Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 2013

Cluster, Orange gas,Phosphorous, depleted uranium bombs… And harsh events and calamities

Ten years ago, the US Secretary of State Colin Powell pronounced to the United Nations his “famous” speech on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Evidence that this stance proved to be false.

In his book “I got lucky”, Powell wrote that this speech will remain a “stain” in his career and that he will remember this 5 February as “deeply” the day of his birth. (And what he did after his rebirth?)

In 1996, during a broadcast on CBS, Lesley Stahl asked Madeleine Albright, as US Secretary of State: “It is estimated 500,000 children died in Iraq following the embargo American against this country. mean, it is more dead children than at Hiroshima. Was the price worth really… Ms. Albright?”

Albright coldly replied: “I think that’s a very difficult choice, but the price… We believe that the price worth it.”

Exactly
Exactly

Israel was accused by the UN and human rights organizations of launching and spreading 4 million cluster bombs in south Lebanon in August 13, 2006. Israel daily Haaretz confirmed: “We infested particular zones in Lebanon with 1,800 bombs containing 1.2 million of cluster bombs…”

Artillery Israeli soldiers declared that in the last 10 days of Israel preemptive war on Lebanon, the army used phosphorous bombs that are prohibited by international conventions. The use of phosphorous bombs was confirmed by Edery, in the name of Amir Peretz, Israel Defense minister.

The commander of a unit of multiple rocket launchers declared “What we did is totally crazy and barbarous…”

John Kerry participated in the Viet Nam war. Has anyone heard Kerry apologizing for the usage of Orange gas, a defoliating agent? During the war, after the war?

The US used all kinds of prohibited weapons in Iraq for 8 years. Has Kerry apologized for the US usage of chemical weapons in Iraq?

I am wondering:

1. How the Palestinian/Israeli “peace” negotiation going on? Has it stopped? Any progress? Any alternative road map?

2. How’s Egypt upheaval faring? Is the situation stable and improving?

3. Have the daily suicide car bombs in Iraq subsiding?

4. What’s going on in Yemen? How many drone attacks were approved this month?

5. Is the famine in Somalia under control?

6. Was this chemical attack in Syria staged, a pure set up, in order to side track the manifold US failure in stabilizing this “Greater Middle East“?

7. Has Obama gone publicly to announce any positive and constructive resolution for any crisis? Internally and externally?

8. Had Obama anything to say about the Washington March anniversary? Had he promised to reverse the worsening trends for the Black citizens since 1960?

The Invisible Trauma of War-Affected Children

Millions of children struggle with the physical and psychological traumas of war

18 million children are being raised in the chaos of war. In the past ten years, as a result of armed conflict, over 2 million children have been killed, 6 million have been disabled, 20 million are homeless, and more than 1 million have become separated from their caregivers.

In 1996, Graça Machel, former wife of Nelson Mandela, released a UN report entitled “The Impact of War on Children,” bringing international attention to the subject among policy makers and academics.

The 10 recommendations made in the report have become guiding principles to aid war-affected children.

Advancements have been made by the international community to address issues of security, displacement, and human rights monitoring, but less support has come to the psychosocial and educational needs of war-affected children.

Robert T. Muller, Ph.D. published on April 27, 2013 :

— Reposted from the online magazine, “The Trauma & Mental Health Report

War vets speak of the images, sounds and smells that continue to haunt them. Many speak of nightmares, flashbacks and periods of crippling grief.

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers” – African proverb

So too, children children living in violent, terrorized environments experience such horrors as destruction of their homes, and the death of parents, siblings, neighbours and friends.

Many live in circumstances where they make critical survival decisions to hide under deceased remains of others, to kill or be killed, and often live through situations where they believe they will die.

Recent years have seen celebrity and political activists join in the discussion. Following his own recovery from severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, released two books “Shake Hands with the Devil” and “They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children,” detailing the horrors he witnessed in Rwanda and his mission to stop the use of child soldiers.

Hollywood films have included Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, and Machine Gun Preacher.

Despite media attention, response has been limited. Immediate measures for increased protection and security are necessary and being actively pursued, but the more regenerative responses like those of child-focused psychosocial and trauma rehabilitation are not being appropriately supported or implemented despite the demand and need for these interventions among affected communities.

