Friday, October 21, 2005


"Where is the light?"

Graham Usher writes in this week's al-Ahram from Muzaffarabad in Kashmir to report in the wake of the recent earthquake there. There's no breaking news here, only a devastating portrait of a horrible situation. Here's a snippet.
We weave through the city on the back of Mohamed's 250 cc motorbike ("It's not mine. I found it on the street. That's how you survive here. You find things on the street"). He points out places that were landmarks. "That was the main military hospital," he says, nodding towards a row of barracks that have tipped, like a snow drift, into the river. "At least 200 officers perished there". He nods again towards a flattened wreck of bricks, windows and mortar, with a floor overhanging a roof. "That was the university. There are 300 bodies still trapped there".

After a while I lose the body count as well as the names of the places. But I doubt Mohamed is exaggerating. The dark crater that was once the heart of Muzaffarabad is consumed with the acrid smell of death. Everyone wears -- or tries to wear -- surgical facemasks. Some cram tissues into their mouths, in a futile attempt to ward off disease. It adds a sense of muffled silence --as though one of the punishments of hell is that you cannot speak. Emotion is left to eyes, darting frantically back and forth above gagged mouths.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Iran and IAEA

Dan Plesch has an article in the Guardian about Iran's status in the crosshairs of the US, the UK, and Israel. I think that Plesch overstates the possibility of an imminent attack on Iran (for example, Plesch argues that attacking Iran would draw attention away from Iraq -- I think that unless people are already distracted from Iraq, say if they are convinced that the constitutional process has calmed matters in Iraq and Americans are no longer on the front lines there, attacking Iran would simply inflame anti-Iraq-war sentiments). Also, I don't care what Bob Woodward says, I can't imagine Dick Cheney being president. Especially now, I think he is better suited (from a Republican perspective) for behind-the-scenes work. In any case, though, the US and British manipulation of the IAEA is interesting.
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found that Iran has not, so far, broken its commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, although it has concealed activities before.

It appears that the UK and US have decided to raise the stakes in the confrontation with Iran. The two countries persuaded the IAEA board - including India - to overrule its inspectors, declare Iran in breach of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and say that Iran's activities could be examined by the UN security council. Critics of this political process point to the fact that India itself has developed nuclear weapons and refused to join the NPT, but has still voted that Iran is acting illegitimately.
Whether an attack is on the horizon or not, you certainly couldn't argue that the US is taking steps to open up dialogue and understanding with Iran. Or to strengthen international institutions and law and order.

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