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The ‘dirty secret’ about Obama’s Afghan plan

Press TV – May 30, 2014

US President Barack Obama recently said Washington will keep “approximately 9,800” troops in Afghanistan for two more years after 2014 but a report says an “invisible army” of US officials and intelligence personnel will remain in the country well in the future.

“Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan,” Obama said Tuesday during an appearance in the White House Rose Garden, referring to America’s 13-year war in Afghanistan, which is the longest war in US history.

“At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800 US servicemembers in different parts of the country,” he added.

Writing for Foreign Policy magazine, however, Phillip Carter said on Wednesday that the “dirty secret about Obama’s Afghan plan is that tens of thousands of American civilians will be on the ground long after the troops have left.”

The “invisible army” of US civilians who will remain in Afghanistan for an unknown duration include intelligence agents, contractors, diplomats, and civilian government officials.

While Obama said on Tuesday that “by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul,” what remains unclear is the extent of US operations under the auspices of agencies like the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which was recently in the headlines for the covert creation of a text-based social network to stir political unrest in Cuba.

US foreign service officers in Afghanistan will work “alongside scores more from USAID, the Justice Department, the Department of Agriculture” and “a clandestine force reportedly including hundreds of personnel from the CIA and other agencies,” wrote Carter.

During a speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, on Wednesday, Obama made it clear that there are some differences between his foreign policy and that of his predecessor George W. Bush, saying he would rely on allied or indigenous troops more than on US forces.

He said his foreign policy strategy “expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin.”

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Covert US Military Training Goes to Africa

By William R. Polk | Consortium News | May 30, 2014

With everyone’s attention focused on the European elections or President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point or the Ukraine, a story by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times on Tuesday may not have caught your attention. I believe, however, that it provides an insight into some of the major problems of American foreign policy.

What Mr. Schmitt reports is that the U.S. has set up covert programs to train and equip native teams patterned on their instructors, the U.S. Army Delta Force, in several African countries.  The program was advocated by Michael A. Sheehan who formerly was in charge of special operations planning in the Department of Defense and is now, according to Mr. Schmitt, holder of the “distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.”

Mr. Schmitt quotes him as saying, “Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing.” So far allocated to this effort, Mr. Schmitt writes, is $70 million, and the initial efforts will be in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

How to do this, according to the senior U.S. officer in Africa, Major General Patrick J. Donahue II, is complex: “You have to make sure of who you’re training. It can’t be the standard, ‘Has the guy been a terrorist or some sort of criminal?’ but also, what are his allegiances? Is he true to the country or is he still bound to his militia?”

So let me comment on these remarks, on the ideas behind the program, its justification and the history of such efforts. I begin with a few bits of history. (Disclosure: I am in the final stages of a book that aims to tell the whole history,  but the whole history is of course much too long for this note.)

Without much of the rhetoric of Mr. Sheehan and General Donahue and on a broader scale, we have undertaken similar programs in a number of countries over the last half century.  Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, Chad, Angola to name just a few. The results do not add up to a success almost anywhere.

Perhaps the worst (at least for America’s reputation) were Chad where the man we trained, equipped and supported, Hissène Habré, is reported to have killed about 40,000 of his fellow citizens. In Indonesia, General Suharto, with our blessing and with the special forces we also had trained and equipped, initially killed about 60,000 and ultimately caused the deaths of perhaps 200,000. In Mexico, the casualties have been smaller, but the graduates of our Special Forces program have become the most powerful drug cartel. They virtually hold the country at ransom.

Even when casualties were not the result, the military forces we helped to create and usually paid for carried out the more subtle mission of destroying public institutions. If our intention is to create stability, the promotion of a powerful military force is often not the way to do it. This is because the result of such emphasis on the military often renders it the only mobile, coherent and centrally directed organization in societies lacking in the balancing forces of an independent judiciary, reasonably open elections, a tradition of civil government and a more or less free press.

Our program in pre-1958 Iraq and in pre-1979 Iran certainly played a crucial role in the extension of authoritarian rule in those countries  and in their violent reactions against us.

General Donahue suggests that we need to distinguish among the native soldiers we train and empower those who are “true to the country.” But how? We supported Hissène Habré so long that we must have known every detail of his life. He is now on trial as war criminal. General Suharto has never been charged (nor have those Americans who gave him a “green light”) for his brutal invasion of East Timor. Both probably believed that they met General Donahue’s definition of patriotism.

And in Mali, our carefully trained officers of the Special Forces answered what they thought was both patriotic and religious duty by joining the insurgency against the government we (and we thought they) supported. We have a poor record of defining other peoples’ patriotism.

And, in the interest of more urgent objectives, we have been willing to support and fund almost anyone as long as we think he might be of value. General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama, went on to spend 22 years in an American prison after we invaded his country and fought the soldiers we had trained.

Indeed, we have a poor record of even knowing who the people we train are. After the Turkish army carried out one of its coups in the 1960s, when I was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I asked the appropriate branch of the Defense Department who were the new leaders, all of whom had been trained in America, often several times during the years. The answer was that no one knew. Even in army records, they were just Americanized nicknames.

And, more generally, our sensitivity to the aspirations, hopes and fears of other people is notoriously crude or totally lacking. Growing out of the Cold War, we thought of many of them as simply our proxies or our enemies.

Thus, we found Chad not as a place with a certain population but just as a piece of the Libyan puzzle, and today we think of Mali in the same way. Now we are talking of training “carefully selected” Syrian insurgents to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Do we have any sense of what they will overthrow him for?

