Saudi Arabia Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization
Now, if the US could just do the same and begin curtailing their efforts in America.
(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, in a move that could increase pressure on Qatar whose backing for the group has sparked a row with fellow Gulf monarchies.
The U.S.-allied kingdom has also designated as terrorist the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Interior Ministry said in a statement published by state media.
Friday's move appeared to enforce a royal decree last month in which Riyadh, which backs some rebel groups in Syria with money and arms, said it would jail for between three and 20 years any citizen found guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad.
It underscored concern about young Saudis hardened by battle against Assad coming home to target the ruling Al Saud royal family - as has happened after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Saudi Arabia's Islamic religious authorities have spoken out against Saudi fighters going to Syria, but the Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 Saudis have gone nonetheless.
Last month's decree said a committee would be set up to determine the groups to be outlawed. The ministry's statement on Friday said the groups mentioned were those the committee had agreed on and that had been approved by the authorities.
Riyadh fears the Brotherhood, whose Sunni Islamist doctrines challenge the Saudi principle of dynastic rule, has tried to build support inside the kingdom since the Arab Spring revolutions.
In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, saying Doha had failed to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others' internal affairs.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and resent the way Doha has sheltered influential cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, a critic of the Saudi authorities, and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera.
The Interior Ministry said on Friday the royal decree would apply to both Saudis and foreign residents who joined, endorsed or gave moral or material aid to groups it classifies as terrorist or extremist, whether inside or outside the country.
The statement also said "those who insult other countries and their leaders" or "attended conferences or gatherings inside and outside (the country) that aim to target the security and stability and spread sedition in the society", would be punished by law.
The Quebec election on April 7 could be a decisive turn, though the campaign for it is not starting out in that direction. In the 2012 election, Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois won just 32% of the vote, to 31% for Jean Charest’s Liberals, and 27% for the pantomime horse of the Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ). The CAQ is neither a federalist nor separatist party, and is led by François Legault (former pequiste minister of education and a political charlatan), and by the high-tech centi-millionaire, Charles Sirois, the affable bearer of a picaresque, even dilettantish, career. The CAQ is the sort of movement that pops up in Quebec from time to time when there is dissatisfaction with the government but a lack of real confidence in the official opposition. This was the status of the Bloc Populaire at the end of the Second World War and of Action démocratique du Québec at the end of the last separatist government led by Lucien Bouchard. They are always straddlers trying to make the centre between opposed and established parties a position of strength, but it is never enough to win, or even long survive.
The polls this week show the traditional pattern: the PQ is up from 32% in 2012 to 37, the Liberals are up from 31% to 35, and the CAQ is down from 27% to 15. That vote should continue to evaporate as Quebec faces the clear choice that it now has between a premier it now knows but not necessarily for long enough to have become altogether tired of her, as it did with Charest, and a Liberal leader it knew well as Charest’s health minister, but who is, in leadership terms, a new face.
Traditionally, the Quebec electorate has been divided into five approximately equal voting blocs: the Rouges, the dyed in the wool French Quebec Liberals; the Bleus, the old-time Quebec conservatives; the nationalists; the non-French; and the floating vote. The Liberals generally take all the Rouge base, and all the non-French. The genius of Maurice Duplessis in taking an unequalled five terms as premier, was to get the Bleus and the nationalists and more than half the floating vote and about a quarter of the non-French to vote together, for him. His most assiduous disciple, Daniel Johnson, largely resurrected this voting alliance in 1966, but died in office in 1968. The Parti Quebecois, as assembled by Rene Levesque, took all the nationalists, almost all the floating vote and a chunk of the conservatives. Some of the Liberals also came with him from that party when he decamped from it in 1967 after service as a prominent minister in Jean Lesage’s Quiet Revolution Liberal government.
The nature of the non-French vote is that it is heavily concentrated in West Montreal and parts of the South Shore and Eastern Townships near Montreal, delivers huge Liberal majorities, but is not proportionately represented in the legislature, (which has grandiloquently called itself the National Assembly since 1969). And the nature of the floating vote is that it follows not only trends but especially the generally perceived need in Quebec for the only thoroughly French government in North America above the municipal level (Quebec City) to be led by a chef, a strong personality who can always be relied upon to defend the French Quebec interest with vigour, panache and distinction.
Duplessis, Lesage, Johnson, Levesque and Bouchard were all beneficiaries of this status; Robert Bourassa was a sort of French Mackenzie King — colourless and cautious, but clever and agile, and Jean Charest was perceived as somewhat more amiable but not as intelligent. Joseph-Adélard Godbout (premier from 1939 to 1944) and Jean-Jacques Bertrand (1968-1970), were admired as good and dedicated men, but insufficient in both force of personality and cunning to be a chef national. With the exception of Paul Sauve, Duplessis’ chosen successor who died in office less than four months after Duplessis did, none of the other premiers in living memory really commanded profound public support.
Quebec sociological and voting patterns are certainly not immutable, but there is no reason to doubt that the third party vote, including the 8% that now is attributed to the arch-separatist Solidaire party, (up from 6% in the 2012 election), will shrink as the clear choice emerges between a new premier and a new leader of the opposition. For those looking for a chef, neither of the chief protagonists seems predestined to ride into the folkloric and political history of the province as Duplessis and Levesque have.
But Philippe Couillard, though he has been a tactically awkward party leader for his first few months in the position, is a medical doctor who worked in the Middle East for a time, and was a well-respected health minister who managed the astonishing achievement, in the chronically over-unionized province, of reducing local union accreditations in his sprawling department. He is a cultured, worldly and civilized man, and he and his wife could pass as a traditional Quebec family in the best sense.
Pauline Marois may conceivably reap some feminist votes, but she is very workmanlike and almost sadistically unglamorous. She speaks like the educated but ordinary person she is, but in inspirational terms, she could not lead Quebec across the Jacques Cartier Bridge — with or without the buttressing it will require to avoid collapsing. (The more galvanizing recent Quebec leaders mentioned above spoke with either evident culture, or vivacity of wit, or passion, or like Pierre Trudeau on occasion, all three.)
The reason this election could be a watershed is that the logjam of Canada must break. Quebec now is like a separate country, where in the great majority of the province that is French, all official efforts are dedicated to unilingual isolation and to a pretense of sovereignty which cannot really be enacted because, contrary to the implications of the referendum questions in 1980 and 1995, Canada would then discontinue its $2,000 per capita transfer payments to Quebec, (which is, in practice, about $4,000 to any man, woman or child in a family or equivalent unit that might be tempted by Quebec’s independence option). So Quebec operates an overwhelmingly white collar economy where few people add real value to anything, but everyone is secure, comfortable and in the traditional manner of the bourgeois clerisy, respectable. But the province cannot secede and can only sustain its accumulated debt because it is joined by its fiscal cheekbone to the hip of Canada. Quebec has no influence in Ottawa, where it long prevailed, and Ottawa is only an impersonal paymaster in Quebec.
If Quebec would tear down the barricades its nationalist political and media elites have erected opposite Canada, reassume the headship of all Quebeckers and all French-Canadians, and thus set it itself back at the head of about 30% of Canadians and resume its position as a co-governing founding people of Canada, which has, despite the sniggering and sabotage of the Quebec nationalists, become one of the world’s most successful countries, the revolution in Canadian morale and elan and the ambiance of Quebec would be electrifyingly positive. Ultimately, Quebec should rejoin the country or be partitioned so that Canada retains the federalist areas (including the First Nations), while the sullen, overpaid separatists, if they really are irreconcilable, can give unsubsidized independence a try.
As the premier’s remarks in announcing the election on Wednesday made explicit, the election is fought largely on the “Charter of Values,” which does not assure equality of sex (that is already guaranteed) or “religious neutrality” (likewise), but rather imposes the state atheism of almost all the conscient separatists, embarrassed as they are that they owe their cultural survival to the Roman Catholic Church. The idea that the National Assembly can decree whether people may wear religious symbols is as abominable as the regulation of wearing political or commercial symbols on T-shirts, and it is sacrilege, an offence that yet survives. About a quarter of Quebecers, most of them French, are still religious practitioners. All is in place for Dr. Couillard to be a seminal and benign figure in Canadian and Quebec history, and his campaign-opening comments on Wednesday incited hope.
Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair should do all they can to assist the Quebec Liberals, though not too much should be expected of Mulcair, given the Faustian bargain he has made with the separatists, to try to retain the support of the Bloc Quebecois, which the NDP displaced by offering the same separatist wine in a relabelled NDP bottle. Harper and his government and party don’t have enough support in Quebec to influence the outcome, other than by some blunderbuss utterance that would assist Marois. This could, at least, be that rarest of recent Canadian phenomena, an interesting election.
Unfortunately in the 21st century there seems to be a growing disconnect between the world of journalists and that of serious academics who spend their lives studying a particular culture, in this case Russia. Let us remember that cultures are different. Americans are not the same as Canadians, North Americans are by no means the same as Europeans and, we should never forget that Russia and Russians are very different from the rest of us. Professor Stephen Cohen, an expert on Russia, is trying to remind us of this fact.
The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines—particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin—is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.
There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or “expert” views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.
The history of this degradation is also clear. It began in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union, when the US media adopted Washington’s narrative that almost everything President Boris Yeltsin did was a “transition from communism to democracy” and thus in America’s best interests. This included his economic “shock therapy” and oligarchic looting of essential state assets, which destroyed tens of millions of Russian lives; armed destruction of a popularly elected Parliament and imposition of a “presidential” Constitution, which dealt a crippling blow to democratization and now empowers Putin; brutal war in tiny Chechnya, which gave rise to terrorists in Russia’s North Caucasus; rigging of his own re-election in 1996; and leaving behind, in 1999, his approval ratings in single digits, a disintegrating country laden with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, most American journalists still give the impression that Yeltsin was an ideal Russian leader.
Since the early 2000s, the media have followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with US policy, that devalues multifaceted analysis for a relentless demonization of Putin, with little regard for facts. (Was any Soviet Communist leader after Stalin ever so personally villainized?) If Russia under Yeltsin was presented as having legitimate politics and national interests, we are now made to believe that Putin’s Russia has none at all, at home or abroad—even on its own borders, as in Ukraine.
Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin’s Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s—only in the “autocrat” Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power. Nor is he credited with stabilizing a disintegrating nuclear-armed country, assisting US security pursuits from Afghanistan and Syria to Iran or even with granting amnesty, in December, to more than 1,000 jailed prisoners, including mothers of young children.
Not surprisingly, in January The Wall Street Journal featured the widely discredited former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, branding Putin’s government as one of “deceit, violence and cynicism,” with the Kremlin a “nerve center of the troubles that bedevil the West.” But wanton Putin-bashing is also the dominant narrative in centrist, liberal and progressive media, from the Post, Times and The New Republic to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, where Howard Dean, not previously known for his Russia expertise, recently declared, to the panel’s approval, “Vladimir Putin is a thug.”
