Spain on Islamist alert, decade after train bombings
AFP: Madrid — A decade since the deadly Al-Qaeda-inspired train bombings in Madrid, Spain stands on alert against growing numbers of Islamist "lone wolves" willing to launch fresh attacks, officials say. The ranks of young radical Islamists in Spain have swelled, recruited for jihad -- or holy war -- not in mosques but in Internet chat rooms and private houses, officials and experts say.
Spanish courts sentenced 18 people for the bombings that killed 191 people on commuter trains heading for Madrid's Atocha station on March 11, 2004. The Spanish anti-terrorist service's level of alert has since remained at "a likely risk of attack", junior security minister Francisco Martinez told AFP.
"That has not changed... but the number of jihadists has grown," he added. "Especially in certain areas, radicalisation has increased."
A study by the Royal Elcano Institute, a Spanish research body, said 84 Islamists, all young men, were convicted for attack plots in Spain between 1996 and 2012, or died in relation to such attacks. Those who died were the seven chief suspects of the Madrid bombings, who committed suicide weeks afterwards. The convicts also included those seized in a failed plot in Barcelona in 2008.
Most of these Islamists were first-generation immigrants from Algeria, Morocco or Pakistan.
Increasingly, such suspects are being radicalised on the fringes of the Islamic world, not in the closely-watched mosques, said Fernando Reinares, a security specialist at the institute. "They tend to gather in small, marginal places of worship and in private homes," he said. "This recent breed of extremists is marshalled not so much by Islamic clerics as by seasoned warriors, "charismatic individuals who have fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia or Chechnya".
In recent years, however, police have arrested several suspects that Spain's interior ministry has identified as a new breed of "lone wolf", self-radicalised online.
That was the profile attributed to Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people in southern France in 2012. Authorities said he had visited the Spanish region of Catalonia five years earlier.
Suspected Islamists arrested in the first few years after the Madrid attacks, up to 2009, "were more structured, in groups and in cells, but in the past few years a profile of isolated figures has emerged", said Martinez. Some of them "leave to wage jihad in conflict zones" such as Syria, he added.
Last June Spanish police said officers in Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the northern tip of Morocco, busted a gang that recruited and indoctrinated young men and sent them to fight in Syria.
The Elcano Institute in a report cited police intercepts of conversations between members of that network willing to "wage jihad at home", in Spain, if they returned from Syria. The institute's research indicates that between April 2012 and November 2013, some 20 Islamic extremists headed from Spain to fight in Syria's civil war.
"The risk is that individuals with European passports who have taken part in jihadist activities in Syria return to their country of origin with the intention of carrying out what they call acts of jihad," Reinares said.
Muslim school headmistress reveals she was driven out of job by fanatics who 'saw her as the enemy, because she was too moderate'
A Muslim headmistress told last night how she was driven out of her job by extremists bent on taking over state schools. Her school is one of 12 apparently targeted by Islamic fundamentalists in a plot dating back two decades.
She said: ‘I was the victim of a pernicious, well-orchestrated smear campaign I have never been able to recover from. ‘People need to know this is a dangerous, well-organised and sinister group who have the capacity to destroy. They are producing fear in society and playing on paranoia. They are extremely powerful.’
The 69-year-old believes she was seen as an enemy because she was too moderate a Muslim. She was confronted with a number of allegations, including one of financial mismanagement.
Despite protesting her innocence her dismissal followed in 1994.
She added: ‘I was involved in a campaign so nasty that, since I lost the headship, I’ve never been able to raise my head above the parapet. I was shocked to read this letter after 20 years and I am genuinely scared by it.’
How Much Would You Pay to Survive Four Months Longer with a Terminal Disease?
When I was young enough still to consider myself rational, I was irritated by patients who tried any remedy in desperation to save themselves from their fatal disease. I have long since mellowed and when an acquaintance of mine with glioblastoma, a rapidly fatal brain tumor, decided recently to go to India to try Ayurvedic medicine, all I could do was wish him luck – sincerely so. After all, the scientific medicine — which he would continue to take while there — offered him little enough hope, a few months at most. (This case, incidentally, illustrates an important point: alternativemedicine, so called, is not generally alternative, it is additional.)
