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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 10, 2012.
Monday, 10 September 2012
Mali orders probe after 16 'Islamists' shot at checkpoint

The men killed were 16 Muslim preachers on their way to a religious conference. The Aljazeera headline reads  "Mali troops 'kill 16 civilians". Other reports describe them as 'Moderates' or "from a Moderate sect". From AFP and Reuters

BAMAKO — Mali's government ordered an immediate investigation Sunday after 16 suspected Islamists, including several from Mauritania, were shot to death at a checkpoint in the country's central region.

Military officials initially asserted that Malian troops opened fire after fearing the men were jihadists, but they were apparently unarmed and it was unclear what connection, if any, they had to the jihadist rebellion controlling the massive, arid north of the west African nation.

In a statement late Sunday, the government said "an incident" occurred overnight Saturday in which eight Malians and eight people from neighbouring Mauritania were fatally shot.

"On behalf of the people of Mali, the government deeply regrets this painful event and presents its sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the government and people of Mauritania," the statement said.

"Sixteen members of the Dawa sect who would not stop their vehicle after warning shots were fired were treated as enemies in Diabali Saturday night," a security ministry official said.  The army opened fire on a vehicle after the driver failed to obey commands to stop, local military sources, police and security ministry officials said. No troops were injured.

Soldiers were forced to shoot because they presumed the travellers were militant Islamists, officials said.

Dawa, which one Malian official said has roots in Pakistan, has several hundred followers in northern Mali and is present across the Sahel region including in neighbouring Mauritania. Iyad Ag Ghaly, who heads the Ansar Dine Islamist group, is supposed to have been a member.

(Reuters) - Mali Islamic militant group MUJWA said on Sunday the killing of 16 Muslim preachers including eight Mauritanians and eight Malians by an army patrol in Mali was a declaration of war. The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) is one of the Islamic groups that has hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali since April with the intention of imposing sharia law in the country.

"With this barbaric act that was not warranted, I don't see any future for Malian army or the Malian government because we are going to continue our southward push to Bamako. This was a declaration of war," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a senior Islamist speaking on behalf MUJWA.

"The 16 were moderate Islamists. They were killed at a checkpoint in Diabaly in the Segou region, close to the Mauritanian border," he told Reuters by telephone.

Posted on 09/10/2012 1:26 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 10 September 2012
Why The "Palestinian" Authority (Quondam PLO) Has 'Scaped Whipping

From Forbes:

Why Hasn't There Been Another Palestinian Intifada

 

By Alexander Joffe & Asaf Romirowsky

World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North...

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the 2012 World Economic Forum (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

Is the Arab Spring an ‘intifada’? And why haven’t the Palestinians joined in?

The intifada or ‘throwing off’ was the spontaneous Palestinians grassroots rebellion against Israel that began in the fall of 1987. Much like the beginnings of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, the rebellion spread quickly in the pre-internet days across the Palestinian territories and Gaza and captured the world’s attention. Within a few short years, however, it was usurped by the PLO and Yasir Arafat. As befitting the Internet age, the Arab Spring has now largely been usurped more quickly by Islamists around the Arab world.

For the Palestinians the Arab Spring has produced hard choices. While the star of Arab nationalism has fallen everywhere, among the Palestinians in the West Bank it is still alive, kept on life support by international aid, the Israeli military, and an unquantifiable sense of dread at the prospect of a Hamas takeover. Hamas has been regnant in Gaza since 2007. Repression and immiseration have resulted. The choice for Palestinians in the West Bank is stark and all stakeholders have made the Faustian bargain to retain the repressive and kleptocratic Palestinian Authority over the murderous and theocratic Hamas. An intifada by choice seems unlikely there, but an accidental one cannot be dismissed.

But broader forces are also at work. Outside of Gaza Palestinians are stranded between two of their core cultural beliefs. The first is unending opposition to Israel. ‘Steadfastness’ means rejecting the existence of the Jewish state, and this is manifest at all levels of Palestinian society, from school textbooks to summer camp programs, to TV shows, literature and poetry. Virtually any peaceful interactions with Israelis are scorned as ‘normalization,’ and Israel is vilified by official Palestinian Authority and Hamas media not simply as the existential Other but in classically antisemitic terms as the eternal evil of global Jewry, parasitic and bloodthirsty.

At the same time there is another Palestinian imperative that is both cultural and socio-economic, the absolute necessity to maintain international aid. In per capita terms Palestinians have long been the world’s largest recipients of aid, far outstripped the vastly more impoverished regions of Africa and Asia. The Palestinian sense of entitlement is also absolute; any suggestions of cuts in direct aid or to UNRWA, the UN organization that maintains the third or fourth generation of ‘refugees’ who have been denied or refused to resettle in the Arab world, are met with anger, shock and threats. Intifada threatens aid, as does statehood, at least eventually.

