Wednesday, February 29, 2012

America: Iran is not the enemy, its the economy!

The fetish of certain hawkish elements in the American establishment for enemies - mostly imagined, sometimes real - remains undiminished.

Their latest enemy #1 is ofcourse Iran. Reasons?

First, Iran is set on a unstoppable course to develop nuclear bombs and drop it on Israel and the US. Second, it exports terror around the world and third that it supports brutal regimes and meddles in its neighbours' affairs.

There is no doubt that Iran has embarked on a nuclear program and there can be little doubt that the reasons are to develop a nuclear weapons capability. That they may end up using it for peaceful, domestic purposes such as nuclear power may be incidental.

So yes, they will eventually develop a nuclear bomb. But does that mean they will drop it over Israel or the US? We are told that the leadership in Iran - a couple of "maniacs" - is itching to wipe off Israel from the face of the earth. We were told the same things about the "maniacs" in the former Soviet Union, most of whom are now in their graves. And ofcourse, these "maniacs" are total "idiots" as well. They have no clue that Israel has nuclear capabilities that is far superior including armed submarines that can instantly inflict far greater annihilation in Iran, in response to an Iranian first strike. These "maniacs" obviously have not heard of the word "deterrent". That Iran will strike first, if and when it develops its nuclear bomb is entirely speculative.

Even if the above argument is not acceptable, I have an issue purely on the grounds of basic principles. What gives America, Israel or any of the current nuclear powers the right to stop Iran or any other country for that matter the right to develop its nuclear program? And for those countries that do not have nuclear capabilities, what right do they have to stop Iran or any other country for that matter and at the same time let the current nuclear powers continue to retain their capabilities? If it is good for one, it cannot be bad for others. If even one nation can have it, then every other sovereign nation must have the right to decide if they want it or not. And if it is bad for one, then it is bad for everyone else. Either the hypocrisy or the exclusivity must stop, we cannot have both.

Now, let's examine the claim that Iran exports terror. The persons drumming up this claim are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ably supported by certain sections of the media in the west. The basis of this claim are the three recent attacks on Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, Bangkok and in Tbilisi. There is little doubt these were carried out under instructions from Teheran. Within two days of the attack, Thailand charged two Iranians in what Thai intelligence officials said was a botched attempt to attack Israeli diplomats. There is no case for condoning these attacks, period. And then a few months ago, there was the bizarre incident of an Iranian Manssor Arbabsiar and his alleged handler Shakuri, who is described as a member of the Quds force, a special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, recruiting the Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US, on US soil. Duh!

Apart from these two incidents - one proven and most likely provoked by the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and the other unproven to date, there is very little that can be blamed on the Iranians. Over the past decade, there have been several hundred suicide bomb attacks around the world by Saudis, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Pakistanis, but never by an Iranian. so on the basis of these two isolated events, one of which is not proven, and the other an obvious (non-condonable) tit-for-tat, should we rush to paint Iran as a terror state, an exporter of terror to the world?

The third argument is that Iran meddles in the affairs of its neighbours. That it arms and supports the oppressive Assad regime in Syria. That the Hizbullah and Hamas are its proxies. That it does not have good relations with regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey. Most countries with regional and global ambitions have their "dirty tricks" departments, so does Iran. But it must be left to the affected countries to deal with Iran as they deem fit. In those cases, where they are unable to do so, the US must necessarily be part of a global consensus on how to deal with Iran. Unilateral action will only serve to box the US into a situation where the final recourse is military action.

The recent filibuster may help garner a few votes in the coming elections, but we have already seen the devastating effects of the flip side - galloping increase in the price of oil. So, to all the hawks out there, a grim reminder - America's biggest enemy and most clear and present threat is from its economy. A relentless war waged against a failing economy is what the American people deserve, not a third (after Afghanistan and Iraq) mindless, thankless war.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Original Cowboys?

