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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Propaganda and Strategic Threat

Hassan A Barari (“Israelism, Arab Scholarship on Israel, a critical assessment.”) states that “Israeli studies in the Arab world are weighed down by biased projection, ideological deformation, predisposition and the need to expose rather than to understand or explain the ‘other’.”   This could also apply as a template for Muslim-Non Muslim interaction.

Conflict within the Muslim world has never been about Israel but has always been about Israel.  Let me explain. Israel is an imperfect symbol for a Western ideal of democracy and human rights. It is an outpost on the lip of a hostile Arab volcano that contemptuously denigrates both principles.  It is this allegiance to a poisoned Arab chalice that before everything, defines, as it obstructs any relationship.

I apologize to Jonah Goldberg, if any of what follows should be attributed to him. To the author of “Liberal Fascism,” the word ‘fascism’ is “a modern word for heretic.” Heretics are hounded, marginalized, tortured and killed for their thought crimes. How ironic therefore that a fascist will utilize the word as a weapon to be wielded against anyone with whom they disagree, with cavalier and promiscuous abandon. Its core supporters are to be counted amongst liberals and adherents of left wing politics. They claim to represent the moral high ground which means that they inevitably preach a need for “Social rebirth.”  The Nation of Islam, many Afro-centric groups, Anti-Zionist groups and individuals employ tactics that differ little from totalitarianism.  While fascism is associated with militarism, in its nuanced Western state it rejects Western intervention in the affairs of nations to which the military is central to controlling society.

The means by which ‘undesirables’ are targeted is by a sophist argument that goes: if it is good, it cannot be bad; while if it is bad, it cannot be good.  The irreducible logic of modern day fascism is that the chosen are flawless and therefore, to argue for objective or principled reason falls on deaf ears.  In this way, anti-Zionism is no different to fundamentalist Islam or The Church that gave us the apparatus of the Inquisition.

The foundation stone of this cultural prejudice is obedience, and it largely discourages critical thought.

In support of this poisoned Occidentalist mindset we refuse to critically examine conduct or mores of behavior outside of our own small corner of humanity.  We dissect our society through a conflict prism defined by Western guilt, colonial angst and indifference to a cultural competition that is often, aggressively waged against us. Comparisons are inevitable but usually superficial, so it is better not to make any judgment at all. And this is the problem.  Our differences make us unique but not all differences are to be admired.  We should celebrate what is worthwhile and reject what is not.

Instead we seem to have adopted a laissez faire approach to ethics.  It is easier to feign concern and do nothing so as not to offend.   Part of the reason for this is that we all want to believe that everyone is equal, of identical aspiration and talent; if only we provide the means by which ‘they’ may demonstrate their qualities.  We want to believe that the kindness and grace we confer on others is reciprocated and if, one day, we should need their help, then not withstanding our failure of altruism, they will forgive us and nevertheless, they will help us too.  The fallacy of this line of thinking was demonstrated when, in spite of Muslims being the main victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami (that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 2004) donations came from everywhere but the incredibly oil rich Muslim world.

The basis for our strategy of ignoring crimes that other nations commit is perceived economic necessity (will ‘they’ trade with us if we criticize them?); indifference and racism.  Our intellectual elite justify this reality by pointing out our own lax standards of public morality.  So it behooves us to hold our tongue whenever we feel squeamish about how others behave.  Who are we to criticize the unethical misbehavior of any individual or group? Of course this logic then cascades down to withholding our criticism of unsavory misbehavior in our own society. To be an ethical hypocrite makes for an intellectually athletic series of denials as to the not so complicated nature of evil.  One persons’ bloodthirsty murderer becomes another persons’ freedom fighter irrespective of the psychopathology displayed in their behavior.

Barari‘s book was a critical assessment of how the Arab world viewed Israel. But statements were sheathed in a protective coating of superior Arab purpose and Islamic purity.  This is understandable if we consider that dissent is an unnatural component of the Islamic environment. Dissidents are subject to arrest and torture. For the less fortunate, there is an almost casual preference for the bomb, the bullet or the sword as the favored response to any idea that does not conform to an acceptable narrative.

Until the Arab and greater Muslim world loses the propaganda war it remains incapable of genuine reflection, debate or engagement with either Israel, the USA or for that matter, anyone else.  But for Israel the greater strategic threat to its survival is its inability to conduct a public relations counter assault against those religious and political racists who deny it and deny us our equal rights in the world.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The USA and the Do Nothing Lobby

We are witnessing the beginning of a new Cold War.  A nation without a vision of itself and its society soon grows weary of its entanglements.  If an internal identity is under unceasing critical evaluation and individualism is raised to a pinnacle, above reproach from the group, then pursuit of an external policy will be defined by short term political considerations. We should not dismiss the way this key element of foreign policy has been bungled.  President Obama has displayed behavior that is both naïve and unsophisticated; for the ruler of the free world there can be no excuse for this failure.  I understand that the man cannot be separated from his ideological or cultural heritage but ‘interest’ must be defined by the national interest before anything else and it is not in the national interest for the USA to be seen as lacking in imagination or weak, indecisive and cowardly.

