha to back down from their inflammatory rhetoric. Why didn't it happen years ago? Here below is an article that explains the reasons.

TWO years ago this month, groups of men descended upon a teashop in Mandalay armed with knives and sticks, hurling rocks and shouting abuse. Even after the police moved in to disperse the crowd, the tense atmosphere lingered in the royal city. Over the following few days, two people were killed and dozens more injured.
The riot had an unmistakable provenance. The Muslim proprietor of the teashop was accused of raping a Buddhist employee, an allegation that would have most likely otherwise gone unnoticed had it not been published by U Wirathu on Facebook. Unfazed by the violence, Wirathu – who had spent almost a decade in jail under the military junta for his anti-Muslim sermons – defended his use of social media, telling the Wall Street Journal that he only ever posted “verified information for the protection of race and religion.”
The post about the alleged rape was not verified. Five people were sentenced to long prison terms for concocting what transpired to be a totally false accusation: the two brothers who had masterminded the scheme were business rivals of the teashop owner, who had conspired to put him out of business.
Wirathu was unchastened. Last year he was forced to recant another accusation of a Muslim man sexually assaulting a Buddhist women. It later transpired that the perpetrator was himself Buddhist, but Wirathu defended his claim, saying the man committed the act because he had the mind of a “kalar” – a derogatory term for people of subcontinental heritage.
It is an indisputable fact that Wirathu has a history of bending the truth to suit his ends. He has always denied responsibility for fomenting anti-Muslim unrest, but a report by US rights group Justice Trust in 2015 noted a pattern of events preceding bouts of violence in several cities that have claimed the lives of hundreds since 2012: a rape allegation and a subsequent appearance and public sermon by none other than — you guessed it — Wirathu. Following the horrific violence in Meiktila in 2013, he claimed in an interview with The Irrawaddy to be committed to working with Myanmar’s Muslim community. At the same time, he was leading a campaign to encourage the boycott of Muslim businesses.
For centuries, Myanmar and Buddhism have been intertwined. The religion plays a key role in the lives of its population. Its pagodas are objects of awe and beauty. The history of its clergy is inextricably linked with the tumult and struggles of its recent history. One need only to step into the street early one morning to witness the reverence Myanmar people pay to its monks and nuns.
But Wirathu is not the custodian of this history; he is not the defender of these traditions. He is someone who has preyed upon the resentment and anger of his follows for violent and capricious ends.
The message Wirathu and his acolytes spread did not emerge from a vacuum, but Ma Ba Tha lent legitimacy to these widespread fears and gave succour to those who used them as a pretext for violence. The previous government truckled to Ma Ba Tha; some of its senior members were prominent supporters. Leading monks who criticised the tenets of Ma Ba Tha’s message were ostracised, ignored or targeted for abuse, while religious authorities stayed aloof.
For that reason, it was surprising – and a touch gratifying – to see the Sangha and leading political figures issue such a public and unreserved rebuke of Ma Ba Tha last week. On the back of this, news emerged that Wirathu was facing possible criminal charges for comments made about a UN representative last year. Ma Ba Tha’s abrupt decision to call off the absurd threat to launch nationwide protests denouncing Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, much like its feeble intervention in last year’s election, indicates that the broader public does not share the group’s priorities and paranoid worldview.
This rebuke was long overdue. Lives were needlessly lost, and communities divided because the previous government had neither the inclination nor the courage to confront Ma Ba Tha and Wirathu earlier. Those deaths were a collective failure that deserve to weigh heavily on many consciences. Let’s hope they are a thing of the past.

Ethnic Rohingya Muslims Are Entitled to Enjoy Their Fundamental Rights

To read the article in the Huffington Post, click here.

