Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘war

Part 5. “Voyage to the end of the night” By Ferdinand Celine

NoteFerdinand Celine volunteered in WWI, was seriously injured in the first year.  Many authors vouched that this book was the most truthful in describing wars , the soldiers, the military, and its calamities, with direct, ironic writing, and new words and vocabulary that obfuscated the military and brought the ire of many “patriotic” people in France

Here are a few collection of statements and opinions by Celine:

Bravery is suspicious in wartime as well as in peacetime. Is a maggot brave? Rosy, pale, and soft: Similar to mankind, the maggot.

The war has lasted over a month by now. We were so tired and miserable that we lost a little of the fear on the roads.

We have been tortured by the top officers and by the subordinates, a condition that removed the last shred of hesitation to continue surviving. All that I wanted was to sleep, anywhere, anytime…

It required many cruel situations for our brain to allow one thought to make a complete rotation, paying quick visits to the convoluted crevices in the brain.

I never ceased wondering if the officers lacked battlefield maps and cards, would they be that pressured to send hundreds to their deadly fate?

It was the end of a dry summer, and villages were burning. Little villages on little hills, which we couldn’t locate in daytime, were fantastic apparition at night, burning down all night-long. Within a month, all villages were torched to the ground, churches, barns, trees…

Civilians had a one-way exit from the region, and the heavy artillery used the exclusive opposite direction. Even the General had to sleep in the open air, and morale sank to its lowest level, and the army began executing those too tired soldiers in order to “elevate” the morale of the remaining hopeless souls…

We advanced north, while the cold followed in our steps.

We were supposed to be searching for the Germans, and as we stumbled on a few of them haphazardly, we made a long detour to side-step them, the further away from the Germans the more secure the search and reconnaissance mission…

Squad leader Bardamu (the author) was ordered by Captain Orlotan to search for the remaining German soldiers lost in the region. Orlotan was on cocaine and seemed indefatigable, sending troops to certain death. Orlotan collaborated with death under contract, and he could barely walk: He broke so many bones in horse riding contests. On his weak legs and walking stooped, Orlotan resembled the ghost of the rear part of his horse…

The best guide to finding our ways was the odor of shit, of every conceivable living organism…The only exit for the crazed cats, from the constant bombardment, was to run and get drowned in any poodle of water…

You are hit, and still you keep picking up old sandals found on the road. The sheep is badly wounded, and resumes grazing, more and more grazing until it dies.

I was not wise at all, but I finally learned to be practical and a coward: I radiated calmness, which impressed my superiors and sent me on reconnaissance missions, all by myself…These missions seemed welcomed vacations, a fictitious deliverance…

After the war ended, everyone wanted to display his uniform, including the nurses, except the neutral and spies: Two buttocks in the same pant. The ridicule of this mass massacre was dawning on everyone. It was hard feeling proud, returning from the front, and naturally engaging in more murders as a reaction of our deep shame…

The old General had two grown up girls, and unmarried. It was because of this recollection that he got this habit of growing older than normal and constantly grumbling.  The binoculars hanged to his neck as the cow bell. He couldn’t suffer to be bothered, like an old dog who can’t wait to crawl between the pillows inside his basket.

Nothing like Generals to love roses..

I wished to be made prisoner. But how to go about it? You have an enemy, from the farthest part, deep in Europe and who hate you for obscure reasons, and what could I say to him as introduction in the split-second before he fires on me? Like: “what job you practiced before the war? Are you married with children?…”

I entered a village. It was empty. I owned the entire village, its moon, and a humongous fear…

Fight reserved only for Women? (Nov. 24, 2009)

I got into thinking: what if women were selected to wage “patriotic” wars against enemies, in front line formations?  Will recruitment for required military service be instituted? Will age, marital status, number of children, and stature be factors? Will wars become less brutal? Will war duration and rate of frequency be reduced?

Will the enemy consider menstruation periods as time off fighting, like  in harvest season?  Will laws of engagement be changed and better respected? Will weapons be miniaturized to suit elegance of women?  Will weight of weapons be reduced and necessary weight of carrying backpacks be lightened?

Will men still hired to be the training sergeants? Will women consider the military as a viable career for over twenty years of service? Will turnover be higher?

I got into thinking: What if a State decided to confront an army of male soldiers with only female soldiers?  Will close range fighting be the norm? Will wounded still be achieved? Will war be waged to just capture prisoners? Will the frequency of raising white flags increases? Will men soldiers be used in support system, such as treating the wounded, nursing the frightened women soldiers, cleaning camps…? Will men behavior change with time and how? Will diplomatic peace negotiations become the norm?

I am just thinking: Do you have any historical records of different gender armies facing one another? Shall this wretched mankind ever learn to refrain from fighting useless and brutal wars? What are your opinions?

