No Easy Days for spies, lies & cover ups………….

All hell has broken loose within the US security establishment after  a member of the group of Navy Seals who took part  in the raid on the house in Abottabad in Pakistan  that killed Osama bin Laden wrote a book giving hitherto undisclosed details of the raid.

It’s true that scenes were flashed across the world   on television news of the death of Bin Laden but what happened inside the building has remained a closely guarded secret since the May 2011 raid. So when one of the members of the team decided to write a book on the  top-secret mission, feathers (a lot more than feathers I suppose ) were, as expected,  ruffled.

The book is titled “No Easy Day” and is written under the pen name Mark Owen but the US media has now identified the author as Matt Bissonnette. The controversy has sent the pre-release  orders on the book soaring and it is bound to find a place in all best seller lists after its release as would have been the expectations of the author as well as the publisher.

While there is no surprise about the reaction of the US security establishment who are threatening to take legal action against the writer for violating the nondisclosure cause in the agreement he signed  when he joined the Seals, one thing that should be evident by now to all those who want to hold onto age-old tactics of keeping things under wrap and shrouded in secrecy like during the time of the previous World Wars or even the Cold War, is that the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the Internet has made it impossible to do so, however high and mighty those who want to keep the secrets are.

I was watching a documentary about spies who acted as agents of the Allied Forces during the Second World War who walked right into  the lion’s lair of sorts by spying on the Germans. These men and women were only identified  decades after the war ended and many probably remain unidentified till today with their heroics little heard of. None of them wrote any “kiss and tell” books   so their contribution to the war remained overshadowed by the visible heroics of the men and women who were in the front-lines.

But  isn’t  it too much to expect spies or special forces or undercover agents, whatever fancy name you identify them by,  to choose to remain obscure these days?  When someone has a good story to tell, when the public hunger for such stories is never quenched, why should they not profit from it? It’s great to romanticize about the men who carried out the raid on Bin Laden’s apartment , say they did it all for love of country and mankind but the bottom line is that at least one of them was probably plotting  how best he could use the opportunity to make himself rich and famous by writing a “tell-it-all” book.

I feel this whole concept of keeping the pubic in the dark on matters that is decided for them by the state is absurd in this day and age.  There is always a way for the information to “leak”. It may not be in a dramatic manner like by way of a  book like in this case  but “Wiki Leaks” has amply demonstrated that it is  very hard to keep state secrets these days, however zealously one side may want to do so.

I browsed through the official website of the Navy Seals out of curiosity to see what it takes to be a member of such a elite organization. Their Motto is Ultimate Brotherhood. “Teammates do not let each other down, on or off the battlefield. The relationships and friendships forged  within the “The Teams “last a lifetime.” http://www.sealswcc.com/.

In this case, one person has decided to “let the team down” , so it would seem, but  in the greater good of public interest and the  right of the public to know such information, I  say it takes a very courageous person to take the decision to write such a book , well knowing the repercussions. He’s shed the Ultimate Brotherhood within a limited organization to embrace the Ultimate Brotherhood he owes to the public at large.

I await the release of the book. 

An anatomy of the break up of a nondescript relationship………

Is there a way to end a relationship without one side getting more hurt than the other? What happens when one person tells the words the other one doesn’t want to hear like, “Let’s be just friends,”, “I want to move on”, “It’s not you, it’s me.”  Is it because all the while one person in the relationship has been under the illusion that he/she meant more to that person than he/she ever did, while for the other person it was one of those things you could dispense with when the need arose?

Which is why there are conversations that go like this:-

“Why do you want to continue with this?”

“Because I really like you.”

“That’s the problem. You are too emotional, too sensitive. It’s not possible to have a causal relationship with you.”

And then you are trying to figure out why having feelings for someone is made to sound criminal.

The other person is baffled by your reaction to the “breakup”

“Were you ever in love with me? Because I wasn’t.

“I don’t even know what love is? No, I don’t think so………” (Lost for words)

Love, lust, like…………can any word or words ever really describe human feelings. And can a particular word be applied only to   certain relationships and not to others. Why does the L word suddenly sound   more unacceptable than the F word?   Probably because the F word is less dangerous. Less intimidating. It’s a word devoid of feelings.  It’s a “one off ” word unlike the L word which is more lingering, the meaning of which can be interpreted in so many different ways. No such complications with the F word. There is also the safe L (Like) word which they   use to stay in safe territory. They deliberately avoid the first L word and use the second not knowing when the words would overlap and at least one person is not sure if he/she is “in love” or “in like” with the other person.