How billions in aid have been spent is something else. Spending on the bloated public sector and the binge of construction and infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank account are obvious for only some of the money. Still, Western donors, interested as ever in buying quiet, have not been too curious about Palestinian corruption that has diverted unknown amounts. Israel, too, has been more interested in the status quo.

Without this aid the Palestinian economy could not have made the impressive gains it has registered under prime minister Salam Fayyad. The quiet that has been purchased benefits all parties including Israel, but is probably unsustainable in an era of European economic collapse and American austerity. Fayyad warns all visitors that peace and quiet requires continued funding. Enough unpaid salaries could itself spark an intifada, against the Palestinian Authority.

Coping with these requirements and maintaining solidarity with Arab and now Islamist uprisings is a delicate affair. Vicious Palestinian incitement keeps the national cause alive by focusing on Israel and the Jews as the sources of all Palestinian misfortune. Loud but desultory moves toward a ‘unilateral declaration of independence’ give the impression to Palestinians that statehood is on the horizon. The purported infrastructure gains impress Western donors, as does the relative quiet, and the cash flow supports the Palestinian economy.

The ‘UDI’ strategy also cleverly positions Palestinians to pursue their long-term goal of eradicating Israel by co-opting additional United Nations institutions. This ‘long march through the institutions’ has the spread the delegitimization and stigmatizing of Israel widely and at a low cost. The failure of UDI efforts rally the cause while the successes undermine Israel, but the speed of change is slow enough to maintain the illusion of peace and all-important Western aid.

These balances, appearing to support larger causes while maintaining dependence on aid, exerting pressure on Israel while remaining dependent on it again Hamas, are not political genius on the part of the Palestinian Authority but a unique confluence of interests. Cashing checks while inflicting damage is the bottom line for the Palestinian Authority and its global support network of intellectuals, lawyers and NGOs. Maintaining quiet while facing the vastly more threatening problem of Iran is the bottom line for Israel. And for Europe and the United States the issue is maintaining quiet while rebuilding the international economy and while the convulsions of the Arab Spring play themselves out. Whether deemed appeasement or containment, the price tag is a few billion dollars annually and a relatively low level of Palestinian terrorism.

In the past week, as UN reports about Palestinian economy were made public, president Mahmoud Abbas has tried to get the jump on Hamas by orchestrating protests against his own prime minister, Fayyad. By loudly proclaiming a “Palestinian Spring” Abbas is again simultaneously demanding aid, staying ahead of his own street, and just behind the larger Arab world.

But in the long-term these contradictions will not be sustainable. Islamist victors emerging from the Arab Spring will eventually demand Palestinian direct action. Even a marginal Palestinian or Islamist group can easily set the region ablaze. The recent Sinai terrorist attack on Israel has produced an angry crackdown by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood government and a confrontation with Hamas only the basis of its timing and toll of Egyptians killed. But it has also allowed Egypt to move armor, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons into Sinai in contravention of the Camp David Accords. An intifada-like spark could ignite a direct confrontation between Egypt and Israel.

All parties would be losers in such a scenario but none more than the Palestinians. Ironically, the culture that invented intifada now has the most to lose. But it appears unlikely that lesson can be transmitted to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Posted on 09/10/2012 10:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 10 September 2012
Muslim mosque leader at centre of British child bride scandal steps down after 'being caught agreeing to marry girl of 12'

An update from the Daily Mail on this story.

A Muslim cleric at the centre of an illegal marriage scandal has stepped down after he allegedly offered to marry a 12-year-old girl to a man in his 20s.

Imam Mohamed Kassamali is said to have told an undercover reporter posing as a father that he could carry out a ceremony for his school-aged daughter.

He allegedly told the Sunday Times journalist: 'If it (the marriage) was not possible, I would have told you straight away... I would love the girl to go to her husband’s houses (sic) as soon as possible, the younger the better. 'Under Sharia (Islamic law) there is no problem. It is said she should see her first sign of puberty at the house of her husband.

'The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went tomorrow (to the authorities). The other thing is the underage thing and if tomorrow the girl is, let’s say coerced or forced into this, and she goes and reports it to the police then she will put all of us into the problems.'

The imam, who worked at the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, apparently urged the father to encourage the newlyweds to 'delay the togetherness' - meaning they should postpone having sex.

A statement released by the Islamic Centre read: 'The management and members of Peterborough’s Husaini Islamic Centre do not recognise the alleged remarks of Imam Mohamed Kassamali, who is reported to have discussed the possibility of underage marriage in Britain with The Sunday Times. A legal, British civil marriage certificate is a prerequisite for any Islamic (Nikah) officially conducted at the Husaini Islamic Centre.

'We respect the law of the land and since the establishment of the Husaini Islamic Centre, no under legal age marriages have been conducted at the centre, nor will it be allowed. We find the practice of forced marriages to be abhorrent, reprehensible and totally un-Islamic and we support the Forced Marriage Unit, established by the Government, in its attempts to tackle this issue.'

