Farewell Tribute To Cameron Munter

Source: US State Department

While it sounds rather ridiculous for commoners to be interested in the office of diplomats, I mean what and who comes and goes, there are certain individuals that come across in this profession every now and then which are hard to ignore. One such person has been Ambassador Cameron Munter who has served in Islamabad from October 6, 2010 until he announced his early resignation on May 7, 2012 and left for the United States on July 24, 2012. Charge d’ affaires Richard Hoagland is performing stand-in duties for him.

Now I write this as a Pakistani national and someone who at least aspires to be if not is a citizen of the world. But even regardless of these viewpoints, I see the term of Ambassador Munter, a Californian who loves desi food, in Pakistan rather charming. I know it has been a while since he gave up his position, which happened in July 2012 actually, and this post has been overdue as I have been looking to write about it ever since.

I have observed Ambassador Munter to be by far the most interactive, publicly outreaching and friendly American ambassador in my living memory. The rest of them were either too dull or too cruel or too quiet in public. Of course, they all must have been heard loud and clear in the offices of Pakistani decision makers. Even if there were other ambassadors who had been as much active, certainly no one would have been so much outspoken and accessible to the media.

This is important because his term in Islamabad was marked by one of the most turbulent events in the history of Pakistan-US relations, especially due to the US Navy SEALs raid on Abottabad to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, the secret memo affair, the Raymond Davis killings and the continued drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have become a trademark of the Obama administration warfare.

Not to mention the NATO attack on Pakistan Army Salala checkpost on the Afghan border on November 26, 2011. I recall Munter appearing frequently in popular Pakistani talk shows and expressing his regret over the unfortunate incident while still not using the word “apologize”, which was clearly deliberate, with great emphasis. Tough job. We witnessed that thin line between being sorry and apologizing. Such is the nature of US-Pakistan diplomatic relations.

As a matter of fact, he handled affairs in one of the toughest conditions that a diplomat could ask for, when anti-American sentiment in Pakistan was on the rise. Similar difficulties were faced by his Pakistani counterpart Hussain Haqqani. Here is Munter’s last appearance on Pakistani TV.

Pakistani media had actually been hailing Munter for leaving his office for being disturbed at the continued drone strikes and avoiding an apology for Salala despite the public outrage in Pakistan, which is denied by the US Embassy in Islamabad as he is said to have stepped down for personal reasons, but there has been consistent rumor about that in the media throughout the latter part of his term. Even foreign media reported it, which really makes you wonder about its validity because usually you can safely consider what the State Department is telling you to be lies unless it is about attacking some country.

I am not sure how much a diplomat should be involved with his assignment emotionally, especially when it comes to the military objectives of a campaign, and we are not even sure if Munter was, but I can acknowledge that Munter was apparently more human and more humane of any of the US ambassadors that I have noticed. His public relations were at least, and that is what matters at the end of the day. The general public is least bothered about what goes on behind closed doors.

However, I am not sure if it is necessarily a good thing for a diplomat. I guess in the ruthless and Machiavellian world of diplomacy, you need to focus on your interests and objectives and get the cold hearted kill and go on your own way. I do not doubt Munter’s abilities as a diplomat a bit, but then again there is no reason to believe that he succumbed to his emotions at any time.

But he was certainly sincere in making an attempt to reach out to the people of Pakistan, and to improve bilateral relations.

That is important.

I don’t care if he was fine with the drone strikes or not. I also don’t care if he agrees with Obama’s warfare or not.

But what I care about is his gestures of friendship and I think that must be reciprocated.

Ambassador Cameron Munter, you will be remembered.

I am sure you won’t forget Pakistan.

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I Wish the Adults Never Grew Up

Just stumbled on this youtube video of Severn Suzuki, a 12 year old, speaking at the 1992 UN Earth Summit and destroys whatever sense of responsibility adults around the world are proud of.

I thought that it belonged here somehow with my respects to the speaker.

