Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Monday, October 15, 2012
Oct 31, 2011
In Libya, authorities are deciding how to deal with Col Gaddafi's death and, in particular, his burial. As one scours the back pages of history, when the enemies of the US - with wildly different goals - died, there has always been an ominous chaos over their burial and graves. Many who had been part of the US battle plan, whether they died in direct conflict or not, were dragged into the politics of graves nanoseconds after their death.
Two years after September 11, Bin Laden wrote a poem, "Let my grave be an eagle's belly, its resting place in the sky's ambience amongst perched eagles." Eventually when the bald eagles got to him in Abbottabad, his body was thrown into the sea. The fantasies of a Caliphate-obsessed Wahabi have already become fleeting, as Muslims across the Middle East are juddering the autocrats with democratic protests. The US, as if possessed by the demons of Osama, sought to liquidate his legacy with a watery burial. Uncle Sam wanted Osama dead or alive, not dead and alive.
For the US, it's not for the first time the corpse of its dead political enemies caused such dilemmas. When the American superman was fighting the hydra of Communist revolutions, it had faced similar dilemmas. When Che Guevara was caught by Bolivian and undercover US forces, they had faced a similar crisis of dealing with the body of their nemesis. On an October night when his body was placed on a stretcher, tied to the landing skids of a helicopter, and flown over to Vallegrande, the US was planning ways to "disappear" his body. The men around behaved like a boy who raided his father's closet. CIA officer Felix Rodriguez collected his personal relics – Rolex watches, last pouch of half-smoked pipe tobacco put inside a glass bubble set into the butt of his favourite revolver - before leaving for the US to brief his bosses. His executioner, Mario Teran, took home his pipe. Doctors slit his throat and injected formaldehyde.
Che's death had created Laden-like, Gaddafi-like, confusion about convincing the outside world about how he was actually killed. General Alfredo Ovando Candia wanted to chop off Che's head and keep it as evidence. Rodriguez found the idea too barbaric and suggested that only his fingers be chopped off. A compromise was reached later and his hands were cut off and placed in jars of formaldehyde. Soon two forensic experts were flown in from Argentina and the prints matched those in the file of "Ernesto Guevara de la Serna".
On October 11, Che's body was dumped in a secret grave near the Vallegrande airstrip. The details of the grave remained a mystery for 30 years. His skeleton was recovered, minus the hands, in July 1977 by a Cuban-Argentine forensic team from a two-metre pit along with those of his six comrades. Grave or no grave, for the rest of the world, Che left a variety of impressions. Fidel Castro then rendered an emotional goodbye to his beloved comrade: "If we wish to express what we want our children to be, we must say from our very hearts as ardent revolutionaries: we want them to be like Che!"
When CIA man Sidney Gottlieb landed in the Congo in September 1960, he was looking for the toothbrush of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's feisty first prime minister. He was carrying with him a vial of poison. Before the CIA could reach his toothbrush, a military coup dislodged the government. The CIA abandoned the plot against the man whom it feared to be a rabid communist and the poison was dumped into the Congo River.
The Eisenhower administration continued to fear the man would loosen the grip of the US on natural resources of Africa and his anti-colonialism scared Brussels. "In high quarters here, it is the clear-cut conclusion that if [Lumumba] continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will [have] disastrous consequences . . . for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective," CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote. When he was killed in January 1961, the CIA and Belgium came under suspicion. After his arrest by Congolese authorities in December 1960, Belgium managed his transfer to Katanga province under Belgian control. After his arrival there on January 17, Lumumba was killed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian officer.
Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete and his brother cut up the body with a hacksaw and dissolved it in sulphuric acid. Lumumba, 35, had written to his wife a week prior to his death: "I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable, and with profound trust in the destiny of my country."
Joesph Stalin's death was equally dramatic but this time not engineered by the US. Radio Moscow told the world on March 4, 1953 that Stalin had been struck with cerebral haemorrhage while in his Moscow apartment (but Stalin was at his dacha). The central committee communique asked the Soviet people "to redouble their unity, solidarity, fortitude of spirit and vigilance in the troubled times". But Stalin had fallen sick a week before the announcement. Politburo members who visited Stalin after his staff told them that there was something wrong with his health decided to not go inside his room as "it would not be suitable to make our presence known while Stalin was in such an unpresentable state." When the doctors were called in, some of them were even scared to check his pulse. "You're a doctor, aren't you? Go ahead and take his hand properly," Politburo member Beria told a doctor. Politburo members kept a night vigil; powerful ones got the day shift. Nikita Krushchev was on night shift when Stalin died.
"Suddenly Stalin stopped breathing. A huge man came from somewhere and started giving him artificial respiration, massaging him to get him breathing again. It was painful for me to see him working over Stalin. I said, Listen! Stop it please! Can't you see the man is dead? What do you want? You want to bring him back to life!" Krushchev wrote in his autobiography. After lying-in-state for three days, Stalin's body was sent for embalming.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Professor Vorobyev embalmed the body. He inserted an electric pump into Lenin's body to ensure constant humidity. This time the job went to Professor Zharsky, Vorobyev's assistant who spent seven months to embalm Stalin’s corpse. In November 1953, it was placed near Lenin's body.
Following Stalin's death, the party, led by Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party (1953-1964) and premier of the Soviet Union (1958-1964), started admitting atrocities committed by Stalin. In a "secret speech" at 20th Party Congress he hit out at Stalin. After two years, the party uncorked a plan to remove his physical memories. It set up a speech by Bolshevik old-timer Dora Abramovna Lazurkina at 22nd party Congress. She spoke with vigour: "My heart is always full of Lenin. Comrades, I could survive the most difficult moments only because I carried Lenin in my heart, and always consulted him on what to do. Yesterday I consulted him. He was standing there before me as if he was alive, and he said: 'It is unpleasant to be next to Stalin, who did so much harm to the party.'"
Khrushchev rose to the occasion by reading out his plan remove Stalin's remains: "The further retention in the mausoleum of the sarcophagus with the bier of J. V. Stalin shall be recognised as inappropriate since the serious violations by Stalin of Lenin's precepts, abuse of power, mass repressions against honourable Soviet people, and other activities in the period of the personality cult make it impossible to leave the bier with his body in the mausoleum of V. I. Lenin." His body was buried with other lesser leaders near Kremlin wall and obscured by trees. A granite stone at the Generalissimo's grave reads J. V. STALIN 1879-1953.
Nicaragua's most respected guerrilla leader, Augusto Cesar Sandino, whose ragtag rebels fought US Marines during the 1930s, was killed by the US-backed dictator General Somoza. According to Sandinista lore, General Somoza's assassins cut his body into pieces and delivered his head to Washington as a token of loyalty. General Somoza scattered his body in different locations to confuse searchers and ensure that his body would not be found by his supporters.
Dead bodies have another life as symbols. Histories are often rewritten, quoting these dead in and out of context. There are more remains of St Francis than a single human being could ever offer.
The men who are theoretically gone are not politically gone. Many of them have busted a cherished myth: death kills. Even without a tomb, Sandino's hat, his boot, his writings continue to groom national identity. The US might have ensured Che died young, but Che still inspires anyone who questions circularity of history. On the wall of a public telephone office of Vallegrande is the graffiti saying "Che - alive as they never wanted to be."
The strangest legacy of Che was left on CIA man Rodriguez. "Che may have been dead, but somehow his asthma -a condition I never had - attached itself to me. To this day, my chronic shortness of breath is a constant reminder of Che and his last hours," wrote Rodriguez.
Gaddafi has been moved from an industrial freezer tomb to a more discreet one. With the death of Gaddafi, who had a love-hate-relationship with the US, democracy is all set to grow like a green zaitoon tree in the Arab street, threatening many pro-US regimes, giving the US another set of chronic shortness of breath.
|date:||11/3/11 at 5:12 PM|
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Everyone, who loves a good revolution, should join this prayer. Dear comrades, our team, the People’s Dictatorship of North Korea, are playing against world number one Brazil, the mighty running dogs of imperialism. And we are the underdogs, tournament's lowest-ranked team, coming in at 105 in the international standings.
The party broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang reported that the only proletarian team received a festive send-off on Saturday, with residents waving North Korean flags outside the airport as the players arrived. Footage showed women waving flowers as the team boarded the plane. Coach Kim Jong Hun promised 'a great success.' In true Communist tradition, North Korea have so far been the tournament's most elusive team, granting few interviews, avoiding photographs and kicking journalists out of what was scheduled to be an open training session last week.The North Korean dark horses - fittingly nicknamed Chollima, after a mythical winged horse - are devoid of big names. We don’t believe in individuals, we believe in class. It’s one for all.
Our party keeps a close eye on the national side's performance. It banned the team from travelling abroad after losses to South Korea and Japan in qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup. We don’t mind losing municipal polls to Mamta Banerjee. After all who wants to be that lady -- may be some female transsexuals who long to be a woman. Being a woman or a Mamta is just an excuse for not playing football.We will fight to win matches. In our only previous World Cup, in England 43 years ago, we became many people's second team as we beat the mighty Italy on the way to the quarter-finals, where we went out to a Eusebio-inspired Portugal, 5-3. We Communists can even surprise ourselves. Anyone remember comrade Valery Borzov, who stunned the American sprinters by winning both the 100 and 200 at the 1972 Olympics? Or East German comrade cum marathoner Waldemar Cierpinski, a virtual unknown, who won gold in 1976 and 1980?
In a pre-game press briefing on Monday, our Coach Kim Jong-hun refused to take any questions from the bourgeoisie Press on politics, broadly defined. "Who selects your team - you or the president?" one journalist asked, creating an Arnab Goswami vs Kishenji situation. FIFA press officer Gordon Glenn Watson grabbed the microphone. "That's a political question. Next question please," he said.
In fact, FIFA should know. During a qualifier match hosted in Pyongyang, North Korean fans became enraged when the referee failed to award Korea DPR with a penalty kick after a controversial play near the end of the match. Demanding a penalty, they rushed Syrian referee Mohamed Kousa, who instead gave a North Korean player a red card. Bottles, stones and chairs were thrown and North Korean fans refused to let the Iranian team leave the stadium on their team bus. Following this incident, Korea lost its right to host the subsequent home match with Japan and the game was instead played behind closed doors to an empty stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. We readily agreed. We were not bowing to the FIFA, it was just a tactical line. But as good Communists, we love closed door matches. Like fiery comrades at the extended central committees, we won the closed-door match. A thousand flowers bloomed at the empty stadium.
Kim Myong-Won usually plays as an attacker. But coach Kim Jong-Hun added him as one of the three goalkeepers, as all the squads must nominate three eligible keepers for the tournament; however, the move backfired, as FIFA revealed that Kim will only be allowed to play as a goalkeeper, and not as an outfield player as had originally been intended. Remember, “tactical lines” are not always successful. Even our campaign to reach football's four-yearly showpiece was not free from intrigue, our favourite trait. Earlier this year we said our players had been poisoned ahead of a 1-0 defeat in Seoul, allegations that South Korean football officials branded as "groundless" and "far-fetched." The North, in a statement, also pointed the finger at the Omani referee. "The match... turned into a theatre of plot-breeding and swindling," the party statement said. Plot-breeding and swindling – we love those words. Did we hear it before from our-own Prakash Karat, resident commissar of AKG Bhavan?
Who said Trotskyism is dead. China is North Korea's chief benefactor, and it apparently respected the wishes of our reclusive leader Kim Jong Il last week when it refused to confirm his secretive visit to Beijing until he had left. A China-based sports apparel maker, Erke, sponsored all of North Korea's teams in the Beijing Olympics two years ago, and it now sponsors the country's football team. The team kept their World Cup jersey under wraps prior to the tournament, sending collectors determined to buy all 32 teams' shirts on a global hunt for the manufacturer.North Korea have been all but invisible in the football fever that has gripped host country South Africa. The isolated nation is probably the least represented in the deluge of flags, jerseys and other gear that has flooded the country. Vendors near Ellis Park, the Johannesburg stadium hosting North Korea's opener, were stumped by requests for the country's jersey embroidered with mythical bird, Chollima, on Monday. "Sorry boss, next time," said a vendor after checking in vain with colleagues up and down the street. After all comrade Mao had warned: Revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery.
Unlike the wealthy nations staying in their five star hotels, our poor comrades have been forced to send their players to a public gym for strength training. The players mingled with South African musclemen, smiling graciously, as they pumped iron with their legs. There are others who keep false hopes. “For one thing, I’m guessing no North Korean will score a goal, then lift his jersey to reveal a t-shirt that says “I love Jesus.” And I doubt that a petulant striker will badmouth the coach and storm out of the camp, says sports writer Ed Wyatt.
Poverty leaves North Korea as a team of internationals that don’t even have refrigerators. As North Korean player Choe Myong Ho eloquently stated, “What’s a refrigerator for? It allows you to get cold drinks in the summer. And if you do that, you could catch a cold and not be able to train.” I am going to cheer this guy.
If you have not yet changed your mind to support these guys, here’s one more reason to cheer North Koreans. Our star striker is 24-year-old local committee member Ri Kwang-Chon. Remember, comrade Pinarayi Vijayan is also a Chon.