The “Big Army” crossing the Beresina River; (September 14, 2009)

 

            The self appointed Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, had entered Moscow.  The Russian governor of Moscow burned his Capital three days after the French troops entered this “Saint City”.  Bonaparte lingered for an entire month in Moscow, hopelessly waiting for Czar Alexander to initiate negotiation.  Bonaparte finally ordered the retreat; he also ordered General Moreau to blast off the Kremlin. Bonaparte was forced to re-take the same route he used for coming to Moscow.  Bonaparte and “The Big Army” of 670,000, initially, were to re-witness the scene of carnage of the battle of Borodino; with a twist: the 80,000 victims were reduced to carcasses and the wolves and crows had done their cleaning job.

            Finally, after weeks of walking in the Russian winter weather half the army was dead from freezing, famine, drowning, and diseases. The guerilla Cossacks harassed this multinational army into lunacy; many soldiers were acting up crazy and irrationally. Then this big army had to cross the Beresina River.  The Russian General Kutuzoff appeased the British General Wilson saying: “It is in the swamps of Beresina that the meteorite will cool down.  So far, Bonaparte has no alternative but to follow the passage that I let him take; he is not even allowed to stop and rest.”

            The main bridges on the Beresina were destroyed.  The French engineering regiment headed by Eble tried to build all night long two makeshift bridges in a valley; they had to construct the bridges dipping in frozen water. The pontoon layers knew that they will not survive the day.

            The Russian army of 40,000 headed by General Tchitchakoff was waiting on the other side of the river. Miracle of miracle, in the morning the Russians had vacated their posts to allow Bonaparte safe passage and not be made prisoner. Bonaparte crossed at 2 pm. Then mayhem ensued.

            The entire army was pressing to cross on unstable bridges. The first wave of crossers drowned or was trampled due to the heavy push from the back.  Those trying to climb from the sides were carried off by the freezing powerful river. Women were holding their babies off water to be picked up before sinking in the river; not many babies found rescuers: everybody had no time to lose.

            What is it with women and babies following armies? It has been the custom since antiquity for whole families to follow their “noble warriors”, not those mercenaries or poor soldiers. Perhaps the noble warriors didn’t feel excited being deprived of their tasty dishes or the warmth of female bodies. But what with babies and kids? I never knew of a noble warrior caring of providing sympathy and affection to their kids. Obviously, women were of great help washing, cooking, cleaning after, gathering woods, tending the wounded, and rejuvenating the illusion of a peaceful period.  In this Russian campaign the civilians following the armies were caught between fires, crushed by horses and carriages, and killed when made prisoners.

            Then the Russian shells aimed amid this dense army increased the havoc. The bridge reserved for the artillery broke down. The masses surging from behind prohibited the column from backtracking. Everyone was precipitated in the river.  Thus, there was a surge to the only remaining bridge; men and materials were to be using this bridge. The carriages could not be stopped and entered in the masses and crashed into the compact assembled soldiers.  Nobody was hearing the moaning of the fallen and trampled.

            Bonaparte sent a brief message to the French Senate “During the 26 and 27 of November the army crossed.”   On December 5, 1812 Bonaparte abandoned his army and fled to Paris.

            If it was a military matter General Kutuzoff could have annihilated the French Big Army but he allowed it to cross the Russian borders.  There are two reasons for that decision: first, it was a highly political decision by Czar Alexander I.  Bonaparte was the master of Europe.  Without Bonaparte Europe would have sank into civil wars; the European leaders preferred Napoleon to stay for a short while so that he be targeted as the sole enemy and thus unite Europe until a political plan for restructuring the States is agreeable to all parties after the fall of Napoleon.  Second, it was a pragmatic decision.  The Russian army barely could afford to feed its soldiers.  It would have turned a horrific burden to caring for over 200,000 enemy soldiers who were enfeebled, sick, and crazy.  General Kutuzoff must have been extremely relieved to see the enemy has finally retreated behind the borders.

(September 15, 2009)

“There are no ends Sir, re-think your means…”

          Two critical questions have been around for ever.  The first question is “What is the purpose of man?”   The second question is “Is there any means of freeing man from war threats?”

            The first question received general answers such as “The free development of every one will lead to freeing every one else” or “Earth will know the Lord, as waves cover the sea.”  These general answers that means liberty, freedom, peace, justice, and fraternal love are meaningless because they need to be operational, well defined, well discriminated, and the means well thought out in details.

            The second question is answered by another general rhetorical answer “No nation will raise the sword against another nation.”  Prophets and religious leaders did not outdo the meanest local politician in their good intentions.

            “Is there any means of freeing man from war threats?” was asked to Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud in 1932; twelve years after the institution of the League of Nations after WWI.  The League of Nations was lead by the USA, France, Britain, and Italy; it was the precursor of the United Nations established after WWII and headed by the USA, USSR, China, France, and Britain with veto power.  Basically, they are the two cheeks of the same ass.

            Einstein said: “A minority avid of power reigning over the great masses that do not get but suffering and impoverishment.  The way for international security is to impose on States to abandon without condition a part of their liberty of action or sovereignty.  There are no other alternatives.” 