The media therefore eagerly await Putin’s downfall—due to his “failing economy” (some of its indicators are better than US ones), the valor of street protesters and other right-minded oppositionists (whose policies are rarely examined), the defection of his electorate (his approval ratings remain around 65 percent) or some welcomed “cataclysm.” Evidently believing, as does the Times, for example, that democrats and a “much better future” will succeed Putin (not zealous ultranationalists growing in the streets and corridors of power), US commentators remain indifferent to what the hoped-for “destabilization of his regime” might mean in the world’s largest nuclear country.
Certainly, The New Republic’s lead writer on Russia, Julia Ioffe, does not explore the question, or much else of real consequence, in her nearly 10,000-word February 17 cover story. Ioffe’s bannered theme is devoutly Putin-phobic: “He Crushed His Opposition and Has Nothing to Show for It But a Country That Is Falling Apart.” Neither sweeping assertion is spelled out or documented. A compilation of chats with Russian-born Ioffe’s disaffected (but seemingly not “crushed”) Moscow acquaintances and titillating personal gossip long circulating on the Internet, the article seems better suited (apart from some factual errors) for the Russian tabloids, as does Ioffe’s disdain for objectivity. Protest shouts of “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!” were “one of the most exhilarating moments I’d ever experienced.” So was tweeting “Putin’s fucked, y’all.” Nor does she forget the hopeful mantra “cataclysm seems closer than ever now.”
* * *
For weeks, this toxic coverage has focused on the Sochi Olympics and the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Even before the Games began, the Times declared the newly built complex a “Soviet-style dystopia” and warned in a headline, Terrorism and Tension, Not Sports and Joy. On opening day, the paper found space for three anti-Putin articles and a lead editorial, a feat rivaled by thePost. Facts hardly mattered. Virtually every US report insisted that a record $51 billion “squandered” by Putin on the Sochi Games proved they were “corrupt.” But as Ben Aris ofBusiness New Europe pointed out, as much as $44 billion may have been spent “to develop the infrastructure of the entire region,” investment “the entire country needs.”
Overall pre-Sochi coverage was even worse, exploiting the threat of terrorism so licentiously it seemed pornographic. The Post, long known among critical-minded Russia-watchers asPravda on the Potomac, exemplified the media ethos. A sports columnist and an editorial page editor turned the Olympics into “a contest of wills” between the despised Putin’s “thugocracy” and terrorist “insurgents.” The “two warring parties” were so equated that readers might have wondered which to cheer for. If nothing else, American journalists gave terrorists an early victory, tainting “Putin’s Games” and frightening away many foreign spectators, including some relatives of the athletes.
The Sochi Games will soon pass, triumphantly or tragically, but the potentially fateful Ukrainian crisis will not. A new Cold War divide between West and East may now be unfolding, not in Berlin but in the heart of Russia’s historical civilization. The result could be a permanent confrontation fraught with instability and the threat of a hot war far worse than the one in Georgia in 2008. These dangers have been all but ignored in highly selective, partisan and inflammatory US media accounts, which portray the European Union’s “Partnership” proposal benignly as Ukraine’s chance for democracy, prosperity and escape from Russia, thwarted only by a “bullying” Putin and his “cronies” in Kiev.
Not long ago, committed readers could count on The New York Review of Books for factually trustworthy alternative perspectives on important historical and contemporary subjects. But when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, the NYRB has succumbed to the general media mania. In a January 21 blog post, Amy Knight, a regular contributor and inveterate Putin-basher, warned the US government against cooperating with the Kremlin on Sochi security, even suggesting that Putin’s secret services “might have had an interest in allowing or even facilitating such attacks” as killed or wounded dozens of Russians in Volgograd in December.
Knight’s innuendo prefigured a purported report on Ukraine by Yale professor Timothy Snyder in the February 20 issue. Omissions of facts, by journalists or scholars, are no less an untruth than misstatements of fact. Snyder’s article was full of both, which are widespread in the popular media, but these are in the esteemed NYRB and by an acclaimed academic. Consider a few of Snyder’s assertions:
§?”On paper, Ukraine is now a dictatorship.” In fact, the “paper” legislation he’s referring to hardly constituted dictatorship, and in any event was soon repealed. Ukraine is in a state nearly the opposite of dictatorship—political chaos uncontrolled by President Viktor Yanukovych, the Parliament, the police or any other government institution.
§?”The [parliamentary] deputies…have all but voted themselves out of existence.” Again, Snyder is alluding to the nullified “paper.” Moreover, serious discussions have been under way in Kiev about reverting to provisions in the 2004 Constitution that would return substantial presidential powers to the legislature, hardly “the end of parliamentary checks on presidential power,” as Snyder claims. (Does he dislike the prospect of a compromise outcome?)
§?”Through remarkably large and peaceful public protests…Ukrainians have set a positive example for Europeans.” This astonishing statement may have been true in November, but it now raises questions about the “example” Snyder is advocating. The occupation of government buildings in Kiev and in Western Ukraine, the hurling of firebombs at police and other violent assaults on law enforcement officers and the proliferation of anti-Semitic slogans by a significant number of anti-Yanukovych protesters, all documented and even televised, are not an “example” most readers would recommend to Europeans or Americans. Nor are they tolerated, even if accompanied by episodes of police brutality, in any Western democracy.
§?”Representatives of a minor group of the Ukrainian extreme right have taken credit for the violence.” This obfuscation implies that apart perhaps from a “minor group,” the “Ukrainian extreme right” is part of the positive “example” being set. (Many of its representatives have expressed hatred for Europe’s “anti-traditional” values, such as gay rights.) Still more, Snyder continues, “something is fishy,” strongly implying that the mob violence is actually being “done by russo-phone provocateurs” on behalf of “Yanukovych (or Putin).” As evidence, Snyder alludes to “reports” that the instigators “spoke Russian.” But millions of Ukrainians on both sides of their incipient civil war speak Russian.
§?Snyder reproduces yet another widespread media malpractice regarding Russia, the decline of editorial fact-checking. In a recent article in the International New York Times, he both inflates his assertions and tries to delete neofascist elements from his innocuous “Ukrainian extreme right.” Again without any verified evidence, he warns of a Putin-backed “armed intervention” in Ukraine after the Olympics and characterizes reliable reports of “Nazis and anti-Semites” among street protesters as “Russian propaganda.”
§?Perhaps the largest untruth promoted by Snyder and most US media is the claim that “Ukraine’s future integration into Europe” is “yearned for throughout the country.” But every informed observer knows—from Ukraine’s history, geography, languages, religions, culture, recent politics and opinion surveys—that the country is deeply divided as to whether it should join Europe or remain close politically and economically to Russia. There is not one Ukraine or one “Ukrainian people” but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions.
Such factual distortions point to two flagrant omissions by Snyder and other US media accounts. The now exceedingly dangerous confrontation between the two Ukraines was not “ignited,” as the Times claims, by Yanukovych’s duplicitous negotiating—or by Putin—but by the EU’s reckless ultimatum, in November, that the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country choose between Europe and Russia. Putin’s proposal for a tripartite arrangement, rarely if ever reported, was flatly rejected by US and EU officials.
But the most crucial media omission is Moscow’s reasonable conviction that the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia, which began in the 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion and continued with US-funded NGO political activities inside Russia, a US-NATO military outpost in Georgia and missile-defense installations near Russia. Whether this longstanding Washington-Brussels policy is wise or reckless, it—not Putin’s December financial offer to save Ukraine’s collapsing economy—is deceitful. The EU’s “civilizational” proposal, for example, includes “security policy” provisions, almost never reported, that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.
Any doubts about the Obama administration’s real intentions in Ukraine should have been dispelled by the recently revealed taped conversation between a top State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador in Kiev. The media predictably focused on the source of the “leak” and on Nuland’s verbal “gaffe”—“Fuck the EU.” But the essential revelation was that high-level US officials were plotting to “midwife” a new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government by ousting or neutralizing its democratically elected president—that is, a coup.
Americans are left with a new edition of an old question. Has Washington’s twenty-year winner-take-all approach to post-Soviet Russia shaped this degraded news coverage, or is official policy shaped by the coverage? Did Senator John McCain stand in Kiev alongside the well-known leader of an extreme nationalist party because he was ill informed by the media, or have the media deleted this part of the story because of McCain’s folly?
And what of Barack Obama’s decision to send only a low-level delegation, including retired gay athletes, to Sochi? In August, Putin virtually saved Obama’s presidency by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to eliminate his chemical weapons. Putin then helped to facilitate Obama’s heralded opening to Iran. Should not Obama himself have gone to Sochi—either out of gratitude to Putin, or to stand with Russia’s leader against international terrorists who have struck both of our countries? Did he not go because he was ensnared by his unwise Russia policies, or because the US media misrepresented the varying reasons cited: the granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, differences on the Middle East, infringements on gay rights in Russia, and now Ukraine? Whatever the explanation, as Russian intellectuals say when faced with two bad alternatives, “Both are worst.”
The United States, the European Union, and NATO are playing kingmaker again, this time in the Ukraine where the stakes could be nuclear. Somehow, regime change has become the default setting for America foreign policy. Let’s review the bidding: Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, central Africa, Syria, and now Eastern Europe. The oft stated goals of American policy abroad are “transition” or “stability.” How is that stability thing working out? Just a few examples reveal a litany of blowback, unintended consequences, and national incompetence.
Iraq is now a sectarian basket case, Libya has become fratricidal Arab ghetto, Afghanistan is about to embrace the Taliban (again), Egypt is back to square one as a Janissary, and Syria has become a humanitarian nightmare. The Obama administration is the last nation on earth that should be complaining about misguided intervention. When American diplomats and intelligence operatives are butchered in Benghazi, the best we get from the Oval Office and Foggy Bottom, quoting Mrs. Clinton, is “What does it matter?”
Hillary is out of town for a few years, but a bimbo legacy is with us still. Just before Vladimir Putin drew a line in the sands of the Crimea, Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, in a conversation with the US ambassador to the Ukraine, offered to bugger the European Union. Specifically she said, “F*UCK” the EU.” Apparently, the EU was not being pushy enough with Russia, so Vicky took the wheel in Kiev.
Nuland at Kiev demonstrations
How she and US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, might “F*UCK” the EU was not part of that intercepted conversation. Presumably weapons of choice would have to be dildos or a strap-on. If we take Vicky literally, you might have to look long and hard to find a real erection at Foggy Bottom these days. The best that might be said of Ms. Nuland to date is that she, like other Obama appointees, is a vulgar amateur.
How does a ranking State Department official with the highest security clearances not know that the Russians, NSA, and half of Europe would be monitoring an unencrypted telephone? Is Nuland trying to channel David Patraeus? She was clearly dispatched to Kiev to stir the pot in an internal dispute - or maybe she was just in Eastern Europe to poke Putin in the eye.