Following the genocide in Rwanda, in psychological interviews, more than 60% of children claimed that they didn’t care if they ever grew up.

While the global community struggles to value and prioritize global mental health care, millions of war-affected children around the world are left in the wake of traumatic experiences with little to no support.

Children between the ages of 12-18, having had more years exposed to violent conflict, struggle to recover from years of compounding traumas.

Interviews within refugee camps reveal pervasive feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, grief, resentment, anger, and fear among war-affected children.

Graça Machel reports, “The physical, sexual and emotional violence to which they [children] are exposed shatters their world. War undermines the very foundations of children’s lives, destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults.”

Without the support of the international community, most of these children will carry these heavy emotional burdens into adulthood.

Humanitarian aid generally focuses on the concrete, what we can see, measure, build: Food, medicine, bricks, and mortar. Psychological trauma is invisible.

To address the mental health needs of war-affected children as they relate to future peace building goals, international interventions are being established with a focus on the complex interplay between children’s psychological and social development.

These “psychosocial” interventions support not just the emotional healing and development of compassion and empathy, but recognize the important dynamics between children and the social environment in which they form attachments, acquire a sense of belonging, and learn codes of pro-social behaviour.

For more information on psycho-social and trauma rehabilitation for war-affected children check out the non-profit organization, The Freedom to Thrive Foundation, devoted to providing these resources within refugee camps and at the community level in an evidence-based, culturally-sensitive, and community-informed manner.

— Contributing Writer: Adriana Wilson, The Trauma & Mental Health Report

Note 1: Over one million Syrian kids live in abject refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and many more have been displaced. As is the practice in Israel with Palestinian kids, kids in Syria are frequently used as human shields in this war ravaged country.

Note 2: Visit this site for therapy of traumatized Syrian kids http://sabinechoucair.blogspot.com/2013/08/social-therapy-with-syrian-refugees.html

Read more Is there effective treatment for traumatized kids?

“The man who put words in the king’s mouth” by the Iranian novelist Hassan Frohouar

In the 7th century BC, during the reign of the Persian monarch Vishtaspa, was born Maidyomaha.

Maidyomaha was the third son of a rich camel trader. It was recounted that he was born laughing, and was destined to make humanity laugh.

Instead, Maidyomaha isolated himself on a mountain top and survived on fruits and cheese, and refrained from eating meat. He conversed with his God Ahura Mazda and came down to the valley to preach.

He became famous as a wise saint man, and the king paid him a visit to his humble residence and asked him “What should a king do for history never forget his name?”

Maidyomaha replied: “Talk what you think in your own language, and act with your hands according to the perfection of your thinking. Love joy. Let your good words and good actions be your nourishment…”

Maidyomaha married twice and failed to beget a son. Consequently, he adopted the orphan Zara.

Zara married beautiful Hutaosa. The elderly Maidyomaha set eyes on naked Hutaosa and wanted her. The desire of the flesh disturbed him beyond endurance and he told Zara:

“This night, I dreamt of the king and he told me that Hutaosa was not meant for Zara to marry, but mine. Zara must desist of any further carnal relationship with Hutaosa. three moons later, Hutaosa will be purified and she’ll be my third wife…”

Still, Hutaosa didn’t give Maidyomaha a son.

Years later, the king revisited the town of Maidyomaha and learned the story of how Maidyomaha falsely put words in his mouth.

The kind said: “Maidyomaha, you shall be punished in the cruelest of manners, so that nobody in my kingdom will ever speak in my name…”

Maidyomaha was skinned alive and left in the desert to be devoured by the beasts.

Note 1: This story by Hassan Frohouar received great appeal and the Ayatollahs in Iran failed for a time to connect the story to their regime. It dawned on the mullahs that the prophet Muhammad used the same tactics to secure the wife of his adoptive son Zaid, but in the name of Allah. And this religious regime was ruling in the name of Allah, putting words in Allah’s mouth.

The prosecutor accused Hassan of committing the gravest of sins, saying: “A public writer sins greatly when he infect the minds of his readers, far worse than ordinary people...”

Note 2: This post was inspired by a chapter in “The Iranian woman” by the French Maurice Bigio, a short autobiography of Shirine Abadi (Ebadi) who defended Frohouar in court.