            Freud position was “It is not possible to avoid war unless men agree to institute a central power to which States demand arbitration and respect the decision.  The League of Nations does not dispose of an army which cannot be formed unless the constituent States concede it. I am baffled that a unanimous accord by humanity has not banished war.  It is my contention that whoever works toward the development of culture is also struggling against war.”

            Nobel peace laureate Bertha von Sutter replied to Alfred Nobel “Do not always qualify our plan for peace as a dream. Progress toward justice is not a dream; this is the law of civilization”

            “Is there any means of freeing man from war threats?” is still a general question.  It would be far meaningful to divide this question into three practical ones.  The first question would be “Is there any way to prevent pre-emptive wars?”  The second question is “Is there ways to prevent civil wars?”  The third question should be “How man can be set free to decide on his death?”

            How to prevent civil wars have been answered by the USA and Western Europe; all citizens are equal before the law of the land; all citizens have the right to vote; all citizens have the right to be candidates; all citizens can do commerce and trade anywhere in the land; all citizens abide by the same civil status laws; all citizens are served equally well by public services; and no citizen is discriminated against by gender, race, color, or religious belief. If civil wars can be prevented then wars can be prevented: war is war, just view other people as you want people to regard you!  Just stop discriminating other people by race, color, religion, or gender.  They should enjoy the same rights that you want to enjoy.    

            If the world community can decided on a universal law that gives man the right to dispose of his life then all the moral values would become corollary to that fundamental right.  We are born by a fluke of nature but death is a certainty once born; how we wish to die is the only power that we should have to decide for our destiny.

 

            The most controversial of all questions is “Do ends justify the means?”  The most frustrating in this question is that the first two pre-requisite questions have not been answered satisfactorily by the world community. So far, the ends have been but abstract general notions of liberty, freedom, democracy, justice, equality, and so on.  So far, the means have been but brutal force, assassination, incarceration, humiliation, and disrespect of human rights, customs, traditions, and cultures.  Occupied people wait for the means to materialize in order to comprehend the nature of the end game.  When the occupier disband a nation’s army then you know that brute force occupation is the means to annihilate the social fabric of the society.  How can democracy be instituted if democracy is not applied by the occupier?  How can liberty be disseminated if the occupier has forgotten that liberty is resistance to an occupying force?  How can justice be established if martial laws are applied?

            Man is a dog, a cat, or nothing.  The vast majority of men are dogs.  Dog has a fixed logic; once trained properly he nails rules down.  Dog may learn from experience but fails to generalize the experience.  Misha the dog was entrapped on a spiked fence and got scared; she would not jump over the fence on the location it got the fright.  Misha jumps over the fence in another location; it is the same kind of dangerous fence, the same color, and the same height; it was just another location!  Cat has flexible logic and it baffles man.  There are these two kittens. The ugly one is smarter, more courageous, and enterprising.  The first time I hit the ugly cat for myawing it comprehended my reason for hitting her, or so I think.  The next time she saw the stick her behavior changed; now the stick meant “food is on the way”; food is the objective and survival means launching guerrilla warfare and louder myawings.

 

            The main function of the UN should be to prohibit pre-emptive wars under all conditions. The UN failed when it cowered to the US dictates for invading Iraq.  Britain, France, and Germany contributed to this war by softening their stance for economical benefits.

            I say: “There are no ends Sir, re-think your means.”

“I was virgin to horror when I signed up…” (September 11, 2009)

 

            It is Arthur’s fault. I was minding my own business. Arthur insisted on inviting me for a cup of espresso.  He was saying “People in Paris give the impression of being busy; in fact they go for walks from morning to evening. When the weather is not appropriate for walks, when it is too cold or too hot, you never see them on the streets or anywhere. They are in their homes drinking coffee. They say it is the century of speed, of great changes; where are they? People keep admiring one another; that is all.”  And then he said “I don’t like politics. If my country asks me to shed my blood then I will be ready. The French race is a good one.” I retorted “You are wrong. This supposed race is a collection of miserable people in transit who were hunted by hunger, cholera, and the cold and happened to settle here: they could not cross the sea.” Arthur said “Our forefathers were better than us and we owe them respect.”  I replied “We have never changed. We do not change our socks, our masters, or opinions. We are born loyal; free soldiers of talking chimps, and hero for the entire world. King Misery clamp down on us when we do not prove to be sensible.”  Arthur said “There is still love”.  I vehemently replied “Love is the infinite accessible only for poodles.  I have composed a poem titled Wings in Gold.

            A God counting the minutes and the pennies,

            A God desperate, sensual, and growling like a pig.

            A pig with gold wings that keeps falling everywhere,

            Stomach up, and ready to be caressed.

            It is He our Master. Let’s hug him.

 

            It happened that a Colonel mounted on a white horse was heading a regiment in front of the Café. People were throwing rice and flowers on them.  I followed this regiment until it started raining and people vanished from around this exhibition. I had second thought to leave the regiment but once you are caught in then there is no escape and I was stuck as war recruit or volunteer.

