31 March 2012

Obligatory amnesia and unforgettable images -- for Biswal

My friend Thusha has kindly sent me a fascinating document by Eduardo Galeano. It is called ‘The Right to Rave’, a manifesto and a wish list at the same time.  The list was prefaced.

‘In 1948 and again in 1976, the United Nations proclaimed long lists of human rights, but the immense majority of humanity enjoys only the rights to see, hear and remain silent. Suppose we start by exercising the never-proclaimed right to dream? Suppose we rave a bit? Let's set our sights beyond the abominations of today to divine another possible world.’

There were many ‘articles’ in these ‘rights’ and the following caught my eye: ‘In Argentina, the crazy women of the Plaza de Mayo shall be held up as examples of mental health because they refused to forget in a time of obligatory amnesia.’  The reference was to the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who stood silently, dentified only by their white kerchiefs, and sometimes by the pictures they held of their missing children.  They authorities, unable to deal with this silent statement of objection (protests were banned at the time), resorted to vilifying them. They were called the Crazy Women of Plaza de Mayo, las locas de Plaza de Mayo. 

I think the reason that I noticed that particular line in Galeanos deft capture of the world’s injustices in this ‘Rave’ was that I had received an email the same day about images that should not be forgotten.  The ‘forgotten images’ included one where US soldiers are shown looking at the body of a dead Vietcong soldier which presumably they had tied to the truck they were traveling on and dragging it along the road.  If reconciliation, redress, punishment and so on are things that have a political afterlife even following military victory/defeat, as the current howls and howlers emanating from certain ill-informed and myopic corners of the international community (read, USA + EU) serve to make us understand, then this photograph should warrant not just investigation and punishment but compensation as well.  It looks like the world is selective when it comes to war crimes, investigation, delivering judgment and dispensing punishment.

It is not even possible to say ‘that’s the past, let’s move on’, for the USA has bombed 18 countries since the second world war ended, maintains a military presence in dozens of countries, has invaded many others and have directly or indirectly caused the death of more than a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 20 years, displaced a similar number and produced more maimed and orphaned persons than any other country in the world during this period.

I had seen that ‘forgotten’ picture before, as I have some of the others that were included in the email.  There are more recent pictures and stories that we are being asked to forget and which people like Ban Ki-moon appear to have forgotten. 

If you go to the following site, you will read about a boy called Anas Hamed and his sister Inas both in the unhappy city called Fallujah who suffer from birth defects courtesy the US-British battles against suspected rebels, the bloodiest so far according to some accounts (http://www.countercurrents.org/rothscum110710.htm).  Fallujah was one of the most peaceful places in Iraq post-invasion.  On April 28, 2003, a crowd of 200 people defied a local curfew and gathered outside a local school to protest the presence of foreign troops in their city.  As things heated up, it is alleged, that US troops were fired upon.  US soldiers ‘returned’ the fire, killing 17 people.

An Italian documentary claims that the US used incendiary MK-77 bombs (similar to napalm) in military action.  The us of such weapons are illegal according to Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, to which the USA (surprised?) is not a signatory. The US State Department initially denied using white phosphorus as a munition, but backtracked when it was found that a US Army magazine had run a story detailing its use in Fallujah. 

The infant mortality rate in Fallujah is 80/1000 per year, the birth rate a horrific 136 per 1,000 births.  In the first two months of 2010, as many infants died as in the whole of 2008.  Deformities, genetic mutations etc stand at unacceptable levels.  There’s a peace dividend here, then.  It’s not being reported or acknowledged in the British Parliament, which regularly engages in moral posturing with respect to Sri Lanka’s ‘alleged’ war crimes (unproven and extrapolated from statements from dubious sources).  The British, like the USA justified invasion citing the existence of ‘weapons of mass destruction (WMD)’. The US said ‘regime change’ but the British, constitutionally hampered called it ‘self-defense’.  Cute.  Tell that to Anas and Inas Hamed and thousands of other children who would not say ‘thank you’ to any Brit or Yank today or ever for all the crimes against humanity committed in their very names, for which they had to pay by foregoing normal lives, regular bodies and freedoms that the children of the ‘saviours’ get to enjoy.

There is another image that I want to see. Dr. David Kelly, the UK Government’s Nuclear Science expert sent to Iraq to find WMDs. Before the invasion. He found none and reported this.  His body was found in a walking path near his residence.  Verdict: suicide. Some JMOs protested. They were greeted with silence. I want a picture of the look on his face as he departed this earth.  Freeze it.  I am sure it will be a pin-up item that rebels against ‘obligatory amnesia’ as such decreed by the thugs of this world can use.

[first published in the Daily News, July 13, 2010]



Shaik Ahamath said...

There was a judicial inquiry after Dr.Kelly's death. It makes farcical reading how the inquiry was manupilated and how the BBC was treated for reporting something sourced from Dr. Kelly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutton_Inquiry)