And why would a female diplomat use a rape metaphor to express her contempt for our “allies?” Surely, Vickie knows that F*CK is an acronym for “forced unlawful carnal knowledge.” As long as the Assistant Secretary raised the subject, maybe Ms. Nuland’s genitals have more to do with her high office at State Department than talent or achievement.
Nuland’s arrogance has a history. She was the cutout between Susan Rice, Hillary and the Benghazi talking points, the much revised “intelligence” about diplomatic homicides in Libya. Nuland was fingered as the State Department official who played Jim Clapper and insisted on revising the integrity of the “Intelligence” on the Libyan terror threat. She was promoted by Obama for the Benghazi cover up.
And the “FUCK you!” fusillade is not Ms Nuland’s first burlesque in the Ukraine. After getting a pass from Congress on Benghazi, Nuland appeared in Kiev doling out rations and coaching western operatives dressed as anti-regime dissidents, Ukrainian activists who may turn out to be pro-EU, anti-Semitic fascists. To make matters even more bizarre, the American media, MSNBC and Rachael Maddow in particular, are now trying to blame the Ukraine fiasco on George Bush (sic).
Neo-fascists in Kiev
Well, now Vlad and the Spetsnaz have risen to the bait. Unfortunately for the Obama White House, Putin is no flaccid diplomat, third world autocrat, or imam. A line has been drawn in Crimea, just as lines were drawn in Chechnya and Georgia. Unlike Barack Obama and John Kerry, when Putin draws a red line, he means it. Vicky Nuland has picked an unnecessary fight with the Russians: your move, Mister President!
(For a more polite analysis, Right and Left, of the rumble in the Ukraine see former Ambassador Jack Matlock’s blog or Professor Stephen Cohen’s coverage.)
G Murphy Donovan is the former Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence. He writes about the politics of national security.
"Ce n'est pas magnifique, et ce n'est meme pas la guerre" is how one might reasonably describe the behavior of the Light-headed Brigade in Washington in the latest Crimean War.
G. Murphy Donovan in a post at NER earlier today included a link to a communication, from an American in Moscow, to Jack Matlock, former American ambassador to Russia. I decided to copy the whole thing, with a few bits put in bold:
Obama’s Confrontation over Ukraine Has Increased Putin’s Support at Home
I received the following comments on yesterday’s essay from a Russian-speaking American now resident in Moscow. They include some important points about Russian opinion and on the impact of the Ukrainian events on politics in Russia itself. Each of the points deserves a separate essay, but I wish to share them without delay. (I have added some emphasis by italics or boldface here and there.)
1) In Moscow even anti-Putin liberals seem to think that the US/EU has pushed too far in Ukraine. For example, last week I had lunch with two Russian professionals. The conversation turned to Ukraine and one of them remarked that US policy seemed driven solely by a desire to “stick it to Russia” (nasolit'). The leaked conversation between Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt shocked people. It appears to people that the US is encouraging anti-Russian nationalists or sending signals that they could easily misinterpret. At the end, they decided that it was probably more ineptitude than a deliberate effort to cause harm, but I imagine 90% of Russians assume American diplomats understand exactly what they’re doing and the potential consequences. It takes a great deal of sophistication to consider stupidity and incompetence as an explanation.
2) People understand perfectly well why Poles, Balts and some Ukrainians would be anti-Russian. But they don’t understand why this desire to settle historical scores gets so much support from the US.
3) If you read the US press, it’s axiomatic that Crimea and Eastern Ukraine would choose Russia, if given the choice. But I’m hearing it’s not a sure thing, especially in regards to Eastern Ukraine. There people want to keep their jobs and they don’t want their factories shut down in a trade war with Russia, but that doesn’t mean they want to be annexed.
4) People make a sharp distinction between Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. If a referendum does vote in favor of union, most Russians would be happy to take them, irrespective of political leaning.
5) It seems to me that any Russian President, of any political persuasion, would have had his or her hand forced by this meddling.
6) I sometimes think that Americans have benefited from democratic institutions so long (even if they are under assault by the political elite with gerrymandering and anonymous donations), that they don’t grasp the institutional framework that has to be in place for a democratic revolution actually to work. Also, people underestimate how much of this infrastructure is being built in Russia, even though the process is slow and boring. It’s one thing to scream that you want a democracy and the end to corruption; it’s another to organize people in a way that it happens over decades. In that respect, Russia, even under Putin, is far more advanced than Ukraine.
7) The immediate vote to remove the legal status of Russian (as well as other languages) confirmed suspicions that the new Ukrainian parliament is blindly anti-Russian, even though the idea was quickly stopped. It also raises the question of political competence.
8. I was in Donetsk and in Crimea for a Coal Miners’ Conference last spring. At the time I was shocked by the near apocalyptic pessimism of nearly everyone. I thought people were being hyperbolic when they said the political situation was hopeless and the country could split in two.
9)I suspect Putin will come out of this situation stronger, unless it all descends into chaos. It has certainly set back the Russian opposition. People won’t demonstrate, and not just because of fear of the police. It will simply seem unpatriotic and remind everyone of violence in Kiev, which no one wants. Even people who dislike Yanukovich do not like how he was kicked out of office. I think it’s a fair question to ask why elections couldn’t take place as agreed, and why he had to be forced out of office immediately.
10) Putin may well circumscribe civil liberties further. For which we can thank, in part, Poland, Western Ukraine, the EU and Obama.
11) I sometimes suspect that many East Europeans feel they will lose their identity as bulwarks against barbarianism if Russia ever becomes a normal country, so unconsciously they try to stop it. It’s going to be tough for the Poles when they have to go head to head with Russians on culture alone.
[End Quote of the comment from Moscow].
I will be commenting in greater detail on some of these points, but for now will simply say that though I have been a strong admirer and supporter of President Obama, I cannot understand how he could fail to recognize that confronting President Putin publicly on an issue that is so central to Russian national pride and honor, not only tends to have the opposite effect on the issue at hand, but actually strengthens tendencies in Russia that we should wish to discourage. It is as if he, along with his advisers, is living in some alternate ideological and psychological universe.
Does the Saudi-led Squabble in the Gulf Spell trouble for Obama?
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, 3--5-14 Source: AFP
The Obama White House and the world media are pre-occupied with Russian President Putin’s grab of the Ukrainian autonomous province of Crimea. There are undertones of “Back to the Future”- meaning a possible return to Cold War era geopolitics with Russia.
Despite that overriding ruckus there was a less well publicized series of events in the Persian Gulf region among members of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC). Does this spell trouble ahead for President Obama’s Middle East policies?
At the GCC meeting on March 5th in Riyadh, Qatar was effectively isolated by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states. The Emir of Qatar, a member of the GCC, has been prominent in supporting financial aid and assistance to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliates in Egypt under Morsi, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Opposition Council, one of whose leaders is a dual American Syrian citizen Louay Safi.
Virtually on the heels of the squabble at the GCC gathering, Saudi King Abdullah announced decrees on Friday, March 7th. They listed the MB as a terrorist organization along with several AQ affiliates in Syria and Iraq, as well as Shia terrorist groups in North Yemen and in the oil rich Eastern Province. The latter are backed by both Iran’s Qod Force and Hezbollah. This should present problems and potential conflicts of interest for President Obama’s senior National Security advisor Robert Malley and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Both of these men espouse outreach to the MB, Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.
This train wreck about to happen has been in development since the July 3, 2013 ouster by Egyptian Gen. al-Sisi of President Morsi in Egypt. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood endeavoring to create a Sharia compliant constitution with him as Emir. Egypt’s interim government in December 2013 outlawed the MB. This week an Egyptian court went after Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the MB banning activities in Egypt. Following, the ouster of Morsi, Saudi Arabia and several of members of the GCC provided upwards of $12 billion in financial assistance to the interim Egyptian interim government. The stage now appears set for Gen. Abdel Fateh al-Sisi to run as the country’s President, a harkening back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the possible return of military autocracy in Egypt.
The flashpoint for the GCC isolation of Qatar was the notorious aged Egyptian MB preacher Yousuf al Qaradawi who had been in exile in Qatar before temporarily returning to Egypt in February 2011. He issued Fatwas for the reconquest of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and preached anti-Semitic hatred to crowds in Tahrir Square. In a January 2009 broadcast from Qatar, al Qaradawi said about Jews: "kill them, down to the very last one." While in Doha, Qatar he steadfastly refused to participate in annual International Interfaith Conferences.
A news report by Radaw noted the isolation of Qatar by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states because of the mischief of al Qaradawi and sanctuary provided by the Emir:
The Arab states of the lower Gulf are engaged in the latest and potentially most serious of their periodic family squabbles, which this week provoked three of them to withdraw their ambassadors from tiny Qatar.
The Qatar government expressed regret and surprise at Wednesday’s decision by the “sisterly countries” of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but said it did not plan to retaliate by pulling out its own envoys.
All four states, together with Kuwait and Oman, are members of the GCC.
The official reason for the diplomatic spat is Qatar’s alleged failure to live up to a recent commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of fellow GCC states.
The three conservative states are particularly distressed that Qatar continued to provide a platform for Yousuf Al Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian cleric, to use his fiery sermons to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite Riyadh’s threat to freeze relations unless he was silenced.
The scope of King Abdullah’s terrorist designations was reported by Al-Jazeera:
Saudi Arabia has listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with two al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria.
The decree against the Brotherhood, whose Egyptian branch supported the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, was reported on Saudi state television on Friday.
Egypt in December listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, prompting the arrest of members and associates and forcing the Islamist group further underground.
Saudi Arabia also listed Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Sham) (ISIS), which has been disowned al-Qaeda, as "terrorist organizations".
It also listed Shia Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and the little-known internal Shia group, Hezbollah in the Hijaz.
Early in February, 2014, Ayman al Zawahiri at Al Qaeda Central announced that the global Islamic terrorist group had no association with ISIS, instead providing support for the Al Nusrah front fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. ISIS however has rampaged across the Anbar province in neighboring Iraq overtaking the Sunni town of Fallujah.
About the same time as the AQ ISIS declaration, King Abdullah had announced new counterterrorism policies that were directed against so-called reform movements in the Saudi Kingdom. The Washington Post reported the new law “states that any act that ‘undermines’ the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.” This Saudi law appears to be in violation of human rights taken for granted in the West, but clearly viewed as seditious in the autocratic and Sharia compliant Wahhabist Kingdom.