            Once you are in then you get used to your new life.  They made me ride horses for two months and then they demanded that I start walking. One morning, the orderly of the Colonel borrowed the Colonel horse and never showed up.  We are walking on the road and I saw two black dots at the end of the road.  They were firing at us; I realized they are Germans who have been firing at us for some time; they are evidently lousy shots. My Colonel must have known why these Germans were shooting at us; possibly the Germans knew also; I didn’t know anything. I have nothing against Germans: I studied with German kids with shifty pale blue eyes like the wolves. We drank sugary beer; but to end up firing at me! This is not nice.

            The Colonel resumed his walks, head high, as if nothing the matter.  And then one of the bullets scraped my head. In these kinds of stories there is nothing to do but to flee. I never in my life felt so useless; a universal joke.

            I was 20 of age and wandering in the countryside.  I was virgin in my passions and surely pretty virgin in matters of horrors. Farms were deserted as if the owners did not want to disturb our journey in and around their homes and lands. We sort of owned everything in the land, fruit trees, chariots, cows, and even a chained dog. I always hated the countryside.  When the bullets harassed me I swore that, I may got to be a hundred, I will never set foot on any kind of countryside. I got to thinking “If the residents were here then maybe we would not be shooting at one another”.

 

            Then it dawned on me.  My Colonel is an idiot; he is a monster and worst than a dog; he could not imagine his death; he lacks imagination; he cannot visualize death.  There must be millions of idiot officers; that is why this imbecile of a war is going on. Am I the only coward in this world amid thousands of “heroic” kids wearing their metal outfits and behaving more enraged than dogs?

 

            I am more scared of our soldiers and officers than the enemy; more of us were shot and court marshaled by our own army than by the enemy; our officers always want to make example of courage! I don’t want to die my face in the mud, crap, and blood.  I don’t want to die in this desolate, dark, and cold environment.  I want to die differently. Am I not free to choose how I want to die too?

 

Note: This topic was selected from the first pages of the French novel “Journey at the end of the night” (Voyage au bout de la nuit) by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.

Last Day of an Epic War 

            This is Monday August 14, 2006 of my diary.  The war has been going on for 32 days so far; Israel has destroyed all Lebanon’s infrastructure seaports, airports, highways, and polluted our sea with mazout. At 8 a.m. Israel decided to stop the military activities.  Last night, Israel poured its last minutes of vengeance and hatred on Lebanon by dropping thousands of various bombs and rockets on southern Beirut, the Bekaa and Akkar districts.  There are many indications that Israel used bombes that spread thousands of tiny bombs against individuals (cluster bombs); a few cases of injuries happened this morning when children manipulated these tiny booby bombs.        

            Israel dropped leaflets warning that it will target Beirut if missiles are activated. Israel pronounced that it will maintain air, water, and ground blockades until the multinational forces take over. The UN and the Lebanese army have warned our citizens not to touch or approach suspicious objects.

            The Lebanese refugees are on the move back to their home towns in the south by the thousands; they are carrying their mattresses and blankets stacked high over their cars.  They did not wait for any kind of permissions from anyone; they did not wait for the army to lead the way, and certainly, they did not wait for Israel to give the green light to their return. They are the heroes after the cease fire that clenched our total victory over the despicable enemy.  The locals at the nearby destroyed bridges and roads are repairing as best they can and facilitating the convoys of the returnees.  It would take months for the Israeli citizens to return to their targeted settlements at the urge and plenty of incentive from their government.  The nation that won the war is the one whose citizens returned promptly to their lands.

            My niece Adreas, helped by 5 of the neighbors’ kids, cleaned the basement where William sleeps and rearranged the living room so that they can meet and play.  This place is supposed to become their meeting harbor before they disperse for outdoor activities. I guess they intend to bring their daily food supplies and they were dreaming of sleeping overnight too.

            The IDF (Israel “Defense” Forces) has vacated the town of Marjeyoun. The war is going on in the south; Hezbollah killed seven Israeli soldiers and wounded 17.  It looks like the agreement of April in 1996 all over again, after the first Qana massacre; this agreement stated that guerilla warfare is legitimate and the civilians should be are spared.  If the Lebanese government is steadfast behind the resistance fighters, it will not take four years for Israel to retreat to the Blue Line but merely one week.

            I took my youngest niece Chelsea of nine around 7 p.m. to Beit Chabab to celebrate the Eve of the Virgin Mary Day and meet a few of her friends.  This event had strong local flavors before the start of the civil war in 1975. It represents mid summer vacation and parents start worrying about the first instalement to private schools. This was no celebrations this year; though it would have been most appropriate because of the end of the cease fire and our victory.  Chelsea bought herself a hair band and another cheap toy and ate “mankouchi”. While visiting my aunt Montaha, Nasr Allah was delivering his powerful speech.  We returned about 9 p.m. and I watched the interview with our minister of Defense.

 

Note: This year too, Hassan Nasr Allah delivered a lengthy and powerful victory speech at the same time and date.  The Secretary General of Hezbollah said that the frequent threats of Israel for the last two months only chased away the tourists visiting northern Israel. Israel would love to wage another offensive war but it is too apprehensive to even think about it.  Hezbollah has no intention of escalating the tensions but it is not scared at all for another war. This time around the missiles of Hezbollah can reach any where in Israel and the resistance will respond in kinds.)

