RIP John McCain: The Senate Just Lost the Maverick

Source: ABC World News Tonight

War hero, Prisoner of War, an unapologetic and fierce defender of freedom, and a voice of reason and sanity in the Senate, John McCain of Arizona has finally succumbed to cancer after a recent diagnosis. He did not go down without a fight as usual but even someone like him knows when to stop wasting your energy on a lost cause. You can’t win every battle and you are not meant to.

Take the 2008 election for an example. Who could have been a more obvious . He probably would have been a sensible choice, had Senator Leiberman decided not to sabotage his campaign by pulling out. A lot can be said of course about how he handled that campaign, particularly the disastrous choice of picking Sarah Palin as the running mate. Especially with the persepective that if the popular but divisive Obama Presidency could be avoided, you could argue that things would have been a lot different in Syria today. However, even the staunchest of Democrat will attest to the dignity with which he ran the campaign. Compared to more recent politics, McCain almost sounds like a saintly figure despite being a Republican hawk.

Much is being said about the heroics of the man but few are focusing on the gulf he is leaving in the US Senate. Not only in the Senate and the GOP, but in American politics, he is leaving very big shoes to be filled in. One of the most important qualities of John McCain’s political career was his independence of views despite whatever was popular in the party. He often did not care about the party line and voted his conscience and stood up for issues when people least expected. He took a stand against torture and waterboarding as an unAmerican and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, probably inspired by the unspeakable torture he suffered in Vietnam’s most notorious detention camps.

Lately, he stood up to the madness of President Donald Trump when very few in his party such as Governor John Kasich, at least in the elected office, had the courage to do so. His latest act of defiance came when President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans made their only real effort for a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare or Affordable Healthcare Act put into place during the term of President Barack Obama.

Where the passing of John McCain is even more tragic is the state of politics in which he has left America. Aftter the loss of Hillary Clinton and the seat left vacant by his death, sensible centrist leaders are becoming a rarety in American politics. While you could argue that the majority of Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressmen and women are still centrist liberals, the shift toward more extreme right and left has been prominent in the recent years and it is only going to get worse. While the respective groups might have their own reasons for their ideological polarization, primarily being the deadlock of the Congress and the establishment status quo (even though they might miss the status quo when it’s gone), there are quite a few reasons why centrist liberalism in America is important.

First of all, it is important to preserve the free market enterprise in the United States without making certain sections of the economy too heavily dependent on the government. Secondly, it is important to preserve the secular state of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which makes the United States of America such an exceptional democracy. Finally, it is important to keep the United States an interventionist power that establishes and exercises its political influence around the world and ensure to defend freedom of the citizens of the world where it is threatened.

Often accused of being a “warmonger,” Senator John McCain was the leader who was making a moral argument for the United States to take action when the Syrian Government was using chemical weapons against its own citizens. In fact, he was pushing for action against both the Assad regime and the Islamic State. All this time, President Obama chose to resist the idea of increased military conflict in the area, leading to massive losses suffered by the Kurds and Yazidis in the North and the failure of the Free Syrian Army to find any major breakthroughs. Obviously, it was not a priority for either President Obama or his Democratic base, or even the Republicans for that matter. Perhaps blame it on the lethargy caused by the two-term war-torn Bush Presidency and that was probably what also led to the comprehensive defeat of McCain in the 2008 election with Obama’s landmark campaign of Hope and Change.

Since President Obama’s term, and especially during the current scandal-infested term of President Donald Trump, American moral leadership around the world has significantly weakened. Unfortunately, even the American public has never been more unenthusiastic about the affairs around the globe and we have recently been seeing more isolationist turns taken in the popular politics. The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are a part of this trend in a time when China and Russia are coming back strongly in terms of establishing their hegemony on a global level. This only tells of much darker times ahead with these totalitarian powers gaining greater political influence.

The problem is that there is no other leader in sight who could take up a stand like this again. There is no other leader who could defend the idea of the American Empire like this. And that is what we mourn today more than the death of a towering figure in not only American, but both liberal and conservative, politics.

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A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions

A Message to the Punjab Police et al

Everyday I find a new story of violence in the news and find myself amazed at how hard-hearted people are. Another achievement of the Punjab Police was reported on August 21, 2010 when they baton-charged protesting female student doctors of the Quaid-e-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur. The  report also talks about the cops taking off their head-scarves, which is clearly seen as an act of humiliation and disrespect. I just thank god they didn’t rape and murder them, or torture them to death, like they did to the two brothers in Sialkot, because they have proved that they are fully capable of doing so.

Courtesy: The Nation

It seems to me that the selection criterion of the Punjab Police is such that the most brutal, cruel and cold-hearted people, who are completely indifferent to human suffering and to inflicting physical pain on another, are selected among the masses to fill up their positions.  It seems to me that these cops are frustrated sadists, who actually love their job and enjoy beating people with their dreaded batons. They really have seemed to enjoy themselves on this occasion, beating women with the full force of their arm and dishonoring them in public. Would have been satisfying right?

