The Trauma of Life: The Pictures That Shook The World

Source: Aleppo Media Center/Time

Source: Aleppo Media Center/Time

Just when I thought my conscience was dead, when my heart had hardened enough to take the most gruesome of things, and when I had become cynical enough to appreciate the value of anything in this life, a picture shook me like very few things had ever before.

We have seen so many . We have seen the helpless death of Aylan Kurdi pictured on the beaches of Turkey. We have seen so much that we should not have seen. The genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, the children suffering Assad’s chemical attacks, and the corpses of dead babies from Gaza Strip and the Syrian civil war.

Somehow this image is different. Somehow it is more shocking that any other thing we have ever seen.

Shocking in its lack of violence. Shocking in its calm.

But it only strengthened my view that this world is no place for a living creature. It is no place for a fragile little kid like Omran, who has now probably seen everything that a human should not in their entire lifetimes. I have probably never felt so disgusted with the idea of life in the recent years.

Throughout the time of the survival of Omran, we keep on hearing the calls of “Allah,” who was so conspicuously absent from the scene. Probably that’s why.

It’s a different feeling in a natural disaster, perhaps, where you are helpless for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control. But this is not supposed to happen. These families really had done nothing wrong to deserve this sort of hell.

But to my mind, if these pictures did not destroy your faith, probably nothing would.

Nothing has destroyed my faith in humanity like this ever before.

Not everything about this is apparently so tragic. Omran’s family survived the brutal air bombing on their apartment complex in a rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo, allegedly by the Russian jets on August 17. The bombing was enough to scar the family for life, but there was hope that they would escape the war zone. However, Omran’s brother Ali, who had been rescued too, could not make it and died of injuries.

It’s probably not the worst thing in the world. At least the family survived. At least the child survived, and who knows who and what he would go on to become.

It’s not worse than the Holocaust. It’s not even worse than the killings of the young children that an Israeli gunship strafed apparently for fun.

But does that make the personal tragedy of his life any less important? Why do we have to consider the severity and the magnitude of a tragedy to reserve our outrage and shock and grief for it?

I don’t know what to make of such a tragedy.

Should we embrace life harder than ever before, or should we move away from it? Should we celebrate his life or should we mourn? I don’t even have to explain why we should mourn. Others are saying he is lucky. Is he?

Should we value life or should we see it as nothing but a series of painful and traumatic experiences?

There comes a time for families when their lives are irreversibly destroyed, and altered for the worse. It is moments like these that change them forever, which change the course of their lives.

In reducing it to a conflict with complicated powers, how we discount the life of an individual.

Should we use it to push the anti-war agenda or should we use it to rally support for more war against Assad, Russia, and the Islamic State? Should we use it to trash whoever is our political opponent or should we use it to advocate for the acceptance of more Syrian refugees?

Is this what our existence comes down to? Is this what life is about?

I don’t even know what’s right anymore.

I don’t know whether I am sad, angry, frustrated or disgusted. I don’t even know what to say anymore. This is the sort of shock after which you don’t want to be happy again.

I don’t even want my mind to be numb anymore. I don’t want to suspend my consciousness, as I would usually do. I want to absorb every bit of these pictures.

Even crying does not undone the grief. It does not undone the trauma of life.

I don’t know how to respond to the pictures of Omran Daqneesh.

We would move on from this, but for a change, something inside is dead.

 

The Liberal Apathy for the Middle East

Source: renegadetribune.com

During the height of the Iraq War, we were wondering where all the anti-war liberals had gone. We should have been careful what we wished for.

After the Iraq War, most people of both the liberal and libertarian preoccupation have concluded that war and US foreign policy interference are plain and simply an evil idea. They could never have been more wrong.

They continue to dodge the Islamic State issue, purely out of the concern that the right wing does not consider all Muslims evil. Well, the right wing calling all Muslims evil is far better than all Muslims dead. Pretty much everyone admits that Muslim people themselves are the greatest victims of the radical, fanatically monotheistic Islamic State.

They may or may not be losing ground, but they are still very much a presence. What is worse, they have proliferated global centers, particularly in Western Europe. One after another, we are hearing news of attacks from terrorists in France and Germany.

Call it a sudden coincidence that Western European Muslims are becoming mentally disturbed all of a sudden, or are carrying out carefully planned attacks openly declaring allegiance to the Islamic State. It’s trouble for the Western civilization either way. It is also a great threat to liberal idealism and to the cause of accommodating the troubled Syrian migrants and refugees.

What more is it going to take to change the stubborn liberal mind that continues to look the other way as the Islamic State continues with its rampage? They are not doing the global Muslim communities any favors by refraining from recognizing the threat out of concerns of offending their sensibilities.