Cease Fire Day of the epic war; (August 15, 2009)

 

            This is Tuesday August 15, 2006 of my diary. Israel withdrew from all the eastern part of south Lebanon and withdrew today from Ghandourieh where they lost 35 Merkava tanks three days ago.  Only 3% of the Israelis believe that they won a clear cut victory and 85% of the Americans handed victory to Hezbollah.  Ramsfield is scared shit of when the Shiaa in Iraq get organized and armed.  Blair is withdrawing from Basra (Iraq) by the end of the month; I may conjecture that Blair is trying to leave Iraq before the crazy Bush antagonizes Iran militarily.  This time around Britain will have nothing to do with that lunatic of GW Bush.

            Nasr Allah offered us a fresh and cool analysis of the aftermath.  His speech was mainly targeted to those Lebanese politicians who jumped on the occasion to ask Hezbollah to disarm before Israel withdraw from Lebanon, before the Lebanese prisoners are returned, and before the Lebanese army is ready to take positions along the Litany River, and before the UN compose the multinational forces.  He blamed these politicians close to the US and against Syria, and who indeed have no substantial popular support, to go far beyond the demands of the UN resolution or even the attempts of urging Israel to fulfill their objectives in this war.

            Nasr Allah promised that reconstruction and compensations to the refugees will commence immediately and that Hezbollah is not about to wait for the Lebanese government to start what it is supposed to do.  Saudi Arabia is scrambling to form an association for reconstructing Lebanon to challenge the financial help coming from Iran.

            Around noon, President Bashar Assad of Syria went on air and rambled for almost an hour.  He congratulated Hezbollah on its victory, lambasted the “half men” of the Arab leaders who provided political cover to Israel to extend its objectives and who never believed in any kind of resistance to the plans of the US and Israel in the Middle East.  Assad asserted that the Arab regimes have in fact submitted al their cards to the US in order to engineer a peace process, a decision that not only failed the process but encouraged more blood shed among the Palestinians and worked very hard to restrain any Palestinian independence and self autonomy from Israel. Assad never mentioned the prerequisite of liberating the Golan Highs or how he will subdue the political fractions in Lebanon staunchly opposing the Baath regime.

            Assad’s pronouncements generated severe and numerous backlash from the media and the local and foreign politicians. The German foreign minister canceled his trip to Damascus. The reactions to Assad’s speech range from outright opposition to everything that he said to cynical and hidden hatred for this regime that is being further isolated and has no support but from Iran.  The main objective of Assad is plainly to calm down the internal unrest of his people who realized that Syria was unable to help the resistance forces in Lebanon or was not willing to get involved, as was the positions of most Arab States.

            Hezbollah did not respond to Assad’s speech, and most probably will not, but I suspect Hezbollah is not that thrilled and would gladly be content that Assad did not get himself involved at this junction.  Assad’s speech smacks of plainly usurping the victory of the Lebanese resistance forces and implicitly claiming the victory to Syria who was viewed by the Western Nations as the main ally to Iran in the region.  What we need is to keep internally united and iron out our differences by ourselves.

            The contributions of Syria in this conflict was to supplying electricity to the northern part of Lebanon, some gas, and most importantly permitting thousands of Lebanese refugees to enter Syria, fly from Syria and allowing humanitarian aids to be transferred by land from Damascus. These contributions are important and should convince our antagonistic politicians to learn not to wage vicious political wars with our immediate and strongest neighbor.

            I went to the gym around 3:15 p.m. and had a good afternoon; I enjoyed some sun tanning, swam in the outdoor cold pool, used the gym machines, and had a sauna and a hot shower.  I met gorgeous girls at the gym doing static bicycles and jogging machine but did not attempt to link any conversation with them.  I realized that they were following my footsteps when I was done with the exercise machines.  I returned about 8 p.m. for the evening news.  Mother was at my aunt Marie to congratulate her on the Virgin Marie Day, her name sake.

            Victor and Raymonde visited and dined at Naoum’s, one of Victor’s brother; they took Adrea and Chelsea with them.  Joanna has a day off and is not cheerful; she is spending her time doing or creating matrices of numbers and playing with her newly adoptive kitten which she finally called Snowy.  William is constantly on the phone, or that’s how it appears every time I see him.

The Third World War is loudly tolling (February 27, 2009)

Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar published in February 23, 2009 on “Information Clearing House“ a valuable review on the current economic situation.  It is unfortunately one of so many technical or what I call mechanical explanations of the troubles but no substantive resolutions attached to it.  I will try first to abrige that article and then offer a few solutions.

“In early February, the International Monetary Fund’s chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the world’s advanced economies — the U.S., Western Europe and Japan — are “already in depression”. The UK, Italy, Spain, Korea, Taiwan are in depression. All these States and many more have watched their GDP shrinking sharply. Japan, Ukraine, Ireland, and Iceland have experience shrinking in the two digits. An important fact to remember is that this depression is synchronised and this synchronicity has been made possible by the globalization and accompanying deregulation; the very things that were making workers poorer and the rich, richer. China’s growth rate is estimated to be around 1 percent.

