... in war

(infidels) كافر

12 Dec 2007 | 345 words | music war iraq stupidity

So i have been nosing around in some of the more obscure corners of the interwebs in the last couple of days and have come across a disturbing number of places where people are proudly proclaiming to be infidels (as in كافر – kuffar). See for an extremely stupid proclamation here.

Now of course there is nothing wrong with being a k�fir (i do qualify as one myself) but it strikes me as rather stupid to aggressively advertise the fact, especially if you are an occupation soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. Seems like some of them see this otherwise and run around sporting this patch:

[found via danger room’s superb ‘most awesomely bad military patches‘ series. (see my favorite patch here)].

The sorry state of mind of the wearers of this patch is probably best expressed by the lyrics of the song ‘Christmas in Fallujah‘. This masterpiece is performed by someone called ‘Cass Dillon’ but has been written and composed by Billy Joel (of ‘We did not start the fire‘ fame). Apparently Billy Joel got ‘inspired’ by letters he received from American soldiers stationed in the sandbox and this has resulted in some of the most crude lyrics ever:

It’s evening in the desert

I’m tired and I’m cold

But I am just a soldier

I do what I am told

We came with the crusaders

To save the holy land

It’s Christmas in Fallujah

And no one gives a damn


We came to bring these people freedom

We came to fight the infidel

There is no justice in the desert

Because there is no God in hell

Not sure what to say about this apart from the fact that this probably explains why the Americans still do not get what they are doing in Iraq and that you can’t really blame the Iraqis for blowing them up. Somebody better tell them that the crusaders are not exactly popular in much of the Middle East and that the most likely location of the ‘holy land’ is about 880 kilometers to the west for Fallujah.

Defiance chocolate bars

26 Nov 2007 | 265 words | iran food israel war united states

While traveling through Iran there are very little signs of the looming crisis over Iran’s alleged nuclear arms programme. There are a couple of down-with-the-U.S.A murals and posters here and there (but i believe they have been all over the place since 1978) and there is a fairly large number of anti-aircraft guns and rockets sticking out of the desert around the nuclear facility at Natanz. More interesting however is the fact that on a beautiful autumn day there are lots of Iranian families picnicking right in the shadow of the AA-guns, on the lawn in front of the facility (it appeared to me that the lawn was there for exactly of that reason).

Popular defiance to the threats of an attack in response to the alleged nuclear arms programme does not stop here: There is a brand (Anata/Jet) chocolate bars on sale in iran that depicts both a photograph of a F-15E Strike Eagle (on the box) and a drawing of a F-16 Fighting Falcon (on the wrapper):

Picture taken at a fresh fruit juice stall on the main street in Shiraz on 14-11-07

It is kind of remarkable (and maybe a good indication of the schizophrenic split between the official anti-americanism/imperialism and the popular fascination with the American way of life) that one can market candy bars with the same planes on them that the US (and Israel for that matter as the the F-15/F-16 combination makes up the entire long range strike force of the IAF) will use to bomb the shit out of Iran, should they ever decide to attack Iran.

I like Sayoun Mesfin (Ethiopian FM)...

14 Nov 2007 | 120 words | food africa war occupation milk

… who just gave an interview on BBC world justifying (in the standard language of contemporary occupiers – ‘unavoidable collateral damage’, ‘regrettable loss of innocent lives’, ‘doing the uttermost best to avoid unnecessary suffering of the population’, ‘the terrorists are using women and children as human shields’, etc…) the controversial presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. At some point of the interview he pointed out that…

we have not gone into Somalia to drink milk but ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve peace [emphasis mine]

for some reason i can really relate to this. Having this particular expression makes the Ethiopians much more sympathetic to me (plus, of course their food is much more imaginative than Iranian food).

Wearing clown's hats in Beaufort castle

22 Oct 2007 | 543 words | israel lebanon occupation war movies film

Finally managed to source a copy of Beaufort (בופור) with english subtitles yesterday. Had been waiting to find a version that i could understand for a while and it was definitely worth the wait.

