Monday, October 31, 2011


In February 2011, following revolutions in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, protests against Gadhafi's rule began. These escalated into an uprising that spread across the country, with the forces opposing Gadhafi establishing a government based in Benghazi named the National Transitional Council (NTC). This led to the 2011 Libyan civil war, which included a military intervention by a NATO-led coalition to enforce a UN Security Council Resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya. The assets of Gadhafi and his family were frozen, and both Interpol and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 27 June for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi, concerning crimes against humanity.
For most of their history, the peoples of Libya have been subjected to varying degrees of foreign control. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya. Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the presence of these ancient cultures.
The Arabs conquered Libya in the seventh century A.D. In the following centuries, most of the indigenous peoples adopted Islam and the Arabic language and culture. The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century. Libya remained part of their empire, although at times virtually autonomous, until Italy invaded in 1911 and, in the face of years of resistance, made Libya a colony.
In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony, which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars. Allied forces removed Axis powers from Libya in February 1943. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica came under separate British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.
On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. King Idris I represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. When Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951, it was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European possessions in Africa to gain independence. Libya was proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy under King Idris.
The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled what had been one of the world's poorest countries to become extremely wealthy, as measured by per capita GDP. Although oil drastically improved Libya's finances, popular resentment grew as wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise throughout the Arab world of Nasserism and the idea of Arab unity.
On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 28-year-old army officer Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi staged a coup d'etat against King Idris, who was subsequently exiled to Egypt. The new regime, headed by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Qadhafi emerged as leader of the RCC and eventually as de facto head of state. The Libyan Government asserts that Qadhafi holds no official position, although he is referred to in government statements and the official press as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution," among other honorifics.
The new RCC's motto became "freedom, socialism, and unity." It pledged itself to remedy "backwardness," take an active role in the Palestinian cause, promote Arab unity, and encourage domestic policies based on social justice, non-exploitation, and an equitable distribution of wealth.
An early objective of the new government was withdrawal of all foreign military installations from Libya. Following negotiations, British military installations at Tobruk and nearby El Adem were closed in March 1970, and U.S. facilities at Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli were closed in June 1970. That July, the Libyan Government ordered the expulsion of several thousand Italian residents. By 1971, libraries and cultural centers operated by foreign governments were ordered closed.
After the 1969 coup, Qadhafi closed American and British bases on Libyan territory and partially nationalized all foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya. He also played a key role in promoting the use of oil embargoes as a political weapon for challenging the West, hoping that an oil price rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West, especially the United States, to end support for Israel. Qadhafi rejected both Soviet communism and Western capitalism, and claimed he was charting a middle course.
(Background Note: Libya, US DEPARTMENT OF STATE at
Muammar Gadhafi abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951, and adopted laws based on his own ideology. Under Gaddafi, Libya was theoretically a decentralized, democratic state run according to the philosophy of Gaddafi's Green Book, with Gaddafi retaining a ceremonial position. Libya was officially run by a system of people's committees which served as local governments for the country's subdivisions, an indirectly-elected General People's Congress as the legislature, and the General People's Committee, led by a Secretary-General, as the executive branch.
Muammar Gadhafi ruled Libya for more than 40 years by banning and brutally opposing any individual or group opposing the ideology of his 1969 revolution, criminalizing the peaceful exercise of expression and association, refusing to permit independent journalists' and lawyers' organizations, and engaging in torture and extrajudicial executions, including the 1,200 detainees killed in Abu Salim Prison in June 1996. Libya took formal responsibility for the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, 189 of whom were U.S. citizens and high-ranking Libyan officials have indicated that Muammar Gadhafi personally ordered the attack.
The demands of the Libyan people began much like those of their neighbors in North Africa and the Middle East--for the protection of their universal rights, for greater political freedom and representative government, for justice and opportunity. But the response of Qadhafi and those still loyal to him stood in stark contrast to the inspiring events of what some called the Arab spring. Qadhafi unleashed a merciless campaign of violence against the Libyan people, including civilian noncombatants, using every tool at his disposal, from artillery barrages, to airstrikes, to the employment of foreign mercenaries.
On February 16, 2011 Libyan protesters clashed with police in an anti-government demonstration inspired by the uprisings that brought down the rulers of Libya's neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. Opposition activists, organizing through social media, rallied against the country's long-time leader, Muammar Gadhafi, in the country's second-biggest city,
By February 23, 2011 a massive evacuation of foreigners from Libya was underway by air, sea and land. Tens of thousands of foreigners in Libya were boarding planes, ships and, in some cases, overcrowded vans in an effort to flee the chaos that has erupted from opposition protests and a government crackdown. Two Turkish vessels picked up 3,000 Turks from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi Wednesday, as part of what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the biggest evacuation operation in Turkey's history. Benghazi's airport has been shut down for several days, forcing nations to evacuate foreigners by sea. About 25,000 Turks resided in Libya when the unrest began, many of them working in construction. Chinese state media said Beijing also was organizing an air, sea and land operation to evacuate up to 33,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.
The United Nations Security Council and the international community condemned the violence and use of force against civilians in Libya and on February 26, 2011, the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed to refer the ongoing situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including the provision of mercenary personnel, freezed the financial assets of Muammar Gadhafi and certain family members, and impose a travel ban on Gadhafi, certain family members and senior advisors.
On March 10, 2011, the Government of France recognized the Libyan Transitional National Council, based in Benghazi, as the sole legitimate government of Libya and has announced its intention to send an ambassador there. Their senior leaders consist of longstanding critics of Qadhafi as well as officials who recently broke with his regime. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi's former justice minister, emerged as leader of Libyan National Transitional Council. The council withheld names of members in other cities like Zawiya, Nalot, Musrata, Zentan, Zawara, Tripoli, Jado.
On 19 April 2011, the United Kingdom announced that it was sending military advisers to assist the rebel forces in Libya. Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the deployment of advisers was within the provisions of UN Security Resolution 1973, which expressly forbade a foreign occupation of Libya. On 20 April 2011, France and Italy also announced their intention to send similar advisory elements to Libya. Italy posted eight combat aircraft for Libyan airstrikes on April 27 2011, with additional aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone.
The Polish Foreign Minister arrived in Benghazi to show Poland's support for the future of Libya on May 11, 2011. May 12, 2011 saw British Foreign Secretary William Hague recognize Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people." PM David Cameron also invited the rebels to establish a permanent office in London. Greece announced plans to send humainitarian aid ships, including a modible hospital, to Benghazi on May 14, 2011.
In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has spearheaded UN-backed NATO intervention, pledged stronger military action at his first meeting with the leader of the opposition Libyan National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
