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Retired professor, Political Science. Author, traveler, Leica Photographer.

Pretexts for an Attack on Iran

Pretexts for an Attack on Iran

An Iraq-War redux is now in full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists – President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for example, who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton’s request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War.”

By midday, Trump had denied the Times report, branding it “fake news.” Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.

Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to “justify” attacking – this time – Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.

What is not clear, to Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to use the same specious charges – terrorism and nuclear weapons – to provoke war with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the U.S. as Iraq did – that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.

Before discussing the main, but unspoken-in-polite-circles, impulse behind the present step-up in threats to Iran, let’s clear some underbrush by addressing the two limping-but-still-preferred, ostensible rationales, neither of which can bear close scrutiny:

No. 1: It isn’t because Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. We of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity shot down that canard a year and a half ago. In a Memorandum for President Trump, we said:

“The depiction of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism’ is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years.”

No. 2. It isn’t because Iran is building a nuclear weapon. A November 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed any such work. That judgment has been reaffirmed by the Intelligence Community annually since then.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, imposed strict, new, verifiable restrictions on Iranian nuclear-related activities and was agreed to in July 2015 by Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, the U.K., Germany and the European Union.

Even the Trump administration has acknowledged that Iran has been abiding by the agreement’s provisions. Nevertheless, President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, four weeks after John Bolton became his national security adviser.

‘We Prefer No Outcome’

Fair WarningWhat follows may come as a shock to those malnourished on the drivel in mainstream media: The “WHY,” quite simply, is Israel. It is impossible to understand US Middle East policy without realizing the overwhelming influence of Israel on it and on opinion makers. (A personal experience drove home how strong the public appetite is for the straight story, after I gave a half-hour video interview to independent videographer Regis Tremblay three years ago. He titled it “The Inside Scoop on the Middle East & Israel,” put it on YouTube and it got an unusually high number of views.)

Syria is an illustrative case in point, since Israel has always sought to secure its position in the Middle East by enlisting US support to curb and dominate its neighbors. An episode I recounted in that interview speaks volumes about Israeli objectives in the region as a whole, not only in Syria. And it includes an uncommonly frank admission/exposition of Israeli objectives straight from the mouths of senior Israeli officials. It is the kind of case-study, empirical approach much to be preferred to indulging in ponderous pronouncements or, worse still, so-called “intelligence assessments.”

It has long been clear that Israeli leaders have powerful incentives to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority has become crystal clear in many ways. Reporter Jodi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem, had an important article in The New York Times on Sept. 6, 2013, in which she addressed Israel’s motivation in a particularly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike against Syria,” noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.

Rudoren wrote:

“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win – we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

If this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the carnage in Syria, they seem to believe that deeper U.S. involvement, including military action, is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict especially when Syrian government forces seem to be getting the upper hand. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates it will be.

The fact that Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. And since Iranian military support has not been enough to destroy those challenging Bashar al-Assad, Israel can highlight that in an attempt to humiliate Iran as an ally.

Today the geography has shifted from Syria to Iran: What’s playing out in the Persian Gulf area is a function of the politically-dictated obsequiousness of American presidents to the policies and actions of Israel’s leaders. This bipartisan phenomenon was obvious enough under recent presidents like Clinton and Obama; but under Bush II and Trump, it went on steroids, including a born-again, fundamentalist religious aspect.

One need hardly mention the political power of the Israel lobby and the lucrative campaign donations from the likes of Sheldon Adelson. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is riding high, at least for the now, Israeli influence is particularly strong in the lead-up to US elections, and Trump has been acquitted of colluding with Russia.

The stars seem aligned for very strong “retaliatory strikes” for terrorist acts blamed on Iran. But this is not altogether new: For those unfamiliar with former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s hold on George W. Bush, I include in below a few very short, but highly illustrative examples.