I hope this video will help you redefine your view of the concept of civilization.

I wish the adults never grew up.

Imagine Revenge For This

Hiroshima After the Bombing - Source: Boston.com

As discussed in the previous post, revenge is almost a common “instinctive behavior” among humans and whenever they are attacked by their enemies, unless their minds are polluted and adulterated by the ideas of non-violence, they consider it important to avenge the disgrace and the damage, which perhaps is a sign of an intelligent species. 66 years ago, this day, in the final days of World War II, the United States military dropped a “Little Boy” over the Japanese port city of Hiroshima, and three days later, a “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. The war had almost ended, but soon after this miraculous incident, the declaration of surrender was issued by the Japanese. A great victory.

Perhaps this particular attack was revenge for Pearl Harbor, another atrocious act of war, but the question that many ask is whether this really was justifiable as a revenge. It’s actually even absurd to consider that for a second, let alone making a comparison. The loss of lives in any case is equal, without considering the death toll from both the events. However, the magnitude of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was overwhelmingly horrific to say the least.

Whatever may be the reasons for bombing the two Japanese cities, since it has been one of the greatest mysteries baffling people around the world for more than half a century, the extent of pain and damage caused by it is terrifyingly evident. Though it can be said with confidence that the people responsible for the act would have a clear idea, as to some “it saved countless lives”. Possibly. What a sacrifice, but it looked more like a shameless display of power than anything else. The rest of the world and probably the future Japanese generations have been saved the trouble of really knowing much about it in detail due to the limited information resources and telecommunications at the time.

Should such an incident occur in our times, you would instantly witness a live commentary on the social media from an observable distance from which telecommunication systems could operate even if the mainstream news channels choose to overlook the detailed coverage of the event. However, the generation surviving the nuclear attack and those who witnessed the most terrible sight of their lives in the bombing, did actually decide to document the aftermath as much as they could, which can now be found in the respective memorials and museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which any visitor to these cities can conveniently skip when it comes to sightseeing, if anyone chooses those destinations at all for recreation.

From such overwhelming evidence, it is not hard to see what even a very relatively weak nuclear warhead could do to the planet, let alone the thought of its damage on human flesh and bone, and on most of all, nerves.  Imagine a storm-like shockwave hitting you faster than the speed of sound where you are sitting right now, with debris collapsing around you under the pressure of something like 5.0 psi, or lesser, or higher, and if you survive the impact, imagine the scorching heat from the explosion that could burn out your flesh and set your nerves on fire.

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt

Even if someone is good or lucky enough to survive the impact and the sound and heat from the explosion, they could hardly escape the poisoning of radiation, which can prove to be even more sickening and torturous as you discover its terrible effects with the passage of time, once you realize what in the world really has happened.  It is indeed even a horrific thing to imagine, and even more terrifying is the thought of retaliation for such an action anywhere in the world. If you are living in one of the trouble(-making/expecting)  countries of the world, then the probability of finding yourself in such a situation significantly increases.

It was the same fear that engulfed the world, particularly two nations, during the Cold War era. If you recall all those underground shelters that everyone would want to have. Still ironically, this period saw the greatest number of nuclear explosions on the surface and the atmosphere of the planet than any other period and let us hope that those years maintain that record to their name. With several nations possessing and actively using the nuclear technology, a lot of people believe that rejecting such fears may be a touch too optimistic.

However, apart from strategic conflicts of the modern world, the real question was to consider how outrageously audacious the decision of bombing not one, but two cities, mostly filled with innocent women and children who had little part to play in the war except for their relation to the men of the country and for playing their unavoidable part in its society and economy.

It is indeed a shame for humanity and global powers that the persons responsible for this act have never even been considered to be prosecuted by a tribunal of war crimes. Not that it would do any good, but just saying this because somehow the people around the world are a bit too keen on finding justice, whatever that means.

But then again, war crimes are only committed by the enemy.