More on Gandhi killing

Teesta Setalvad is co-editor, Sabrangindia. She comments on a new book on Gandhi.
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The murder of Mahatma Gandhi, or more dramatically put, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was the first act of terror committed in independent India, as I wrote in the introduction to the volume, Beyond Doubt-A Dossier on Gandhi’s Assassination (2015, Tulika). It was also, I wrote, a declaration of war and a statement of intent.
It was a declaration of war by a section of society which remained largely on the fringes during the independence struggle and was committed to religion-based nationhood, and wanted India to become a Hindu rashtra.This was a section that bore visceral dislike toward the idea of composite culture and inclusive nationhood advocated by the Mahatma.
It is this ideology that unashamedly rules India today.
Any discussion on the assassination, therefore, needs to address the issues around the killing, the motives of the assassins. It should also examine further why Gandhi and what he stood for posed such a dire threat to the worldview of the killers.
Whenever the murder is discussed, and the factors responsible for the killing tossed around, public memory can often become carelessly selective, unwarrantedly perhaps spawning a dangerous ambivalence. I refer here specifically to the July 21 article that deliberately or otherwise skips crucial bits of the event. There are also several inaccuracies in the report that has carelessly quoted from earlier published articles.
Setting the record straight
There is need to set the record straight. The killing of Gandhi was not an isolated act but the last successful one of a series of attempts that began as early as 1934. Since the first attack on June 25 1934, there had been a total of five attempts on Gandhi’s life: in July and September 1944, September 1946, and January 20, 1948, ten days before he was actually shot dead.
Nathuram Godse was involved in two of the previous attempts besides the last one – that is, in a total of three, completely upsetting the comfortable narrative of Godse’s actions not being pre-meditated and coldly and carefully planned.
This aspect is completely missing from the article that fails to ask (while superficially relying on a sinister justification for the killing that Godse’s belief that “Gandhi helped create Pakistan” was the reason behind the killing) why some groups of persons found Gandhi and his beliefs so thoroughly repugnant that they had to eliminate him.
It was Gandhi’s commitment to composite nationhood as opposed to a religion-based state (Pakistan or Hindu Rashtra) and his support for the law against untouchability (he made a historic speech in the Central legislature in 1935) that made him enemy No 1 for all those who dreamt then – and conspire even today – to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra.
One of the crucial reasons for editing the volume Beyond Doubt was to bring to readers in English the seminal work of senior journalist and writer Jagan Phadnis who researched the killing back in 1998 as also the important contribution of Chunibhai Vaidya from Gujarat. These works along with historian YD Phadke’s analysis of the Kapoor Commission Report published in Communalism Combat are crucial reading for serious readers on the subject, and are included in the volume.
That the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was banned by the government of India within two days of the assassination, through a Government Resolution dated February 2, 1948, is surely a critical part of the narrative, which is absent in its recounting 68 years later. The language of this resolution, reproduced in Beyond Doubt, is unequivocal when it speaks of the determination of the government of India
“to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this politics [the GR says] the GOI has decided to declare as unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Similar action is also being taken in the Governor’s provinces.”
The banning of the RSS within five months of India becoming independent and within two days of the dastardly killing of Mahatma Gandhi has been linked to the ‘undesirable and even dangerous activities carried out by individual members of the Sangh who have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found, “circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military….The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.” The GR was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.
Ban and lifting the ban
The story does not end here. The communications between the Government of India through then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Vallabhai Patel with the RSS also show up the falsehoods perpetrated by the Sangh, which has tried to distort even this part of history.
On September 11, 1948, the famous letter written by Patel to RSS chief MS Golwalkar strongly decries the systematic hate tactics of the Sangh before and after Gandhi’s assassination. This letter has been quoted in full in Desraj Goyal’s Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh (First published in 1979, Revised edition in 2000, Radhakrishna Prakashan Pvt Ltd, New Delhi).
More importantly, this and another letter written by Patel to the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee dated July 18, 1948 make clear the links between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha.
The September 11, 1948 letter is of particular significance as it outlines the kind of activities the RSS was observed to indulge in.
“But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing……..All their speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.”
A government of India press note of November 14, 1948 relates to the outright rejection of a representation by Golwalkar to lift the ban on the RSS by the Home Ministry, refers to the "anti-national, often subversive and violent activities of the RSS”.
This press note, also obtained from the archives of the government of India, was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.
The government of India took into account the considered opinion of provincial governments before arriving at its decision to ban the RSS. An article of The Indian Express dated February 7, 1948 reports that an RSS leader from Nagpur who had presented Godse with the revolver with which he killed Gandhi had been arrested. Other persons arrested included Professor Varahadpande of the City College, Nagpur.
This news report states that another professor of Nagpur had told his students a day before the assassination that “Gandhiji would be murdered”. An associate of the gang of conspirators, Devendra Kumar, was reported by the same newspaper to have surrendered to the District Magistrate, Mirzapur and taken to Lucknow under armed escort.
There is more such material which forms part of the annexes to the Kapoor Commission which will form part of the second volume of Beyond Doubt that I am currently annotating and editing. For the record, towards the end of the judgement in the Gandhi Murder case, Special Judge Atmacharan made the following remarks in regards to the conduct of the police with relation to the bomb attack on Gandhi on January 20, barely ten days before the day he died.
“ I may bring to the notice of the Central Government the slackness of the police in the investigation of the case during the period between January 20-30,1948... Had the slightest keenness been shown in the investigation of the case at that stage, the tragedy could have been averted.”
The terms of reference to the Kapoor Commission clearly show that it was not within its ambit to investigate whether or not the RSS was involved in the murder. It would be pertinent to again quote from the Government communiqué dated 11 July, 1949 provided in Appendix IV to Desraj Goyal’sRahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh which laid down the conditions for lifting the ban on the RSS.
“The RSS leader has undertaken to make the loyalty to the Union Constitution and respect for the National Flag more explicit in the Constitution of the RSS and to provide clearly that persons believing or resorting to violent and secret methods will have no place in the Sangh..”

Among other conditions was that the RSS would function only as a cultural organisation.
Hindu rashtra
A genuine understanding of the motivations behind the ideology that killed Gandhi cannot skirt around the fundamental issue of religion-based nationhood. The contempt for the Indian Constitution is writ large in MS Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, which is proudly available on the RSS website even today (for example, see Page 119).
Despite its assurances to the government of India, the Indian tricolour remained anathema to the Sangh for 52 years after India became independent. It was only on January 26, 2002, that the RSS hoisted the tricolour on its headquarters. Until then it was always the bhagwa dhwaj,representing the Hindu nation.
In fact, the English organ of the RSS, Organiser (dated August 14, 1947) carried a feature titled “Mystery behind the bhagwa dhawaj” which, while demanding hoisting of the saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag in the following words:
“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
It became even more brazen once the first RSS-driven government in New Delhi under Atal Behari Vajpayee came into power as the organisation’s mouthpiece Organiser proudly advertised the books published by Surya Bharati Prakashan, Gandhi Ji’s Murder and After by co-accused and brother of the assassin, Gopal Godse, as also May It Please Your Honour,by Nathuram Godse.
Both the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha have made money by glamourising the killer of Gandhi and claimed proud privilege for the reasons for the killing.
The crux of the issue for the Sangh and those who have opposed its supremacist ideology has always been about who has or has not the right to equal rights and citizenship in the India of today. On this issue Gandhi and the RSS stood on the extreme opposites ends of the spectrum. Not only can no one deny this, but it is this crucial issue that remains central to the debate around which forces were responsible for the murder of the Mahatma.
Teesta Setalvad is co-editor, Sabrangindia.

Brief Summary of the talk given by Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf on “Critical Issues in Muslim-Buddhist Dialogue in Contemporary Asia

