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Friday, November 29, 2013

Incitement Faith and Peace

If competence were the only per-requisite for negotiators then peace would also be achieved through unsolicited concessions and generosity of spirit. But that would be naive. If we do not acknowledge history then we build up the false expectations of one side or the other that history can be repeated. Nations negotiate for advantage, not for any altruistic reason.  Nations build up prejudices over centuries at the expense of the disenfranchised; they exploit weakness to disempower their victim.  If the weak become strong, any atrocities committed in the past are inevitably revenged, creating a new dynamic for conflict and “historical” grievance.  Disequilibrium does not result from inequality but from a shift in relative advantage.

Until they gained self-determination, Jews were a persecuted minority in the Muslim world.  That damaging asymmetrical relationship was the currency of mostly Arab rule from the time that the mythical figure of Mohammad appeared on the scene in the 6th Century CE (or AD) and until Israel’s liberation in 1948.  Firstly let me explain that last statement.

Religious figures of the magnitude of an Abraham, Jesus or Mohammed are objects of faith – None of them can be proven to have existed.  That is why we call it faith. If we accept their existence by virtue of the writings of the men who followed them it does not automatically follow that we must also accept the theological mandate, or diktat that men of faith have demanded.  That is Islam (submission); it is not Judaism.  Our heroes were never infallible. To accept without questioning all of the religious literature written mostly by men assumes a universal altruism which does not exist in the historical record. Fallibility does not make faith any less important to people’s lives but it does mean that we do, ALL OF US, have a choice. That choice is whether we accept what others write about us in order to impose upon us a label or whether we allow the other their faith, but choose to disagree with the relevance to us of their theology or writings.

If some of those writings are offensive then we must also decide how we are going to interact with both the script and those people who adhere to its message.  At the same time, our response must not make us insensitive to the feelings of either our friends, or out enemies. Jewish fear and past history has made many Jews narrow-minded and fearful of criticism. Taking every slight as a new call for our ethnic cleansing does not help to explain our fears and causes us to appear as if we care for only one issue.

This is our problem and more so for Jews than for Christians and Muslims. For while the Church recognises that some of what has been written over the centuries by Christian theologians was toxic by design and murderous by intent, the Shoah encouraged a reappraisal by many but not all Christians of past narratives and the relationships that they created.

Islam though, has never been forced either by circumstances or by religious necessity to confront the original sin of its creation, its blood lust, and its ongoing narrative contempt for all non-Muslim infidel nations.

The Muslim triumvirate of holy writings are the Koran (the word of Mohammed), the Sunna (the body of traditional Islamic law based on the life of Mohammed), and the Hadith (the account of things said by Mohammed and his followers which is the canonical basis for Islamic Law.)  The most canonical Hadith is Sahih al-Bukhari. It is said to be 98 per cent violent jihad.  To many Muslims it is the most important book after the Koran.

The Koran ridicules the non-Muslim and while there are said to be many contradictory passages within it, the doctrine of abrogation enables followers to pick and choose; to behave with casual disdain or with violent assault.  Earlier passages in the Koran are more tolerant, probably because they refer to a period when alliances were necessary in order for the faithful to grow in strength and gain control. Later texts are much less tolerant; Mohammad and his conquistadors were powerful enough to repudiate earlier treaties of amity and to assail their competitors.

The tragic reality is that while reciprocity is the key ingredient to tolerance in society, it is wholly absent from countries in which Muslims form the majority and in countries where they are the minority it is the reason multiculturalism has failed.  Demands that we respect the Islamic right to preach hatred and to behave with bigotry are unsurprisingly accompanied by expectations of protection that are often in excess of any thing offered to the targets of that hatred. 

A very small selection of statements by Muslim leaders follows:
  • Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world….and the offspring of apes and pigs” Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam at the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca.  The Sacred Mosque or The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds the Kaaba.  al-Sudais has a global audience.
  • Israeli leaders “cannot be called humans, they are like animals….Israel is the sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
  • “Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth….we succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted … and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper!....we have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. (Ephraim Dowek, Israeli-Egyptian Relations 1980-2000 (London: Cass, 2001) Also, see below.)
  • “Over the decades he (Mubarak) reduced interaction with Israel to the minimum level, he fostered a culture of virulent antisemitism in Egypt, turning his country into the world’s most prolific producer of antisemitic ideas and attitudes.“ (Palestine Betrayed. Ephraim Karsh)

Islam’s 'friends' say that these are no more than the extreme views of radical fringe groups. They are not. They are the views of the political and religious leadership of the Muslim world.  These quotations aren’t insane rants of incoherent gibberish nor do they emanate from the orifice of some clinically delusional nut. University professors as well as world leaders believe in the writings of a mythic 6th Century warlord whose lust for power rapidly built a political force that today threatens to dominate the globe.

