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Tag Archives: Syria

The wrong side of history

“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

 It’s been three weeks weeks since Vladimir Putin dropped his 50 megaton truth bomb on the United Nations General Assembly, exposing Washington’s mischief in the Middle East and calling for decisive action against any and all terrorists operating in Syria, in full cooperation with the elected government and under charter of international law. In this time Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the SAA have achieved what the US and its coalition partners had failed to do in 18 months of reckless bombing, wanton destruction, and untold human suffering – ISIS has been all but destroyed. Ground forces are now entering the clean up phase, and word has it Saudi helicopters have begun evacuating rebel fighters, presumably moving their assets on to Yemen.

The bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan has done little for US credibility, and after Ban Ki-Moon’s recent shock suggestion that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate and that they should probably go home, one would expect to see Obama running away with his tail between his legs. Adding to the chorus of dissent, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has called out Washington’s effort to oust Assad as both “counterproductive” and “illegal.” With no moral ground left to stand on, surely no one would expect an escalation at this point? And yet this seems to be exactly what we are seeing.

While Putin has been wiping the floor with ISIS, the US has been wreaking devastation on Syria’s civil infrastructure, conducting bombing raids on power stations and water treatment plants in scenes eerily reminiscent of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a move that’s either brazenly audacious or just plain sadistic, the US State Department has accused Russia of bombing up to six hospitals in Syria, but refuses to provide any evidence to support its claims. Meanwhile the US has airdropped 50 tons of weapons to moderate opposition head choppers fighting the ‘Assad regime’.

In what could be the ultimate provocation Obama is now putting boots on the ground in Syria, committing 3000 troops in an advisory capacity to the aforementioned ‘moderate rebels’. A more cynical person might question if these troops were not being deployed as human shields, or for even more nefarious ends, since any American casualty cause by a stray Russian missile would undoubtedly lead to the kind of direct confrontation that the Washington war hawks cheered on by Senator John McCain and cold war policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski are openly spoiling for. I guess if this fails there is always the option of shooting down a civilian passenger jet, but let’s not go there, just yet.

With millions of refugees flooding into Europe and people perishing in their thousands attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Nobel laureate and warmonger-in-chief Barry bin-Hussein O’Bomber can no longer pretend that this war has anything to do with human rights. Without so much as a fig leaf of decency to cover its fetid plans Washington continues to demand Basher al-Assad’s removal as a condition of peace. Meanwhile recent polling suggests that Dr Assad retains the support of 80% of Syrians. US motives have been laid bare. This war has no more to do with liberating the Syrian people from a brutal dictatorship than with ridding the world of the CIAs pet terrorists. Like so many countries before it, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, The Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the list goes on and on, Syria is being punished for daring to exercise an independent foreign policy, something which US hegemony does not tolerate.

If there was ever any confusion over sides in this conflict, the battle lines should be now clearly visible. Since Russia has begun flexing its military muscle the Saudi Islamists have made their call to arms, while further north in Erdoganistan, thanks to a well timed terror attack, the Muslim Brotherhood now has majority it needs to continue its military offensive on Syria and genocidal attacks against the Kurds. The Israelis have already sold the drilling rights for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, while Cypress has been signed into the EU just in time to deliver a $300bn water pipeline through Turkey to Israel. Meanwhile the North Atlantic Terror Organization positions its nuclear and biological weapons arsenals ever closer to Russia’s borders.

In his devastating takedown of US foreign policy in front of the UN General Assembly, Putin reminded his colleagues of Russia’s crucial role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, while hinting at a more subtle subtext. Just as the West created Hitler, applying pressure from above and below at a cost of millions of lives, so too the US has created ISIS to do its dirty work in the Middle East. Lest there be any doubt, Putin makes it clear, speaking of both Islamist rebels and the US backed coup which ousted the legitimate government of Ukraine: We know their names, we know who pays them, and we know how much they are paid.

In a recent interview with Kerry O’Brien, Paul Keating observed how the West through its policy toward post-soviet era Russia had created Putin, who has now turned around to bite them on the tail. Apparently that which doesn’t kill a bear makes it stronger. Trade sanctions have forced Russia to mobilise its workforce and increase domestic production while reaching out to other countries which refuse to be bullied by Wall Street and its military, forging stronger ties between the BRICS nations. At the same time we are seeing a shift in economic power as emerging industrial economies prepare to overtake their colonial masters. (China for example now holds the tender to deliver over priced nuclear energy to Britain.)

Recent posturing in the South China Sea suggests that the US is preparing for a war on two fronts, and if history is anything to go by, this will not end well. The US certainly has a gift for overplaying its hand, and in trying to squeeze Germany and Russia at the same time it may have done exactly that. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis which threatens to destabilise Europe, Angela Merkel has called for trade sanctions against Russia to be lifted immediately. While any move to embolden Russia should be welcomed by sane people everywhere as an alternative to US military and corporate domination, it may be cold comfort as we edge ever closer toward the likelihood of nuclear extinction.

 

Qatar: the new kid on the block in the Middle East

By Mike Mizzi

An old Arab motto goes something like this: “The young son against the elder brother, the elder brother against the father, the daughter against the mother, the family against the clan the clan against the tribe and the tribe against the world”.

In the current escalating wars in the Middle East we could almost trace this idea into every and each nation now embroiled in what is turning out to be a military fiasco brought on by a spark ignited way back after September 11 2001 when the US invaded Iraq.

The complexity of the scenario unfolding there is immense and so are the stakes.

Everyone knows of the major actors such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Iran but little has been said about the tiny and filthy rich oil state of Qatar.

Decreased US interest in the region creates an opportunity for regional actors such as Qatar to take on a greater role in the resolution of conflicts in the region. Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of London School of Economics and Political Science, believes that:

“The country took advantage of the unique niche which it had spent years crafting in order to play an astoundingly high-profile and increasingly controversial role in the uprisings. Initially, it displayed unprecedented regional leadership bordering on outright activism in responding to crises across the Arab world”.

There are also economic reasons that drive its policy.

In 2012 Felix Imonti, an analyst cited by Ansa Mediterranean, posed the article entitled Qatar: Rich and Dangerous, published by specialized website “Oilprice.com”. There he provided the clue to the real motives behind Qatar’s Middle East policy. Imonti suggested that:

“Qatar’s involvement in the Syria civil war was based in part on its desire to build a pipeline to Turkey through Syria. According to him, the discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way. Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the best organised political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus”.

That’s the gist of it. First and foremost it is a matter of finances. Transporting gas by pipeline is quicker and far more economical than cooling it down to liquid form to be shipped in specialised tankers. And although Saudi Arabia and Qatar may be working hand in hand to remove Bashar Assad from power, this is where their cooperation stops. Both the Saudis and the Qataris want to control the outcome of the Syrian conflict.

Enter Vladimir Putin.

At the Valdai discussion forum on October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin said some countries are playing a double game, adding that while they fight against terrorism they also “place figures on the board” in their own interests. “Success in fighting terrorists cannot be reached if using some of them as a battering ram to overthrow disliked regimes” Putin told the forum, saying that this way the terrorists would not go anywhere. “It’s just an illusion that they can be dealt with [later], removed from power and somehow negotiated with” he added.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already embroiled in an expensive and bloody war in Yemen that may limit both their military and financial resources. An overt intervention in Syria would be a gross violation of international law if it is not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council or conducted upon an invitation of Syria’s government. The notion that Qatar would even consider going into Syria against Russian forces is too bizarre to be considered let alone acted on. But there may be bigger cats in the bushes waiting to pounce once given the raison d’etre to act namely the USA and allies. America may just be biding her time to see how successful Putin is in pushing back ISIS and the other forces arrayed against Assad.

After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre the US moved its Middle East base from Saudi Arabia into Qatar, effectively giving Qatar client state bases and a launch pad into the Syrian theatre of war. The US has been in Qatar since the 1970s and has two bases there; the Al Udeid Air base which also services Australian and British air force squadrons.

So the idea that Qatar would be engaging in Syria alone would be facile. In fact current US operations in Syria would most likely be implemented from Qatar.

There is an odd prophetic overtone to all these gatherings of armies in the Middle East. It seems that a final battle for control of the lucrative Middle East oil and gas trade are definitely winding out.

As alliances form and the spoils eyed off a conflagration of epic proportions is in the making. The result of which will form the basis for the economic and cultural landscape across the entire region for decades to come.

 

They are not economic refugees, Mr Abbott

Liberated from his stand-in job as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is now free to impart his wisdom on the world stage.

Last night his ‘wisdom’ was on display as he embarrassed both himself and this nation in delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher Lecture in London to an audience of ‘British Conservative Party leaders and members’.

His speech left me cold.

The crux of his speech was to tell the European leaders how they should be dealing with the influx of Middle Eastern refugees. Naturally, his own views are the polar opposite to what is happening in the real world and how the Europeans are actually dealing with the human misery.

I only want to focus on one aspect of his speech, where he classed most of the millions of people fleeing the Middle East as ‘economic migrants’.

He said most of the millions pouring into Europe were not “genuine refugees”, rather “economic migrants.”

I can’t believe he said that. I can’t believe he believes it, either. If he does, then one must wonder how disconnected from reality he is.

For two years we have listened to him talk about death cults.

I’d say that most of these people are fleeing these death cults.

We know that most of these refugees are fleeing from Syria.

Shortly before his prime ministership came to an abrupt (and thankfull) end he had made the decision to bomb Syria. This is the country where families are being dragged from their homes and butchered in the streets. This is the country where you’re lucky to still even have a home. This is the country where people are randomly plucked off the streets and beheaded (before the video of their mindless murder is humiliatingly posted on YouTube).

This is the country where young girls are being raped before their lifeless bodies are dumped in some alley.

The young, the old, men and women are being mutilated.

This is the country that has turned into both rubble and a rabble.

This is the country where the super powers are possibly to soon engage in some seriously frightening engagements.

And some idiot who used to be our Prime Minister hops onto the world stage to implore the leaders of Europe to treat these miserable souls as economic refugees.