These latest Saudi initiatives could have significant implications for the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry. Kerry is endeavoring to fashion an Israel- Palestinian final status agreement and resolution of the 37 month civil war in Syria. We noted earlier the presence of Louay Safi as spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council at the recent Geneva II plenum talks. Safi was Research Director at the northern Virginia- based MB supported International Islamic Institute of Thought. Moreover, he was also Leadership Development Director at the MB front, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Federal Dallas trial and convictions of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation. The Muslim charity group had been accused of funneling upwards of $35 million to MB affiliate Hamas. Safi was also invited by the US Army Chief of Staff to lecture troops on Islam at Fort Hood in early December 2009 following the massacre perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hassan a month earlier. Clearly, Safi’s rise to prominence in the Syrian Opposition Council is indicative of the MB controlling presence.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior National Security Aides were present at the May 2012 meetings of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. They were engaged in outreach to MB officials from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states and facilitated assistance to ousted President Morsi. Obama Appointments of MB members, especially Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Arif Alikhan and Senior Advisory board member Mohamed Elibiary have been problematic. National Security Advisor Malley was a former Middle East foreign policy aide to President Clinton during the failed 2000 Camp David Israel-Palestinian negotiations between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late Yassir Arafat. Malley had accused Israel of nixing the agreement, when it was evident that Arafat had purposely sabotaged it. Malley went on to become head of the Middle East and North African program of the International Crisis group and later advised then Senator Obama and was part of the President’s transition team. He holds views that may further complicate Administration Middle East policies. Malley propounded speaking with terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the MB. Malley, was recently appointed to the National Security Council. He has the portfolio for Israel -Palestinian peace talks and the Iran nuclear P5+1 diplomatic initiative. Now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the MB as a terrorist group, would the Obama Administration dare follow their lead? How Messrs. McDonough, Malley and Secretary of State Kerry will contend with a plethora of problems arising from efforts by the Egyptian government and now the Saudi led GCC targeting the MB is a ‘puzzlement’.
Why do Palestinians and Muslims Refuse to Recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
Israeli PM Netanyahu, AIPAC Washington 3-4-2014 PA President Mahmoud Abbas
According to Israeli Prime Minister at the AIPAC Annual Policy Conference in Washington this past week, the one condition of achieving a possible agreement with the Palestinians is recognition of Israel as a Jewish Nation. He said:
President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state and in doing so you will be telling your people the Palestinians … the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the dream of flooding Israel with refugees or amputating Negev or Galilee, … make clear that you are ready to end the conflict. No excuses, no delays; it’s time.
Arutz Sheva reported Abbas saying to youth activists of Fatah
:… that there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.
"They are pressing and saying, 'No peace without the Jewish state,"' he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. "There is no way. We will not accept."
Dr. Saeb Erkat, chief PA negotiator and Mehdi Hasan
Source: Al Jazeera Head to Head program
Last weekend I watched an Al JazeeraHead to Headprogram that aired on February 28th with host Mehdi Hasan . The setting was the venerable Oxford Union. The program topic was “ Have Palestinian leaders failed their people?” The debate pitted long term Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat, who has gone through eight negotiations sessions over the past 20 years. He quipped that whether Arafat or Abbas he has resigned many times. But, still he persists. The program also had a panel composed of Professor Rosemary Hollis, who teaches international politics at City University London; Sharif Nashashibi, an award-winning Palestinian journalist; and Professor Manuel Hassasian, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Early in the debate, Hasan asked Erekat why Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Erekat introduced the theme that as a resident of Jericho he knew that his ‘people’, were descended from ancient Canaanites who had lived in the city for over 9,000 years.
An Elder of Ziyon blog post noted Erekat’s comment saying to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni:
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, over the weekend again ruled out the notion of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Speaking at a Munich conference, on a panel with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, Erekat said the demand was unacceptable: “When you say ‘accept Israel as a Jewish state’ you are asking me to change my narrative,” he claimed, asserting that his ancestors lived in the region “5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”
Obviously there was a brief hiatus when, if you believe the Biblical version, Joshua and the ancient Hebrew entered, blew their trumpets seven times and the wall came tumbling down. Having been to Jericho in the 1980’s, there was another real hiatus when an earthquake devastated the area following its conquest by Caliph Omar and Hisham’s Palace came tumbling down. Jericho was also the location of an ancient Byzantine era synagogue whose mosaic tiled floor I have seen.
There is reason to believe that many Palestinian residents were late arrivals from other locations in the Middle East. Recently there were even questions about the origins of Erekat’s family and clan. Walid Shoebat once told me, that as a former Palestinian Muslim, he knew that the names of the families indicated their origins from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Elder of Ziyon blog post reported on its investigations into the Erekat family origins:
Erekat was born in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. I found an interview with another Erekat who was born in Abu Dis, named Hussein Mohamed Erekat. He says that his family actually comes from the Huwaitat region of the northwestern Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, this article about the dialects and clans of Saudi Arabia confirms the existence of the Erekat (sometimes spelled Areikat or Ariqat) families in Huwaitat, and they are one of seven clans that ended up in Palestine. Is Saeb a member of this clan? Yes, he is. This Facebook page of the Erekat family traces the Erekat family history, and this article confirms that the family came from the Huwaitat region, and it also mentions prominent Erekats - including Saeb.
So what’s a little taqiyya – religiously condoned lying to further confuse the infidels in the cause of following in the way of Allah and, of course, the Palestinians?
But then Erekat quickly ticked off on his fingers his reasons for rejecting Israel as a Jewish state:
What the Israelis want me to do when I recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they want me to change my narrative, my history, my religion.
Maybe the last reason is the real one.
Rabbi Jonathan Hausman
Yesterday, Rabbi Jon Hausman , Spiritual Leader of Ahavath Torah Congregation of Stoughton, Massachusetts and I were part of a radio panel on a program, Abraham’s Tent, broadcast weekly from Omaha, Nebraska sponsored by the Global Faith Ministries. Our hosts were Dr. Mark Christian, a former Egyptian Muslim whom we have interviewed, and Cory Miller executive director. Also on the program was a Rabbi Daniel Sherbill from Miami, Florida. We were discussing the plague of Anti-Zionists that had infested Omaha in recent weeks railing against Israel before local audiences and entreating them to consider supporting the BDS campaign. We have written in the past of the ultimate Abrahamic ‘tent’ in Omaha; a tri-faith complex housing Muslim, Episcopal and Reform Jewish House of Worship. The interfaith complex was built on land that once belonged to a Jewish country club where Warren Buffet, an Episcopalian, was once a member.
At one point in our discussion, we brought up the Palestinian and Muslim objection to Israel as a Jewish State. I mentioned the Saeb Erekat comments from the al Jazeera Head to Head program and then turned to Rabbi Hausman, who knows Islamic doctrine thoroughly, to provide us the answer that Erekat never gave. Hausman told the radio audience that it had to do with the concept of Waqf- an inalienable religious endowment or trust. That Allah had decreed the whole world as an endowed trust for Muslims. Sam Solomon, a former Muslim scholar, in our interview with him in our collection, The West Speaks, suggested that the whole world was a Mosque and therefore you could pray anywhere.
Hausman further said that any lands once conquered during the several waves of original Islamic Jihad were considered Muslim lands forever. Whether Jerusalem or, as he pointed out, Andalusia in southern Spain, or in Arabic Al Andaluz, they were considered part of the Waqf. Thus, the answer that Erekat never fully explained was answered by Rabbi Hausman.
As Islam is a supercessionist doctrine and considers the Jewish torah, Christian parables and bibles as distortions, they took father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and all of the prophets , even Jesus, as Muslims. Thus, according to this defamed logic anything that Netanyahu said at AIPAC about the ancient Jewish claims to the land of Israel was false. Problem is that Biblical archeology has demonstrated the ancient Jewish heritage and legacy that preceded Islam by over 3,000 years. So did the Byzantine era synagogue mosaic floor that I gazed upon in wonder in Jericho, Erekat’s alleged “hometown”.
French Historian Ferdinand Lot Compares The Christian And Muslim States
From "The End of the Ancient World and the Beginning of the Middle Ages" by Ferdinand Lot, a celebrated French historian (d. 1952) which I have been looking for since January and came came across just now:
"The medieval and modern State, which is partly the heir of the Roman State, has therefore not been able to be absorbed by the Church. All imbued as it is with Christianity it has yet preserved the consciousness of being a thing apart from the Church. If the State had not been deeply rooted in the Roman past, the medieval State would have dissolved in the Church, and the Church in the State, and it is impossible to see how the modern conception of the separation between the relgious consciousness and the State could have developed or even have been born.
Therein lies the secret of the profound difference, far more profound than is recognised, between Christian and Moslem States. Islam brings with it not only a religion but also a system of laws and a political theory the equivalent of which it would be vain to llook for in the Gospel. But even this way of speaking is not quite accurate: laws, customs, usages even are all indistinguishable in religion. And as its law, polity, and usages are elementary, made for an undeveloped society, it is a superhuman task to adapt a Moslem society to modern life. Here religion will not be content with its proper share. It is useless to try and put it in its place, for its place is everywhere or nowhere."
Rabbi Rosen’s “Who’s Afraid of Putin” (Iconoclast. March 7) and Professor Stephen Cohen “Distorting Russia” (Iconoclast March 9) are both valuable contributions to forging a more restrained, nuanced and intelligent view of the Crimean crisis. The American press, radio and television have almost been unanimous in their ignorance of history and geography of the Russian-Ukrainian borderlands.
Apart from one brief mention on the Sunday Fox News Report, I have not come across any reference to the simple fact that since Russian ejection of the Ottoman Turks from the Crimean Peninsula by Catherine the Great at the end of the 18th century, the region has always been part of the Great Russian concept of the motherland and Russian language through Czarist times and including the first thirty-five years of incorporation in the USSR when it was NOT an administrative unit of the Ukrainian SSR but of the RSFSR (Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic).
Its transfer by administrative fiat in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was an act of cosmetic political farce designed purely to throw Ukrainians a bone and pretend this “generosity” would help erase long memories of the terrible famines of the 1930s (largely caused by Stalin’s policies) and the large degree of collaboration with the German invaders in World War II, thereby solidifying the “brotherhood” of the two peoples.
It was even more of a total repudiation of the concept of respecting territorial integrity” and ”self-determination” than attempted by any Czar and loudly proclaimed today as inviolate principles of international law. In 1954, ethnic Russians were the overwhelming majority of the population and had expressed no wish whatsoever to become part of the Ukrainian SSR.
On February 27, 1954 Pravda published a short announcement on its front page that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR had decreed on February 19 (no need to tell the people immediately) the transfer of the Crimean oblast' (region) from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The decree ran a mere eight lines stated that this measure “Was being taken because of the economic commonalities, territorial closeness, and communication and cultural links between Crimea and Ukraine.” A summary of the discussion in the Supreme Soviet's Presidium and transcripts of speeches by six of its members including the chairman, Klement Voroshilov then followed on page 2. He referred to the three-hundredth anniversary of the "unification of Ukraine with Russia” referring to the Treaty of Pereiaslavl of 1654 concluded between Ukrainian Cossacks and representatives of the Muscovite Tsar.
Khrushchev was of mixed Russian and Ukrainian ancestry and was detested in the Ukraine as serving his Russian masters. His generous move did much to pacify Ukrainian pride and promote his own image.