Summary prepared by Pratiksha Nair, Programme Coordinator, CSSS

     The Centre for Study of Society and Secularism along with G.D. Parikh Centre for Educational Studies organised a talk by Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf on the topic “Critical Issues in Muslim-Buddhist dialogue in Contemporary Asia” on 22nd July 2016 at J.P. Naik Bhavan, University of Mumbai, Kalina Campus, Mumbai.
Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf is the Director of Centre for Buddhist-Muslim Understanding in the College of Religion Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand. He specializes in Religion with a focus on Islam in Thailand & Southeast Asia and also Muslim-Buddhist dialogue.
       In the lecture he said, the religions of Buddhism and Islam both have common theological grounds. The growths of both religions were parallel, while Islam flourished in Central Asia and Middle-East, Buddhism flourished in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Encounters between Islam and Buddhism are as old as Islam itself. It dates back to the Muslim engagements with the Asian religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism due to the commercial relations, immigrations and political interactions between the worlds of Islam and Asia. Buddhism has been a non-theistic religion, whereas Islam has been a monotheistic religion. They both believe in liberation and following the middle path. In religious terms, this led to the meeting between the Hindu view of moksha (liberation) through the Hindu notion of monism, the Buddhist notion of Dhamma (truth) through the realization of sunyata (emptiness), and the Islamic concept of fana’ (passing away of one’s identity by its merging into the Universal Being) as expounded in the monotheistic pantheism of the Sufis.
Buddhism and Islam are essentially parallel religions that share values like morality, liberations equality, justice and freedom. They have always coexisted peacefully in South Asia and Southeast Asia for so many centuries. Despite the long record of Muslim-Buddhist interaction, such contact is at present non-existent or rare, largely due to the strong trend of reified interpretations of religion in the contemporary world – interpretations which in turn overlook the historical exchanges between both the religions.
       However it is during the colonial period that the boundaries of nation-states were drawn and this led to the construction of the concept of minority-majority. The resulting aspirations of power by the majority led to the creation of fear of the minorities or ‘the other’. This creation of fear helps consolidate power in the hands of the few. Religion had taken a back seat during the colonial rule but post-colonization these new nation-states, who were grappling with issues of identity, saw in religion the possibility of building a new identity. Thus religion came back but came back with a vengeance, stronger and more powerful. Dr. Yusuf believes that today, ideology has become religion and religion has become an ideology and the fine balance between the two have been lost.
       Today Islam and Buddhism have taken a strong ritualistic and ethno-nationalistic identity and are concerned about maintaining their ethno-religious identity and protecting and preserving their political status as citizens in the face of rising conservative Buddhism or Islam. In Theravada Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka due to their ritualistic orientation, do not have enough space for dialogue and tolerance with other religions. Whereas, in Mahayana Buddhist states like Taiwan, Korea and Japan, Buddhism assumes a more spiritual and philosophical orientation giving more space for dialogue between religions. The most critical way of maintaining stable, non-violent relations between religions is by having constant dialogue between them. Dr. Yusuf believes that dialogue is an enriching experience. It is about learning about oneself first and then the other, growing and changing. Understanding oneself and one’s own religion is the first step towards dialogue. Conversion is not and should never be the purpose of dialogue. We need to understand and learn about the other religion and no one should be a spokesperson of any religion. We need to understand problems and conflicts from the other person's perspective and try to analyse how we would react if something unfair and violent were to happen to us. Both religions need to be understood in their own terms, individually.
       According to Dr. Yusuf, one response to rise of religious conflicts, violence and hatred is to educate the positive role of religions rooted in spiritual and humanistic traditions of Islam and Buddhism. Inter-religious dialogue is necessary to improve understanding and tolerance among people. Muslims need embark on a continuous process of critically reviewing and revisiting their understanding and practice of Islam in the light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. There is a need to strengthen the Muslim reformist tradition and to create bridges between the Muslims and the rest of world.
       Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf furthered stressed on the importance of educating the youth about ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Inculcate democratic values through school curricula early on to form and develop a culture of democratic tolerance in young minds. There is a need to realize and accept plural identity. This would lead to a much needed multicultural citizenship. He fears that the world today is headed towards ‘global’ fascism which is not limited only to the German borders anymore. He also emphasizes on the need to promote science, economic development and Human Resource development. Lastly he concluded by saying, there two types of interreligious ignorance – One is when the followers of one religion do not know the other religion and second is when one does not want to learn the religion of others. It's up to us to make a choice.
        The audience that consisted of approximately 40 well-known academicians, professors, journalists and students raised questions about the status of women in both religions, extremism prevalent in both religions, the rising intolerance for diversity leading to the domination of certain communities in a religion and about creating a platform for humans to realize humanity and embark on a journey of spiritualization and natural humanization.

It was one of the most enigmatic lectures held as part of the Study Circle under CSSS’s Dr. Asghar Ali Memorial Activities, with an engaging Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf delivering a humanistic, enlightening talk that left us thinking about our ways of dealing with religious conflicts and diversity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Israel destroys 20 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem

Israeli authorities demolished 20  single- and multi-family homes in East Jerusalem overnight Monday, the most extensive house-demolition in the Palestinian sector of the capital in recent years.
Violent protests carried on through much of the night in the village of Qalandiyah, where most of the demolitions took place. Border Police fired sponge-tipped bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against some of the rioters, but there were no known injuries. Early Tuesday morning the troops accompanied Finance Ministry building inspectors to carry out the remaining demolitions.
“I have been in this business 20 years, and there was never such a widespread operation,” said Ahmad Subalaban, an area coordinator for the NGO Ir Amim, which promotes Jewish-Arab equality in Jerusalem. He added that in the past, “at most they would demolish four or five structures.”
Hassan Salameh, who owns a two-story building in Qalandiyah that was demolished, told Haaretz the demolition order was received only on Monday morning, and that it had been stuck onto the door of the building during the night. “All my brothers, seven families, lived in the building. Not even 12 hours passed from the moment we saw the demolition orders and the time the bulldozers arrived. They destroyed everything, the furniture and everything that was inside. If they had given us warning, we would have had a chance to speak to them, we would have brought all the papers. ... They destroyed my life. What will we do? I’ll stay with my children until we rent an apartment or I’ll put up a tent. I’m in shock,” Salameh said.
A treasury official said authorities removed possessions from the Salameh house. “I personally removed a refrigerator and shoes. We insisted that they take out their clothes,” the official said.
According to Ir Amim, the number of house demolitions of Palestinians has increased sharply. This year to date, 78 homes have been demolished (not including homes of terrorists), as opposed to 74 in all of 2015. In 2014, 52 homes were destroyed.
An enforcement official confirmed that house demolitions were on the rise. “Enforcement against illegal housing starts was always high preference for us,” the official said. “Lately there has been a wave of illegal housings starts, for example in Qalandiyah and Walajeh, in south Jerusalem. All the building that we demolished in Qalandiyah popped up at once over the past month and a half. We don’t want to get to the point of high-rise buildings, which ruins things for everyone, also in terms of village planning. Second, there is indeed a decision to increase enforcement.”
Salameh said people living in the area are residents of Jerusalem who own apartments and land within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, but a few years ago found themselves on the other side of the separation barrier, cut off from the city. He said many residents thought they did not need building permits to construct new homes in the area beyond the barrier.
“After they built the fence people said, ‘Come on, let’s build.’ I personally had a building permit that had expired, and my only fault was that I didn’t renew it. But a lot of people thought this place belonged to the West Bank, not the municipality [of Jerusalem]. Big villas were destroyed here tonight. People spent all their money to live in these houses,” Salameh added.
Ir Amim said the demolitions reflected the municipality’s “cruel policy.” “From a survey of the planning situation we made, it emerges that the Jerusalem municipality does not prepare detailed plans for the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city and brings about the failure of any plan the residents make on their own initiative,” said the NGO. But Regavim, which fights against illegal structures built by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, welcomed the operation, saying, “The government of Israel proved to itself tonight that the expression ‘rule of law’ is not an empty cliché, and that it can restore sovereignty to every corner of Israel.”