Maybe Syria is an economic mess. But there are other problems that Tony Abbott seems to forget about.

When you’re fleeing bombs and ‘death cults’ the economic stability of the country you are fleeing would be the least of your concerns.

Someone please take the microphone away from Tony Abbott.

 

Against radicalisation

By Barry Hindess

My title might seem to suggest an hostility to radicalisation, that is, to the thing itself – and thus as endorsing the general thrust, if not the actual detail, of Australian public policy towards what is widely seen as the threat of radicalisation. ‘Radicalisation’ is too often presented as something that happens to young people, often turning them into potentially violent extremists. Rather, it should be seen as an ugly figment of the security imagination unfettered, as this imagination so often seems to be, by serious thought. Accordingly, my title reflects an objection to the term ‘radicalisation’ and the ideas it represents.

While it might seem that ‘radicalisation’ could happen to any of us, that whatever views we might presently hold – green, liberal, socialist or conservative, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim or atheist – could become more ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’, when these terms are used without qualification they almost invariably target Islam. This is a problem that Malcolm Turnbull’s inclusive response to the recent Parramatta shooting shares with his predecessor Tony Abbott’s more confrontational stance. In a recent interview with ABC Radio National (PM, October 5 at 18.10), Turnbull insisted on the ‘need to counter radicalisation’ before going on to say that ‘We have to work with the Muslim community in particular very collaboratively … They are our absolutely necessary partners in combating this type of extremist violence.’ Here radicalisation and extremist violence are clearly viewed as issues that arise within the Muslim community, which is why they are ‘our absolutely necessary partners in combating’ them.

However, there are familiar varieties of extremism and of radicalism that are in no sense Islamic. Those of us who watched the recent Bendigo Mosque protests, whether in the flesh or, as in my case, through the security of our television screens, will have observed a truly frightening level of hatred and aggression on the part of some of the protestors. We have yet to see our leaders take a stand against the radicalisation of such people. There are Bhuddist extremists in Myanmar who terrorise the Rohingya Muslim minority. And again, there are militant evangelical Christian extremists in parts of Africa and in North and South America who are not often seen as posing a threat to the Western way of life. There are small groups of these Christian extremists in Australia but, whatever they may do to each other, they generally leave the rest of us in peace.

Leaving religion to one side, we often see radicalism and extremism in political life. At one time, political radicalism was expected of young people – at least, among those of a certain class, a class that allowed its members the luxury of experimenting with political allegiances. The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is reputed to have said ‘My son is 22 years old. If he had not become a Communist at 22, I would have disowned him. If he is still a Communist at 30, I will do it then’. Clemenceau’s comments suggest both an awareness that radicalisation might happen among the young and what now seems a remarkably optimistic response: give it time and it will likely pass.

More immediate examples of political extremism are neo-liberalism and the anti-refugee practices promoted by our two major political parties. The former is a doctrine that promotes radical economic change throughout the world – the privatisation of public assets and deregulation and marketisation of anything that moves. Margaret Thatcher did not come into the world as a neo-liberal extremist but, grew into it in her years as a politician. In other words, she was radicalised. Similarly for the IPA ‘s benighted publicists. Neo-liberal extremism poses a real threat to most people in the West, and to the rest of the world too. It is alive and kicking in the Coalition and, despite Kevin Rudd’s essays in The Monthly, still has disturbing levels of support within the Labor Party.

Australia’s refugee regime is a threat, whose brutality has been well-documented, to the well-being of anyone in its clutches. It is a clear case of irreligious Western extremism, suggesting that both those who run the regime’s camps and those who established them must have been radicalised, perhaps by the thought that being seen to be tough on refugees was a prerequisite of career advancement and/or political success. It is tempting to say something similar about Western military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to counter the threat of terrorism at its source. The manifest failure of these interventions and their counter-productive effects have lead, with the partial exception of Afghanistan, not to serious withdrawal from the interventions themselves but rather to their intensification (or radicalisation).

Another problem is that the term is not well-defined. Both here and in North America where it seems to have originated, it is little more than a reflection of the political concerns of those who use it. It refers to a process identified by its alleged results. Leaving aside the well publicised actions of Western powers in the Middle East, whatever else results in radicalism among Muslims is denounced as radicalisation. As often happens with public policy fads, far too many academics have identified themselves as ‘radicalisation’ specialists, thereby overlooking their responsibility to promote intellectual rigour in public life.

My point is not to deny that talk of radicalisation gestures towards a real problem or problems but it is to suggest that we should examine these problems more carefully before seeking actively to address them. We know that young people and more than a few of their elders, finding themselves alienated from the societies in which they live, sometimes seek support elsewhere and it is hardly surprising that this happens within the Muslim community. The reasons for this alienation and   responses to it may be many and various, sometimes including ill-informed talk of ‘radicalism’, ‘extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism’ and the intemperate actions of our governments. The politically-charged notion of radicalisation has little to offer our understanding of these issues.

Barry Hindess
School of Politics and International Relations,
Australian National University, Canberra

 

The end of the House of Saud?

By Mike Mizzi

Recent reports have it that there is a family feud going on in the House of Saud in Arabia. The Huffington Post reports that King Salman is possibly on his death bed and a letter leaked to the press indicates an in family plan to perform a coup by other members of the family.

A house divided shall surely fall, as the old adage goes and why should one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes on earth be exempt?

As we have seen throughout the ages, an oppressive regime, whether it be a monarchy like the Russian Czars or French emperors – or even Communists – have had a bad record of maintaining their grip on power when the people eventually rise up demanding freedom and some form of equality under the law and economically. From the Roman Empire right through to the Persians, Ottomans, British and Russians, internal and foreign ructions, the desire for a better life and the ever increasing oppression needed to keep a lid on the boiling pot has eventually back-fired and created the very fertile fields in which the seeds of freedom sprout and blossom. In American newspeak this is called “blowback”.

The American Revolution showed the world what a scantily armed people can do against enormous power in the form of the British redcoat army of King George. Similarly and much earlier, the peasants rising up in France swept away the ancient regime and produced one of the longest lasting democracies on earth, one which withstood the onslaught of Nazi fascism and is now dealing with the internal attack of Islamic fundamentalism. “Je sui Charlie” the banners shouted as Muslims were left with no doubt Liberté, égalité, fraternité remain the baseboard underlying much of what the French see themselves as. However, such notions have never been a part of the Islamic world and even more so in those proclaiming themselves to be kingdoms, like Saudi Arabia but that might all be about to change. The pressures under which the House of Saud has been under recently are manifold. Falling oil revenues have been bleeding the kingdom of its foreign currency reserves to the tune of $12 billion US per month. Houthi rebels in Yemen which borders the kingdom have been getting pummeled by the Sauds in airstrikes of inhumane ferocity and they are having the opposite effects in the Muslim world as the Huthi rebels gain more and more support and seem to be enduring these attacks by the Sauds in a cat and mouse game of epic proportions. No doubt Putin’s adventure in Syria may also motivate Muslims and further radicalise them against what many would deem infidel aggression.

The fundamental shift of power in the Middle East cannot be underestimated. What we are seeing is the bubbling up of resentment and what is at the moment a small tidal wave will soon become an all engulfing tsunami that will sweep entire regimes away. No one in the region is immune, not even the smug Ayotollahs can count on their power base remaining unscathed by what can only be called a revolution in the Muslim world. Too many years of Western ideals being promulgated and countered will produce a series of wars that will make WWII seem like a picnic. Billions of Muslims are rising up against the regimes which have kept them poverty stricken and powerless for too long. Despite military attacks such as Putin’s bombing in Syria, the wave of human misery it will cause will rebound and eventually Assad will be swept from power or be forced to run away to Russia at least. Sheer numbers alone will make all outside actions futile. After all, how long can Russia sustain a war in a far off land while its oil revenues dwindle as well? This is the same dilemma the house of Saud faces and with an inexperienced prince taking the throne it is likely vast reforms will have to be made or he will precipitate a downfall which will see Osama Bin Laden’s dreams come true. Once the Muslim hordes have been inflamed it will take a lot to douse the fire and the outcome will be a smouldering mess. We only need to look at the mess in Syria to get a glimpse of the coming scenario. Sunni and Shia are in a battle for their very existences. It is therefore understandable that the US and its allies will tactically withdraw from the Middle East and allow Russia and China to fill the vacuum. However, what they will inherit will be not a stable and prosperous Middle East but a cauldron of fire into which they will sink their nations’ lives and treasures.

As Sun Tzu advised: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him” (Sun Tzu, the Art of War). The bait in the case of the Saud’s and Syria are oil and territorial hegemony. However, as the chips fall one can be assured of one thing: sadly, millions will die and much will be destroyed.

 

Prometheus’ Adventures on the New Silk Road.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. – Thomas Jefferson

It is telling that the same idea of free trade which has become an article of faith for neoconservatives was once synonymous with Anglo-Dutch imperialism, the very system of oligarchy which the War of Independence and Civil War were fought to liberate America from. How ironic that this same ideal of freedom would become the wellspring of American exceptionalism. How strange that for a century and a half America has loyally served its masters as the jackboot of imperialism in the face of the global south, committing satanic acts of genocide in the name democracy across five continents. To understand how it all went so terribly wrong we must turn back the pages of history to an earlier time.

In the late 18th century Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton imagined an independent nation state free from the tyranny of oligarchy. Alas the confederate states remained indentured to the old world system of slavery and primary production, so emancipation was a while coming. A century later, abolishing slavery was for Lincoln less about embracing the humanist ideas of continental philosophy than casting off the chains of colonialism. Building an industrial economy was the order of the day, and high tariff protections and a massive inland rail project soon saw the US transformed into the fastest growing most prosperous economy the world had ever seen.

