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Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Journal Archives

From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

Sunday, April 19, 2015

World View: Tony Blair is still pilloried for the decisions he took over Iraq. David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging

Few recall that David Cameron led Britain into one war in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi, but was disastrous for most Libyans. Without this conflict, the drowned bodies of would-be emigrants to Europe would not be washing up in their hundreds on Libyan beaches. To get the full flavour of what went wrong, it is worth watching a YouTube clip of Cameron grandstanding on a balcony in Benghazi on 15 September 2011, as he lauds Libya’s new freedom. Then turn to almost any recent film of Benghazi or Tripoli showing militias battling in streets and buildings shattered by shellfire.

Another scene worth revisiting via YouTube is the House of Commons on 29 August 2013, when Cameron lost the vote which would have opened the door to British military intervention in Syria. Ostensibly this was in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Damascus, but would have had an effect only if it had turned into a Libyan-type air campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. There is every reason to believe that al-Qaeda-type movements would have filled the vacuum and Syria would have descended even deeper into anarchy.

What is striking here is not so much that Cameron never seemed to have much idea about what was going on in Libya or Syria as the degree to which his culpability has never been an issue. Contrast this with the way in which Tony Blair is still pilloried for the decisions he took over going to war in Iraq in 2003. Focus on the decisions taken in the lead-up to the invasion has become a national obsession in which Blair is a scapegoat, as if most of the British establishment and popular opinion did not support him at the time. Admittedly this support was partly the result of concocted evidence about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD, but there is something absurd about the fact that it is almost impossible these days to meet a diplomat or a general who does not claim to have been deeply, if silently, opposed to the whole venture at the time.

A problem about this obsession with the events of 2002 and 2003 is that they have led to amnesia about what happened subsequently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the mourning for soldiers killed in these two wars treats them as if they were victims of a natural catastrophe rather casualties in conflicts which were the result of political decision-making. This is deeply convenient for the governments responsible since they don’t have to answer too many questions about their war aims and why they failed to achieve them.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/from-iraq-to-libya-and-syria-the-wars-that-come-back-tohaunt-us-10187065.html

On Developments in Yarmouk: France 24 Interview with Jadaliyya Co-Editor Mouin Rabbani

In this interview with France 24, Jadaliyya Co-Editor Mouin Rabbani speaks about the situation in the Yarmouk district of Damascus. Yarmouk has historically been the primary center of Palestinian life in Syria, and much of it was recently seized by the Islamic State movement. Rabbani discusses the situation of the Palestinian community in Syria, the failure of Palestinian leaderships to serve their interests, and also the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Syria.


The Bernie Buzz: Stop the Ugland House Scam

On April 15, the income tax deadline for most Americans, Bernie introduced a bill to stop corporations from avoiding their fair share of taxes by stashing profits in the Cayman islands, Bermuda and other tax havens. He spoke at a Capitol news conference in front of a photo of the notorious Ugland House, the Cayman Islands office that is the registered address of more than 18,000 companies. Yes. There are supposedly 18,000 companies doing business in one small building. Needless to say, it's all a scam to avoid paying taxes to the U.S. government.

Nobody is really doing business there. It's just a postal address to allow the companies to claim that they do business in the Cayman islands which has no corporate income tax. “At a time when we have an $18.2 trillion national debt; at a time when many of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high, it is past time for corporate America to pay their fair share in taxes so that we can address the many problems which this country faces," Bernie said.


The reproduction of tyranny

Lamis Andoni

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The most painful aspect of the success of the post-Arab Spring counter-revolution is not only the return of tyranny across the Middle East, but also the reproduction of tyrannical culture by both media and society. It is almost as if tyranny were the natural state of things, and that justice and fairness are the exception, not the rule, in the Arab countries.

snip* Governments have resorted to intimidation and spreading panic by means of media outlets – a goal that would not have succeeded in recent months without the spectre of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other such terrorist organisations. This raises many questions regarding the true origins and purpose of such groups, especially since they can be seen to serve the interests of the counter-revolution, or even, can be considered an integral part of the regional counter-revolution that has driven many to support the return of oppression in search of safety.

The victory of the counter-revolution is also explained, to some extent, by the acceptance, and even encouragement of some elites for the return of colonialism under the pretexts of stability and the desire to get rid of the terrorist threat posed by ISIS and other armed militias ( some of whom actually work directly with the governments). These elites are, in fact, trying to prevent the destruction and barbarism that spares no one.

The deep psychological impact of what is currently happening – the shift from hope of freedom to the darkness of destruction, torture, killings and massacres – has restored subservience to the hearts of many. Such submission is the greatest tool for rallying the masses and driving them to accept tyranny and even participate in violence and murder, as we have seen throughout history, including during the Nazi era. This psychological impact will also be reflected in human interaction, as we have noticed that frustration and defeat leaves the impression that the calls for freedom and justice meant nothing and that the only rule that now applies is the survival of the fittest. It also leads people to believe that oppression and bulling, either in at home, work or school, are conditions that guarantee the preservation of power, status and control.

in full: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/18054-the-reproduction-of-tyranny

In the Middle East, our enemy's enemy must be our friend

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 12 April 2015

World View: Al-Qaeda-type movements are gaining land and power, and there is only one way to stop them

The ghost of Osama bin Laden will have been chuckling this month as he watches the movements he inspired conquer swathes of the Middle East. He will be particularly gratified to see fighters from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) storm into Al Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s eastern province of Hadhramaut from which the bin Laden family originated before making their fortune in Saudi Arabia.

As happened in Mosul, Iraq last summer when the Iraqi army fled before a jihadi attack, Yemeni government soldiers abandoned their bases in Al Mukalla leaving US Humvees and other military equipment. Earlier, AQAP had seized the central prison in the city and freed 300 prisoners, including Khaled Batarfi, one of the most important jihadi leaders in Yemen.

It is a measure of the severity of the multiple crises engulfing the region that AQAP, previously said by the United States to be the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda, can capture a provincial capital without attracting more than cursory attention in the outside world. How different it was on 2 May 2011 when President Obama and much of his administration had themselves pictured watching the helicopter raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan where bin Laden was killed. The grandstanding gave the impression that his death meant that the perpetrators of 9/11 had finally been defeated.

But look at the map today as unitary Muslim states dissolve or weaken from the north-west frontier of Pakistan to the north-east corner of Nigeria. The beneficiaries are al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda inspired groups which are growing in power and influence. The US and its allies recognise this, but cannot work out how to prevent it.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/in-the-middle-east-our-enemys-enemy-must-be-our-friend-10169984.html

The Libertarian Plea to Bring Back Jim Crow: An Oxymoron by a Regular Moron

By William K. Black
Quito: April 7, 2015

My April 4, 2015 column discussed the Wall Street Journal’s express endorsement of a right of merchants to discriminate against groups they detest. I explained that the WSJ was adopting the position of Richard Epstein and quoted Epstein about the policy question he found to be a “very hard question.” That question was “voluntary” hereditary slavery – he’s in favor of it as a “right” essential to “liberty.” But he admits that he finds it “very hard” to justify the impact of the “voluntary” contract of slavery on the “externalities” – and yes, he is talking about children as commodities. I quoted the passage from Epstein’s famous defense of discrimination in his book Forbidden Grounds to show how zany the policy views are that emerge like mold spores as soon as one endorses discrimination by merchants against groups they despise as a means of increasing “liberty.”

I also noted that, according to conservatives, every leading candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency rushed to embrace the right of merchants to discriminate in the Indiana Act as originally passed. I stressed that the Indiana’s Act allowed merchants to discriminate against any group – blacks, Jews, women wearing “immodest” dress, LBGT, or Latinos as long as the merchant phrased his bigotry as a product of his personal religious views. Republican Party strategists try valiantly every couple years to wean the Party from hostility to women and minorities, but the fear of losing in the Republican primary to someone to ultra-right has so terrorized every major Republican candidate for the presidential nomination that they keep on taking symbolic and substantive actions that constitute “revealed prejudices.” That same dynamic explains the Indiana legislature’s Republican members’ votes and Governor Mike Pence’s original enthusiastic support for authorizing merchants to discriminate on the basis of factors such as race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. It is odd that a law that would allow a merchant to discriminate against customers on the basis of their religious beliefs could be labeled a bill protecting religious freedom. One might hope the media would point this out in their articles and on radio and television rather than parroting the original Indiana Act’s oxymoronic title.

I explained that this fear of the primary opponent from the ultra-right was acute in Indiana because the most respected Republican Senator, “Dick” Lugar, was annihilated in the primary by a loon. The loon was so extreme (describing women who were impregnated by their rapists as receiving a “gift” from G-d), that he lost in the general election even though Indiana is an infra-red state. The true “gift” that keeps on giving in terms of U.S. presidential elections is the Republican Party’s palpable hostility to enormous numbers of Americans. Mitt Romney even gave these people a number – he said that it was his job if elected not to represent the 47% of Americans.

My April 4 column was responding to the WSJ’s claim that such discrimination by merchants represented “dissent” and that “liberals” (by which they meant often conservative major business leaders) were acting outrageously because they did not “tolerate” such “dissent.” The great thing about the modern WSJ is that it only takes a few hours to start crazy and then spin into full zany. Sure enough, by April 6, 2015, William McGurn (WSJ alum gone even wackier as the New York Post’s editor), had written in the WSJ calling for libertarians to go full-Epstein and endorse merchants’ “right” to discriminate against groups they despise.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/04/the-libertarian-plea-to-bring-back-jim-crow-an-oxymoron-by-a-regular-moron.html

Unworthy victims: Western wars have killed four million Muslims since 1990


Landmark research proves that the US-led ‘war on terror’ has killed as many as 2 million people, but this is a fraction of Western responsibility for deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades.

Last month, the Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million.

The 97-page report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctors’ group is the first to tally up the total number of civilian casualties from US-led counter-terrorism interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The PSR report is authored by an interdisciplinary team of leading public health experts, including Dr. Robert Gould, director of health professional outreach and education at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and Professor Tim Takaro of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

Yet it has been almost completely blacked out by the English-language media, despite being the first effort by a world-leading public health organisation to produce a scientifically robust calculation of the number of people killed by the US-UK-led “war on terror”.

in full: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/unworthy-victims-western-wars-have-killed-four-million-muslims-1990-39149394

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Struggle for Palestine: What’s Winnable, What’s Not

Posted on Apr 7, 2015

By Jamie Stern-Weiner

How can the Palestine solidarity movement win? What demands should it make in order to achieve the maximum amount of justice within the constraints of what is politically feasible? And how should it frame those demands in order to reach a broad public?

These are questions of political judgment rather than science. But sound political judgment will be rooted, so far as possible, in a clear-eyed assessment of current (or incipient) public opinion. A movement that wants to persuade a mainstream audience will position itself within or just beyond the spectrum of mainstream public opinion, taking care not to isolate itself by adopting language and demands that lack political resonance.

What in the end matters is not merely public opinion but public opinion mobilized and expressed in the realm of formal politics.

The Swedish government’s decision in October 2014 to unilaterally recognize the state of Palestine triggered a succession of European parliamentary motions urging governments to follow suit. Lawmakers in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland called for immediate recognition while members of Portugal’s Parliament urged recognition “in coordination with the European Union.” Weaker motions were passed in Spain,1, Belgium2 and Italy while, in Denmark, a resolution calling for immediate recognition was rejected.

in full: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_struggle_for_palestine_whats_winnable_whats_not_20150407

Hezbollah: Iran deal rules out specter of regional and world wars

Hezbollah leader says accord would prevent conflict as 'Israeli enemy was always threatening to bomb Iranian facilities that would definitely lead to regional war.'

By Laila Bassam and Oliver Holmes Apr. 7, 2015

REUTERS - The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Monday that a framework nuclear agreement that Iran reached with world powers last week rules out the specter of regional war.

"There is no doubt that the Iranian nuclear deal will be big and important to the region," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview with Syria's al-Ikhbariya television.

"The agreement, God willing, rules out the specter of regional war and world war," he said.

The tentative accord, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.


U.S. Omits Iran and Hezbollah From Terror Threat List
By Jack Moore 3/16/15

ISIS and What's at Stake for Saudi Arabia?

Madawi Al-Rasheed says the Saudis contend with ISIS to be the leaders of the Sunni world, but their interests converge as both regard Iran and the Shia as their enemy - April 5, 2015


Madawi Al-Rasheed is Visiting Professor at the Middle East Centre at The London School of Economics and Political Science. She is originally from Saudi Arabia and currently lives in London. Her research focuses on history, society, religion and politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Her recent publications include A History of Saudi Arabia and A Most Masculine State .


ISIS and What's at Stake for Saudi Arabia? (2/3)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.

Continuing our series of discussions, Madawi al-Rasheed. She joins us, again, from London. Thanks for joining us, Madawi.


JAY: Once again, Madawi's a visiting professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

So in part one of this interview series, we talked about the Saudi stakes in Yemen. But as most countries, domestic politics sometimes is the most important determining factor about external policy. So today we're going to talk a little bit more about the situation in Saudi Arabia.

First of all, let's talk about the Shia in Saudi Arabia. First of all, as you mentioned in part one, the Saudis have incurred a couple of times actually in Bahrain to help the Bahraini monarchy suppress the rebellion there, or protests. There's a large minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia, and it happens to be very strategically located right where most of the oil is. Incurring this, the Yemen incursion, as the Houthis are Shia, how does this play out, in terms of Saudi domestic politics?

AL-RASHEED: I think the Saudi Shia started a kind of uprising protest movement. But they were suppressed. And until sort of recently, they continued to stage very small demonstrations in their villages in the Eastern province where the oil installations are, and the oil fields. But they failed to create any kind of cross-sectarian solidarities.

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