Who killed Gandhi?

The revelations
  • Delhi police CID report: On 8 Dec, 1947 Golwalkar said RSS had the means to silence Gandhi
  • Lucknow CID's letter: On 1 Dec, 50 RSS men met at Mathura, allegedly discussed assassinating Congress leaders
More in the story
  • How Nehru and Patel differed on RSS role in Gandhi's assassination?
  • Golwalkar's threat that not a single Muslim will be left in India

  • The Supreme Court, in its oral observations, has upbraided Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his statement that "RSS people" killed Mahatma Gandhi. In the apex court's wisdom, young Rahul Gandhi could not make a "collective denunciation" of the RSS or the Rashtirya Swayamsewak Sangh.
    It is a moot point whether it is for a court of law to give a clean bill of health to the RSS, 68 years after the assassination of the Mahatma.
    Two important questions, however, remain unanswered: Did the RSS threaten to kill Mahatma Gandhi? And, did the RSS have the capability or the means to do so?
Reports available in the public domain in the Delhi Police Archives say that the RSS did threaten Gandhi and claimed that it had the means to silence him. These are the secret source reports of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Delhi Police for the months preceding Gandhi's assassination.
Here are some extracts from the verbatim copy of a police report of a crucial RSS meeting where The threat was made.
The CID source is identified only as "Sewak" (perhaps an impish play on 'sewaks', the term for RSS volunteers) and filed by Inspector Kartar Singh of the department:

Buddhist Monks Lead Genocide in Myanmar

Here is an article on the subject.

Finding the common spaces between religions

Dr. Yusuf, a religious studies scholar, an alumnus of Pune University and Aligarh Muslim University, who has been teaching in Thailand for 27 years and is currently Director of the Center for Buddhist-Muslim Understanding in the College of Religious Studies at Thailand’s Mahidol University. He was recently at Mumbai University to deliver a talk on Buddhist-Muslim dialogue in contemporary South-East Asia.
The Hindu has published a piece which provides synopsis of his talk. Here is the link.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Why Kashmiries are seething?

The people of Kashmir in the Occupied Kashmir in India has been denied a very basic right for almost 7 decades. That is the right to vote to decide their fate. They are seething in utter frustration. Here is an article on the subject.

Myanmar honors a Muslim martyr




Myanmar has been a racist country since its independence from Britain. Muslims who joined the patriotic movement alongside Burma's founding father Aung Saan are rarely mentioned these days, and their contribution to the cause of independence ignored. Well, all these were true until very lately. Here is a news report that may show some positive movement in terms of commonality.

Thousands of people of all faiths cast aside religious and ethnic differences early Thursday to pay respect to the country's heroes of independence at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon.

Each year on July 19, events take place countrywide, but for Myanmar's minority Muslim population Martyr's Day has taken on extra significance as many feel the secularism encouraged by one man is now under threat from a surge in Buddhist nationalism.

Of the eight men assassinated alongside the country’s founding father in 1947, one was a highly respected Muslim politician, Abdul Razak, who paved the way for what was initially a secular state in the majority Buddhist country.

“He deeply believed in secularism. He respected religion and the culture of others. That’s why everyone admires him,” Razak's son said of his father to Anadolu Agency at Yangon's Muslim cemetery.

“During their fight for independence, they just focus on national interest,” recalled Tin Myint, who was just six years old when his father died.

“No one looks at the religion at that time."

July 19 is a national holiday in Myanmar, as it marks the 69th anniversary of the death of Gen. Aung San -- State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's father -- seven other leaders, and a bodyguard during a cabinet meeting of the pre-independence interim government.

The incident happened one year before the country became independent from colonial power Britain in 1948.

Muslim population estimate in Myanmar

Muslims have risen little as a proportion of Myanmar's population over the past three decades, the government said Thursday, though it's unclear whether this news can appease a Buddhist majority alarmed by an increase in Muslim immigrants.
The 2014 census shows that Muslims accounted for 4.3% of the population, up only slightly from 3.9% in the 1983 count. The country skipped the survey for the intervening decades amid turmoil under the military regime. The 2014 census took place in March and April of that year.
The government had announced the total population of over 51 million and other key figures by May 2015, but had not given a breakdown by religion.
More than 1 million people in the western state of Rakhine identify themselves as Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority. The government does not recognize them as citizens, saying they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and elsewhere.
But the latest data includes the Rohingya. Buddhists accounted for 87.9% of the population nationally, and Christians 6.2%.
Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists have clashed frequently in Rakhine since summer 2012, leading to more than 200 deaths. Myanmar has put over 100,000 Rohingya into refugee camps, ostensibly to maintain peace through isolation. But some have fled to neighboring countries, creating an international problem.
Many speculate that the government had sought to hide a surge in Muslims to prevent rifts between religions. But Thein Swe, the minister of labor and immigration, told reporters Thursday that the data is trustworthy and should be accepted by the international community as well as members of various religions.
================
"Some were worried that there could be a significant difference in the numbers of each religion," Thein Swe, Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw as he released the data.