Two trials of a very expensive monoclonal antibody, bevacizumab, in glioblastoma, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, make disappointing or even dismal reading. This antibody is directed at vascular endothelial growth factor that promotes the growth of new blood vessels; glioblastoma is a tumor particularly rich in new blood vessels, and so it was hoped that by preventing them from forming, tumor growth would either be prevented or at least slowed. Early results were promising but as has so often been the way in the history of medicine, early promise is not fulfillment of promise.
In one trial, for example, 637 patients with this terrible tumor were randomized to conventional treatment plus placebo and conventional treatment plus bevacizumab. Although the latter had a slightly longer period free of progression of the tumor, their overall length of survival was not increased, and indeed they suffered so many more side effects that the overall quality of their lives was worse. The patients taking bevacizumab survived on average 15.7 months; those taking placebo survived 16.1 months. The authors of the paper end:
In conclusion, we did not observe an overall survival advantage first-line use of bevacizumab in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma. Furthermore, higher rates of neurocognitive decline, increased symptom severity, and decline in health-related quality of life were found over time among patients who were treated with bevacizumab.
This makes rather odd the concluding words of an editorial that accompanies the trials in the Journal:
Finally, it is worth noting that despite its limitations, bevacizumab remains the single most important therapeutic agent for glioblastoma since temozolemide. Ongoing and future trials will better define how and when it should be used in this population of patients for whom so few treatment options currently exist.
Clearly the viewpoint of the oncological researcher is not that of the sufferer of the disease: he is looking far into the future, while the poor patient (all the poorer if he has to pay for his drugs) is thinking rather less far ahead.
Another paper in the same issue of the Journal reports something slightly more favorable to the drug, this time in cases of advanced and metastatic cancer of the uterine cervix. Here a trial showed that those treated with bevacizumab survived four months longer on average than those who were not so treated, and survived four months longer (that is to say, 17 rather than 13 months).
This raises the unpleasant question of whether treatment that costs so much to administer is good value. Value for whom? For the ill person herself, for her family, for society as a whole? Eventually, of course, the treatment, like flat-screened televisions, will become much cheaper; but in the meantime the question will be asked. The answer might depend on who is paying.
How much would I pay to survive an extra four months of life with an illness I knew to be fatal? I don’t think this is a question that I can answer in the absence of it being a real choice. It depends on too many variables.
The contrast could hardly be greater. Israel has helped to alleviate the suffering of Syrians, while the rest of the world speaks about that suffering but does little to relieve it.
On February 18, 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, even visited wounded Syrians at an Israeli field hospital in the Golan Heights. On March 5, 2014, Chris Gunness, spokesman of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), spoke of the profound suffering of civilians in the Palestinian camp in Yarmouk in Damascus and of the widespread incidence of starvation, malnutrition, and absence of medical care in the camp – but little relief has come from Arabs.
Since 1948, Syria has been at war with Israel, having refused to sign an armistice agreement to end its attack. Nevertheless, Israel has been aiding individuals fleeing the civil war in Syria that has so far cost at least 130,000 lives and perhaps two million who have fled their homes. More than 700 wounded Syrians – men, women, and children – have entered Israel to be treated for war injuries in the Golan Heights military field hospital, including wounded fighters who had been turned back when trying to enter Jordan and therefore went to Israel. Individuals needing further treatment have been airlifted to hospitals farther south in Israel with specialist facilities. Besides this medical attention, other Israelis, including the actress Natalie Portman, have donated funds and clothing to Syrian women and children.
Not surprisingly, the biased groups and individuals in the media, academia, mainstream churches, and trade unions, who, out of professed concern for the Palestinians in the West Bank, advocate boycott of the State of Israel and its personnel, have totally ignored this extraordinary Israeli aid to suffering enemies, even if only nominally enemies. What is surprising is that these same people have also said or done so little to alleviate the plight of suffering Palestinians caused by the brutal and indifferent treatment by Syrians in the camp in Yarmouk. Once again, their behavior reveals their hypocrisy and shows that the true nature of their actions is to act against Israel rather than on behalf of the Palestinians.
Yarmouk is a district of about three quarters of a square mile, and about five miles from the center of Damascus. At one point it housed 180,000 Palestinian refugees, or more accurately the children, grandchildren, and increasingly the great-grandchildren of those who left their homes after the Arab armies attacked the newly created State of Israel. They have been prevented by Arab states from absorption into the general population.