A second imam, retired Abdul Haque, who still officiates at weddings at Shoreditch mosque, East London, reportedly agreed to carry out the ceremony after evening prayers on a Wednesday.

He allegedly told the reporter: 'Tell people it is an engagement but it will be a marriage. He explained how the Prophet Muhammad had married a seven-year-old girl before adding: 'We are his followers, and that is what you have to explain (to your daughter).'

The Home Office said: 'Child marriage is totally unacceptable and illegal. Perceived cultural sensitivities and political correctness cannot and will not get in the way of preventing and uncovering such abuse.'

The Peterborough Mosque is a Shia establishment. The Shoreditch mosque in Redchurch Street is, (or was, the UK Mosque searcher website says that the council closed it down earlier this year)) a Bangladeshi Deobani establishment. Both strands of Islam follow the same Koran - this cannot be attributed to 'Cultural practice'. This is a picture I took in 2010.

Posted on 09/10/2012 10:36 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 10 September 2012
The dying days of the Pygmy people

In order to reach the lookout tower at the edge of the meadow, where more than one hundred forest elephants were cavorting in the mud, sand, water and salt, we had to pass through a shallow river on foot, sandals in hand. Two elephants blocked the way. Our Pygmy guides motioned for us to be still and quiet. Earlier they had warned us that in a worst-case scenario, we would have to run. Then, they literally chased the elephants upstream, allowing us to pass in safety and climb up onto the lookout platform.

Our guides had stared intently at the pachyderms. They used various kinds of shouts and they had banged their machetes on the ground. They had displayed no hint of fear or self-doubt, as a few short years ago they had been hunting elephants or accompanying their parents and older siblings as apprentices on elephant hunts. Now, many of them are employed by the Government of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) on a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) project that is trying to fight poachers and protect the elephants, the nearby gorillas, the rainforest and, to some degree, the livelihood of the now modified lifestyle of the indigenous forest dwelling Pygmies of the Northwestern Congolese rainforest, who are known as the Biaka.

Small, rainforest dwelling hunter and gatherers, known by outsiders as Pygmies because of their relatively short height, have been living in the area in and around the Congolese rainforest for 40,000 years. They survive in isolated pockets in Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where they are most numerous. They are the indigenous people of the rainforest. Though cut off from each other, calling themselves by different names and speaking different languages, they are genetically related and, until recently, have been the guardians of the rainforest’s biodiversity.

They are a few hundred thousand all told, compared to the millions of Bantu slash and burn horticulturalists who now surround them and who have been pushing their way into their forest for the last 3,000 years, creating in their wake a semi-feudal relationship between Bantu “lords” and Pygmy “serfs,” with the one difference being that when the Pygmies had had enough of working on Bantu farms, they could and can still retreat to the heart of their rainforest to gather honey and hunt wild animals and be left alone.

This may soon become impossible. The government, the World Bank, the EU, the Chinese and most of the large development organizations believe that the C.A.R. can only “develop” its economy by cutting down the rainforest and selling the timber. If present trends continue, the Biaka will eventually lose much of their hunting areas to logging. This will irreversibly change their lifestyle, turning them into dispossessed, landless, marginalized, casual wage labourers and reluctant farmers.

It was the numerically small, educated elite of the dominant Central African Bantu who inherited independence and the “means of administration” from the departing French and Belgian colonialists during the 1960s. Subsequently, they’ve descended into a pattern of coup and counter coup based on ethnicity and preferential access to the Congo’s massive mineral and forest resources. With their political ascent, overnight, the forest home of the Pygmies became “state land” and it could be sold off by the new rulers, instantaneously disenfranchising the Pygmies from their traditional ownership and stewardship.

It is a pattern that has recently erupted once again in the eastern DRC, where a Congolese army deserter, nicknamed the “Terminator,” is now terrorizing the eastern part of that country and thus driving many thousands of Pygmies into refugee camps in the eastern DRC and in neighbouring Uganda.

This is not a new phenomenon. For the last decade, competing militias have terrorized the Pygmies of the DRC. The men have become forced forest scouts for the various militias, the women have been raped, homesteads have been destroyed, communities driven out of their forest homes. There have also been reports of cannibalism by militia members. As more and more Pygmies flee to the refugee camps, they lose their ability to make a living from the forest. They also lose the use of their vast ethnobotanical knowledge that may provide cures for many of the modern world’s yet unconquered diseases. (For example, one of their hallucinogens contains a compound called ibogaine that may revolutionize the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction in advanced industrial nations).

And so it was with some trepidation that cinematographer David York and I went for a two-week visit to the surviving Pygmies of the rainforest of the C.A.R., a country whose recent civil war has been winding down for the last few years, to witness what remains of the traditional lifestyle of the Pygmies and to see if their future existence as a distinct group can be supported by their participation in an ongoing conservation venture.