Middle Eastern countries have also been severely affected by the financial crisis. Oil prices that were around 120 dollars last year have come down to around 35dollars this year. Every country has slashed its expenditure with the accompanying slowing growth. For example recently UAE was forced to halt construction projects worth $582 billion or fully 45% of all projects. Dubai’s economy is in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills)”. Iranians, Saudis, Iraqis, Kuwaitis and others have also been forced to slow down or freeze many projects. One must not forget that many of these countries’ petro-dollars are re-circulated back into the US and European economies. Those funds are drying-up fast.

Turkey sitting between the Europe and Middle East is also suffering. Turkey has the largest GDP in the Islamic world. Turkey’s GDP was 750 billion in 2008, the GDP of Saudi Arabia was 600 billion dollar for the same period. A once dynamic economy is now negotiating with IMF for help.

The Federal Reserves’ forecast for 2009 shows a contraction of 0.5 to 1.3 percent of the GDP with official unemployment rising to 8.5 or 8.8 percent. Here one should note that this official unemployment rate does not present a true picture, since all those who give-up registering with the unemployment office or are barely working (part-time workers, etc) are not counted as unemployed.

The missing engine of growth

There are four factors that power an economy: consumers, investors, government, and a favourable trade balance. Some economies such as China rely on favourable trade balance and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for their growth. For example according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, from 1990 to 2007, China received $748.4 billion in FDI. At the same time, since its economic liberalization, China has recorded consistent trade surpluses with the world. For example China has registered trade surpluses of $102 billion for 2005 to $295. billion for 2008. China currently has accumulated nearly two trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves.

In contrast to the China, the United States has relied on consumers and the government for its growth. U.S. consumers constitute only about 4.5% of the global world population, yet they bought more than $10 trillion worth of goods and services last year. In contrast the Chinese and Indian consumers combined which account for 40% of the global population bought only $3 trillion worth. The U.S. consumer spending shot up to nearly 77% of the economy.

Japan is once again entering another deflationary period. In deflationary periods, consumers spend less and try to save more. The fear of losing one’s job, the psychology of ever decreasing prices, and general feeling of doom act against free spending by the consumers. The Japanese consumption was only 55% of the GDP as much as the Euro zone. So the Japanese and EU consumers cannot help either.

The US consumers have to get used to lower spending levels for at least a decade, if not for good. American’s standard of living is undergoing a “permanent change” – and not for the better as a result of:

• An $8 trillion negative wealth effect from declining home values.

• A $10 trillion negative wealth effect from weakened capital markets.

• A $14 trillion consumer debt load amid “exploding unemployment”, leading to “exploding bankruptcies.”

“The average American used to be able to borrow to buy a home, send their kids to a good school [and] buy a car,” Davidowitz says. “A lot of that is gone.

The diminishing wealth

For people in general, shares act both as saving and investment. The average person buys share in hope of getting better return than the banks. It is also easy to get in and out of the market. The advancements in information and communication technologies, the costs of buying and selling have fallen steadily in the last decade. So now anyone with a computer can buy and sell shares. This ease of entry enticed an ever increasing number of ordinary people to enter the stock markets.

Now the people have been hit by three disasters. First they lost a lot of money in the housing market. Then they were hit with the collapse of the stock markets. Trillions of Dollars, Yens, Euros and Yuans have been wiped-out in a relatively a short time. Then many have lost their jobs and many are uncertain about the future job security. All these have had a tremendous impact on the consumers, forcing many to heavily reduce their consumption, which in turn have begun to affect businesses which in-turn are shedding workers to compensate for the loss of sales and revenues. This is a classical deflationary circle that feed on itself.

The governments’ response to this threat has been to stimulate the economy by pumping large sums of money into the economy. A decade ago, a hundred billion dollar was an astronomical sum. Today we don’t even bother to look at it twice. Today we talk of Trillions. A few hundred billions here and a few hundred billions there soon add up to a few nice trillions; especially the trillions that we don’t have.

Now we face a classical problem: the increasing budget deficits. Exactly when the economy is contracting and tax receipts are falling, the government expenditure is rising rapidly. In addition, the governments are buying bad debts and trying to spend more on whatever they can in order to arrest the increasing unemployment and stimulate the economy. These large sums have to come from somewhere. They can be borrowed or money can simply be printed. The problem is that some governments are opting for both.

So how can the US continue its deficit spending? By issuing treasury bonds and other security certificates of course. Both public and foreign governments buy these securities which are guaranteed by the US government. Foreign central banks alone held $1.76 trillion dollars in US treasuries. The combined holdings of Treasuries and agency securities by foreign central banks at the Fed totalled $2.573 trillion, up $11.223 billion”.