In 2008, before his election as President of the United States of America considerable controversy was created by the emphasis placed on his commitment to his Chicago community and its racially divisive preacher. One prominent journalist stated that it was only right he should primarily represent the black community of America.  In fact this issue may be part of the legacy from which Obama is unable to escape. As President he is leader of all Americans. His background shapes the man but cannot govern his decisions because America is 320 million people of which one in eight, are Black.  By the same token, his latitude towards the illiberal attitudes of America’s friends and enemies has failed to translate into greater stability abroad or heightened security at home.

His ‘A New Beginning’ Speech in Cairo in June 2009 did not spell out clearly enough the dire need for reciprocity between the Muslim world and the Rest.  His speech was full of good intentions which were praised by many in the Muslim world.  But it was his failure to understand the mutuality of action that soon showed up the weakness in his policy.  In a speech that President Obama delivered in Indonesia in November 2010 he spoke of choosing between being defined by our differences and giving in to a future of suspicion and mistrust or, of forging common ground. In fact the President may have been elucidating a liberal view of the world but 95% of the world is not liberal and he was wrong.

We are defined by our differences and it is our uniqueness that creates our individuality, or in macro terms, our national identity.  It is what creates great nations.  We forge common ground by understanding and living within those differences where possible.  Obama spoke about committing ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress but that already places us, in opposition, to most of the Muslim world unless that progress is defined as being reactionary, homophobic, misogynistic and favorable towards the oppression of minorities.

Lack of purpose also leads to a paucity of influence. Are we witnessing the start of a new cold war? Russia has sought a way back into the front line of nations since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991.  Without the ideological conflict and control over the physical boundaries that defined the USSR in opposition to the American umbrella of democracy and capitalism, Russia floundered.   Without its Eastern European Empire and its respect by fear Russia’s place in the world was shaken by internal unrest and renewed insecurity, this time the product of Islamic terrorism and American/German expansion into its traditional geographical spheres of influence.

I am not advocating for military action against the regime of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, but for too long the West found it convenient to ignore the crimes of the Developing World and left foreign policy to political activists within the community of global charities.

In a previous article (Syria, A Russian-American Failure, 29th June 2013) I stated that:

“If Syria was an opportunity for us to demonstrate our wisdom, there has been none shown to date….”

I also stated that:

“This is an area where America has failed to grasp an historic opportunity to create a strategic partnership with Russia.

By allowing Russia to manipulate the conflict in Syria to its advantage it has raised its profile above that of the USA demonstrating that while the US talks, Russia acts. It may have made a key ally (Israel) less secure by making it more vulnerable to pressure from both Russia and those nations that will look towards Russia in the future for protection and guidance.  It has provided China with the excuse it needed to expand its naval operations into a part of the world from which it has until recently been excluded.

The U.S. government is deeply hated within the Muslim world and certainly, by the vast majority who perceive their inalienable right to conquest as unworthy of debate. It is both a reality of the nature of being a player on the world stage (that others fear and loathe your success in contrast to their failure) and a consequence of the disdain felt by nations whose former imperial glories burn bright in their consciousness with the intense humiliation of their present disrepute.

The most successful wars are those forestalled but only if we are able to remove the underlying causes of conflict.  Russian success may perpetuate Syria’s agony but also prevent further use of chemical weapons in Syria by creating the momentum for disarmament.

It is estimated that Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical weapons in its non-conventional armory. If Russia is able to achieve supervision of that arsenal under international control (said to be scattered over 50 sites around the country) and to ensure its subsequent destruction it is Russia that will have returned to the World stage, newly revitalized, its prestige and influence raised in contrast to lowered U.S. authority.

If the US thinks it can afford to lose stature on the global stage then it should also remember that those who rely on others to lead from the front end up not leading at all.  That is a legitimate choice but also an abdication of America’s global position.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Syrian Nightmare and Chemical Atrocities

Chemical warfare has been used in contravention of Chemical weapons conventions since the end of the Second World War. This is undeniable. What begs the question is the selective way that we choose to react to its use.

For instance the extreme Left has claimed, not without justification, that white phosphorous is a chemical weapon.  That it does not produce mass casualties is irrelevant, they would say. In fact this polemical response to atrocity is little more than a sound bite that makes the interlocutor appear radical rather than being the reactionary rant of a favoured son (or daughter) trapped by their own uncomfortable reality.   British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn is a Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and an obsessively anti-Israel campaigner so perhaps he is a little bit biased when he compares white phosphorous to Sarin gas.