This is why you have conversations like this with your “shoulder-to-cry-on” friend:

Friend:  I think you are just trying to torment yourself trying to find a hidden meaning to his/her feelings towards you  because at the end it is what happened and nothing more and you  trying to analyze does not help with the moving on part

He/She: You are right .I should just drop it. Analyzing will only lead to more questions. Guess some feelings will remain unresolved forever

Friend: You can’t give a name to every feeling u have……….. Some, no word in the dictionary can describe………………

Then all the negativity kicks in.  You want to hurt the other person. You say things you would not usually say to anyone, you want to make the other person feel bad but end up hurting yourself more.

You ask the other person how he/she moved on so easily.  “Find new pleasures. Don’t dwell on it” is the answer.  That conversation, like many others disintegrates into a nasty argument. You want to be civil but the dormant nastiness in you awakens and then you soon regret it. And then you go to the other extreme. You ask for forgiveness, you ask for another chance, you say you can handle it without the emotional part getting in the way.  (If that’s ever possible). But there is no respite. Its final, kaput, can’t turn back the clock how much ever you wish for it so you can handle things differently, be more mature in your dealings.

You are dissecting every little piece of conversation you’ve had, text messages you’ve exchanged. , time spent together.  You read too much into every little thing. It’s taking a damn toll on your senses.

And then you are trying to get used to  being without those things you had got used to but which you should not have got used to, which should have been just an appendage  to your “other life”. But you didn’t allow it to be an appendage. You allowed it to overwhelm your life and occupy too large a segment in it, deliberately not thinking but knowing there is no other way for it to end.

The days turn into weeks, weeks into months and it dawns on you it’s nearing 12 months which is one year.  Nothing’s changed but everything’s changed. No calls, no messages, no chatting……………, so many things to miss.The perils of modern-day relationships. You wish there were less means  to make people contactable because then you  can deceive yourself   into believing that the other person   wants to contact you but has no means of doing it but now you know the silence means the other person does not want to have anything to do with you.  It’s pretty clear cut. You are trying to dwell less on the past but when someone hurts you it does not go away easily.

From Pussy Riot to Assange… state controls are getting tighter

I wrote a post recently about how a Somali comedian was shot dead for mocking a radical Islamic group in his country while a newspaper editor in Morocco was threatened with death after he expressed support for pre-marital sex.

In the past week the news that has come from Russia, U.K. and Pakistan are further examples that state authority and laws, instead of protecting individual freedom and rights, are being used against people.

The band members awaiting sentencing

First in Russia, a Moscow court had handed a two-year jail sentence to three feminist punk rockers that infuriated the Kremlin and captured world attention by ridiculing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s main church.The sentencing, as expected, drew criticism from several countries including the USA and UK who said it was “disproportionately” harsh for the offence the women  committed.

But then these same countries while criticizing Russia were busy  gunning for the  founder of Wiki Leaks Julian Assange who is holed up inside the  Ecuador Embassy in London  and has  been forced to seek asylum in the South American nation. He addressed the media from the balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy last Sunday and called on U.S. President Barack Obama to end “a witch-hunt against Wiki Leaks.”

Madonna showed her support for the Russian band when she performed in Moscow recently

“As Wiki leaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.’

“Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?” It’s a very pertinent question he  raised at a time when regimes all over the world are suppressing the right to freedom of expression and speech.

This story is somewhat different but shocking. It comes from Pakistan where using the country’s harsh blasphemy laws,   an 11-year-old Christian girl, who reportedly suffers from Down’s syndrome, had been arrested after being accused of blasphemy for burning pages of the Quran in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. While hurting people’s religious sentiments is unacceptable, how justifiable is it to arrest an 11 year retarded child? That’s the question many sane people will be asking but then more insanity seems to be prevailing in the world today than sanity So the news can only get worse.

As Assange said,” “There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.”

Scott McKenzie, singer of ‘San Francisco,’ dies at 73

I like  this song so thought I’ll post it.Its one of the first English  songs I remember hearing:-

Singer Scott McKenzie, who performed “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” – which became a hit in 1967 during the city’s “Summer of Love” – has died.

A statement on McKenzie’s website says the 73-year-old died on Saturday in Los Angeles. McKenzie battled Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease that affects the nervous system, and had been in and out of the hospital since 2010.

“San Francisco” was written by John Phillips, the leader of the 1960s group The Mamas and the Papas. But McKenzie sang it and it has stood as an anthem for the 1960s counterculture movement.