"But there is not much difference when compared with the census data in 1983."

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which supported Myanmar’s government in carrying out census, said the figures should extinguish incendiary rhetoric.

"It is time to replace speculation with fact," the UNFPA’s Janet E. Jackson said in a statement.

But the UNFPA hit out at the Rohingya’s exclusion from the data as "a serious shortcoming of the census and a grave human rights concern".

hardliners under pressure

More than 100,000 Rohingya were displaced by deadly clashes with Buddhists in 2012 and now live destitute in camps in western Rakhine state.

They are denied citizenship and face severe restrictions on their movement and access to basic services.

Just days before the census was carried out in 2014, Buddhist nationalists accused the international community of bias towards Muslims and attacked humanitarian offices in Rakhine, forcing aid workers to flee.

De facto premier Suu Kyi has faced criticism for not taking a stronger stance on the Rohingya or publicly condemning two recent attacks on mosques in other parts of the country.

But her government has made moves in recent weeks to rein in the Ma Ba Tha, a monk-led movement at the fore of anti-Muslim protests in recent years.

At the core of their ideology is the belief that Myanmar’s Buddhist identity is under attack from Muslims and other ethnic minorities, despite the country hosting such groups for generations.

Under the previous military-backed government, the nationalist group successfully lobbied for the passage of controversial race and religion laws that rights groups say discriminate against women and religious minorities.

Earlier this month Suu Kyi’s religion minister warned the group could be disbanded if it uses hate speech to stoke conflict.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Kashmir: Why are young people protesting?

Al Jazeera visits Srinagar to find out why Indian-administered Kashmir is witnessing its worst violence in years. To read, click here.

How an iPhone defeated the tanks in Turkey

The military coup in Turkey was avoided because of a call made by the president Erdogan. To read the story click here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Amnesty: Egypt uses shocking tactics

A leading international rights group assailed Egyptian authorities on Wednesday, accusing them of using abductions, torture and other shocking tactics as a tool to stifle dissent and appealing on the Egyptian president to acknowledge and investigate serious human rights violations.
To read the news click here.

They're Under Threat of Genocide, and Nobody Is Paying Attention

"If we do nothing, the world will wake up to a genocide on the scale that shocked the world in Rwanda in 1994," writes Azeem Ibrahim. 
Click here to read his article.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Vietnamese girls smuggled into China and sold as child brides

"When I woke up I didn't know that I was in China."
Lan remembers the night that changed her whole life.
While preparing for university along the border in northern Vietnam, a friend she met online asked her to a group dinner. When she was tired and wanted to go home, the people asked her to stay and talk and have a drink.
Next thing she knew, she had been smuggled across the border to China.
The villages along the Vietnamese-Chinese border are a hunting ground for human traffickers. Girls as young as 13 say they are tricked or drugged, then spirited across the porous border by boat, motorbike or car. Young Vietnamese women are valuable commodities in China, where the one-child policy and long-standing preference for sons has heavily skewed the gender ratio.
To read the full story, click here.

The Promise of Regrexit

George Soros discusses Britain's Brexit here.

Where did Ikhwan in Egypt go wrong?

Where did Ikhwan in Egypt go wrong? Here is an eye-opening analysis by Sheikh Imran Hosein, which I found quite interesting.

China loses dispute over South China Sea

An arbitration court ruled on Tuesday that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and that it has breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines with its actions there, infuriating a defiant Beijing.

China, which has boycotted the hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, vowed again to ignore the ruling and said its armed forces would defend its sovereignty and maritime interests.

The Chinese attitude is simply arrogant and inexcusable, it is imperialistic to the core!

Killing and Our Current American Crisis - an essay by John Grant

Kill one person, it’s called murder.
Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.

– A popular bumper sticker

Here is an article I just came across in the CP, which resonates my sentiments in an article I wrote recently with the mayhem and senseless killings I see all around from Dallas to Dhaka. John Grant writes, "Everybody seems angry and frustrated these days. What’s important is what people do with that anger and frustration. It’s also important to understand the roots of all this anger." He says, when we vent our frustration and anger in a non-violent or peaceful way, it is no problem. However, it becomes a problem when it is done in a violent way.

He says, "The problem we face in this nation comes from another quarter: It comes from those who, for one reason or another, feel compelled to address their frustrations, fears and sense of insulted self-image by using violence. This category involves people of all classes and levels of status. I would put former President George W. Bush and others like him in this category of resorting rashly to senseless violence. The category would also include Jeronimo Yanez, the cop who shot Philando Castile in St. Paul, and Micah Johnson, the military veteran who murdered five cops in Dallas."

He rightly complains that much TV coverage has been made on grieving relatives of the police cops who got killed, but how about those undeserving Black Americans and Iraqis who got killed? "The dead in Iraq never seem to get much attention, and the crimes of the ruling class seem to just slip away into some obscure memory hole."

He continues, "I have no trouble understanding the anger that motivated Micah Johnson, as I can understand how his military weapons training boomeranged in his head into a misguided terrorist act. It’s called empathy. Which is not the same thing as sympathy; to empathize means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes — even into their head. It’s an effort to understand, not excuse — versus the usual demonization process and intensifying cycle of violence. There’s a tradition of black veterans as justice-seeking vigilantes. John Singleton’s film Rosewood is about a massacre of blacks in 1923 in Rosewood, Florida, and a WWI black vet played by the imposing Ving Rhames leads an effort to fight back. There’s a couple blacksploitation films from the 70s with the same theme utilizing black Vietnam vets as heroes fighting “the man” back home. I can also understand what motivated George W. Bush to invade Iraq and take the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings there. The plot doesn’t seem difficult to grasp: As a leader, he was caught with his pants down on 9/11 and he reacted with “shock and awe” in an unrelated place to bolster a fearsome image. It all went south from there. The point is, while I empathize with both Johnson’s and Bush’s decisions and their accompanying actions, I repudiate them both as criminal. As the Chilcot Report makes very clear about British Prime Minister Tony Blair, these leaders knew what they were doing. They lied their way into an invasion; they were not “misled” by poor intel. Unfortunately, something with the partisan-transcending integrity of a Chilcot Report is unlikely to happen in our culture at this time. The types of killing being discussed here — state mass killing, individual police killing and individual pay-back killing (some might call it terrorism) — are treated differently in our criminal justice system for obvious reasons, most of them political and involving the relative status of the killer and the victim."