All the arguments against a ground offensive against the Islamic State are absurd. The Obama administration can go ahead to facilitate regime change in Libya, but would rather leave the Islamic State alone. They very rightfully draw a red line on Assad’s chemical attacks on his citizens, even only in word, but ignore the atrocities committed by the Islamic State on the local population.

It’s amazing how the left, liberal, and isolationist parties in the West are comfortable with the thought of the Islamic State roaming free in the region. The apathy and irresponsibility of leaving the matter alone because it’s only the people of the Middle East who are bleeding are absolutely unacceptable, shameful, and immoral.

While so far both the Presidential candidates have addressed the issue of Islamic radical terrorism, the debates in the months ahead would further expose their position. Most Americans do not approve the way President Obama has handled the foreign policy in the Middle East, yet there is a sense that the overall sentiment in the country is anti-war.

Between the chants of “No more war” in the DNC to the cries of “No Islam” in the RNC, the American leadership needs to find the right balance to move against the Islamic State. Whoever is elected the next President would have to deal with the massive vacuum left in the Middle East that President Barack Obama is not even bothered to address.

Anyone underestimating, especially not recognizing, this threat is not fit to lead the most powerful nation in the world, in my opinion. What is even more important is that such a person is not fit to lead the world at this point in history.

And sadly, there is no other nation in the world to lead the fight against the threat of the Islamic State. You would expect the European Union to take the necessary action, but they appear to be in disarray themselves. The United Kingdom is still recovering from the shock that Tony Blair lied about the Iraq War.

Israel and Arab countries have not offered a hint. Pakistan and India are shying from contributing to the resolution of the problem as well. The others are not bothered because they have not heard anything from the United Nations Security Council.

Because apparently it’s never our problem.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

Elie Wiesel Leaves a World With Antisemitism Alive and Well

Source: cufi.org.uk

Source: cufi.org.uk

When Elie Wiesel would have been liberated from the Nazi concentration camps, the last of his third one, he would have started life with a renewed hope.

It probably would have restored his faith in humanity and in hope, though it never restored his faith completely in God. At least not in the way it was before.

There is surely a lot to read about the Shoah or the Holocaust, but nothing equals the viewpoint of a sensitive soul that has lived through the living hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Not everyone believes his words, which is why he ensured that other than Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., remains an undeniable evidence backing them.

Still nowhere near reflecting the human suffering.

What is the material evidence of that?

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

The pain and suffering endured by Elie Wiesel, resulted in the creation of the play “The Trial of God“, which was a brilliant, iconoclastic idea for a people with a theistic tradition, and to someone who saw God as an important part of his life.

But can you blame him to dare to rebel? In his own words, he could never forget the flames of the body, which consumed his faith forever. The moments which murdered his God and turned his dreams to dust.

In his own words, he was there when God was put on trial in Auschwitz.

While it is easier for some people with full, partial, distant or spiritual relation to the Jewish culture to relate with the pain of the Holocaust, it is important to accentuate its importance in a global, more humanist manner. It is important not to simply reduce it to references about the deliverance of the Jewish people, such as referring to it as the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” I am not sure if Elie Wiesel himself would be thrilled by the thought.

Elie Wiesel would rather focus on the sheer absurdity of creation and the unacceptability of the nightmare that the Jewish people and many more such as the Romani and the homosexuals went through during the reign of the Third Reich. It was simply something that was not supposed to be.

In any case, it is important to explicitly establish the Holocaust as a burden on the conscience of humanity, instead of tying it as an accident exclusive to the Jewish identity. It is important because gentiles, who are particularly anti-Israel politically, find it easier to dismiss this human atrocity as something that happened to the Jews. And the antisemites and anti-Zionists who are kind enough not to dismiss the Holocaust widely believe that it was something that the “Jews deserved” and something that they “deserve to go through again.”

While there are scholars like Norman Finkelstein who believe that the Holocaust has been exploited to further the Zionist cause, the fact remains that in our world, the Holocaust is trivialized more than anything else. Something perhaps more horrific than Holocaust denial. This is not to condemn Holocaust jokes because that attains nothing, but everyday approach people take to the atrocity in political discourse. Probably because so many genocides have been committed since then, without getting nearly as much attention.

Perhaps this was why Elie Wiesel feared indifference more than hate. Hate, in his words, you could fight.

Imagining the horrors of the Holocaust, how thrillingly secure it feels to be able to witness such a living hell and having the comfort that you are completely safe from it. How reassuring is this feeling that such a threat could possibly not threaten your life.

