I hope you are frequenting the regularly updated ZNet site -

We have recent additions on Angola, South Asis, of course the Mid East
including Judy Rebick's eyewitness diary, the terror war, and so on. And
we have added a section on conspiracy theory (critical of it, that is)
and a new debates page, too. 

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But mostly I am writing today to send you two essays - the latest
commentaries from Arundhati Roy and Norman Solomon...both written in
context of unfolding events in South Asia...


War Talk
By Arundhati Roy

When India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1998, even
those of us who condemned them, balked at the hypocrisy of Western
nuclear powers. Implicit in their denunciation of the tests was the
notion that Blacks cannot be trusted with the Bomb. Now we are presented
with the spectacle of our governments competing to confirm that belief.

As diplomats' families and tourists disappear from the subcontinent,
western journalists arrive in Delhi in droves. Many call me. "Why
haven't you left the city?" they ask. "Isn't nuclear war a real
possibility? Isn't Delhi a prime target?"
If nuclear weapons exist, then nuclear war is a real possibility. And
Delhi is a prime target. It is.

But where shall we go? Is it possible to go out and buy another life
because this one's not panning out?

If I go away, and everything and everyone - every friend, every tree,
every home, every dog, squirrel and bird that I have known and loved -
is incinerated, how shall I live on? Who shall I love? And who will love
me back? Which society will welcome me and allow me to be the hooligan
that I am here, at home?

So we're all staying. We huddle together. We realize how much we love
each other. And we think, what a shame it would be to die now. Life's
normal only because the macabre has become normal. While we wait for
rain, for football, for justice, the old generals and eager boy-anchors
on TV talk of first strike and second-strike capabilities as though
they're discussing a family board game.
My friends and I discuss Prophecy, the documentary about the bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireball. The dead bodies choking the river.
The living stripped of skin and hair. The singed, bald children, still
alive, their clothes burned into their bodies. The thick, black, toxic
water. The scorched, burning air. The cancers, implanted genetically, a
malignant letter to the unborn. We remember especially the man who just
melted into the steps of a building. We imagine ourselves like that. As
stains on staircases. I imagine future generations of hushed
schoolchildren pointing at my stain...that was a writer. Not She or He.
I'm sorry if my thoughts are stray and disconnected, not always worthy.
Often ridiculous.

I think of a little mixed-breed dog I know. Each of his toes is a
different color. Will he become a radioactive stain on a staircase too?
My husband's writing a book on trees. He has a section on how figs are
pollinated. Each fig only by its own specialized fig wasp. There are
nearly a thousand different species of fig wasps, each a precise,
exquisite, synchrony, the product of millions of years of evolution.
All the fig wasps will be nuked. Zzzz. Ash. And my husband. And his
A dear friend, who's an activist in the anti-dam movement in the Narmada
valley, is on indefinite hunger strike. Today is the fourteenth day of
her fast. She and the others fasting with her are weakening quickly.
They're protesting because the MP government is bulldozing schools,
clear-felling forests, uprooting hand-pumps, forcing people from their
villages to make way for the Man dam. The people have nowhere to go. And
so, the hunger-strike.

What an act of faith and hope! How brave it is to believe that in
today's world, reasoned, closely argued, non-violent protest will
register, will matter. But will it? To governments that are comfortable
with the notion of a wasted world, what's a wasted valley?

The threshold of horror has been ratcheted up so high that nothing short
of genocide or the prospect of nuclear war merits mention. Peaceful
resistance is treated with contempt. Terrorism's the real thing. The
underlying principle of the War Against Terror, the very notion that war
is an acceptable solution to terrorism, has ensured that terrorists in
the subcontinent now have the power to trigger a nuclear war.

Displacement, dispossession, starvation, poverty, disease - these are
now just the funnies, the comic-strip items. Our Home minister says that
Amartya Sen has it all wrong - the key to India's development is not
education and health but defense (and don't forget the kickbacks, O Best

Perhaps what he really meant was that war is the key to distracting the
world's attention from fascism and genocide. To avoid dealing with any
single issue of real governance that urgently needs to be addressed.

 For the governments of India and Pakistan, Kashmir is not a problem,
it's their perennial and spectacularly successful solution. Kashmir is
the rabbit they pull out of their hats every time they need a rabbit.
Unfortunately, it's a radioactive rabbit now, and it's careening out of

No doubt there is Pakistan sponsored cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.
But there's other kids of terror in the valley. There's the inchoate
nexus between jehadi militants, ex-militants, foreign mercenaries, local
mercenaries, underworld Mafiosi, security forces, arms dealers and
criminalized politicians and officials on both sides of the border.
There's also rigged elections, daily humiliation, "disappearances" and
staged "encounters."

And now the cry has gone up in the heartland: India is a Hindu country.
Muslims can be murdered under the benign gaze of the state. Mass
murderers will not be brought to justice. Indeed, they will stand for
elections. Is India to be a Hindu nation in the heartland and a secular
one around the edges?

Meanwhile the International Coalition Against Terror makes war and
preaches restraint. While India and Pakistan bay for each other's blood
the Coalition is quietly laying gas pipelines, selling us weapons and
pushing through their business deals. (Buy now pay later). Britain, for
example, is busy arming both sides. Tony Blair's "peace" mission a few
months ago was actually a business trip to discuss a one billion pound
deal (and don't forget the kickbacks, O Best Beloved) to sell Hawk
fighter-bombers to India. Roughly, for the price of a single Hawk
bomber, the government could provide one and a half million people with
clean drinking water for life.

"Why isn't there a peace movement?" western journalists ask me
ingenuously. How can there be a peace movement when, for most people in
India, peace means a daily battle: for food, for water, for shelter, for
dignity? War, on the other hand, is something professional soldiers
fight far away on the border. And nuclear war - well that's completely
outside the realm of most people's comprehension. No one knows what a
nuclear bomb is. No one cares to explain. As the Home minister said,
education is not a pressing priority. Part of me feels grateful that
most people here don't have any notion of the horrors of nuclear war.
Why should they, on top of everything else they go through, have to
suffer the terror of anticipating a nuclear holocaust? And yet, it is
this ignorance that makes nuclear weapons so much more dangerous here.
It is this ignorance, that makes "deterrence" seem like a terrible joke.

The last question every visiting journalist always asks me is: Are you
writing another book? That question mocks me. Another book? Right now?
When it looks as though all the music, the art, the architecture, the
literature - the whole of human civilization means nothing to the fiends
who run the world - what kind of book should I write?

It's not just the one million soldiers on the border who are living on
hair-trigger alert. It's all of us. That's what nuclear bombs do.
Whether they're used or not, they violate everything that is humane.
They alter the meaning of life itself.
Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate these men who use nuclear
weapons to blackmail the entire human race?

Arundhati Roy lives in New Delhi. She is the author of The God of Small
Things and Power Politics (South End Press).


By Norman Solomon

     American media outlets roused themselves from outright denial in
early June, spurred by belated warnings from top U.S. officials that a
nuclear war between India and Pakistan would kill millions of people.
The tone of news coverage shifted toward alarm. Meanwhile, atomic
history remained largely sanitized.

     "Even one military move by either of these nuclear-armed
neighbors," USA Today's front page reported in big type, "could set off
an unstoppable chain reaction that could lead to the holocaust the world
has feared since the atomic bomb was developed." The June 10 edition of
Newsweek includes a George Will column with a chilling present-day
reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis: "The world may be closer to a
nuclear war than it was at any time during the Cold War -- even October

     Yet when it comes to nuclear weapons, the mainstream American press
has scant emotional range or professional zeal to scrutinize the
progression of atomic perils. From the start of the nuclear era, each
man in the Oval Office has carefully attended to public relations, with
major media rarely questioning the proclaimed humanitarian goals.

     Making an announcement on Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry Truman did
his best to engage in deception. "The world will note that the first
atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base," he said. "That
was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as
possible, the killing of civilians."

     But civilians populated the city of Hiroshima -- as well as
Nagasaki, where an A-bomb struck three days later. Hundreds of thousands
died as a result of the atomic bombings. American military strategists
were eager "to use the bomb first where its effects would be not only
politically effective but technically measurable," Manhattan Project
physicist David H. Frisch recalled.

     For U.S. media, the atomic bombings of the two Japanese cities have
been pretty much sacrosanct. So, in 1994, a national uproar broke out
when the Smithsonian Institution made plans for an exhibit marking the
50th anniversary.

     Much of the punditocracy was fit to be tied. "In the context of the
time ... the bombing made a great deal of sense," Cokie Roberts said on
network television -- and, she added, raising critical questions a
half-century later "makes no sense at all." On the same ABC telecast,
George Will sputtered: "It's just ghastly when an institution such as
the Smithsonian casts doubt on the great leadership we were blessed with
in the Second World War."

     Columnist Charles Krauthammer, denouncing "the forces of political
correctness," wrote that the factual display on the museum's drawing
board "promises to be an embarrassing amalgam of revisionist
hand-wringing and guilt."

     Such intense media salvos caused the Smithsonian to cave in rather
than proceed with a forthright historical exhibition. Even five decades
later, a clear look at the atomic bombings was unacceptable.

     This summer, as the leaders of Pakistan and India ponder the
nuclear-weapons option, they could echo the punditry. After all, "in the
context of the time," they might conclude, an atomic bombing makes "a
great deal of sense," without need to question their "great leadership"
or engage in "hand-wringing and guilt."

     Back in 1983, a statement by U.S. Catholic Bishops perceptively
called for a "climate of opinion which will make it possible for our
country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.
Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to
repudiate future use of nuclear weapons."

     But American officials and leading journalists continue to be
highly selective with their repudiations. In medialand, a
red-white-and-blue nuclear warhead is not really a "weapon of mass

     Three months ago, the U.S. government's new Nuclear Posture Review
caused a nearly incredulous response from Pervez Hoodbhoy, a peace
advocate who is a professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in
Islamabad: "Why should every country of the world not develop nuclear
weapons now that America may nuke anyone at any time? The Bush
administration has announced that it views nuclear weapons as
instruments for fighting wars, not merely as the weapons of last resort.
Resurgent American militarism is destroying every arms control measure
everywhere. Those of us in Pakistan and India who have long fought
against nuclearization of the subcontinent have been temporarily
rendered speechless."

     What goes around has a tendency to come around. Washington's
policymakers keep fortifying the U.S. nuclear arsenal with abandon while
brandishing it against many other countries -- declaring, in effect, "do
as we say, not as we do." But sooner or later, such declarations are not
very convincing.


Norman Solomon is co-author of "Killing Our Own: The Disaster of
America's Experience with Atomic Radiation" (Delacorte Press, 1982). The
entire book is posted online at:

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