The district, virtually a city in itself, became the scene of intense fighting, in which Palestinians took different sides. Some, including the group Liwa al-Asifa and some supporters of Hamas, supported the rebel groups, especially the Free Syria Army. Others, particularly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmed Jibril, supported the regime of President Bashar Assad. It was Jibril who in June 2011 orchestrated an attack on Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. In addition, Palestinians have fought against Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliated group that has been active in the camp.
The absence of humanitarian behavior was shown by the sordid reality that no food was allowed into the area until January 18, 2014. Then, some people, mainly ill or pregnant, were allowed to leave and enter the Assad-controlled area of Damascus. By then, more than 100 had died of hunger or hunger-related illnesses since the blockade of the area by Assad that had begun about a year ago, since no food or medical aid had been allowed into the area. Most of the Palestinians have now fled the area, to other parts of Damascus or to Lebanon, but about 18,000 are still trapped there.
There is no need to belabor the point that if Yarmouk were besieged by Israeli forces, the situation would be covered by the anti-Israel mass media and by the usual anti-Israel and anti-Semitic suspects, and the United Nations would have passed numerous resolutions condemning the Jewish State.
The silence about the Arab atrocities in Yarmouk is deafening, and appalling. Amnesty International has not issued an 87-page report condemning Syria for those atrocities, as it did in February 20124 when it censured Israeli actions such as checkpoints in the West Bank. Oxfam International has not had problems with any of its “ambassadors,” as it had with Scarlett Johansson. The novelist Alice Walker, who stated that Israel is “an apartheid state,” worse than the infamous South African regime or even the old American South, has not organized an international flotilla to break the blockade of Yarmouk. Roger Waters has not yet advised other musicians not to perform in Syria. The American Studies Association, after its resolution boycotting Israeli universities, has not yet found where Yarmouk is on the map.
As always, the U.N. remains “deeply concerned” about the desperate humanitarian situation in Yarmouk. Yet it was not until February 22, 2014 that the U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously on a resolution calling for the facilitation of food and aid deliveries to the district, and calling on both sides in the civil war to allow aid convoys to reach civilians. It is hardly a strong resolution, since it does not call for any sanctions to be imposed if the parties do otherwise. Nevertheless, UNRWA has said it has supplied about 6,000 food parcels to the stricken area, though those supplies have been intermittent due to the continuing fighting.
When will there be impartial and honest commentary by the eager boycotters of Israel on the starvation and humiliation of Palestinians by fellow Arabs? When will they report on the brutality of the civil war and on the fighters of Hezb'allah in Syria, so-called liberators though terrorists, for killing Palestinians? They appear hoodwinked by the lip service that Arab leaders pay to the Palestinian “cause” and seem fooled by the fact that those leaders may wear the kuffiyas, traditional Palestinian scarves. They also seem blind to how little tangible aid has been given to the Palestinians by the Arab states.
Those leaders and perhaps the Arab people as a whole may think of the symbolism of Yarmouk. This is the place of the historical battle in 636, when Muslim forces defeated the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire, thus ending Byzantine rule in Syria. It has long been celebrated as a great Arab victory, almost the start of the Islamic conquests after the death of the Prophet. It is not the site of an Arab victory today.
The myth may continue of Arab brotherhood and solidarity. The destitution in Yarmouk shows hollow this is. Meanwhile, Syrians seeking medical assistance continue to enter Israel and receive treatment. Only the uninformed, biased bigots of the BDS movement seem to be unaware of this.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism and the Middle East.
Extremist Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police after campaigning in a van inscribed with the logo of Syrian opposition group with close links to al-Qaeda.
Choudary, based in Walthamstow, and his followers took to the streets of Dalston last weekend in a white transit van adorned with the logo of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al-Sham) (ISIS).
ISIS is a jihadist group established in the early years of the Iraq War which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is fighting with opposition forces in Syria.In a video Choudary can be seen sticking the leaflet on the van.
Chants in praise of ISIS can later be heard during calls for Shariah Law to be established in the UK. The video also shows the ISIS logo being pinned to the coat of a young child.Police have confirmed officers are investigating events in Dalston last weekend. No arrests have been made.
The Sunday Times explains the original incarnation of the group, Al-Muhajiroun, and some of the nefarious men who are linked within it, and ponders how quickly the Home Secretary can get it proscribed. They also provided a link which led me to the video.
A French horticulturist gives advice on the right ranunculus - avoid foreign invaders -- here. In Paris, they're warmer in March to begin with, and now having a heat wave. So wait a month if you are thinking of planting in l'Amerique septentrionale.
"While, treading on rose and ranunculus/You Tommy-make-room-for-your-uncle us"
And that kind of rhyme explains why there used to be Browning Societies all over the place.
Why, when it comes to Arabs who are in trouble, almost always of their own and always of Islam's making, does that word "plight" keep being used? Mary Jackson once complained at NER about that phrase "plight of the Palestinians" which is not a Homeric eptihet but fixed-wingèd words that never take flight, designed to evoke tear-jerk, and diseased, sympathy.
What about the "plight of the world's non-Muslims" who have to deal, world without end, with the hatred toward them that Islam inculcates in its adherents, and the craziness of the atmospherics and attitudes of Islam, that causes in so many Muslims who know or suspect there's something wrong with their world, but could not possibly allow themselves to recognize that the problem is Islam, to instead wallow in hysteria and in conspiracy-theorizing, blaming everyone and everything but Islam itself, the cause of their own wretchedness. And now thanks to criminally-negligent immigration policies in the West, millions of Muslims have become a source of expense, unpleasantness, and physical insecurity for non-Muslims in the countries least able, because most pacific and programmatically unable to be anything but long-suffering, to deal with the matter. North America and Western Europe bound together by a Trans-Atlantic Plight.
Paolo Uccello, St. George And The Dragon, Musée Jacquemart-André, here.
You don't even have to visit Paris before the tourists discover it. Just go on-line. Fewer fumes and contrails. Don't fill up your passport with stamps. Don't visit 27 countries. Live lightly on the earth. Learn to sit still.
Premier Erdogan and President Obama, White House Rose Garden
May 2013 Source:APR
Last May, President Obama held a Rose Garden, news conference with Turkey’s Premier, Tayyip Recep Erdogan. That was just before the Gezi Park Protests of last summer and well before the current explosion of controversy over Erdogan’s alleged corruption kicked off by prosecution arrests following investigations in mid-December 2013. Since then there have been weekly reports regarding charges of construction bribery deals, illicit gold trading, violation of human rights of journalists and opponents, muzzling of the Judiciary and Public Prosecutors. Then there was revelation about taped calls with his son, Bilal, concerning hiding huge amounts of cash. Whereas in our last Iconoclast report he vigorously denied the authenticity of those calls, this past week, he said that taped calls recording him “meddling” with the judiciary were the real deal. He accuses the “deep state” of the Hizmat movement being behind it all. He has targeted the movement’s reclusive ex-patriate Sufi Sheikh Fethulleh Gulen rusticating in eastern Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains as the cause of his moral quandary.
This past week Erdogan unveiled his attack plan on his former ally by banning independent preparatory schools. That will just throw more oil on the fire as those Gulen academies in Turkey have supplied hundreds of millions to the Hizmat coffers. Erdogan says that if the AKP wins the municipal elect ions he will shut down both Facebook and Twitter in Turkey charging “immorality”. Even the European Union is requesting an audit of their Erasmus Fund grants to Turkey for lifelong and long distance education given evidence of mishandling by the Turkish National Education Ministry. The Wall Street Journal in a report this week spotlighted the corruption turmoil producing a further weakening of the Turkish Lira combated by draconian interest rate increases forcing the country’s decline in economic growth .
The result has been week after week of protests challenging his campaigning for upcoming municipal elections on March 30th. Erdogan has resorted to saying at campaign rallies that he will “quit” if the AKP loses major municipal elections. Not a chance says his AKP Islamist followers. That’s strictly for show. What he has spoken of if he loses significant municipal elections in the largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, is a deal in the Turkish parliament, where he has a super majority, so that he can continue beyond his 11 year leadership as Premier. Almost sounds like corrupt PA President Mahmoud Abbas now serving the 10th year of a four year term. That assumes failure of a proposed Constitutional referendum to convert Turkey’s Presidency to an executive version like those of France or the US. Currently Turkey’s Presidency, a largely ceremonial post, is held by his co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, himself a Gulenist. Even Gul has said he might switch offices and run for Premier. Sounds eerily equivalent to the revolving door of Russian President Putin and Premier Medvedev.