Beyond these, what might be considered “tactical” issues are “strategic,” legal and even  moral considerations. I leave aside the legal and moral issues — such as what justification we have to determine the fate of other peoples — as they do not seem very persuasive among our leaders.

But just focus on the long-term or even middle-term results of the new policy:  the most obvious is that we meddle in and take some responsibility for the politics of an array of countries in which we have little direct interest. And often with the obvious danger of a deeper, more expensive and more painful result. We are close to this commitment in Syria.

Less obvious is that our activities, no matter how carefully differentiated, will be seen to add up to an overall policy of militarism, support of oppressive dictatorships, and opposition to popular forces. They also meld into a policy of opposition to the religion of over a billion people, Islam. And they do so at great expense to our expressed desires to enable people everywhere, including at home, to live healthier, safer and decent lives.

I end with a prediction: in practically every country where Mr. Sheehan’s and General Donahue’s program is employed, it will later be seen to have led to a military coup d’etat.

~

William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who was Maidan snipers’ mastermind?

andriy_parubiy-300x200

Andriy Parubiy
By Adam Larson | Oriental Review | May 29, 2014

The probe into the Maidan “snipers problem” – by the new Ukrainian government underwritten by it – continues. On May 13, the fascinating interim findings were partly revealed, at a press conference called by parliamentary investigation head Gennady Moskal. Bullet forensics exonerated the previously blamed Berkut security force. Something in the findings also placed the unidentified shooters somewhere – unspecified – among “the ranks of the protesters.” It could even have been the EuroMaidan militants, he admitted, but MP Moskal thought infiltrators from the government’s security service SBU made more sense.

He predicted decades of debate with no resolution, and a week later he announced that a number of key documents were destroyed, complicating the search. But whatever led the investigators to this apparently dead-end admission, it seemed like a break in the script that put the snipers in areas secured by the government of then-president Viktor Yanukovych. For those following the details, the May 13 revelation seemed like a bit of realism creeping in.

But then the current Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council – Andriy Parubiy – stepped forward, hinting at a divergent probe delving further into fantasy. His investigation blames Russia and Vladimir Putin for the snipers, even though it was Parubiy – not Putin – who was supposed to secure the “EuroMaidan” where, the evidence increasingly says, the problem snipers operated.

Sniper Commandant?

While he insists he’s not a fascist, Andriy Parubiy co-founded the Nazi-inspired Social National party, now Svoboda, in the 1990s. Outwardly, he went mainstream early on, and joined Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, running security operations on the Maidan for the 2004 “Orange Revolution.”

In 2013-14’s more violent regime-change “protests,” he was given the same responsibility. As Euromaidan Commandant and head of the Self-Defense Committee, he was in charge of security for areas where the mob’s authority had overridden the government’s.

We now know (partly from MP Moskal) that – on the pivotal day of February 20, which will remain the main focus of this report – sniper shots first hit police forces, and came from buildings Parubiy controlled. Ukraine’s previous head of the Security Service (SBU) Alexander Yakimenko said so in March, after fleeing to Russia. When the Commandant proved unable to stop the sniping, which everyone claimed to be against, Yakimenko says he offered to send in a unit to help. He only needed a guarantee his men wouldn’t be shot by Parubiy’s, but he says that was denied. From all this, the SBU chief deduced the snipers were under Parubiy’s command and protection.

In truth, this failure to stop the killing could be due to malice, or incompetence, or some mix. Whatever the case, the resulting bloodshed was all but necessary for the Kiev Cabal to finally take over. And considering his eminent competence, they made Parubiy security chief for all of Ukraine as soon as they could.

Sniper Investigator?

Reports from early March, before the Yakimenko accusations, spoke of a parliamentary investigation Parubiy himself was selected to lead. The apparent conflict of interest may, or may not, be why MP Moskal now seems to be in charge of that.

But in a May 21 interview for Euractiv, Parubiy speaks of a probe that sounds different, a probe blaming Russian Special forces – Spetsnaz – for penetrating his security cordon. Asked about the snipers, with the note “you must have first-hand information,” he sidestepped his own direct knowledge and told Euractiv:

“Now that we are conducting investigations, we have found that 18 Spetsnaz, including snipers, were in Maidan. The investigation will reveal from which points they were shooting, but I can already say that they did everything they could to spill blood and provoke civil unrest.”

“We have a working hypothesis which would be confirmed or rejected by the investigation, that in the most difficult days they shot equally – at Berkut and at the Maidan activists. Their aim was to instigate a more violent civic unrest … that Russia could warm its hands at this fire.”

“We know that Russian snipers shot at both sides.”

As Washington’s Blog noted in March, “everyone agrees that the snipers were false flag terrorists sowing chaos and confusion. … they only disagree about who the responsible party is.” This is another example, and (as we’ll see) the worst theory yet. And just look at who is trying to feed it to us.

Master Thug

From February 18-20, security forces and civilians were, as Parubiy says, killed somewhat “equally” by these snipers to create “violent civic unrest.” But there was a telling pattern to how different parts of that were timed.

First, consider how ten unarmed policemen were shot dead the night of February 18th, forcing a decision to bring in armed security forces. That allowed later killings to be realistically blamed on them, as happened. (Were these the same provocateurs present a day and a half later, or a different shift?)