Let’s just stop. You can’t even imagine. But the relics, the documentation and the haunting photographs from the not so distant past do leave you shaken.

But I wonder how many times Elie Wiesel and thousands of other Holocaust survivors and their children would have woken up in the middle of the night, not being able to shake away the horrors of the death camps, the ovens, the gas chambers. Checking if they are still not on those horrible bunk beds by the corpses, still not required to shower together every morning.

Because believe it or not, any day it could happen again.

I could not help marvel at the irony that Elie Wiesel is leaving the world with antisemitism alive and well, but not without considerably retreating him. It is shocking how vulnerable Jewish people still are, despite “controlling the world” in some people’s view.

I feel disgusted when I have to lecture someone on the basic morality of it. But I guess that is what his good fight was all about. A fight that all of us must fight. It’s the least we can do.

Elie Wiesel is not just important as a literary figure, but because he left the empathy in the world for the Holocaust, its victims and its survivors.

This day is important in history, because the most enduring living symbol of human resistance to inhumanity, to the Holocaust, is alive no more.

 

Lessons from Chernobyl 30 Years Later

Source: history.com

Source: history.com

Each April 26, apart from recalling the anniversary of my first ever hard drive crash, I wonder if we have learned anything from Chernobyl.

Thirty years ago on this day, easily the worst peacetime nuclear disaster occurred on this planet. And it leaves us with a big question.

Can nuclear installations be trusted in the hands of the government near population centers?

I wonder why Chernobyl has not made the answer easier for us. Clearly not. Chernobyl is not just a reflection of the horrors of nuclear technology, but it is also an insight into the mindset of the bureaucracy in a country with a massive government.

Granted, such a design mistake has not been repeated since, yet that is not the only danger involved in nuclear reactors.

We probably do not realize the extent of irreversible damage nuclear radiation could cause. Actually, we clearly don’t.

 

Chernobyl released at least 100 times more radiation than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, according to the BBC. Other sources consider the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone uninhabitable for humans due to dangerous Cesium radiation levels, and that the inhabitable zone would remain dangerous for the next 20,000 years. That’s shocking.

Not to mention the terrible toll the disaster has taken on animal life in the region, with suppressed biodiversity and startling diseases emerging among newborn and children as a result of genetic mutations.

 

Chernobyl disaster literally turned the neighboring Pripyat into a ghost town, which sends chills down your spine.

The nuclear radiation from the disaster spread out as far as Sweden and Western Europe.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

We may hear about it on a day like this, but we never really believe that a nuclear spill or meltdown as in the case of Chernobyl could last for thousands of years.

As of January 2016, 439 nuclear reactors are operating around the world on five continents. While there is no doubt that nuclear technology has only improved over the years and most scientists consider nuclear technology very safe, it hardly changes the lethality of a possible accident.

Fukushima could not have been a harsher reminder of our vulnerability. If a highly advanced industrial nation such as Japan cannot handle the breakdown of a nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a natural disaster, even worse can be expected from countries with far poorer government infrastructure, such as Pakistan and India.

As a matter of fact, some reports suggest that the fallout from Fukushima is far worse than Chernobyl and Hiroshima and that the worst effects of the accident are yet to materialize. However, the reporting of the risk has largely to do with the politics of the source as well, there is little doubt that Chernobyl was incomparable in its consequences due to its meltdown nature.

Fukushima also reveals is that no nuclear facility is completely disaster proof and that the potential fallout is nothing short of an environmental apocalypse.

I leave this post by pondering what to make of nuclear energy policy. Nuclear energy has its benefits as clean energy and the probability of nuclear accidents is considered very low. Furthermore, with maintaining nuclear weapons becoming almost a necessity for world powers, why not just take the risk of building nuclear reactors for power generation as well?

After all, they are well protected anyway.

But isn’t the risk of the pervasiveness of civil nuclear power plants unique in its own right? Despite the fact that most of the warnings about the potential danger of this mode of generating power are dismissed as pure alarmism.

Clearly, the only lesson that is visible after 30 years is that we are only building more nuclear reactors.

But what if we were building around our neighborhoods, with our own hands, the same disaster that we feared and dreaded so much during the uncertain Cold War?

Sadly, the evidence that we have witnessed over the years is just too overwhelming to ignore.

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Why the Enemies of Islamic State Outside America Should Root for a Republican President in 2016

Source: Daily The Nation

Source: Daily The Nation

Do you believe that the votes of American citizens matter in shaping the future of the world?

Do you also happen to believe that the United States has been following a disastrous foreign policy over the years, creating more chaos than good?

If yes, then chances are that you must blame the 2003 invasion of Iraq for destabilizing the Middle East.

