Friday 17 May 2013


She saw him across the room almost at once. He stood apart from the rest of them, looking slightly bored and at the same time slightly amused, as though their gay chatter was beneath him, like the games of children.

For a moment, the rest of the room seemed to blur into a smear of light and noise, unnecessary and distracting. She shook her head slightly, and the illusion vanished. But there he was, next to the window, still with that slight aloof smile just touching his lips.

“You all right?” her cousin asked, her cousin, who had forced her to come along for this, to “draw her out of her shell” as she’d put it. “You seem kind of out of it.”

“I’m all right,” she said, shaking off the hand on her sleeve. Her cousin was tall and pretty and had nice long fingers with narrow manicured nails, not like her thick hands with their five stubby digits, like lumpy sweet potatoes. Come to that, she herself looked like a sack of potatoes, she’d thought, with her broad face and dumpy figure. She knew her cousin was doing her a favour by bringing her along to this party, and for a moment she keenly hated the older girl for that.

“I’m all right,” she repeated tightly. “It’s fine.”

Her cousin shrugged her elegant shoulders slightly and walked away to where some of her friends waited. She looked around the room – there was nothing there of the slightest interest there, nothing she would want to see a second time. Except for him, of course.

She glanced quickly at the window, almost convinced he’d be gone already, but he was still there, still leaning against the wall, watching. He saw her looking, and turned his head towards her, so that she turned quickly away, embarrassed. But when she looked again, from the corner of her eye, he was still watching her. Their eyes met. He nodded, slightly but unmistakably.

Something possessed her then, to walk up to him. It wasn’t the kind of thing she normally did, because if there was one thing she’d learnt during her life it was to efface herself as much as possible.

“Hi,” she said, her mouth dry with tension, and then found she had nothing more to say.

He nodded, again, and smiled, closed-lipped. “Hello. You’re new here?”

“Does it show that much?” she asked.

He shook his head ever so slightly, and his smile broadened. “No, I just saw that you didn’t seem to know anybody – except the young lady who you came with. A relation?”

“My cousin.” She started saying something more, about how she hadn’t wanted to come, but how her cousin had forced her, but bit the words back with effort. “She has her friends,” she finished, lamely.

“And you are not from hereabouts?” He had an accent, slight but distinct. “Not from this town?”

“No, I’m visiting.” She wanted to tell him about how her parents had died in the car smash-up, both of them, and how the house had gone, and that her cousin had taken her almost like a charity case, a bit of do-gooding, though the older girl would never admit it. After all, she was eighteen, and too old to whine to strangers, even if they were fascinating. “I won’t be staying too long,” she said, almost defiantly.

His eyes twinkled. They were rather nice eyes, set in his face which was regularly formed and symmetrical rather than attractive. She tried to guess how old he was. Twenty-five? Older than the rest in the room, certainly. “I’m a stranger myself,” he said. “You could keep me company for a little bit so it doesn’t get too lonely for us.”

She glanced over her shoulder at her cousin, but she couldn’t see her through the knot of her friends. A couple of them glanced over their shoulders, though, and there was a sudden shout of laughter. She wondered what they were saying. Her nostrils twitched at an unfamiliar odour drifting through the air on a trail of smoke. Marijuana, perhaps.

“I wish I hadn’t come to this,” she muttered.

“I can see that,” he replied. “Do you want to take a walk outside?”

“All right,” she said. It would be better than having to be here wondering what snide remarks were being made about her behind her back. “Where shall we go?”

“Just around,” he said. “If you don’t mind being out with me, that is.”

“No, why should I mind?” she asked, already feeling the familiar sensation of tension twisting at her gut. She’d been rejected and laughed at often enough. And, as she knew – as she’d been told many times – she wasn’t an oil painting. But the only alternative was to stand here and be laughed at, and she didn’t want that. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to be with him. At least he wasn’t laughing at her.

“Do you want to tell your, er, cousin, that you’re leaving?” he asked.

“No,” she told him. “Why should I? She isn’t concerned about me.” It sounded petulant and whining, and she instantly regretted it, but he didn’t react. Placing his hand on her elbow, quite gently, he steered her towards the door.

“It’s a nice night,” he murmured. A large moon, almost full, hung in the sky, and turned the scraps of cloud into glowing luminous haloes. It was cool, though, and she shivered slightly.

“Are you cold?” he asked solicitously. “Would you like to go back inside?”

“No,” she said, panicked suddenly at the thought that he’d think she was too delicate to be worth bothering with. “No, I’m fine.”