If Muslims scream hatred from the political and religious pulpit then peace is not possible, except as a sham.

The USA, desperate to keep Russia from re-establishing its influence in Egypt turned a blind eye to the unadulterated poison pulsing through the veins of the Arab world’s most influential nations (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) just as it now does so, with Iran, Turkey; the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.  Short sightedness fosters greater long term regional instability because it makes nations bereft of trust and insecurity is never a formula for international peace.

I am reminded of the threat of a previous era. During the peace protests of the 1960’s a favoured mantra of the anti-nuclear lobby was the strategic estimate that nine nuclear weapons were all the Soviet Union needed to destroy the UK. The USSR had deployed 50 missiles against mainland Britain. The language used by Israel’s enemies against her and against Jews worldwide precludes nothing.  If words are bombs the greater Muslim world is its premier nuclear power.

The terrible rhetoric of Israel’s enemies has its Islamic foundation in the deserts of Saudi Arabia 1,400 years ago. The US President and his political followers here in Europe expect Israel to trust in them when they have not EVER been minded to sanction those for whom this primeval bigotry is just business as usual. This grotesque tolerance follows naturally on from an extreme form of individualism that accepts elemental chauvinism as a right for others to display, and more frighteningly, as a right of others, to act upon their beliefs, without interference.

Throughout its history Trojan Horses have taken many forms. ‘Religion of Peace’ is one of the memes used by Islam and its western apologists. Most of the Near-East was created by Britain and France after the First World War. In 1920, the San Remo Conference created a legal basis for carving up the defunct Ottoman Empire into artificial states. Those states were always dysfunctional and they could only ever be ruled by force of arms.  Read again the words of hate.  If containment contributed to the fall of Communism, why then, do we actively prop up hate saturated Muslim nations?

Perhaps the main issue is this: the greater Israel’s insecurity becomes, the more difficult it is to negotiate, let alone promote a two state solution. Is it in the interest of the USA and others to ignore incitement from the Muslim side and to subsequently blame Israel for its intransigence?  There are financial penalties for doing what is right, and huge financial benefits to embracing Hitler’s Muslim predecessors.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Peace in our time: Iran, Israel and Incitement

There will be much hand-wringing and frustration expressed with the Israeli attitude towards the agreement signed today between Iran and the “P5+1” group (the USA, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany).  The following below is a minute selection of the reasons for Israeli wariness of Iranian intentions:

“Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews, and hates Christians, this is a part of our belief and our religion.” Osama Bib-Laden in an interview to Al Jazeera 1998.

“First the Saturday people (Jews) and then the Sunday people (Christians)". Yasser Arafat  Arafat added that the Palestinian flag would fly from 'minarets' in 'Al Kuds'. (i.e. synagogues and churches would become mosques)

Article 7 of the Hamas Charter is taken from Hadith Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.  (This quote applies equally to all Jews irrespective of age or sex and is oft repeated from pulpits throughout the Muslim world).  Hadith Bukhari is second only to the Koran in being regarded as the most authoritative of all Muslim literature.

“Israel is a cancerous tumour in the heart of the Islamic World” Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei March 2009 (he recently restated this).

Mohamed Morsi, until recently, President of Egypt stated for the TV cameras the following in 2010 “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” He then reminded his audience of a quote from the Koran, the holiest book in Islam: “The Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs.” (Repeated in Chapters 2, 5 and 7 of the Koran)

Of course the previous Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke as an ultra-orthodox Muslim who many would suspect was frankly unhinged.  When he spoke it was with the imprimatur of the power behind the thrown, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  You cannot be elected to parliament in Iran without Khamenei’s authorisation.

Since his election, President Rouhani has said Israel is a "wound" that "had to be removed".  There was some debate on whether the translation from Farsi should be read as a ‘sore’ or a ‘wound’ but only a fool would quibble over the difference.

The threat of appeasing Iran has bizarrely drawn a long list of Israel’s implacable enemies towards an unofficial rapprochement (the Gulf States, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to name the few) with her.

Israel has suffered 65 years of warfare, 65 years has it been threatened with annihilation and yes it remains militarily, the most powerful nation state in the Near-East. But the unremitting hatred that expresses itself in sermons by Islamic scholars, undermining Israel’s legitimacy everywhere at every opportunity cannot encourage Israeli confidence in any deal that is signed with Iran.  Much of the debate today focuses on a Palestinian or Muslim narrative that is filled with holes, deception and outright lies. And then Israel is told to trust the same Western nations that have never lifted a finger to stop the constant drip drip drip of hate that has enveloped the Internet, the Western media as well as all of the organs of the antisemitic United Nations Organisation.