Our task was made easier by the courteous welcome of the WWF project staff, their Central African counterparts, various Pygmy guides and, above all, by Louis Sarno. An American ethnomusicologist who has lived among the Biaka in and around the Dzanga Sangha Reserve and National Park for the last 30 years, he engagingly described them in his book Song From the Forest. He wrote that, in addition to their fabulous forest knowledge and hunting abilities, Biaka are among the world’s most talented dancers, singers and instrumentalists. There is evidence that indicates the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt prized them as singers and dancers. Even the late ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax was a Pygmy music fan. He believed their music was in many ways the ultimate source of the Afro-American musical tradition that gave birth to blues, jazz and rock and roll.

During our time among the Biaka, we found them to be alert, active, playful, demonstrative, highly individualistic and extremely musical, confirming the consensus of anthropologists and ethnomusicologists who have lived among them for the last 50 years. Yet their life is hard. They have a high infant mortality rate and most Biaka do not live past the age of 40. They now divide their time between dry season life in large spontaneous villages (up to 500 people) that have sprouted up along the forestry roads, and the deep forest, where they live in small camps and where they still hunt wild animals such as forest hog and duiker and gather honey.

The government and the WWF no longer allow them to hunt elephant or gorilla. Instead, Biaka men are hired as guides and gorilla “habituators.” As expert trackers, they have the knowledge and patience that is necessary to accustom gorillas to human visitors, forming the basis of the tourist attraction to the Dzanga Sangha Reserve and park.

A Biaka child is born into a close-knit community and is lovingly watched over by his mother, father and extended family. An anthropologist that studied parent-infant interaction among the Cameroon Pygmies observed that they have the highest amount of positive father/child interaction of any known culture. A young Biaka boy will eventually join his father on the hunts as will a girl, for females hunt wild animals in groups. There is almost always a song and dance going on during and after the hunts, which often last late into the night.

Although they have been exposed to missionaries, the Biaka still follow their own religion, with God as creator and different kinds of forest spirits who they placate through various rituals and dances. Some men are virtuoso players of the Central African bowed harp and zither. Versions of the former can be seen on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples and in the rock art of the Sahara. David and I spent many evenings in villages and meadows witnessing and recording these natural musical maestros. I long to bring them to my alma mater, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, for I am sure that they could fill the concert hall. Louis told me that he had taken them to Paris for a gala performance sponsored by the wife of the late French President Mr. Mitterrand. Apparently, they were quite a hit.

The Biaka marry early, and Louis told us that he believes that they do so for love. Yet none are chaste before marriage, neither female nor male. When they do marry, the young Biaka husband must live near his in-laws and provide them with food, honey and the a share of each hunt. Unlike the “advanced” civilizations of traditional China and India, it is clear that elderly Biaka gain substantially by having daughters.

After the children are born, the couple will eventually join the homestead of the husband’s family, but as the forest camps are flexible and the roadside villages are now more accessible by vehicle, there is much visiting and participation in rituals and dances across clan boundaries. As young Biaka follow their parents everywhere, by the time they are in their teens they are competent hunters, gatherers and client farmers of the Bantu. They have also mastered most of the forest knowledge of their parents, including the knowledge of healing plants and the animal behaviour that has made them such attractive employees of conservationists.

The C.A.R. is smack in the heart of Africa. It is a landlocked country that, during the late 19th century, was the last refuge of Zanzibari slavers, elephant and ivory hunters. The slavers were defeated only for the Belgians and the French to then set up private companies — “concessionaries” — who were often brutal private empires where rubber was collected and other commercial crops grown. Throughout the colonial period, hunters from the Sudan continued killing elephants in the region. Now, thanks to the acquisition of vehicles and automatic weapons, and because the north of the C.A.R. is lawless, poaching has grown exponentially.

When any new logging company opens up a part of the forest, their Bantu employees buy guns and begin to kill off the wildlife, as meat is considered a delicacy. This is the “bush meat crisis” that conservationists are trying to publicize, which is really a function of unsustainable and short-term logging policy, and poaching continues even where regional logging concessions have closed down. One evening, as we were sitting with a group of Biaka, Louis explained that the WWF does a good job of protecting elephants and gorilla, but it is the smaller species, such as the forest hog and the duiker, that are the main source of Biaka hunting meat. These species are being hunted out by the Bantu employees of the international logging companies.

Ninety-nine percent of the Pygmies of the Congo Basin have not gone to school, most cannot read or write nor do they have citizen IDs. They also lack their own educated elite to fight for their rights, as new activists are drawn from the traumatized Pygmy victims from the refugee camps. A number of Western-based, rainforest-focused NGOs have taken up their cause, but the movement is fragmented as the Pygmies lack their own leaders.

Canada is one of the few OECD nations that is grappling with its own moral historical challenges with indigenous peoples, forests and land rights. As a respected presence in the refugee and development world in Central Africa, it could provide the moral force for a “Pygmy First” development policy in that part of the world, as the parallel between incoming Bantu and indigenous Pygmy mirrors that of the Crown with Canada’s First Nations.