By the 20th, a force was assembled on the Maidan adequate to stomp the police out by noon and shoot the Berkut out of their nearest posts by 12:45. They even blocked the train bringing in the Army support, and readied to march up to the central government’s buildings and stomp whomever they wished. This force was under Parubiy’s leadership no later than his announcement early on the 21st that “all the leaders of the hundreds are declaring their consent to coordinated action, including the hundreds of the Right Sector … We’re in control of Kiev. We have seized control of the government quarter.”

It was only at that shift in power that the Parubiy “Spetsnaz snipers” unleashed their main killing spree. On video and within bare minutes, they picked off at least 30 unarmed civilians sent in behind the Hotel Ukraine, to top off “Heaven’s Hundred.” That is, this un-ambiguous, unforgivable “Yanukovych crime” was delivered as soon as the natural punishment for it had been placed.

Commandant Parubiy, who oversaw the distribution and timing of much of that violence, couldn’t deny its pattern helped them, as he said to Euractiv, “oust Yanukovich.” That prompted the question:

Q: So you recognize that you ousted Yanukovich?

A: Yes. He ran away.

Q: But he ran away because he was afraid for his life?

A: Yes of course. After so many deaths and such national tension, he understood that if he didn’t run away, the personal consequences could be very bad. 

Under this plausible threat, the president fled. An 1:36 pm announcement from the Maidan ordered members of Parliament to meet at 3:00 to vote him out for good. They were given “a guarantee that the Parliament would not be stormed during the session.” The “hundreds” just snatched that option, but promised not to use it – unless maybe they were provoked by a wrong vote. In the end most of Parliament was willing to show up on the 22nd instead, and those agreed unanimously to impeach Yanukovych – and not be stomped. After all, Parubiy’s Maidan machine still controlled Kiev.

Confirming Yakimenko’s Charges

When he spoke on May 13, investigation head Gennady Moskal did not specify any sniper perches, just implied that they were behind the lines Parubiy was in charge of. By noon on the 20th, this had expanded to include at least the Maidan at large, the Trade Unions Hall (Maidan HQ), the Conservatory, and Hotel Ukraine. The October Palace and unknown other buildings fell into his hands just after noon.

Ukraine_shooting_directions_2Former SBU chief Yakimenko said in March the first shots “came from the Philharmonic Hall,” probably meaning the (musical) Conservatory. After that, “many have witnessed 20 people leaving the building” with their sniper gear in bags. These “split into two groups – 10 men each.” One of these “took a position at the Ukraine hotel,” right next-door, and “the Security Service lost track” of the other sniper team.

Parubiy must know by now where the snipers were, but he doesn’t want to tell us yet. The probe “will reveal from which points they were shooting,” he promises.

Yakimenko said “no weapons could be brought to Maidan without Parubiy’s permission. Hand guns, rifles, scopes – he had to agree to all of that.”

In one report, Parubiy gave a rough count of those armed with handguns – about 100. But he said “those people are not ours, they are unorganized,” just like the snipers. “This is kind of a problem.” This when he also said “we created a headquarters in the Maidan and we will not tolerate any action without coordinating with it.”

As mentioned above, Yakimenko says he offered to help Parubiy flush out the gunmen, but was rebuffed. If true, that suggests either a criminal denial of his incompetence, or the commandant’s active approval of the killing.

The SBU chief has a 20-man sniper team in Parubiy’s turf. The man who would know might refer to the same group when he speaks of “18 Spetsnaz, including snipers.” Maybe 20 was a visual estimate, and the “Russians” split up into groups of nine?

One might expect Parubiy to be embarrassed that his own secured buildings were so infiltrated, but he puts the villains “in Maidan.” The original claims of February had the snipers in or on government-held buildings further southeast. Why can’t he just say that now? Why openly claim such a humiliating security breach unless the alternative is even worse?

Parubiy even claims he failed to stop the snipers on the way back out. After sneaking in and unleashing this mayhem, they walked away from the Maidan undetected, and “I think they escaped from Ukraine,” he told Euractiv.

But it was reported at the time that two snipers were caught by his teams, one at least in the Hotel Ukraine. At mid-day on the 20th, an official tweet said, “members of Maidan Self-Defense captured one of the snipers. He is currently in Maidan headquarters.”  But a different “Maidan commandant” – Stepan Kubiv – said he was just there and didn’t hear any such thing.  A message of the 21st said a “sniper was caught on the 10th floor of the Hotel Ukraina … Personality to be identified,” but it never was.  A later one heard that “maidan activists caught two snipers” total, but the source said nothing about their fate or identities.

If they were caught red-handed, why doesn’t Parubiy mention these snipers now? Did they even exist, outside these vague reports? Were they real, but managed to escape? Or did Parubiy order them released? The balance of reasons suggests the killers were under his command and protection, as Yakimenko said, and as the evidence always suggested.

Clearly Commandant Parubiy, of the February “Failures,” is not the best one to be speaking about the Maidan snipers. Expect the May interview to be his last word on that bloodshed.

Postscript: “Ensuring Peace and Safety”

In more promising areas, Andriy Parubiy remains the go-to guy. As the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, he’s now tasked with the brutal and confusing “anti–terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine, and apparently in Odessa. This he wages with a “National Guard” that grew out of his murky Maidan machine, against those Ukrainians who dare to vote against the Kiev Cabal, pushing Ukraine deeper into civil war territory with violence he always blames on “Russian terrorists.”