Note 3: The Iranian Shirin Ebadi (Abadi) is a Nobel laureate suffering at the hands of the radicals, and most famous for her civil rights activism said in her acceptance speech:

“Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith. I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The Charter of Cyrus the Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights. I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: “Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion”. That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.”

Actually, Shirin is a Jew of the family Katzav who converted to Islam to marry Shapour Magazehi. She cannot read Arabic or understand Arabic. She cannot read the Coran. She has a son who is afflicted with a genetic disease called Myopathy.

The former Israeli President was of the Katzav family and was prosecuted and convicted of raping his secretaries. He was to serve 7 years of prison term.

Note 4:  Hassan Frohouar published “My Persian fairy tales” and “Stories of a country that no longer exists

Syria Civil War: A long time colonial engineered catastrophe…

10 Do’s and Don’ts for “Progressive minded people” Discussing Syria

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week, which killed 600, and threats from the US to engage in military strikes, Kudami had the idea of listing  are few do’s and don’ts for progressive/radical anti-war organizations/activists in the US and to figure out a proper response in their discussions.

RAMAH KUDAIMI, a Syrian-American activist in DC, posted on Counter punch this August 28, 2013 (with slight editing, and my additional comments in parenthesis)

1. DON’T in any way say or imply both sides are wrong. Or to say “it’s not clear who we would be supporting if we get involved militarily….”

This is an insult to every Syrian who has and continues to go out in the streets and protest both the regime and those forces who are looking to use this time of war to assert their own power over others. (This was true in the first 7 months of the start of the upheaval in 2011, and lately in the Kurd dominated regions in the north east)

It is a shame how many progressive groups in the US just jump on the “both sides are bad” wagon so we shouldn’t get involved.

There are over one million children who are refugees and that is the fault of the regime. It is the regime who is bombing cities with jets; it is the regime that has ruled the country with brutal force for decades.

Any statement that doesn’t acknowledge this is again an insult to those who have sacrificed so much.

2. DON’T over conflate Iraq and Syria (meaning match the same tragedy?).  Just as ludicrous those who look to Kosovo as an example of unilateral US military intervention in order to support a strike in Syria.

It is quite pathetic when so many progressives and leftists are just obsessed with supposedly false chemical weapons claims. There are 100,000 Syrians dead, the majority killed by conventional weapons.

So there are a million and one excuses for the US to intervene and faking chemical weapons attacks is not needed. There is also no basis I believe in claiming al Qaeda has access and uses such weapons (Carla del Ponte of the UN beg to differ: The insurgents used sarin gas this April in the town of Khan al Assal near Aleppo)

Al Qaeda fought the US for a decade in Iraq and not once deployed such weapons (They didn’t possess them? Sort of getting their hands on deadly chemical agents in Syrian army depots and quickly applied them?)

But all of a sudden they’re using them in Syria? And if the rebels had these weapons, the regime would’ve fallen a long time ago (not that rational a conclusion, since Syrian regime is one of the top nations that hoards chemical weapons)

3. DON’T obsess over al-Qaeda, Islamist extremists, jihadists, etc. (Not living among you?)

Since 9/11, progressive minded people have rightly shunned the use of all these labels when it comes to the US War on Terror, yet we now use them freely when it comes to Syria (or anywhere in the Islamic world) and actually believe it.

The overwhelming majority of Syrians, both those who have taken arms and those who continue to resist through nonviolent means, have nothing to do with the extremist groups and are rising up against all forces who are destroying their country, whether they be regime or supposed “opposition” groups.

It is also important to understand that the Free Syria Army is not a central command army with orders given from the top. It is a loosely affiliated group of different battalions and anyone can claim to be part of it.

4. DO point out all the US failures toward Syria and how dropping bombs on the country is not what is needed.

I personally don’t believe that US is going to get militarily involved. They promised weapons to the rebels and have yet to deliver.

No way is the US getting in because as has been pointed out by Gen. Martin Dempsey and in a NYT opinion piece, “it is so much useful for US interests for Syrians to kill each other…” (It doesn’t follow that a restricted strike is not meant to enflame the region even further…)

I think taking a position of the US should not get involved through a military intervention is fine.

DON’T put it as “Hands off Syria” implying this is some kind of American conspiracy.