Nobel Prize winning novelist Wole Soyinka says that “Arabs and Islam are guilty of the cultural and spiritual savaging of the Continent”, their unrepentant and unrelenting, often violent racism he calls the great taboo.  In ignoring the racism that inheres the Arab debate on Israeli or Jewish rights; or in dismissing the narrative of conquest, ridicule, vilification and hate that typifies the Islamic discourse (not just since the creation of Jewish self-determination in historic Israel) Israel has to hope for the best but make preparations for the worst.

I leave you with the words of Saudi cleric and poet Muhammad al-Farrajii and a final insight.  Al-Farrajii’s unadulterated hatred for Shiites (he calls Iranians “Zoroastrians”), and the rest of non-Sunni humanity is incitement to genocide. In his long poem that he read out on Shada TV (September 13, 2013) he lauded Hitler for “barbecuing Russians and Jews”.

If President Obama and his major domo John Kerry (current Secretary of State) want Israel to buckle under and accept their agenda they must appreciate that none of their actions over the five years of the Obama administration help to remove doubt about the deal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Curse of the Megacity

Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian newspaper as well as London’s Evening Standard.  In a recent article for the Evening Standard (29th October 2013) he stated that “were Britain a separate Eurozone the north would become Greece and Spain to London’s Germany.”  The article titled “Sorry, Archbishop but London is where the action is” was an arrogant justification for the status quo. He is solidly upper middle class which while not objectionable may have prejudiced him in favour of the status quo. More later, on this.

In the last few years I have travelled around England for my holidays and yes, Simon Jenkins is partially correct. London is different to anywhere else.  London is huge. The city population is around 8 ½ million people and between 14 million and 21 million people reside in its greater metropolitan region.  It is a sprawling and semi-violent megalopolis. Like all world cities its infrastructure creaks and is often shambolic; it is dirty and when it fails it does so with a spectacular aplomb that acknowledges its divine right to extract even more money from us all, irrespective of where we live in the UK.

Within its boundaries unspeakable wealth proudly perches astride neighbourhoods of extreme deprivation while the poor oil London’s parts - as is the case in any centre of power. And London is a world city.  Simon Jenkins suggests that in the most recent recession “London survived the recession astonishingly well…the cuts were down the line, out of sight, in the provinces.” So while the rest of the developed world suffered the deepest recession since the 1929 Depression, Londoners, we are informed, escaped unaffected, except that in London 25% of those between the ages of 16 to 24 are unemployed (as compared to 20% for the UK as a whole).  And to all those Londoners who earn a university degree, the disadvantage of not being in employment during the early years after high-school may hit home hard when their first class honours degree does not even gain them work as shop assistants and care workers.

Those statistics conveniently omit the people who simply gave up trying to find work, or those who work in the ‘shadow’ economy (in Europe, said to be worth some €2.1 trillion – RT “European citizens survive thanks to shadow economy”).  And the political classes of both left and right turned a blind eye to the approaching catastrophe of a disconnected and aging population, living out its latter years in isolation and poverty.

Smugly, Simon Jenkins boasts that we are witness to the age of the big city with their hinterland of dormitory suburbs and green belts for “leisure and weekending”. If London is privileged, it is also spoiled and oblivious to the greater needs of the nation.  If the megacity is the colossus dominating the nation (at least in Britain) then it also represents the failure of society to adapt to population growth with any future vision.  Le Corbusier’s modernist abomination – his dream of a cityscape of unrelenting uniformity and grey mediocrity was intended to house the masses.  It may have represented the negation of class but his city lacked a soul.  The megacity represents the failure of human imagination and the triumph of a class structure that depressingly refuses to acknowledge the weakness behind the idea which encourages massive concentrations of population.

A new socio-economic model was recently publicised in the British press.  It breaks society down into lots of Class sub-types.  Status, wealth and education, set against their absence, no longer suffice as predicators of class.  I suspect that it is those people who want to retain the divisions that will be most interested in its re-classification.   In fact class remains three tiered but it can now be defined as the overwhelming majority in the middle and at the extremes, the disinherited poor and the very rich.  In the mid-twentieth century the middle classes began the expansion that hugely diminished the lower classes. The middle class enveloped all but those on the periphery of society.  However, in the future we shall return to the more traditional picture of a small middle class, a smaller upper class and a huge pool of lower class workers and retirees.