At least, the Pygmies deserve the immediate medical interventions that would allow them to live beyond 40 and therefore provide leaders that can fight for their future stake in the rainforest. Canada does have the moral force to bring about this change, and there are many senior people in CIDA and the Foreign Affairs ministry who could do so if required. So ask yout MP to tell the appropriate people to take bold and immediate action for the Pygmies. The problems the Pygmies face are not insurmountable; they just need someone to notice them.

First published in the National Post.

Posted on 09/10/2012 12:22 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Monday, 10 September 2012
"A Cultural Phenomenon"

From USA Today [itself a "cultural phenomenon"]:

Two more shades of 'Grey' love

By Lindsay Deutsch

Fifty Shades of Grey fans will soon be able to flaunt their love of the erotic trilogy with merchandise tie-ins.

Fifty Shades of Grey:

The Classical Album. Anastasia Steele and her billionaire boyfriend, Christian Grey -- who just happens to be a piano prodigy -- bond over classical music when they're not in the "red room of pain." On Sept. 11, Capitol Records will release a 15-track collection of works that appear in the novels (including Chopin and Bach).

Licensed clothing. Loungewear, lingerie and T-shirts will be available in the USA in time for the holiday season. Brands Briefly Stated, Freeze and Hype will sell trademarked Fifty Shades clothing for both men and women, including hoodies, T-shirts, knit tops, stockings, printed tights and even garter sets.

"The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is not only a best-selling book series but a cultural phenomenon," says Carole Postal, owner of CopCorp licensing, which holds the licenses to North American products. "That's what makes it such a strong brand for licensing."

Posted on 09/10/2012 10:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 10 September 2012
An Indian Shi'a Offers A Useful Example Of The Crazed, Conspiracy-Theory Muslim Mind

This one is a "theatre director and writer" from India, a Shi'a Muslim whose view of the world depends on his detecting an "Anglo-American" conspiracy against the Assad regime -- there is none -- and in further detecting a history, one hundred years old, of such conspiracy and Angl0o-American maniplulation. This theory is idiotic; it makes no sense; it is crazed. But without such craziness where would such people as this Shi'a Muslim, now bitterly contemplating the Sunni attack on Shi'a and completely incapable of recognizing that the Shi'a or quasi-Shi'a (if that is what the Alawites believe themselves to be, or hope others will) of this world will never be accepted by the Sunni Muslims who have never thought of the Shi'a as "real" Muslims. This is something that the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, try as they might to pretend otherwise, cannot bring themselves to understand, so why should this Aamir Raza Husain, in India, where the Sunnis don't attack the Shi'a, as they do in Pakistan, and Afghanistan -- only because there are so many Infidels around on whom to take out their hostility,.

Those of you who thought that Indian Muslims were, like prices in Canada, slightly higher, will after reading this telling article -- if it is to be taken as representative of the level of Indian Muslim, Shi'a or Sunni, understanding of the wolrd -- have to think again.

I have put my own comments in bold.

The game plan in Syria

The present violence is part of a larger narrative of Western manipulation of the Arab world  [what manipulation can he be talking about? The Western world has displayed idiocy, in allowing even decent despots to fall, and the Ikhwan to dominate in Egypt, and similar forces be unconstrained in Tunisia, once safely secularising -- but it certainly has not displayed any desire, or any flair, for geopolitical manipulaton. Whatever gains the West may ultimately make from having allowed the transfer of power from Sunnis to Shi'a in Iraq which, in turn, has helped to fuel Sunni rage against Shi'a, and Shi'a fury at Sunnis in Iraq and encouraged an increase in Sunni-Shi'a hostilities outside Iraq, it hasn't been because of, but despite, the desires of Western governments. Thank god that Muslims are so naturally aggressive and uncompromising, in the spirit of the Qur'an and the Hadith, that there is nothing the West can do -- the Americans certainly tried -- to dampen that hostility. It should have long ago been recognized as one of the three fissures -- sectarian, ethnic, and economic -- that serve to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam.]

The situation in Syria today is a result of a hundred years of Anglo-American intervention [One hundred years ago, the Turks ruled over the land now known as Syria, though then it was administratively broken up into smaller units. The British and the Americans had nothing to do with Syria; it was France that held the Mandate from 1922 to 1946. It was the French who during the mandate period created the Troupes Speciales -- Druze, Armenians, and Alawites -- on whom they could, rightly, rely to keep the peace and help hold down the fanatical anti-Infidel Sunni Muslims. The business about "a hundred years of Anglo-American intervention": in Syria is complete fantasy]  and incitement. This is the third time the West has tried to topple a legitimate Syrian Regime. The difference this time though is that the West has a pliant press as an ally.

Bashar Assad had lost the propaganda war long before trouble started in Syria two years ago. The movement against him grew by the week in the media, while on the ground it remained a murmur of discontent. CNN, BBC and Wahhabi Arab channels belted out stories of large scale persecution, with preachers like Sheikh Aruoor and the Qatar based Ahmed Karazvi extorting the Syrians to rise up and bomb government buildings and blow up minority religious institutions.