DON’T argue this is about US not having a right to taking sides in a civil war.

DON’T make it all about money for home since we do want more humanitarian aid.

DO frame it as what will help bring the suffering of Syrians to an end.

5. DO point out US hypocrisy as it judges Russia for sending weapons to the regime.

Just last week a story came out that the US is sending $640 million worth of cluster bombs to (this obscurantist) Saudi monarchy.

Weapons continue to flow to Egypt, Bahrain, and Israel despite massive human rights violations.

DO call for an end to all sales of weapons to all regimes in the region.

6. DON’T let genuine concerns with US imperialism, Israel, Saudi… make you look at pictures and videos of dead children and think conspiracy.

Bashar Assad is an authoritarian dictator and his record of resistance is a bit sketchy. Just remember he collaborated with the US on things such as CIA renditions.

Just because the CIA is training a few fighters in Jordan or some anonymous rebel leader is quoted in some Israeli paper doesn’t mean this isn’t a legitimate Syrian uprising against a brutal regime.

7. DO highlight the continued bravery of the Syrian people who take to the streets and protest against the regime, extremists, and all others looking to destroy their struggle for freedom and dignity.

As in everywhere, coverage of violence trumps coverage of continued nonviolent resistance.

8. DO strongly urge people to donate for humanitarian aid. Between deaths, imprisonments, internal displacement, and refugees, I think 30-40% of the Syrian population is in one way or another uprooted.

9. I have no actual solutions to suggest on how to encourage people to support (a political transitional peace negotiation?)

Perhaps pushing for an actual ceasefire might be an option, which would require pressure on Russia to tell Bashar to back down (and the western nations to desist recovering a military balance on the field in Syria).

I know my not having answers about how to resolve anything is a shortcoming, but sometimes the best course of action is to just be in solidarity with folks in their struggle through simply recognizing it.

10. Syrians deserve the same respect for their struggle as all other struggles in the region: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and always Palestine.

Ramah Kudaimi can follow her on Twitter @ramahkudaimi.

Note1: It was inconceivable that any free thinking Syrian could support this enduring 40-year dictatorship and humiliations before 2012.  Around 2012, the popular tide has shifted, not in support of the dictatorial regime, but:

1.  Against the extreme religious alternative of the Nusra Front ideology.

2. The Syrian people want to survive and only the institutions of a government can supply the needed daily requirement for survival.

3. The Syrian people are convinced that any political resolution for a transitional government will clip the wings of this horrible dictatorship.

4. In the mean time, the minority religious sects have better side with the government or flee the country as the Nusra Front advances…

In any case, the current Syrian army is united and has acquired field engagement against the staunchest of well-trained resistance forces from dozen countries.

Note 2: The initial insurgents were not sectarians, until the regime on purpose liberated over one thousand leading extremist jihadists from prisons without any preconditions, in order for those radical Islamists to ignite this civil war with the flame of sectarian overtone…

Message amplification, Free Prize, Where do Purple Cows come from…?

“Where do Purple Cows come from?”

Bob at Arnold Architectural Strategies asked a question that was similar to many: What’s the free prize, why don’t you talk about it more and how do I use it?

Seth Godin posted on August 09, 2013

In Free Prize Inside, my sequel to Purple Cow, I point out:

As marketers, our instinct is to believe that we have to make a product or service that flies faster, jumps higher, costs less, works infinitely better and is generally off the charts at doing what the product is supposed to do.

We get our minds around one performance metric and decide that the one and only way we can be remarkable is to knock that metric out of the park.

So, hammers have to hammer harder, speakers have to speak louder and cars have to accelerate faster.

Nonsense.

This is a distraction from the reality of how humanity chooses, when they have a choice.

We almost never buy the item we buy because it excels at a certain announced metric.

Almost no one drives the fastest car or chooses the most efficient credit card. No, we buy a story.

The story is what the product also does.

It’s the other reason we buy something, and usually, the real reason.

Simple example:

You have a 7-year old daughter. The last time she unexpectedly woke up after going to bed was three years ago. Of course, you’re going to hire a babysitter and not leave her alone, but really, what are you hiring when you hire a babysitter?

Is it her ability to do CPR, cook gourmet food or teach your little one French? Not if she shows up after the kid goes to bed.