In 1991 with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, it was widely expected that President Boris Yeltsin, the new president of the Russian Federation, would restore Crimea to Russia but the mercurial and often inebriated Yeltsin didn’t bring it up during negotiations with Ukraine. Had he insisted on retaining the Crimea then or making it subject to a referendum, it would have been very unlikely to be the source on international tension.
According to the 1959 census, there were only 268,000 Ukrainians and 858,000 ethnic Russians living in Crimea. As for economic "commonalities," apart from the naval bases, the main industry of Crimea was recreation and tourism, drawing its clientele from all over the USSR. In the Crimea, today Russians are in excess of a 60% majority.
All Russian schoolchildren venerate the heroic stand of Czarist Russia to protect the rights of fellow Orthodox Christians in the Holy land thereby provoking the Crimean War in 1853. The Russian navy based in the Crimea gained the upper hand after destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Black Sea port of Sinope. France and Britain were suspicious of Czarist motives and entered the war on the Turkish side in March 1854. Most of the fighting took place for control of the Black Sea, with land battles on the Crimean peninsula in southern Russia.
The Crimea was also home to over 300,000 Muslim Tatars, descendants of the Mongol and Turkic tribes that swept across Anatolia and settled in the Crimea in the thirteenth century. Stalin suspected many of them as having collaborated with the Germans and ordered them deported to Uzbekistan and further East in May 1944. Many of their children and grandchildren managed to return to their homeland in the decades following the end of Khrushchev’s tenure in office. About 300,000 reside there today with another 150,000 still in Uzbekistan.
Most have only feelings of hostility towards the Russians and prefer to continue their attachment to the Ukraine. This only reinforces the sense of abandonment by the ethnic Russian majority that the destiny of their homeland is partially subject to the wishes of a disloyal element, some of whom are suspected of radical Islamic ties.
The hold Crimea has on the Russian imagination should not be denigrated or mocked. It was also the scene of important heroic battles in World War II, notably at Sevastopol in 1941 and 1944 (just as in the Crimean War) and the historic Yalta Conference in 1945.
This is NOT as dozens of commentators on American T.V. have claimed an example of Russian “intervention” or “invasion” of “foreign countries” as in the cases of Hungary or Czechoslovakia. It is NOT a necessary prelude to Putin reneging on other agreements and border changes with the Baltic States. Nevertheless, it is a cause of international tension and can only be settled by negotiations between the Ukraine and Russia.
Some observers believe that many Ukrainians, especially in the West will feel relieved once the Crimea is returned to Russia, that would leave a solid pro-Western majority on a national basis and convince the population in the eastern part of the country that there is no need to further divide the country.
What does conjure up eerie images of deja-vu is the scene of a hurried “referendum” with armed soldiers from one side policing the voting. This is the point where international and U.N. pressure would be most effective to ensure that a vote is not subject to intimidation. No military maneuvers or economic pressures will deter Putin or detract from the support he enjoys at home over this issue.
As I watched the Sochi Winter Olympics, I thought of Putin’s long shadow was cast, malevolently, over the construction, the management, and the security of the event. I wondered what act of aggression he would get up to next. His smirking, self-satisfied, bullying presence thumbed a nose at the civilized world as he gloated over his support for totalitarian regimes in Chechnya, Syria, Moldova, and Georgia. His malevolent involvement in other countries and the blatant way he suppresses and imprisons opposition at home are chilling. His KGB nature reveals itself for what it is. Well, now we know. A leopard and his spots!
By way of contrast, Obama’s incompetence, the way his naive worldview and credulity have made a fool of him, is equally frightening. It means there are no red lines, and no ally can trust that he will actually step up to the plate in a moment of crisis. Perhaps a little tokenism here, bravado there. But is the EU any better? They need their deals with Russia. They are being very circumspect.
There is another perspective. You could argue that Putin has backbone and determination in trying to reestablish Russia as a world power, to revitalize an ethnic culture and religion that had all but been eradicated by Marxism. You might argue that in supporting Assad, Putin is the only bulwark against extreme, violent Muslim fanaticism.
Meanwhile in the West, the liberal, so-called chattering classes, or politically correct world, perpetuate the myths of the old order, excoriating the United States and its allies and capitalism as the real oppressors. They are cowards who will refrain from boycotting Russia or China but prefer to bully smaller fry.
Then comes the Jewish perspective. We tend naturally to side with freedom. But the freedoms of the European Union have created a world in which Jews are increasingly marginalized and vilified and Israel is boycotted. Their religious practices are increasingly restricted. Putin, on the other hand, has been very supportive of Jewish life in Russia. Ironically, it might just be easier to be a practicing Jew in Moscow nowadays than in Paris, Copenhagen, Oslo, or even Zurich.
We may cheer the Ukrainian opposition for trying to escape the Russian grip. But there’s another side to Ukraine too. The Chief Rabbi has warned that the lid the pro-Russian party kept on anti -Semitism is now lifted. Ukraine is arguably, more than any other part of the old Russian Empire, the cradle of the most virulent and violent anti-Semitism. It is the origin of the Chmielnicki atrocities (he is regarded today as a hero by many Ukrainians), the Beilis blood libel, and the Kishinev pogroms, to mention only the most notorious. Many of the demonstrators from Western, Cossack Ukraine were neo-Nazis and sympathizers; some wore swastikas and declared a desire to rid Ukraine of its remaining Jews (admittedly Eastern Ukraine and Western are very different) and the Cossacks are as divided as the Jews, some pro-Russian and others anti.
This has always been our dilemma. We Jews have to live somewhere. Nowhere is perfect. It’s often a matter of what compromises we have to make. So would you rather live under Putin? Not I.
Two and a half thousand years ago we were in a similar position. Yes, really. Egypt and Babylon were the two competing world powers. Both cultures were cruel, morally bankrupt but militarily strong. There were Jews living in both empires. The kingdom of Judah (the northern state of Israel had already been destroyed) was caught in between both powers, switching from one to the other as alliances were promised and then betrayed. We ourselves were torn apart internally; socially, religiously, and politically. In the end we backed the wrong horse. Despite being assured by our false prophets that we would be fine, we suffered horribly.
But thanks to the Persian Emperor Cyrus, Jews living in the Empire and in the renewed satrapy of Israel enjoyed an era of toleration. The Macedonian Alexander the Great followed suit. Toleration meant it didn’t matter what or who you worshipped, so long as you accepted the conqueror’s authority. Persia was an absolute dictatorship. Greece had a modified form of democracy. What Jews who lived under both regimes cared about was less the style of government than the practicalities of earning a livelihood. Conflict was over trade, rather than religion. But once again Jew argued with Jew, as the Maccabean revolt illustrated.
Under the Roman Empire, too, Jews lived and thrived, some in the East and some in the West. They had to choose which leader to back, of course. One moment it was Pompey. The next it was Caesar. I am sure they had PACS in those days too. Tensions between East and West resurfaced. Some Jews revolted against Rome and looked to the Parthians for support. Others, like Josephus, abandoned their people and chose to live acculturated in Rome. And there indeed they lived peacefully, flourished, and were (eventually) accepted. Then too disagreements between the Jews in Israel and those in the Diaspora were common.
With the rise first of Christianity and then Islam, we (along with home-born heretics) were persecuted most of the time, occasionally tolerated, rarely accepted. So we kept on moving, when we were not expelled, which proved our salvation, searching for safe havens in and between the rival camps.
On to modernity. Jews living in Germany were sure their cultural tradition put them at the comfortable and safe center of civilization. Like Napoleon, they looked down on Britain as a nation of shopkeepers. Jews fought on both sides in the First World War. Many supported the rise of fascism. And I recall both in England and Israel meeting refugees from Hitler who still believed that Germany was heaven, and Nazism had all been a terrible mistake.
I rehearse all this to make the point that we have always been faced with conflicting politics and realities and have tried to tread warily through the minefields. Sometimes we got it right. More often we got it wrong. I can’t think of a better example than the conviction of the ultra-Orthodox leadership, almost to a man, a hundred years ago that Eastern Europe would be safer for the Jews than anywhere else.
I am both rational and mystical. I am in part liberal and part conservative. The challenge most of us have is to make the right micro-decisions, even if we cannot make the right macro ones. If there is a metaphorical message in our holy texts, it is that in the end (and sometimes it’s a very long end) God (or history) sides with the ethical, regardless of their identity or their affiliation.
Positive Discrimination is the Anti-Semitism of Intellectuals
Twenty years ago I published a novella in which a purported serial killer, using all the arguments of liberal or radical criminology, proved to his own satisfaction that not only that he was as good as the average citizen, but better. To my surprise an eminent critic thought that my character expressed my own views, which he then criticized as if they had been meant seriously. Was the fault mine for not having made myself clear enough, or his for having been so obtuse?
He who expresses himself ironically must expect to be misunderstood, willfully or otherwise: and one purpose of willful misunderstanding is to avoid an argument suspected to be strong but that is also unwelcome. There was a good example of this avoidance in a headline two days ago on the news service of my internet provider. This service is a mixture of sugar and venom, and usually I ignore it.
This, of course, was a willful misunderstanding of what he actually said.
Lord Norman Tebbit
Tebbit, who is 83, was a British Conservative politician who was closely associated for a time with Mrs Thatcher. In 1984 he was injured slightly in the Provisional IRA bombing of the hotel in Brighton where the Conservative Party was having its annual conference, but his wife was permanently disabled in it and confined to a wheelchair. Anyone, regardless of his politics, who has seen him with his wife cannot but have been moved by the unostentatious and undemonstrative tenderness with which he looks after her.
Tebbit has always been outspoken and those who dislike him dislike him a lot. He always defends himself articulately, however, and no one has ever suggested that he lacked probity – a rare enough quality among modern politicians. The article that he wrote that provoked the derisive headline was against the view, very common nowadays, that parliament and the upper reaches of the civil service should be demographically representative of the population they serve. He wrote:
Try putting that into practice elsewhere. Who would feel safer if just before take-off the pilot of the airliner told the passengers that she had been promoted to command because they needed more transsexual Muslim captains to meet the airline’s inclusivity target? The senior ranks of the civil service, flight deck crews, surgeons, or any job should be comprised of the best candidates regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ethnic origin or religion.
Clearly the example of a transsexual Muslim airline pilot was meant as a reductio ad absurdum and not as a real or actual concern. One might argue as to whether the example was well or ill-chosen; but to mock it as if Tebbit were really worried about such pilots was to avoid the serious and important arguments against the allocation of jobs (actually any jobs, not just senior ones) on the basis of race or other demographic criteria.
These arguments from which attention is thus diverted are intellectually and morally very strong, despite often being presented by opponents as precisely the opposite, that is to say as bigoted, reactionary, racist, and even proto-fascist. Perhaps the most curious thing about the diversionary tactic is that it presents the attempt to ignore race as a valid criterion of occupational selection (an attempt that will almost certainly never be wholly successful) as openly or disguisedly racist. One is reminded of the notorious response to the man who protested that he was anti-communist: ‘I don’t care what kind of communist you are!’ Anyone who now claims to be non-racist will be met by the equivalent exclamation, ‘I don’t care what kind of racist you are!’