They walked together down the street. Though it was still relatively early in the evening, it was almost deserted. An occasional car drove by, its headlights sweeping the buildings. It seemed to grow colder, and instinctively she took his arm, and then flinched, waiting for it to go stiff with disgust or, even worse, to pull away. Instead, he simply let her hold it, and moved closer so she could feel the warmth of his body.

“I’m glad you decided to come out with me,” he said. “I was getting tired of those people there.”

“Then why did you go?” she wanted to ask, but didn’t, in case asking put him off. But he seemed to catch her thought, because he answered her anyway.

“Someone asked me,” he said. “When I went I found he hadn’t come, and I was thinking of leaving when you turned up. And then I saw you and decided to stay.”

The matter-of-fact way he said this sent a thrill down her spine. There wasn’t the slightest artificiality in his tone. “Why?” she asked. “I’m nothing special.”

“You think so?” He peered at her. “I don’t. You might not be all dressed and made up like all of them in there, but you’re nice. I saw that in you.”

She felt herself blushing furiously, and then the words poured out; she told him about her parents and how they had died, and then she’d found that they’d been up to their ears in debt, and the house had gone and all hope of an education, and her cousin had taken her in but she knew it wouldn’t be for long, and she had no idea what to do and where to go. To her horror the tears began to flow, and she thought that now for sure he’d pull away. But all he did was put an arm around her shoulder and pull her close.    

“It’s all right,” he murmured, his voice in her hair. “Don’t worry.”

After a while she stopped crying, and they walked on together. She was very conscious of the nearness of him and the warmth of his body.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Old enough,” he laughed lightly. “Do years matter?”

The moon was high in the sky and her feet were aching in the narrow shoes she’d borrowed from her cousin. They’d walked a long way, and she’d no idea where she was. This part of town, with its narrow lanes and high old houses, was unknown to her. “Where are we?” she asked.

“It’s not far from where I live,” he said. “I mean, from where I’m staying.” She could sense him looking at her. “Do you want to go back now?”

She hesitated a moment. “No,” she said suddenly. “I don’t want to go back. They’ll still be smoking and laughing and drinking too, and I don’t know when they’ll finish.”

“Well...” he said. “You could come in with me, if you want. I mean, it’s not as though I’m forcing you, you understand.”

“No, of course you aren’t,” she said. “I’ll be glad to come.” Something inside her clenched again, the tension flooding back, and she wondered what would happen when they were inside. Perhaps he’d want to sleep with her? She wouldn’t say no, she decided. After all, she wasn’t a virgin, though she found no particular pleasure in sex. At least it would mean she could be with him a little longer. “It’s strange, isn’t it? You’re a stranger, but I don’t feel as though you are a stranger. You feel les like a stranger to me than my cousin does.”

“Careful what you think,” he said mildly. “Your cousin can’t be all that bad if she gave you a home, for whatever reason.”

“Well,” she said mutinously, “I know her, and you don’t.”

“You’re right. I don’t. But here we are.” They walked up a narrow alley to a smaller house, set back under some trees. The shadows were thick, crowding around the door, and she felt a chill and clutched his arm tighter. She felt his muscles move as he unlocked the door, smoothly despite the darkness, without a single fumble.

Inside, he asked her to wait a moment as he crossed to the far side of the room and turned on a light. It was a low amber lamp, and the room was thick with  dark velvet drapes, which seemed to suck up the light there was.

“Thanks for coming back here,” he said, coming back across the room to her. “It’s not my choice of decor, of course, but I’m not going to be here long, either. I might even leave tomorrow night.”

“You travel a lot?” she asked. Now that it was it, that the time had come when he might put the move on her, she was suddenly shy, and trying to put the moment off as much as possible when she’d have to choose either way. “You’ve been all over, I suppose.”

“Yes, all over the world. But travel gets boring soon enough.”

“I can’t imagine it getting boring.” So she could have a few moments more, she bent to fumble off her shoes. “But then I’ve never been anywhere really.” When she straightened up, he was standing before her, silhouetted against the light. He held out her hands to her, and his fingertips sent shivers down her nerves.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked, as he held her hands and drew her gently to him.

“I don’t,” he said.

“You don’t?” she repeated, looking up at him, confused. “Don’t do anything for a living?”

“That’s right,” he said. “I don’t.” For the first time, he smiled open mouthed. The smile widened into a grin.

“I don’t have a living to make,” he said. “I’m not alive.”