No, you’re hiring peace of mind. You’re hiring the way it makes you feel to know that just in case, someone talented is standing by.

If her goal is to be a great babysitter, then, good performance doesn’t involve honing her CPR skills or standing at the door, listening to your daughter breathe.

Good performance for a babysitter is showing up a few minutes early, dressed appropriately, with an air of confidence.

Good performance is sending a text every 90 minutes, if requested, to the neurotic parents.

Good performance is leaving the kitchen cleaner than she found it.

It sounds obvious, but it’s rarely done.

It’s frightening to build and stand for ‘other’ when everyone else is making slightly-above-average.

The free prize is the other metric, the thing we want to talk about, the job we hire your product to do when we hire a product like yours. T

hat’s what we tell a story about.

 

Choosing to be formidable

Seth Godin posted on August 12, 2013

You’ve met people who are an accident just waiting to happen. What’s the opposite of that?

What we’re looking for in a boss, in a CEO to invest in, in a business partner, in a candidate, is to be formidable. Someone to be reckoned with.

Not someone with all the answers, because no one has all the answers.

No, we want someone who is magic about to happen.

This is the electricity that follows the star quarterback around. We aren’t attracted to him because he’s a stolid, reliable, by-the-book play maker.

No, it’s the sense that he has sufficient domain knowledge combined with the vision and the passion to create lightning at will. Sarah Caldwell was the same way, bringing a sense of imminent possibility to the work she gave us.

They don’t teach formidable in school. They teach compliance and rote and perhaps spin.

They teach us to be on the alert for shortcuts and for ways to get away with less.

Not surprisingly, the formidable leader takes the opposite tack in every respect. She’s willing and eager to take the long way if it gets to the elusive destination.

She doesn’t need to spin because the truth as she knows it is sufficient.

There might only be two critical elements in the choice to be formidable:

1. Skill. The skill to understand the domain, to do the work, to communicate, to lead, to master all of the details necessary to make your promise come true. All of which is difficult, but insufficient, because none of it matters if you don’t have…

2. Care. The passion to see it through. The willingness to find a different route when the first one doesn’t work. The certainty that in fact, there is a way, and you care enough to find it. Amazingly, this is a choice, not something you need to get certified in.

Formidable leaders find the tough questions, and instead of being afraid to ask them, eagerly decide to seek out the answers.

They dig in deep to the details that matter and ignore the ones that merely distract.

They bite off more than others can chew but consistently avoid biting off more than they can (because they care so much, it hurts to admit that you’ve reached the end).

It’s not a dream if you can do it.

Paul Graham gets full credit for coining the term. “A formidable person is one who seems like they’ll get what they want, regardless of whatever obstacles are in the way.”

Message amplification isn’t linear

Seth Godin posted on August 14, 2013

Put two loudspeakers next to each other, and the perceived sound isn’t twice as loud--and ten times as many speakers certainly doesn’t seem ten times as loud.

But when you hear an idea from two people, it counts for twice as much as if you randomly hear it once.

And if you hear an idea from ten people, the impact is completely off the charts compared to just one person whispering in your ear.

Coordinating and amplifying the evangelists of your idea is a big part of the secret of marketing with impact.

Two Minds on Syria

So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.

Are you telling me that our US government is about to bomb Syrians because Syrians are bombing one another away? Occasionally with chemical gas?

And how US military strike is categorized as a “humanitarian option” for the dying Syrians?

Is Bombing for peace like fucking for virginity?

Good.

 published in the New Yorker

Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.

Candidate Obama was correct. We will break down the law behind this tomorrow on BenSwann.com

And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.

But you think we shouldn’t do anything.

I didn’t say that. But I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.

We’re going to let Assad know that chemical weapons are over the line. There’s a reason they’ve been illegal since Verdun or whenever.

Except when Saddam used them against the Kurds—we knew, and we didn’t say a word.

Is that a reason to let Assad use them against his people?

At this point, I don’t think Assad is too worried about the Geneva Conventions.

He should have to think hard before using them again.

He’s a bloody dictator fighting for survival. He’s going to do whatever he has to do.

Not if we really hurt him. Not if we pound his communications centers, his air-force bases, key government installations. He’ll be more likely to survive if he doesn’t use chemical weapons.

Killing civilians while we’re at it.

