Imran Khan

On the comeback trail with Imran Khan

At 11am on May 25th, Imran Khan boards a helicopter in Peshawar, a city near the border with Afghanistan. Less than two months earlier, the Pakistani parliament had dismissed Khan as prime minister in a vote of no confidence. In the aftermath, he had rallied supporters across the country. (Recently the police began investigating him for terrorism offences for saying, at one of these demonstrations, that he would “not spare” a police chief and judges who had ordered the arrest and alleged torture of his chief of staff.)

Now his helicopter glides over thousands of his adherents in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road to Islamabad, the capital, where he plans to hold yet another rally. A campaign bus is waiting for Khan halfway to the city: a converted shipping container mounted on a truck bed, with a speaker’s platform on top and a seating area in a kind of capsule below. The container has been painted green, red and white, the colours of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), known as the PTI. This is the mobile-command centre of Khan’s “long march”, a motorised cavalcade he has organised in his populist bid to force the government to hold fresh parliamentary elections, which he believes he will win.

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The Fate of Abraham by Peter Oborne

The West’s scapegoats: the long history of Islamophobia

The journalist Peter Oborne once cherished a faith in British rectitude. His columns for publications including the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator marked him out as one of conservatism’s more erudite spokesmen. Then came Britain’s complicity in the invasion of Iraq – broadly supported by both Labour and the Conservatives – and the Labour government’s mendacity over the death in suspicious circumstances of its scientific adviser David Kelly. The double deception prompted him to renounce his beliefs: “I went mentally into opposition to the British state”.

In The Fate of Abraham he turns his attention to some victims of the system he has rejected: Muslims in Britain and abroad. Western civilization’s apologists divided Muslims into the “good”, who collaborated with the imperial project, and the “bad”, who resisted. As a religion with adherents spanning the globe, Islam could be targeted as a disruptive force in the Philippines in the same terms used to deride Muslims opposed to the royal family in Saudi Arabia or military regimes in Egypt. In this sense Muslims assume the role of communists during the Cold War: the enemy without and within. Oborne argues that the Cold War model is both wrong-headed and harmful.

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Review of Sensing Injustice Michael E. Tigar

Prestige and honor: the legal life of Michael Tigar

In 1920, Clarence Darrow, America’s great “defender of the damned”, told a Chicago jury, in defence of freedom of speech: “You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free”. Michael Tigar, in this account of his fifty years of legal practice, does not quote Darrow’s famous maxim, but he has surely lived by it.

After graduating first in his class at the University of California Berkeley School of Law in 1966, he embarked on a legal odyssey to defend victims of state persecution, from the free speech activists at Berkeley to the Chagos islanders displaced to make way for the American naval base on Diego Garcia. On the way, he represented nearly every American dissident whose name appeared on the FBI and CIA wanted lists. Despite the injustices Tigar witnessed, he retains his faith in American jurisprudence.

This memoir is also a modern history of American legal practice. In Tigar’s world there is no substitute for hard work, lengthy research of law and precedent, understanding the psychology of judges and juries, and putting the client first in all cases. For most of his career this has worked, though one of his regrets is that the government continues to use illegal electronic surveillance, despite statutes and judicial prohibitions against the practice. He has argued seven cases before the Supreme Court, and the reasoning in his briefs made their way into judicial history. He has taught law in California, Texas and elsewhere, assisted on cases in Africa and Israel, and written plays, including one about Clarence Darrow. Tigar is not self-effacing, admitting that one of his students wrote in an assessment that his ego was “as big as the Asian continent”.

Sensing Injustice is an adventure tale that makes the law seem as fascinating as any saga. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote that Clarence Darrow, “working through the law, brought prestige and honor to it during a long era of intolerance”. The same can be said of Michael Tigar…

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Cautivos & Quichotte

Anything Can Happen

Notions of authorship, creator, and creatures, as well as of love, folly, and imagination, dominate Salman Rushdie’s and Ariel Dorfman’s retellings of Don Quixote.

“I don’t think I understand what Don Quixote is about, and I don’t think anybody knows what Don Quixote is about.”—Keith Dewhurst, author of the play Don Quixote (1982)

Miguel de Cervantes concluded The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha in 1605 with a phrase in Italian from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso: “Forse altro canterà con miglior plettro” (Perhaps another will sing with a better [guitar] pick). While his book was selling in record numbers, Cervantes turned to short stories and pastoral poetry. In 1614 the pseudonymous Alonzo Fernández de Avellaneda published an unauthorized sequel to Don Quixote, prompting a furioso Cervantes to publish his own second volume of the novel a year later. Attributing its authorship, as he had that of volume 1, to the mythical Arab scholar Cid Hamet Benengeli, Cervantes exacted revenge. In chapter 70, devils battered the presumptuous Fernández’s manuscript with tennis rackets so “that the very insides flew out of it”:

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The Quiet Americans – LRB review

Hush-Hush Boom-Boom

Alexander Cockburn​ blamed Ian Fleming for the creation of the CIA. Without Fleming, Cockburn wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond novel, ‘the Cold War would have ended in the early 1960s. We would have had no Vietnam, no Nixon, no Reagan and no Star Wars.’ As adjutant to Britain’s chief of naval intelligence, Lieutenant Commander Fleming undertook a secret mission to Washington in May 1941. He was ‘whisked off to a room in the new annexe of the embassy, locked in with a pen and paper and the necessities of life’, a colleague recalled, and there he wrote, ‘under armed guard around the clock, a document of some seventy pages covering every aspect of a giant secret intelligence and secret operational organisation’. This, the CIA’s official history reports, was the genesis of ‘the nation’s first peacetime, non-departmental intelligence organisation’.

Fleming delivered the report to William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, a much decorated First World War veteran who had been lobbying Roosevelt to establish an American spy agency separate from the Navy, War and State Departments. A month later Donovan submitted his ‘Memorandum of Establishment of Service of Strategic Information’ to the president. It recommended an organisation that would collect and analyse information and make it available to the president as commander-in-chief, and would also disseminate propaganda. It made no mention of covert operations. Donovan acknowledged his debt to Fleming by presenting him with a .38 Police Positive Colt revolver engraved ‘For Special Services’.

Scott Anderson recounts the careers of four OSS agents whose underground war against the Axis turned into a crusade to ‘roll back’ communism in Eastern Europe and Asia. One was Frank Wisner, a corporate lawyer who enlisted to work in naval intelligence early in 1941. When the US entered the war he was consigned to the tedium of the navy’s cable and censorship office in New York. Donovan rescued him from that backwater at the end of 1943 and sent him to monitor OSS’s Balkan operations, which were directed from Istanbul. OSS Istanbul was running an apparently successful espionage network, Operation Dogwood, but its intelligence, especially about bombing targets, had become increasingly flawed. OSS had yet to discover that the Germans had captured, tortured and turned some of its agents. Wisner found a shambles in Istanbul, where everyone knew that the OSS chief, Lanning ‘Packy’ MacFarland, was an American spy. MacFarland’s two lovers were reporting to German and Soviet intelligence. At least eight of OSS Istanbul’s 67 agents worked for Germany, while one driver was reporting to the Soviets and another to the Turks. ‘For weeks,’ Anderson writes, ‘Wisner worked nearly around the clock to try to reorganise the OSS Istanbul office, and to salvage the Dogwood intelligence network.’ Nothing was worth saving, and Wisner began to build a new network. Then, on 23 August 1944, King Michael of Romania ended his alliance with Germany…

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Ruling Assange Can’t Be Extradited Is an Indictment of US Prisons

But the British court judgment, which is likely to be appealed, also delivers a body blow to freedom of speech.

My junior year high school English teacher liked to tell a story about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson to illustrate the differences between America’s two great transcendentalist writers. Thoreau was jailed in 1846 for withholding taxes that paid for the invasion of Mexico and protected slave owners. Emerson came to speak to Thoreau through the bars of his cell. My teacher, with theatrical flair and stentorian voice, recounted the conversation:

‘Emerson: “What are you doing in there, Henry David?”
Thoreau: “The question is, what are you doing out there, Ralph Waldo?”’

We might ask ourselves what we are doing out here while Julian Assange remains “in there” at Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in London…

Read Julian Assange In His Own Words

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Penn, Zenger, Assange

If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free

Like William Penn and John Peter Zenger, the Wikileaks founder is fighting for our freedom.

When the magistrate presiding last September at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, Vanessa Baraitser, confined the defendant to a bullet-proof glass cage at the back of the court, she had precedent on her side. All who entered her courtroom at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, had to pass a plaque memorializing a case against another defender of free speech and thought…

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Free Julian Assange

Biden’s Choice on Julian Assange and the First Amendment

Assange’s liberty represents that of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution.

When Joe Biden becomes president of the United States on January 20, a historic opportunity awaits him to demonstrate America’s commitment to the First Amendment. He can, in a stroke, reverse four years of White House persecution of journalism by withdrawing the application to extradite Julian Assange from Britain to the U.S. This would be in line with the departures from Trump policies Biden is proposing on health care, environmental protection, and tax fairness. Assange’s liberty represents the liberty of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution. We need and deserve to be protected against government control of the press.

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Julian Assange

The Unprecedented and Illegal Campaign to Eliminate Julian Assange

Assange would never receive a fair trial in the U.S., but he’s not receiving one in Britain either. Over the 17 days of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London, prosecutors succeeded in proving both crimes and conspiracy. The culprit, however, was not Assange. Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange’s right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

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Notes on isolation, from those who know it well

The window was sealed behind a sheet of solid steel. The door was locked. Thick chains bound one arm and one ankle. The room was bare apart from a thin foam mat for a bed and a plastic bottle to pee into. I was alone.

That was the summer of 1987, when Hizbullah was holding me hostage in Lebanon. They had many other hostages, but I didn’t see them. In fact, I saw no one. When a guard came into the room, I had to put on a blindfold so that I couldn’t identify him. The only conversations I had were a few interrogations, when I was also blindfolded. The questioning involved threats and verbal abuse, but mercifully no torture. As unpleasant as they were, they broke the monotony. The rest of the time left me thinking, remembering, imagining. One way of relieving the loneliness was to pretend that one or another of my children was with me, each on a different day. I made chess pieces out of paper labels on water bottles to play with each one. Sometimes I let them win, or they beat me outright.

Although I never saw daylight, I was acutely aware of time. Every morning when I woke, I reminded myself of the date and thought, “This is day ten (or whatever other number it happened to be) of my captivity – and my last.” The only idea that sustained my morale was that somehow I would escape. After 62 days, I did.

Now, there is no escape. Where would I go? Most of the planet is locked down.

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