To some, the Japanese at the time “made the US to drop the bomb” on these two cities to subdue them, but the point is that the ones who suffered were innocent people who had nothing to do with any policy making whatsoever, as in all wars actually, and no discrimination or error of judgement should be made in questioning those who were responsible, if anyone ever feels the need to do that.

But if you ever have to picture the horrors and pain of what Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks would have been like, just imagine revenge for this.

Consider what would become of the world if we start taking an eye for an eye for this.

Right now, the Japanese are apparently among the most peaceful, thoughtful, disciplined and civilized people in the world.

But after all, they are humans.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

Stanley Kubrick filming Barry Lyndon in 1975 (Source: Kubrick Estate)

Much has been written and said about the legendary American film director Stanley Kubrick but few records offer us a closer look into his life than Jan Harlan’s documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001).

The documentary covers Stanley Kubrick’s life from childhood to death, featuring rare footage, images and home videos from Kubrick’s infamous “archives”, and more importantly, all his pictures from Day of the Fight (1951) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). It talks about his personality as well as his work, his aspirations, his fears, his accomplishments, his passion, his disappointments, his style of management and direction, his family, his home and his life, which to many had remained a mystery until his wife Christiane Kubrick and her brother, and the director of the documentary, Jan Harlan, started speaking about him publicly after his death in 1999.

The documentary tells the story of how Kubrick started making pictures, his humble beginnings as a photojournalist, his struggle to make a mark on the global cinema and interesting facts about the making of his pictures, such as how Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) was turned into a comedy, and particularly Spartacus (1960) in which Kubrick had little control as the director due to the influence of the star and the executive producer of the picture, Kirk Douglas, who had also appeared in Kubrick’s widely acclaimed (anti) war drama Paths of Glory (1957).

It is on this documentary that Malcolm McDowell reveals about his friendship with Kubrick that later turned into almost indifference from Kubrick as the filming of A Clockwork Orange (1971) was completed and Shelley Duvall talks about her experience with Kubrick during the filming of The Shining (1980), which was something she “would not want to go through again”.

Apart from McDowell and Duvall, the documentary features interviews from Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Martin ScorseseSydney PollackPeter Ustinov, Jack Nicholson, Arthur C. Clarke, Keir DulleaMatthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Leon Vitali, Christiane Kubrick, Katharina Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

To commemorate the 83rd birthday of Stanley Kubrick, and the tenth year of the release of A Life in Pictures, nothing is more fitting than revisiting the introduction of the documentary, which is probably the best tribute to Kubrick within a time span of 3 minutes. Fortunately, the documentary is available at youtube.

Poster for Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Source: Wikipedia)

The documentary starts with a montage of the adjectives printed by the press in the West about Stanley Kubrick and the kind of assumptions that were associated with him such as being a recluse, a megalomaniac, obsessive-compulsive and a perfectionist. Kubrick’s family perfectly explains how little the world know about the man and how incorrect were the labels associated with him by the press.

It is clear that the press made such assumptions about Kubrick because he refused to give any interviews and generally avoided talking to the press, except for the ones he trusted, and to some, they did it plainly out of bitterness. When he was asked to explain his pictures, and he was asked the question a lot for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1965) for its cryptic symbolism, he simply refused to do so by saying that you should let the pictures do the talking.

The documentary is loaded with images from Kubrick’s films, all of them assorted in one collection, which is one of the reasons why the documentary is such a delight to watch. What else has the life of a filmmaker to offer than images, and this is what motion pictures are all about. Maybe I have said this before, but if you want to know how great a film director is, see how easily you can recall the images from his or her films. Kubrick’s films have some of the most iconic, important, historic, unforgettable, memorable and haunting images that you could ever come across from any other director.

The documentary is an absolute treat to watch and a delight for a Kubrick fan, or for anyone who is interested in cinema and in Kubrick’s work. Whether you like his pictures or not, you simply would not be able to deny the fact that Stanley Kubrick’s films were some of the most important cinematic works in the 20th century and his milestone masterpieces set new artistic and technical standards in filmmaking.