The story of Western manipulation of the Arab world started in the early 20th century as imperial Britain attempted to redraw the maps of the Middle East. [meaning: they liberated the Arabs from the Turks]. They did it for oil, they did it for trade routes [what does he mean? Perhaps he means only that the British incorporated the vilayet of Basra into the Iraqi state they were creating, because Basra was a port of call, and of agricultural goods, for British ships going from England to India] , and they did it for fun. With the U.S. as an ally, Britain plotted the overthrow of unfriendly regimes, and the assassination of hostile leaders.[the only example of this is the Mossadegh business, which was supported by the young Shah and many others in Iran. The most implacable domestic enemy of Mossadegh was Khomeini and the most fanatical, anti-nationalist and anti-leftist, Muslims. The line of Mossadegh was as much, or perhaps even more, of a threat to the True Believers than was the Shah].  After the Second World War President Eisenhower asked his British allies to develop "a high class plan to split the Arabs." And by the early 60's the Arabs were split right down the middle.

On one hand were the secular nationalist regimes led by Egypt's Nasser, which included Syria, Libya and Iraq. [On the other hand pro-Western monarchies [in what way, what single way, were the Gulf Arabs ever "pro-Western"?] of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar ruthlessly crushed human rights and followed archaic tribal laws.["tribal laws"? Saudi Arabia followed Sharia'. Bahrain and Qatar were inconsequential places, each in this period  with fewer than 100,000 people; Jordan followed not "tribal laws" but a modification of Shari'a. The kings of Saudi Arabia, and the rulers -- none dared to invite ridicule then by calling himself a king -- were never "pro-Western"]

"Britain is forced to support the traditionalist (read Salafi/ Wahhabi) though obscurantist regimes" piously wrote James Craig of the foreign office in 1973. "The anti-imperialists" (read anti west) are just so detrimental to our interests."[but if the English felt they had to support the local rulers in the Gulf, that did not make those local Arab rulers "pro-Western" any more than today, the Shi'a  rulers of Iraq are one whit grateful to the Americans who removed Saddam Hussein,]

In the last decade, America has targeted only those nations where there was no al-Qaida, no terror, and no Wahhabi ideology. [There was "no Al Qaeda" in Afghanistan?] American intervention has not only destroyed the infrastructure in these countries but also established violent terrorist movements in all of them. The staunchest allies of the U.S. in the Muslim world are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Pakistan. [in what way is meretricious Pakistan an "ally" of the United States? In what way are the Muslim fanatics of Saudi Arabia "allies" of the United States?]The first three are the largest sponsors of international terror and Pakistan of course practices terror as a state policy. [what Aamar Husein

Through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the US and the UK undertook military expeditions to destabilise secular Arab nations. They undertook an invasion of Egypt, which failed. They sponsored two assassination attempts on Nasser, which failed. They tried to instigate two revolts in Syria, which also failed.

Way back in 1957 the British cabinet had approved Operation Straggle, a plot to engineer a coup in Damascus. The plan was to create disaffection on the border areas, infiltrate armed insurgents into urban areas and instigate uprisings. Then an Arab invading force was to walk into the country and take over. The then British ambassador to Damascus, Sir John Gardener had been sent funds to encourage defection of Syrian officials. But the plot was foiled by the Syrians and the main conspirators arrested.

Undeterred the MI6 and CIA came up with a "Preferred Plan", which envisaged sabotage and disruptions as strategy. "False Flag" action was initiated, under which Western sponsored terrorists would carry out killings and bombings in opposition areas, blaming the Syrian government, and instigating widespread riots and protests. Watching the events unfold in Syria over the past two years, it seems that the Americans are serving old wine in old bottles. They have just changed the date on the labels.

Beleaguered Assad has been claiming that the terror blasts in Syria in December 2011 were Saudi/US sponsored. The Western media kept insisting that they were engineered by the regime itself. But when a tragic blast recently killed the defence minister, the head of national security and Bashar's brother-in-law, this media remained silent.

For centuries British foreign policy was dictated only by commercial gain. Today's Western intervention needs to be understood against the backdrop of a new pattern of energy transportation. Gas pipelines between Iran, Iraq and Syria, provide an enormous impetus to growth. New markets, constructions contracts, infrastructure development are all now available to Russia and China while Bashaar cocks a snook at the West.

The Arab nationalistic challenge to Western interests has always been rooted in the desire to be masters in their own lands and control their own resources. In the latter part of the last century Nasser, Hafiz al Assad, Gaddafi and Saddam became symbols of this freedom for all Arabs.[does the writer think the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis, the non-Arab Pakistani Muslims, have not been, during all this time, "masters in their own lands" and then some?]