Erdogan and Gulen received a pushback this week courtesy of the Judiciary. A Supreme Appeals Court found grounds to reverse the conviction and release the former Turkish Army Chief, Gen. Ilker Basbug. Basbug said that all of the other 250 military officers convicted in a series of show trials from 2007 to 2012, called Ergenekon, should be released. Ergenekon was the alleged conspiracy group accused of conspiring to overthrow Erdogan’s Islamist government. The irony is that Gulenist movement members of the police and Judiciary, involved in prosecution of the corruption charges against Erdogan and cabinet members helped to perfect those convictions in the Ergenekon trials.
My how the worm has turned given the possible alliance of the Hizmat movement with the secular opposition parties in Turkey’s parliament seeking to thwart Erdogan’s agenda. The irony is that the long term Sufi Islamist, Gulen, is pitted against, the short term, Sunni Islamist and fellow traveler of the Muslim Brotherhood movements in the Middle East.
Then there was the bizarre story about the banner unfurled at a Turkish soccer match with the inscription “There’s a Thief,” that incredulously had a whole police contingent scanning pictures taken by photo journalists of the football fans trying to identify the culprits. Then someone at a political rally with Erdogan unfurled a banner shortening the expression to simply “Thief”! resulting in his savage beating by the Premier‘s security detail. The victim was sent off to hospital for treatment and verification of his wounds. Paranoid, if not darkly humorous behavior. It is reflective of Erdogan’s mental state under intense pressure to resort to any means to stay afloat politically by repressing the civil and human rights of a broad swath of Turkey’s electorate.
Why President Obama has been slow to return calls to Erdogan? Scott Peterson of the Istanbul Bureau of the Christian Science Monitor filed a story on this question, “Why President Obama Stopped Calling Erdogan”. Peterson noted:
President Obama once spoke regularly with Mr. Erdogan, and for years the White House held up Turkey as a role model of a successful Islam-rooted democracy.
But when Mr. Obama called Mr. Erdogan on Feb. 19, it was after six months of silence – a reflection of Washington’s displeasure at how Mr. Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) handled antigovernment protests last spring and their resorting to anti-Western conspiracy theories, blaming everyone from business newspapers and bankers to Jews and Americans.
Peterson posed this question to Henri Barkey of Lehigh University, a Turkish affairs expert, while they were at the Sulaimaniyeh Forum of the American University in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Barkey replied:
“It wasn’t the brute force the police used [that caused the distance]… it was the discourse of the AKP and Erdogan and all the AKP-controlled newspapers about a conspiracy – a conspiracy to overthrow the Turkish government.” “That came as a shock to the United States. “They quickly came to the realization that…at a very senior level [Turkish officials] actually believed what they were saying.”
Barkey went on to say:
Obama was reluctant to make the February call to Erdogan, but he realized that he had to say something because too much had gone by." The official White House readout of the call said diplomatically that the President, among other issues, “noted the importance of sound policies rooted in the rule of law.
Erdogan is still going to remain as a central figure; he’s not going away that soon. But he’s no longer going to be seen as the transformative leader he had aimed to be. The United States no longer looks at him this way, but…sees him as creating uncertainty and potential instability.
Perhaps, Erdogan should respond by resorting to the tag line of the late 20th Century American comedian Rodney Dangerfield, ” I ain’t got no respect”. But then maybe misery loves company, both Premier Erdogan and President Obama have daunting criticism over their domestic and foreign policies.
A school which was dubbed a 'Trojan horse' for jihad by Muslim extremists in a leaked document has been holding assemblies endorsing one of the most radical Muslim clerics in recent history. A Telegraph investigation, in parallel with the 'Trojan Horse' extremism allegations, suggests that all is not well at Park View academy in Birmingham.
According to former staff interviewed by this newspaper, a senior teacher at the academy repeatedly endorsed the terrorist ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki at school assemblies. . . The teacher, who remains in a high-level position at the school, also used its computer facilities and technical staff to copy Osama bin Laden DVDs, according to the former staff.
The teacher used the word “terrorist” as a personal mobile phone identity on Bluetooth and also described non-Muslims to pupils in assemblies as “kuffar”, an insulting term for infidel, the former teachers said.
On November 28 last year, The Telegraph has learnt, Park View organised an “extended Islamic assembly” for its Year 10 and 11 pupils with Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who has called on God to “destroy the enemies of Islam”. Al-Suleiman has also asked God to “give victory to the Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya,” to “give victory to all the Mujahideen all over the world” and to “prepare us for the jihad”.
Another teacher at the sister primary school controlled by Park View, Razwan Faraz, has defended his brother, Ahmed, a man dubbed the “terrorists’ favourite bookseller” whose Birmingham shop, now closed by police, distributed extremist literature to many involved in terror plots, including one of the 7/7 bombers.
In November, Park View was given a top award at the Global Peace and Unity conference, a London-based Islamic event boycotted by Conservative ministers because of its repeated hosting of Holocaust deniers, extremists and terrorist sympathisers. At previous GPU events, material glorifying terrorist groups was on open sale.
The chairman of governors at Park View, Tahir Alam, is a senior activist in the Muslim Council of Britain and vice-chair of the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS). His views, like the MCB’s, are hardline. In evidence for the MCB to the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 2008, he said he would “caution against advocating that desegregation [in schools] should be actively pursued” and stressed the “obligatory nature” of the hijab for Muslim women and girls.
One head, (of anotherschool) who is understood to have resigned following a plot to oust him, said last night his decision to quit had been ‘vindicated’. Balwant Bains, former headmaster of Saltley School, said he was unable to comment directly on the claims but confirmed he had been forced to leave his job.
I just picked up a book from the floor -- I'm trying to make room for living -- a paperback, "The Dehumanization of Art and Other Writings on Art and Culture"by Ortega. It opened to page 7, and my eye fell -- figuratively not balso-snellishly (my mother, alluding to that story by Nathanael West, commented: "if your eye falls on a bargain, pick it up")-- on the following:
"Behind all contemporary life lurks the provoking and profound injustice of the assumption that men are actually equal. Each move among men so obviously reveals the opposite that each move results in a painful clash."
I wonder how many courses are given in American colleges today that include in even one of their tens of thousands of syllabi even one essay by Ortega y Gasset, Wladimir Weidle, Richard Weaver. Five? Three? None?
An American Child Kidnapped in Accordance with Shariah
An interview with Professor Margaret McClain
by Jerry Gordon(March 2014)
Heidi McClain al-Olmary Heidi age progression picture
at 5 years old at 18 years old
One of horrors that have confronted American women who naïvely marry Saudi men is the possible risk of having children of those marriages kidnapped following divorce in accordance with Sharia and removed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are estimated to be in excess of 1,000 such cases. A few have been featured in investigative reports on CBS 60 Minutes and Fox News' The O’Reilly Factor. Frequently American wives of Saudis and other fundamentalist Muslims are physically abused and maltreated under Sharia. more>>>
Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain, and now Egypt, have all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar. The attempt by Qatar to whip up indignation, all over the world, over the arrest, in Egypt, of journalists belonging to its propaganda outlet, Al Jazeera, has had little effect. For when it comes to Al Jazeera, few care what happens to it, having slowly come to realize that it is akin to TASS, or Radio Berlin. Its English-language version is much cleverer and more oblique than the Arab-language version, but the intent is the same: to promote and protect Qatar, a nasty little state, living on slave labor (and many of those slaves die from that labor every year)and those whom, including Yousef Al-Qaradawi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and similar groups whom the government of Qatar promotes and protects.
It's good to see Gulf and other Arabs turning their back on Qatar, and Western journalists not unduly impressed with the "threat to press freedom" that the arrest of people working for a state-funded propaganda network supposedly represents.
Here's the latest on Qatar, and the decision of its emir not to send a high-diplomat to the preparatory talks for the Arab summit due to begin on March 25.
Egyptian Airlines Flight 990, from Los Angeles to Cairo, went down in 1999. The following laconic description, which is what the National Transportation Safety Board puts out because the Egyptian officials hysterically, and menacingly, continued to deny the truth, reads as follows:
"Egypt Air Flight 990 from Los Angeles to Cairo crashed in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles outside Nantucket Island, Mass. on Oct. 31, 1999. All 217 people on board were killed. The NTSB, originally saying the plane had been intentionally grounded, would later say only actions by a co-pilot led to the crash. Egyptian authorities said the plane crashed due to mechanical failure."
What happened-- and what the NTSB apparently feels it has no obligation to the public to be truthful about -- is that the co-pilot, who had for months been depressed and had turned for solace to becoming more and more deeply Muslim, grabbed the controls, repeatedly shouted "Allahu Akbar"(it's on the tape that the NTSB analyzed) and committed suicide to make himself feel better, bringing with him 227 other people not so inclined.
Now a Malaysian Airlines plane has gone down. Almost all of the passengers were ethnic Chinese. During the last year, there have been about twenty attacks -- only the most spectacular being widely reported in the West -- by Muslim Uighurs on Chinese in China. Attacks in Xinjiang, with Uighur mobs suddenly attacking Chinese with knives, or attacking a police station, the attackers knowing they would all die. The car filled with the members of one Muslim family, the father at the wheel, that was used in an attempt to run down non-Muslims (those hit were foreign tourists) in Tienanmen Square. The attack the other day in the railroad station in southern China, far from Xinjiang, with 30 killed, 130 injured, by eight Muslim men and women, dressed in black, swinging their scimitars, stabbing and gouging with their knives.
It turns out that at least two of the passengers on the Malaysian airplane that went down were using stolen passports, and that this is most unusual, for while -- rarely -- one passenger travelling on such a passport may manage to board, two passengers using stolen passports is unheard-of. And since both passports had been stolen from Westerners -- an Italian and an Austrian -- presumably those using them were Western in outward aspect, if not in what they carried aboard in their mental luggage.
Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and First Officer Fariq Ab. Hamid, 27, were the pilots
The pilot, the first officer, those two passengers? Or an accident? Will non-Muslims be flying an airline if they know the pilot, or the co-pilot, is Muslim? Will you fly even the poshest of Arab airlines, the ones whose names you know from t-shirts distributed all over the world, famous for having brand-new planes, and good service -- such airlines as Ettihad, or Emirates, or Qatar Airlines, say -- unless those airlines have assured the flying public that their pilots, their co-pilots, perhaps even their cabin attendants, are non-Muslim -- and you know they can't possibly do that, couldn't do it even if it turned out to be true? What will happen to air travel, what decisions will passengers make, in choosing their airline, if this turns out not to have been an accident? Anything? Nothing?
More on the Islamic takeover of Birmingham schools. Some short extracts from the Sunday Times
A HEAD teacher was allegedly forced out of his job after opposing plans by Muslim governors at his state school to scrap sex education lessons and allow only halal food. It is also claimed that Balwant Bains was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from making public his concerns about the running of Saltley School, a specialist science college in Birmingham.
Sources close to Bains, who is of Sikh origin, claim he was “bullied and intimidated” in the months before he left Saltley last November after clashing with the governing body. Five non-Muslim governors have resigned in recent months and 12 of the school’s 14 current governors are Muslim.
The controversy at Saltley, which has about 950 predominantly Muslim pupils aged 11-16, is just the latest involving claims about governors seeking to impose a greater emphasis on Islamic teaching and beliefs in secular schools.
Problems at Saltley are understood to have arisen last year when Bains was asked by the governors to make various changes relating to the curriculum.
“The governors demanded that he get rid of sex education and citizenship classes because they were deemed un-Islamic,” a friend of Bains claimed. “He was also told that he should introduce Islamic studies into the curriculum, even though the school is a non-faith school, and he was told that only halal food should be served on the premises. Bains refused their demands and that’s when things started to go wrong for him.”
Bains went on “gardening leave” last November after a report by Ofsted that concluded that he had a “dysfunctional” relationship with the governors. Sources close to Bains claim his position had been undermined when the governors overturned his decision to expel a Muslim pupil found in possession of a knife and by the circulating of an anonymous text message that branded him a “racist, Islamophobic head teacher” and called for his removal.
Bains did not return to the school and, as part of a deal that saw him receive a sum equal to six months’ salary, signed a compromise agreement in January that prevents him from speaking about his time at Saltley.
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.”