Like me, he echoes, "I have no need to see George W. Bush in prison; I just want his actions officially recognized as a national disgrace for Americans and, more important, the people of Iraq — so nothing like it will ever happen again. "

BBC on Kashmir

Kashmir is bleeding. Here is a BBC report.

Kashmir is again bleeding

Here below is a statement, released from Shabnam Hashmi:

---------------------

We write this in anguish at another alarming spiral of violence in Kashmir, when a discredited old playbook has yet again been deployed to wreak havoc with civilian life.
Kashmir’s escalating violence follows a familiar pattern: a killing, a funeral where rage is vented through slogans and stones, and volleys of lethal gunfire in response. In 2010, this cycle rolled on repeatedly through four months, claiming over 110 lives, mostly of Kashmiri youth, including a number who were too young to know.
Nothing has been learnt from that year of catastrophe. The trigger for the current surge of unrest in Kashmir was the killing on July 8 of Burhan Wani, a militant of the Hizbul Mujahedin. The circumstances of Wani’s killing are yet to be fully explained. It is nonetheless ironic that it occurred on the very day the Indian Supreme Court issued a far-reaching judgment in the context of fake encounters in the state of Manipur, emphasising the illegality of the use of excessive and retaliatory force by the army, security forces and police. These strictures apply even in disturbed areas under AFSPA. Kashmir is an arena where the Supreme Court’s observations that the rule of law would apply “even when dealing with the enemy”, and that indeed, whatever the challenges, “the country’s commitment to the rule of law remains steadfast”, are breached on a daily basis.
Available accounts of Burhan Wani’s life in militancy indicate that he was as a 16-year old, embittered and radicalised during the 2010 turmoil by the casual humiliations heaped on ordinary Kashmiris by the mass deployments of security personnel. He witnessed repeated violent incursions into his home and the harassment of near relations in what are called “crackdowns”, in terminology that has entered the youth argot of the valley. The death of his brother in a police encounter, when he had nothing to do with the militancy, is believed to have further hardened his resolve.
Burhan Wani’s life story should be cautionary warning that the heavy-handed, militaristic Indian approach to Kashmir, has only led to a quarter century of siege and growing alienation.
Wani’s funeral on July 9 in the southern Kashmir town of Tral witnessed a gathering of several tens of thousands. As protests broke out in this and other locations, security forces responded with maximum force. The death toll of thirty in a matter of three days, tells its own grim story.
Excessive and indiscriminate lethal force continues to be used for purposes of law enforcement. This is in brazen contempt of the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which do not allow for departure even in exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or public emergency. Pellet guns, introduced in 2010 for crowd control, purportedly on the ground that it injures and does not kill, have caused permanent injuries and irreversible loss of eyesight to at least 92 young men.
The upsurge of civil unrest comes after a long sequence of intelligence reports that flagged rising discontent at the new political arrangements in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP’s arrival in the portals of power and its determined pursuit of a majoritarian agenda, have much to do with this.
Curiously, the intelligence warnings have focused on widening access to the internet and social media as a disruptive influence. This diagnosis which focuses on the symptoms rather than underlying realities, has fed directly into the shutdown of internet services in Kashmir, the thirteenth such closure in three years.
Certain recent observations of the Supreme Court, though made in reference to Manipur, bear repetition as general principles. Mass deployment of the army and security forces in aid of civil authorities always is predicated on the premise that “normalcy would be restored within a reasonable period”. If normalcy is not restored for a “prolonged or indeterminate period”, it would be firm evidence of the “failure” of the civil administration or of the armed forces, or both. Whatever the case, an unending state of unrest could not “be a fig leaf for prolonged, permanent or indefinite deployment of the armed forces as it would mock at our democratic process”.
The time is long past, if ever there was one, when a solution to the Kashmir problem could be achieved through force. Continuing recourse to this option and the prolonged and bloody stalemate that has ensued, have fuelled a mood of anger and despair in Kashmir. But with firmer iterations of the military option from the highest political leadership, a dark mood has taken hold in the rest of the country, a doubling down on the current strategy and a tendency to brush off every manifestation of failure with hateful and intemperate rhetoric directed at the people of Kashmir.
We recall the statesmanship shown by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003, when he went to Srinagar during a particularly dark time, held out a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan and said that the dialogue on Kashmir would be held within the paradigm of humanity (insaaniyat ke daayre mein). It is particularly unfortunate that no Union Minister has visited Kashmir in this crisis and that the state leadership and elected legislators are reportedly too insecure to venture out among the people.
We call for urgent steps from the Central and State government to prevent civilians being killed and injured, and immediate steps towards demilitarisation of the Valley and an inclusive political initiative. This has to go along with an urgent review of AFSPA, leading to its repeal alongside the entire constellation of special security laws that reward atrocities on civilians and encourage impunity. We urge all political parties to pressure the Government to open a political dialogue in good faith with all relevant parties to ensure that the bleeding wounds of Kashmir are staunched.

NAME Organisation/ profession
1. Vrinda Grover Lawyer
2. Sukumar Muralidharan Journalist
3. Anuradha Chenoy Prof. JNU
4. Kamal Chenoy Prof. JNU
5. Shabnam Hashmi Social activist - ANHAD

Monday, July 11, 2016

Numbers in Obama’s Drone Deaths Report Just Don’t Add Up

Numbers in Obama’s Drone Deaths Report Just Don’t Add Up. Here is an analysis by Marjorie Cohn.

Uri Avnery's latest article

Uri Avnery's latest article can be read by clicking here.

Human rights group unimpressed by Burma’s new government

BURMA’S new government has failed to make significant progress in key human rights areas during its first 100 days in office, a rights group said.

The International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization ALTSEAN-Burma said Burma (Myanmar) has failed to impress in a number of areas since the handover from the junta government, despite encouraging steps.

The two organizations called on the government to establish a national human rights agenda and immediately address the key issues.

To read the news, click here.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

U.S. should have its own Chilcot Report


I have argued many times that the Iraq invasion was a crime of the highest proportion. Bush’s poodle, a.k.a. former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, allowed his country to be pulled into a conflict that claimed hundreds of British lives, thousands of American lives, and probably a million Iraqi lives (but who is counting!), while plunging the entire region into a maelstrom of terroristic chaos, including the birth of extremist groups like the Daesh.

Last Thursday the Chilcot report on the UK’s involvement in Iraq delivered a scathing critique of Tony Blair’s decision to go to war on the basis of bogus intelligence and a catastrophic lack of planning for the aftermath of the invasion. (The excerpts of the Chilcot report can be read by clicking here.) The salient points of the report are:









10.   Blair ignored warnings on what would happen in Iraq after invasion.

11.    The government had no post-invasion strategy.

12.   The UK had no influence on Iraq’s postwar US-run administration.

13.   The UK did not achieve its objectives in Iraq.

14.   The government did not try hard enough to keep a tally of Iraqi civilian casualties.

The Chilcot report obviously incriminates Blair. But how about George W. Bush, the man who must be held accountable for starting the war in Iraq?  

A scathing new biography of Bush was published last week by renowned historian Jean Edward Smith in which he devotes a substantial portion of his book to the lead-up and aftermath of the Iraq war. He concludes: “Whether George W Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”

Beyond Bush, the political elite in the US has faced almost no punishment for supporting the invasion of Iraq. Dick Cheney and company are also living comfortably in retirement, and both political parties have nominated people (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) who supported the invasion in 2003.

The current global disorder from Bangladesh to the USA stem largely from our inability to punish such white-collar mega war criminals who get away as the untouchable mafias from the wars that they bring about. It is a shame to our generation that we have failed to book these SOBs (son of Bush and Blair) who have caused so much pain, suffering and sadness in our time. Such impunity has created a sense of utter frustration and un-quenched anger among some concerned citizens of our globe who feel that in the absence of a trial at The Hague, they must do something, for instance, take the law in their own hands. In this age of the Internet, when children are growing up spending more time behind the computer than playing games in the fields, some youngsters are fuming in anger and do feel that their parents’ generation has failed them miserably and that they ought to do something to right the wrong. They are rebelling, and taking law in their own hands, and are, regrettably, thus, creating a world of fitnah and fasad that we have never seen before in which victims simply don't know why they are getting killed. It is a sad saga of our time in which every day is worse than the one before! It is like living under mindless anarchy from Baghdad to Brussels, from Dhaka to Dallas, and from Jerusalem to Juba!

I believe that the only way we can stop this mess is by ensuring that the mega war criminals like Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell are all tried for their respective roles in Iraq War invasion, and that those responsible are punished appropriately so that no future Bush or Blair can emerge in our world. Once such mega criminals are tried, then we can go with trying our smaller criminals like Bashar al-Assad and General Sisi and others. So long the world community fails to bring in justice in our world against such mega criminals, I am afraid, we shall only see worse. Period!

The US truly needs its own Chilcot report. But with the Amen Corner controlling the Capitol Hill will it ever do the needful for such a report to emerge? I doubt it.


Mossad and ISIS

Here is an interesting video that says that there is connection between the Israeli Mossad and ISIS.

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi: Falling Star or Beacon of Hope

To read the story in the NY Times, click here.

When Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians, even a smoking gun doesn't lead to indictments

To read the story, click here.

This is how the CIA's first captive after 9/11 described his years of torture

Torture is a crime, unless, of course, it is committed by the USA or its partners. Or, so it seems. Read this report to find out how a detainee has been tortured.
Evil begets evil. Thus, are we surprised how the Daesh criminals are treating their captives and detainees? They are using the precedence set early since 9/11 by the US and UK and their partners. It is a sad world that we live today!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dallas shooting

Dallas shooting: 5 police officers were killed by snipers during protest over whether Black lives matter. For the full news, click here.

From Churchill to Blair

"Churchill invented Iraq. The end of World War I left Britain and France in command of the Middle East and the allies carved up the region as the defeated Ottoman Empire fell apart. Winston Churchill convened the 1912 Conference in Cairo to determine the boundaries of the British Middle Eastern mandate. After giving Jordan to Prince Abdullah, Churchill, gave Prince Abdullah’s brother Faisal an arbitrary patch of desert that became Iraq," writes Garikai Chengu who is a scholar at Harvard University.

Churchill’s imperial foreign policy has caused a century of instability in Iraq by arbitrarily locking together three warring ethnic groups that have been bleeding heavily ever since. In Iraq, Churchill bundled together the three Ottoman vilayets of Basra that was predominantly Shiite, Baghdad that was Sunni, and Mosul that was mainly Kurd.

Britain set up a colonial regime in Iraq. British oppression in Iraq intensified and an uprising in May 1920 united Sunni and Shia against the British. Winston Churchill, the responsible cabinet minister, took almost a decade to brutally quash the uprising leaving 9,000 Iraqis dead.

Churchill ordered punitive village burning expeditions and air attacks to shock and awe the population. The British air force bombed not only military targets but civilian areas as well. British government policy was to kill and wound women and children so as to intimidate the population into submission.

Churchill also authorized the use of chemical weapons on innocent Iraqis.

In 1919 Churchill remarked, “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes… It will cause great inconvenience and spread a lively terror”.

Britain’s relationship with Iraq has always revolved around the issue of oil. Churchill viewed Iraq as an important gateway to Britain’s Indian colony and oil as the lifeblood for Britain’s Imperial Navy.

British and US intelligence helped Saddam’s Ba`ath Party seize power for the first time in 1963. Ample new evidence shows that Saddam was on the CIA payroll as early as 1959, when he was part of a failed assassination attempt against Iraqi leader Abd al-Karim Qassem. During the 1980s, the United States and Britain backed Saddam in the war against Iran, providing Iraq with weapons, funding, intelligence, and even biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003 the Guardian reported that a chemical plant, which the United States said was a key component in Iraq’s chemical warfare arsenal, was secretly built by Britain in 1985 behind the backs of the Americans. Documents show British ministers knew at the time that the $14 million dollar British taxpayer funded plant, called Falluja 2, was likely to be used for mustard and nerve gas production.

British relations with Saddam Hussein only began to sour when Hussein nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1972.

During the 1990’s, Britain supported severe economic sanctions against Iraq because of Saddam’s increasing resource nationalism. The United Nations estimated that 1.7 million Iraqis died as a result of the sanctions. Five hundred thousand of these victims were children.

The British and American sanctions on Iraq killed more civilians than the entirety of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons used in human history.

Glaring similarities between Britain’s 1917 occupation of Iraq and the modern military debacle in Iraq are too salient to dismiss or to ignore.

They told us that Iraq was a nuclear threat; Iraq was a terrorist state; Iraq was tied to Al Qaeda. It all amounted to nothing. Since the 2003 invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and over a million have been displaced because of this lie.

Prior to 2003, Iraq had zero recorded suicide bombings. Since 2003, over a thousand suicide bombs have killed 12,000 innocent Iraqis.


Shortly after British general Stanley Maude’s troops captured Baghdad in 1917, he announced, “our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.”

Almost a century later in 2003 Tony Blair said, “Our forces are friends and liberators of the Iraqi people, not your conquerors. They will not stay a day longer than is necessary”.

History has a habit of repeating itself, albeit with slightly different characters and different nuances. Iraq may well go down in history as Britain’s greatest longstanding foreign policy failure.
To read his entire article on this subject, click here.

The US needs its own Chilcot report

I have argued many times that Iraq invasion was a crime of the highest proportion. Bush’s poodle, a.k.a. former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, allowed his country to be pulled into a conflict that claimed hundreds of British lives, thousands of American lives, and probably a million Iraqi lives, while plunging the entire region into a maelstrom of terroristic chaos, including the birth of extremist groups like the Daesh. The Chilcot report incriminates Blair. But how about Bush?
Trevor Timm opines that the US needs its own Chilcot report. I can't agree more.
The current global disorder from Bangladesh to the USA stem largely from our inability to punish such white-collar mega war criminals who get away as the untouchable mafias from the wars that they bring about. It is a shame to our generation that we failed to book these SOBs (son of Bush and Blair) who have caused so much pain and sadness in our time. Such an impunity has created a sense of utter frustration and un-quenched anger among many concerned citizens of our globe who feel that in the absence of a trial at the Hague, they must do something. In this age of the Internet, some youngsters are fuming in anger and feel that they must do something to right the wrong in the very society which they see falling apart. They are rebelling, and taking law in their hands, and are, regrettably, thus, creating a world of fitnah and fasad that we have never seen before in which victims simply don't know why they are getting killed. It is a sad saga of our time in which every day is worse than the one before! It is like  Karbala, mindless anarchy!
I believe that the only way we can stop this mess is by ensuring that mega war criminals like Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell are all tried for their respective roles in Iraq War invasion, and that those responsible be punished appropriately so that no future Bush or Blair can emerge in our world. Once such mega criminals are tried, then we can go with trying our smaller criminals like Bashar al-Assad and Sisi and others. So long, the world community fails to bring in justice in our world for such mega criminals, I am afraid, we shall only see worse. Period!

Timm's article can be read below; it is from the Guardian:
As the UK parliament released its long-awaited Chilcot report on the country’s role in the Iraq war on Wednesday, there have been renewed calls all over Britain to try former prime minister Tony Blair for war crimes. This brings up another question: what about George W Bush?
The former US president most responsible for the foreign policy catastrophe has led a peaceful existence since he left office. Not only has he avoided any post-administration inquiries into his conduct, he has inexplicably seen his approval ratings rise (despite the carnage left in his wake only getting worse). He is an in-demand fundraiser for Republicans not named Donald Trump, and he gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at corporate events. The chances of him ever saying in public, “I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever believe,” as Blair did on Wednesday, are virtually non-existent.
The only thing close to the Chilcot report in the US was the Senate intelligence committee’s long-delayed investigation on intelligence failures in the lead-up toIraq, released in 2008. The Democratic-led committee faulted the CIA for massive intelligence failures and the Bush administration for purposefully manipulating intelligence for public consumption. It led to a couple days of headlines, denunciations from the Bush White House (still in office at the time) and that was it.
After that, the Senate intelligence committee continued to lavish the CIA with praise, increase its budgets and provide only a modicum of oversight, despite the many scandals that preceded and succeeded the report. When the same intelligence committee later investigated illegal CIA torture – also directed by the highest levels of the Bush administration – they didn’t even bother mentioning the top officials who designed and sanctioned the program, only the anonymous (read: redacted) underlings who carried it out.
Bush himself suffered no consequences and, by that time, was claiming that the “Iraq surge had worked”, a misleading drumbeat meant to obscure his calamitous original decision. Barack Obama took prosecuting Bush officials for anything related its “war on terror” off the table before his administration ever took office, and his administration’s stance on torture turned a blatant war crime into a policy dispute. And that was that.
House Republicans’ investigations into Benghazi has lasted far longer than any sort of investigation into Iraq, despite there being little doubt that the Iraq war was the biggest foreign policy disaster of the last quarter century. Not only did it lead to the deaths of well over a million people, but the US has spent trillions of dollars fighting it, and its chaotic ripple effects throughout the Middle East continue to dominate US foreign policy. Most notably, the war spawned the terrorist group Isis, which the US will likely spend the next generation fighting.
Coincidentally, a scathing new biography of Bush was published Tuesday by renowned historian Jean Edward Smith, and it sounds like it’s closer to an indictment than anything an official governing body has come close to producing. Smith, who devotes a substantial portion of his book to the lead-up and aftermath of the Iraq war, concludes: “Whether George W Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”
Beyond Bush, the political elite in the US has faced almost no punishment for supporting the invasion of Iraq. Dick Cheney and company are also living comfortably in retirement, and both political parties have nominated people who supported the invasion in 2003.
It’s unlikely that anything will ever actually happen to Tony Blair or any of the other war architects in the UK despite the report’s damning conclusions. And he’ll continue to spend much of his time doing PR work for some of the world’s worst dictators, helping them avoid the same fate that he will almost certainly miss himself.