McKenzie also co-wrote “Kokomo,” a No. 1 hit for The Beach Boys in 1988, and toured with The Mamas and the Papas in the 1990s.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”…..

American writer Truman Capote’s novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is better known for its movie version. Being an ardent fan of Audrey Hepburn, I loved the movie and each time I hear the words Tiffany’s, what comes to my mind is the actress striking some fabulous and memorable poses in the movie. She epitomized   the central character of the book Holly Golightly in the minds of millions of people with her brilliant acting.           

The tale of Holly Golightly is told in the book by an unnamed narrator, both of who were once fellow tenants in an apartment in Manhattan, New York.He tells the story many years later after their paths have separated and he is no longer aware of the whereabouts of Holly.

  The narrator first becomes aware of her when he notices her unusual name on the post box.

“”I’d been living in the house about a week when I noticed that the mailbox belonging to Apt. 2 had a name-slot fitted with a curious card. Printed, rather Cartier-formal, it read:

Miss Holiday Golightly.”      

 

Initially Holly Golightly is unaware of the existence of the narrator. She’s a woman with a hectic social life, enjoying the company of rich men, who pamper her with expensive gifts. The narrator meets Holly in a very unusual manner when she raps at his widows and makes an entry into his apartment from the fire escape. After that they become close confidants and he learns about the young woman living alone in a Manhattan apartment with several men being her regular acquaintances. But even when the book ends, Holly remains a mystery to him as she does to the reader. What is characteristic of her is her untamed nature. The story is quintessentially an American tale but one which I enjoyed reading.

Truman Capote

A word about the author Truman Capote who is well-known for another of his books, “In Cold Blood”. This story is a very different one from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.It’s the real story of the murder of four members of one family in the US state of Kansas. A biographical movie about the writer made in 2005 titled “Capote” looks at the life of this controversial US writer and is well worth watching.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Please Look After Mother – A Korean tale of a lost Mother

What would you do if your mother, the one woman in our lives that we most often take for granted, disappeared one day?  It’s a tough question to answer or even to contemplate for many of us. South Korean author Kyung-Sook Shin in her  book Please Look After Mother, has done exactly that ,exploring the  varied reactions from different family members when Park So-nyo  disappears at a busy subway  in Seoul. Suddenly for her husband and four children, the woman who was the one constant in their lives is no gone.

The novel opens with the line, “It’s been one week since mother went missing.” The story is narrated by her eldest daughter, an accomplished writer, who moved out of their village home to the city like all the other children, leaving behind the elderly parents.   From there on, excepting for the obligatory telephones calls and occasional visits, the children are each too absorbed in their lives to focus on their aging Mother who is slowly being beset with illness. After her disappearance, her elder daughter in particular is  guilt-ridden and left dissecting every little detail of the times she had taken “Mom” for granted, neglected her, said hurtful things and paid scant attention to her advice.

Memories of Mother comes back to haunt her daughter  and she recalls instances which she now realizes were  the dreams that her mother could never fulfill for herself but which she sought to do through her children. Here’s a telling passage from the book.

Kyung-Sook Shin

“Since you heard about Mother’s disappearance, you haven’t been able to focus on a single thought, besieged by long forgotten memories unexpectedly popping up. And the regret that trailed each memory.

Years ago, a few days before you left hometown for the big city, Mother took you to a clothing shop at the market. You chose a plain dress, but Mother liked one with frills on the straps and hem.

“What about this one?”

“No”, you said, pushing it away.

‘Why not? Try it on.’  Mother, young back then, opened her eyes wide, uncomprehending. The frilly dress was worlds away from the dirty towel that was always wrapped around Mother’s head, which, like other farming women, she wore to soak up the sweat on her brow as she worked.

“It’s childish.”

“Is it,” Mother said but she held the dress up and kept examining it, as if she didn’t what to walk away.”I would try it on if I were you.”

Feeling bad you had called it childish, you said, “This isn’t even your style.”

Mother said,” No, I like these kinds of clothes, it’s just that I vet never been able to wear them.’

Hence the story unfolds, with recollections of the days gone by as well as the efforts by the children to track down Mother following up leads from people who claim to have seen her. It’s a poignant time for them but also a time of self discovery as they unearth  many unknown facets of their Mother’s life  and realize that she too had dreams which she never spoke about  but kept  canceled within her.

The author Kyung-Sook Shin tells a  story that  resonates with people across borders.The book which was first written in Korean and later translated into English by Chi-Young Kim won her the Man Asian literary prize  in March this year.