Tonkin – er, I Mean Persian Gulf

Over the weekend, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz. Last evening The Wall Street Journal was the first to report an “initial US assessment” that Iran likely was behind the attacks, and quoted a “US official” to the effect that if confirmed, this would inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf. The attacks came as the US deploys an aircraft carrier, bombers and an antimissile battery to the Gulf – supposedly to deter what the Trump administration said is the possibility of Iranian aggression.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting a bloody war for the past four years, launched a drone attack on a Saudi east-west pipeline that carries crude to the Red Sea. This is not the first such attack; a Houthi spokesman said the attack was a response to Saudi “aggression” and “genocide” in Yemen. The Saudis shut down the pipeline for repair.

Thus the dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz increase apace with U.S.-Iran recriminations. This, too, is not new.

Tension in the Strait was very much on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the US and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”

Now the potential for an incident has increased markedly. Adm. Mullen was primarily concerned about the various sides – Iran, the US, Israel – making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”

With Pompeo and Bolton on the loose, the world may be well advised to worry even more about “intended consequences” from a false flag attack. The Israelis are masters at this. The tactic has been in the US clandestine toolkit for a long time, as well. In recent days, the Pentagon has reported tracking “anomalous naval activity” in the Persian Gulf, including loading small sailing vessels with missiles and other military hardware.

Cheney: Down to the Sea in Boats

In July 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the vice president’s office in the wake of a January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and US warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

Hersh wrote:

“There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

“And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of, that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation.

“Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January 2008] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we’re into it.”

Preparing the (Propaganda) Battlefield

One of Washington’s favorite ways to blacken Iran and its leaders is to blame it for killing US troops in Iraq. Iran was accused, inter alia, of supplying the most lethal improvised explosive devices, but sycophants like Gen. David Petraeus wanted to score points by blaming the Iranians for still more actions.

On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” that would provide detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.”

Petraeus’s staff alerted US media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala, Iraq, would be displayed and then destroyed. But there was a small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.

This embarrassing episode went virtually unreported in Western media – like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no corporate media to hear it crash. A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks find out about it. The Iraqis did announce that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate US claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.”

With his windsock full of neoconservative anti-Iran rhetoric, Petreaus, as CIA director, nevertheless persisted – and came up with even more imaginative allegations of Iranian perfidy. Think back, for example, to October 2011 and the outlandish White House spy feature at the time: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US And hold your nose.

More recently, the Pentagon announced it has upped its estimate of how many US troops Iran killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. The revised death tally would mean that Iran is responsible for 17 percent of all US troops killed in Iraq.

Who Will Restrain the ‘Crazies’?

Pompeo stopped off in Brussels on Monday to discuss Iran with EU leaders, skipping what would have been the first day of a two-day trip to Russia. Pompeo did not speak to the news media in Brussels, but European foreign ministers said that they had urged “restraint.”

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended, really on either side.” British Army Major General Christopher Ghika was rebuked by US Central Command for saying Tuesday: “There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” Central Command spokesperson Captain Bill Urban said Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”

Although there is growing resentment at the many serious problems tied to Trump’s pulling the US out of the Iran deal, and there is the EU’s growing pique at heavyweights like Pompeo crashing their gatherings uninvited, I agree with Pepe Escobar’s bottom line, that “it’s politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.”

There remains a fleeting hope that cooler heads in the US military might summon the courage to talk some sense into Trump, in the process making it clear that they will take orders from neither Pompeo nor from National Security Advisor John Bolton. But the generals and admirals of today are far more likely in the end to salute and “follow orders.”

There is a somewhat less forlorn hope that Russia will give Pompeo a strong warning in Sochi – a shot across the bow, so to speak. The last thing Russia, China, Turkey and other countries want is an attack on Iran. Strategic realities have greatly changed since the two wars on Iraq.

In 1992, still in the afterglow of Desert Storm (the first Gulf War), former Gen. Wesley Clark asked then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz about major lessons to be drawn from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991. Without hesitation, Wolfowitz answered, “We can do these things and the Russians won’t stop us.” That was still true for the second attack on Iraq in 2003.