Today, after 60 years, the lands of Nasser, Gaddafi and Saddam stand destroyed, their resources plundered,[what resources have been "plundered" in Egypt, a country which, in the last three decades, has received from the American government alone some eighty bilion dollars in aid, without Egypt ever bending to the American will or, indeed, showing the slightest gratitude?] their infrastructure demolished, their children growing up in the shadow of guns. Assad stands as the lone survivor.

As the Indian diaspora flee from Damascus and land in Delhi, they have a similar story to tell. "Before an American presidential election some Muslim country gets ravaged," says Kaniz Zainub Zehra. "Clinton did it to Afghanistan, Bush did it to Iraq, Obama did it to Libya. As he comes up for re-election, he is doing it to Syria." "The protests against the regime were all engineered," said Sayed Intikhab, who returned to UP recently. [Clinton "did it to Afghanistan" -- what exactly did Clinton do "to Afghanistan"? As for Bush, he  invaded Iraq in March, 2003, scarcely half-way through his running for re-election, and Obama participated, but most reluctantly, in helping France and Britain to keep Libyan planes out of the sky, in order to help overturn Qaddafy, and did this not just before his "re-election" campaign but two years before that campaign began]

Even as India has finally re-asserted its non-alignment by abstaining in the Saudi/Qatar/US sponsored UN resolution against Syria, Moscow and China staunchly shield Bashar. [the Shia Muslim writer, indicting "the West," apparently doesn't even think he has to explain, or justify, the behavior of China and Russia] Saudi Arabia and Qatar provide rebels with heavy arms while the US and their Western allies continue to fund them.[no heavy arms have been provided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar; almost all of the money, and all of the arms that are smuggled in, do come from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Gulf states, as well as from Sunni Arab sympathizers elsewhere; the "US and their Western allies" have provided, thank god, almost no money to the rebels. But the author has to believe that "the US and its Western allies" are somehow allying themselves with Al Qaeda to support the Syrian rebels" -- in other words, has to become crazily confused in one way, lest his world-view, which cannot change, should suffer].

While Syrians on both sides die the gap between Romney and Obama widens in opinion polls.

The writer is a theatre director and actor.

Posted on 09/10/2012 2:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 10 September 2012
A Musical Interlude: You're Driving Me Crazy (Gene Austin)
Listen here.
Posted on 09/10/2012 3:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 10 September 2012
Israel Is On Its Own

Israel, U.S. at odds over ‘red line’ for Iran

By ,

September 10

JERUSALEM —Despite attempts to align their positions on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel and the United States were publicly at odds Monday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for Washington to set a “clear red line” beyond which it would launch a military attack.

A day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran and considers negotiations the best approach, a senior Israeli official charged that “these statements won’t serve to deter Iran, but could well put it at ease.”

“Without a clear red line Iran will not cease its race toward a nuclear weapon,” said the senior official, who was not authorized to identify himself by name. “These statements will not stop Iran’s centrifuges from spinning. Unfortunately, the opposite could well be true.

Netanyahu told an interviewer Sunday that Israel is discussing red lines with the United States. He did not say whether those discussions include any new offers from the Obama administration, but White House press secretary Jay Carney waved off that suggestion Monday.

“The president’s position, unequivocally, is that he is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carney said. “We share that view with Israel and Israel’s leadership in a way that has been made clear again and again.”

Iran has denied that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and U.S. intelligence has not detected any evidence that the leadership in Tehran has decided to build a nuclear bomb, senior Obama administration officials have said.

Netanyahu, who is traveling to the United States later this month, has been pressing the Obama administration to spell out the point at which Iran’s nuclear program could face an American military strike.

Netanyahu argues that only an ultimatum to Iran has a chance of swaying Tehran and averting a military confrontation. He has not specified what that line should be, but his demand reflects the sense of urgency projected by the Israeli leadership, which has called a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat to Israel.

The Obama administration is arguing for more time for diplomacy and sanctions. [Israel started warning about Iran's project 21 years ago; over the last 18 years, there have been seven red lines drawn in the dust by the American government; Iran has ignored all of them, without serious consequences. But the Obama Administration, with Iran rushing pell-mell toward the finish line, the same administration that waited three years, and relentless pressure from Congress, to finally, almost reluctantly, put on the kind of sanctions that three years ago might have been imposed in time, "is arguing for more time for diplomacy and sanctions." s]

We believe that there remains time and space for that effort to bear fruit,” Carney said Monday. “We’ve also made clear that the window of opportunity for reaching a solution by that means will not remain open indefinitely.”

On Sunday, Clinton appeared to rule out an ultimatum to the Iranians.

“We’re not setting deadlines,” she told Bloomberg Radio when asked whether Washington would draw “red lines” for Iran or spell out the consequences of failing to reach agreement with world powers by a certain date.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that time is running out as Iran’s nuclear facilities approach a “zone of immunity,” protected in underground bunkers invulnerable to Israeli attack.

Interviewed Sunday on Canadian television, Netanyahu said that Israel was currently in discussions with the United States on “a clear delineation of a line which Iran cannot cross in its pursuit of the development of nuclear weapons capability.”