These would be very specific targets.

The wrong people always get killed.

Maybe. Probably. But if you were a Syrian being bombed by Assad every day, trying to keep your head down and your family alive, wouldn’t you want the world to respond, even if a few more people die? I think so.

Easy for you to say.

Hey, can we not personalize this?

Weren’t you just saying that I don’t care about dying children? (Pause.) So you want us to get involved in their civil war.

I’m not saying that.

But that’s what we’ll be doing. Intervening on the rebel side, tipping the balance in their favor.

Not necessarily. We’ll be drawing a line that says dictators don’t get to use W.M.D.s without consequences.

You can’t bomb targets on one side of a civil war without helping the other side.

It would be very temporary. We’d send Assad a clear message, and then we’d step back and let them go on fighting. We’re not getting involved any deeper than that, because I know what you’re going to say—

The rebels are a bunch of infighting, disorganized, jihadist thugs, and we can’t trust any of them.

I’m not saying we should.

And what do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?

We hit him again.

And it escalates.

Not if we restrict it to cruise missiles and air strikes.

Now you’re scaring me. Have you forgotten Iraq?

Not for a single minute.

My point is that you can’t restrict it. You can’t use force for limited goals. You need to know what you’ll do after his next move, and the move after that.

It only escalates if we allow ourselves to get dragged in deeper. Kosovo didn’t escalate.

This isn’t Kosovo. The Syrian rebels aren’t the K.L.A. Assad isn’t Milosevic. Putin isn’t Yeltsin. This is far worse. Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate. That’s not going to happen in Syria.

You think Putin is going to risk a military confrontation with the U.S. and Europe?

I think Russia isn’t going to let Assad go down. Neither is Iran or Hezbollah. So they’ll escalate. This could be the thing that triggers an Israel-Iran war, and how do we stay out of that? My God, it feels like August, 1914.

That was a hundred years ago. Stop with the historical analogies.

You’re the one who brought up Verdun. And Kosovo.

I brought up Kosovo because you brought up Iraq. That’s the problem with these arguments. Iraq! Vietnam! Valley Forge! Agincourt! People resort to analogies so they don’t have to think about the matter at hand.

And because they don’t know anything about the matter at hand.

I know what I saw in those videos.

Thank God Obama doesn’t make foreign policy that way. He knows what he doesn’t know about Syria. He’s always thinking a few steps ahead. He’s not going to get steamrolled by John McCain and Anderson Cooper.

At a certain point, caution is another word for indecisiveness. Obama looks weak! Or worse—indifferent. Anyway, he should have thought ahead when he called chemical weapons a “red line.” He set that trap a year ago, and now we’re in it.

Why does it have to be a trap?

Because our credibility is on the line.

Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.

See, that’s another thing people do in these arguments.

What?

“You sound like so-and-so.” It shouldn’t matter who else is on your side. I mean, you’re in bed with Rand Paul. Anyway, credibility matters even if Kissinger said so. You have to do what you say you’re going to do, especially with bullies.

I don’t think Obama committed himself to any one course of action. But if he does bomb them, we’re involved in that war, and I sure hope his advisers have thought through all the potential consequences better than you have.

Inaction has consequences, too. Assad gases more people, the death toll hits two hundred thousand, the weapons get into Hezbollah’s hands, Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program, the Syrian rebels disintegrate and turn to international terrorism, the whole region goes up in sectarian flames.

And how does firing cruise missiles at Damascus prevent any of this?

It doesn’t. But, look, all of this is already happening with us sitting it out. If we put a gun to Assad’s head, we might be able to have more influence over the outcome. At least we can prevent him from winning.

A violent stalemate. How wonderful for the Syrians. Some people think that’s the best solution for us.

I’m not saying that.

What are you saying?

I don’t know. I had it worked out in my head until we started talking. (Pause.) But we need to do something this time.

Not just to do something.

All right. Not just to do something. But could you do me a favor?

What’s that?

While you’re doing nothing, could you please be unhappy about it?

I am

Note:

1. Will the US admit the UN inspection team to check on the kinds of chemicals the missiles are loaded with? Particularly chemical charges that are prohibited by the international conventions such as 40% depleted uranium, phosphorous gas, cluster bombs, and why not containing sarin too?