If competition and technological advances wiped out lower class jobs in the latter half of the twentieth century; cheap loans and the idea that anything was materially possible pushed the poor into the middle classes. A similar process will reverse the trend and it will destroy the middle classes, creating another seismic shift in class identity. Eventually, only the rich will enjoy any kind of security.

Lord King, the former Governor of the Bank of England was interviewed for the Daily Mail in October 2011.  He described the British economy as experiencing the biggest squeeze in living memory. But for the rich, there was rarely if ever any pain.  Taxes and soaring costs affected the middle and lower classes only.  It would be irrational to consider a future that is any different to this.

How does class encourage the growth of the megacity? Because big cities drain the vitality out of their provinces; through business and fashion, culture and politics they attract the talent to the epicentre and utilise resources far out of proportion to the rest of the nation.  

London is a gargantuan source of energy sapping the vigour out of everywhere else like a terrestrial ‘black hole’.  Power is a magnet that attracts those seeking it. It is a logical concomitant of centralisation. It is why I argue for decentralisation because it is only through it, that the dilution of centralised authority will occur.

There is no mystique surrounding centralisation and there is no mystery surrounding power.  Power entices those that yield it whether they are union officials or investment managers; bank managers or local counsellors. Any power has the potential to corrupt and far too often, checks and balances simply do not work. Bureaucracy institutionalises the status quo. The industrial revolution created areas of devolved economic activity but in Britain, it failed to seduce those that wielded power, away from the centre. Eventually the centre failed. Eire broke away from the British Empire; Northern Ireland became a backwater that had to endure a decades-long civil war before anyone seriously noticed it, Scottish nationalists salivate over the possibility of secession from the Union and one day Wales will arrive at the same conclusion; that London rules and demands its medieval tribute still.

Centralisation encourages bad behaviour. Numbers grow and solutions reach a level of complexity that creates inefficiency. Instead of each of us becoming networked, our interconnection traps us within a maze of interlocking systems that are managed remotely, in reality disempowering consumers and businesses alike even as they create the illusion of touch. In fact to talk about consumers and businesses is to dismiss people as economic entities devoid of an identity.  All systems become open to abuse.  Someone somewhere can manipulate your powerlessness.

According to a Foreign Policy article of September 2012 “Just 600 urban centres generate about 60% of global GDP” and while the future 600 top urban centres will change over the next decade and beyond, there will be no difference to the power they wield.  Cities choked with toxic waste; health scares, perhaps even pandemics created by not paying sufficient attention to what is described, in the same magazine issue, as “ghettos of poverty and dysfunction” (pollution, filth and disease) represents the dystopian vision for our mass urbanized future.

It is only by creating distributed hubs with local, decentralised controls that we will successfully redistribute and therefore dilute power, away from the centre.  What will then be created is a community of interest. Distributed efficiency and shared knowledge will create interdependence. It is this community of interest that society has had stolen from it by centralisation.

Decentralization means redistribution of resources back to the provinces. It means sharing the wealth of institutions so that culture resides in the nation and not just in the national capital. It means focusing the development of infrastructure nationally and not on massive and wasteful megaprojects that protect the pivotal position of the Centre.  And lastly, it means creating imaginative solutions in order to deconstruct the megacity, recreating the sense of local community that once existed in semi-isolation only.

Sir Simon Jenkins represents a celebration of the Titanic. He tells us that “bigger is better” and that the iceberg makes wonderful ice-cubes for his martinis.  But like other luminaries of the status quo he is blind to the threat to his tranquillity.  Megacities amplify alienation for the poor and over the coming decades their numbers can only massively increase in number.

In order for us to regain some of the empathy of reduced scale the trend towards megacities must be reversed.  Biologically, big is not better, ultimately it leads to extinction. We should learn from nature.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

R.I.P. (Repent In Purgatory) Hakeemullah Mehsud


From the perspective of Judeo/Christian morality the now ex-leader of the Pakistan Taliban was an individual imbued with evil. His moral maliciousness permeated the very fibre of his being. Personally he beheaded kafirs, non-believers, and mowed down with automatic weapons scores if not hundreds more. In his leadership role he planned many further atrocities slaughtering many thousands, mainly fellow Muslims.

He hated the US, the big Satan, the little Satan and the West in general. Having slain many American citizens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US had good reason not to like him. Seeing no chance of bringing Mehsud to justice before hell freezes over, by which time casting him downwards would hardly be an effective punishment, the US, after years of trying, have finally managed to execute him.

A drone, controlled from thousands of miles away, crept up on him, tapped him on the shoulder, smiled and then after a thirty seconds slo-mo whilst the victim suddenly realised his plight, vapourised him.