The coming inflation

So far the foreign governments and businesses have been willing to buy US debt, but with the current economic downturn things are beginning to change. In the last 5 years China has spent as much as one-seventh of its entire economic output buying mostly American debt. However, with the sharp slowdown in its economy, China is finding it difficult to keep buying. China has also come-up with its own $600 billion stimulus plan. This along with the falling trade surplus and the falling tax receipt will make it exceedingly unlikely that China can keep financing part of the US government’s deficit spending. The same applies to other countries as well.

As the economic downturn continues we can see two things: the interest on US treasuries increase substantially to make it attractive and or printing money. Printing money is not so farfetched as many would like to believe. Already countries that cannot find willing lenders are resorting to this. The Bank of England voted unanimously earlier this month to seek consent from the government to start the process of quantitative easing (means printing money) by buying gilts and other securities. With interest rates at 1%, printing money is likely to increase inflation.

It is especially appealing for the US government to print money since inflation means a real value reduction in debts. With mounting trade and budget deficit and decreasing tax receipts and the shrinking of the number of willing lenders, US government may not have any choice but to print money.

All governments are reducing their interest rates to historic lows and at the same time spending a lot of money that they don’t have. It will take at least two more years for the economy to stabilise (meaning an arrest in decline rather than outright growth). Once that point is reached we will begin to see the effects of the loose monetary policy: a tremendous rise in inflation which can be accompanied by low economic growth or in other words stagflation.

The current economic crises have left many countries’ local banks with foreign currency loans that they find difficult to repay in that currency. This and the possibility of defaults have made these countries a good target for speculators. If such an attack starts, many countries will automatically have to devalue their currencies (even more than they already have) or try to defend their currencies. In either case this may trigger yet another crisis that may actually destroy a good portion of many economies around the world.

Even if we assume that no more nasty surprises will appear in the next two years and the economies stabilise, we are left with the reduced levels of consumption around the world, especially in major economies. So there will be a dearth of market for the goods and services produced by others. In absence of the US, the question will be: which country or countries are able to increase demand to such a degree as to trigger a recovery; that most likely will be accompanied with high inflation?”

Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar (Bakhtiarspace-articles@yahoo.no) is sugesting a second “Bretten Woods” agreement where we can address the existing problems and restructure the world’s economic system, otherwise we will face protectionism, low economic growth, and even trade wars. Dr. Bakhtiar failed to offer a blue print on what to agree on.

I suggest the folowing: 

First, the developed States have to agree on another tangible standard (like gold) for currencies.  Gold would not do because the US has abolished it in 1967 because all the gold in the world could not sustain the huge amount of paper dollars circulating or intended to circulate around the world.  The alternative is a basket of depleting minerals that are essentials for manufacturing and production.  The processed minerals do not have to be rare but very essentials for development.  The US can agree to this idea since it has huge reserves in many important minerals.

Second, all the States that can account for at least 3% of all curency circulation should join an “International Money Printing Council” with tight control and monitoring creteria.  Any combined States with over 40% of cash money shares in the global market should have a veto power.

Failing a convincing and sustainable agreement for monetary stability the Third World War is altready in the planning stage as the easiest and quickest way out of that morass.  Only in major wars do printed money with no tangible backing has mythical values.  No, the next region for the war scene is not Iran: no European or US soldiers want to fight in this “cursed region”.  It won’t be Afghanistan: if Afghanistan was worth it then Bush Junior would not have invaded Iraq before stabilizing Afghanistan.  It won’t be North Korea: it is bordering China.  The batlefield will not be in any area bordering Russia.  It won’t be the Congo River zone: no Western soldiers is about to step in this infested and contagious disease plagued region with AIDS consuming 30% of the population.

The next world war is in Sudan. Sudan is a continent by itself and rich in all kinds of raw materials, oil, and water and land to sustain the world agricultural needs.  No, the superpowers will not directly fight one another. The war will last to the last Sudanese and any lame African soldiers that participate in the war. Egypt might get a tiny share of the spoil of the new colonial powers simply because it was impotent to secure its backyard.  Egypt and the Arab States are feeling the heat and scrambling; it is kind of too late.

Son of man: Margin for freedom, (February 25, 2009)

            Half a century ago, heredity defined to great extent every individual.  Every one of us is the product of long lines of successive unions and yet the probability of identical persons is nil among the billions upon billions of human kinds that roamed earth. Every person that dies is never replaced and his unique set of characteristics is gone for ever.  Maybe our margin for developing certain characteristics is limited; and though what could be modified a little by nature, environment, social conditions, and personal struggle will have an impact in defining future generations, over long period.

            We have always attributed our reality to act of God, His will, our Destiny; we have been sons of God until recently.  Research and technology is altering many genomes for a healthier man, even before he is born, even when he is a fetus, even by sorting out and selecting one among the many embryos to re-insert in the mother’s uterus.  Man has started to affect genetically future generations.  God is no longer the sole and exclusive owner of man. 

Man is becoming part owner, though with a tiny share so far.  As long as man is not able to tamper with the brain on a large scale, the “God” of the various religious clerics will still have the bigger share to man.  When you partially own a person, then you are responsible for the whole entity.  We tended to let God off the hook for too long. 