Helping overturn two popular votes for Yanukovych, ensuring a third overthrow will never be needed, plus his new “security” work, has earned Parubiy friends in the “Democratic” West. He spoke to Euractiv while in Brussels, he said, “to participate in a session of the Ukraine-NATO working group” regarding the Russian “hybrid war” against Ukraine. As he explained it:

“When we speak about fighting terrorists, the best way is to find their centre of coordination, of financing. In this case, this centre is one person, it is Putin. That’s why I say – we have no crisis in Slavyansk, in Donetsk, in Luhansk. We have a crisis in Putin’s head. … if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, nobody can tell where his tanks will be tomorrow. … To stop Putin is not only Ukraine’s major goal. It should be the goal of the entire civilized world.”

In Parubiy’s dangerously unhinged thinking, even the massacre at the Trade Unions building in Odessa on May 2 “was a classic provocation in which pro-Russian groups had to seize the administration buildings in the same way it happened in Donetsk and Luhansk.” But this time, the anti-Putsch activists were clearly chased in, and followed in, by an ultra-nationalist lynch mob. He also contradicts himself by claiming the building was already “a kind of headquarters for the separatists,” where “the substance that provoked the blaze” was brought in by them “a long time ago.”

That’s why, he says, “when Molotov cocktails were thrown from the fourth floor at the participants of the Ukrainian rally, the substance inflamed” and an “explosion happened.”

Of course, on-site video and photos prove this was terrorism, and it seems the mob torched the building largely to hide their brutal murder of perhaps 272 citizens. That Parubiy was there to help coordinate it, after attending a top-level April 24 meeting to plan the Odessa “counter-terrorist” operation, makes it seem like state-sponsored terrorism.  A former deputy head of the Odessa police, now fled to Donetsk, blames Parubiy for personally organizing the massacre.  He was seen there on April 29th, delivering bulletproof vests to one Mykola Volkov – a criminal deputized as a “sotnik” (the term used for commanders of “hundreds” on the Maidan). Volkov was later seen shooting a pistol at the Trade Unions building, wearing a bulletproof vest, and phoning in a false story – possibly to Parubiy himself.

With Ukrainians all united but Moscow’s agents everywhere, the “security” chief told Euractiv, they needed an “overhaul” of “the entire security and defense sector,” and maybe civil society too, including “criminal groups” and “ethnic groups.”

The NATO allies had just heard the same and understood, promising “extensive support to the Ukrainian delegation” – including this false-flagging fascist thug – considering their “crucial role in ensuring peace and safety in Europe and the world.” Further, they “expressed readiness” to help in “reform” of the Parubiy’s defense and security sectors.

Events in Odessa, Maruipol, and elsewhere might have convinced the Cabal’s double-speaking Western allies that civil society “overhauls” are best left to Parubiy and his “Ukrainian rally” types.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | | Leave a comment

The Rise of the European Right: Reaction to the Neoliberal Right

By James Petras | May 30, 2014

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region. The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’). The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity. The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life. Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties. There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization. Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed. Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics. Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure. The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’. The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results. The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis. The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier. Both lack electoral allies. As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions. In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment: globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism: Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class. The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions. As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support. They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left. While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’. For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control. Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed. Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive – legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels. The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries. The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation. The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment. The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right: Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle. Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions. The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes. The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU. No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsche Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’. Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run. The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’. Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power? Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right. The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards. Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict. It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify. The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right. A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right. The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling the rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities. The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer. Does the Left have the solution? Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations

In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes. In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods. This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’. In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets. There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs. Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | | Leave a comment

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF CHINESE RUSSIAN RELATIONS

Da Russophile |  May 30, 2014

The response of much western commentary to the Russia China agreements has been scepticism that they can ever burgeon into an outright partnership because of the supposedly long history of mutual suspicion and hostility between the two countries. The Economist for example refers to the two countries as “frenemies”.

To see whether these claims are actually justified I thought it might be useful to give a short if rather summary account of the history of the relationship between the two countries.

Official contacts between China and Russia began with border clashes in the 1680s which however were settled in 1689 by the Treaty of Nerchinsk, which delineated what was then the common border. At this time Beijing had no political or diplomatic links with any other European state save the Vatican, which was informally represented in Beijing by the Jesuit mission. The Treaty of Nerchinsk was the first formal treaty between China and any European power.

The Treaty of Nerchinsk was basically a pragmatic border arrangement. It was eventually succeeded by the Treaty of Kyakhta of 1727, negotiated on the initiative of the Kangxi Emperor and of Peter the Great, who launched the expedition that negotiated it shortly before before his death.

The Treaty of Kyakhta provided for a further delineation of the common border. It also authorised a small but thriving border trade. Most importantly, it also allowed for the establishment of what was in effect a Russian diplomatic presence in Beijing in the form of an ecclesiastical settlement there. Russia thereby became only the second European state after the Vatican to achieve a presence in Beijing. It did so moreover more than a century before any of the other European powers.

Russia was of course the only European power at this time to share a common border with China (a situation to which it has now reverted since the return to China of Hong Kong). It is also notable that the Treaty of Kyakhta happened on the initiative of Peter the Great. Peter the Great’s decision to launch the expedition that ultimately led to the Treaty of Kyakhta shows that even this supposedly most “westernising” of tsars had to take into account Russia’s reality as a Eurasian state.