And as he pulled her to him, even in the dim light of the lamp, she saw the teeth, and the red velvet like blood reflected in his eyes.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2013

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Syria: The Heart Of The Matter

Warning: This post contains disturbing images and video footage.

A man wearing combat fatigue trousers and a dark jacket stands in what looks like an excavation, bending over a corpse in a military uniform. The corpse’s face and upper body are artificially blurred, but one can make out that its shirt is undone and that there’s a large gaping wound in its chest. The man in combat fatigues bends over the corpse, hacking away with a knife, and stands up with a bloody piece of flesh in each hand. The one in the right hand, clearly seen, is evidently part of the liver; in the other hand, going by what the subtitles say, is the heart. Staring into the camera, the man says “We swear to god we will eat your hearts, you soldiers of Bashar the dog...Heroes of Baba Amr, we will take out their hearts and eat them.” To the cheers (“Allahu Akbar”) of the watching people, at least one of whom is briefly visible on the right of the screen, he then bites into the heart. The video then ends abruptly.

(The video can also be watched here.)

That was a video a lot of people are suddenly talking about – a so-called “atrocity video” from Syria.

I saw this video two days ago, and only now do I feel composed enough to write coherently about it. My immediate reaction was of, I’m sorry to say, acute bloodlust – I wanted to go to Syria, take up arms, and help hunt down and exterminate these vermin one by one. Over the succeeding hours, I calmed myself enough to think of it more rationally, though in no way did it mitigate my anger. And it’s only much later that the video suddenly struck the news websites – so for once I was ahead of the curve.

Before I go any further, those of you who are long-time readers of mine may be a bit surprised at how much attention I pay to the situation in Syria. After all, I didn’t spend a fraction of this time on Libya, or even Afghanistan – and I’ve barely even mentioned Mali. This video, actually, will serve as an illustration why I think Syria is so important.

Syria, in essence, is not a civil war – it’s an international proxy war, where what I call the NATO/Arab monarchy/Al Qaeda*/Zionist Alliance (NAQZA for short) is attempting to destroy and overthrow the last secular and at least nominally socialist Arab regime. The dry run for it was in Libya in 2011, and the success there had emboldened NAQZA to try it in Syria as well. The fact that Libya disintegrated into a quite predictable warlord-run mess wasn’t of course important, because it served the purpose of NAQZA, which was always divide-and-rule; the same divide and rule strategy imperialists have used since the dawn of civilisation. As I’ve said earlier, the actual target isn’t Syria – it’s Russia and China, because to overthrow Syria would remove the only country in West Asia or North Africa capable and willing to side with Iran, and Iran is the next domino to be targeted in the run up to surrounding and isolating Russia and China.

[*For the purposes of this article I shall call the organisation Al Qaeda, though I subscribe to the viewpoint that it is basically a tool of the Empire and is correctly called Al CIAda. As I pointed out in the past, Al Qaeda and the American Empire are close allies on virtually any topic you care to name.]

It’s certainly not the fault of NAQZA that the Syrian state hasn’t collapsed.  The expectation was that it would do so, in short order, as Libya did – but, of course, that didn’t happen. One of the important reasons it didn’t happen was that NAQZA overplayed its hand in Libya, turning a UN-approved “humanitarian intervention” into a full-throated regime change operation. Neither Russia nor China was stupid enough to let that happen again in Syria.

However, NAQZA couldn’t, of course, back down – they had too much to lose. So they began a two-pronged approach – on the one hand, the various Syrian “rebels” ( a loose-knit coalition of competing gangs of criminals, defected soldiers, fundamentalist jihadists, and disaffected youth) were given a common name, the so-called Free Syrian Army, which I prefer to call the Fake Syrian Army. Meanwhile, the Al Qaeda part of the double attack on Syria was centred around a gang of jihadists called the Jabhat al-Nusra. In recent days, this has openly declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda and can be for all intents and purposes considered Al Qaeda in Syria. I shall therefore refer to it as Al Qaeda.

From the beginning, there was no particular reason to imagine that the Fake Syrian Army was anything more than a front meant to whitewash support for the “rebellion”, which was always primarily carried out by Al Qaeda. It was the same thing as was done in Libya, where Al Qaeda did the actual fighting on the ground, NATO acted as its air force, and the so-called Libyan rebel outfits were nothing more than window dressing. Parts of the Fake Syrian Army – mostly those comprising defectors – did some fighting, but as was recognised long ago, the only worthwhile fighting force was Al Qaeda.

