Killing people remotely: the fallout of the US war on terror

National Bird is a disturbing documentary. It isn’t new, having been made in 2016, but it outlines in stark detail the issues that are part and parcel of the drone program which the US has used to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and a number of other countries.

The use of remote killing was even seen recently after a bomb went off at Kabul Airport following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. There were boasts that two people responsible for the blast had been killed by a drone – only for the truth to emerge later.

And that was that the people killed were in no way connected to the blast. Using faulty intelligence and an over-quick finger, America had pulled the trigger again and killed innocents.

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The world has become the domain of liars

There’s a common element to much, if not most, of the news that flits across the TV screens: lies.

People attempt to add a touch of sophistry to lying, by trying to create classes of lies, but in the end it all adds up to the same thing: saying one thing when knowing that the opposite was correct.

One well-known example: the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, came to office promising a US$15 minimum wage for the country. He also promised to provide medical services for all and forgive at least a part of the billions in student debt.

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All the news (apart from the Middle East issue) that’s fit to print

The Saturday Paper — as its name implies — is a weekend newspaper published from Melbourne, Australia. Given this, it rarely has any real news, but some of the features are well-written.

There is a column called Gadfly (again the name would indicate what it is about) which is extremely well-written and is one of the articles that I read every week. It was written for some years by one Richard Ackland, a lawyer with very good writing skills, and is now penned by one Sami Shah, an Indian, who is, again a good writer. Gadfly is funny and, like most of the opinion content in the paper, is left-oriented.

The same cannot be said of some of the other writers. Karen Middleton and Rick Morton fall into the category of poor writers, though the latter sometimes does provide a story that has not been run anywhere else. Middleton can only be described as a hack.

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When will Michael Hayden explain why the NSA did not predict 9/11?

As America marks the 19th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers by terrorists, it is a good time to ask when General Michael Hayden, head of the NSA at the time of 9/11, will come forward and explain why the agency was unable to detect the chatter among those who had banded together to wreak havoc in the US.

Before I continue, let me point out that nothing of what appears below is new; it was all reported some four years ago, but mainstream media have conspicuously avoided pursuing the topic because it would probably trouble some people in power.

The tale of how Hayden came to throw out a system known as ThinThread, devised by probably the most brilliant metadata analyst, William Binney, at that time the technical director of the NSA, has been told in a searing documentary titled A Good American.

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Saudis want US to fight another war for them

On 3 August 1990, the morning after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Saudi Arabian government was more than a bit jittery, fearing that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would make Riyadh his next target. The Saudis had been some of the bigger buyers of American and British arms, but they found that they had a big problem.

And that was the fact that all the princes who were pilots of F-16 jets, considered one of the glamour jobs, had gone missing. Empty jets were of no use. How would the Saudis defend their country if Baghdad decided to march into the country’s Eastern Region? If Hussein decided to do so, he would be in control of a sizeable portion of the world’s oil resources and many countries would be royally screwed.
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The Rise and Fall of the Tamil Tigers is a third-rate book. Don’t waste your money buying it

How do you evaluate a book before buying? If it were from a traditional bookshop, then one scans some pages at least. The art master in my secondary school told his students of a method he had: read page 15 or 16, then flip to page 150 and read that. If the book interests you, then buy it.

But when it’s online buying, what happens? Not every book you buy is from a known author and many online booksellers do not offer the chance to flip through even a few pages. At times, this ends with the buyer getting a dud.

One book I bought recently proved to be a dud. I am interested in the outcome of the civil war in Sri Lanka where I grew up. Given that, I picked up the first book about the ending of the war, written in 2011 by Australian Gordon Weiss, a former UN official. This is an excellent account of the whole conflict, one that also gives a considerable portion of the history of the island and the events that led to the rise of tensions between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
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Methinks Israel Folau is acting like a hypocrite

The case of Israel Folau has been a polarising one in Australia with some supporting the rugby union player’s airing of his Christian beliefs and others loudly opposed. In the end, it turns out that Folau may be guilty of one of the sins of which he accuses others: hypocrisy.

Last year, Folau made a post on Instagram saying adulterers, drunkards, fornicators, homosexuals and the like would all go to hell if they did not repent and come to Jesus. In this, he was merely stating what the Bible says about these kinds of people. He was cautioned about such posts by his employer, Rugby Australia. Whether he signed any agreement about not putting up similar posts in the future is unknown.
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Sri Lanka faces more bloodshed ahead unless govt acts

Nineteen days before it marks a decade since the end of the civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils, Sri Lanka is again in turmoil following a co-ordinated series of bombings by Islamic terrorists on Easter Sunday, nine days ago.

The Sri Lankan authorities appear to have become quite lackadaisical in their attitude towards security on the island, given that so many people could be killed in what appears to be a well-organised bombing campaign with simultaneous blasts in different parts of the country, all aimed at Christians celebrating Easter.
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Kashmir is a problem that will never be solved

Kashmir has been a flashpoint in Indo-Pakistan relations since the two countries were formed in 1947 and was recently in the news, when a terrorist from Pakistan killed 40 members of the Indian Central Police Force.

The two countries are both nuclear powers and apparently had to be pulled back from the brink by the Americans for a second time, the first being in 1999.

There is a great deal of misinformation around the Kashmir issue and that’s why this piece is written, more for my own benefit than anything else. If you keep hearing lies and have no chance to hear the truth, one tends to believe the lie.
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Three weeks on, Pell supporters retain their blinkers

“It is a capital mistake to theorise without data.” Sherlock Holmes, the creation of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and still the most famous detective of fiction.

It is not surprising that nearly 20 days after after the verdict on Cardinal George Pell was announced, the Australian lobbyist Gerard Henderson keeps trying to cast doubt on the verdict. Henderson is a staunch defender of the Catholic Church and one who thinks he knows all about journalism – even though he is just a lobbyist who rallies to causes on the right of politics.

Henderson runs an organisation known as The Sydney Institute which he characterises as “a privately funded not-for-profit current affairs forum encouraging debate and discussion”. Two of the companies that supply those funds are the airline Qantas and the telco Telstra. There are other organisations that fund Henderson’s war against the left too.
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