But much has changed since then: In 2014, the Russians stopped NATO expansion to include Ukraine, after the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev; and in the years that followed, Moscow thwarted attempts by the US, Israel, and others to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

No doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to “stop us” before the Bolton/Pompeo team finds an “Iranian” casus belli. Initial reporting from Sochi, where Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday indicates there was no meeting of the minds on Iran. Both Pompeo and Lavrov described their talks as “frank” – diplomat-speak for acrimonious.

Pompeo was probably treated to much stronger warnings in private during the Sochi talks with Lavrov and Putin. Either or both may even have put into play the potent China card, now that Russia and China have a relationship just short of a military alliance – a momentous alteration of what the Soviets used to call the “correlation of forces.”

In my mind’s eye, I can even see Putin warning, “If you attack Iran, you may wish to be prepared for trouble elsewhere, including in the South China Sea. Besides, the strategic balance is quite different from conditions existing each time you attacked Iraq. We strongly advise you not to start hostilities with Iran – under any pretext. If you do, we are ready this time.”

And, of course, Putin could also pick up the phone and simply call Trump.

There is no guarantee, however, that tough talk from Russia could stick an iron rod into the wheels of the juggernaut now rolling downhill to war on Iran. But, failing that kind of strong intervention and disincentive, an attack on Iran seems all but assured. Were we to be advising President Trump today, we VIPS would not alter a word in the recommendation at the very end of the Memorandum for President George W. Bush we sent him on the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2003, after Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council earlier that day:

“No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). This originally appeared at Consortium News.

Author: Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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War With Iran

The United States of Aggression: War With Iran Would Spell the End of the Republic

Who do we think we are? Truly. The latest reports that the Trump administration is considering plans for deploying 120,000 troops to the Middle East – presumably to strike Iran – demonstrates how Washington’s foreign policy has finally gone off the rails. Crazier still, the impending war with Iran isn’t even the today’s biggest news story – what with all the nonsense, soap opera hullabaloo about the Mueller Report – on mainstream media outlets. What the proposed plan constitutes is nothing less than the most important, and disturbing, global issue of the day. This is how it should be reported by a truly adversarial media: The United States is preparing for an aggressive, illegal, and unwarranted war against another sovereign power thousands of miles from its shores. Again! All true citizens should be beyond appalled and screaming dissent from the rooftops.

The proposed plan comes on the heels of Iran’s decision – prompted by U.S. hostility – to withdraw from certain, though not all, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, better known as the Iran nuclear deal) requirements. This shouldn’t come as any surprise. In fact, it’s incredible that Iran stayed in compliance with the treaty as long as it did. After all, it was the United Statesthat unilaterally scuttled the deal – with which its own intelligence services admitted Iran had complied with – against the advice of its European allies and even Secretary of State Tillerson. By reimposing sanctions on a compliant Iran, the US acted aggressively and actually vindicated any Iranian counteraction. Indeed, President Rouhani had some justification for his claim that Tehran’s move didn’t violate the agreement, per say, but that actually the JCPOA permitted it since reimposition of sanctions was “grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

This staggering military plan is only the latest escalation in a dangerous tit-for-tat game of chicken between Iran and the US Furthermore, it is Washington which has most often been the aggressor. The US, not Iran, recently deployed an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf. The US, not Iran, needlessly began a provocative semantic battle when it designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terror organization. So aggressive and unnecessary was this move that Iran’s subsequent retort that the real terror outfit in the region is USCENTCOM seemed disconcertingly accurate. Moreover, Washington has long exaggerated the level, and significance, of Iranian support for various regional proxies, such as the Houthis in Yemen, Shia militias in Iraq, and Hamas in Gaza. Bottom line: Iran currently presents no existential, strategic threat to the US

The whole sordid saga bears a striking, and disturbing, similarity to the worst foreign policy decision of the 21st century – America’s last war of choice waged in Iraq. Both were justified by inflated, vague, and alarmingly secretive intelligence reports. How’d that work out in 2003? Now, with the New York Times reporting that the magic number is again 120,000 troops – close to the number that invaded Iraq – we can deduce that even if war were warranted, the US military wouldn’t have the troops necessary to win.