Doctors and Medical Students have condemned the Bahawalpur Medical College incident and have demanded the registration of an FIR against the Principal of the College Dr. Ejaz Shah, who summoned the police in the first place to curb the protesters, and against the local DPO Babar Bakht, who according to them, had ordered the baton-charge. I hope the Chief Minister Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif looks into the matter in due time.

I have not the slightest of ideas how these brutal criminals-in-disguise are trained, but I am sure the way they act do not speak well of it. And this has just not been the only incident. The reason this one caught my eye was that these cops were so brutal that they did not refrain from injuring young women. How very shameful! If the state and law-enforcing institutions resort to behavior like this, what to expect from the anarchists and the criminals?

Here, I must say, that this criticism is not aimed at the Punjab Police alone, but the Police operating in the entire country. I know that law enforcement authorities of other countries do not act in a different way, as many have witnessed in the case of the Indian law enforcement authorities in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, in the wake of recent protests there. But I will remain focused on the Pakistani police, although anyone can consider the message I am trying to convey in this post.

This is not the first time at all that such reports of violence has been reported by the police. In fact, only recently six women were injured in a police-baton charge in Sukkur, which was meant to control the flood victims while aid was being distributed among them, on the occasion of the visit of Mr. Nawaz Sharif to a relief camp there. Now if you almost beat them to death, what is the point in offering aid to them in the first place? I am aware that the crowd can really become a nuisance at times, but the police must not forget that the baton-charge is meant to bring things into order, not to murder or injure people. And they should watch who they are hitting too: Women, for crying out loud!

The Police must understand that they are public servants after all and that they should be thinking twice before they mean to harm innocent citizens. It is true that the nature of their jobs demands them to be tough on people in general, but this does not mean that they are offered carte blanche to resort to any violent act against anyone they like. It is due to the same cruel and violent tendencies, which make them abuse their authority and to commit acts as hideous and shameful as the brutal murder of the Butt brothers in public, which occurred in Sialkot a week ago.

They must understand that they are trusted with the responsibilities of ensuring the security of the people and the rule of law and order. If they will start harming people without any discrimination between a common citizen, not just a woman or a child but anyone, and someone who is clearly a miscreant, an aggressor and a criminal, then they will cease to be the guardians of the law and order, and will become criminals themselves.

They should stop taking pleasure in violence as well. However, I do not criticize them just for the sake of it. I know there are many honest and dutiful police officers and constables out there, who recognize their responsibilities, care for the public and perform their jobs with valor, dedication and courage. However, incidents such as the Bahawalpur Medical College baton-charge and the Sialkot torture and murder case certainly show that there is something terribly wrong with some of the personnel in the police force.

I just hope those who are responsible will look into the matter and will start educating the police against violence and will make them realize that their responsibility is to protect the general public and their security, not to beat them to death and resort to violence on innocent people themselves.

The Sialkot Carnage: Are Pakistanis Becoming a Savage Nation?

While the nation was busy dealing with the destruction and devastation of the flooding, yet another tragedy was unfolding in Sialkot on August 15, 2010. Two brothers, named Moiz Butt, aged 18, and Muneeb But, aged 16, were brutally tortured and were beaten to death in public in a village near Sialkot. Not by the Taliban, but by the general public. It was just not murder, it was something much worse. It was a slow, torturing, painful and horrific death. They made them suffer for hours, brutally beat them with metallic rods, stones, bricks and canes and God knows what else.

There can not be a good enough or an encompassing post on this tragic incident, and maybe this is not the first time that such a barbaric and brutal act has taken place in the sub-continent, given the rich history of the region in riots and mob attacks. But still, there is something about this incident which is very tragic, and more shameful than the similar ones occurring in Karachi, for example, in which angry public mobs burnt three robbers alive, who were caught red-handed. I hope I am just not overreacting in publishing this post.

They were just two young boys, who were somehow alleged to be “robbers” by the self-righteous local village mob, and were later confirmed not guilty of any crime at all. I won’t go into details of the case history, neither do I know about them  too much like most people, and it does not matter anyway, since murdering someone like this in absolutely unacceptable. This not only shows how barbaric and insensitive the general public have become, but also how inhuman, morally corrupt and ineffective the state institutions and law enforcement authorities are.

Even video clips were recorded of the incident, which is why everyone can feel its intensity. The media crews arrived and documented the incident. The Punjab Emergency Rescue Service 1122 arrived at the spot for help, but the police and the security administration of the corrupt bureaucrats working in the area prevented anyone from interrupting the carnage. The boys were totally innocent and belonged to a law-abiding and noble family living in Sialkot and were the sons of one Sajjad Butt.

First of all, let me apologize for posting these clips of this incident, but I need to document them in order to present the evidence of the case under discussion and also to convey the intensity of this incidence and why am I so upset about it.