For the rest of the Eighteenth Century and the first half of the Nineteenth Century relations between the Russian and Chinese courts remained friendly though hardly close. St. Petersburg was the only European capital during this period to host occasional visits by the Chinese Emperor’s representatives. During the British Macartney mission to Beijing of 1793 the senior Manchu official tasked with negotiating with Macartney had obtained his diplomatic experience in St. Petersburg. As a result of these contacts at the time of the Anglo French expedition to Beijing in 1860 Ignatiev, the Russian diplomat who acted as mediator between the Anglo French expedition and the Chinese court, could call on the services of skilled professional interpreters and was in possession of accurate maps of Beijing whilst the British and the French had access to neither. Russian diplomatic contacts with the court in Beijing during this period do not seem to have been afflicted with the protocol difficulties that so complicated China’s relations with the other European powers and which contributed to the failure of the Macartney mission. This serves as an indicator of the pragmatism with which these contacts were conducted.

This period of distant but generally friendly relations ended with the crisis of 1857 to 1860 when Russia used the Chinese court’s preoccupation with the Taiping rebellion and China’s difficult relations with the western Europeans culminating in the Anglo French expedition of 1860 to secure the annexation of the Amur region. The Chinese continue to see the third Convention of Beijing of 1860 which secured the Amur territory for Russia as an “unequal treaty”. They have however accepted its consequences and formally recognised the border (which was properly speaking part of Manchu rather than Chinese territory). At the time it must have been resented. However it is probably fair to say that Russia would have been seen in China as a marginally less dangerous aggressor during this period than the western powers Britain and France (especially Britain) if only because China’s relations with these two countries were much more important.

As the Nineteenth Century wore on relations between Russia and China seem to have improved, with Russia, undoubtedly for self-interested reasons, playing an important role in the Three Intervention that forced Japan to moderate its demands on China following China’s defeat in the Sino Japanese war of 1895. Russian policy of supporting China and the authority of the Chinese court against the Japanese however fell by the wayside when Russia forced the Chinese court in 1897 to grant Russia a lease of the Chinese naval base of Port Arthur. This was much resented in China and damaged Russia’s image there.

Russia also became drawn into the suppression of the anti-foreign 1900 Boxer Rising, an event which destabilised the Manchu dynasty and which led to a short lived Russian occupation of Manchuria to suppress the Boxers there. This is not the place to discuss the diplomacy or the reasons for the conflict which followed, which is known as the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 to 1905. Suffice to say that the ground war was fought entirely on Chinese territory and ended in stalemate (though with the balance starting to shift in favour of the Russians), that I know of, no good English account of the war or of the events that preceded it, that the war was precipitated entirely by a straightforward act of Japanese aggression and that the popular view that the war was preceded and/or provoked by Russian economic and political penetration of Korea or plans to annex Manchuria are now known to have no basis in fact.

A radical improvement in Russian-Chinese relations took place following the October 1917 revolution caused by the decision of the new Bolshevik government to renounce the extra territorial privileges Russia had obtained in China as a result of the unequal treaties. The USSR became the strongest supporter during this period of Sun Ya-tsen’s Chinese nationalist republican movement and of the Guomindang government in Nanjing that Sun Ya-tsen eventually set up. Sun Ya-tsen for his part was a staunch friend and supporter of the USSR. Though many are aware of the very close relationship between the USSR and China in the 1950s few in my experience know of the equally strong and arguably more genuine friendship between their two governments in the 1920s.

In the two decades that followed the USSR became China’s strongest international supporter in its war against Japanese aggression, a war which has defined modern China and of which the outside world knows lamentably little. During this period the USSR had to balance its support for China’s official Guomindang led government that was supposedly leading the struggle against the Japanese with its support for the Chinese Communist Party (originally the leftwing of the Guomindang movement) with which the Guomindang was often in armed conflict. The USSR also had to balance its support for China with its need to avoid a war in the east with Japan at a time when it was being threatened in the west by Nazi Germany and its allies. The skill with which the government of the USSR performed this difficult feat has gone almost wholly unrecognised.

Following the defeat of Japan in 1945 the USSR’s military support was (as is now known) crucial though obviously not decisive to the Chinese Communist Party’s victory in the civil war against the Guomindang, which led to the establishment in 1949 of the People’s Republic. A decade of extremely close political, military and economic relations followed during which the two countries were formally allies. As is now known this relationship in reality was always strained and eventually broke down in part because of mutual personal antagonism between the countries’ two leaders, Khrushchev and Mao Zedong, but mainly because of Chinese anger at the USSR’s failure to support a war to recover Taiwan and above all because of China’s refusal as the world’s most populous country and oldest civilisation to accept a subordinate position to the USSR in the international Communist movement. The rupture was made formal by Khrushchev’s decision in 1960 to withdraw from China the Soviet advisers and economic assistance that had been sent there. Supporters of sanctions may care to note that on the two occasions Russia has used sanctions (against Yugoslavia in 1948 and against China in 1960) they backfired spectacularly on Russia resulting in entirely negative consequences for Russia.

The Sino-Soviet rupture of 1960 resulted in a decade and a half of very strained relations. An attempt to restore relations to normal following Khrushchev’s fall in 1964 was wrecked, possibly intentionally, by the Soviet defence minister Marshal Malinovsky who encouraged members of the Chinese leadership to overthrow Mao Zedong through a coup similar to the one that had overthrown Khrushchev. Relations with the USSR during this period also increasingly became hostage to Chinese internal politics with Mao and his supporters during the period of political terror known as the Cultural Revolution routinely accusing their opponents of being Soviet agents. This period of difficult relations eventually culminated in serious border clashes in 1969, an event that panicked the leadership of both countries and which led each of them to explore alignments against each other with the Americans.