Often from a position of discomfort the Left will retreat behind a wall of conspiracy. The British MP George Galloway stated that Israel is to blame for Arab violence and if chemical weapons were used in Syria, then it was al-Qaeda that used them and not the Shiite regime. Many people call George an antisemite. He would of course be the first to deny this.  It does not help that he is on the payroll of Press TV which is the mouthpiece of the radical Iranian regime.   But it does make him a hypocrite who is impelled by his loyalties to make every possible excuse for Islamic terror. And it is one of those gigantic crosses the Left is always too happy for someone else to carry on their behalf.  Blaming another settles the corrupt conscience.

Muslims are both individually and collectively blameless for the sins committed in the name of their prophet and their god as long as there is a Jew out there able to take the rap, or, a crusader (a Christian imperialist).   They don’t call that antisemitism because with a not inconsiderable dollop of irony, all Jews are classified as “Western” and therefore, Christian. Labels create the false connection that the professional requires to weave his lies into his (or her) tapestry of deception.  It is what we call ‘propaganda’. 

The following is a list of known acts of chemical warfare that followed the end of WW2 (first three examples provided by Wikipedia):

  • North Yemen Civil War – July 1967 – Minimum 1,500 killed 1,500 injured by mustard and phosgene gas
  • Iran–Iraq War (1980-1988) -   50,000 Iranian soldiers killed by Mustard Gas plus unknown number of Iranian civilians.  But note: these are only initial deaths as long term fatalities are at least double this figure.
  • March1988 Iraq used chemical weapons on Halabja – a Kurdish town that supported Iran against Iraq – 5,000 civilians died in the initial attack.
  • The Kurdish–Turkish conflict. Germany reported that Turkey had used chemical weapons against the Kurds, on multiple occasions, latterly in 2012. No casualty figures are given.

It behoves me to point out that the widespread use of Agent Orange by America, during the Vietnam War is also noted as an example of chemical warfare.

The Syrian government called the allegation that they carried out the killing of 1429 civilians (including 426 children) on August 21st 2013: “fabrications, lies and false accusations.”

Realistically there is no way other than by the admission of guilt that we may be certain of the identity of the perpetrators of these latest crimes against humanity in Syria. What is demonstrably true is that the Syrian opposition choreographed the press release, neatly wrapping little bodies so that they could display them for the grateful foreign press. It does not mean a war-crime did not occur. However ignoring adult casualties for the greater propaganda value of the child victim is a particularly egregious act of cynical exploitation. It degrades the victim so that in their deaths they become no more than useful objects.  It is a sanitised display for an armchair society.

One of the current theories is that President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher, carried out the atrocity as an act of revenge for his own thwarted ambitions. But he has not been seen since the bombing that wounded him and killed his brother-in-law in July 2012. And there are rumours he succumbed to those wounds.

In law we are supposed to seek out the burden of proof and that proof is going to be almost impossible to conclusively provide. With historical precedents and a less gullible public we have become distrustful of governments and their imaginative means for creating casus belli. During the period from February 2011 until 21st August 2013 between 83,000 and 110,000 people died in the Syrian Civil War. Accurate civilian casualties are impossible to collate because both sides have their own dishonest agenda. The majority of civilian deaths were not collateral damage but war-crimes and there has been an abundance of video proof to demonstrate the crimes committed by both sides against combatants.  So another 1,400 deaths while terrible should excite us no more than previous fatalities.

But they do excite us, and for a simple reason. The history of human warfare is one of killing civilians.  The development of a civilized world means recognizing that civilians should be placed outside of the attention of military action.  We have imperfect conventions that do not easily capture the modern problem of irregular soldiers, civilians who take up arms and terrorists (or freedom fighters). Many on the Left view all civilians as collaborators in the regime under which they live and therefore, legitimate military targets. And there are theologies that view all victims as sacrifices for their God’s ultimate victory over the infidel.  So it hardly comes as a surprise that death in war is a political rather than a humanitarian issue.  The reason we try to keep to the rules of war on non-conventional weapons use is that the potential for mass destruction is all that much greater. If we are to try to protect the civilian population from the depredations of war it is of greater importance to sanction governments because individuals are less likely to commit atrocities than governments.  That, at least, is the principle.

Then we recall the Khmer Rouge and Rwanda.

On January 14, 2013, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an international inquiry into what “may amount to crimes against humanity” in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. I am quoting liberally from an essay in the World Affairs Journal for July/August 2013.   The DPRK’s hunger-increase rate from the 1990s, when one of the most devastating famines in the last century claimed the lives of between two and three and a half million people, is the highest in the world despite considerable international humanitarian assistance.