French military sources said Sarkozy had won approval from NATO to carry out more air strikes and France had moved six fighter jets from Corsica to the southern Greek island of Crete, closer to Libya, for that purpose.
Italy, the former colonial power in Libya that provided air bases for the NATO mission but said its own planes will not open fire, said it may send 10 military trainers as part of increased Western efforts to help the badly pressured rebels.
U.S. President Barack Obama opposed sending U.S. ground troops to Libya, the White House said, but he supported a French and British move to dispatch military advisers to help rebels fighting Gadhafi.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden insisted in an interview with the Financial Times that U.S. strike aircraft, requested by France, were not needed to achieve the alliance's goal in Libya.
"If the Lord Almighty extricated the U.S. out of NATO and dropped it on the planet of Mars so we were no longer participating, it is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya — it does not," he was quoted as saying. "Occasionally other countries lack the will, but this is not about capacity," Biden said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommended $25 million in commodities and services for Libyan rebels that would not include weapons, the State Department said. Obama still must sign off on this provision of aid such as radios, body armour and halal ready-to-eat-meals, spokesman Mark Toner said.
France's decision to send up to 10 military advisers to work with the rebels came a day after Britain, the other main leader of the coalition, announced a similar move.
(Sarkozy tells Libyan rebels: "We will help you" by Emmanuel Jarry and Michael Georgy, Reuters April 20, 2011)
When international disagreements deteriorate to the point when Washington felt it has no choice but to use massive military force, the person held most responsible is ruthlessly hunted down. Manuel Noriega, Panama's mafia boss in the 1980s, was toppled in a US invasion in 1989 and ended up in a maximum security jail in Illinois. Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial in The Hague, where he died in custody. Saddam Hussein was dug out of a hole and sent to the gallows.
Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was similarly blunt. "It is our belief that if Mr Gadhafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the country," he said.
Nicolas Sarkozy, Cameron's co-hawk, has been busy swapping insults with Gadhafi, with all the appearance of a personal vendetta. After the Libyan leader said the French president had "gone mad", Sarkozy responded in kind, condemning Gadhafi's "murderous madness".
Sarkozy has also spoken of "targeted" actions – meaning assassination – should Gadhafi authorise the use of his stores of mustard gas or other WMD. Even normally measured Barack Obama had been getting hot under the collar about the man Ronald Reagan branded a "mad dog".
Taken by itself, such name-calling might not matter so much. But the larger, unavoidable conclusion was that capturing or killing Gaddafi has then became an end in itself for the western allies (though perhaps not their Arab coalition partners), and that the war would not be deemed "won" until this objective was attained.
The implications were serious. The missiles and B52s began their dreadful work, Gadhafi knew, if he didn't already, that hewas in a fight to the finish – and for him, there may be no escape. His course of action in the coming days would be influenced by this realization, and may be consequently more extreme and more aggressive than otherwise.
His defiant overnight statement, when he condemned the "crusader colonialism" afflicting his country, was clearly aimed at Arab and Muslim world opinion in particular, and the non-western world in general (major countries such as China, India, Brazil and Germany have not supported the intervention). Regime claims about mounting civilian deaths will play big there, Iraq-style. Gaddafi would press his propaganda advantage for all its worth.
The demonization of Gadhafi has made it impossible for western leaders to countenance his continuation in power. But without the ground invasion they have pledged not to undertake, he could well survive as the overlord of western and southern Libya following a de facto partition, hostile, vengeful and highly dangerous.
This seemed to be his plan. Far from giving up or drawing back, Gadhafi escalated the fighting around Benghazi at the weekend. Rather than abandon cities such as Zawiya, as Obama demanded, he was reportedly moving his troops into urban areas where they can less easily be targeted from the air. Meanwhile, his apparent willingness to use "human shields", his threats of retaliation across the Mediterranean area, and his designation of the whole of North Africa as a "war zone" raised the specter of possible terrorist attacks and an alarming regression to his old ways.
Gadhafi has personalized this war, too. And he was not going to go quietly. Military superiority in the air will count for nothing if pro-regime army and air force units, militia and security forces, and civilian and tribal supporters who had remained loyal refused to turn on him or kick him out of Tripoli. By its determination to "get Gadhafi", the west has made this a fight to the death – and death may be a long time in coming.
(Simon Tisdall,, Sunday 20 March 2011 11.01 GM)
The Libyan Transitional National Council has set up a rival government in Benghazi. The 45-member Council includes representatives from throughout Libya and is headed by Chairman (and former Qadhafi Minister of Justice) Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The Council acts as the opposition’s legislative branch and has appointed an executive committee, headed by Mahmoud Jibril, to oversee interim governance issues. The TNC has stated repeatedly its desire to serve only as an interim body and has issued plans to draft a constitution and hold nationwide elections as soon as Qadhafi was removed from power.
(Background Note: Libya, US DEPARTMENT OF STATE at
Gadhafi and his forces lost the Battle of Tripoli in August and on 16 September 2011 the NTC took Libya's seat at the UN, replacing Gadhafi. He retained control over parts of Libya, most notably the city of Sirte, to which it was presumed that he had fled. Although Gadhafi's forces initially held out against the NTC's advances, Gadhafi was captured alive after his convoy was attacked by NATO warplanes as Sirte fell on 20 October 2011 but was killed by the rebels the same day.
A National Transitional Council (NTC) official told Al Jazeera that Gadhafi had been captured that day by Libyan forces near his hometown of Sirte. He had been in a convoy of vehicles that was targeted by a US Predator Missile which was followed by a French air strike on a road about 3 kilometres (2 mi) west of Sirte, killing dozens of loyalist fighters. Gadhafi survived but was wounded and took refuge with several of his bodyguards in a drain underneath the road west of the city. Around noon NTC fighters found the group and took Gadhafi prisoner. Shortly afterward, he was shot dead. At least four mobile phone videos showed rebels beating Gadhafi and manhandling him on the back of a utility vehicle before his death. One video suggested he was sodomized "with some kind of stick or knife" or possibly a bayonet, after his capture. In another video, he was seen being rolled around on the ground as rebels pulled off his shirt, though it was unclear if he was already dead. Later pictures of his body showed that he had wounds in the abdomen, chest, and head. A rebel who identified himself as Senad el-Sadik el-Ureybi later claimed to have shot and killed Gadhafi. He claimed to have shot Gaddafi in the head and chest, and that it took half an hour for him to die. Gadhafi's body was subsequently flown to Misrata and was placed in the freezer of a local market alongside the bodies of Defense Minister Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr and his son and national security adviser Moatassem Gadhafi. The bodies were put on public display for four days contrary to Islamic custom, with Libyans from all over the country coming to view them. Many took pictures on their cell phones.
Libya's Prime Minister and several NTC figures confirmed Gadhafi's death, claiming he died of wounds suffered during his capture. News channels aired a graphic video claiming to be of Gadhafi's bloodied body after capture. However on 28 October 2011, widespread revulsion outside Libya at the manner of Gadhafi's death prompted the interim government to promise to bring his killers to trial.
On 25 October 2011, the National Transitional Council announced that Gadhafi was buried at an unidentified location in the desert. Later Al Aan TV showed amateur video footage of the funeral taking place at an undisclosed location.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Gamal Abdul Nasser (1918-1970), the greatest genius produced by Egypt in five hundred years, was the first Egyptian since the Pharaohs 2,500 years ago to govern Egypt. Nasser led the complete liberation of Egypt and the restitution of national dignity in a titanic struggle with both his 35 million mostly downtrodden people and numerous world powers that undercut his efforts at every opportunity.
On 22 July 1952, the Free Officers, led by Gamal Abdul Nasser, realized that King Farouk might be preparing to move against them. They decided to strike and seize power the next morning. On July 26, King Farouk, forced to abdicate in favor of his infant son, sailed into exile on the same yacht on which his grandfather, Ismail, had left for exile about seventy years earlier. In 1954, the army overthrew King Farouk of Egypt whereby Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser was subsequently made President of Egypt.