I do too, and that is why I think people sharing these beliefs, and those who want to destroy the Islamic State should root for a Republican President in 2016.

We don’t just need a hawk in the White House, call the candidate a neo-conservative, if you like, but one who is interested in completely eliminating ISIL and one who believes in establishing a permanent ground force in Iraq. I very much wish Hillary Clinton would be that candidate, but the sort of focus and commitment that you can expect from candidates on the Republican side.

I also believe that it has been the foreign policy of President Obama which has led to the current chaos that Iraq and Syria are in. Ever since the rise of ISIL, we have seen President Obama rejecting and belittling the threat has only made matters worse, and only recently he has taken stricter military action.

President Obama relies mostly on air power and drone warfare for his war strategy. Just as his presidency was a reaction to the war overdose during the term of George W. Bush, he probably is allergic to the idea of deploying ground troops as an occupying force.

At this point in history, the world needs the moral leadership of the United States to get rid of this horrific state of affairs in the Middle East. A lot of US citizens assert why the United States should be a part of a regional sectarian conflict. They are right. The United States does not have to be the sole participant of dealing with ISIL, but it must lead the world to that goal. However, that requires a leader that could rally the world around the cause as George W. Bush did during his term.

The world is prepared to take on ISIL, even including Saudi Arabia and Iran, despite their clash of interest in terms of the balance of power in Iraq and Syria. The problem is that the lives of the people of the Middle East cannot be left at the mercy of terrible authoritarian regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, who both have a record of backing terrorist or militant groups for their own political advantage.

Now that Iraq and Syria have reached this state, long term NATO forces must occupy these states in order to ensure the stability required by the citizens migrating to other parts of the world. This is why Western forces have been stationed in high risk regions such as South Korea. The need for such forces is far greater in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan than anywhere else. Such relative stability has been brought in Afghanistan and Iraq was relatively stable as well when George W. Bush left office.

I only wish the Democratic Party had brought more ideas about fighting ISIL in this race. Both the candidates have expressed commitment to fight ISIL, but the issue is given very low priority in the Democratic forum of ideas and is barely even discussed. Sadly, Hillary Clinton’s election would simply mean the continuation of the foreign policy of President Obama for at least 4 more years. If Bernie Sanders win, who knows what the US foreign policy would be. The stakes are too high for any such choices.

Quite frankly, if it were not the issue of foreign policy and ISIL, I would hardly see any reason for someone outside the US to have their interests attached with a candidate. Particularly at a time when a more aggressive US intervention in the Middle East is the need of the hour and one that involves ground occupation. I am sure that the people and leaders of the rest of the world, including Europe and the Middle East, would be watching the 2016 race with similar concerns.

There used to be a time when the Democratic Presidents used to initiate military action abroad, from FDR and Harry Truman to JFK and LBJ. Not that I miss the Democrats being the internationalist hawks, which they still are, but the approach of the political parties have changed since then. Especially since the war overdose of Bush 43 Presidency and President Obama’s allergy to troops on the ground as a reaction.

While most people would like President Obama’s approach, the world cannot afford it. At least, the Middle East cannot afford it any longer. A President with more assertive military leadership and one who seriously believes in destroying ISIL is needed to bring the Middle East back to order.

I know how some people are worried about the immoral and dangerous prospects of a conservative Republican President, but the only immoral and dangerous force that I see in the world is the Islamic State. And the closer the next President is to George W. Bush in approach, the better are the odds of eliminating it.

Let’s get rid of the Islamic State first. Then we can return to our lovefest with the Democratic candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Yazidi Sex Slave Survivor Nadia Murad Taha Speaks Out Against Islamic State

Source: freedomfund.org

Source: freedomfund.org

If you ever wanted a glimpse into the horror that ISIL has forced millions of people in Iraq and Syria to live through, then listen to the nine-minute speech of this young girl at the United Nations Security Council.

If this does not shock any humanitarian soul, or convince someone that the Islamic State should be destroyed once and for all, I don’t know what will.

Her name is Nadia Murad Basee Taha. Her family was massacred and she was sold and abused by the barbarians at the helm of the sex slave trade that the Islamic State was so eager to to take up. It was almost the reason that they have been eyeing to target the Yazidis for. The trauma and torture that this young girl and thousands more like her went through are simply unimaginable. And the fact that she is brave enough to be here, campaigning against ISIL sends shivers down your spine. This is the sort of courage you can hardly imagine.

It’s unconscionable how the world is tolerating the unacceptable entity of the Islamic State. This is just another reminder that the world needs to move against the Islamic State fast.