Fake Army frauds (above) and Al Qaeda (below)

In recent days, the Fake Syrian Army has taken two hits. The first comprises defeats on the ground, so important that even the Western propaganda mission (again, something I’ve discussed in detail before) has quit talking about the imminent fall of the Syrian government and begun discussing the terrifying possibility that Assad might actually win – unless, of course, the West immediately intervenes, if not by invading, then by providing arms.

Just how those arms are meant to only go to the Fake Syrian Army (which does not, of course, actually exist as a unified body with a command structure) and not go to Al Qaeda isn’t part of the discussion – nor can it have any meaning, because the second hit they have taken is the wholesale desertion of entire units to Al Qaeda. This, too, is something the Western propaganda media has been forced to acknowledge. But it hasn’t changed the policy of their governments – because, of course, their interest in overthrowing Syria is as keen as it ever was. So, they (primarily the British slave-vassal government of David Donald Cameron) have proposed the ridiculous move of arming the Fake Syrian Army, as a means of weakening Al Qaeda, while doubling "non-lethal aid". How exactly this is supposed to work I’m sure I couldn’t tell you, nor could anybody else.

Now, let me take a moment to explain my view of the Syrian situation. I am no particular supporter of the Syrian president, who is not just a dynast but a neoliberal, both things I cordially detest. However, I am a supporter of the Syrian people and the Syrian state, which is to say I support secular, liberal societies against fundamentalist jihadist vermin, Zionist Nazi tools, and their Western neo-colonial backers. Therefore, I fully back the Syrian armed forces (which, incidentally, are fighting for Syria, not Assad, as this report makes clear) in their campaign against the so-called “rebels”. All right so far?

Syrian Army troops 

As I’ve said, the Fake Syrian Army is made up of disparate gangs, which, as this report says, should more properly be called "men with guns", and which have no existence as a unified body. But, because the West needs a fig-leaf for its imperialist crusade, these no-hopers are collectively treated as the Good Guys, as compared to the Bad Guys of Al Qaeda and the Absolutely Evil Guys of the Syrian Army. That narrative never really stood up to any examination, what with the Fake Syrian Army recruiting child soldiers, murdering prisoners and mutilating corpses – and making gleeful videos of all this. But it finally ran into a brick wall with this video.

There are a few things one has to remember:

First, the video is genuine. The terrorist which mutilates the soldier’s corpse and cannibalises it has been identified. It has a name – Khalid al-Hamad, alias Abu Sakkar – and has appeared in previous videos in which it has shelled civilian villages in Lebanon. It is also the commander of one of the Fake Syrian Army’s gangs, something called the Farouq Brigade.

Let that sink in for a moment. This creature isn’t a member of the Bad Guys. It isn’t an Al Qaeda group member; it isn’t even a Fake Syrian Army defector to Al Qaeda. It is, in fact, one of the Good Guys – to whom Cameron and the other Western controllers of this democratic revolution want to send arms.

Oh, can you just imagine how democratic these people will be if they ever take power?

So, what exactly did the Fake Syrian Army’s so-called leadership (which can’t even stop its alleged troops from deserting in droves to Al Qaeda) have to say about it? While reluctantly admitting that Abu Sakkar is indeed the man in the video, it said that this
“...was an isolated incident. [His] actions do not represent the FSA. His actions only represent himself...This is not just a normal person who sits home. He has had two brothers killed. His mum and dad were detained and the rest of his family displaced." 
So, in effect, it isn’t Abu Sakkar’s fault that it cannibalised the soldier’s heart. It’s the fault of the “regime” that it was put in a position where it had no choice but to do that. Nor, of course, do the other Fake Syrian Army terrorists murder and torture prisoners or blockade Christian villages and so on; they don’t grill decapitated prisoners’ heads either – it was an isolated instance only.

This therefore did not happen
Nor this

Interesting theory, isn’t it?

Even more interesting is the fact that this video isn’t actually new. It was filmed back in March, and was obtained by the imperial propaganda organ known as Time Magazine. Time Magazine, by its own admission, was told by Abu Sakkar’s confederates – including its brother – that the video was genuine. Yet, by its own admission, Time sat on this video, claiming

“Two TIME reporters first saw the video in April in the presence of several of Abu Sakkar’s fighters and supporters, including his brother. They all said the video was authentic. We later obtained a copy. Since then TIME has been trying to ensure that the footage is not digitally manipulated in any way — a faked film like this would be powerful propaganda for the regime... and, as yet, TIME has not been able to confirm its integrity.” [Source]

Even though the terrorist’s own brother and gang members confirmed the video as genuine, and even though other videos of this terrorist exist, Time sat on it until the video was posted online by a “proregime” group on 12th May and went viral. If it hadn’t, one assumes, Time would never have let it out – though Western propaganda sources routinely pass off terrorist claims as proven facts, issuing only a disclaimer that “so and so cannot be independently verified”. 