2. Will generations of Syrians be afflicted with cancerous birth defects as witnessed in Iraq after the air strikes?

3. Will the Syrian forests be defoliated by Orange agents?

4. How England dare to participate in this “humanitarian strike” after it dispatched 4 million cluster bombs to Israel in the last day of the war against Lebanon in 2006? And Lebanese kids living in south Lebanon still succumbing to these tiny bombs after so many years?

 

Do you master a Second Language? The proper way to be Born Again

The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, who wrote in French, talks of the change of language as a catastrophic event in any author’s biography.   “When I changed my language, I annihilated my past. I changed my entire life,” says Cioran. And rightly so.

The world reveals itself in a certain manner to the Japanese writer, and in quite another to the one who writes in Finnish.

Literary virtuosity almost always betrays a sense of deep, comfortable immersion into a familiar soil. As such, if for any reason the writer has to change languages, the experience is nothing short of life-threatening.
Not only do you have to start everything again from scratch, but you also have to undo what you have been doing for almost as long as you have been around. Changing languages is not for the fainthearted, nor for the impatient.
 
 (And I did change writing in 3 languages, 3 times)
 
COSTICA BRADATAN posted this August 4, 2013 in the Opinionated of NYT Born Again in a Second Language

In her exploration of the Catholic religion, “Letter to a Priest,” written the year before her death in 1943, Simone Weil noticed at some point that “for any man a change of religion is as dangerous a thing as a change of language is for a writer. It may turn out a success, but it can also have disastrous consequences.”

When you become a writer, you don’t do so in abstract, but in relation to a certain language. To practice writing is to grow roots into that language; the better writer you become, the deeper the roots.

Painful as it can be at a strictly human level, the experience can also be philosophically fascinating. Rarely do we get the chance to observe a more dramatic re-making of oneself.

For a writer’s language, far from being a mere means of expression, is above all a mode of subjective existence and a way of experiencing the world. She needs the language not just to describe things, but to see them.  A writer’s language is not just something she uses, but a constitutive part of what she is. This is why to abandon your native tongue and to adopt another is to dismantle yourself, piece by piece, and then to put yourself together again, in a different form.

When changing languages you descend to a zero-point of your existence. There must be even a moment, however brief, when you cease to be. You’ve just quit the old language and the new one hasn’t received you yet.

You are now in limbo, between worlds, hanging over the abyss. A change of language usually happens when the writer is exiled or self-exiled. Yet the physical exile is doubled in such cases by an ontological one — an exile on the margins of being. It is as though, for a moment, as she passes through the void – the narrow crack between languages, where there are no words to hold on to and nothing can be named – the self of the writer is not any more.

Weil’s comparison to the religious conversion is indeed apt because, just like in the case of the convert, the writer who changes languages undergoes a death-and-rebirth experience. In an important way, that person dies and then comes back as another.

When she starts writing in the new language the world is born anew to the writer. Yet the most spectacular rebirth is her own. For this is a project of total reconstruction of the self, where no stone is left unturned and nothing will look the same again.

Your native language – what you were before – appears as less and less familiar to you.

But that doesn’t bother you at all; in fact, you look forward to a moment when you will use it as just another foreign language.

Not long after adopting French, Samuel Beckett, an Irishman, complained of his native English: “Horrible language, which I still know too well.” The ontological promise of complete renewal that comes with the new language is nothing short of intoxicating.

When you are re-born in this manner it is as if all the possibilities are open; you are given a chance to re-fashion yourself into whatever shape you choose. You are your own demiurge: out of nothing, as it were, you can become everything.

Asked, in 1954, why he chose to change languages, Beckett answered: out of a “need to be ill equipped”. His response is exceedingly sly because, if you listen more attentively, its boastful tone is deafening. For in French the need “to be ill equipped” (d’être mal armé) doesn’t sound very different from the need to be (another) Mallarmé (d’être Mallarmé). Anything less than a Mallarmé status would not have been enough for a Beckett on his quest for the new self. Eventually, he didn’t become Mallarmé, but Samuel Beckett, the French author of “Molloy,” “Malone Dies,” or “Waiting for Godot,” which is probably just as good. And as if there was not enough alienation in his adoption of a new language, he alienated himself one more time by translating his French work into English.