The specter of war with Iran bears both hallmarks of terrible military adventures: Washington is again overestimating Iran’s bellicose intent and underestimating its capacity to defend itself. Make no mistake: war in the Persian Gulf will bloody, indecisive, and nearly impossible to disengage from. It’d be Iraq War 2.0, only worse – since Iran is bigger, more mountainous, and has a more nationalistic population than even Iraq.

The absurdity of even considering a major war with Iran demonstrates how truly Orwellian US foreign policy has become. Mr. Trump (correctly) chooses to reduce tensions with Russia and North Korea, but he still needs an enemy, a useful villain. Since loading up his administration with recycled neocons like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo – both obsessive Iranophones – it should’ve been obvious that Iran would play the scapegoat for, and justification of, America’s massive defense budget and apparent intention to maintain a military vice grip on the Mideast.

The American people hardly care about, and are excluded from, US foreign policy. A cabal of neocon Washington insiders, Trumpian buffoons, an all-powerful corporate arms dealing clique, and a compliant media seem to run America’s global affairs. Congress is hardly even consulted, as evidenced on Tuesday morning when Senator Bob Melendez – a highly placed member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee – admitted on CNN that he hadn’t been fully briefed, and didn’t fully understand, the oh-so-secretive intelligence that allegedly justifies this new military escalation in the Persian Gulf. That’s scary!

It is war that the unelected hyper-hawks like Bolton and Pompeo want, and, with an apathetic citizenry, uniformed Congress, and pliable president, it is war they may just get. Such a fight would be bloody, difficult, costly, and hard to end. It would shatter any remnants of regional stability and only serve to empower the two hidden hands behind this bellicosity – Saudi Arabia and Israel. To invade and/or attack Iran would, once and for all, spell the end of any fiction of the US remaining a representative republic governed by the popular will and international norms. Instead it’d be exposed for what it has long been becoming – a rogue, hegemonic empire bent on power and destruction.

If I were still in uniform, and I thank my lucky stars that I am not, I’d likely file as a conscientious objector. Indeed, I can hardly understand why most servicemen will not take such a drastic step. Though, admittedly, I too failed to do so during the horrific Iraq War.

Still, if loyal foot soldiers, a vacuous media, and an indifferent Congress march along to war in Iran, Roman history would repeat itself – as the empire finally swallows the republic whole.

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

Trump Convinced by Dead Ducks (Fake Dead Ducks)

You may not be able to convince the President of the United States that you are right, but dead ducks can!

CIA Chief Used Duck Photos to Trick Trump Into Anti-Russia Move

Haspel tricked Trump into thinking Russia poisoned British ducks

Trump makes plenty of hostile moves toward Russia of his own accord. This is compounded, however, when members of his cabinet, like CIA Director Gina Haspel start conniving to mislead Trump into taking even more hostile moves.

When the alleged Novichok poisoning happened in Salisbury in March of 2018, President Trump was not inclined to go along with recommendations within his cabinet to take a “strong option” to move against Russia.

Haspel was somehow “tasked” with convincing Trump to accept this move, and in doing so she showed Trump fake photographs of dead ducks, claiming that the ducks were poisoned in the “sloppy” Russian action.

This narrative centered on the fact that the poisoned Sergei Skripal was feeding ducks ahead of showing symptoms. He also interacted with some children at the time, and Haspel even had photos of “sick children.” There is no record that any children were sickened in the Novichok incident, and likewise there was never a single report of even one duck dying.

But fake photos work better than facts, ultimately, and Trump was quickly sold on taking the “strong option,” expelling a large number of Russian diplomats and closing a Russian consulate. This made 2018 a continuation of worsening US-Russia ties, which apparently was the goal of Haspel and others, but which they were only able to sell Trump on by lying about what actually happened.

Back to Izmir (India Blog 30)

Back to Izmir (India Blog 30)

Sunday December 16. 5:40 afternoon. Izmir, Turkey

Just got back to Izmir a short while ago. It was raining all the way from the airport. I took thirteen rolls of black and white film and ten rolls of color film.

More than 800 pictures on my cell phone. Most of these are not of much use to me.

I will develop and scan the film in my own dark room.

It was a pretty good trip back from Delhi, except that they did not give me an aisle seat. Most Indians are pretty pushy when it comes to that and the plane had mostly Indians aboard. Good that I got back with my cameras and film. I didn’t lose anything on the trip.

The plane from Delhi was full. The young Indian guy next to me was from San Francisco. I had a good conversation with him and told him about some of the things that had gone on in Turkey recently.

Most of the time of the flight, the shades on the windows of the plane were closed. And I slept part of the way for the six hour flight. We flew over Afghanistan. Sunny weather. The mountains were beautiful.

The USA is still bombing the shit out of them.

In Istanbul, there was no spare time after getting through customs and to the flight to Izmir. I had my seat number, but they guy changed it and stuck me in the back. I should have challenged it, but was too tired to do so, I guess. Hardly worth it. But somebody on Turkish Airlines screwed me over. A short flight, anyway. Just time to eat a tost and then the plane landed.

It was raining. So I got a taxi and came.

I sort of got updated to some extent on what is going on in India. There were no real mishaps, so everything worked out pretty well.

Now to develop my film.

(The End)

Last Day in Delhi (India Blog 29)

More Photography in Delhi (India Blog 29)

15 December, Saturday. 7:00 morning. Oh Man! Good sleep last night. I needed that. I was wise to stay one extra day here in Delhi. Otherwise, I would not have caught up on my sleep before the trip to Turkey.

I had some dreams, but do not remember any of them. That music stopped around eleven o’clock and it was okay after that. I thought it might go on later. One does not have the street noise here that one has in Kolkata. People just shout loudly on the street there.

I am going to try the area around the Jama Masjid this morning. First the mosque and then I will explore the area. I will use up all of the film that I have left.

So it will be back to Old Delhi today. I guess that I just cannot get enough of it. Actually, I think seeing Calcutta made me appreciate Delhi more.

5:00 Afternoon. That’s it. I made a day of it and I don’t think that I am going out again. I am on my last roll of film, the old expired colour film. I shot maybe half of that roll. I finished the black and white film in the Leica and two and a half rolls of colour in the Minolta. Altogether, I shot twenty-two and a half rolls. I am tired after going around all day.

Delhi is easier than Kolkata. Far less brutalizing, for sure.

In the morning, I took a rickshaw to Jama Masjid. I made pictures and walked from there. There are plenty of things to photograph besides the mosque.

A lot of the shops around the mosque are selling auto parts and even whole engines.

Finally, I went down into the bazaar which is actually part of Chandni Chowk. Saw several foreigners. Several couples were walking there. But most were travelling around in rickshaws. I suppose that it would be fascinating for them, but for good pictures, one really needs to be on their feet.

Back in those old ally ways, there are many old houses that were once upscale. Some have beautiful old doors. But now they are neglected and crumbling, like in the Kadife Kale area in Izmir, Turkey.

I shot off the film pretty quickly and finished the two and a half rolls of colour film. Then I finished the rest of the black and white film in the Leica.

Some rickshaw wallas are a little persistent, but nothing like that outfit in Calcutta.

Some of the small back lanes are treacherous now due to all the people dashing through there on motor scooters. One has to be constantly on alert and keep ducking into recesses, or getting up flat against a wall in order to avoid them.

Well, I had good energy, plenty of energy today. So that was good.

After I finished the film, around one o’clock, I decided to get back to the Connaught Circus area and have a beer.

I knew that I would lose the sun pretty quickly as the days were so short. If I hurried, I could get to India Gate and use that last roll of old colour film.

First, I had to have some lunch at Pind Baluch. I took a taxi to Regal Building and got into the restaurant. Ordered a Kingfisher beer. I ordered channa (chick peas). It was delicious, after the exercise in the morning. They give pretty big portions.

After the lunch, I walked back to the hotel and put the last old roll of film in the Minolta. I got a rickshaw to India Gate.

When I got there, I didn’t quite remember the orientation of the buildings and monuments. The India Gate is at the east end of that street, Raj Path. Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament is to the west. Parliament is just a little to the north of Raj Path.

I walked to the east toward India Gate as the sun was sinking fast. But it was still high enough for good pictures. I was surprised to see such a big crowd there. I do not remember seeing those crowds there in the past. Also they did not have the vendors all up and down the street, of sweets and various things to eat. But now there are many of them. The place is full of people wandering there.

After taking pictures of India Gate and the crowds, I walked back to the west. It is something like three kilometers to the west end where the President’s house and Parliament is.

A rickshaw guy wanted to take me there. I took it because the sun was going down rapidly and there was not time to walk. One cannot go all the way as there is a police barrier. But one could take pictures of the buildings from a distance.

Then the guy took me closer to Parliament building. It is closed off, but one can take pictures from a distance, near a fountain. It is good enough, unless one could actually go inside. I am sure that they do not allow that any more after the attack on parliament. It was in 2002, as I recall. I went to a conference in Bhopal just after that. It was a big blow to the security.

Some guys came along from Gurgoan, near Delhi. They started making their pictures with cell phones in front of the Parliament building. Then they asked me to join in the photo. Why, I have no idea.

Finally, I asked the rickshaw wallah to take me back to Regal Building. It was clearly time to hang it up for the day. The sun was sinking quite rapidly.

It was the last full day of the trip to India. And I enjoyed being back in Delhi again.

This morning at the hotel desk, I asked the clerk to please have them not tuck all the edges of the blankets under the mattress on the bed. One has to pull it all out in order to sleep. Anyway, I told them that one would have to be dead to lay flat there on the bed like that.

I never understood why all hotels do that shit.

Apparently, they did not get my message, because the blankets all got tucked in the same way again. The room cleaners must have standing orders to do it the same way every time.

8:30 evening. I have sorted my things out for the trip tomorrow. It has been a pretty good trip so far. Tomorrow should be the easy part. I will be glad to be going back on Turkish airlines.

Two weeks is long enough for a trip for photography where one is out in the streets every day. One probably gets a little tired, more than one realizes. But I am thankful that I had perfect health all the way through. I watched my food quite carefully to avoid problems with Delhi Belly.

Kolkata to Delhi on Jet Airways (India Blog 28)

Jet Airways from Kolkata to Delhi (India Blog 28)

What did I enjoy in Calcutta (Kolkata)? I cannot say that I enjoyed the people very much because I was not around the type that one could actually make friends with. I enjoyed the beer. That was delicious after hard pounding the streets with my cameras for several hours.

I enjoyed seeing the Howrah Bridge and walking across it and back.

I enjoyed taking pictures and using my Leica M6 and old Minolta SRT 101.

I enjoyed walking, even with all the obstacles.

I enjoyed seeing and riding in those old Hindustan Ambassador taxis, like something out of the 1950s. Those old, quite solid, cars are fun.

I enjoyed the food generally, not eating meat, I think, hardly at all. The taste and spices in Calcutta are somewhat different than in the north.

I enjoyed seeing some of the historical record of the British in India here, like St. John’s Church, and of course South Park Street Cemetery.

At 5:07 in the morning the first call to prayer is going down from a mosque.

I enjoyed the visit to the Victoria Memorial and the people there were not harassing one for money. They were just friendly and wanted to make their pictures with you. That was nice, and I felt friendly toward them. I enjoyed taking photographs there.

In Delhi, I enjoyed seeing more of the old areas that I had seem before, like Pahar Ganj and Chandni Chowk.

I enjoyed seeing the old places in Connaught Circus like that old Kwality Restaurant and the old corner where the old Bobby’s was.

I enjoyed seeing the Red Fort again and getting some pictures of it from different angles.

And, I generally enjoyed the flights, except for having a hurting butt and the pushy crowds and sometimes rude people.

So I have to say that there have been many things in the trip that I have enjoyed.

I was happy that the telephone connections to Turkey worked quite well so it was easy to communicate.

6:20 Got a Shower, Shave, Shit.

I will get out of here before long.

I have to be organized, organisized. Get my organs sized. That makes travel a lot easier for sure, and helps make it go smoother.

I will be getting out about 6:45.

2:50 Afternoon. New Delhi. The plane was late. And then the traffic in Delhi was terrible all the way to Connaught Place.

I will rest up a little and go eat. I will use up the rest of my film tomorrow. I am happy to be out of Cal and back in Delhi.

I got out of the hotel in Calcutta a little before seven o’clock. Ali got a taxi for me to the airport. A young driver brought me to the airport. It was a more modern car than those old Hindustan Ambassadors.

On the way, I saw some things that I had not seen before. Man! It would take a long time to see all the interesting sights in Calcutta. There were some interesting things that I wish I had known about earlier. I wish I had seen these areas.

First was the chicken market that we came through. Hundreds of chickens in coops and being made into meat. A little farther up on the same street, it became the fish market. I could not see much of it, but they had the fish laid out in the ground on a cloth of some kind. There was no ice or anything like that. A little farther were the coconuts market. There were piles of them all down the street. I think it was a sort of wholesale place for them.

I wish that I had seen these places earlier as they were great for photography. I missed these markets totally!

After a lot of dodging traffic, we finally came to the airport. It is farther than I remembered when I landed here. And the driver took a totally different route.

I had to go through the airport security again. They make me take off my shoes every time. That makes me think that the shoes I am wearing are very good shoes. Perhaps they have some metal in them. But I need them for pounding the streets.

The flight to Delhi was okay, but it was crowded. The airline was putting some pressure on passengers to upgrade to business class. They wanted 100 US dollars for it. It is not very small money. They said it was an eighty percent discount. I don’t believe that. I would probably feel too much like a bourgeois babu sitting up there with all the lemons. So I thought that it was not worth it. I saved my one hundred dollars. But they made me pay for it in a way.

The seats are quite small. This young dunce of a guy came next to me. I had the window seat on the starboard side of the plane. I was just three rows back from business class.

It was the second time that I got a crude asshole like that next to me on Jet Airways. I couldn’t get lucky enough to have a decent person in the next seat.

I am not asking for a pretty girl, just a decent person. Should not be too much to ask for.

After we took off, this guy went to sleep and started snoring quite loudly. And this made it more crowded, since he would not take off his jacket. The guy snored. Slept and snored loudly. What a bore!

Then the food came and we got a snack. And some chai. That was good. But this guy kept snoring.

After the food was finished, this guy woke up and opened up his own food from a bag that he brought on board. It was smelling to high heaven. It was a sort of egg sandwich, it seems, but then he broke out another one full of achar, a real strong smell of achar (Indian pickles). It surprised me that the airline allowed someone to do that. And the flight back to Delhi was longer, since there was no tail wind. Anyway, I got through okay and got my bag.

But while coming out of the plane, I told one of the stewardesses about that incident. I said that I didn’t think that it was a good idea to let people bring their own food onto the plane. I asked if this was Punjab Roadways.

5:10. I went and had some food at that Punjabi Restaurant, Pind Baluch. That place is doing very well. It is full in the late afternoon.

Back to the plane. The stewardess said that people could bring some food onto the plane, like a sandwich.

The taxi was okay, but the traffic was so heavy that it took more than an hour to get to the hotel. Glad to be back in Delhi. Quite a bit cooler here than in Kolkata. It surprised me. Everybody here was wearing jackets or sweaters. It is a big difference from Kolkata. I just went out with a shirt and felt cold.

10:00 Evening. Took a nap. Felt a little cool in the room. The room seems to be right on top of some discotheque and more noisy than the one I had before.

I will finish up taking pictures tomorrow. Need sleep tonight.

Early Morning Thoughts (India Blog 27)

Early Morning Thoughts (India Blog 27)

14 December, 2018. Friday. 4:15 morning.

It is early, but it seems that I do not need to sleep any more. I went to bed just after ten o’clock. I thought that it was morning when I woke up at half past twelve in the night. Then went back to sleep.

I think that it has been a pretty successful trip and I found out about Calcutta. I saw the conditions here. Of course, I couldn’t go to a real serious slum area. The biggest slums are outside the city. But I have seen enough poverty and destitution to do me.

Humanly, one cannot deal with it. That’s why people just put it completely out of their consciousness and turn to other things. Thinking about poverty, it seems, is a luxury that one can easily engage in in rich western countries. For people facing, living here long term, they know that it is as constant as rain, wind and earth. It is there and there is no possibility of it not being there.

Not under the present capitalist economic systems that exist.

So in order to live, people have to put it out of their minds. I can take a pocket full of small change and it will be gone in a short walk, not giving to every beggar, but just one now and then. It does not seem right to someone from a rich country, or even Turkey, which is not so rich, to just ignore the grotesque forms of human beings that one encounters on the side walks here at every turn.

Just sleeping on the side walk wrapped up in a filthy rag in the middle of the day. No one knows or cares how near to death the person is or if they expire momentarily. They will just be picked up and disposed of.

In fact, it is normal for me to think of Turkey as a rich country, similar to the USA in relation to the poverty in India.

Well, I think personally, that there is something terribly wrong with a society, and a world, that produces such a situation. When there is so much resources and wealth in the world. Isn’t it a form of terrorism to put a person in a position that they have no hope but simply to die on the side walk?

So encountering these people everywhere one went, everywhere, was something that made it very difficult to enjoy being here.

The other thing that made it difficult was the touts, especially around markets, like Hogg Market. After the last time that I was there, I just didn’t feel like going back there again because of being harassed by those touting their shops.

You don’t have to come. You don’t have to buy. Just come look.”

No! You are not running a museum. It is not a matter of looking but of selling. They will make one feel guilty if they do not buy something. I feel the same way in a book store. I would like to look, knowing that I will probably not buy anything. But then, they make one feel like they are an asshole for not buying one of their books.

And they try to push the most wretched books on one, like by those pushing Hindu communalism.

Except for those things, I enjoyed being here. I wish that I could just enjoy the atmosphere, sights, sounds and smells. But it is disgusting when people bug one too much at every turn. It makes one just want to run away. I got disgusted once or twice and told them to “leave me the fuck alone.” Of course, they pretend not to know what that means. They do not need to. They can see that they made a person angry. But they don’t let up. They keep going. They seem to think that just a little more pressure and then they will break one down. And they will finally in the end sell one something that they really do not want like silk or a sari. Why do I want to buy a sari? And they are not doing it to Indians, just westerners. There is some of that in Turkey too, in Kemeralti, Izmir, but nothing like the way it is here. I found that sometimes it works to just be very busy taking pictures and not to pay any attention to them. Sometimes they see that they cannot get one’s attention and then leave one alone. That’s usually what I did. Not pay attention to them at all. One is busy doing something and they are bothering one with something that they do not want.

I feel very fortunate that I finally got to see some of Calcutta. I had wanted to for years.