Apparently, in this case, Time couldn't verify it because

“Abu Sakkar has not commented on whether the man in the video is indeed him...”

I wonder if only a confession would be evidence enough for Time in other cases? Does Time consider, say, a drug-gang murderer or paedophile innocent unless he or she confesses?

I don’t think so, do you?

And if it had been a government soldier doing this, can you just imagine the outraged howls in the corridors of power at NAQZA and its media acolytes, calling this a proof of Assad's barbarity and demanding an immediate invasion of Syria? 

Of course you can.

Strangely enough, after the story broke, on 14th May, Time had no problems interviewing Abu Sakkar. This interview was interesting because not only did the creature admit its cannibalism, it made it clear that it was an act of war, not a “one-off incident” as the Fake Syrian Army leadership would have us believe.

“In an interview conducted via Skype in the early hours of May 14 al Hamad explained to TIME what caused him to cut out the soldier’s organs: "We opened his cell phone and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he was humiliating them, and sticking a stick here and there." [Source]
Of course, we have to take it on trust that such a video existed, or that it depicted what this cannibal and terrorist gangster would have us believe it did, and even then we’d have to ask whether that justifies cannibalism.

But that isn’t the end of it, as the creature made clear in the same interview:
“I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip I am sawing another Shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him in small pieces and large ones." 
Since we now have confirmation straight from the horse’s mouth that this wasn’t a one-off incident, we can be sure that more of this kind of thing will go on the longer this war continues.

Incidentally, there is absolutely no reason to take it on trust that anyone called a shabiha by the Fake Syrian Army terrorists is actually a shabiha. For instance, when the Syrian Army liberated a Christian village in Southern Syria, this is what the inhabitants said they had gone through:

“For eight months, we were surrounded by the rebels, who were set up in the villages around us. They stopped us from using the road, so we only had the lake left... We had to cross the lake at night to look for mazout, petrol, margarine and other food products. It was an ordeal because armed men used to open fire if, by chance they caught sight of a boat.”

 An Islamist group called Kataeb Ahl al-Athr posted a video online on September 15 2012 showing heavy-calibre weapons firing on a boat crossing the lake at night, calling the passengers "shabiha", or pro-regime militiamen. [Source

The cannibalism video, of course, is in an altogether different category of war crime from the bombardment of towns in the course of urban fighting, or even drone warfare. The former may be a military necessity; the latter is sheer callousness and laziness. But this kind of war crime is in the league of the psychopath, not the fighter.

Let me ask you something – if this had happened in some Western city, would anybody have spent so much time looking for “root causes” and not calling the cannibal an out-and-out psycho?

Of course not.

There’s another thing to be understood – that no such war crime is a one-person effort. Even if one for the moment believes the Fake Syrian Army claim that Abu Sakkar’s “actions only represent (itself)”, it wasn’t exactly alone. It was surrounded by people from its gang who were watching and photographing it. They not only didn’t try to stop it, one can clearly hear them cheering. Any war criminal, in fact, is part of a chain of enablers, in this case the people who armed it and put it into the position of power it has now, the people who provided moral support by cheering it on, and the terrorist who videotaped the act. Each of those people bears a share of responsibility for this crime.

If the intention of the video was to frighten the Syrian Army and the government, or their Hezbollah allies, the opposite effect would seem to have been achieved; because what this will cause, of course, is anger and renewed determination to exterminate the terrorist gangs. Also, there will – and has – been widespread revulsion, including revulsion among people who imagined that the “rebellion” was anything but a Western-sponsored destabilisation effort. The Fake Syrian Army’s gangs are also hated by the people in the zones they occupy, because of their indiscipline, crimes and infighting, so that they even prefer Al Qaeda. All this is bad, bad news for the Fake Syrian Army.

Therefore, I predict that there will be a major effort at damage control by the Fake Syrian Army “leaders” and their foreign controllers. The first target of this will be Abu Sakkar itself. Despite claims that it would be brought to trial, such a thing will of course never happen. It might spill too many beans in the course of that trial and implicate too many enablers.