It was under Nasser that Egypt finally succeeded in ridding itself of the last vestiges of British imperialism; that Egypt attempted to steer a middle course between the Western countries and the Soviet Union and its allies and in so doing became a founder of the Nonaligned Movement that exists to this day; that Egypt moved out of the isolation the British had imposed on the country and assumed a leadership position in the Arab world; and that Egypt became the "beating heart" of pan-Arabism and the symbol of renewed Arab pride.
Internally, Nasser destroyed the political and economic power of the old feudal landowning class. Education and employment opportunities were made available to all Egyptians regardless of class or sex. Women were encouraged to get an education and go to work as part of the national struggle for economic progress and development. After the revolution, women were at last granted the right to vote. Nasser emphasized social programs to improve the living and working conditions of the peasants and workers, such as the electrification of villages, worker housing, minimum wage laws, decreased working hours, and worker participation in management. Industrialization intensified, and the country became less dependent on the export of cotton. The economy grew at acceptable rates in spite of some problems. After the June 1967 War with Israel, however, the military expenditures began to absorb about 25 percent of Egypt's gross national product (GNP). Also, the population increase that had begun in the 1940s began to overtake the economic advances.
It is true that Nasser never really opened up his rule to popular participation. He once admitted that he had become so used to conspiracy, by necessity that he tended to see a conspiracy in everything, a view that prevented him from conducting an open rule. He wanted to establish a basis of support for his regime but one that would not require the regime to give significant power to the public. He felt that an ideology such as socialism might accomplish this, but at the same time he feared that the commitment would be to the ideology and not to him. Thus, when Nasser died in 1970 he left behind an imperfect and unfinished revolution.
(Adapted from
Nasser wrote: “When I now try to recall the details of our experience in Palestine (in 1948), I find a curious thing: we were fighting in Palestine, but our dreams were centered in Egypt. Our bullets were aimed at the enemy in his trenches before us, by our hearts hovered over our distant country, which we had left to the care of wolves.” As one of Nasser’s fellow officers lay dying he told his comrades: “The biggest battlefield is in Egypt.”
“Every man we questioned had nothing to recommend except to kill someone else. Every idea we listened to was nothing but an attack on some other idea. If we had gone along with everything we heard, we would have killed off all the people and torn down every idea, and there would have been nothing left for us to do but sit down among the corpses and ruins, bewailing our evil fortune and cursing our wretched fate.”
“If anyone had asked me in those days what I wanted most, I would have answered promptly: To hear an Egyptian speak fairly about another Egyptian. To sense an Egyptian has opened his heart to pardon, forgiveness and love for his Egyptian brethren. To find an Egyptian who does not devote his time to tearing down the views of another Egyptian.”
Nasser was especially disillusioned with the professors at universities who did not advance any ideas to him and instead, “each confined himself to advancing himself, pointing out his unique fitness for making miracles. Each of them kept glancing at me with the look of one who preferred me to all the treasures of earth and heaven.”
In summary, Gamal Nasser was a giant of the twentieth century who curiously is not well-remembered today. He was ahead of his times. The world powers that constantly opposed his attempts to mainstream Egypt into the world while he was alive may long for his forward-looking pragmatic and logical approach compared to the backward-looking Islamist extremism rife in the region today. He accomplished much in spite of his short life.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was not a great manager: finances during the 18 years on his watch were in bad shape. Yet it was under Nasser that life for millions of poor peasants, who had been poor for hundreds of years, finally improved. It was under Nasser that schools were built, clean drinking water brought to people, clinics opened. Through it all, the state's bureaucracy grew top-heavy, patronage and corruption were rampant, and the authoritarian police state was honed, though it would not become the internal, infernal prison of the slightest dissenters until the years of Sadat and Mubarak.
(Pierre Tristam, Guide)
In Egypt, a country where 50 per cent of the population is under 30 years old and which has known no other regime than Mubarak’s state of emergency, with its torture and surveillance, it was the reaction to the murder of Khaled Said, a young blogger beaten to death by the police, that was a turning point. It began with a protest of 1,000 people in Alexandria during Said’s funeral and then went ‘underground’ onto the internet. Pictures of his crushed face are still on his facebook page. The next spark in the North African revolution was in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, ignited by the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazazi, a vegetable peddler whose cart and produce were confiscated by the police. Over the next month, despite increased repression, protests grew across Tunisia and President Ben Ali was pushed out of the country.
The sit-ins, strikes, and demonstrations of 2006, the almost daily workers’ actions of early 2007, and the massive strike of textile workers in Muhalla al-Kubra in 2008 were initiated by working women. These struggles led to beatings and imprisonments as well as some wage increases and bread subsidies as the regime tried to cheaply buy its way out of crisis. The mixture of economic hardship, political repression and social control indicate how deep the uprooting of the old regime had to be.
Once the lid is taken off a police state, it is very difficult to put back on. Mental liberation and the radical change in consciousness that accompanies revolution, entails a rethinking of everything, a questioning of everything that has been taken for granted. What had been normal for so long has been fundamentally shaken. After 30 years of life under Mubarak, the Egyptian people had become historical protagonists. Tahrir Square, the revolution’s focal point, became territorialized by those who had not counted. It became the space of a new kind of work, namely the hard but collectively joyous work of human liberation.
Mubarak’s departure represents a victory for the movement but it is not the goal of liberation. Egypt remains at a crossroads with the military as the only possible institution to renormalize it. Yet under the guise of the national interest any return to the old normal must include suppressing freedom, strikes, demonstrations, and any other manifestation of the economic and social revolt against injustice and exploitation that has been brewing for the past decade.
In 1956, four years after the 1952 Egyptian revolution and one year into the Algerian revolution, Algeria’s liberation movement met in the Soummam Valley to discuss the organization and programme of its revolution. An important principle adopted there was that rather than militarizing politics, the military and any military decision had to be subservient to, and under the control of, the political struggle. It is a principle that continues to haunt Algeria and Egypt where militarized states of emergency have been in place for decades, abrogating political rights and suppressing spaces for public discourse.
In Egypt the army – intimately connected to the economy and self-interested in the maintenance of the status quo – is repeating the same calls it made during the last days of Mubarak under the slogans to ‘return to order’ and ‘return to normalcy.’ Yet the people are not naïve.
It is the revolution happening in the minds of the people – including perhaps those among the army’s rank and file – that is really significant. Nasser understood its importance, calling his book on the liberation of Egypt a ‘philosophy of revolution’.
The ‘commune’ at Tahrir Square produced a new political form. And in an attempt to de-communalize that form, it has now been deterritorialised. As youths moved to literally and symbolically clean the square, the military destroyed the shelters, banners, and artworks and removed the people.
(Adapted from PAMBAZUKA NEWS ‘What makes the lid blow off?’ by Nigel C. Gibson, 2011-02-17, Issue 517 at
Many thoughtful Egyptians will be recalling this "bon mot" as the watch one ruler, the ousted Husni Mubarak, replaced by a military junta led by Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi. Egyptians are getting more Mubarakism, sans Mubarak, at least for now. This is not what most Egyptians want or deserve. The new military junta just proclaimed it would support the hated Israeli-Egyptian peace deal signed by Anwar Sadat, thus assuaging fears in the US and Israel. In an example of typical post-coup talk, the junta says elections will be held sometime in the future. Many Egyptians are still euphoric over the ouster of Gen. Mubarak, known to one and all as "pharaoh." Most of them do not yet seem to have realized that the people who have taken over the regime are the very same generals, policemen and tycoons who ran it under Mubarak.
The dreaded secret police, or "Mukhabarat," is commanded by Gen. Omar Suleiman, who is widely viewed as America’s and Israel’s man in Cairo. Alongside him are Marshall Tantawi, chief of staff Lieutenant General Enan and Ahmed Shafik, also seen as America’s men on the Nile. The US usually had a backup for its favorite dictators; Gen. Omer Suleiman was Mubarak’s US-anointed successor. After Anwar Sadat’s assassination, Gen. Mubarak was quickly engineered into power.
(Adapted from Egypt's Faux Revolution: Bait and Switch on the Nile by Eric Margolis at

Gamal Abdul Nasser and Family, 1960

Egypt’s younger officers must be thinking about the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who seized power in 1952 after Egypt’s disastrous war with Israel in 1947–8. Perhaps there is a young colonel or even major who may try to seize power and emulate Nasser, who is still adored by many Egyptians in spite of his disastrous mistakes. People have forgotten many of them. What they do remember was that when Nasser died of a heart attack in 1970, his family had little money, and they recall that Nasser spoke for Egypt, not foreign powers.
So far, the so-called Egyptian Revolution has only been a game of musical chairs. The United States still dominates Egypt’s military, policy, and economy. Washington provides wheat without which Egypt cannot feed itself.
Israel still exercises powerful influence over Egypt, thanks to its supporters in the US Congress. An angry word from Jerusalem, and Egypt’s wheat could be cut off. Egyptian and Israeli intelligence are as entwined as was Israel’s Mossad with the Iranian Savak secret police.
The massive pyramid of Egypt’s police state – to use a fine metaphor from the brilliant Albanian writer Ismail Kadere – will not be easily lifted, perhaps without a full scale, violent revolution. To date, the revolt on the Nile has not even produced a Kerensky, never mind a Lenin.
If Egyptians feel cheated by the change of power in Cairo, as many will, and violent demonstrations begin, what will happen if the junta orders a battalion commanded by a colonel to open fire on protesters?
The first young officer who refuses and orders his men to join the demonstrators could become Egypt’s new hero. Nasser’s ghost haunts Cairo.
(Adapted from Egypt's Faux Revolution: Bait and Switch on the Nile by Eric Margolis at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Almost all human beings do have something to ask for from Almighty. Some have a craving for some lawful worldly objects, some have to ask for solutions of their problems, some longing for remedy of illness and getting good health, while some have the far-sight of asking favors of the next world. Thus everyone has something to ask from his/her own angle of view.
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself with a flashlight in your hand in a room that is totally dark. You turn on the flashlight and see a beautiful painting hanging on the wall. You might think, "Sure, this is a wonderful work of art, but is this all there is?" Then, all at once, the room becomes illuminated from above. You look around and see that you are in an art museum, with hundreds of paintings on the walls around you, each more beautiful than the last. As these possibilities stand revealed to you, you realize you have a lifetime of art to study and love. You are no longer constrained to view just one painting lit by the weak glow of your flashlight.
(Excerpted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 2003 by Deepak Chopra at
Can anything be classed as real when our perceptions differ greatly on so many things? Just because we see something a particular way does not make it so. We can be so insistent sometimes that our way of seeing something is more right than someone else’s way.
Let’s take the example of war. There are some people who believe that war is necessary sometimes to get peace and then in order to keep the peace. There are other people who will believe that war is evil and should never be entered into no matter what. Who is right? Is war right or wrong? That’s just an example.....
What you see as real is only defined by your belief structure. Your version of what is real is only your perception of it; not what is so.
Here’s another example: Let’s say an event occurs in your life. You have the choice about how you respond to it. Let’s say you have a death in the family. You can choose to see that event as something terrible and tragic to which you will respond accordingly. Or, you can choose to see that event and something that inspires you to make something more of your life; living every day as if it was the last, so to speak.
From that example you can see that you may or may not have control over the events in your life but you can certainly take control of how to respond to them. That part of life will always be within your power. This is where life gets interesting because you shape your own reality through your beliefs.
Your belief structure determines your perception which then ultimately determines how you respond to events. Going by that sequence you can then see that there is another place to start. You can choose to examine your beliefs and then choose to change them.
(Adaptted fron Perception vs Reality by Amit Sodha on March 22, 2006 at
We have a very narrow view of things. Naturally, the imperfect existence cannot be the source of perfect consciousness. The imperfect perspective of the human mind cannot be expected to give a complete picture of things in their true state of affairs.
There is a habit of the mind by which it looks at things in a linear fashion, in a line or a straight vision, as it were, as a series of objects, a line in space and time, and this is what may be succinctly called the three-dimensional perspective or the individualistic perception of the human mind – to look at things as bodies, as isolated existences, with the feeling that you and I are different, that things are isolated from one another in such a manner that there cannot be intrinsic or organic connections among them. This is perhaps the historical way of things. There is no organic connection between events in history. They are mathematically or causally related, so that one follows the other.
(An Analysis of Our Perception of Historical Personalities by Swami Krishnananda at
The ultimate source of our problems is in thought. Our thinking determines our actions and our actions determine the quality of our relationship with each other. Society is the result of relationships. Problems arising out of human relationship appear to be intractable. There is conflict at all levels of human relationship. There is conflict between husband and wife, between parent and child, between one group and another, between nations, religions and within the same political and religious organizations. There is enormous confusion, violence, brutalities, the wars, terrorism and endless division of religion and nationality. Roots of disorder lie in the state of human mind.
Unfortunately we use the same thinking ability to find solutions to the numerous complex and intricate problems that thought has created. Past history clearly demonstrates that despite all the knowledge and experience accumulated through centuries, man has not been able to produce a harmonious and healthy society. We do make some improvements here and there but the overall situation remains grim. The momentum at which the problems are being created is quite overwhelming. It is obvious that there must be a serious flaw in the way we think.
It is amazing that two distinct systems of thought operate within the framework of human consciousness, one that creates the problem and the other that tries to find solution to the problem. Both arise out of the same source. That source is self-centeredness. Thinking arising out of self-interest, self-concern creates numerous problems. Problems like greed, jealousy, anxiety, anger, hate and violence arise out of the conditioned state of mind. Any problem that arises in the mind poses a challenge and there is an automatic response to meet the challenge. This response generates thought process that has no clue as to how the problem got created.
It is extremely important that we should understand the nature of the self because most of our actions spring from this center. Our perceptions and responses to the challenges of life and our basic urges, desires and demands are determined by the nature of the self. Human relationship is based on the operation of thought that is self-centered. Only a profound understanding of the nature of the self can bring about inward revolution.
(Adapted from Clarity of Perception by SardarSingh, September 17, 2009 at
One of the things people are quickly becoming aware of is the media’s nonstop repetition of the same old themes and always trying to keep us scared and manipulated, whether it be who to vote for in an upcoming election or the suppression and total disregard of information which paints things in a different picture to the one that they are trying to impose on us. Another is how democracy is just two sides of the same coin so to speak, they offer us choice but that choice is limited inside of their choices.
Freedom is more than a word. It is everything and the only thing that is in our way of obtaining it is our own perception. What we perceive is what believe. Consider this, if we were walking along and spotted a house and someone said that it was a nice house and you disagreed, then which one of you is right? The thing about perception is that more often than not it is not even your own perception; it was manipulated from the day you were born and constantly conditioned by outside forces, from parents to school and work. We are being bombarded with influence and the problem with that is we don’t realize it until we become someone else’s perception altogether and we cry out inside to ourselves.
If someone said the words planet earth most people would immediately conjure up visions of the earth from space as we know it, a giant sphere covered in ocean, dotted with land and surrounded with clouds. But what if you could see ultraviolet light, or x-ray or even gamma rays? Than earth would look incredibly different to you and would therefore provoke different thoughts and feelings, you see everything is symbolic and just because you see something does not mean you see all aspects of something; you just have an idea of how it is and this is one of the biggest problems in the world today as Governments, Media, religion and society in general are constantly trying to take other peoples freedom to see things from many angles and points of view and limit them to only the ones they want them to see. Parents are some of the worst offenders for this.
Everything expresses itself in many shapes and forms and your perception is the only thing that holds it in that myopic and preconceived view you have. You must open yourself up to possibility and when you do that you can let the information flow freely and make an informed judgment. But that is not the world we live in now; the world we live in now is the same world that burnt people alive at the stake for ideas just a few hundred years ago, and although we may not be as physically brutal anymore, fear of changing the way we look at things is still alive and kicking in today’s social structure.
(Adapted from How Everything is a Symbolic Representation of Your Perception, by AndrewCalvisi Mar 2nd, 2010 at

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Portrait of Andrew Wyeth by his son Jamie Wyeth

Winter 1946

Winter 1946, a self portrait of when Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-2009) was a boy running in a brown field of dead and dormant grass, a short distance from where his father, N.C. Wyeth, was killed when his stalled car was hit by a train, now hangs in the North Carolina Museum of Art.
(Wyatt Sanderman Day at

Christina's World, 1948
Tempera on gessoed panel
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Christina's World

The woman in the painting is Christina Olson (May 3, 1893 — January 27, 1968). She suffered from polio, a muscular deterioration that paralyzed her lower body. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when through a window from within the house he saw her crawling across a field. Wyeth had a summer home in the area and was on friendly terms with Olson, using her and her younger brother as the subject of paintings from 1940 to 1968. Although Olson was the inspiration and subject of the painting, she was not the primary model — Wyeth's wife Betsy posed as the torso of the painting. Olson was 55 at the time Wyeth created the work.
The house depicted in the painting is known as the Olson House, and is located in Cushing, Maine. It is open to the public as a part of the Farnsworth Museum complex; it is a National Historic Landmark, and has been restored to match its appearance in the painting.] In the painting, Wyeth separated the house from its barn and changed the lay of the land.
Anna Christina Olson (1893-1968) was a lifelong resident of the Cushing, Maine farm pictured in Christina's World. She had a degenerative muscular disorder (undiagnosed, but sometimes identified as polio) that took away her ability to walk by the late 1920s. Eschewing a wheelchair, she crawled around the house and grounds.
Wyeth, who had summered in Maine for many years, met the spinster Olson and her bachelor brother, Alvaro, in 1939. The three were introduced by Wyeth's future wife, Betsy James (b. 1922), another long-term summer resident. It's hard to say what fired the young artist's imagination more: the Olson siblings or their residence.
We have three here, actually. The figure's wasted limbs and pink dress belong to Christina Olson. The youthful head and torso, however, belong to Betsy Wyeth who was then in her mid-20s (as opposed to Christina's then-mid-50s).
The most famous "model" in this scene is the Olson farmhouse itself, on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995.
(Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth by Shelley Esaak, Guide)

Christina Olson


Adrift, 1982

Christina Olson of Cushing, at the end of Hathorn Point, was his most famous model, but over the years, Wyeth formed close friendships with – and painted – several other Maine neighbors. His closest friend, Walt Anderson, gradually ages before the eyes of viewers in numerous Wyeth drawings and paintings that show life’s changes from the youthful Young Swede (1939) to the older man in Adrift (1982).
A painter of landscape and figure subjects in Pennsylvania and Maine, Andrew Wyeth became one of the best-known American painters of the 20th century. His style is both realistic and abstract, and he works primarily in tempera and watercolor, often using the dry brush technique.
He is the son of Newell Convers and Carolyn Bockius Wyeth of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and was home-schooled because of delicate health. His art instruction came from his famous-illustrator father, who preached the tying of painting to life–to mood and to essences and to capturing the subtleties of changing light and shadows.

Up in the Studio

Andrew Wyeth was tutored solely by his father, N. C. Wyeth, a well-known illustrator, who taught his son to draw from casts, skeletons, still life and the life model. Andrew did not develop his own inimitable style until after his father’s death in a level crossing accident. The emotional impact of this personal tragedy precipitated the change in his work. He had always been especially drawn to landscape, particularly the Brandywine Valley around his home, but his range broadened to include the study of people and their emotions. His work has a compelling, highly-detailed realism, which can be traced back to Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, but conveys a distinct sense of lugubrious wistfulness. In Up in the Studio, a dry brush watercolor, Wyeth uses the frame of his panel as a compositional device. The cropping of the lower edge, combined with the lines of the floor and window, draw the viewer into this private, isolated space. The subdued colors are characteristic of Wyeth’s work and were achieved by grinding his own pigments from a range of earth and mineral colors. He paints in one of two media – dry brush or tempera – both methods being painstaking and slow.

Andrew Wyeth Dry Brush and Pencil Drawings

Andrew Wyeth Dry Brush and Pencil Drawings

Andrew Wyeth Dry Brush and Pencil Drawings

His art focused on his love for the people and the land surrounding him, mostly based in his hometown, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania as well as Cushing, Maine. He spent 50 years of prefessional career producing realistic paintings as well as loosely done pencil drawings and watercolors. He often did the pencil and watercolor sketches as preliminay studies for his large finished paintings.
His works created some controversy as he was pursuing representational works in an era dominated by abstract visual arts. One critique has described Wyeth works as being formulated and superficial, but the admirers of Wyeth argued that the works contain underlying abstraction while being realistic, and possess strong symbolic and emotional currents.


Strength of the hills-Shade Trees

Weather side, 1965

Sea Boots, 1976

Watercolor remained a medium favored by Wyeth, although he had begun working in tempera paint by the early 1940s. Wyeth’s paintings emphasize details of light and texture and are most often executed in warm, soft shades of brown and gray. He achieves great precision in his drawing, but it is always an expression of mood that he seeks rather than an exact reproduction of nature. His art has a deep melancholy strain.
Wyeth was among the most popular painters of the mid-20th century. He received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, and in 1970 he became the first living artist to be accorded an exhibition in the White House. In 1986 his reputation was enhanced by the disclosure of some 240 previously unknown paintings and drawings, all of the same woman, which the artist had kept hidden while he created them over a period of 15 years. The works, including nudes, were of Helga Testorf, Wyeth’s longtime neighbor in Chadds Ford. Wyeth added another painting, Gone, to the Helga series in 2002.

Asleep, 1979
Graphite pencil on paper
Gift of Warren Adelson and Frank Fowler
Copyright Pacific Sun Trading Co.
From The Morgan Library & Museum at

Two superbly rendered drawings by celebrated American artist Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009) are currently on view on the second floor of the Morgan's Annex building. The works, Asleep, 1979, and Watch Cap Study, 1974, depict two of Wyeth's favorite subjects, Helga Testorf and Walt Anderson.
Andrew Wyeth remains one of America's most popular and most controversial artists. The meticulously detailed realism of his largely rural people and scenes—sometimes criticized in relation to the modernist trend towards abstraction and urban subject matter—exists in an American sphere that includes the work of illustrators such as his father, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, as well as great landscape artists such as Winslow Homer.
Wyeth's exacting style relied heavily on drawings made from observation. Between 1971 and 1985, Wyeth created over two hundred works inspired by his neighbor Helga Testorf. The so-called Helga pictures emerged as an important career landmark. Asleep is a beautiful example of Wyeth's manner—the intimate portrait of Helga emphasizes the details of her face, while the surrounding elements are merely indicated with a few cursory lines.
Watch Cap Study, a preparatory drawing for the watercolor, Watch Cap, of the same year, shows subject Walt Anderson turned away from the viewer and staring toward a vast expanse of water—in a pose reminiscent of nineteenth-century Romanticism. The detailed rendering of the hair and weathered wool cap are typical of Wyeth's realism, marked by a masterful attention to telling detail.
(The Morgan Library & Museum at

Helga Testorf

Helga Testorf, a middle-aged woman in pigtails who was Mr. Wyeth's neighbor in rural Pennsylvania, has the curious distinction of being the last person to be made famous by a painting. In this she joins that very select pantheon that includes Raphael's Fornarina, John Singer Sargent's Madame X, and the costive couple in Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Yes, John Currin's ethereally lovely wife might elicit an informed double-take along Tenth Avenue, but she is small beer compared with Helga, whose severe, Teutonic features have adorned books and postcards throughout the world.
(A Villain in Pigtails by James Gardner, NEW YORK THE SUN at

Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, July 2008

Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, October 15, 2008

Wyeth, who focused on the people and landscapes of Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley and coastal Maine in works such as "Christina's World," died in his sleep at his Philadelphia-area home early Friday, January 16,2009. He was 91.
The death of Wyeth _ the most famous member of the three-generation family art dynasty _ will likely rekindle the debate over his contribution to American art.
"The squabbling is kind of art-world politics over who owns modernism," said curator Kathleen Foster of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who helped assemble the last major retrospective of his work at the museum in 2006.
Wyeth's pictures express for many the alienation of 20th century life and art, she said. Yet critics in the 1950s assailed him as a provincial reactionary next to New York abstract painters Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning.
"As we get farther from his work, we're going to recognize that he's just a different voice of modernism," Foster said. "This kind of quarreling over his status is going to fade, and he will be recognized as a great, great American artist."
Wyeth died at his home in suburban Chadds Ford, Pa., after a brief illness, according to Jim Duff, director of the Brandywine River Museum.
(Andrew Wyeth, "Christina's World" Artist, Dies At 91 by MARYCLAIRE DALE, January 16, 2009 THE HUFFINGTON POST at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Somalia was created on 01 July 1960 following the independence of Italian Somaliland from Italy, which then immediately united with British Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. British Somaliland had gained its independence just five days earlier on 26 June 1960. The British established a protectorate in 1886 over what became known as British Somaliland and the Italians colonized the south in 1889, which became known as Italian Somaliland.
Currently Somalia is regarded as a "failed state" with a weak, but recognised central government authority, which is known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG only controls the central region of the country.
De facto control of the north of the country resides in local authorities, of which Puntland, Maakhir and Galmudug acknowledge the authority of the TFG, and maintain their declaration of autonomy within a federated Somalia. Southwestern Somalia and Jubaland, in the south, have largely abandoned the idea of autonomy. Somaliland in the north has declared itself independent from Somalia and does not recognize the authority of the TFG. Somaliland's self-declared independence is not recognized.
In 1970 Mr Barre proclaimed a socialist state, paving the way for close relations with the USSR. In 1977, with the help of Soviet arms, Somalia attempted to seize the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, but was defeated thanks to Soviet and Cuban backing for Ethiopia, which had turned Marxist.
In 1991 President Barre was overthrown by opposing clans. But they failed to agree on a replacement and plunged the country into lawlessness and clan warfare.
In 2000 clan elders and other senior figures appointed Abdulkassim Salat Hassan president at a conference in Djibouti. A transitional government was set up, with the aim of reconciling warring militias. But as its mandate drew to a close, the administration had made little progress in uniting the country.
In 2004, after protracted talks in Kenya, the main warlords and politicians signed a deal to set up a new parliament, which later appointed a president.
Since 2006, the country has faced an insurgency led by Al Shabab, one of Africa's most fearsome militant Islamist groups. Al Shabab controls much of southern Somalia and has claimed affiliation with Al Qaeda since 2007.
For the first time in years, the Shabab is receding from several areas at once, handing the Transitional Federal Government an enormous opportunity to finally step outside the capital and begin uniting this fractious country after two decades of war. Instead, a messy, violent, clannish scramble is emerging over who will take control.
The government is too weak, corrupt, divided and disorganized to mount a claim beyond Mogadishu, the capital, leaving clan warlords, Islamist militias and proxy forces armed by foreign governments to battle it out for the regions the Shabab are losing.

Operation Provide Relief, Somalia, 2008

The big difference between Somalia and the rest of East Africa is war. Somalis have been fighting one another and have lived without a central government for 20 years. Perhaps a million people have died. One symptom of this lawlessness is piracy. Another is the rise of Islamists. What began as a fight between clan warlords became, in its second decade, a struggle between warlords and militants demanding the imposition of strict Shari'a. The more extreme Islamists then formed Al Shabab, or "the Youth." For four years, Al Shabab has battled the official Transitional Federal Government. .
Humanitarian aid often fails to reach those who need it because of conflict, high inflation, corruption, pirate attacks on sea deliveries, roadblocks and armed attacks on aid convoys.
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work so aid agencies do not base personnel there. 80% of Somalia’s security forces; soldiers, officers and police have deserted, taking with them weapons, uniforms and vehicles.
Piracy is a multi-million dollar industry employing between 1000-1500 pirates and using over 60 small boats and mother ships. Pirates invoke legitimate Somali grievances regarding foreign exploitation of marine resources such as illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in Somali waters, thus gaining community support. In September, 2008, the pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and off Kenya in November they seized a Saudi supertanker carrying $100m worth of crude oil. So far they have attacked 100 ships and raked in an estimated $30m in ransoms for ships and crews.
The current Transitional Federal Government is the seventeenth attempt to create a formal state, the most recent of which brought the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia into the government in February 2009. The country is currently controlled by various political and regional factions as well as local warlords in the south and in two "republics" in the north.
The president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, seemed to be continuing with his preference for Western-educated technocrats by naming Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as prime minister. Mr. Ali’s résumé reads like the itinerary on a tour of prominent American universities: it says he holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard, a master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt and a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. In recent years, he has been teaching economics at Niagara University in upstate New York.
He is Somali-American, and his profile is similar to that of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the previous prime minister, who also is an American citizen. He was abruptly pushed out of Somalia’s transitional government this month as part of a United Nations-backed deal to resolve an internal political dispute. Mr. Ali was a deputy prime minister and had been the acting prime minister since Mr. Mohamed resigned.
The U.S. is the key international player. Since the 1993 battle known as Black Hawk Down, when 18 U.S. troops died during an intervention to support a U.N. mission in an earlier famine and the bodies of two were dragged through the streets, few Americans have set foot in Mogadishu. But Washington pays close attention. Osama bin Laden first shot to the top of the CIA's danger list not on 9/11 but on Aug. 7, 1998, when his Somalia-based unit blew up U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 230 people. When al-Shabab allied with al-Qaeda, it too found itself in American crosshairs.
The U.S. strikes when it can. When Ethiopia invaded Somalia in late 2006 to topple the Islamist government, U.S. Special Operations troops went with them and detained about 20 al-Qaeda suspects. Washington has also assassinated several Islamist leaders in Somalia, using Predator drones, cruise missiles launched from warships in the Indian Ocean and, once, a helicopter gunship. Those efforts are assisted by a CIA station in Mogadishu and U.S.-funded mercenary operations. Also, Washington bankrolls the unelected TFG, which is perhaps best understood as a U.S. attempt to create a Somali leadership whose authority does not depend solely on firepower.
In 2008 the U.S. State Department listed Al Shabab as a foreign terrorist organization, making aiding or abetting it a serious crime. Al-Shabab was stealing aid to feed itself and to sell. Theft of aid is a routine occurrence, but when Al Shabab was designated as a terrorist group, it meant that U.S. officials and foreign aid workers whose actions benefited al-Shabab, even unwittingly, would be penalized. By late 2009 the U.S. was withholding about $50 million in food aid from al-Shabab's territory in southern Somalia, saying it had no legal alternative.
Al Shabab appears to have consolidated its position as the most powerful insurgent group by driving its main rival, Hizbul Islam, out of the southern port city of Kismayo in October 2009. Since then they have openly declared their alliance with al-Qaeda and have been steadily moving forces up towards Mogadishu.
The long-standing absence of authority in the country has led to Somali pirates becoming a major threat to international shipping in the area, and has prompted Nato to take the lead in an anti-piracy operation.
By early 2010 the U.S. was in a standoff with aid workers, requiring them to refuse to pay the tolls al-Shabab demanded if they wanted U.S. funding. For its part, al-Shabab expelled the World Food Programme (WFP) in January 2010, saying food aid created dependence and that the organization was an American proxy: 60% of the WFP's food is from the U.S. Al Shabab also claimed WFP contractors were corrupt; a Western investigator tasked with probing the WFP's operations in southern Somalia tells TIME many contractors were indeed skimming anywhere from 25% to 65% of aid to sell in the market.

Refugees fleeing Somalia, 2010
Photo A Fazinna/UNHCR

In 2011, the plight of the Somali people was exacerbated by the worst drought in six decades, which left millions of people on the verge of starvation and caused tens of thousands to flee to Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food.

Mother and child
From Disasters Emergency Committee at

Mother and child

Mother and child 3

Mother and child 4
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP

As 13 million in the Horn of Africa seek food assistance, aid workers are facing unique political and logistical challenges in helping an estimated 3.7 Somalis facing the threat of malnutrition and starvation.
While international organizations such as UNICEF and UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, work with local governments to provide aid in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Somalia — large tracts of which are lawless, ruled over by warlords and Islamist factions — presents difficulties for distribution and for adequately reaching those in need.
In Mogadishu alone, the World Food Programme feeds over 300,000 people each day, but many of the areas in the southern part of the country may never be reachable for aid workers as the Islamist group Al-Shabaab has largely barred humanitarian efforts for the past year and a half.
Anti-Western sentiment doesn't simply threaten aid distribution in Al-Shabaab controlled areas, but in the capital Mogadishu as well. The WFP has had to adjust its standard program of providing month-long rations in favor of daily soup kitchen-style "wet feeding centers," Challiss McDonough, the World Food Programme's senior spokesperson for east, central and southern Africa, said . "Sometimes it would be dangerous for people to take food home: someone may try to steal it, or they may even be punished for getting it." But with these feeding centers and more specialized "targeted supplementary feeding" centers (which provide nutrition supplements intended for malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers) the WFP is able to reach much of the needy.
(Famine in Somalia: How Do You Feed Four Million Hungry People? Posted by Everett Rosenfeld, a TIME contributor Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 2:00 am at

Somali child from southern Somalia holds his brother
Making their way to the internally displaced camps
Mogadishu, Somalia
Friday, July 08, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP

Women and children from southern Somalia
A malnourished child from southern Somalia
Shelter in a destroyed building in Mogadishu, Somalia
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP

Somali refugees lead their herds of goats home for the night
Outside Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rebecca Blackwell / AP

The frame for a makeshift shelter
Thorny acacia tree
On the outskirts of Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rebecca Blackwell / AP

A family from southern Somali
Making their way to the internally displaced camps
Mogadishu, Somalia
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP

The head of the U.N. refugee agency said Sunday, July 10, 2011 that drought-ridden Somalia is the "worst humanitarian disaster" in the world after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp.
The Kenyan camp, Dadaab, is overflowing with tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees forced into the camp by the parched landscape in the region where Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya meet. The World Food Program estimates that 10 million people already need humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children's Fund estimates that more than 2 million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action.
Antonio Guterres, the head of UNHCR who visited Dadaab on Sunday, appealed to the world to supply the "massive support" needed by thousands of refugees showing up at this camp every week. More than 380,000 refugees now live there.
The fragmented country of Somalia is no stranger to conflict and the last two years of fighting has increasingly taken a toll on the lives of everyone in the country, especially the children. Somalia is quite literally a raging battle ground, as fighting in the country continues, as insurgents exchange fire with the Somali government, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers.
Not only is Somalia a lawless land of conflict, but it is one of the worlds harshest places to live environmentally, and the countries strong culture of pastoralism (nomadic way of life) on increases the impact on a child’s chances of survival. A Somali child has less chance of living to adulthood than a child in any other part of the world. The high child mortality rates are rooted in a number of causes, mainly due to primarily preventable diseases, dehydration, malnutrition, lack of safe water, and poor sanitation. Not only is a child’s future hindered by health, but only one in five children actually receive any form of education. Many children are left the primary or sole caretakers, and with low literacy rates the future is far from hopeful for most. (UNICEF)
(Will we remember by SomaliaCassandra Clifford at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


“It won’t last. She’ll dump him in a month.”.....
Prediction is one of the pleasures of life. Conversation would wither without it. If you’re wrong, no one will call you on it, because being right or wrong isn’t really the point. The point is that you think he’s not worthy of her, and the prediction is just a way of enhancing your judgment with a pleasant prevision of doom. Unless you’re putting money on it, nothing is at stake except your reputation for wisdom in matters of the heart. If a month goes by and they’re still together, the deadline can be extended without penalty.
“She’ll leave him, trust me. It’s only a matter of time.” They get married: “Funny things happen. You never know.” You still weren’t wrong. The marriage is a bad one—you erred in the right direction—or you got beaten by a low-probability outcome.
(Louis Menand at
Wrong judgment exists everywhere, and within every culture. It would be far better to leave the money in the pockets of those who had earned it, than to waste money on wrong judgment. We are all the same, and that no one has a right to judge another publicly.
Millions upon millions of people, work for money which is being spent to invade people's privacy and judge such basic privacy as who we may or may not have had sex with. Millions has been spent attempting to hide who we have had sex with. The simple reality is that if we were not judged, we would not be vulnerable, and we would not attempt to cover the truth, and others, for a variety of reasons, would not seek to uncover the truth.
If there was no judgment, hiding or uncovering the truth would be unnecessary and millions of dollars would be saved. All judgment is based upon fear, whilst we continue to live in a fear based environment, and whilst we continue to feed such an environment with our political and moral judgment, our fear based environment will never change.
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) has several reasons for thinking that human judgment is unreliable, and needs to be guided by science. Our judgments tend to be distorted by self-interest or by the pleasures and pains of the moment. We may share the same basic passions, but the various things of the world affect us all very differently; and we are inclined to use our feelings as measures for others. It becomes dogmatic through vanity and morality, as with “men vehemently in love with their own new opinions…and obstinately bent to maintain them, (who give) their opinions also that reverenced name of conscience” (Leviathan, vii.4). When we use words which lack any real objects of reference, or are unclear about the meaning of the words we use, the danger is not only that our thoughts will be meaningless, but also that we will fall into violent dispute. (Hobbes has scholastic philosophy in mind, but he also makes related points about the dangerous effects of faulty political ideas and ideologies.)
We form beliefs about supernatural entities, fairies and spirits and so on, and fear follows where belief has gone, further distorting our judgment. Judgment can be swayed this way and that by rhetoric that is, by the persuasive and “colored” speech of others, who can deliberately deceive us and may well have purposes that go against the common good or indeed our own good. Not least, much judgment is concerned with what we should do now, that is, with future events, “the future being but a fiction of the mind” (Leviathan, iii.7) and therefore not reliably known to us.
(Garrath Williams at
We cannot blame governments or politicians for the wrong judgments, because our governments reflect our choice to exist within a fear based environment. All that we can do is each of us can choose not to live in a fear based environment. Our governments will always continue to reflect our chosen environment, and the only way for us to change our collective environment, is for each of us to change our individual environment. Why do we waste our time judging others when the result is always the same? We are not bad, we are not foolish, we do not lack judgment, and we do not lack moral fiber. All judgment results in the truth that we are human. Regardless of how the media or anyone else chooses to describe their judgment, the result is the same. We are human.
Good judgment is no less of a concern for lay people. Today, as in years past, citizens have demanded it of their public officials, as fates and fortunes depend on leaders making prudent assessments and wise decisions in diplomatic, economic, ecological, legal, moral, military, and political affairs. Indeed, citizens consistently deem good judgment one of the most important and essential traits for elected officials and heads of state. Napoleon Bonaparte was half right to insist that “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” The real difficulty, of course, is to decide well.
Empirical studies demonstrate something we all know: people tend to exhibit self-serving biases when exercising judgment. That should give us pause whenever we contemplate bending or breaking rules. But the same brush can be used to tar principles and law. Certainly the history of moral and political philosophy no less than the history of legal institutions demonstrates that bias is no stranger to systems of thought and law. People exhibit partiality in the construction of “just” rules and the conceptualization of “fair” institutions no less than in their exercise of practical judgments. 
The French novelist Anatole France once observed that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” People gravitate toward standards of justice that best serve their own interests. For all its impartiality, law is not above prejudice and preference.
Notwithstanding great success in thwarting our own biases, we will not become good judges if we operate on the assumption that others are bias-free, are purged of common sources of error, or act out of straightforward, one-dimensional interests. That is to say, the good judge understands that the world is not populated by rational people, but by people who selectively employ rationality. In such a world, good judgment makes use of much more than reason.
Consider the story of the village idiot who preferred dimes to dollars. Offered the choice by neighbor or passerby, the lad would always select the shiny coin to the paper money. It appeared a blatant bit of bad judgment on the youth’s part. Clearly, he had lost his reason. As everyone likes to make fun, the lad’s reputation grew. Soon he was visited by peasants and princes from far and wide, each offering him a dime and a dollar, and each leaving with the dollar bill in hand and a good laugh to boot. Day after day, the misguided youth suffered the ridicule of scores of acquaintances and strangers. And at the end of each day, the lad wandered home with a large sack of coins. He reputedly died a very rich man.
The moral of the story is that good judgment is grounded on the insight that others often misjudge. To judge well, one must comprehend the subtle interplay of motivations and calculations, aversions and desires, passions and prejudices, beliefs and misbelieves that inform human thought and action. Practical judgment requires a thorough “knowledge of the human soul.” Such knowledge develops less from perusing books than from participating in worldly life. Good judgment is not so much gained in the classroom as in the school of hard knocks. Here, reason is but one of many players.
(The Heart of Judgment by Leslie Paul Thiele, University of Florida at