Faiz’s Word – Dare to Speak the Truth

One of my very good friends, Ahmad Jamal Saeed, who lives in Lahore, the city of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, is a great fan of this revolutionary poet. He shared this link earlier, which is probably his greatest tribute to the people who dare to speak the truth against tyranny and are tried for it.

A tribute to people like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Faiz Ahmed Faiz himself. And yes, to the late Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer too, who recited his uncle’s revolutionary verse in a press conference about the Blasphemy Law before he was murdered.

To all the Soldiers of Truth.

Update: A very good translation found at Aligarians.com

Let’s go today to the bazaar in chains

The tearful eye, the noisy spirit, are not enough.

The accusaion of the hidden love is not enough.

Let’s go today to the bazaar in chains.

Let’s go with hands waving, intoxicated, dancing.

Let’s go with dust on our heads, blood on our sleeves,

Let’s go to the city our love lives in

Everyone is watching

The city’s ruler, the general populace

The unhappy morning,

The day with no purpose

The arrow of accusation

The stone of abuse

Who else beside us is their intimate friend?

Who now in our beloved’s city is still pure?

Who now is worthy of the executioner’s hand?

Pick up the burden of the heart, let us go heartbroken ones.

We are the ones who have to be murdered again, my friends

Lennon: Sharing Some Truth

On John Lennon’s 30th death anniversary, revisit some of his work that troubled a lot of people who like to control the masses.

Gimme Some Truth!

 

Working Class Hero

Power to the People

Woman is the Nigger of the World

How Do You Sleep (At Nights) ?

(Although I would have liked a montage from the Iraq War to go with the last song)

 

Reminding humans of their (double) moral standards.

Imagine: Happy 70th Birthday John Lennon

John Lennon would have been 70 today.

John Lennon has been one of the most politically influential artists of the 20th century. Catapulted to fame as being one of the lead singers and founders of The Beatles, he continued with his solo career after the band split in 1970 and produced some of the most amazing music of the time till his death. He was shot dead by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. The reason for the murder was apparently that Lennon once commented in an interview that “We (The Beatles) are more popular than Jesus now…”, which did create some uproar in the United States at the time. But the murder took place more than a decade after that occurrence, and no one really takes this reason seriously.

He was one of the greatest proponents of world peace, harmony and fighting for the people’s rights. His influence was such that even the administrations of the United States, where he moved to from his native England and lived till his death, at the time were wary of his activities. His death surrounds mystery and controversy, with many conspiracy theorists considering political motives behind his murder instead of a criminal action of an angry psychopath.

But then again, that is what the world does to the people who talk about peace.

Offering him a tribute on his 70th birthday with a couple of his most iconic works, which remain to be the symbols of world peace and harmony to this day and will remain to be for all times to come.

IMAGINE (1971)

Written by: John Lennon

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Courtesy: Apple/Capitol Records

I still remember singing these lines for the Cultural Week Show held in 2006 at my University.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE (1969)

Live Version

Written by: John Lennon

Everybody’s talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism,
Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism
All we are saying is give peace a chance,
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

C’mon
Everybody’s talking about ministers,
Sinisters, Banisters and canisters, Bishops and Fishops,
Rabbis, and Pop eyes, Bye, bye, bye byes
All we are saying is give peace a chance,
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Let me tell you now
Everybody’s talking about
Revolution, evolution, masturbation,
Flagellation, regulation, integrations,
Meditations, United Nations,
Congratulations

All we are saying is give peace a chance,
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
Everybody’s talking about
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary,
Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan,
Tommy Copper,
Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer,
Allen Ginsberg, Hare Krishna,
Hare, Hare Krishna

All we are saying is give peace a chance,
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Courtesy: Apple/Capitol Records

Google were keen on offering their tribute to the legend in their signature “Google Doodle” way, triggering a chain of tributes on twitter, facebook and other social networking websites and discussion forums around the world.