So, Abu Sakkar is a marked man, er, thing. If I were it, I wouldn’t trust my own shadow anymore. In a war where atrocities have become a tool, a bullet in the back is just another drop in the flood.

And ultimately that’s the reason why I concentrate on Syria; it’s because the choice is between (imperfect) civilisation and utter and complete savagery. 

As of the moment, savagery seems to be winning. But it may not be yet too late to turn the tide.

Note: I hesitated a long time before sharing this video and writing this article. I do not, actually, enjoy atrocity stories. But I decided that publicity, in this case, was essential. If these terrorist vermin were to take over Syria, people should not be able to react with surprise to the bloodbath to come and say they hadn't known, when supporting the rebels, that it would be like this. You were warned. You knew what was coming.

I wish I could say, Peace.

Sunday 12 May 2013

A few words on the Boston Bombings

Long time readers might have noted with surprise that I haven’t pontificated in my usual insufferable way on the Boston Bombings, even though it might have been grist to my anti-imperialist mill.

Yes, I was taking a self-imposed break, but that isn’t the reason why I haven’t discussed it. Nor have I turned it into a Raghead episode, though I could have – even without thinking about it – got at least three or four strips out of it. But I decided not to.

Let me just explain my reasoning about why I didn’t draw them.

First, without trying to minimise the suffering of the wounded and the relatives of the dead in this episode, I would like to say this: the Boston bombings were remarkable in how absurdly minor, in the scheme of things, they were. I mean, take a look at them – two low-grade bombs, which killed exactly three people and injured so many only because they were in a densely packed crowd.

In comparison, how many hundreds were killed by terrorist bombs in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan on that same day? How many were killed in gang warfare in the US and Mexico? How many civilians were blown away by drones?

More than three, you can bet.

In fact, giving undue stress to something this minor is a kind of victory for the Empire – it implicitly recognises that American lives are worth more than those of non-Americans, whether murdered by Americans or by others. It is a vindication of the claim that the Empire is “first among equals” and has a unique and privileged leadership position in the world.

As a matter of fact, the American “victim mentality” is a source of considerable and growing irritation in the rest of the world. To this day, every 11 September, for instance, Americans scrape their healed wounds raw in order to remind themselves of how they were “unjustly attacked”. I mean, it’s been twelve years, and you’ve both inflicted and suffered far more death and devastation since then, so get over it. As a member of a nation which has been victimised by terrorism since long before and to this day, I ask myself, should we keep on and on reminding ourselves of those attacks? What should a citizen of Iraq do, then, or an Afghan or Somali?

Then, there’s the fact that the US, along with its British vassal, was entirely responsible for creating the situation that led to this bombing. Its cheerleading of the Chechen “independence movement” – which by the mid-nineties had already degenerated into a rabble of disparate violent groups, most of which were either radical Islamist, or criminal, or both – is no secret. It kept supporting the Chechen terrorists through and beyond the Beslan massacre of 2004, and to this day Chechen terrorist leaders find shelter and aid in the US and in Britain. None of these things is exactly unknown.

Giving publicity to the bombing inevitably focuses attention on the victims – not on the actual victims of the bombing alone, but on the US as a “victimised nation”. It detracts from the US’ own responsibility for creating the circumstances that led to the bombing, stretching back to American support for radical Islam stretching back to the 1979-90 Afghan War.

Third, the fact that the bombing ended in another jingoistic flag-waving episode when one of the (accused) perpetrators was finally captured is enough to make clear that for many people, this was the equivalent of a “heroic police versus vile terrorist” video game, and a kind of stand-alone episode. These people are neither interested in, nor capable of understanding the concept of, continuing history. They can’t – or won’t – understand the simple fact that as you sow, so shall you reap. Ergo, they will always continue to support the Empire’s policies and react with astonished outrage when these same policies recoil on them in the future.

Fourthly, the bombing has already been handled extensively by commentators and cartoonists, including Ted Rall – someone whose work I like and recommend, even though I don’t always agree with him. Adding to it at this late date would be neither useful nor particularly original.

Fifthly, the hand of the FBI is arranging “terrorist attacks” in the US is as well known as the fact that large scale terrorist plots have been upstaged by lone-wolves and tiny independent terror cells. So these attacks, staged or otherwise, will continue happening. There’s no particular reason to promote one at the cost of another.

Again, I don’t intend to ignore or trivialise the individual suffering of the victims of the Boston bombing. I do, however, say that this was a minor episode, that it will happen again, and that fetishising it is an insult to the victims of other terrorist crimes elsewhere, from Pakistan to Syria, from Somalia to Afghanistan, and beyond.