Beaufort tells the story of the last IDF unit occupying Beaufort castle in Southern Lebanon in the days before the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. It is one of the most impressive war movies i have seen in a while, also because it is the only war movie that i remember that does not show ‘the enemy’ (in this case the enemy is Hizbullah) at all. This seems to confuse some people a great deal, but i think it worked very well. As a whole, the movie does not really take a position on the israeli occupation policy but generally portrays the situation as fucked up and senseless, which works pretty well for me (plus i somehow like the look of the Mitznefet (a.k.a clown’s hats) that the IDF soldiers are wearing most of the time (picture here)).

When i was in Lebanon in May 2005 (exactly 5 years after the liberation of the south by Hizbullah) we went to visit Beaufort Castle (which apparently exists since roman times, but in its current incarnation is a crusaders castle). It occupies an amazing location, overlooking the southern end of the Biqa’a valley (to the North), the Golan heights (to the East), the South Lebanese Mediterranean coastline (to the West) and the north of Israel (to the South). According to the official beaufort movie website, it also overlooks Damascus but that is pretty much impossible if you ask me.

There is one particular exchange in in the movie that made me think back to our visit to Beaufort a lot. it is an exchange between Liraz, the young outpost commander and an unnamed combat engineer, who has just been send in to blow up the outpost so it won’t be of use to Hizbullah after the departure of the IDF:

Combat engineer: It will be quite a job blowing all of this up Liraz: I just can’t imagine it. Combat engineer: What is the problem? Imagine a mountain with no outpost Liraz: can’t Combat engineer: You got a girlfriend? Liraz: Why? Combat engineer: Answer me, i asked a simple question Liraz: Yes i do Combat engineer: Imagine yourself with her. Here on the mountain, sunset, the most amazing landscape on earth. You are holding her hand, walking around with her, showing her: here was ‘green’, the observation post, here was the gate. She looks around and all she sees is nature, a tourist attraction, no sign of any of this, paradise. Liraz: I just can’t picture this. Combat engineer: It will come, don’t worry…

Now the irony is that these days the place looks pretty much the way that the combat engineer described it (although there are some remains of the outpost, that serve as some kind of memorial of the Israeli occupation) but that a real-life Liraz and his girlfriend will probably never have the opportunity to go there in their lifetime as the IDF has caused way too much harm in Southern Lebanon for any Israeli to be welcome there any time soon…

People are not going out anymore so they are staying home looking in the mirror...

14 Jul 2007 | 132 words | banking lebanon fashion war advertisement

Have missed this when i was in lebanon in april, but nat pointed this out the other night. the first national bank of lebanon has launched a plastic surgery loan programme (‘Beauty is no longer a luxury….’):

the BBC is reporting that this whole thing is a reaction to the tense political situation in Lebanon:

“We like to look our best… There are people who see this loan as their life raft,” Mr Nasr said.

Local media say the tense political climate and fears of another devastating war with Israel have not curbed Lebanon’s infamous urge for cosmetic enhancement, with demand increasing up to 20% since 2006.

“People are not going out anymore so they are staying home looking in the mirror,” industry representative Dr Nabih Sader told the Daily Star newspaper.

The war is over...

31 Mar 2007 | 134 words | war israel lebanon beirut advertisement banking photos

… and everybody is talking about the next war. seems to somehow involve iran, the US, israel, the valet parkers, Syria and Lebanon, but there is neither real agreement about the constellation nor does anyone come up with a credible motivation for someone to attack the others or the other way around (except maybe for the US to attack Iran). Meanwhile last summer war has once again (see here for last years favorite ad) been picked up by the advertising industry, this time in the form of an billboard-advertisment for a teenagers credit card, which seems to be inspired by this years world press photo (which caused quite a bit of confusion after it won the award):

Bank Audi teen master-card billboard in downtown Beirut

World press photo 2006 by Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Christian(?) Hezbollah youth

02 Jan 2007 | 600 words | lebanon war travel european union development israel

We spend all day today in south Lebanon, which is not as badly destroyed as i had thought (sometimes it is a bit difficult to tell if a ruin is the result of the local culture of leaving lots of buildings unfinished or of an israeli air raid). Some of the villages seem more or less undamaged, while others look like it has been attempted to raze them from the ground for good. We spend some time in Bint Jebel, where the entire center of the the village is in ruins (the place saw intense house to house fighting during the war) and then went on to Khiam, to see (what is left of) the prison. I had been to the prison in khiam during my last trip so the destruction here was visually much more revealing as i had a pretty good memory of how the place looked one and a half years ago. Basically the entire prison is reduced to rubble (There is one cell block left). looks like this has been an convenient opportunity for the IDF to get rid of this rather dark episode of their history.