Elsewhere Beckett claimed that he preferred French because it allowed him to write “without style.” Yet writing “without style” is one of the writing styles most difficult to accomplish; you really need to be well equipped to do it.

Tucker Nichols

There is something “natural” in one’s becoming a writer in one’s native language. Having reached self-consciousness into that language, having assimilated it along with the mother’s milk, so to speak, such a writer finds himself in a somewhat privileged position: he only has to bring to perfection whatever he has received.

Granted, rigorous training, self-discipline and constant practice are necessary; after all, art is the opposite of nature. Yet no matter how you look at it, there is a distinct sense of continuity and organic growing in this writer’s trajectory.

Becoming a writer in a language that is not yours by birth, though, goes against nature; there is nothing organic in this process, only artifice. There are no linguistic “instincts” to guide you on the path and the language’s guardian angels rarely whisper into your ear; you are truly on your own. Says Cioran: “When I wrote in Romanian, words were not independent of me. As soon as I began to write in French I consciously chose each word. I had them before me, outside of me, each in its place. And I chose them: now I’ll take you, then you.”

Many who shift to writing in a second language develop an unusually acute linguistic awareness. In an interview he gave in 1979, some seven years after he moved to the United States from his native Russia, Joseph Brodsky speaks of his ongoing “love affair with the English language.”

Language is such an overwhelming presence for these people that it comes to structure their new biographies. “English is the only interesting thing that’s left in my life,” says Brodsky. The need to find “le mot juste” starts out as a concern, turns into an obsession, and ends up as a way of life. These writers excel at the art of making virtue of necessity: out of a need to understand how the new language works, they turn into linguistic maniacs; out of a concern for correctness, they become compulsive grammarians.

When he moved to France at the age of 26, Cioran’s command of French was barely decent, yet he ended up as one of the greatest stylists of that language. Similarly, Joseph Conrad learned English relatively late in life – which did not prevent him from coming to be one of its most sophisticated representatives.

Vladimir Nabokov is doubtlessly another such representative, even though he started learning English at an early age. The same pattern again and again: everything out of nothing, from halting ignorance to a mode of expression of the first order.

Towards the end of Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” the reader comes across something whose significance exceeds the confines of the story. It is the scene where Montague meets the “book people.” In a world where printed texts are banned, they have dedicated their lives to preserving the “great books” of the humankind; each commits a book to memory and spends the whole life reciting it. They are living texts, these people, language incarnated. Apart from the masterpieces that inhabit them, they don’t mean much.

Their bodies matter as little as the paper on which a book is printed. In a way, a writer who has changed languages is not very different from these people. In the long run, because of their compulsive preoccupation with linguistic precision and stylistic perfection, a colonization of sorts takes place: language penetrates all the details of that writer’s life, it informs and re-shapes it, it proclaims its dominion over her – it takes over. The writer’s self is now under the occupation of an invading power: her own writing in the new language.

In a certain sense, then, it could be said that in the end you don’t really change languages; the language changes you. At a deeper, more personal level, writing literature in another language has a distinctly performative dimension: as you do it something happens to you, the language acts upon you. The book you are writing ends up writing you in turn. The result is a “ghostification” of sorts.

For to change languages,  a writer is to undergo a process of dematerialization: before you know it, you are language more than anything else.

One day, suddenly, a certain intuition starts visiting you, namely that you are not made primarily out of flesh anymore, but out of lines and rhymes, of rhetorical strategies and narrative patterns.

Just like the “book people,” you don’t mean much apart the texts that inhabit you. More than a man or a woman of flesh and blood, you are now rather a fleshing out of the language itself, a literary project, very much like the books you write.

The writer who has changed languages is truly a ghost writer – the only one worthy of the name.

Having done all this, having gone through the pain of changing languages and undergone the death-and-rebirth initiation, you are sometimes given – as a reward, as it were – access to a metaphysical insight of an odd, savage beauty.

It is the notion that the world may be nothing other than a story in the making and that we, who inhabit it, may be nothing more than characters. Characters in search of an author, that is.


Costica Bradatan

Costica Bradatan is an associate professor of honors at Texas Tech University and the religion/comparative studies editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books. His most recent book is “Philosophy, Society and the Cunning of History in Eastern Europe.”


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August 2013
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