One final question – the “perpetrators” were Chechens who were allegedly “radicalised” in Daghestan, right? Daghestan is a part of Russia. Is the Empire planning to bomb Daghestan, invade it and “sweep it all up” in Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous phrase?

If not, then what is the point of the Global War of Terror?


Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.

The Professor stretched lazily and looked down at his tea. His thin lips curved into a smile under his beard. “Why,” he said, “don’t tell me you believe in ghosts. Surely not you?”

“I don’t,” I said awkwardly. “But it seems kind of pointless to go crawling around a dirty old house just because someone or other thinks it’s haunted.”

The Professor wasn’t really a professor, of course – it’s just what everyone called him, because he had such a professorial air. It came with his part time role as a hoax-buster and anti-medium, scourge of charlatans and magicians of all stripes. He tilted his head now so he could look at me down the length of his considerable nose.

“My dear fellow,” he said, “nothing is ever pointless. No effort is wasted, as long as you set out to achieve something.”

“So,” I said, knowing I was rising to the bait but unable to stop myself, “what exactly is this that you think you’re about to achieve? A few uncomfortable hours spent in a damp house when one could be doing something useful?”

“Like what?” he asked, raising one eyebrow, something which always irritated me because I could never do it. “What would you say is more useful?”

“Anything. Watching TV. Reading, Sleeping. Just about anything I could name would be more interesting.”

“Well then,” he said, innocently looking past my shoulder, “I think you’d better stay in this evening and watch TV and then read yourself to sleep. I’ll just go on by myself and see whatever I’ll see.”

There was a long pause. I looked at my hands, and tried to make the fingers stop twisting around each other.

“When do we have to go?” I asked.


We’ll stay till midnight,” the Professor said, fitting the key in the lock. “That ought to be long enough.”

”Long enough for what?” I watched him twist the key in the lock. It hadn’t been used in a while, and he had to move it back and forth repeatedly. “Since there’s no ghost anyway, what are we going to be able to prove?”

He didn’t answer for a moment, pushing the door open with his shoulder. It creaked, as though tired with age, and so loudly that the noise seemed to echo through the house. Inside it was already quite dark, though the sun hadn’t even set yet. It looked dank and unwelcoming, and I had no desire to enter.

“Well?” the Professor asked. “Are you coming in or aren’t you?”

To save myself from having to answer, I stepped back and looked up at the building. It was a grey, angular mass, its peaked roof outlined against the evening sky like the blade of an axe. Tiny windows marked the upper storey, looking too small to be of much use.

“It’s old,” I said.

The Professor snorted. “Of course it’s old. It’s almost a hundred – they don’t make buildings like this any longer. Nor will this one be up much longer – the owner’s eager to sell, and of course anybody who buys will have it demolished and replaced by something modern.”

“But nobody will buy?” I asked, beginning to see the point of this expedition.

“No, because of this ridiculous story of a ghost. I’m pretty sure the owner believes it too – that’s why he wouldn’t come with us.” He looked at me impatiently. “If you aren’t coming, say so.”

“I’m coming,” I said, unhappily. The floor of the hall, inside the front door, was thick with dust, and it made me sneeze. “Who’s ever seen this ghost anyway? What’s it supposed to look like?”

The Professor laughed shortly. “I have not the faintest idea,” he said. “The more I heard about it the less I knew. Some of them said, you know, that they saw a oval of light with a hole for the face – the usual thing. Some others, a lovely naked woman with a string of pearls round her neck.” He cocked a sardonic eyebrow at me. “I see that got your attention.”

I felt myself blushing. “It’s all rubbish anyway.”

“Of course it is. Let’s have a good look around while there’s still some light.” The Professor clumped up the stairs, dust rising at every step. “They say the ghost’s been around since, oh, about as long as the house’s been completed. Fancy that.” He touched the balustrade with a fingertip, and held it up to the wan light from a dirty landing window. “Nobody’s been up here for a long, long time.”

“It’s not exactly inviting, is it?” I said. The upper floor comprised a long corridor with rooms leading off on either side. They were all empty, and the small windows let in enough light to show that the floors were covered with undisturbed dust.

“Hmm,” the Professor said, looking into the rooms one by one. “No sign anyone’s been here.”

“You think someone might have been waiting to scare off people by pretending to be a ghost?” I asked. “Why would they do that?”