The arguments against quota systems are well-known and obvious, at least in tolerably open societies. Quotas are intrinsically divisive and discriminatory (in the worst possible sense) because the number of categories into which humanity can be divided is infinite: only some categories, therefore, can be favored, leaving others resentful and liable to seek political redress as their supposed salvation. Quotas therefore not only politicize life but embitter political life itself. They formalize favoritism, thus reinforcing the very problem they are meant to solve.
They necessarily inflate the role of government, for someone has to enforce them. Before long, the demand for equality (of a kind) undermines freedom because private associations are no longer able to make the rules they wish, a necessary condition for a truly liberal society in which government is not overweening or preponderant. The imposition of quotas is founded on the belief that everyone is a bigot unless forced by administrative fiat to be otherwise. This is a rather dismal view of human potentiality and underestimates the spontaneous changes in society brought about by, among other things, goodwill and market forces.
Quotas are condescending towards those favored but unjust towards those not favored. You cannot have positive discrimination without negative discrimination, often towards minorities (actually everyone is a member of many minorities). You will therefore end up with a virtual numerous clausus such as operated in elite universities in America against Jews until quite recently in history.
Those who are in favor of racial or other demographic quotas use, no doubt unconsciously or unintentionally, a form of argument very similar in form, and not dissimilar in content, to that used traditionally by anti-Semites. How come so small proportion of the population should achieve such prominence in important fields such as academia, publishing, journalism, the media in general, retailing, industry, banking and finance, and so forth? The only conceivable answer is that this sector of the population, through some subtle and conspiratorial informal organization, manipulates itself into prominence. On this view, the Swedish academy that awards the Nobel Prizes for science is some kind of front organization for a shadowy conspiracy. The only solution to the injustice that results is countervailing political action. This kind of argument, of course, featured prominently in Nazi propaganda and, alas, was highly effective. It appeals to Man’s reptile brain.
Anti-Semitism, it used to be said, is the socialism of fools. I think this is to get it the wrong way round. Positive discrimination, if not socialism itself, is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals and of their political and bureaucratic allies.
The Mail revealed today (Friday 7 March) how allegedly leaked documents showed Islamic fundamentalists were trying to oust headteachers and other staff, including non-Muslims, through dirty tricks campaigns. The conspirators would then install their own hard-line supporters to encourage the school to move to Academy status and educate children on strict Islamic principles, it was claimed.
The alleged plot, called Operation Trojan Horse, is being investigated by Birmingham City Council, which has alerted the Department of Education . . .Today Mr Byrne held urgent talks with Ofsted, city council officials, the office of the Education Secretary Michael Gove and the Department for Education.
One Birmingham teacher, a Muslim, contacted the Mail last night to praise our investigation and said: “Birmingham City Council needs to take these allegations very seriously, as I don’t believe they have in the past. It has been the elephant in the room, but they have been afraid of being accused of racism. If these allegations are true, then the people involved do not represent the vast majority of peaceful and tolerate Muslims..."
The documents allege some headteachers in Birmingham have been forced out after smear campaigns from fundamentalists and that others will follow. The alleged plot is said to involve recruiting Salafi parents and staff – hard-line followers of Islam – to help spread false allegations, including claiming sex education is being promoted to Muslim schoolchildren or Christian prayers.
Once school leaders are ousted, the school may be encouraged to move to Academy status, taking it out of the control of the local authority.
Superintendent Vince Firth, Partnership Superintendent for Bradford District Police, told the Mail the force and Bradford Council had been contacted about the documents. “This matter is currently being looked into by the authorities in Birmingham. However, we maintain regular contact with Bradford Council and will continue to liaise with them regarding any potential issues that may arise locally,” he said.
Birmingham City Council became aware of the Trojan Horse documents in December, yet it is understood the authority did not inform all councillors of their existence until February 10 when alerted by Peter Hay, Strategic Director For People
The documents claim former Saltley headmaster Balwant Bains would ‘soon be sacked’. In fact, the much respected principal resigned last November after a damning Ofsted report criticised his “dysfunctional” relationship with governors.
The Mail has spoken to education figures across Birmingham who have expressed concerns about disruption at a number of city schools with a high Muslim pupil population over the past two years.
Meanwhile, Peter Hay, Strategic Director for People at Birmingham City Council, alerted city councillors to the anonymous documents on February 10 and revealed some heads had also received them. He told them: “Those head teachers who have seen these documents have found them disturbing and have passed them on to the local authority. The letter and documents currently reaching some head teachers are very similar to material received by senior officers and politicians in the council late last year. We take all such matters very seriously and promptly and properly considered the allegations with colleagues in West Midlands Police, Equalities, Birmingham audit and legal staff..."
Superintendent Sue Southern, the Head of Prevent & Protect West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “In December 2013 Birmingham City Council brought the content of a letter they were investigating to the attention of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit requesting we make an assessment of whether any criminal offences had been committed. The assessment at that time and remains the case today is that the allegations in the letter were for further investigation by Birmingham City Council and Department for Education and were not a matter for the Police. . ." readers will recall West Midland's Police previous reluctance to challenge anything to do with Islam.
The documents allegedly feature correspondence from one Birmingham Muslim fundamentalist to another in Bradford. They detail a five point guide for taking over a school and encourage rolling out Trojan Horse to Bradford and then Manchester, cities with rapidly growing Muslim populations. The documents outline alleged successful plots being carried out against a number of Birmingham headteachers.
The secret documents state: ‘’Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ has been very carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham, implementing it in Bradford will not be difficult for you.’’
Trojan Horse, the documents state, has been fine-tuned so that it is ‘totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar. I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the whole process is to get the head teacher out and our own person in.’’
The documents state schools with poor Ofsted reports and with large Muslim student populations should be targeted for takeover.
They add: ‘’The poor performing schools are easy to disrupt, the better performing with strong head teachers is much harder and so we have to manufacture a strong enough reason, but rest assured we have not failed yet, no matter how difficult removing the head teacher may be. You just have to be clever and find the most appropriate way to deal with the school.’’
The documents add: ‘’This is all about causing the maximum amount of organised chaos and we have fine-tuned this as part of operation Trojan Horse. You must identify what the heads strengths are and build a case of disruption around that.’’ One passage in the documents states: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own Academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a ‘Jihad’ and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.’’
The mistreatment of the Arabs in Iran -- who happen to sit on 3/4 of the oil reserves in Iran -- for some reason doesn't come up at the U..N. or anywhere else. Why not? Isn't it a matter for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, tutti quanti?
Part of the story of the Khuzistanian people -- who have existed since time immemorial, with their very own culture so different from that of all other Arabs, thus entitling them to being accorded a unique identity that must be politically fulfilled through independence, and that means all those oilfields belong to them, too -- can be found, at Al-Arabiya, here.
Religious slaughter of animals to produce halal and kosher meat should be banned if more humane methods are not adopted, the leader of Britain’s vets has said.
John Blackwell, who took over as president elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) last year, claimed killing animals by letting them bleed to death after slitting their throats causes unnecessary suffering.
The halal market is estimated to be worth up to £2 billion in Britain. Mr Blackwell said that he respected religious beliefs but “the Danish unilateral banning [was done] purely for animal welfare reasons, which is right”. He called on Muslims and Jews to allow the livestock to be stunned unconscious before they are killed. “As veterinary surgeons, it is one of the most important issues on our radar. This is something that can be changed in an instant.,” he told The Times.
“The Danish unilateral banning [was done] purely for animal welfare reasons, which is right,” he added, insisting it was not a question of religious freedom. We may well have to go down that route. One of the Jewish politicians said it demonstrates [that] a continuing undercurrent of anti- Semitism still pervades Europe. That’s very emotive, isn’t it? That’s the difficulty with engagement. . . We have tried to keep it out of the religious sphere. It is not an attack on religious faith, it is a view that we have taken on animal welfare.”
An investigation by The Times can also reveal:
· A large proportion of meat from animals killed by kosher and halal slaughterers goes unlabelled into the general food market;
· The European Commission is considering a “modified health mark scheme” to identify meat from animals slaughtered without stunning;
· Jewish campaigners, who fear any new labelling system could be seen as targeting the customs of religious minorities, are working with their Muslim counterparts to lobby in defence of their beliefs.
He said: “They will feel the cut. They will feel the massive injury of the tissues of the neck. They will perceive the aspiration of blood they will breathe in before they lose consciousness.”
Likening the feeling of blood in the windpipe to the pain felt when food is swallowed down the wrong way, he said: “When you check the lungs of these animals there is clearly blood that has been aspirated. People say we are trying to focus on the last five or six seconds of an animal’s life when it could be 18 months old. It’s five or six seconds too long. I don't think an outright ban is a long way off, there is enough of a view that this practice is inhumane and causes suffering at the time of death/ . . .It would be more productive if we can have a meeting of minds rather than to say, ‘You can’t do it’
Lewis Grant, of the Veterinary Public Health Association, said surplus cuts from religiously slaughtered animals were sold to the general meat trade for production into food such as burgers without consumers realising.
It is the first time a veterinary leader has called for an outright ban.
I think others must know something about me that I don't. Yesterday, for example, a newspaper called me to ask for my comment on the claim of some Finnish researchers to be able, by means of blood tests alone, to estimate statistically who was likely to die in the next five years. Would I want such a test, asked the newspaper?
The test offered statistical likelihood, not certainty. What would one do with the knowledge that one had a 23 per cent chance of dying within five years instead of, say, a 4 per cent chance according to life tables? The knowledge would be useless unless one also knew what one was going to die of and how to avoid whatever it was. A fortune teller at Battersea Fun Fair told me when I was sixteen that I was going to live to be 84, and that is good enough for me, though whether I will feel the same when I am 83 remains to be seen.
However, this morning through the e-mail I received an offer of funeral insurance so that, according to the advertisement, I and my relict could face the future with complete serenity. I know that as one ages one's horizons contract and one's ambitions cease, but this seemed to be a little unambitious even so. All I had to do to achieve this complete serenity was pay about £4 a month fixed premium for the rest of my life and I need never worry again. My life would be anxiety-free and, according to the picture, I could spend the rest of it frolicking on a beach.
How much does the average funeral cost? In 2012 in Britain it was about £3200. Does that mean that, assuming the growth in the value of the accumulated premiums more or less equalled the rate of inflation, the insurance company expected me to live another 800 months, that is to say about 67 years, or that I would have a much below average funeral?
Of course, I would only live 67 years if I didn't 'let alcohol win the battle,' 'broke the cycle of alcohol dependency' and went into 'a safe retreat and rehab centre' that was also offered me by e-mail this morning. Perhaps it was my drinking habits that caused the premiums for my funeral insurance to be so low.
According to this morning's e-mails I could also restructure my debts (before I die, of course) and avoid the forthcoming economic collapse (if I survive that long).
TORONTO - A Muslim man who wore a burka and women’s shoes before he strangled his estranged wife was sentenced Wednesday to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 17 years.
Justice John McMahon passed the sentence for second-degree murder against Abdul Malik Rustam, who admitted he donned the headdress — which disguised his face — and wedge shoes when he killed his 21-year-old wife, Shaher Bano Shahdady, after she asked for a divorce. Rustam left their almost two-year-old son abandoned with his mother’s body for 15 hours before she was discovered in her Scarborough apartment.
“The accused demonstrated an exceptionally callous disregard for that young child’s well-being,” McMahon said. “It’s hard to fathom what that child went through. The only glimmer of hope is that he’s so young it will fade into that child’s memory.”
After the murder, the deeply-religious Rustam returned to his victim’s parents home and accompanied his father-in-law to mosque for prayers at 4:30 a.m. Later that day he confessed to his brother that he had “finished her by the throat.”
The brother alerted the victim’s family to go to her home. While they were knocking, Rustam showed up and opened her door. When he saw her corpse, he rushed away in grief and confessed the killing to police, saying he had “certain justifications for his actions.”
The judge sharply disagreed, saying women “have an absolute right to end their relationships” without fear of violence.
Shahdady had lived apart from her older, jealous husband from an arranged marriage for almost two years — using a cellphone and the Internet and expanding her social network while raising their son who had heart problems from birth. In May 2011, Rustam reunited with his wife in her parents’ home. But his wife refused to surrender her cellphone and the tensions flared again. The killing occurred only two weeks after the woman received social assistance and moved into an apartment at 3131 Eglinton Ave. E.
McMahon said that Rustam displayed elements of “planning and forethought” by donning a burka, women’s footwear and gloves. He manipulated the surveillance camera in front of the victim’s doorway away so that he couldn’t be seen when he went inside.
Defence lawyer Peter Zaduk insisted this homicide wasn’t an honour killing.
The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid
This month, my book The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid will be in libraries across America and online. This new book, published by Palgrave-McMillan in New York, is an analysis of the evolution of the Arab Spring and its future. It also addresses other democratic revolutions, upheavals and civil wars in the Middle East, including events in Iran, Turkey, Sudan, and beyond.
In Future Jihad (2005), a book that was selected for the U.S. House of Representatives Summer Readings 2006, I projected the rise of the global Jihadist movement, including its surge in the West. My previously most recent book published in English, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (2010), predicted the Arab Spring, its successive waves, and the civil wars it would cause. I projected three cycles before they even happened: the rise of civil societies, the takeover by Islamists, and the comeback of the seculars to push back against the Islamists. And this is the very pattern we witnessed in both Egypt and Tunisia. My book in French, Du Printemps Arabe a l’Automne Islamiste (From the Arab Spring to the Islamist Fall), which was published in November 2013 in Paris and launched at the European Parliament in Brussels, described the global race between Islamists and seculars in the region.
My new book of 2014 is taking analysis and projections even further. It explains why the West and the United States failed to predict the Arab Spring and why they failed to handle it effectively. The book also addresses the direction these upheavals are headed and how to correct U.S. policy before irreparable catastrophe strikes the region. From bloody and expanding civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya to the fight against terror in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia; from genocide in Sudan, Darfur and beyond to the persecution of Christian and ethnic minorities and the rise of al Qaeda and Hezbollah; so much in the region appears hopeless, but one must also recognize the emergence of reformers, women, minorities and civil societies.
In The Lost Spring I tackle the deep impact the “Islamist lobby” in the West has developed regarding U.S. foreign policy and show the link between petrodollars influence, Middle East studies, and the political weapon of Islamophobia—designed by this influential network to weaken American support to Middle East, Arab and Muslim democrats actively opposing Salafists, Khomeinists, and Jihadists.
In essence, I argue that the Obama administration made strategic mistakes from the moment it took power in 2009—by striking the wrong alliances while simultaneously abandoning friends and ideological allies. I share with readers what could have been more effective policy had the election of 2012 had swung in the other direction. As a senior national security and foreign policy advisor of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, I had prepared alternative ideas for the Middle East — ideas a Romney administration could have adopted.
Introducing the book to the public, the publisher’s reviewer wrote: “One of the greatest unanswered questions after the massive and violent changes that hit the Middle East in 2011, known to some as the “Arab Spring” and to others as the “Islamist Winter,” is how the West failed to predict both cataclysmic seasons in world affairs and to meet their challenges. The so-called spring didn’t last long, quickly unraveling into a collection of civil wars, civil unrest, and secessions. The author argues that Washington is too hesitant to take action when necessary, that U.S. policy is highly disoriented on counterterrorism efforts, and that the effects of these errors have already proven costly. In Benghazi, U.S. foreign policy failed to see the explosions coming, didn’t meet the challenges of political transformation where and with whom it should, and failed in isolating the Jihadi terrorists worldwide. Too many strategic errors were committed. In this fascinating new book, the author, the only expert who accurately predicted the Arab Spring, will foretell a major demise in U.S. and Western policies in the Middle East, unless a deep change in strategies and policies is made in Washington and around the world.
Nevertheless, the book argues that although there is still a chance to avoid catastrophe if the current administration and Congress implement dramatic change in foreign policy, there will be a high price for the next administration to pay if Washington maintains its current direction. I know readers will enjoy reading this historical-future analysis, and I am looking forward to their reactions and the debate it will generate.
Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution and of the new book The Lost Spring coming out in March 2014. He advises members of the U.S Congress and the European Parliament on the Middle East. www.walidphares.com
Release of Heidegger’s ‘Black Notebooks’ Reignites Debate Over Nazi Ideology
When I read this article I asked myself, "When will European intellectuals finally admit that Heidegger was an anti semite Nazi?" Paul Hockenos writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
For decades, controversy has marred the legacy of Martin Heidegger, whose theories and complicity with the Nazi regime led many to brand him an anti-Semite.
Yet there was never a smoking gun in the late German philosopher’s expansive work, an explicit pejorative reference to Jews or Judaism as such. Heidegger admirers and critics battled over certain passages, concepts, and personal anecdotes. But neither side could issue unequivocal evidence to put to rest the long-running feud.
This, however, may change with the publication in March of Heidegger’s "black notebooks," a kind of intellectual diary he kept during the 1930s and 40s. Officially the new material is under embargo until publication, but leaked excerpts, as well as statements by Peter Trawny, the collection’s editor, seem to illustrate beyond a doubt that Heidegger harbored anti-Semitic convictions during the Nazi dictatorship.
The excerpts have also triggered their own acrimonious debate. In recent interviews and commentary, the German editor has faced withering criticism from philosophers in France, where Heidegger’s philosophy has long found favor, over his interpretation of the notebooks and of the true nature of one of the 20th century’s philosophical giants.
In his will, Heidegger, who died in 1976, stated the order in which his unpublished writings were to be released. That drawn-out process is why the 1,200 pages of the 1930s and 1941 notebooks are being published only now.
The new material "is something very surprising, something we’ve never seen before," says Mr. Trawny, director of the Martin Heidegger Institute at the University of Wuppertal. The scholar was chosen by the Heidegger family to edit the three volumes of the leather-covered black notebooks.
"In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Heidegger was very angry," says Mr. Trawny. By then, he says, the philosopher realized that both Nazi ideology and his own philosophical mission, which was predicated on a national revolution and Germany’s dominance in Europe, were going to fail. "In this anger, he makes reference to Jews, including some passages that are extremely hostile. We knew that he had expressed anti-Semitism as private insights, but this shows anti-Semitism tied in to his philosophy," says Mr. Trawny.
The editor says Heidegger’s references to a controlling "world Jewry" and to a collusion of "rootless" Jews in both international capitalism and communism are essentially the logic that informs the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous, early 20th-century, anti-Semitic forgery that claims to show a Jewish conspiracy for global domination. "He doesn’t say he’s read The Protocols," says Mr. Trawny, "but that’s not necessary to share a certain kind of anti-Semitism with the Protocols. Nazi propaganda was full of exactly this kind of anti-Semitism."
According to the editor, some of the material became public when he sent several sections of his own forthcoming book on the wartime notebooks to a French colleague. The passages found their way to others in France, and fuming responses to the notebooks—and to Mr. Trawny’s interpretation of them—started appearing in the French news media and on blogs late last year. Mr. Trawny says one Heidegger supporter even lobbied the Heidegger family to have him removed as editor.
French Heidegger loyalists, like the Heidegger translator François Fédier, say Mr. Trawny erred egregiously by linking Heidegger’s thoughts about Jews to Nazi ideology. Heidegger’s remarks, Mr. Fédier told Le Nouvel Observateur, taken out of context, can indeed seem odious. But, understood in the context of Heidegger’s philosophical system as a whole, these notes have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Mr. Fédier did not respond to a request for an interview.
Another critic of Mr. Trawny, the novelist Stéphane Zagdanski, wrote a long blog post that called the new interpretations "delirious." "Should we really accept Trawny’s conclusions that Heidegger’s theory of Being is contaminated by anti-Semitism?" he asked.
To be sure, Heidegger’s critics had already assembled a significant trove of evidence against him. For one, Heidegger was elected rector of the University of Freiburg in early 1933, just a few months after Adolf Hitler came to power. Heidegger joined the Nazi party shortly after that and remained a member until the end of the war, even though he stepped down from the rectorship in early 1934. As late as 1949, he talked about the "fabrication of corpses in gas chambers and death camps."
African Christians Tortured and Enslaved by Bedouin Muslims
I lived for one year among the Sinai Bedouin. Among them were an endogamous (intermarrying) group of former Sudanese slaves, whose elders told me how hard their fathers' lives were as slaves of these tribes. The British freed the slave in the 1920s but it seems that the practice has returned. Martin Barrilas writes in Spero News:
Reports are emerging from the Sinai Peninsula, currently controlled by Egypt, of Bedouin Muslim Arabs who abduct Christians from Africa and hold them for ransom for exorbitant sums of money. When their often destitute families are unable to pay for their release, the Christians are tortured to death in ways reminiscent of the earliest days of Christianity and also the 7th Century AD when Islam emerged from the wastes of the nearby Arabian Peninsula and swept through the Christian Mideast and North Africa.
Eritrean and Ethiopian Christians are fleeing their homelands, seeking safety in Europe and Israel. Frequently, they are abducted from refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and then smuggled to the Sinai Peninsula where their ordeal truly begins. The Christian Broadcasting Network reports, "Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago -- even a bit more -- it started also to be a place of human torture," ShaharShoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News.
Shoham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors ... made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented.
"They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies," Shoham said.
The abductors often ask for ransoms of $40,000 to $50,000, a huge sum many families cannot afford. A favorite method of torture for the Bedouins is crucifying the victims, a symbol of their Christian faith.
"They hang us the way He was hanged and they take off their clothes. While they are naked they will hang them. And they will just hit them with big bats like all day for hours."
The CBN article states that Egyptian authorities are aware of these torture camps, but so far have done nothing to close them down. Egypt's native Christians, whose presence predates the onset of Islam, have been subjected to bombings, assassination, rape and forced conversion and marriage in incidents that have only increased in frequency and violence since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring that brought about the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime and ushered in the Muslim Brotherhood government of the now deposed Muhammed Morsi.
Arab enslavement of black Africans has gone on for centuries. Indeed, the Arabic word Abd is often used to mean either “slave” or “black.” Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun of Medieval times once wrote, “The Negro nations are as a rule submissive to slavery, because they have attributes that are quite similar to dumb animals.” Muslim Arab enslavement of black Africans predated the trans-Atlantic slave trade by several centuries. Europeans who landed on the western shore of Africa took advantage of thriving slave markets that were established hundreds of years before by Muslim Arab and African slave traders. Slave traders from Muslim northern Africa once ranged into not only Mediterranean Europe but also into northern Europe to take white Europeans to slave markets in Africa and Ottoman Turkey, as documented in The Barbary Slaves by Stephen Clissold.
Her attempt at giving a history lesson, by making a false analogy, is here.
And presumably, for her the Crimea is just like the Sudetenland. But the Sudetenland ran along the northern and western border of Czechoslovakia, was often mountainous, and was well-fortified by the Czechs, who were also well-armed and many think, had they held onto that Benes line, might have put up fierce resistance to the Germans That's why it was so important for Hitler to have Konrad Heinlein, leader of the Sudeten Germans, to stage protests that would then be suppressed by the Czechs, who could then be depicted -- in a German-sponsored campaign -- as cruelly preventing self-determination. Hitler spoke about this more than once, and on the most memorable occasion, spoke for the "self-determination" of the "Sudeterns" and of the "Arabs of Palestine." And the Sudeteners were told to "make demands that can never be met." Mahmoud Abbas is doing just that. And just as the Czechs needed the Sudetenland to survive militarily, the Israelis need the territory they currently possess -- all of it -- if they are to survive militarily. The true analogy for Hillary to make is not between Putin and Hitler, but between the endless demands of the Nazis and the endless demands of those engaged in Jihad. These are ideologies for whose adherents there are no limits -- the entire world belongs to them. .
Stripped of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia was helpless before Hitler's invaders. The Crimea, however, was controlled by Russia and peopled by Russians for several centuries, becoming part of the Ukrainian SSR only when Khrushchev, thinking it hardly mattered, transferred it from the RSFSR to the USFSR.
There's a lot wrong with Putin and the mobsters. But too many indiscriminately employ the epithets "fascist" and "Nazi" and "racist" in an intolerable fashion, and invoking Hitler is another example of such insidious exaggeration and unvigilance.
Last week in this column, I expressed admiration of the line President Obama and other Western leaders had taken in supporting the ouster of Russian ally Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency of the Ukraine. It was easily foreseeable and widely predicted that Russian president Vladimir Putin would retaliate, as his Russian official ego is even pricklier than that of the Soviet leaders whom he served in the days when the USSR was America’s only rival as a superpower, and intermittently asserted an eminent domain over neighboring countries, including East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan, all of which it occupied militarily. As I wrote last week, Crimea was assigned to Ukraine only in 1954, and that country’s claim to it now is not unquestionable. Given the fact that about 60 percent of the population of Crimea is ethnically Russian and that almost half the others are Tatars of no more affinity to Ukrainians than to Russians, the ability of the Ukrainian government to hold the loyalty of Crimea was always doubtful, especially as Russia has never officially acknowledged the legitimacy of an independent Ukraine. As I also wrote last week, it is galling for the Russians to rely on the Ukraine for a naval base for its Black Sea fleet.
It was not a matter of immense importance to the Soviet Union where its naval forces were until the mid Sixties, because Russia was never a very serious naval power, boxed in as it was in the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the White Sea, and at Vladivostok in the Far East. Its naval effort was in submarines and it did not have a large merchant fleet. But after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nikita Khrushchev began, and Leonid Brezhnev continued, a major naval and merchant-marine build-up, which severely strained the Soviet economy and drove the United States to an even larger naval expansion. It was as ineffective as Kaiser Wilhelm II’s challenge to the Royal Navy in the 20 years prior to World War I, a challenge that strained world tensions and drove Britain into the arms of the French and Russians — and resulted in total failure: When war came, the German navy engaged in only two days of fighting and ultimately surrendered and scuttled itself. The Soviet navy achieved no more, but there was no war between the Great Powers and the fleet subsists, though it is aging, and the Black Sea Fleet is a tenant of the Ukraine, needs the agreement of the Turks to exit the Black Sea, and is shadowed in the Mediterranean by the U.S. Sixth Fleet and can get to an ocean only via the Suez Canal or through the closely watched Straits of Gibraltar.
As this is being written, Russia has effectively invaded Crimea, reestablished a Crimean semi-autonomous republic, and given Ukrainian forces in the area an ultimatum. The commander of the Ukrainian navy, such as it is, has defected to the new pro-Russian entity of Crimea. The new government in Kiev has appointed new regional governors to replace the Yanukovych loyalists, but it is not clear that the writ of the central government will run any more authoritatively in the largely Russian eastern regions around Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk and along the Russian border, a rich coal and steel area, than it has in Crimea. The danger to the West is that it goes on autopilot and Western leaders blather a lot of self-righteous paraphrases of King Lear about “costs” and red lines, which Putin could hardly be blamed for ignoring, and yet which will incite increased skirmishing between Ukraine and Russia and could lead to Russian aggression against Ukraine as a whole. This would be no day at the beach for the Russians: The Ukrainians are fierce fighters, and they would be assisted, at least materially if not in combat forces, by the West; and if Brezhnev’s Soviet Union could not hold Afghanistan, Putin’s shrunken remnant of that country would have insuperable problems with three times the number of Ukrainians, on the borders of NATO (albeit in terrain less conducive to guerrilla war than Afghanistan is). The Munich parallel, incidentally, has been overdrawn: Britain and France could not go to war to prevent Czech Germans (in the Sudetenland) from adhering to Germany. Chamberlain’s mistake was in spurning Stalin, agreeing to such a fast timetable, not securing a serious guarantee of the surviving Czechoslovakia (which the Poles and Hungarians then attacked), and representing the shabby episode as the triumph of “Peace with Honour.” (There was neither peace nor honor.)
The European Union appears to be ready to commit $35 billion to Ukraine, and the urgency of conditions may cause the Ukrainian political class, a pretty self-interested group on its record, to regroup in the unity of oppressed peoples and try to earn the respect of its compatriots. The glamorous former premier, Yulia Timoshenko, whom Yanukovych spuriously imprisoned for three years, hit the ground running last weekend, and could be an important player again. There is no point in threatening Putin with nameless vengeance that won’t happen. All the huffing and puffing over Syria and Iran has not got us very far and Obama’s pious bunk about red lines has become a butt of international mockery. The morale of the American public has suffered, as the means of its government have been dissipated, by $2 trillion and 50,000 casualties in the Iraqi and Afghan wars that seem not to have yielded very satisfactory results. The country is unenthused about military expeditionary activities. And Obama’s rank abdication of his constitutional role as commander-in-chief to the Congress in the Syrian fiasco does not cause America’s adversaries to tremble in contemplation of his countermeasures, as Japan did with Roosevelt over the Panay incident (1937), Stalin did with Truman over the Berlin Airlift (1948–49), Khrushchev did with Eisenhower after threatening to attack France and Britain after Suez (1956), Kim Jong Il did with Nixon after shooting down an American reconnaissance aircraft (1969), and as Qaddafi did after Reagan was provoked into bringing the rafters of his house down on him (1986).
Even after everything that has happened, there is an astonishing volume of uncomprehending nonsense in the Western media about what is at stake in Ukraine. On February 20, former Italian premier Romano Prodi had a piece in the New York Times urging collaboration with Putin in integrating Ukraine into Western Europe (exactly what Putin does not want). The sequel, on March 1 in the same place, by Georgetown professor Charles King, urged an incomprehensible form of countercultural tolerance on the beleaguered Ukrainians and imputed to the Russian leader the chief motive of an obsessive desire to reveal Western hypocrisy. (There has been no shortage of that, but it is scarcely relevant to the preservation of the independence of Ukraine.) This crisis is not and never has been anything except a struggle for primacy in Eastern Europe between Russia and the West. And despite the feebleness and irresolution of the West, it is still much stronger by every measurement than Russia, which is essentially an imposture, a make-believe effort to reenact the conduct and strength of a Great Power in the absence of the sinews of that power.
The West converted Japan to the Occident’s social, political, and economic virtues, which are now being partly emulated by China and India, and have displaced the palsied inefficacies and inhumanities of the czarist and Communist Russians and Ottoman Turks in much of Eastern Europe. The correlation of forces is favorable even in this week, in which British foreign secretary William Hague warned Russia of “costs and consequences” while a photograph of a position paper in the hands of a junior British official revealed that Britain would not actually seek sanctions or do anything; and in which the Western response took on a Gilbert and Sullivan air of reprisals through visas and the Paralympics. If Western leaders utter dire threats but follow through with such ineffectual nonsense, in the fine tradition of the infamous Joe Biden pledge to hit the “reset button” in U.S.–Soviet relations, Putin will just partition off the most Russian parts of the Ukraine and leave a much more homogeneous Ukraine of about 33 million people, well-launched with (mainly) German money. If the Western leaders completely overplay their hand — and with John Kerry in Kiev, any hyperbole is possible before the “unbelievably small” proportions of any likely response are revealed — Putin may actually invade the non-Russian Ukraine, which would in turn accelerate the collapse of his thugdom, swaddled as it is in the costs and artifices of his masquerade as a collector or breaker of nations like Catherine the Great, Alexander I, or Stalin.
Ukraine will be independent, possibly after a partition to save Russia’s ill-favored face, possibly even after repulsing a general Russian assault, and it will join the West. German influence will prevail over Russian in Eastern Europe, and the West will ultimately show Russia the way to being a great nationality not only in cultural, folkloric, and geographic terms, but as a civil society. This is a contest we cannot lose, not because our leaders seem to have much idea how to deal with it, unlike some of their recent forebears, but because they have every moral and material advantage over Russia, and if their incompetence deprives Ukraine of a swift resolution of this conflict, it will only be because that incompetence will induce Putin into adventurism Russia cannot support, a minor updated reprise of the failed occupation of Eastern Europe after World War II and the insane foray into the unremitting primitiveness of Afghanistan. Putin’s ego and braggadocio will, if necessary, insure us against the maladroitness of most of the West’s current statesmen. We could do worse, though some days it seems otherwise.