Having established itself as a power in its own right, the US imagined itself moving westward across the Pacific, just as the Europeans had previously sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. These new colonialists envisioned a more modern system of trade with Germany, Russia, and Japan, and set out to create a network of independent republics in its own image. During this time the United States and Canada helped to build the first Eurasian trans-continental railway, with Russia for its part committing to build a bridge across the Bering Strait.

Like America, the newly created nation state of Germany was also thriving at this time. Under Otto von Bismarck it had fought back Denmark and France and united the 39 states previously under Austrian rule to form the greatest power in Central Europe. Inspired by what the Americans had achieved, Bismarck next turned his attention to creating a vast system of railways and canals across continental Europe, which was to include a railway between Berlin and Baghdad. As chancellor, Bismarck had kept a cool head and maintained peaceful relations with his neighbours, particularly Russia. Sadly for history, the inbred Kaiser Wilhelm II disagreed with his politics and had him sacked more or less immediately upon coming to power.

The British Empire, a private-public partnership between the English monarchy and the British East India Trading Company, had ruled the waves for 200 years, trading gold and silver from Africa for cotton, silk and tea from Asia and the Americas. Control of sea ports and shipping lanes also gave Britain a monopoly in the trade of guns, opium, and most importantly slave labour. New overland trade routes presented a threat to this business model, and so Prince Albert Edward (Edward VII) plotted an end to the project by drawing Germany, Russia and France into a war to end all wars. This is the crucial background to WWI, or at least an abbreviated version to suit our purposes.

Edward had plotted and schemed for 20 years to create the circumstances in which the European powers would turn on each other and Britain could emerge victorious. Fomenting ethnic tensions in south-eastern Europe was not difficult given its population of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and other ethno-religious groupings; the varied detritus of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. By the early 20th century tensions were such that any small event could have easily triggered the descent into chaos, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo fit the bill nicely. With Tsar Nicholas having abnegated his treaty with Bismarck and sworn to defend Belgium, it was soon on for young and old (tho to be fair, mostly young.)

WWI was a battle in which millions of men shed their blood over inches of land. 17 million deaths later, Europe had been laid waste, all according to plan. The cost of reparations would be borne solely by Germany, which would surrender its fleet, its rail carriages, its steel production, its livestock, and ultimately the dignity of its people. Such was the price of the British Empire maintaining its prestige then, and from the age of steam to the petroleum era little has changed.

 

With the invitation to nuclear war beckoning from an artificial island somewhere in the enchanted South China Sea, and the office of the presidency of the United States soon up for grabs, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the principles and founding documents on which the world’s now dominant superpower was originally built. Jefferson’s inalienable right to life liberty and happiness was a deliberate misquotation of John Locke’s pursuit of life, liberty and property, a credo central to the work to Adam Smith, the Scottish moral philosopher and political economist credited as the father of modern capitalism. Herein lays an important distinction.

During the 1930s and 40s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed and implemented an economic policy which rebuilt the US economy from the ground up after the damage wrought by the great depression. After a failed assassination attempt, his first act as president was to create the Emergency Banking Act and Glass Steagall Act to underwrite savings deposits. Next was to create two million new paid jobs in parks and recreation, and begin an infrastructure program on a scale previously unimagined, putting dams and power stations near farms and bringing modernized agriculture and living conditions to rural America. Like Lincoln and Franklin before him, Roosevelt understood that the liberty implicit in the founding documents was first and foremost liberty from oligarchy. From 1933 to his death in 1945 he presided over an epic stimulus program which transformed a failed experiment in colonialism into a high tariff, high taxing, productive and prosperous economy.

 “We don’t approve of independent sovereign states.”- HG Wells, Things to Come, 1936.

While the rapid industrialisation of the United States may have given it the appearance of a superpower, to what extent it can be seen as an independent actor is a matter of opinion, since its money supply and to a large extent its foreign policy have remained for the most part under the control of the Rothschilds, Warburgs, Lehmans, Goldman-Sachs’, Rockefellers and other banking elites, a relationship set in stone by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Where Roosevelt had wanted not a bar of Churchill’s planned cold war, Harry Truman proved a much more pliable president. In a recent press conference Vladimir Putin invited us to consider whether Stalin would have used the atomic bomb against Germany in 1945 with Hitler almost defeated. Years after the dual atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dwight D. Eisenhower would observe: “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Eisenhower further warned in his famous valedictory speech of the growing threat posed by the military industrial complex. Was anyone listening? In 1963 JFK planned to issue government bonds as currency, effectively shutting down the Federal Reserve. This did not end well for Kennedy, and to this day Washington and Wall Street remain loyal servants of the Empire.

The post war period saw America’s physical economy hollowed out and the process of looting commenced in earnest. Roosevelt’s industrial economy was systematically dismantled. Real capital was siphoned off through privatisation and replaced with mountains of debt. Financial markets were deregulated, leading to a series of booms and busts of ever increasing magnitude. Public freehold over projects built with taxpayer dollars was handed over to private interests only to be rented back at a profit. Everything from roads to rail to water and the electricity grid was up for grabs, up to and including crucial parts of the military.

The business of war is lucrative, and the Bush family have been players for 3 generations. George Herbert Walker’s father Prescott Bush, as a director of the Union Banking Corporation, had helped fund Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in its rise to power. During the second Bush administration Dick Cheney’s stocks in Halliburton netted him a cool $40bn out of a war which cost the US taxpayer $1.7 trillion and left Iraqi schools, hospitals, roads, railways, and electricity and water infrastructure utterly devastated. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

 

Today we are witnessing the birth pains of a new superpower. This is as inevitable as it is unstoppable. The difference between the economies of the old and new world was principally that the Anglo-Dutch system was based on looting, whereas American capitalism was based on productivity. From the moment the US outsourced is manufacturing base to China and Brazil, the game was over. With almost total control of global manufacturing and new multibillion dollar funds for infrastructure and development, the BRICS force has finally reached critical mass.

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, when asked if Russia would survive sanctions, Putin replied: “Naturally, beyond any doubts, it is even out of discussion. Sanctions even have a certain advantage. Do you know what is it? The advantage is that previously we used to buy many goods, especially in the area of high technology, with petrodollars.” “Now, with the sanctions imposed and our partners having left our market voluntarily, we have an opportunity to develop.”

Compare Senator John McCain’s sabre rattling rhetoric in his recent article for CNN: “There is an opportunity here… to impose significant costs on an adversary that wants to undercut the United States everywhere.” “We must back up our policy in ways that check Putin’s ambitions and shape his behaviour.” “We must impose greater costs on Russia’s interests.”

In yet another case of history repeating, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now appears as the crucial pivot in this changing power dynamic. In statements made during the last fortnight she has not only acknowledged Russia’s historical claim to the Crimea, but also called for increased economic cooperation with Russia including the normalization of trade relations and the immediate lifting of all sanctions. This is in part to strengthen the important economic ties between the two countries, but crucially to help stem the flow of refugees into Europe caused by ongoing crises in the Middle East.

The balance of global power has shifted not just economically but it would also seem militarily. While no single country is capable on its own of taking on the US war machine, Russian ordnance currently deployed in Syria appears to be 10 years ahead of anything yet seen on the battlefield, including smart missiles which never miss their targets. Still in development is the Shenyang J31 fifth generation multipurpose medium range fighter, powered by Russian RD-93 engines and besting Lockheed-Martin’s F35 by orders of magnitude, rumour has it thanks largely to Chinese ‘cyber-terrorism.’

In every chapter of human history we see the entwinement of decadence and decline. While the empire has been busy plotting its own downfall through globalisation, free trade and the crippling economics of austerity, the war racketeers have reaped obscene profits. While greed and short-sightedness have led to the depletion of labour markets in first world countries, China, Russia and their partners have been getting on with business. With the $242 Billion High-Speed Beijing-Moscow Rail Link approved, China now plans to build a similar link to Damascus via Tehran. Obviously this cannot go ahead until Syria is stabilized and returned to its former status as a functional independent nation state.

Lest we be deceived into believing this latest clash of civilizations has anything to do with Islamist fundamentalism or the threat of global terrorism, we’d do well to consider the events and circumstances which have led us to war in times past. The game of empire has not changed; nor for the last century and a half have the players.

We are now living in the last days of empire. Only when the old institutions of finance and trade are finally swept away can there be any hope for a social order based on human dignity, which respects first and foremost the value of human life. The Malthusian economics of scarcity belongs to the past; our greatest resource has always been the creative potential of the human mind. Only through cooperation can we ever hope to solve the problems facing humanity – if we can’t manage to live together peacefully, how can we seriously hope to address the vitally important problems we face as a species; depletion of natural resources, destruction of habitat and climate change?

Human social evolution has already developed the mechanism required for humanity in all its complex diversity to coexist peacefully, not though aggressive interference by a single, strong and exceptional centre of world domination, but through respect for the sovereignty of independent nation states under the charter of international law. Sergei Lavrov made Russia’s position crystal clear in his article ‘History Lessons and New Frontiers’ in which he states that China and Russia are “stalwart opponents of imposing one’s will over sovereign states, including by force, introducing unilateral sanctions and practicing (a) policy of double standards.”

The current unilateral system of global politics now threatens the very survival of the species. Peace and democracy will only be possible when the old system of empire is replaced by a system of equality, guided by common values and common interests. Whether the current shift in power will move us closer toward this goal remains to be seen, but it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

The end of American exceptionalism?

By Mike Mizzi

Accusations of everything from being a Muslim Brotherhood plant in the Whitehouse to arming and instigating the growth of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or to the possibility of purposely fermenting WW3, the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama has been anything but dull.
Sometime next year an election will be held in the USA to find a new resident for the Oval Office but in the meantime the US has to contend with one of the most abrupt and seemingly speedy rise in recent times; that of the claim to power of Russia.

During his UN General Assembly speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin criticised and castigated Americans for the mess they have created in the Middle East. Like a cranky patriarch chastising a wayward child, Putin spread the verbal picture of the situation in Syria and Iraq out for the world to see and then asked the Americans; “Do you realise what you have done?