If there is a discussion on inventions and discoveries with Indians of my generation or earlier, chances are you will be met with a "But we Indians already knew about it" or "this is mentioned in our Vedas/Ramayan/Mahabharat".

We had our vimanas (aeroplanes) long before the western world even figured out the Pythagoras theorem. Ravana, the King of (ancient) Lanka, had his private jet, in which he would visit his holiday and hunting destinations in India. He even used it as a getaway vehicle when he abducted Sita. Other Indian deities had their custom designed planes as well. Vishnu had Garuda (yes, this is where the Indonesian airline derives it name from) and Indra had Airavata (actually an elephant, who on occassion could fly as well).

And then we had Brahmastra - the original WMD/nuclear weapon. The Brahmastra never missed its mark and had to be used with very specific intent against an individual enemy or army, as the target would face complete annihilation. In the wrong hands, it could cause the end of the world, total destruction and extinction of all life.

So, did ancient Indians actually invent planes and nuclear weapons (no matter the technical differences with modern day equivalents)? Well, that is another article...

But what I can tell you with certainty is that India had its version of cowboys long before they propped up in the lands of America or were made famous by Louis L'Amour.

The early Rig Vedic Arya tribes were predominantly pastoral. They did have the concept of wealth and their currencies were cattle and horses. The importance of cattle to these people can be gauged from just one hymn, 28, of Mandala VI of the Rig Veda.

Verse 1 says:
THE Kine (cattle) have come and brought good fortune: let them rest in the cow-pen and be happy near us.
Here let them stay prolific, many-coloured, and yield through many morns their milk for Indra.

The fortunes of these people have a direct co-relation of their possession of cattle. The cattle were sheltered in separate cow-pens and it was important that were cared for - "happy near us". Their breeding in prolific numbers would have mattered as well, given that the cattle were the "wealth" of these people. Verse 6 enforces this thought further, "Prosper my house, ye with auspicious voices. Your power is glorified in our assemblies".

Tending well to their cattle is paramount, as suggested by verse 7:
Crop goodly pasturage and be prolific drink pure sweet water at good drinking places.
Never be thief or sinful man your matter, and may the dart of Rudra still avoid you.

The caretakers, made an effort to provide proper water, and guarded them from thieves and other that could cause them harm.

In Verse 3, it is clear that cattle rearing is their occupation. "The master of the kine (cattle) lives many a year with these (the cows), whereby he pours his gifts (milk and ghee) and serves the Gods (during a sacrifice)".

In the same verse,  their concern over protecting their wealth is conveyed. The Gods are propitiated that "These (the cows) are ne'er lost, no robber ever injures them: no evil-minded foe attempts to harass them". And then again, in verse 4, "These Cows, the cattle of the pious worshipper, roam over widespread pasture where no danger is".

Evidence of their dietary habits and dependence of cattle based food products can be found in verse 6, "O Cows, ye fatten e'en the worn and wasted, and make the unlovely beautiful to look on". Good beauty tip there for the ladies, any takers?

The corollary to owning wealth, is its protection, amassing, even hoarding. So there were battles and there were battles. With non-Arya tribes such as the Panis and within the Arya clans.

Hand-to-hand battles amongst small groups and fierce battles fought with spears and arrows with hundreds of men on either side. With the winner takes all of the "booty" and "spoil".

Verse 4 of Hymn 25, Mandala VI, provides us evidence of such hand to hand combat:
With strength of limb the hero slays the hero, when bright in arms they range them for the combat.
When two opposing hosts contend in battle for seed and offspring, waters, kine, or corn-lands.

Evidences of armed battles are too many to recount here, suffice to say they did occur in plenty. They obviously did not sling guns around their waist, but they did carry their own mean weapons - the spears, shafts and arrows.

So, these cowboys from ancient times, may not have donned on cowboy hats and boots, but sure as hell, they were there all those thousands of years ago. In a quirky way, parts of the Rig Veda do make interesting reading as would passages from a Louis L'Amour novel (needs a lot of imagination, but one could get there).