This period of very tense relations basically ended in 1976 with the death of Mao Zedong who shortly before his death is supposed to have issued an injunction to the Chinese Communist party instructing it to restore relations with the USSR. Once the post Mao succession disputes were resolved with the victory of Deng Xiaoping a process of outright rapprochement began the start of which was formally signaled in the USSR by Leonid Brezhnev in a speech in Tashkent in 1982 which he made shortly before his death. By 1989 the process of rapprochement was complete allowing Gorbachev to visit Beijing in the spring of that year when however his visit was overshadowed by the Tiananmen disturbances.

Since then there has been a steady strengthening of relations. Gorbachev refused to involve the USSR in the sanctions the western powers imposed on China following the Tiananmen disturbances. Yeltsin, despite the strong pro-western orientation of his government, remained a firm advocate of good relations with China and worked to build on the breakthrough achieved in the 1980s. In 1997, in a speech in Hong Kong, Jiang Zemin already spoke of Russia as China’s key strategic ally. In 1998 the two countries acted for the first time openly in concert on the Security Council to oppose the US bombing of Iraq (“Operation Desert Fox”). Subsequently both countries strongly opposed the US led attacks on Yugoslavia in 1999 and on Iraq in 2003.

Since then their cooperation in political, economic and security matters has intensified. Whilst their relations have had their moments of difficulty (eg. over Russian complaints of illicit Chinese copying of weapon systems) and the development of their economic relations has lagged well behind that of their political relations (inevitable given the disastrous state of the Russian economy in the 1990s) it is difficult to see on what basis they can be considered “frenemies”.

The reality is that Russia and China have for obvious reasons of history, culture and above all geography faced through most of their history in different directions: China towards Asia (where it is the supreme east Asian civilisation) and Russia towards Europe. That should not however disguise the fact that their interaction has been very prolonged (since the 1680s), – longer in fact than that of China with any of the major western powers – and generally peaceful and mostly friendly. Periods of outright hostility have been short lived and rare. Despite sharing the world’s longest border all-out war between the two countries has never happened. On the two occasions (in the 1680s and 1960s) when it briefly appeared that it might, both drew back and eventually sought and achieved a compromise. For China Russia’s presence on its northern border has in fact been an unqualified benefit, stabilising and securing the border from which the greatest threats to China’s independence and security have traditionally come.

Western perceptions of the China Russia relationship are in my opinion far too heavily influenced by the very brief period of the Sino Soviet conflict of the 1960s and 1970s. Across the 300 or so years of the history of their mutual interaction the 15 or so years of this conflict represent very much the anomaly not the rule. Given this conflict’s idiosyncratic origins in ideological and status issues that are (to put it mildly) extremely unlikely to recur again, to treat this conflict as representing the norm in China’s and Russia’s relations with each other seems to me frankly farfetched. The past is never a safe guide to the future. However on the basis of the actual history of their relations, to argue that China’s and Russia’s strategic partnership is bound to fail because of their supposed long history of suspicion and conflict towards each other is to argue from prejudice rather than fact.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Shells hit hospital as Ukrainian army resumes strike on Slavyansk

RT |May 30, 2014

Kiev’s troops renewed the shelling of Slavyansk on Friday morning, residents told RT. A local children’s hospital and a clinic came under fire. There are no reports of injuries.

“This morning they hit the children’s policlinic in the center of the city and the reception ward of the children’s hospital. It was at 5 am,” Vladimir, a Slavyansk resident, told RT.

“The hospital and the policlinic stand close to each other. The hospital was damaged worse than the policlinic,” another resident said. “There were no victims.”

There were some children staying in the hospital at the time of the attack. They were all taken to the building’s basement for cover after the shelling started, said Olga, a nurse working there.

“I’ve worked here for 30 years, and I never thought I would have to come to a ruin to do my job. That’s our government and our ‘valorous’ Ukrainian troops for you,” she said.

Kiev said it did not use artillery on Friday and claimed that it was the militia, who trained their own guns on the hospital to put the blame on the Ukrainian military.

Troops loyal to Kiev intensified the military crackdown on the militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in mid-April. They are using artillery, aviation and armor in a bid to take control of the restive region.

The military operation in eastern Ukraine will continue until the region“can live and function normally and the people are calm,” acting Defense Minister Mikhail Koval stated on Friday.

Slavyansk has been in the focus of the confrontation, which has claimed dozens of lives, both among the belligerents and local civilians.

The militias are holding off the attacks through a combination of guerrilla tactics and weapons seized from the Ukrainian troops. They scored a major success on Thursday, when they shot down a helicopter carrying one of Kiev’s generals.

Some people in Slavyansk believe that Kiev’s troops will now retaliate for the general’s death and devastate the city.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | | Leave a comment

Has David Attenborough Become A BBC Propaganda Mouthpiece Promoting Climate Fear?

By Jim Steele* | Watts Up With That? | May 29, 2014

David Attenborough was my favorite wildlife cinematographer and each year I fed my students numerous clips to make biology and ecology come alive. Researching the plight of the polar bears, I began to worry that “my hero” had decided to use his spectacular wildlife videos to promote catastrophic climate change.

The first example that raised my suspicions was his portrayal of polar bears feeding on walruses, with a narration suggesting it was a new behavior desperately driven by climate change. But for us ecologists who know better: shame on you David Attenborough. He ignored documented wildlife history and cherry-picked a dramatic scene to promote climate fear.