I recommend you not to watch these clips at all if you are sensitive to violence or have a weak constitution. If you have to watch, then maybe you should not go through the entire length of the clips. These clips will only offer you an idea about the intensity of this savage, brutal and barbarian act and are only posted here to offer an evidence to this tragic incident. If the description of the incident is enough for you, I advise you to skip them altogether, if you are not one of those curious types.

The incident as reported by Geo News.

The incident discussed in Dunya TV talk show Hasb-e-Haal, through which I learned about it.

This is the most graphic video, so you can choose not to view it. However, as an evidence I am posting it anyway. Apologies to anyone who considers it offensive, but viewer discretion has been advised.

Yet another graphic and horrific depiction, which goes to show how brutal were the mob. Viewer discretion advised. If the description suffices you, you can choose to avoid the pain of watching this clip.

They were brutally beaten, bathed in their own blood, with almost everyone putting in their “contribution” to make them bleed even further, which shockingly even involved old men and little children. Then they were dragged on the roads and were finally hanged and humiliated. They even tell me that they finally put their bodies outside their homes transported to there by putting them on a truck. I have a feeling these brutal savages knew who these boys were and that they were specifically targeted.

The account in the media, that the boys were thought to be “burglars”, since there had been a burglary in that neighborhood just earlier, does not convince me at all. Maybe it is true, but if it is, only shows how cold-hearted and cruel those people were. The people were really beating the boys, as it is evident from these clips. I have a feeling that there is more to this story, which is being covered up by the people, the corrupt DPO, the local administration and the criminal police of the area.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary has taken the notice of this incident and has slammed the Sialkot DPO Waqar Chauhan over this tragedy. As a matter of fact, all of the civil servants operating in the area  should step down after this incident, and the “criminal” police should take responsibility for this carnage. In fact, almost a weak is about to elapse and the police  is still unable to submit a report for this incident.

A Word on the Morality of the People

This incidence occurred during the Holy Month of Ramadan, which is still continuing as I write these lines. A Muslim is even forbidden to verbally abuse someone, leave alone beating anyone or harming physically. And this tragedy occurred in broad day light, when people were supposedly fasting. I wonder about their faith in Islam, God and Ramadan when they were resorting to such a brutal act. They should be ashamed to call themselves human beings after doing so.

At least I am ashamed to be a Pakistani and a human being after learning this.

If you refer to my article about educating yourself against prejudices, I had talked about how people have no problem with murdering human beings and watching violence, as their minds get conditioned for it, when they approve of little acts of violence, such as killing an insect. I am not saying that I am a perfect human being, but I am just referring to the fact how little intolerance to violence can lead to greater acts of violence.

The people who were so brutally beating the poor boys did not think for a minute how it would feel if they were beaten up by everyone in their place. How it feels when a metallic rod hits you, how it feels if everyone kicks you when you are already bleeding to death and cannot take it anymore, and how it feels to be humiliated and killed by a slow death in this painful and inhuman way. I bet that coward mob would not even be able to take a single blow.

Again, people are as brutal as they can do something as horrific and savage like this act is simply because of the fact that they have no concept whatsoever about the importance and the sanctity of life. They neither have any regard for the life of other and neither for their feelings. They can gather and kill two innocent young boys and make an exhibition out of it, and no one was there to stop them.

At this point, I must say that I have never felt more disgusted and disappointed at the Pakistani nation ever before in my life. But I have never known of a more brutal and violent incident in my life as well. The nation certainly has fallen to a new low with this act, and shame on the state, the bureaucracy and the ever-corrupt police, who are nothing but a bunch of criminals.

The alarming fact is that would people treat anyone like this who they consider as criminals, even without confirming it? Does it not make them criminals themselves? I don’t think there is a single criminal offense in the world which deserve such a brutal punishment, which is a clear violation of human rights. And by the way, why did the authorities let the people take law in their own hands and did nothing to stop them? In fact, they protected the mob.

As far as the culture of public punishments go, it is not a new concept in the region at all. People are stoned to death regularly in countries like Iran, Afghanistan and the Tribal Areas in North Western parts of Pakistan, particularly the areas controlled by the Taliban. But unfortunately, many Muslims approve of such inhuman and barbaric methods of punishment.

It is because of such religious concepts that the masses are encouraged to resort to brutal and violent means in “punishing” whosoever they think is “wrong” by their sub-human standards. What these people really need is an education. Not only should they be taught the importance and sanctity of life, but they should also be cured of the prejudices and hatred which plague their hearts.

This tragic and horrific incident should get every Pakistani worried and thinking. It is not an everyday incident or act of crime at all. For if they do not speak out against it, and talk about it, so to educate the unaware masses out there, many of them could find the same treatment on the streets.

After this incident, I will never be able to defend Pakistani people again, ever.

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DISCLAIMER: None of the video clips have either been recorded or uploaded by the author, or owned by him. They have been taken from YouTube, where there are even more clips available for the same incident, and can be accessed by anyone.  The author only came to know about the incident on the day of the publishing of this post, that is, August 20, 2010.