To seek reason in mass murder is to pander to prejudice.  Why we chose to highlight some conflicts and to ignore others is simple. Politics has neutered the UN. Its usefulness is measured in the money it spreads around to the elite members of corrupt regimes and the political lackeys whose chauvinism is given protected status by the world body more concerned with protecting the reactionary status quo than creating a humane world.

Syria is an ethnic and religious mix of mutually intolerant groups.  Each group fears for its survival or demands historical justice. Sunnis at 60% of the population hate their Shiite overlords.  Even if al-Qaeda (which is Sunni) did not have the technical ability or logistics to be able to launch an effective gas attack against Damascus, Russia will block any move to sanction the regime in Syria because first, it does not want to lose prestige – influence – Syria is their country; and second, resurgent military dominance is dependent on successfully defending its ally.

So the Syrian civil war is unlikely to find an overall ‘winner’ – unless an even bigger bully is able to come in on the side of one of the combatants once all of them have exhausted supplies, men and the spirit to fight on. That could take years and many more deaths.

The Galloway’s of this world will willingly conspire to blame the Jews or the Zionists. Many a comment in the social media has stated that the US and Europe will ultimately do Israel’s bidding. Yet Israel has made it abundantly clear that it derives no benefit from regime change or, from the continuation of the Alawite status quo.  Arab nationalism has created a self-replicating venom coursing through its internationalist veins. The Arab world has no interest in peace with Israel unless that peace derives a financial benefit. “Peace” is seen as no more than a stage towards the eventual elimination of a non-Arab contaminant in the Arab sea. To embellish the wisdom of President Shimon Peres: Israel is an island of tranquillity floating in a toxic ocean of Islamic ethnic (and religious) bile. That maelstrom has always surrounded her and was never contingent on the existence of a Jewish State.  Intolerance towards non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities was the eternal prize that Muhammad bestowed upon his faithful servants.  It poisoned attitudes towards those who stand up to prejudice and therefore Islamic behaviour towards all of us for 1,400 years.

Julius Cesar said “Men willingly believe what they wish to be true.” If we seek simple solutions to complex problems we create even greater damage than if we leave well enough alone.

The definition of a sociopath (according to is: a person afflicted with a personality disorder characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts (and a failure to feel guilt for such acts).  A person with a religious mania may feel justified in committing acts of horrifying cruelty that no normal human being would be capable of contemplating. This passion defines many fundamentalists for whom the ends will always justify the means.  And there are lots of preachers that will encourage them in their mission.  It is the greatest failure of organized religion.

If the Shiite regime falls al-Qaeda could easily take control of Syria. Christians have been executed because of their faith. There have been unconfirmed reports that al-Qaeda has committed atrocities against Kurds in Northern Syria.  The Sunnis would not like the Kurds to gain self-determination.   The most respected military leader in Arab history, the man who defeated the crusaders was Saladin the Kurd.  A united Kurdish nation would weaken at least four Muslim nations that currently seek to aggressively undermine peaceful international co-existence by their chauvinistic expansionist dreams.

It is our indecision that makes us appear pathetic to our ideological adversaries.  War is a serious matter.  But dithering makes us appear not just weak but cowardly.  It does not bode well for when there is a real international crisis. There are few differences between Egypt and Syria other than scale. The slaughterers will always celebrate their blood-lust and there are few if any recorded differences between the past actions of secular Muslims and those that worship the Muslim Brotherhood.  Both demand continuous tribute from their enemies. The Assad families thirst for blood might shame even the Brotherhood but Al-Qaeda lacks only the weapons of mass destruction to fulfill its ‘destiny.’   It is for this reason alone that intervention is complicated. Depose one dictatorship and another will take its place.  There are no guarantees that the replacement will be any better but it could easily be much worse. And that is a scenario we do not want on our consciences, no matter how tainted they may be.

Syrian intervention is justified, as it is in North Korea and many more places beside.

The fundamental issues of inequality and oppression that afflict Islamic societies have not been addressed.  It makes the likelihood of regime change making any kind of difference, extremely doubtful.  In fact it will only increase resentment and hatred towards the non-Muslim world.

It is naïve to believe that words can change people or nations behaviour. It seems that President Obama truly believes in the transformative power of his oratory. From his first speech to the Muslim world as President (delivered in Cairo on 4th June 2009) he promised “A New Beginning.”  He spoke of "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."  

President Obama’s failure was then, as it is now, that he refuses to acknowledge the essence of what drives contemporary Muslim interactions with the rest of the world.  One Arab spokesman made the following point when asked about the prospect for an American intervention in Syria.  He said:

“If a strike benefits Muslims and Arabs then it is good but not if it is for their (US) own interest.”  What this moral Muslim gentleman intimated by his sage words was this:  If any of Syria’s minorities are helped out by American intercession in Syria then let the slaughter continue.