It seems a bit ingenuous of Putin to make such comments considering his country’s ongoing support for the dictatorship of Basher Al Assad in Syria which has caused the deaths of 250,000 human beings, most of who were non-combatant civilians.

So what are we seeing in Syria and Iraq? Is this another cold war or a flash point to a hot war between American and Russian proxies?

Putin dropped a bombshell recently when he suggested it was the Americans who were the author of ISIS in the region. Mind you, such suspicions have been circulating on the internet for months, if not years.

Of course Putin knows that his reputation has been dealt a vast uplift since taking on ISIS in Syria and he has been invited to do the same in Iraq. Iraq! Isn’t this the US centre of operations in the Middle East post the ousting of Saddam? Not for much longer it seems, as the Russian bear slaps mercilessly at the American eagle, clipping its wings in the theatre of Syria by destroying the operations centres of its ISIS hordes. Or perhaps we have just been sucked in by Russian propaganda. Whichever way you look at it, American uni-polarity and sole superpower status has been dealt a blow from which recovery will be slow and difficult considering Obama’s seeming weakness when it comes to decisive application of US force in the Middle East. Facing dissent from both the left and the right on the issue of wars and the money they consume, which many think could be better spent on things like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other necessary infrastructure in the USA, Obama is presenting himself as a president who is frightened to use American power decisively to win a war in Syria and rid the region of Assad. Unlike Bush and his single minded pursuit of Saddam and his regime’s downfall, Obama has left the attacks on Assad mostly up to a small group of local “rebels” and an army of foreigners from the Salfaist world to do America’s dirty work.

The obvious question here is, has Putin sounded the death knell to American hegemony and exceptionalism?

Putin’s success have shown he is a master strategist. He has stopped the absorption of Azerbaijan into the NATO umbrella, brought Crimea back into the Russian Federation, created a strong alliance with China and forced the halt of ongoing expansion of the US bases in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.

Image from facebook.com

Image from facebook.com

A popular cartoon which went viral in the Muslim world has a Russian bear bedecked with the colours of the federation’s flag striding confidently while three figures, one representing ISIS, another the CIA and another the rebels cowering behind a rock.

This cartoon has attracted comments which laud the new Russian ascendancy as being the balancing power needed in the world to check US military adventurism. So far it seems, at least in Syria, Putin has moved his pawns and knights to the fore while Obama dithers as to which move he will make next.

Finding her voice in all this is EU leader Angela Merkel who, in the spirit of real politick, recently said, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be involved in peace talks to end the Syrian war. “We have to speak with many actors; this includes President Assad, but others as well” Merkel said. “Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia”.

Her leaving out Israel is telling in its obtuseness, seeing as Israel has been actively supporting both sides of this conflict in what amounts to a hedge bet.

Whichever way the Syrian war pans out one thing is certain. The geostrategic polarity of the world will never be the same. Obama has overseen one of the swiftest declines of American influence and power for decades and his disengagement with direct military action may be a policy we will see from the USA for a while now. The question then will be, how far will Russia go in assuming its new status?

 

Zbignew Brezinski and the new world order

By Mike Mizzi

Working in the shadows of US imperial foreign policy is a well-known but still very hidden man, Zbignew Brezinski. This well-known professor’s doctrine has many followers outside of the Democratic Party because it has defined the actual imperative of the empire’s survival and prosperity: the conquest of Eurasia.  The instigator of the Trilateral Commission, a body which encompasses the US, Europe and Japan, Brezinski has been policy adviser to both Democrat and Republican presidents since the time of Jimmy Carter. As president, Carter stated the reduction of the military nuclear arsenal of the two blocks (U.S -USRR) as a priority. However, the Soviet SS-20 missile crisis aimed at Europe forced Carter to deploy the Pershing missiles, an action that ruined his efforts, whether they were sincere or not, and caused the reciprocal distrust of the two countries.

Heeding that development Brezinski eventually made a startling confession. In an interview with he French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur he was quoted as saying:

Le Nouvel Observateur: Former CIA director, Robert Gates, says in his memoirs: the American secret services assisted Afghan mujahedeen six months before the Soviet invasion. By that time, you were President Carter’s adviser and you played a key role on this. Do you confirm it?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of the story, the CIA began to assist mujahedeen in the year 1980, that is, after the invasion of the Soviet army against Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the truth that remained secret until today is quite different: it was on July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed his first order on the secret assistance to Kabul’s pro-Soviet regime opponents. That day I wrote a memorandum to the President in which I told him that that assistance would cause the Soviet intervention (…) we did not force the Russian intervention, we just, conscientiously, increase the intervention possibilities.
NO: When the Soviets justified their intervention by affirming they were fighting against a secret American interference nobody believed them, though they were telling the truth. Don’t you regret it?
Z. Brz.: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. Its objective was to lead the Russian to the Afghan trap, and you want me to regret it? The very same day the Soviets crossed the Afghan border I wrote the following to President Carter: «This is our chance to give Russia its Viet Nam» (…).
N.O.: Aren’t you sorry either for favoring Islamic fundamentalism and providing weapons and consultancies to future terrorists?
ZBrz.: What is the most important thing when you look at world history, the Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire? Some excited Islamists or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?

“When Brzezinski talked about «some excited Islamists» in this interview, he did not underestimate Al Qaeda’s power. He just described the reality of what the neo-conservatives has turned into a myth while justifying their world crusade. It is obvious that none of the members of the Council on Foreign Relations would be so categorical.”

Fast forward to the recent past wherein Brezinski is still lurking in the shadows during both Bush presidencies and is now firmly entrenched in the Obama clique as that president’s foreign policy adviser.

As recently as this week Brezinski has called on Obama to attack Russian military in Syria which destroy “US assets” there. And who are these US assets in Syria? Notably the so called Free Syrian Army which has morphed into an ISIS affiliate alongside Al Nusra and elements of Al Qaeda.

It would be much simpler just calling them “American hired Muslim mercenaries” as that is what they are. Hired guns used to topple regimes all over the Middle East including Saddam, Gaddafi, Mubarak and now Assad. Of course the plus advantage in Syria for the Brezinski doctrine is not just toppling Assad but also the roping in of Russia into an unwinnable ground war a la Afghanistan and Putin has swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker.

The reality is Putin had no choice. It was either get rid of ISIS or have them appear on his borders sooner or later. With NATO breathing down Russia’s neck on its western flank and US military bases peppered all over the Pacific rim and parts of Eurasia, it seems Brezinski’s long-term plan of encircling and invading Russia is in full swing.

But like most chess games the outcome is anything but certain and the world knows that when you invade Russia disaster ensues. Napoleon, and three attempts by Germany over 150 years which included Hitler’s attempt has shown Russia is not an easily invaded and conquered nation. In fact, up until now no one has succeeded. Perhaps Brezinski is a bit mad. Perhaps he is a bit of a genius, perhaps he is both. But one thing is for certain, he has proven himself to be potentially the most dangerous man of the last century and now this one. He could be ‘responsible’ for the deaths of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of civilians in all parts of the world. With the entry of China into the Syrian war theatre it might be that Brezinski is about to be checked if not check mated in his “great game” plan to dominate the planet from the US.

Are we headed for World War three? You betcha!

 

The pigeon and the chessboard, or why Obama should probably stick to golf.

A statement allegedly made by Russian President Vladimir Putin about U.S. President Obama has gone viral on the World Wide Web. The statement was, “Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game.”

The first item in my newsfeed this morning was an article explaining why Angela Merkel would like to see trade sanctions on Russia lifted. In an even more unusual twist, information has also come to hand that France and Germany may have plans to join Putin’s coalition in Syria. Now you’d think that bombing terrorists in Syria would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and yet some reports suggest that Russia managed to take out more IS targets in the first day of its air campaign than the US has in an entire year. Understandable when you consider who has been arming and training these terrorists.

Mr Putin seemed to take brinkmanship to a whole new level in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. His scathing attack on US exceptionalism was diplomatic but uncompromising as he warned America to stop acting out of imperialistic ambitions, and his bold commitment to carbon reduction provided the perfect sting in the tail of what was by any measure a glorious middle finger salute to his hosts. Poroshenko walked out, and while Obama tried his hardest to sound defiant, he couldn’t help but appear to be on the back foot. The subsequent meeting between the two leaders is said to have been a frank discussion in which little was resolved, despite running an hour over time. Mr Putin’s masterstroke tho was the Q&A which followed. “As far as I know Obama and Hollande are not Syrian citizens,” he reminded an eager press, “and can’t decide Syria’s future.” He went on to speak of the need to work within the framework of international law in resolving geopolitical conflict, namechecking Australia and noting that all uninvited incursions into Syrian airspace are actually illegal. “Of course Russia, France and Germany work in the Normandy format,” he said, with any implied sarcasm lost in the translation.

Barely 24 hours later Russia had begun launching air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria. The air campaign is predicted to last three to four months, and at the current rate ISIS and its affiliates will be lucky to see out the year. The western media propaganda machine is now in full swing, with Washington running a hard line that Russia is playing a dangerous game, and making a “catastrophic mistake” according to Kerry, which “could lead to Syria being destroyed.” These words incidentally were spoken just hours before the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz which killed 19 civilians including 9 hospital workers and injured dozens more. An apology has since been issued by NATO, citing ‘collateral damage’. Needless to say this could not have come at a worse time for Obama.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the US military to stay out of the way in Syria, to which Kerry has responded with a firm and resounding no-siree, arguing that their support of the democratically elected Syrian government puts Russia and Iran alone against the world. The reality however may be just the opposite. With more Putin devotees signing up by the day, it may well be Washington which now finds itself isolated. It seems the US-Saudi plan of unleashing controlled chaos on the Middle East is rapidly unravelling, and ISIS and its affiliates are starting to look more and more like multi-billion dollar stranded assets.

In exposing this duplicity Putin has lifted his head above the parapet of geopolitics and proven himself a world leader to be reckoned with; a man who doesn’t mince his words and whose actions are spoken loudly. No doubt the US will still try to knock over all the pieces and shit on the board, but maybe we can all rest a little easier knowing there’s a new cop on the beat.

 

Talking up Australia’s Middle Power Diplomacy

Denis Bright invites feedback on the merits of a more independent Australian foreign policy. The author claims that the Australia United States (US) Alliance in The Post 9/11 Era has become embedded in stronger security, economic and cultural ties within a template model of Australian politics. This is a national sovereignty issue which Prime Minister Turnbull must address as he flags commitment to an Australian republic.

What are the implications for Australian sovereignty of the broadening and strengthening of commitment to the Australia US military alliance in The Post 9/11 Era?

From a security oriented arrangement between sovereign states under the ANZUS Treaty of 1951, the Alliance has evolved into complex whole of government accords which extend from traditional defence links to incorporate stronger security, economic and cultural ties.

Both countries share a commitment to market-based development, a low taxation base for the delivery of non-military government services as well as the expected long-standing commitments to mutual defence within an increasingly predictable template model of Australian politics.

Application of this wider template model in both Australia and the US has already brought widespread disenchantment with mainstream politics.

After five Prime Ministers since 2007, many Australians are not really comfortable with a society that is being restructured on Anglo-American lines.

Even in the US itself, this style of neo-conservatism has imposed an appalling income divide, falling real wages and real sectors of disadvantage.

This is hardly exportable as a model political system.

Australian lobbyists now talk up the profile of business corporations, the enduring role for the armed forces or the need for more law enforcement and domestic security. These establishment voices are echoed in most of the print media and eyewitness news reporting.

Welcome to the template world of Australian politics with its financial limits on the delivery of essential infrastructure and services despite ongoing commitments to overseas military deployments.

In reconstructions of Australian history in the mainstream media, images of military deployments have long triumphed over attention to the domestic political struggles for social justice in a more inclusive social market economy. Indeed by 1915, Australians had twice elected a national social democratic government with a majority in both houses of parliament.

The Australian electorate also voted on two occasions to reject the need for conscription to the Western Front in Europe in 1916-17.

The template of public sector austerity does not of course extend to the outreach of the US Global Alliance.

Protecting Australia from the unknown? ((www.globalresearch.ca)

Protecting Australia from the unknown? ((www.globalresearch.ca)

Joint and US Base facilities in Australia are now well entrenched.

Australia’s current involvement in joint military exercises means that our military commanders must decide spontaneously when an exercise becomes fully operational.

SBS news updates warn of possible offensive involvement of the Pine Gap Joint Communication Base in the targeting of US drone strikes from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa.

Australia’s proactive involvement within the US Alliance also includes commitment to the political stabilization of the adjacent Asia Pacific Region.

The greatest local regional challenge for Australia is steering Indonesia away from its long-term non-aligned status towards a greater association with allied countries in domestic counter-terrorism and towards a more critical stance on the rise of China as a military power in the South China Sea.

The military profile of the US in Indonesia has risen under President Obama. While Indonesia maintains its military ties with major international arms suppliers, the US Defense News applauds the increasing focus on US suppliers as well as military training programmes from Australia and the US.

During a sensitive phase in Australian Indonesian relations over the fate of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, called for closer military co-operation between the armed forces of Australia and Indonesia.

Such poorly-timed strategic advice accompanied by lobbying for the purchase of Reaper drones by Australia would not have been welcome in earlier stages of the ANZUS Treaty of 1951 with its insistence on constitutional processes to protect Australian sovereignty.

Historical background: Australia as a stable democratic frontier within the US Alliance

The suffocating conformity to the demands of the US Alliance was not just imposed upon Australia by successive US administrations. This has always been a trump card in the LNP’s domestic political arsenal.

Prime Minister Harold Holt won a sweeping victory at the national election on 26 November 1966 after a pre-arranged tour by President Johnson was conveniently slotted into the last days of the national election campaign.

The election was largely a referendum on the merits of Australia’s support for the US Alliance in South Vietnam. The LNP received its best primary vote since 1934 to that date.

Under the leadership of Gough Whitlam as both Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, the electorate was able to become more critical of The All the Way with LBJ Mantra of 1966.

With the election of Prime Minister Fraser in 1975, Australia returned to its old dependent status within the Alliance.

Our shared secret, Malcolm: Our new Peacekeeper is on its way  (image from news.com.au)

Our shared secret, Malcolm: Our new Peacekeeper is on its way (image from news.com.au)

During a spike in the Cold War, Malcolm Fraser and Ronald Reagan negotiated the symbolic involvement of Australia in testing the accuracy of MX Missiles fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Labor’s return under Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1983 brought a government with power sharing between the dominant right groups and various left factions. At the grassroots level, peace and disarmament groups had a big following. There was strong sympathy in both the Labor caucus and the wider community for the bans on US nuclear powered or nuclear armed naval vessels by the New Zealand Government.

Prime Minister Hawke faced a potential revolt within the Labor caucus over the continuation of the Fraser Government’s MX missile test protocols as arranged by the previous government. Bob Hawke was able to defuse the caucus problems with a complex series of brilliant Win Win manoeuvres.

Australia withdrew from a non-essential direct involvement in the MX Missile tests. This permitted Prime Minister Hawke to talk up opposition to New Zealand’s embargo on either nuclear powered or nuclear armed vessels.

With New Zealand excluded from active participation in the ANZUS Treaty, Australia proceeded to professionalise security consultations with the US through the formation of the Australia-US Ministerial Council (AUSMIN) in 1985.

The US Embassy in Canberra still maintains an eloquent interpretation of AUSMIN arrangements.

Held regularly since 1985, the AUSMIN talks provide a valuable opportunity for Australian and U.S. officials to discuss a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues.

Embassy of the US, Canberra 2015 (http://canberra.usembassy.gov/irc/us-oz/ausmin.html)

The new arrangements were a big win for the US in widening the scope of visits by US nuclear powered ships and the transportation of nuclear weapons through Australian ports.

After a senate inquiry in 1988, the prevailing centre-right majority within the Hawke Government was prepared to live with the consequences of nuclear incidents in Australian ports:

The US has confirmed to us that in all routine peacetime circumstances, US naval weapons are securely and safely stowed in an unarmed condition where they are protected from fire and electrical activity. The US Navy’s safety procedures take full account of the risks arising from sources of electromagnetic radiation as well as unauthorised access being gained to the nuclear weapons…The nuclear material in modern nuclear weapons is kept together with the other components of the weapon at all times. This does not however affect the possibility that a nuclear weapon accident might occur or that accidental nuclear detonation might eventuate.

Letter from the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Kim Beazley (1988) as tabled at the Senate Inquiry into Visits to Australia by nuclear powered or armed vessels

Even during the Republican Presidencies of Ronald Reagan (1980-88) and George H. W. Bush (1988-92), there seemed to be few objections to specific assertions of Australian independence in defence and foreign policy issues.

However, the events of 9/11 rekindled the old spirit of Australian dependence within the US Alliance. Prime Minister Howard had debts to repay to the US for its diplomatic support for Australia’s intervention in East Timor in 1999. The electorate was also ready to accept the threat of Jihadi terrorism as a viable substitute for the perils of perceived communist threats in the Cold War Era.

The Australia US Alliance in the Post 9/11 Era

This rekindled Australia US Alliance in The Post 9/11 Era was qualitatively different from the Cold War ANZUS treaty of 1951. It is now more deeply embedded in US economic diplomacy to consolidate the more strident financial leadership roles of the US and its key allies in the management of global capitalism.

Latest corporate data from the McKinsey Global Institute, shows the relative success of US economic diplomacy in recovering from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

With a mere 14% of corporate profits, Chinese firms were hardly a threat to the dominant western multinational brands.

Associate Professor Ho-Fung Hung at John Hopkins University made an appropriate interpretation of the still dependent status of China in the global economy. His article entitled America’s Head Servant: The PRC in the Global Crisis is readily available.

There is of course a longer term strategic risk for the US if China develops a more effective global financial outreach within an alternative brand of social market capitalism with obvious appeal to the developing world as a more altruistic form of capitalism.

US strategists must be comforted by the positive drift in corporate profits to industries associated with research and development, corporate communication, software and algorithms. These are in the economic sectors of pharmaceuticals, media, finance and information technology. All these commercial achievements are reinforced by the close co-operation between the business sectors of the US and those of its key allies.

New financial hubs are crucial in maintaining the financial supremacy of the western model of global capitalism. The Australia US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and European Union (EU) countries are all crucial milestones in the consolidation of US economic diplomacy.

Prime Minister Turnbull is still committed to the neo-conservative policy template of market based economic development, less commitment to direct government intervention, a low taxation base and unswerving loyalty to the US in defence and foreign policy commitments.

President Obama’s current charismatic style has made it somewhat easier to promote the template model of market-based politics since 2008. Australians must also anticipate less predictable changes in US Global Alliance Systems in the event of another neo-conservative Republican administration with more assertive foreign and defence policies.

Australia’s successful record in Middle Power Diplomacy

Earlier generations of Australian leaders could afford to be more even-handed about the direction of the US Alliance.

The Hawke Government was factionally broad enough to accommodate some token changes in Australia’s relationship with the US.

US control over the renamed Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap became slightly more accountable after 1988.

Even some meetings of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security were hosted at Pine Gap Base during the Rudd-Gillard years. No minutes of the deliberations were published on the Australian parliamentary site.

Senator Gareth Evans as foreign minister (1988-96) became the outstanding architect of the Cambodian Peace Plan of 1989.

The plan was a UN sponsored initiative. It brought together all four Cambodian factions, the six ASEAN countries, the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, Canada and India as well as Zimbabwe (representing the Non-Aligned Movement) and a representative of the UN Secretary-General.

This moved Cambodia from an ongoing security and humanitarian crisis to a broader peace initiative under UN auspices.

Andrew Peacock as Foreign Affairs Minister in the Fraser Government broke with the US in withdrawing diplomatic recognition from the remnants of the Pol Pot Regime which soon lost all its significant territorial controls after the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia from late 1978.

Some parallels with the current Syrian crisis must be noted.

President Obama has now incorporated the positive achievements of German diplomacy from an innovative Middle Power within NATO.

A generation ago, Gareth Evans also proposed that Middle Powers like Australia could make a substantial contribution to peace and disarmament which is largely off the radar in Australian politics.

All these commitments have been overshadowed by the international politics of The Post 9/11 Era.

Instead of confronting Israel for its failure to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or international protocols against the use of chemical and biological weapons, Australia under the LNP could not even support the highly symbolic gesture of allowing the Palestinian flag to be raised at the UN Building in New York.

Australia voted with the Israel, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau and Tuvalu to support the US in opposing this symbolic resolution in the General Assembly on 10 September 2015.

This isolation of Australia from mainstream world opinion extended to a reflexive commitment to support a minority of NATO in the bombing of Daesh installations in Syria while the current round of international diplomacy was in its initial stages.

With the support of other responsible middle powers like Germany, Australia could have gained traction for some alternatives to the current misery in Syria as early as 2012.

Writing in The Guardian Online on 15 September 2015, Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde welcomed the new US approach to the Syrian crisis. It was interpreted as a return to the recommended negotiating stance of the UN Syrian Group of February 2012. The Elders in the group had included Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The civil war in Syria had taken 7,500 lives by February 2012. Now the toll has already reached 250,000 with 11.5 million Syrians homeless. Four million Syrians have sought sanctuary in adjacent Middle Eastern and European countries.

Revisiting Australia’s involvement in the bombing of Daesh installations in Syria

Australia’s recent decision to follow a request from the US to become involved in the bombing of Daesh installations overlooked the complex nature of the civil war in Syria.

The conflict map shows a mosaic of misery across Syria with the government of President Assad in charge of much less than half the country.

Syrian conflict map 16 September 2015 (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 2015 authorized by Pieter Van Ostaeyen (https://pietervanostaeyen.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/2000px-syria15.png?w=640)

Syrian conflict map 16 September 2015 (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 2015 authorized by Pieter Van Ostaeyen (https://pietervanostaeyen.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/2000px-syria15.png?w=640)

Even Syria’s capital, Damascus, is besieged by a network of rebel forces with no direct links to Daesh forces. On the nearby Golan Heights, illegally placed Israeli forces stand ready to intervene in the conflict should Damascus fall to Jihadi rebel forces.

While Germany was one of the 45 countries which abstained from voting on the symbolic Palestinian flag issue in the UN General Assembly, it was not prepared to participate in the US inspired bombing of Daesh installations in Syria at this stage in the conflict.

In the interests of a pragmatic peace in Syria, Chancellor Merkel knows that there is no advantage to NATO if the Syrian capital should fall to Jihadi rebels in an absolutely failed state which may only advantage Daesh forces in the longer-term.

Besieged by refugees from war-torn Syria, the German Government supports peace initiatives to avoid the continuing conflict between the Assad Government and an array of rebel forces.

As one of the ministers in Germany’s Grand Coalition, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) has raised the prospects of a peace initiative with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In holding off from involvement in bombing operations in Syria, Chancellor Merkel mentioned to Germany’s DW News Network that “We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well.” This would include “Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia.”

These German initiatives for peace in Syria are very similar to proposals from the Syrian Group which was rejected by both the US and the UK in 2012. Details are available in The Guardian Online.

It is appropriate that US Secretary of State, John Kerry and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop now endorse these proposals.

Meanwhile, the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus is often hit in the cross fire between forces loyal to President Assad and a myriad of rebel groups.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop’s welcome change of heart on Syria is perhaps a sign of greater independence within the Australia US Alliance under the new Prime Minister.

Let’s hope that Malcolm Turnbull’s uses his understanding of contemporary globalization to review all aspects of the current template model of market-based politics which is causing so much distress in both societies. .

denis brightDenis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). He has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing progressive public policies that are compatible with commitments to a social market model within contemporary globalization.

 

Julie Bishop’s Epiphany on the Road to Damascus

It comes as welcome news that Australia is set to abandon its opposition to Bashar al-Assad as part of a durable peace settlement in Syria.

The recent military escalation by Russia and reported sightings of Chinese war ships in the Mediterranean in the last week must come as something of an embarrassment to the war hawks in Washington, and the knives may well be out for whichever rookie secretary forgot to register the war on terror as a trademark. Still this has done little to change the tri-partisan rhetoric coming out of Canberra. “I don’t for a moment shy away from the comments that we have made in the past about the illegitimacy of the regime.” “President Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, and the death and destruction in Syria is appalling and at unprecedented levels”, Ms Bishop recently said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In hearing these remarks I can’t help be reminded of the outrageous claims and bald faced lies which led us into war in Iraq in 2003. Whatever happened to all those weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was stockpiling? Was he able to secretly shield them from UN weapons inspectors with an invisibility cloak? Perhaps the same cloak that Dr Assad is using to hide his chemical weapons arsenal? Or the one that Iran is evidently using to conceal its uranium enrichment program? Not to put too fine a point on it, but when the executive director of Human Rights Watch is leading the cheer for the removal of the legitimate government of a sovereign nation state which currently enjoys the support of 80% of its people, one might wonder if we are being told the whole truth.

Having taken part what now seems like an age ago in the rallies against the 2003 invasion of Iraq – the biggest protests Australia has seen since the Vietnam War, I’m more than a little miffed at the lack of public outrage at Australia’s compliance in 2015. Perhaps the media is doing a better job of selling its lies and deception this time around, but so far I remain unconvinced. I am tired of the blatant propaganda surrounding this illegal war. I’m tired of the persistent references to “civil war” in a country which is clearly being attacked by outside forces. I’m tired of hearing the government of Syria constantly referred to as “the Assad regime”, and carnal knowledge of dead animals aside, I’m well tired of David Cameron referring to Bashar al-Assad as a butcher.

So far as Washington’s support for terrorists is concerned, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag. I have argued this extensively in other essays, but it doesn’t take a political analyst to see that Obama, Netanyahu, Ergdogan, Salman and Abdullah before him have been working hand in glove with various terror groups to destabilize and ultimately remove the Syrian government for their own nefarious ends. Washington’s war hawks have bypassed congressional appropriations by directing their client state Saudi Arabia to deploy radical anti-Syrian (and often anti-US) militants against Assad, unleashing a wave of terror on the region. Playing both sides against the middle may have some merit in games of strategy, but willingly supporting terrorists who commit atrocities against civilians by any other name is still a war crime.

Of course there are many players in this proxy war, each with their own interests: Obviously there’s the US and its allies, who in their relentless quest for world domination just can’t seem to keep their grubby hands out of other people’s business. In their latest adventure, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in collusion with Wall Street insiders had contrived to control the entire region’s oil and gas reserves and to weaken Russia and Iran by selling cheap oil to China.

There’s Russia, whose soft underbelly comprises almost every country ending in ‘stan’ from which Islamist extremists might enter its borders. Already feeling the squeeze of tough trade sanctions since the shooting down of MH17, this manipulation of the oil market, despite weakening its economy, will likely strengthen its resolve.

There’s Israel, a newly created, US backed, militarised rogue state whose original British colonial design includes not just the annexation of both the West Bank and Gaza but of all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates including parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Sinai, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. (The plan for Greater Israel involves the Balkanization of surrounding Arab states, beginning with Iraq, which is to be divided into Shia and Sunni territories and a separate Kurdish state.)

There’s China, an emerging superpower now lumbered with a stalling economy and forced to choose between a ready supply of cheap oil and the prospect of the war in Syria spilling into Iran, Southern Russia and eventually breaching its own western borders.

There’s Germany, which seems to have embraced the prospect of close to a million new low paid workers with the same enthusiasm with which it welcomed the surge of cheap skilled labour at the close of the Soviet era (an attitude perfectly consistent with EU ambitions to enforce human misery through austerity.)

And then there are the endless hordes now beating a path to Europe in what’s been called the biggest mass movement of refugees since WWII. It’s not just the Alawites, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities once protected under Syria’s Ba’athist government who now face a grim future, but the entire Syrian population, of whom more than half are now internally displaced or have fled in fear for their lives. Pray tell what conceivable form of ‘regime change’ would ever allow these people to return to their homes?

Syria was and is the last secular nation state in the Middle East, and as has been argued by many, not least President Putin himself, it is for the people of Syria and nobody else to decide who will govern them. Russia is now working in concert with Iran, Hezbollah and other regional partners to end the horror brought to bear by Washington’s incessant meddling, and while Obama still condemns Russia’s strategy as “doomed to failure” and continues to demand Assad’s ultimate resignation, this outcome is looking increasingly less likely.

While China’s last minute arrival is obviously a game changer, it’s not like the US were never invited to the party. Putin’s attempts to forge an alliance of nations to deal with the growing threat of global terror have never specifically excluded US participation, but with the US demonstrably the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, it does make things a little awkward. As well as Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, the new coalition looks likely to include all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO); Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tajikistan. This poses an obvious question right off the bat. Is Washington really afraid that Russia’s intervention will make matters worse in Syria? Or rather that putting an end to ISIS once and for all might render the US irrelevant?

What emerges from this picture is a strong sense that Washington’s war hawks are losing, or have lost, their grip over Middle East politics. The Iranian moderates who are inclined to cooperate with the West for economic reasons are naturally allied to Russia where the Syrian ISIS threat is concerned; the Gulf monarchies seem only too happy for Russia to broker a peace between warring Shi’ite and Sunni factions, and with Russia now flexing its military muscle, Netanyahu is hardly likely to be spoiling for a fight either.

Whether or not any of this could lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East it’s too early to say, and with the likes of Carly Fiorina now set to trump Trump for the GOP candidacy, and Hilary Clinton still a likely choice for the Democrats, Washington’s campaign for global hegemony is unlikely to end any time soon. It does however seem that we may have reached a turning point. Could the battle for Syria prove a victory for peace and diplomacy in an increasingly multi-polar world? Or is this how WWIII begins?

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

By Mike Mizzi

On April 29th 2012 Muaz Nukkari’s car exploded five minutes after he had parked it. He was on his way to work. Muaz is a lawyer and poet. The bombers were suspected to be operatives of who many believe are Western backed rebels who had been sent to Damascus to cause maximum fear and chaos amongst Basher Al Assads Alawite heartland.

This is the story about Syria that Western mainstream media will not tell. Despite a plethora of stories on the social media websites, alternative news sites and YouTube, the official narrative about Syria is that Assad and his people are being besieged by “terrorists” of the Islamic State and so called “local rebel forces.” What that narrative leaves out is that the rebels were armed and financed by Qatar at the behest of its staunch ally the USA, which has its largest Middle East base on its soil.

The Qatari royal family is a tribe called the Al Thani clan, a super oil rich group who run their nation like a medieval fiefdom wherein the locals are some of the wealthiest people per capita on the planet and the work is done by imported, indentured slaves whose lives are hard and miserable for the most part. Recent revelations of multiple deaths of labourers working on the World Cup soccer stadium in Doha has focussed the world’s attention on Qatar momentarily, but for all intents and purposes very little has changed for the guest workers who flock there from poorer Muslim nations seeking a chance to make some money. Qatar, has it’s finger in many pies and is now reportedly the major sponsor of Wahhabi terrorism in the Middle East, having taken that honour from Saudi Arabia.

Muaz has been a Facebook friend of mine for two years now. We have exchanges on a range of subjects and we differ greatly concerning Israel and its right to exist. He considers himself an enemy of what he terms “the Zionist regime,” citing Israel’s seeming aggression and expansionist policies in the Golan Heights, an area gas rich and once Syrian territory. Syria lost the Golan in a short war in 1967. Now a consortium comprised of Rupert Murdoch and the Rothschild banking cartel are investing heavily in exploiting that gas. In the Middle East, ancient rivalries never die and most of those rivalries are underpinned by territorial and resource desires. Oil and gas are jinns which never seem to sleep.

Muaz is a poet. He writes of fragrant plants, the joys of love and martyred Syrians fighting against what he terms the ”cannibals” of IS. One of his friends, Ahmed Ammar Hassoun, was martyred on the 14th of September this year. On Nuaz’s Facebook page you can see a photo of Ahmed, a young soldier in the Syrian Arab Army, nonchalantly smoking a tailor made cigarette in a canteen with a Coca Cola sign in the background. It made me wonder how much of this war is being fought as much for multinational corporations to get more Syrian market share as much as the oil and gas fields embedded in Syria’s geology. Muaz seems to think Israel is behind the IS terrorists and cites occasions when IS operatives were treated in Israeli hospitals. Yet IS regularly posts anti Israeli propaganda and has even declared it will eventually march on Jerusalem. Nothing is ever as it seems in the Middle East.

The fundamentals of this story are that Assad was targeted by rebels allegedly backed by the USA and armed by Qatar. Assad is armed and supported by Russia, which is now reportedly moving heavy artillery and tank equipment and ”advisers” into Syria. Vladimir Putin has this week declared that this will continue despite recent protestations by American Secretary of State John Kerry.

The ingenuous duplicity of US foreign policy has turned the entire Middle East into a foreign policy quagmire, and there is no end in sight. America and Russia continue to play their “great game” and the people who suffer are ordinary Muslims, Kurds, Yezidis and Christians who once lived in relative peace and harmony in Syria and whose lives are now destroyed by men in expensive tailored suits in far off lands speaking languages most of them cannot begin to comprehend making decisions none of them will ever hear or understand.

Obama seems intent on blundering from one foreign policy mistake to another and in the meantime in Syria alone over 250,000 human beings have met their deaths and over 6 million are now wondering around homeless and stateless, with many knocking loudly on Europe’s and the rest of the Western world’s doors looking for succour and shelter from the bombs and bullets and vicious depredations of Islamic State operatives and Assad’s deadly barrel bombs.

Meanwhile Muaz and his mates make the most of their lives. Living it up in bars and nightclubs in Damascus, enjoying what is left of Assad’s once secular and multi religious state. Every time I log onto Facebook and send Muaz a message, I wonder if he will answer or if his dream of a beautiful and peaceful Syria will be shattered for all time.

Muaz’s Facebook page.

 

Hypothetical: What would you do if . . . ? (Part One)

Geoffrey Robertson’s recent appearance on Q and A reminded me of the value of considering a situation through the eyes of another via a hypothetical situation…

Here’s one to have a go at by:

  1. Reading the Hypothetical (and extremely fictional) story.
  2. Considering the three options.
  3. Checking out the ‘Things to consider’ section. And then….
  4. Voting for the option you would choose if you were walking in this person’s shoes.
    (And of course, if you are so inclined – post a comment below the article with the
    reasons you selected a particular option.)

Let’s get the conversation started….

1. Hypothetical (and extremely fictional) story:

It’s early 2016. Sticking with his promise to continue with Abbott’s policies on climate change, Malcolm Turnbull and his new Immigration Minister share a ‘private’ Joke about our Pacific Island neighbours soon being underwater. In keeping with tradition, they do this in front of a microphone while waiting for a press conference to start and their joke is broadcast to the world. 

Once they realise they’ve been heard, they immediately apologise PDuddy-style, saying “We’re sorry some of you didn’t find our joke funny.”

When the President of Kiribati hears about this, he is furious. “Let’s see how Australians like losing their country” he shouts and storms out to Kiribati’s little known [because it’s fictional] nuclear missile launch base.  With the press of a few large red buttons marked ‘Danger’ and ‘Are you really sure?”, he launches a nuclear strike on all Australia’s major cities. 

Within an hour, just over 80% of Australia’s population is wiped out, and nuclear fallout threatens the remaining 20% by turning Australia into a nuclear wasteland. 

The only Australian Territory not impacted by the attack is Christmas Island. Luckily the ABC regional radio network withstood the blast, and regional broadcasters advise that all surviving Australians should make their way to a specific list of small ports around the Australian coastline where Australian naval vessels will collect survivors and transport you to Christmas Island. The UNHCR is on there way to Christmas Island and will be setting up tents for survivors to live in. 

You, your partner and kids were holidaying at a coastal resort up north when the missiles hit. The resort is a long way from any major cities, so you survived the blast and haven’t yet felt any effects. But you know that your home in Perth is gone – blown to pieces.  And with nuclear fallout spreading across the country, you need to start working out what you and your family are going to do next.

Then you learn that the US is sending in planes to pick up American survivors who are also staying at the same resort as you. Some of them suggest that you and your family should go back to the USA with them. But having left your passports at home, you’d have to go without the proper travel documents and claim asylum once you reached America. You have no idea whether they would accept you since they, like Australia, are not all that keen on people seeking refuge in their country. And as all Australian banks have been wiped out, and Australian currency now has no value, you would head there with no money and no way to support yourself and your family. 

2. Your options

Option one : Stay where you are – in the coastal resort, and try and make a living there. But if nuclear fallout doesn’t get you, it’s possible that further attacks from the irritated Kiribati President will. 

Option two: Make your way to one of the designated departure ports and go to Christmas island. But you’ve already been warned that there may be as many as four million people there – all trying to fit into 135 square kilometers. Plus, there’s no guarantee Kiribati won’t try to finish the job and attack Christmas Island at a later date. 

Option three: Try and sneak onto one of the US planes sent to rescue American citizens, and hope you can get to America and seek asylum there, knowing that they may very well turn you around and send you back. Or lock you up in a Detention Centre. 

3. Things to consider – stories from the real world

In the real world, being forced to flee your home due to war or conflict is not hypothetical for many people – it is very real. In fact, in 2014 some 42,500 people per day were forced to flee their homes in order to seek safety elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, just as most Australians love Australia, and would be reluctant to leave here – many people who are forced by conflict to flee their homes stay in their national country and try to find somewhere safer, hoping that one day they can return to their home town/city.

At the end of 2014, according to the UNHCR there were 38.2 million people who had fled their homes but stayed in their home country. They are classified by the UN as Internally Displaced People or ‘IDP’s.

TOPSHOTS A Kurdish Syrian woman walks with her child past the ruins of the town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL

A Syrian woman walks with her child past the ruins of her home town of Kobane in March 2015. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL

The most common reason for IDPs having to flee their home currently is attack by non-state armed (or terrorist) groups such as ISIS or the Lord’s Resistance Army (a Christian extremist group in Uganda seeking to rule Uganda according to Old Testament law).

Where they can, IDPs stay with family in other locations within their home country. Others stay in camps – some run by their governments and some by the UN. But often they are forced to flee from location to location as local conflicts escalate.

A relatively small number of people who flee their homes subsequently seek asylum elsewhere. In 2014, according to the UNHCR, 1.7 million people left their home country to seek asylum elsewhere – although this number is likely to be much larger in 2015 due to increased warfare in Syria alone.

By way of example, at the end of 2014 there were 7.6 million IDPs in Syria. Unfortunately fewer than 3% of them were in official camps. The rest were staying with family, host families or renting accommodation for as long as they could afford to do so. But as the conflict escalates, more and more of them have no choice but to cross the borders of Syria and seek asylum or refuge in another country – which is why we’re seeing the scenes of Syrian refugees in Europe right now, desperately trying to find a country to take them in.

(You can read more about the plight of Internally Displaced Persons around the globe here.)
4. What option would you choose and why? 

So what would you do if you were in the hypothetical person’s shoes above? Would you stay on the Australian mainland, and take your chances avoiding radiation poisoning and further attacks? Would you head up to Christmas Island – the last remaining non-nuked part of Australia, and hope that all 4 million surviving Aussies can fit there. Or would you and your family try to sneak onto the plane to America and seek refuge there?

Lodge your vote below:

[polldaddy poll=9085462]

And don’t forget to add any comments or thoughts you have about why you chose a particular option below.

A quick note on my choice of hypothetical story…In case you’ve had better things to do than think about hypothetical situations before, the purpose is to try to imagine what you would do in a completely different set of circumstances to those that you are normally faced with. In this instance, I have deliberately picked a highly unlikely and somewhat ridiculous situation, because I want the focus to be on the options, rather than the story itself. So try to see past the fact that it is pretty much impossible that Kiribati would nuke Australia, and consider what it would be like if something did happen to your home and your city more broadly which meant you had no choice but to leave and seek refuge elsewhere.

 

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

Experiment in terror: Islamophobia and the politics of illusion.

“Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secrecy the human dress.”

– William Blake: A Divine Image

In an awkward social situation I was recently challenged to debate the proposition that Islam is not a religion, but a political ideology. #facepalm #whitepeople. This seems to be the default position of a lot of conservatives, and one can easily see its appeal. What’s not to fear about a triumfulist, supersessionist ideology which divides the world into Muslims and infidels, and Muslims into Sunnis and Shiites, who’ve been murdering each other in God’s name for 1400 years? If this is really the way we look at the culture and polity of the Middle East then perhaps we may need to adjust our glasses and dust off the history books.

The fertile land to the east of the Mediterranean has been a war zone for millennia. The Bulgars murdered the Macedonians who murdered the Phoenicians who murdered the Romans who murdered the Persians who murdered the Assyrians who murdered the Hittites who murdered god knows who in their conquests of Anatolia and the Levant. For all its alleged brutality, the Muslim conquest of the Arab world is but one chapter in a history which spans the rise and fall of empires. Let’s not forget the millions of Muslims who would be murdered by the papacy under its holy inquisitions, their children forced into slavery in the New World. If history is indeed written by the victor, then the proposition that Islam was spread by the sword is a eurocentrism egregiously unabashed of the log in its own eye.

There is a period familiar to most of us which European history refers to as the Dark Ages (evidently darker for some than others.) While Europe under the Holy Roman Empire had become a sophophobic monoculture obsessed with death and purgatory, the Arab world was enjoying its renaissance, embracing a newfound pluralism equal parts Shi’ism, Sufism and Greek Philosophy. While Christians were sacking libraries, drowning witches and burning heretics at the stake, cities like Baghdad and Damascus boasted libraries, museums and academies, and were the birthplaces of modern medicine, algebra and astronomy.

Some would argue that the argument over patriarchal succession which would divide the followers of Islam into Sunni and Shia has been the primary cause of conflict across the Middle East since the seventh century CE. Some might also argue that pigs fly. Despite the hundreds of holy wars fought on land and sea, the glorious kingdoms of the Azeris and the Ottomans owed more to their policies of inclusion and modest taxation than conquest, conversion and subjugation. Then, as now, military expansion was about the control of resources, meaning as long as they paid their taxes people were generally free to worship in whichever way they chose.

The emergence of Wahhabism in the 18th century is a different story. Set against a background of British and French colonial expansion and ongoing territorial disputes with the Ottomans and Safavids, the doctrine of One King, One Faith, One Mosque became a rallying cry under which the al-Sauds would conquer the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and establish theocratic rule across the Arabian Peninsula.

No one had predicted that the Turks would ally themselves with the Central Powers in WWI, or that the Hashemites under Faisal bin Hussein would become our proverbial enemy’s enemy. Victory for the allies saw the final curtain fall on the Ottoman Empire and marked the end of the Arab dream of independence. The spoils of war were divided among the victors (Britain and France) and new territories carved out from traditional lands, while the status of regional powers was downgraded from formal statehood to little more than tribes waving flags, as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would later quip.

The House of Saud’s moment finally arrived in 1932 when Abdulaziz Ibn Saud united the Arab kingdoms of Najd and Hizaz to form modern Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy with Wahhabism as its official religion. The discovery of oil in 1938 was a fait acompli which would give the Saudis influence over western economic and foreign policy, and in 1945 the greatest protection racket in modern history was put in place. The US Military Training Mission was an arms-for-oil deal which guaranteed military co-operation and the protection of the Saudi Royals in return for a controlling interest in the global oil market. In 1971 Richard Nixon finally tore up the Bretton Woods agreement in a financial coup d’etat which established the US dollar as the world’s indispensible oil currency. The US has continued to have a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia ever since; so much so that when 19 Saudi hijackers flew jet planes into the World Trade Centre buildings on September 11 2001, the US responded by invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the 2003 invasion of Iraq has been universally touted as a monumental clusterfluck, the descent into stone age barbarism which followed was not the result of religious extremism or sectarian violence, but rather a long term strategy for the Balkanization of Iraq and Syria into three new territories representing their ethnic majorities: Sunni, Shia and Kurdish. More than a decade of aggressive foreign policy; of interventions, assassinations and torture; of rape and pillage and wanton destruction of Iraq’s industrial potential has seen this goal all but fulfilled. Now it’s Syria’s turn.

Just like its predecessor al Qaeda, Islamic State is a creation of US intelligence and Saudi manpower. Oddly enough its recruits are less likely to come from the ranks of disaffected youth loitering in the dark corners of the internet, and more likely to be death row prisoners from Saudi gaols pumped full of fenethylline and other psycho stimulants. The joint air campaign by the US and its British, French and Turkish allies, far from being designed to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS, has systematically targeted civil infrastructure and created a refugee crisis which is now creating tensions in Europe – all according to plan.

In his book Children of the Days, Eduardo Galeano tells the story of March 9, 1916, The Day Mexico Invaded The United States.

“On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale. This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England. In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world. Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget. The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.”

The US is not only the most militarized country on earth, but far and away the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. With billions spent on proxy armies armed to the teeth with the latest weapons technology, entire governments can now be removed at arm’s length. Whether it be deposing a socialist president in Africa or Latin America, or a demolition job in lower Manhattan, America’s attack dogs stand ready and waiting.

In his 2004 documentary mini-series The Power of Nightmares, Adam Curtis paints a bleak picture of how our political landscape has changed in recent decades. From the ashes of 9/11 came a new golden age of opportunity for the political class. Empowered by mass hysteria, our leaders learned that their jobs would now be safe as long as they promised to keep us safe. Yet far from keeping us safe, the last 15 years have seen an exponential increase in terror attacks throughout the world. With the cold war barely over a new enemy has already emerged, this time not a great empire or a great army, but a shadow.

As heroic tales go, there is none more epic than an apocalyptic clash of civilizations. And who needs Stanley Kubrick to bring it to life when you have an iphone and an internet connection? Shock footage of brutal executions permeates our daily news feeds, while playing further to our fears is the suggestion that the Middle East is now exporting terror; that the waves of refugees flooding into Europe are a Trojan horse which ISIS will use to spread its message of hate throughout the world.

Pandora’s box has nothing on the hell on earth George Bush heralded in when he proclaimed his absurd War on Terror. But with the forces of darkness now unleashed, what happens when the mission is accomplished? Who will call off the dogs? Is there a plan for containment? An exit strategy? Do Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Hallande and Erdogan have a secret safe word? Or has perpetual war been the plan all along?

Like the U-boats, bombers, machine guns and tanks of WWI, and the Atomic bomb that ended WWII, the spectre of terror and the power of mass media are devastating new weapons in the hands of the global industrialists and their government whores. The war on terror is a farce. ISIS is a patsy – a straw man being used to justify a shameless war of aggression. In Nazi Germany we saw the power of propaganda to stigmatise a religious and ethnic minority. Do we really want to go there again? Blaming Muslims for problems of integration and failing to contain jihadism plays well with right wing media pundits, but seriously, one might as easily blame the Jews for the holocaust.

 

 

 

Has Abbott found his 9/11?

syria

 

The Syrian refugee crisis has become the story of the week. The images of hundreds of refugees streaming off ferries, dozens in unseaworthy vessels, and endless lines walking along rail-line tracks toward Germany in search of a new life, have flooded our television news services.

In Australia, particularly on social media, the debate is in full swing. Will we accept our responsibilities and take some of these people? How many? How quickly? How soon?

Germany has lead the world in showing its concern for these unfortunate people caught up in a bloody conflict not of their doing. Now France and the UK have announced their intentions to follow Germany’s lead.

On Tuesday, a Newspoll peaked at 44% of Australians not wanting to take any refugees at all. They would sooner see these people starve to death or whatever, than let them come here.

That live poll result began to decline, however, once a call went out over social media sites encouraging fair-minded people to visit the website and vote.

A Channel 9 news poll showed 63% not wanting any Syrian refugees taken in here.  As at this morning, Wednesday, the Channel 9 poll had risen to 66% preferring we took none.

I suspect Liberal party strategists were paying close attention to these polls with a third eye on the upcoming Canning bi-election.

abbTony Abbott has already tried to make it a political issue. He said, “In the first full year we took 1000 and in the second full year, the last financial year, we took 2200 from the Syrian conflict,” noting that in Labor’s last year of office they only took 98.

Even in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, politics is never far away. Labor has moved for an immediate intake of 10,000. They have played their hand without worrying about public opinion.

It remains to be seen what assistance the government will extend but only the naïve could think it would be on the basis of true compassion first and politics second.

Over the next 10 days until the people of Canning vote, I suspect there will be a good deal of internal polling in Canning to determine what the “right decision” is and I suspect the government’s final decision will be delayed as long as it takes to get a firm grasp of the feelings inside that electorate.

Based on the government’s performance thus far, one can rightly expect they are looking for a wedge. Shorten has given them one. They can go higher or lower than 10,000. How much of their decision will be based on the results of their internal polling we will probably never know.

bernBut if we are to take the likes of Cory Bernardi’s insensitivity as a guide, it could well be lower. Time will tell. A decision is expected today but whatever the decision is, I expect that much of the government script from here on in, will need to be interpreted with Canning in mind.

Call me cynical. Maybe I’ve been watching too much of “House of Cards” and distrust Tony Abbott as much as I distrust Frank Underwood, but following politics does that to you.

 

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