The only other visitors were a group of young fashionable men from beirut who were posing in the ruins with a hezbollah flag, which looked rather stupid given that about as likely to be hezbollah supporters as one is likely to find beer in Khiam. at some point it looked like they were actually trying to imitate a certain historical scene (which if memory does not deceive me was also fake), but i doubt they were aware of this:

For the rest the area is absolutely overcrowded with UN peacekeepers, who seem to have nothing better to do than drive water trucks through the narrow streets and go shopping. Not sure how this is supposed to help. Also the European Commission has embarked on repairing the street lights in the entire area, which they emphasize by putting up informative hoarding and putting stickers with the EU flag on every lamp post (pictures to follow, the upload speed here is horrible). This is of course against the background of schools, houses, roads and pretty much everything else needing repair. I wonder who sets the priorities at the EU and who seriously believes that stickers on lamp posts will give Europe a good name in this part of the world

Update: Pictures after the jump:

So apparently the European Commission has decided that the most urgent thing to do in South Lebanon is repairing the street lamps. i am not entirely sure if this prioritization does make much sense to the local population, they would probably be more happy with houses or schools being repaired or more resources dedicated to de-mining and disposal of unexploded cluster munitions. but then development/humanitarian aid is characterized by the fact that the donor sets the priorities and not those who are supposed to be in need of the help….

However in south lebanon the street-lamps come equipped with a poster of either Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah) Musa al-Sadr (Amal), the logo of either of the two organizations or the portrait of a resistance fighter fallen in combat. (‘martyr’ in the local lingo) not sure if the EU commission was aware of this fact before taking the decision to repair these very street lamps …

… and as the EU is very keen on showing all the god work they are doing, these very street-lamps now sport stickers of EU flags. gives you the impression that the EU is sponsoring the poles that hold the Hezbollah posters.

Europe is so 20th century ...

17 Nov 2006 | 118 words | europe china modernity movies war

… coming home form the (opening of the going to be) excellent mycreativity event/conference/meeting i stopped by the shoarma place around the corner from my house. The egyptian guy who runs the shop was in chatty mood and somehow we ended up discussing Syriana which he described as…

… a film about the CIA and the Arabs (sic!) fighting about influence about the enormous oil resources of the Persian gulf

… form there our discussion went towards describing how much of a mess this confrontation and between ‘the Arabs’ and ‘the Americans’ had caused and when he handed me my shoarma he concluded the discussion by stating:

but who is going to keep this in check? the Chinese?

Enemy against all mankind: Dr. Liang

21 Oct 2006 | 183 words | piracy terrorism war india

Last weekend saw the third edition of dictionary of war. this project is currently collecting 100 concepts on the issue of war, which are presented by scientists, artists, theorists and activists at four events in Frankfurt, Munich, Graz and Berlin. Among those presenting in Graz was Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore who did an absolutely stunning presentation titled ‘Hostis Humani Generis‘ in which he links concepts developed in the fight against piracy in todays wars against terrorism and piracy (as in file-sharing). here is the abstract…

Abstract wars demand abstract enemies, and the Hostis Humani Generis (or the enemy against all mankind) is a title that has been bestowed on a host of figures; starting with the pirate and now the terrorist, I seek to understand the links between property, piracy and terrorism and propose that the concept of Hostis Humani Generis helps us understand the idea of war as a continuation of property by other means.

… but you should absolutely download the 30 minute video of the presentation (and of course watch it once it is downloaded).


11 Sep 2006 | 134 words | terrorism war airtravel

So it is 5 years since the start of the war on liquids terror today. the amount of attention given by the media to the events 5 years ago is quite sickening (spiegel online has a 5 years ago at this time …. ‘… mohammed atta woke up‘ / ‘…the first plane crashed in the first tower’ / ‘…the 2nd tower fell down’ feature on their site, that gives me the impression that they would like something like this to happen again as it conveniently makes everybody into a sucker for news and that is good for their advertising revenue).

Maybe the most complete summary of the whole situation was made by ‘sddd’ in the comments section of my blog post about my 9/11 lamp:

the person in that plane can suck my dick.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: