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The Return of the Native

Thoughts on The Return of the Native A British immigrant reluctantly decides to escape the tumult of Trump’s America By Rebecca Mead The New Yorker, August 20, 2018...

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Opinion Pieces at the News International Pakistan

Uncertain Future – Published on Sept. 1, 2021

The rapid collapse of the US-supported government in Kabul and take over by the Taliban has taken everyone by surprise. The US was caught entirely flatfooted. Having just evacuated the last of its troops from the country, it was forced to send back thousands of soldiers to run the largest evacuation operation in recent memory. Even the Taliban themselves were not expecting to be in a position of governing the country so soon.

Tens of billions spent by the US government in training and establishing a professional military in Afghanistan seemed to have been for naught. President Ashraf Ghani himself took a convenient flight out of the country to the horror of the US leadership. Read More…

In Memoriam – Aftab Hassan Usman (1954-2021) – Published on August 25, 2021

Aftab Hassan Usman (1954-2021): on August 6, I received a message from Seher Usman, my friend Aftab Usman’s daughter, simply stating “Papa has passed away.” Aftab had been struck by the coronavirus just a few days earlier and had been hospitalized. I had remained in close touch with the family and was hopeful all would turn out fine. But, in the end that wasn’t to be. I lost one of my closest and dearest friends.

Our friendship went back over 50 years, from the time we had both been teenagers, studying at Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

Over these many decades, our lives took many twists and turns. Aftab moved to Brussels with his parents, and I went to Ankara for studies. Yet we always managed to keep in touch. Aftab built a successful career at a prominent public relations firm in Europe and then moved back to Pakistan in the 1990s. Read more…

Freedom – Published on August 18, 2021

Of the many ideas that loom large in the American psyche, the notion of freedom is close to the top. We hear too often utterances such as “we are a free country,” or “we are free to choose”. Not only do Americans believe they are a free country, but the implication is that others are not or at least not as free, liberal democracies of the world included.

It is worth reflecting on whether there can be such a thing as absolute freedom in a modern, civilized society. America itself is full of examples where the government or some administrative body mandates certain behaviors. For example, one cannot drive a car without a valid drivers’ licence, or without car insurance. Wearing seatbelts is also required by law. When driving on a public road, one must drive on the right-hand side. Without some restrictions, motorized travel itself would be impossible. Read more… 

American Exceptionalism – Published on August 4, 2021

On Tuesday, July 27 the US Congress held the first hearing of the Select Committee set up to investigate the events of January 6, 2021. On that day a violent mob of Trump supporters assaulted the Capitol building resulting in injuries and even death of several civilians and police officers who were on duty to protect the building.

Four officers who were on duty on January 6 and were brutally assaulted by the Trump sign- carrying mobs testified before the Select Committee. They recalled in great detail what they had endured at the hands of the mob. The entire spectacle was carried live on TV across the world. There probably isn’t another such destructive act of insurrection that has been better documented in recent times. Read more…

American Wars – Published on July 21, 2021

With US forces almost entirely out of Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent again. All indications are they may be headed for an outright military victory against the regime in Kabul. However, it is encouraging to see talks at reconciliation between the two groups in Doha. Any attempt by either group to exercise total control over the country could only lead to further violence.

Sadly, after the exodus of the Soviet army in the early 1990s, infighting between various Afghan groups caused widespread death and destruction and led to the takeover by the Taliban. Read more…

Reading the Reality – Published on July 7, 2021

After 20 years of conflict and nation-building efforts, the US is now on its way out of Afghanistan. With the shutting down of the US military base at Bagram, the deal is more or less done. A war that began shortly after the 9/11 attacks on US soil is coming to a close.

While dislodging the Taliban government took no more than just a few weeks, what came after turned out to be far more complex. President Bush had explicitly stated the US would not get involved in nation-building, which is exactly what it got sucked into, followed by its instinct of trying to set up a democratic structure in a country hardly equipped for it. We once again learned that just because a government is democratically elected it does not mean it can operate as a democracy. Read more…

American Leadership – Published on June 23, 2021

Last week, Joe Biden concluded his first overseas trip since becoming president. He chose to travel to Europe where he met with leaders of the European Union and heads of key Nato allies.

There was much relationship rebuilding that was needed after four years of the previous administration. According to one prominent magazine, “for four years the US engaged in kicking sand into the eyes of key allies.” Biden recognizes the value of important alliances as the US tries to deal with rising threats from Russia and China. Read more…

Reckoning with History – published on June 9, 2021

Last week, US President Joe Biden visited Tulsa, Oklahoma to publicly acknowledge the 100th anniversary of one of the worst massacres of Americans of African descent in US history.

On May 31st a century ago, a white mob descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, one of the most prosperous areas in the country inhabited by the Black community. At the end of two days, the entire neighborhood was burned to ashes, 300 or so Black people killed, and thousands moved into internment camps. More than 30 city blocks were razed to the ground. What exactly happened on that day was erased from collective memory. No public discussion or debate ensued, and no one was ever prosecuted. Read more…

On Israel and Palestine – Published on May 26, 2021

Joe Biden came into office wanting to focus on key US foreign policy priorities – checking China’s rise, and mending fences with Western allies.

Getting involved in the Middle East, and particularly the Israeli-Palestinian issue, was not on his agenda. Yet when hostilities between Israel and Hamas broke out, he was forced to get involved. It became clear to Biden that the standard US presidential talking point – ‘we support Israel’s right to defend itself’ – would not suffice.

The whole world was watching the lopsided balance of power, and death and damage to innocent civilians in Gaza. Rockets fired by Hamas into Israel were mostly intercepted by the US taxpayer-funded ‘Iron Dome’. A few got through, killing 12 people. Read more…

Six Months – Published on May 12, 2021

The six months since November 2020 US elections have been among the most eventful, and not always in a positive way.For the first time in American history, the losing candidate refuses to accept the results, continuing to propagate the lie that he actually won. This is the kind of behavior often seen in immature, third world democracies – not expected from the self-proclaimed oldest democracy

An even bigger surprise has been the cult of supporters that has formed around the persona of the corrupt and lying former president. Anyone from within his Republican Party who has called out the lie has been shown the door. A very high percentage of the 74 million who voted for him continue to buy into his lies. Court after court has rejected claims of voter fraud and yet the big lie continues, amplified by the right-wing echo chamber. Read more…