Good job, well done some may say. At least some form of justice was affected albeit not with the ideal integrity that free democracies demand of their own systems when prosecuting their own subjects.

Well so be it. What is done is done. Was it a sensible action or will it disadvantage the US and reflect badly on the West and its allies?

Some argue that it strengthens the hand of the West. Others led by the BBC, that it has ruined the chances of any sort of peace agreement between the Pakistan government and the Taliban.

Looking at the logic of each of these positions in turn:

First from the anti-Taliban, pro-drone perspective:
1.      Killing the leader of any terrorist organisation sends a powerful message. Unlike their followers who have been indoctrinated into the philosophy of self-immolation, the leaders value their own lives too much. After all leadership must have some perks. The US has a record of killing with drones senior Taliban members in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
2.      This sends a powerful message to would be terrorist leaders. Move into any of the top hot seats and you become a priority target. Judging from what has happened to your predecessors your days are numbered.  If you want to avoid their fate then start negotiating to save your arse.
3.      This means that when the political negotiations start, the Taliban have internalised that they cannot win and that they must compromise to save themselves.
4.      For the anti-Taliban forces it means they have the negotiating advantage and can drive a hard bargain going way beyond a temporary cease fire to gain a lasting peace.

Looking at it now from the anti-drone strike perspective:
1.      Drone strikes are immoral and flout international law because they cause collateral damage
2.      Collateral damage hardens the attitudes of the general populace against those forces that caused the collateral damage
3.      The Taliban leadership, via a video, had let it be known that they wanted to talk with the Pakistani government.
4.      Killing their leader will make them all angry and they will now no longer want to negotiate.
5.      The implication is that whatever carnage ensues will be the fault of the Americans for being stupid enough to kill Hakeemullah Mehsud.
6.      Their crime made doubly worse by the use of drones.
Which of these positions do you feel is more likely to be right?

Both make assumptions and have logical inconsistencies.

Amongst the main ones against those in favour of drone attacks are that:
x       Some Taliban leaders may seek martyrdom. If that were the case then these leaders will never come to the negotiating table unless they know they have the advantage. Handled skilfully the negotiation outcome will be yet another step towards their ultimate goal of Islam-uber-alles and Sharia law supremacy.
  The anti-Taliban negotiators may be as inept as the Europeans headed by Baroness Ashton and totally fail to capitalise on the advantage they have been given.
The main illogicalities of those who see the drone strikes as detrimental to peace include:
x       If collateral damage from drone strikes, which are relatively tiny, causes such hatred against the West, then the collateral damage of tens of thousands of Muslims murdered by the Taliban should generate proportionally more hatred against the Taliban and thus weaken their position. Apparently this is not the case.
x       The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. This is even enshrined in that flaky body of jurisprudence referred to as international law. Therefore although it will be argued that drone strikes are illegal under international law, this cannot take precedence over an administration’s duty to protect its own citizens.
x      It might also be claimed that the likelihood of becoming collateral damage by harbouring dangerous psychopaths like Mehsud in their midst might make the communities loyal to him reconsider the wisdom of their action.
My analysis is deliberately simplistic. I have not considered any of the broader political dynamics impacting on this situation nor of the technological and social forces that are pertinent.

Nevertheless, I conclude, as you may have guessed, that on balance the US judicial killing is a force for good, albeit I also understand the arguments against it.

Of course my analysis is, besides an intellectual exercise, of no significant consequence. What matters is how things turn out in the real world.

My assertion is that drone strike will continue, piling even more pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. My bet is that within 12 months they will be talking to the Pakistani government and that they will, by that stage, be desperate to salvage almost anything from their broken dream of an expanding, Sharia compliant Caliphate.

Any takers?

This should hand a major tactical advantage to the Pakistani government providing they prove more competent negotiators than Baroness Ashton’s lot.

You may however, have come to a different conclusion which would be interesting to hear about.

The Bilateralist Comments:
Pakistan’s intelligence service (The ISI) has well documented connections to many terrorist groups.  It is through many of these proxies that some awful crimes have been committed in the furtherance of Pakistan’s local and international agenda.  Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the 2008 Mumbai atrocity that killed over 160 people.  Throughout the massacre the Pakistani killers who belonged to this murderous movement were recorded, in ongoing communication with their ISI handlers. Given the opportunity, these ‘holy’ Muslim warriors horrifically tortured many of their victims before granting them “release” through death.

The USA should cease funding Pakistan and declare that there will be no resumption until the Taliban are disbanded – now that would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table!