The Professor shrugged. “I’m not thinking anything. At the moment I’m just looking. And so should you.”

So I looked, without any idea what I was looking for. I followed the Professor as he walked from room to room, checking the windows. I checked them too – they were sealed to their frames with grime. Like him, I looked into the corners of the ceilings – there was nothing to see except a selection of defunct cobwebs. We toured the entire upper floor, found nothing unusual, and then repeated the performance on the ground floor too. We found nothing.

“It seems like any other house which hasn’t been entered in a long time,” the Professor said at last, pausing by the open front door. The sun had gone down, but there was just about enough light to see by. “Well, there’s nothing to do but wait.”

“Wait?” I asked. “Wait where? There isn’t even a stick of furniture to sit on. And I’ll bet there isn’t any electricity either!”

“Of course there’s no electricity,” the Professor said. “In any case we’re supposed to wait in the dark – the only two constant things about what the so-called witnesses said was that the ghost appears in the dark, and before midnight. We’ll just sit on the stairs...” he took out a handkerchief and wiped ineffectually at part of the steps. “...Here.”

 We sat down and watched the light outside fade. Soon it was completely dark except the glimmer of distant streetlights.

“So,” I said, after we’d been waiting a while, “do we sit like this the whole time?”

“No,” the Professor said. “We’ll get up every couple of hours or so and take a tour of the rooms.”

“Wandering around this place will be fun in the dark,” I said.

“I have a torch.” The Professor flashed it, a narrow yellow beam in the darkness. “I’ll only use it if I have to, though.”

Time passed. After a while the Professor got up and closed the front door.

“There might be someone watching,” he explained. “I don’t want anybody to say we didn’t see the ghost because there was too much light from outside.”

I was getting stiff with not moving as well as with boredom when he finally decided to make a round. We went through the same routine as before, entering each room and looking around. It was almost completely dark, but apart from that there wasn’t anything.

“It’s early yet,” he told me, as though it was some kind of consolation.

We went back to the stairs. Time passed, and it became colder. In fact, it was the cold which kept me from falling asleep right there – the cold and the discomfort of sitting on the narrow staircase.

We did another round. Again, of course, there was nothing, and when we went back to the stairs I was tempted to suggest we quit. It was only the thought that the Professor would certainly say that I was free to go, but that he’d remain, which held me back.

We sat in silence, looking at the darkness until I began to imagine coloured lights. I rubbed my eyes and rotated my shoulders, try to ease myself. It didn’t help.

“It’s almost midnight,” the Professor said. He, too, sounded tired. “We’ll just make one last round. To save time, each of us will take one room. Nothing will happen tonight anyway.”

I was more than happy to oblige. While the Professor took the rooms on the left side of the lower floor, I did the right. There was of course nothing to see, and when we met at the foot of the stairs I had no particular desire to fumble my way upstairs one more time.

“Let’s do it anyway,” the Professor said, wearily. “It’s just a matter of ten minutes.”

So we went upstairs, and the Professor took, again, the rooms on the left. I went into the first room, and then the next. It was all the same, darkness faintly pierced by distant dirt-filtered lamplight through the small window.

It was when I’d entered the third room that I heard the Professor call my name. He was on the other side of the corridor, and further away.

“Yes?” I called.

“There’s something odd here,” he said. He didn’t sound alarmed, just faintly puzzled. “You don’t recall a door in the wall in this room, do you?”

“A door?” I couldn’t remember seeing any door. “What door?”

“It’s open,” he said. “Wait –“

“Professor!” I called. I went out of the room I was in and into the room opposite. He wasn’t there. Nor was he in the next room. That left only the last room, at the end of the corridor. “Professor?” I called.

“That’s strange,” I heard him say, his voice sounding muffled. “It goes back such a long way –“

I entered the room, not knowing what I expected to see. Whatever it was, it wasn’t an empty room with no trace of the Professor – or of any door.

“Professor!” I shouted. “Where the hell are you?”

Then I heard his voice again, as though coming from a long, long way away. “Distances upon distance,” I heard him say. “My god –“

There was nothing else.

I ran through the room, hunting all over the walls, fumbling in the dark for a trace of a door. I had gone right round the room when I stumbled on something. Bending, I picked it up.

It was the Professor’s torch.

Lighting it, I looked over the room again, but there was nothing, No door, no trace of even a crack in the wall.

I’ll wait, I told myself. I’ll wait until the Professor comes back, and I’ll ask him what on earth is going on.

I’m still waiting.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2013