The issue sparked a heated exchange last month between Netanyahu and Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, according to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who was present and gave his account last week to a Detroit radio station.

Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Netanyahu was frustrated with what he sees as a lack of U.S. resolve to draw lines for military action if necessary. Shapiro has denied the reports of a sharp exchange.

Barak said after a meeting last week with Adm. James A. Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that there were “differences” between Washington and Israel and that “the clock is ticking at a different pace for each of us.”

Clinton voiced a similar assessment in the radio interview. “They’re more anxious about a quick response because they feel that they’re right in the bull’s-eye, so to speak,” she said, referring to the Israelis. “But we’re convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation.”

Dore Gold, a former U.N. ambassador who has advised Netanyahu, told Israel Radio on Monday that Clinton’s remarks meant that the United States faced “a serious problem” in stopping Iran, because of the lack of a “concrete threat” to use force.

“There are differences in approach here,” he said of the views in Jerusalem and Washington, “and they are deep.”

Posted on 09/10/2012 4:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 10 September 2012
Captured Syrian Soldiers Executed By Rebels

From Agence France-Presse:

Syria rebels execute soldiers in battleground Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian rebels summarily executed at least 20 soldiers in second city Aleppo, a watchdog said Monday, as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi admitted he faced a "very difficult" task in his bid to end the nearly 18-month conflict.

The Syrian government's traditional ally Moscow called for a peace conference involving all parties to the conflict, warning of the risks of a complete collapse of central authority as happened in Somalia in the early 1990s.

"I know perfectly well that the mission is very difficult but I had no right to refuse to try to help the Syrian people," Brahimi told reporters in Cairo on his first visit to the region since taking up his post earlier this month.

"I am at the service of the Syrian people alone. My only boss is the Syrian people. The only interest of the United Nations and the Arab League is the Syrian people," the envoy said.

The soldiers executed were captured at a military compound during a rebel attack in the Hanano district of east Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They had their eyes blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs before they were lined up and shot, sometime over the weekend, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Amateur video posted on YouTube and distributed by the Observatory showed some 20 bodies laid out next to each other on a pavement. Many of the men's heads were covered in blood, and some were wearing jeans rather than full military attire.

One of the rebels standing next to the bodies held up his hand to make a victory sign. "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest), cried another, as a third shouted out at the bodies: "You dogs! You low lifes!"

Reports of the executions came as Syrian MiG warplanes blitzed areas of Aleppo, dropping two bombs at a time and then opening up with machinegun fire, an AFP correspondent reported.

Helicopter gunships also flew over the city causing panic on the streets as residents fled for safety, the correspondent reported.

The Observatory said at least five people died in morning bombing raids on the Marjeh, Sakhur, Hanano, Tariq al-Bab and Sheikh Khodr neighbourhoods of Aleppo, among a total of 95 civilians killed nationwide, 63 of them civilians.

-- 'Somalia-isation' --

-----------------------

Moscow, which has been increasingly critical of the West for its championing of the Syrian opposition, said it was time for a comprehensive peace agreement similar to that which ended the civil war in neighbouring Lebanon.

"We are proposing to our Western partners the organisation of a 'Taif conference' between all the players of the conflict," Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said alluding to a 1989 peace deal signed in the Saudi city between the parties to the Lebanese civil war.

"This conference should bring together opposition and regime figures, as well as Christian, Alawite and Druze community members," Bogdanov added, referring to Syria's minority communities, including the dominant Alawite elite of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Given the opposition divisions and the weapons reaching the rebels, the risk of a Somalia-isation of Syria is real, if the regime were to suddenly collapse tomorrow. We must do all we can to avoid this disintegration of a centralised state," he told France's Le Figaro newspaper in an article to appear Wednesday.

A UN enquiry has accused the army, pro-government militia and the rebels of committing war crimes but has said that violations by the rebels are on a much lower scale.

Brahimi said he plans to go to Damascus "in a few days" to meet officials and civil society members. Asked if he will meet the Syrian president, he said: "I hope to but I don't know."

Brahimi's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi has said the date of the envoy's visit to Syria would be fixed once his programme of meetings is finalised.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for all war criminals in Syria to be brought to justice, as his human rights chief urged a probe into the slaughter late last month of hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Daraya.

Defected general Manaf Tlass said that French secret agents helped him escape from Syria, where he had long been a member of Assad's inner circle.

"The French (intelligence) services helped me get out of Syria and I thank them for that," said Tlass, whose July 6 defection was hailed in the West as a major setback for Assad.

A general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime, Tlass is the son of former defence minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad's father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad.

His defection was welcomed by the opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Council as an "enormous blow" to Assad.

But he has faced criticism from Syrian rebels, who say he and his 80-year-old father, who lives in Paris, should have made their positions clear at the very start of the anti-Assad uprising in March last year.

Posted on 09/10/2012 4:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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