If man has to be taken to court for wrong doing or designing and manufacturing defective products, then it is about time that God be taken to court after each war, each genocide, each apartheid systems perpetrating actions of suffering and humiliation to mankind.

We have always attributed to God all the good values, even the immoral values in our daily realities.  The attributes that we didn’t appreciate in God, we have tried hard to interpret them in a lenient manner.  If God exists, and he should exist, then God has to be taken to the International Tribunal for crimes against humanity. 

That is the margin of liberty that we still own; to study, read, reflect, have our own opinions, take hold of our personal responsibilities, and act accordingly.  When a person denies his own share of responsibility and stop reflecting and studying, then all he does is but wind.  I have published many “poems” and I selected two that might be representative of this article.

I Say

 

I say, every one must have his identity:

           Death has forced on us the I.

I say, what exists must be discovered:

           Death impressed on us to know.

I say, every feeling must be experienced:

           Death created stages for us to grow.

I say, there must be a meaning to life:

           Death did not leave us a choice in that.

 

 

A Gentle Touch*

 

Prettier than white dust

            You shall never be.

Uglier than a skeleton

            You can never be.

Toward the scared souls, scared of death,

            Scared in living,

Let your stretched hand

            Be gentler, your voice softer.

The Essence of Wars and the Spice Wars (October 1, 2008)

If you cannot acquire what you badly want cheaply then borrow money at high interest rates to set up a stealing operation.  Since time immemorial, wars were the most expensive alternatives in order to get what States wanted for refusing to purchase at fair market values.  This article will describe the Spice Wars which Stephen Swig introduced in his “Magellan, the vanquisher of the seas”. As it is known, Magellan is the first mariner to circumnavigate earth’s seas and oceans.

Medieval Europe got hooked and addicted on all the varieties of spices and perfumes arriving through the Arab Moslem World; the aristocratic classes even added spices to their drinks and the values of spices were more expensive than silver and gold; people even sold lands in exchange of spices and perfumes because they were common currencies.

Prices of spices and perfumes were extremely high because the sources of their production were found on remote lands in South-East Asia and by the time every port taxed the shipments and then traveling the deserts of Iraq and Syria and with the loss of one ship for every five in the seas due to the danger of sea faring and pirates then the prices skyrocketed through multi-levels of middlemen.  The Arabic kingdoms knew well the sources of production in Malaysia but they didn’t reach the main islands rich in spices beyond the Malacca Straight.  Malacca Straight is still now the most strategic location for maritime commerce where all the ships coming from China, Japan, Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma and the south-east Asian countries and islands have to cross that straight westward and the reverse for the Nations doing commerce eastward.

All the spices and perfumes had to cross the Arab kingdoms, one way or another, and most middlemen before the shipments of spices reached Europe were Arabs. The European States decided to conquer the Near East under the pretense of a Holy War to re-conquer Jerusalem.  The main target was Egypt where the shortest route was shipments arriving by the Red Sea.  Unfortunately for the European coalitions three targeted Crusading invasions of Egypt failed miserably and the whole business failed for lack of incentives to finance further campaigns.  In the meantime, Venice vanquished Byzantium naval power and became the exclusive wholesaler of spices.  The English, Holland and German middlemen auctioned out the spices on the Rialto Square in Venice and then sold them throughout the main European markets.

It happened that in 1415 one of the sons of the King of Portugal, Prince Henrick, started to doubt the theory and affirmations of Ptolemy which stated that there are no exits in the Atlantic Ocean when you sail west or south and that past the equator in Africa nobody can return alive because of the heat, fire and Evil emanations.  Ptolemy even said that past the equator Africa is not inhabited and is a desolate land. Henrick resumed his research and investigations and trained mariners and built ships to verify his new theories.  Henrick died before he experienced the successes of his endurance and far sightedness.

Within a century, Portugal, the tiniest and poorest State in Europe, became the strongest and richest nation.  Portugal ships colonized the whole of Africa, India, and Malaysia and even reached China and Japan. King Juan II of Portugal had a meeting with Christopher Columbus but didn’t see any value of discovering another route to India going west the Atlantic since the southern route was completely discovered and known and the Pope had allotted Africa and India to the kingdom of Portugal.  The King of Spain invested in Columbus and the Pope had to divide the Atlantic Ocean into two zones; thus, lands discovered were distributed between these two kingdoms; Brazil was within the dividing line of Portugal.

Magellan decided to tour around the world by seas going westward as Columbus: his closest mariner friend Francisco Srao convinced him that the route westward is far shorter in order to visit him in the spice islands of Ternate, Mulouk, Panda and Ambo Ana.  Francisco had been living the good life for nine years among the aborigines’ four islands; it seems that the Arabs had not reached yet these islands.

The 15th century was most active in maritime discovery and the cruelest; the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors slaughtered the aborigines and brought in all kinds of diseases that the natives were not immune at.  It was the century that started the wholesale colonial wars among the powerful European States for cheap produces and large markets.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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