While I really don’t like what it’s doing to the world, I actually respect the political positions of consistent liberal pacifists, libertarian and conservative isolationists and nationalists. Sure, they can ask the question why their respective countries, especially the United States, should bother about what is happening to the Yazidi, Kurds and other Iraqi and Syrian people. They have every right to ask that question.

But turning the other way is the easiest thing in the world to do. There is a reason why civilized nations of the world find it important to intervene in a humanitarian crisis because somebody needs to stand up for the helpless. Survivors like her speak volumes why Iraqi and Syrian refugees must be accepted to peaceful regions in as many numbers as possible. Imagine losing this life to war and conflict.

Doing so requires moral leadership and a sense of responsibility. I am proud of the fact that the United States delegation introduced her to the United Nations and it is probably the US leadership that would be required to eliminate the Islamic State. The people oppressed by the Islamic State need to be liberated.

If only fighting ISIL were more central to the political discourse around the world than it currently is.

 

Saudi-Iran Conflict: Just the Sort of Diversion the Islamic State Needed

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

Despite an almost unanimous agreement about the evil that the Islamic State embodies, the world is still having a hard time forming a military alliance to take substantial action against the group. From lamenting the consequences of unrelated past foreign military intervention to equating ISIL with other Arab states, there is no shortage of absurd political opinions making excuses for inaction.

At a time like this, it was probably not surprising that the usual suspects of the region were busy making matters even worse in the Middle East. Through some very deliberate measures, Saudi Arabia and Iran have chosen to strain their already tense diplomatic relations seriously.

Things started getting worse when Saudis executed dissenting Shia scholar Nimr Al-Nimr, sparking violent anti-Saudi protests in Tehran during which protestors set the Saudi embassy on fire. As a reaction, Saudi Arabia, followed by UAE and Bahrain, expelled Iranian missions to their respective countries. The region started worrying about a new conflict and Islamic State found just the sort of relief they needed.

Of course, whenever relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran suffer, you can expect increased pressure on Pakistan, both from the Saudi government and from the people at home. While the careful approach the Government of Pakistan has taken in this regard is the way to go, it must be warned to move a step forward in terms of its commitment to fight ISIL. In an ideal world, a military operation against ISIL with Pakistan’s participation should have been underway.

The Gulf states have been facing much criticism for their inaction against ISIL, which have been regularly resisted by Shia militia in Iraq. As a matter of fact, people have been speculating Saudi hand behind ISIL since the extremist group share the brand of Sunni Islam practiced in the kingdom. Now that they have made a military alliance, it is being condemned by some for being meant for exclusively targeting Iran and its sponsored militant groups.

While protesting the Saudi-led anti-terrorism alliance makes little sense, this is the expected consequence of choosing to join a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Probably for spiritual reasons, the local Sunni and Shia population have linked their religious fervor with the terrible political entities of Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively. This is why commentators with this concern have been calling for Pakistan to join a US-led alliance to fight the Islamic State.

So far we have seen a lot of talk about the anti-terrorist alliance but little action. Only substantial military action by the Saudi led alliance would put the conspiracy theories to rest. The lack of action is yet another reason for Pakistan to wonder if it is in the right camp. But then again, fighting ISIL proactively is hardly a priority for nations around the world, and Pakistan seems to be no exception.

This is where the United States and other Western powers would have to lead and work with Saudi Arabia and Iran to focus on eradicating the Islamic State. Unless a comprehensive global alliance is formed for the purpose under the leadership of the United States, it would be difficult to organize the much required military efforts.

We are at a point in history when extraordinary measures are required for the elimination of the evil Islamic State. Global and regional powers, which are otherwise adversaries, need to come together to get rid of this common threat to human civilization, but the local Muslim population is busy squabbling about the power struggle of Iran and Saudi Arabia instead.

This will severely hurt any possible military campaigns that had any chance to be initiated by Muslim majority countries in the Middle and adjoining regions because everyone would need to take a side in this conflict. I appreciate the passion of everyone who wants their countries to remain neutral in the Saudi-Iran conflict, but that would not be the case for long if the situation escalates further.

The recent episode only proves the irresponsibility and recklessness of Iran and Saudi Arabia as regional powers and goes to show that they should be the last countries leading other Muslim majority nations. While it is a good idea expressing solidarity with them and offering military aid for necessary defense and peacekeeping, it would be a disastrous mistake to follow their lead in shaping foreign policy.

This is why it is important for global powers to avoid the distraction of Saudi-Iran conflict and refocus their attention on the threat of ISIL by rallying a global alliance. Pakistan must also play its part as a responsible nation and must distinguish itself with significant participation.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

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