Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas reading

Here are some more or less depressing pieces for passing the long Yuletide evenings.

1. Jersey might be going bust. (That's Jersey in the Channel Islands.)

2. All is not well for Christians in China, from a 'cross removal campaign' to the 'five entries and five transformations' and beyond.

3. Afghanistan has some bad stories too. There was "a US counterterrorist operation in January 2002. US Central Command in Tampa, Florida ... sent in a Special Forces team by helicopter; the commander, Master Sergeant Anthony Pryor, was attacked by an unknown assailant, broke his neck as they fought and then killed him with his pistol; he used his weapon to shoot further adversaries, seized prisoners, and flew out again, like a Hollywood hero.

As Gopal explains, however, the American team did not attack al-Qaeda or even the Taliban. They attacked the offices of two district governors, both of whom were opponents of the Taliban. They shot the guards, handcuffed one district governor in his bed and executed him, scooped up twenty-six prisoners, sent in AC-130 gunships to blow up most of what remained, and left a calling card behind in the wreckage saying “Have a nice day. From Damage, Inc.” Weeks later, having tortured the prisoners, they released them with apologies. It turned out in this case, as in hundreds of others, that an Afghan “ally” had falsely informed the US that his rivals were Taliban in order to have them eliminated. In Gopal’s words:

The toll…: twenty-one pro-American leaders and their employees dead, twenty-six taken prisoner, and a few who could not be accounted for. Not one member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda was among the victims. Instead, in a single thirty-minute stretch the United States had managed to eradicate both of Khas Uruzgan’s potential governments, the core of any future anti-Taliban leadership—stalwarts who had outlasted the Russian invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban years but would not survive their own allies.

Gopal then finds the interview that the US Special Forces commander gave a year and a half later in which he celebrated the derring-do, and recorded that seven of his team were awarded bronze stars, and that he himself received a silver star for gallantry."

4. What about some beautiful inter-species friendships to cheer you up after all that depressing stuff? ""Predator and prey animals are already set up to know how to read each other,” said Donna Haraway, the author of When Species Meet. “Predators read prey animals incredible well, because it’s how they get dinner. And prey animals read predators very well, because it’s how they avoid becoming dinner.”" Nonetheless, there's an ""80-85 percent chance” that Amur will end up eating his new friend",

5. Still, at least we don't live in 1177 B.C., the year civilisation collapsed.

6. Even thinking about libraries can turn the mood sombre: "We are intrinsically nostalgic animals for whom mourning is a form of recognition. Our preferred genre is the elegy." So says Alberto Manguel in the TLS.

And on that uplifting note, I wish you a very merry Christmas.

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