First view this older BBC video pitting polar bears against walrus. Notice how many bears are converging on the walrus herd and that they are coming from the land. Then view Attenborough’s “new and improved video” that puts a very misleading slant on polar bears and walruses.

If you want to read historical facts about walruses and polar bears, I suggest reading Francis H. Fay’s 1982 “Ecology And Biology Of The Pacific Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus, Divergens Illiger.” In the 1950s, Fay was concerned that the walrus was headed for extinction due to over-hunting for ivory and blubber so Fay set out to document everything there was to know about walruses.

In his tome, Fay published early 1900 observations by Russian researchers who admired the polar bears’ varied and clever tactics for hunting walrus.

“The walruses on Peschan Island are frequently bothered by bears, which creep up to them under cover of uneven terrain and of driftwood, of which there usually is an abundance, along the shore. Sometimes the bears dig pits in the sand or make a pile in front of themselves in order to hide from the walruses. We saw a bear in a pit dug in the driftwood within 50 m of the herd, where it watched for a long time. Suddenly, it leaped from its concealment and plunged along the flat terrain toward the walruses. The animals, upon seeing the running bear, rushed into the water, and when the bear reached those on shore, only a few large males remained, and these gradually pivoted into the water, threatening with roars and swinging tusks. The bear in his misfortune was unable to decide whether or not to enter the water and only brandished his paws helplessly and growled in discontent. Not infrequently, in the confusion, the adult walruses crush some young; possibly, at the time of the attack, the bears hope to profit from such accidentally crushed or abandoned young.”

Anyone familiar with the scientific literature knows polar bears have been hunting walruses since recorded history and most certainly before that time. More recently researchers reporting to the Polar Bear Specialist Group meeting speculated that hunting walruses on land was likely to be a behavior that has allowed bears to survive the lack of sea ice that was far more common through out the Holocene Optimum.

For example, Wrangel Island is both home of one of the largest known polar bear denning areas in the Arctic as well as the location of several traditional walrus land haul-outs each summer. Because walruses often get trampled at these haul-outs, bears eagerly supplement their diet by feeding on the trodden carcasses. In addition, polar bears will wait at these haul outs anticipating the summer wave of walrus herds that typically come ashore and then dine on weak or young walruses. Seasoned bears know to avoid a healthy bull.

In 2007 the 2nd greatest decrease in Arctic sea ice was observed in the waters surrounding Wrangel Island. That summer researchers observed the greatest number of polar bears on the island. However, contrary to the less ice­­-means-starving-bear theory, there were no signs of increased nutritional stress. Quite the opposite.

Anticipating the seasonal haul-out of walruses, the bears concentrated along the beaches where they were easily observed by researchers who determined that less than 5% of the Wrangel Island bears were designated skinny or very skinny. That compared very favorably to the 7 to 15% of skinny bears observed in previous years with heavier ice. Furthermore researcher determined that not only did 29% of all bears look “normal”, the remaining 66% were fat or very fat. Those polar bear experts wrote, “Under certain circumstances, such as were observed on Wrangel Island in 2007, (Ovsyanikov and Menyushina 2008, Ovsyanikov et al., 2008), resources available in coastal ecosystems may be so abundant that polar bears are able to feed on them more successfully than while hunting on the sea ice.

With that scientific background, view Attenborough’s rendition and ask yourself if he is objectively narrating the video. He ignores the bears and walruses’ natural history to suggest polar bears have only recently attacked walruses out of desperation. Attenborough suggests the lone bear had been desperately swimming for days trying to reach the island. However, without a radio-collar on the bear, one must wonder if Attenborough is using creative license. And why is Attenborough “serendipitously“ set up in this location to film this event??? Is it a traditional walrus hunting spot and not the rare event his video suggests?

Researchers have documented instances of younger bears who have not mastered hunting walrus that resulted in injury, but it is a matter of a younger bears evolving experience. Attenborough marries an uncommon hunting failure to climate change. Playing sad music, he suggests that bears only attack walruses as an unnatural last resort; suggesting that, in essence, it is a climate change driven act that is suicidal and doomed to increase.

To my increasing dismay, my former wildlife hero seems to be plunging more deeply into climate propaganda. Attenborough has a new series on Discovery called Africa but it might as well be called “Let’s Push Climate Fear“.

Take for instance his video segment, shown below, on Green Turtles. He accurately tells us that unlike humans who determine gender via the X and Y chromosomes, Green Turtles (as well as several other reptiles) determine the next generation’s gender based on the temperature of the developing eggs. Researchers realized this when trying to save endangered sea turtles from depredation and dug up their eggs to “safely” incubate them. Fearing that buried eggs at the bottom of the pile had not benefited equally from the sun’s warmth, the eggs were laid out evenly on trays so all could incubate at the same temperature. The result was uni-sex baby turtles.

However, turtles have been around since the dinosaurs and their temperature-gender system has been completely successful throughout monumental periods of climate change, massive extinctions, and epochs with far warmer temperatures than today. Attenborough should tell his audience that micro-climates are far more critical to their success as well as informing the public that temperatures drop off dramatically with depth in the sand. Nonetheless he warns that due to global warming, female turtles will soon have great difficulty finding a male. Shameful propaganda Sir David!

Video: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/africa/videos/sea-turtles-face-climate-change.htm

* Author Jim Steele is Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University.


