Monthly Archives: April 2009

You are being lied to about the Pirates in a article by Johann Hari in the Independent:


Silent Square

Silent square is a proposal to create a memorial for the many wars that have blighted Lebanon. The poster takes the slogans of the various wars and put a question mark on all of them. After over 200,000 deaths since 1975 I think it is time Lebanon had such a prominent memorial that silent square proposes. The desire to fight or not to fight definatley needs more sobre and considered thought.

“…America was engaged only in posturing. As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums…” p. 167

This book articulates the many tensions that have occured in the post-September 11 world. The story is told by the central figure Changez sitting at a Cafe in Pakistan; Changez is dictating his life story to a American who is on edge and nervous of the environment around him. But Changez assures him he has no need to worry as he describes his life in America at a high flying job and how would eventually become disillusioned working for the emporors. The book creates remarable tension and is written with a refined clarity. The book is written with great depth but also has very simple devises. The love affair Changez has with Erica uses a obvious metaphor that Erica who cannot forget her dead boyfriend Chris eventually makes love to Changez but cannot only do so but pretending Changez is Chris. Erica being Am-Erica, Christ being a slight analogy to Christianity maybe although this could be debated and of course Changez equates to changes. However, this description makes it seem so crass but Hamid makes it all seem so seamless and fitting.

The way that this book plays with assumptions is also intriuging. You cant help, at least I could’nt, being led to the assumption that Changez is a fundamental Islamist at least at the beginning of the book and that the American that he is talking to is a spie. Hamid however, quite deliberatley and using clever devises ensures that Chagnez is aggreived with his situation in America and with American foreign policy in firmly secular, nationalist and anti-colonislaist stances. Changez never alludes to Islam as being a driving force for his transformation. The American he talks to although we are given little detials about him and only through Changez this is important. Changez may think that the American is a spie and thus giving us suggestives that he is thus, but this may aslo be his paranoia that all Americans are spies and his concer/nervousness about Americans. Of course Changez was burnt in a very emotional way by both Erica and America.

For a great review of the book see James Lasdun.

Iraqi children speak up in Guardian article:

Mahdi Abdullah, 15, building worker

“Six months ago I found a job in building. I get paid $130 (£89) each month. I left my education early, because I had to. My family has no money.

“My dream is for the stability here to continue and for poor people to find jobs and live their lives with dignity. I am not asking for fortune or treasure. All I want are simple dignities. I feel comfortable now because I have a job. I want to get married and provide for myself and a family.

“Basra floats on oil. It has always had a way of keeping the poor people above water. If it falls into honest hands, we can lift Basra further and move to a new stage of our lives here.”

Kuwaiti TowersArriving in Kuwait I am taken on a ‘visit’ of Kuwait which consists of touring the Scientific Center, with Aquarium. Not to be condescending but on walking into the Science Center, which is a very clean glass and steel contemporary building, I am confronted by a, Jaws style, great white shark smashing its way through a concrete wall. In many ways this view captures my preconceptions of Kuwait. As a desert they should be fascinated by water so it should not really come as a sup rise that the first part of “Kuwait” I am shown is the Aquarium. As for the Jaws style great white shark the colonisation of American culture of the Arabian desert city could not be better articulated. The American style highways, with American cars, are lined with American chains such as McDonalnds and 7Eleven. For a country whose Parliament is dominated by Islamists there can be no doubt where the real power lies. The Islamists have however, been able to make sure that Kuwait is T-total. Thus, foreigners are forced with the indignity of having to hold debauched house parties that Kuwaitis can also attend without the inconvenience of getting caught, as in Saudi and Iran.

I was in Kuwait because Al Wataniya a new Kuwaiti airline flew me to Kwuait City from my home in Beirut to review their new airline for Executive Magazine. The trip was probably the quickest trip I will ever experience in my life; leaving on the Saturday and returning the next day in the afternoon. Thus, what I learned about Kuwait was extremly superficial but interesting nonetheless.

Currently Kuwait is experiencing quite a storm internally; Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah recently dissolved parliament on the basis of national unity and called for new elections for May 17th. The Kuwait political system is interesting, for some background see the estimate (a bit outdated but very informative). Kuwait has the oldest elected legislative body in the Gulf and has a thriving parliamentary system that is  elected but subject to the emir’s quite frequent decisions to dissolve parliament. Recently the urge to dissolve parliament has been particularly strong for the Emir as parliament has been dissolved twice in the past year. Kuwait’s current political dead lock has been becuase of the strong Islamist factions, with some liberal and tribal leaders, pushing for Ministers to be called to account over their practices. However, the Ministers have preferred not to be scrutinised and resigned. This led to the Emir dissolving parliament, in part also becuase of the need to inject $5 billion into the economy as a stimulus in this period of low liquidity.

Kuwait also has a thriving media with 17 daily newspapers, the reason for this being every ‘big man’ in Kuwait wanting his own paper. Those in Lebanon will know all to well the Kuwaiti media with one paper Al-Seyassah being particulalry active on Lebanese politics. Al-Seyasseya articulates the strange regional game that occurs in the Middle East with sometimes Lebanese breaking stories of vital importants appearing in the Kuwaiti paper.

Geographically Kuwait is a small country that site vulnerably between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, on the Persian Gulf. Relations with Iraq have always been tense. The Iraqis have historically laid claim to Kuwait as being a part of the Ottoman province of Basra and unjustly severed from Britain from the main body of Iraq in the 1920s. Britain protected from ‘Kuwait’ from Iraqi claims in the 1960s and  then in the Gulf War but of course the superpower of the day the US really protected Kuwaiti sovereignty. The Gulf War is still very much a raw subject in Kuwait and even in my brief stay I saw pictures in the Kuwaiti towers of the destruction wrought on Kuwait with a sign stating how the barbaric Iraqi invaders destroyed everything. Charles Tripp, in his History of Iraq, details how Saddam invaded Kuwait basically becuase he wanted to extort money from the vastly wealthy Gulf country to help with the vast Iraqi debt that he was pilling up. When Kuwait was not really willing to had over the money he decided to invade on the 2 August 1990 and completed the occuption in 24 hours. The ruler of Kuwait Emir al-Sabah left with 300,000 other Kuwaitis and Saddam announced Kuwait as the 19th province of Iraq. This of course as we all know was not to last and Saddam did not find a “supine Arab world or an acquiescent international community,” as Tripp states he expected. It was the Gulf war that caused the US to station half a million American troops in Saudi and this led to the rise of Bin Laden and Sept. 11. Coming from Lebanon that has such a pivitol role in the history of the region, Kuwait shows how another tiny state has formed the history of the contemporary Middle East and shaped Western-Middle Eastern relations.