An Elegy for the News
"Health Ministry Statistics say that the incidence of abnormal births has increased 400-fold since 1991. The Iraqis also say that, all told, 1.7m children have died because of the various effects of UN sanctions." -- (The Economist, September 14th 2002, p 39)
Notice the date: a full year after 9/11, the Economist decides to publish a piece of the utmost interest in a casual and disinterested manner. What has been brewing under George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton (mainly), John Major and Tony Blair between 1991 and 2001 appears as though it had been the work of the previous year. Furthermore, the article occupies only three-quarters of the page, whereas the Economist constantly prints surveys of a dozen pages and briefings of three to four pages. Why this extreme economy? The Economist was a rabid supporter of the 'war' against Iraq: its willful neglect of the subject wears the aspect of a fig-leaf. It seems designed to play down the awful Iraqi deaths, and play up the American ones. No tragedy could compare to the American tragedy, however greater in scale. While we hear constantly about 9/11, we never hear about '91/'01 nine-eleven versus nine-one-oh-one.
Bill Clinton, mass murderer extraordinaire, is lionized by the media: a novel is written, then a play, a concert and finally an opera! He inherited the sanctions from his predecessor, and never lifted a finger to have them annulled. This sits oddly with his image of secular saint.
As far as I know, only one man has pointed out the holocaust for that is what it surely is and he is Norman Finkelstein. "As in the Nazi holocaust, a million children have likely perished," he observes in his book 'The Holocaust Industry, (London : Verso, 2000, p 148): " the United States and Britain forced murderous UN sanction on that hapless country [Iraq] in an attempt to depose him [Saddam Hussein]. As in the Holocaust, a million children have likely perished. [more than a million, as The Economist tells us]." Madeleine Albright, Clinton's lackey, went on television to say that the 'price is worth it'. And his partner in murder, Al Gore, has been rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize, a rapidly devaluing currency. Mass killers are anointed and beatified.
A note on civil society is essential at this point. One might wonder how a highly developed democracy could be capable of covering up and encouraging such gruesome violence. It would be of no surprise to John Keane, who observed: ""A highly developed civil society can and normally does contain within itself violent tendencies (Civil Society, (London: Polity Press, 1998), p. 136)."
And Robin Blackburn in his book on the Atlantic slave trade has observed: "Then again, the history of New World slavery, as I will try to demonstrate, shows that civil society, in a modern sense of the term, can itself powerfully - and, as it were, 'spontaneously' - contribute to highly destructive patterns of human conduct (The Making of New World Slavery, (London: Verso, 1997), p. 6)." We must not be deceived by the rhetoric of Europe or America: being powerful societies with superior military force, they are capable of sustained violence, both morally and physically, on a level unimaginable to lesser powers. And then to cover up the awful deed.
Contact with these murderers enhances one's prestige. Take Sir Fazle Abed and Mohammed Yunus of Bangladesh. They are on intimate terms with the Clintons and other assorted ruffians and this enhances their status (one of them has even been knighted). "Former US President Bill Clinton presented the Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award to Fazle Abed, Founder and Chairman of BRAC Bangladesh on September 27 at Carnegie Hall, New York," proudly announces the website of Microfinance Gateway. To receive an award from a man like Clinton must be a source of humiliation and degradation instead it bolstered Sir Fazle Abed's standing in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi media have never pointed out the fact of the Clintonian carnage in Iraq.
Then there's the other Clinton stooge from Bangladesh, Mohammed Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And how did he get the Prize? According to Wikipedia: "Former U.S. president Bill Clinton was a vocal advocate for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Muhammed Yunus. He expressed this in Rolling Stone magazine as well as in his autobiography My Life. In a speech given at University of California, Berkeley in 2002, President Clinton described Dr. Yunus as 'a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize [and] Ill keep saying that until they finally give it to him.'" To its credit, "The Economist stated explicitly that Yunus was a poor choice for the award, stating: '...the Nobel committee could have made a braver, more difficult, choice by declaring that there would be no recipient at all.'" But this is how careers are made: on the coat-tails of the infamous.
Meanwhile, the Democrats in America have found a hero in their hour of crisis, and have conveniently forgotten the holocaust mentioned by Norman Finkelstein. The news has been interred.
EXHUMING MORE NEWS
There have been four elections in Bangladesh since the toppling of the dictator General H.M. Ershad. Only the first was fair. But the international press (the local press never tells the truth) admitted to only one case of electoral fraud: that of 2008. The Economist observed: "Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed." In that election, turnout was 87% and in some constituencies 92%! General Ershad had passed his expert opinion (since he had rigged many an election and is close to the army) that the 2008 election was rigged.
Now, elections have to be rigged in Bangladesh: democracy must be seen to happen, even if it doesn't actually happen; hence parties must rotate. The western donors demand it: so they go along with the lies.
Like a gullible fool, I didn't believe it when a bureaucrat told me that the 2001 election had 'also' been rigged. But the thought persisted.
News of the rigged election of 1996 and 2001 was buried deep in an inaccessible article in the science and technology section of the Economist (February 24 2007, p 82): "One example concerns an analysis of the last three elections in Bangladesh. The 1991 election showed no strange results. For the 1996 election some 2% of results were problematic. And fully 9% of the results in 2001 failed the test. The 2001 election was fiercely contested. Yet monitors from the Carter Centre and the European Union found the election to be acceptably, if not entirely, free and fair. Tests like Dr. Mebane's one could provide monitors with quantitative estimates of exactly how free and fair an election has been...." The report was a citation of work by Walter Mebane and his team at Cornell. Never again has the Economist referred to this piece of information. The news has been interred.
And to think so many people died in political violence for rigged elections. Yet it all makes sense: western donors and our bureaucrats have taken it upon themselves to give Buggins his (or her) turn. It's all eyewash, for the consumption of the US and EU domestic audience, and our masses as well as our intelligentsia (except the bureaucrats, who are past masters at manipulation).
ET TU, FISK?
Physicists tell us that light bends when it approaches a powerful gravitational field, distorting the picture; it appears that the light of the news and of the truth similarly bends when approaching powerful interests. Western donors, governments and civil society alike will seldom allow citizens to be exposed to the luminous rays from distant lands where they do what they wish, unseen, unknown, and uncontrolled: notice the lens-like rise of the indymedia in reaction to the mainstream. Even prestigious journals like The Economist deflect the light of unholy deeds, and obscure third world countries like Bangladesh are rarely permitted to transmit events in their refulgent glory.
Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has contributed to The Danforth Review, Axis of Logic, Enter Text, Postcolonial Text, Southern Cross Review, Opednews.com, Left Curve, Mobius, Erbacce, Down In The Dirt and other publications. He is also a freelance journalist. He and his wife love to tour Bangladesh. You may find him at http://www.iftekharsayeed.weebly.com/