Literature cited

Fay, F. (1982) Ecology and Biology of Odobenus rosmarus the Pacific Walrus, divergens. US. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, North American Fauna, No. 74.

Ovsyanikov N.G., and Menyushina I.E. (2008) Specifics of Polar Bears Surviving an Ice Free Season on Wrangel Island in 2007. Marine Mammals of the Holarctic. Odessa, pp. 407-412.

Segments of this essay are adapted from Jim Steele’s Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Historic Syrian Election Brings Multitudes of Voters

By Brenda Heard | Friends of Lebanon | May 29, 2014

On the 28th May 2014, expatriated Syrian nationals in numerous countries flocked to Syrian embassies to begin the voting process in a presidential election. With all its potential flaws, perhaps even inherent flaws, this quintessential element of democracy is still the most effective means of finding consensus. As the saying goes, you can’t please all the people all the time. Thus elections provide an opportunity for peaceful compromise. But to work, democracy requires participation.

President Bashar al Assad is being challenged by Maher Hajjar and Hassan Nouri, even if sneered at by those who label them as merely symbolic candidates. Yet instead of offering strong opponents to al Assad, those aligned with the opposition parties of the Syrian War have boycotted the election, calling it a mockery, a parody, a joke. Likewise, many expats have been unable to vote because their host countries have either closed their Syrian Embassies or have banned the election process. Notable examples are Australia, Belgium, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

As thousands upon thousands of Syrians made their way to embassies around the world to vote, US President Obama addressed the West Point Military Academy and proclaimed that the US would “ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition” and that the US would “coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis.” Such a stance is nonsensical. Isn’t an election the essence of a political resolution? Instead, the US has led the Western world in denouncing the election as a farce, and in fomenting division.

The context of Syria’s war is long and complex. The bottom line, however, is that far too many people have suffered. Many Syrians oppose the al Assad government. Many Syrians support the al Assad government. Unless an agreement is reached between the two camps, they will both suffer a dismal war of attrition. This election could have been an opportunity to take a path of compromise and cooperation. Instead, it has been refused and ridiculed.

Typical of Western media coverage, the Washington Post reduces the election to a “forceful affirmation of [al Assad’s] tightening grip on power.” The Post bemoans that “Assad is expected to win easily because there are no serious challengers,” saying that the “constitution has been carefully crafted to exclude political opponents.”  Has it?  The constitution is here, with the relevant section beginning with Article 83. Perhaps the Post is reading between the lines of what appear to be standard criteria for candidacy, but even the alleged stumbling block of a candidate’s needing approval from 35 of the 250 members of a citizen-elected parliament is surmountable. The National Progressive Front (aligned with al Assad) gained 168 seats in the May 2012 election, which if assuming absolute party-alliance, still leaves 82 non-aligned potential votes for the would-be candidate.  That pool might have been more, but the opposition boycotted that election as well, thus forfeiting the chance to gain authority.

Again typical of Western media coverage, the Post attempts to explain away the vast numbers of expat voters in Lebanon by saying:

“The large turnout here was spurred in part by a widespread rumor that those who do not vote will not be allowed to return home, a question of growing concern for those among the 1 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon who support the opposition but are losing hope that the rebels will prevail. Syrian authorities did not say this would be the case, but with all voters having to submit their identity papers to the embassy for registration, it is feasible that the government will know who voted and who did not.”

Well, yes, that is not only feasible, but quite normal. All governments check off the names of those voting in some fashion against a voter registration. Such an occurrence hardly validates this rumour. Even if a voter did cast his ballot for al Assad simply to ensure his future ability to return home, it would mean he felt that return preferable than the status quo. And even if this were the case with some expats, it does not explain away the obvious enthusiasm that is seen in the faces, statements and actions reported across the ideological spectrum.  As the Huffington Post’s World Post reports, support for President al-Assad “was splashed across everything from T-shirts to enormous signs that men carried” as “tens of thousands of Syrians living here [in Lebanon] cast their ballots.”

Of course there are ordinary Syrian citizens—“farmers or dentists,” as President Obama imagined the “ordinary Syrians”—who oppose the al Assad government. But as you can see and hear for yourself in the numerous reports of this election process, there are also many people who genuinely support his leadership, even after three years of bitter conflict.  While the election is surely a lost opportunity for working toward a common good, perhaps the passions exhibited act as a much needed reminder: Isn’t it time for compromise?

Reports for additional reading:

Al Jazeera: In Pictures: Syrians in Lebanon head to polls

Al Jazeera: Massive turnout for Syrian vote in Lebanon: Of the tens of thousands of expatriates flocking to their embassy to vote, a majority voiced support for Assad’s rule. (with video)

Guardian/Associated Press: Syrians in Lebanon battle crowds to vote for Bashar al-Assad: Massive turnout for ‘expatriate’ voting in embassies before Syria’s June election though many refugees boycott polls

BBC: Syria election: Refugees vote in Lebanon and Jordan

Washington Post: This is what the Syrian election looks like in Lebanon

International Business Times: Syria: Refugees Go to Polls in Lebanon to Vote for Bashar al-Assad

Huffington Post’s World Post: Syrians Flood Embassy In Lebanon To Cast Ballots In Presidential Election

Reuters: Tens of thousands of Syrians abroad vote in early poll

Lebanon Daily Star: Beirut roads paralyzed by Syrian voters headed to polls

Lebanon Al Akhbar: Syrian Expatriates Head to the Polls in Presidential Vote

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment