Reading List: “I am A Terrorist”

I often have allies and well-intentioned people asking me what they should be reading and watching and while I am not interested in serving as a “portal” for anyone, I don’t think it hurts to list some of the things that catch my attention during a week. You are always free to send me your recommendations as well.

I am A Terrorist” has to be the most powerful piece of writing I have read this year.

Books: Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage and The Revolution Starts At Home. You won’t find them on the New York Bestsellers lists but you should be reading these books.

Equality and the Limits of LGBT Politics by Urvashi Vaid is a critique of the word “equality” in the context of LGBT politics. I find it fascinating that from Jasbir Puar to Manish Vaidya to Yasmin Nair, queer South Asians seem to make some of the best critiques of the mainstream LGBT movement in the United States.

On a related note, Ifti Nasim, a pioneer gay Pakistani-American poet and activist just passed away at the young age of 64. Pick up a copy of Myrmecophile: Selected Poems, 1980-2000.

If you are interested in the politics of imperialism, check out Fuel on the Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, which is the first book to answer one of the largest unanswered questions of the U.S.-Iraq war: what happened to the oil?

Kemi Bello’s new poem, Battling Silence. It lays out her thoughts about the evolution of a  movement.

My friend Taz is visually curating political images from the American Desi Diaspora. I learned more browsing through it than I have learned in a class about Asian-Americans.

When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

(en) Libya Location (he) ????? ???

Image via Wikipedia

I have a question. When is the last time bombing a country with Tomahawk missiles freed a people? Was it in Vietnam, Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq?

Frankly, I have no idea what is going on in Libya. Qaddhafi claims the uprising is Al-Qaeda forces. The “rebels” — who are religious but claim not to be extremists — say they want “freedom” for Libya from the despot. The UN Security Council passed a resolution to intervene and now the United States, along with France and the UK, are bombing the country.

I can’t help but see a pattern here and coincidences with prior bombing campaigns.

Coincidence #1. Many say that Libyans asked for help and military intervention and that this is not an invasion like Iraq. Rather, that this is an “internationally sanctioned” intervention. The focus is on the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime, much like the 2003 war against Iraq focused on the actions of Saddam Hussein and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence #2: Supporters of the war against Libya also decry the irony that the bombing campaign on the country began on March 19, 2011 — the 8th anniversary of the war against Iraq. Obama could not have picked a better date to commemorate the anniversary.

Coincidence #3. There is an oil factor here as well. The United States was chummy with Saddam till he decided to nationalize his oil industry in the early 90s. That’s when the country started having problems with Hussein gassing the Kurds, with weapons supplied by the United States. Similarly, Libya used to be categorized as a “rogue” country for quite a while. That was until it moved to dismantle its weapons of mass destructed program and liberalize its economy and signed the near-billion dollar oil contract with BP oil, following Tony Blair’s visit in May 2007. Due to the uprising, BP had to suspend operations scheduled to start this year. The company has a lot to lose if it does not resume operations and there is some evidence that it has a lot of power with the British government. (Read up on the Lockerbie bomber).

Coincidence #4. The interests of our allied powers are not so pure so saying that the war is internationally sanctioned is not any excuse. As the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya supplies 10% of Italy’s gas needs and in return Italy is the second biggest arms seller to the Qadaffi regime. It supplies 10% of France’s oil and petrochemicals and in return France is the biggest seller of arms to the Qadaffi regime. Finally, the BP (a UK-based oil company) investment in Libyan oil $2 billion and in return the UK was the third largest seller of weapons to the Qadaffi regime. Knowing that, I’m supposed to believe that when the UK and French used Italian airbases to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, they did so with the purest and most humanitarian of motives, much like the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq.

I’m not saying that this is a war for oil. Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh forewarns that there is strong evidence that the powerful interests vested in war and militarism actually use oil as a pretext to justify military adventures in order to derive higher dividends from the business of war such as defense contracting.

I’m saying that our interests are not as clear and convincing. The United States, France and the UK may have several different interests in attacking Libya, some taking precedence over others. The French interest may be the coming presidential election in France where Sarkozy is not a clear favorite to win re-election. There is a looming European economic crisis and an oil/gas crisis in the short term propagated by the internal turmoil in Libya does not sound appealing for any of the European countries involved in the war. The press says the UN Security Council vote was 10-0, but really there were major abstentions from Germany, India, Brazil and China. I guess they don’t have any interest in going to war with Libya.

If this is only for humanitarian purposes, it is unclear to me why intervention in Libyan affairs takes precedence over intervening in other countries with tyrants and despots as leaders. Why is the United States supporting anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya but not popular uprisings in equally undemocratic countries like Yemen, China, Iran, Bahrain and Sudan? Right now, Japan figures as more of a threat to the world and needs our help more than Libya but I do not see the same priority for the country. Maybe there is a simple answer to all this: it is easier to get rid of Qaddafi and almost everyone will be in a better place without any real objection from anyone.

I want to make it clear that there is no way I support Qaddafi but bombing Libya does not take place in a vacuum. There are economic and human costs involved, and as of now, it is unclear precisely what a successful bombing mission is supposed to achieve. No one is asking the people of Libya what they want to achieve from this. After all, their interests are the only thing that should matter in this new shock and awe campaign.

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'Illegal means Illegal' but not when it comes to Iraq

Today is the 5th anniversary of the war against Iraq, and downtown San Francisco is bustling with protesters, legal observers and cops trying to maintain crowd control and traffic congestion. I witnessed the arrest of two juveniles and police brutality against two cyclists before coming in to work on the legal support hotlines.

How is the war against Iraq linked to our concerns regarding immigration? First, the war in Iraq is illegal under the UN Charter, but the 'illegal is illegal' lobby does not seem to be up in arms. Why does the unauthorized cross-border migration of people draw more concern and uproar than the illegal invasion of a sovereign country followed by the slaughtering of thousands of innocent civilians? Why is there more focus on how much illegal immigration costs America than the social, economic, political and human cost of this illegal war? The issue of 'illegal immigration' is a distraction, a wanton distraction from the economic and political issues that really matter: lies told by the President in support of an illegal war, corporate crimes, the dire state of our health care and education system and so on.

Second, the war against Iraq is a failure, just like the war against 'illegal immigration' is likely to fail. We should have learned from the failures of the drug war that declaring war to solve social problems is not a successful mission. Both 'terrorism' and 'illegal immigration' are largely driven by poverty and political repression. Fighting terrorism with terrorism is a ludicrous idea, while the increased militarization against cross-border migrations does nothing to solve the core issues that encourage people to emigrate/immigrate.

Furthermore, with the existing shortage in the armed forces, it is the minority and immigrant communities that are disproportionately targeted by recruiters. One estimate proposes that 5% of people serving in the United States military are illegal immigrants. In fact, the first soldier to die in the Iraq War was Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. Over 109 foreign-born American soldiers, including Gutierrez, have been granted post-humous citizenship. It takes death on the battlefield to gain American citizenship–lets call this phenomenon "dead upon documentation."

Even under the DREAM Act, one of the stipulations of the bill is that serving in the military instead of going to college also qualifies undocumented students for a U.S. green card. Of course, they would probably still deport your parents even if you die serving in the United States armed forces.

Biking against the War in Iraq

Yep, so who else is up to this? I will probably do the one in Downtown SF.

Details on the two actions below. All info available at

or email us about bike stuff at

Meeting for cyclists Sunday 3/9
2pm at the Blue House (3208 Shattuck at Woolsey, Berkeley, Ashby Bart)
This is also a bike decorating party.
Lotsa fun and get plugged in to the two actions below.

March 15th in Richmond
No War. No Warming. No Chevron Expansion!
Ride in solidarity with the people of Richmond against the expansion of the
Chevron Refinery.
Chevron is refining over a million barrels of stolen Iraqi oil in Richmond a
month, and actively lobbying for the privatization of Iraq¹s oil fields.

11 AM Rally at Carroll Park in Richmond
1 PM March and Bike Train to Chevron Refinery
Bike Posses also leaving Richmond Bart at 10 AM, 11 AM, and !2PM.

March 19th in downtown SF
Actions against war profiteers and government offices
Bikers meet at Justin Herman Plaza at 7:30, 9:00, and 11 AM