In a new piece for TomDispatch, Nick Turse, author of The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, reports on the Pentagon's relationship with a number of autocratic states in the Arab world.
Turse's analysis of Defense Department documents indicates that, since the 1990s, the United States has transferred large quantities of military material, ranging from trucks and aircraft to machine-gun parts and millions of rounds of live ammunition, to Bahrain's security forces. Turse urges us to "look closely and outlines emerge of the ways in which the Pentagon and those oil-rich [Arab] nations have pressured the White House to help subvert the popular democratic will sweeping across the greater Middle East":
According to data from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the government that coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment to allies, the U.S. has sent Bahrain dozens of "excess" American tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopter gunships. The U.S. has also given the Bahrain Defense Force thousands of .38 caliber pistols and millions of rounds of ammunition, from large-caliber cannon shells to bullets for handguns. To take one example, the U.S. supplied Bahrain with enough .50 caliber rounds—used in sniper rifles and machine guns—to kill every Bahraini in the kingdom four times over. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency did not respond to repeated requests for information and clarification.
In addition to all these gifts of weaponry, ammunition, and fighting vehicles, the Pentagon in coordination with the State Department oversaw Bahrain's purchase of more than $386 million in defense items and services from 2007 to 2009, the last three years on record. These deals included the purchase of a wide range of items from vehicles to weapons systems. Just this past summer, to cite one example, the Pentagon announced a multimillion-dollar contract with Sikorsky Aircraft to customize nine Black Hawk helicopters for Bahrain's Defense Force.
Visit TomDispatch to read the article in full.
The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan contributor Malalai Joya and Noam Chomsky will be speaking on the case for withdrawal on March 25 in Cambridge, MA. Visit BostonSocialism for more information.
John A. Hall's Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography is reviewed in the Prague Post, in an article which celebrates Gellner's humour and argues that in contemporary British academia "anyone as brilliant, obnoxious and interdisciplinary as Gellner would be sacked by academic managers."
They don't make intellectuals like Ernest Gellner anymore.
Gellner (1925-95), a ranging public intellectual in the grand Central European tradition, was raised in Prague's Dejvice district, but when the Nazis marched into the city, he and his family left for London, where they lived in a milieu of other Czech Jews. Gellner's life and work are presented by John Hall in Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography, the fruitful result of Hall's meticulous survey of the tomes of published and unpublished materials that Gellner produced. This is more an appreciation than a critical study of a legacy, but it does a fine job of putting Gellner in his historical context ...
On May 7, what would have been Perec's seventy-fifth birthday, Verso presented a lost classic: The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, published in English for the first time. Reviewer Jessica Freeman-Slade describes the book's strange provenance in a recent piece for [TK] Reiews:
In 1968 Jacques Perriaud of the Computing Service of the Humanities Research Center in Paris challenged artists to begin using computers in their work. But the challenge was greater than that: to challenge a writer to use the computer's "basic mode of operation as a writing device." Perriaud devised a flow chart—a visual representation of a computer algorithm—that might play out the different narrative options involved in asking one's boss for a pay increase. At that time, Georges Perec was a little-known writer ... What Perec did with Perriaud's challenge both engaged the rules of the challenge and simultaneously tore them down.
On the twentieth anniversary since the release of the Birmingham Six, Gareth Peirce, writing for the Guardian, details their wrongful convictions and the "simplest of stupidities" that secured their release.
On 14 March 1991 the Birmingham Six finally walked free. Today, 20 years on, it is vital to appreciate the horrifying detail of what happened to them, and how the truth was not acknowledged for 16 years. The annihilation of justice for others remains an ever-present spectre.
Assessing the widespread condemnation of the use of torture in extracting confessions following the case of the Birmingham Six, Peirce turns her gaze to the new Muslim suspect community, and asks "if we have, in fact, learned anything at all from our disgraceful past":