Japanese survivors of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki visited the British parliament on Tuesday to call for an end to be put to nuclear weapons just two months after MPs voted to renew the Trident constant at-sea deterrent.
MPs, non-governmental staff, and students gathered to hear the personal accounts of five “hibakusha” – as survivors of the nuclear blasts are known in Japan.
Lord John Dunn Laird, who organized the event, described it as a “humbling experience.”
One speaker, Takaaki Morikawa, was 6 years old when the US military dropped the world’s first atom bomb on Hiroshima.
He was 10 kilometers away from ground zero and was exposed to radiation through dust, soot, and the nuclear fallout that fell as black rain.
Morikawa spoke of how the bombing affected him and his family’s life and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, saying “even one nuclear weapon is too many.”
Between 129,000 and 246,000 people were killed in the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
A-bomb survivors continue to suffer higher rates of cancer, especially leukemia, than the general population.
The talk was part of a global tour organized by the Japanese civic group Peace Boat, which traveled to Britain by sea from Japan, stopping at various destinations along the way.
The group also visited the Hackney Museum, the 19 Princelet Street immigration museum, and schools in London.
Organizer Lord John Dunn Laird said: “This has been a humbling experience.
“The more people who consider these questions, the more likely it is to be a peaceful world.”
British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to renew the country’s nuclear weapons program in July after a heated debate in which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke out against the project.
Prime Minister Theresa May spoke strongly in support of renewing Trident. Asked by Scottish National Party (SNP) MP George Kerevan whether she would be “personally prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that can kill 100,000 innocent men, women and children,” the Tory leader gave a resounding yes.
The Israeli navy has seized the Zaytouna-Oliva, a Gaza-bound aid ship, and is currently towing it towards the Israeli port city of Ashdod, according to the initiative’s organizers and reports in the Israeli media.
Sondos Ferwana, a media spokeswoman for the International Coalition for the Fourth Freedom Flotilla, told reporters on Wednesday evening that Israeli naval forces had “captured the ship”.
The Israeli military, for its part, confirmed the ship’s seizure in a statement.
“The Israeli Defense Forces managed to quickly seize the ship without causing any injuries among passengers,” the statement read.
According to the military, the crew of the Gaza-bound vessel had initially refused the navy’s orders to change course.
“This forced us to intervene and seize the ship before it violated the legal maritime closure imposed on the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.
According to reports on Israel’s Channel Two television station, the aid ship was intercepted — without resistance — some 80 kilometers off Gaza’s coast.
Ferwana, for her part, described the incident as “another act of Israeli piracy”, adding that all contact with the ship — which is carrying humanitarian aid and several female activists — had been lost.
“We don’t know the fate of the activists aboard,” she said.
Passengers on the Zaytouna-Oliva, which set sail from the Spanish city of Barcelona last month, include Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Swedish and Algerian lawmakers, a South African Olympic athlete and a Malaysian doctor.
The all-female initiative seeks to break Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip and show solidarity with the women of Gaza.
Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, for its part, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, condemned what it described “the Israeli occupation’s assault on the aid ship and its intimidation of the activists on board”.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the incident amounted to “an act of state terrorism” and another example of Israeli “aggression against the Palestinian people and those who show solidarity with the Palestinian cause”.
Barhoum went on to urge the international community to “put an end to Israel’s crimes”, stressing the need for immediate action “to lift the blockade and rescue the people of Gaza”.
In June of last year, Israeli forces intercepted the “Marianne” — which had been taking part in a similar initiative — and arrested all activists on board.
A similar Gaza-bound aid flotilla ended in tragedy in 2010 when the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship, was raided by Israeli commandos who killed 10 Turkish activists.
Since 2007, the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its almost two million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and desperately-needed building materials.
In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the blockade of Gaza as “collective punishment”, which, he asserted, “suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts”.
Fresh skepticism springs up about the fate of a deal which Boeing has signed to provide Iran Air with over 80 jetliners after the US aircraft maker says none will be delivered this year.
Since Boeing announced a tentative deal to sell jetliners to Iran in June, US lawmakers have been trying to block it. Under the agreement, Boeing must supply Iran some 80 passenger jets worth $25 billion at price lists.
On Tuesday, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said while the two sides were making progress on the deal, no deliveries would take place this year.
“We won’t deliver any aircraft under that deal this year – these are deliveries that are a year, two, three downstream,” Muilenburg told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Chicago on future technologies.
Boeing’s deal is similar to another provisional agreement which Iran Air has signed with Airbus to get 118 jetliners from the European aircraft maker.
However, no formal contracts have been signed yet, meaning all of these deals could fail, given the volatile dynamics of the West’s relations with Iran.
Presidential election factor
The tentative deals have already hit a speed bump because major global banks are refusing to handle transactions with Iran for fear of running afoul of US sanctions on the country.
One major roadblock was lifted last month when the US government granted Airbus and Boeing permission to sell aircraft to the Islamic Republic.
Some Iranians, however, believe the US is most likely to put up new hurdles even if it does not scrap the deal entirely.
They are disheartened by what the next presidential elections in the United States might have in store for the patchy relations between Tehran and Washington. Both current US presidential candidates are expected to adopt a much stricter line than President Barack Obama toward Iran.
Another detracting factor which could scupper the deals is opposition from the US Congress.
The US House of Representatives has already passed a motion to block the Boeing deal, with further measures proposed in Congress to bar certain transactions by US financial institutions connected to the export of aircraft.
If the proposed bills to restrict the deal become law, they would also affect other companies’ sales to Iran, including those by Airbus.
Looking for new options
Last month, Iran indicated that it was cutting the Airbus deal by six aircraft and clipping the contract with Boeing by one jet.
Reports also have it that Iran Air has been cooling towards the purchase of 12 A380 superjumbos that were part of the provisional deal.
Iranian airlines, meanwhile, are looking for other options. They have approached smaller aircraft manufacturers which they believe are easier to deal with.
Tentative deals have been signed with France’s ATR and Brazil’s Embraer, while Japan’s Mitsubishi and China’s Comac have held talks with Iranian aviation companies.
Such developments have taken the shine off the deals with Airbus and Boeing – the biggest for Western aviation companies in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
However, neither of the two airline behemoths wants to lose one of the last untapped aviation markets in the world.
On Tuesday, Muilenberg described Iran “significant opportunity for us.”
“And I’m pleased to see that we’re making steady progress,” he said, adding Boeing was “in the final stages of working through the deal structure with our customers in Iran” while also working through the US government licensing process.
Clinton is part of the Establishment. It is part of her inheritance to provoke wars and control the world in league with global corporations. Nobody knows what lies behind Trump’s mask. May be he wants to “knock the shit” out of the Establishment. May be he is a “narcissist character” seeking reward in the short run. But no one who seriously cares about Africa’s liberation from Empire would support Clinton.
Sometimes it helps to start an essay with a quote that sums up one’s position. Here is one from the English philosopher Bertrand Russell that defines my position: “A man without a bias cannot write interesting history – if indeed such a man exists.”[i] Indeed, no such person exists in the field of human sciences. So let me declare my bias upfront. I have no love for either Clinton or Trump, but as a “biased” African I’d rather have Trump than Clinton.
The American historian Carroll Quigley wrote a little known but brilliant book in 1949 titled The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden.[ii] Quigley explains how men of the Empire like Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner, Lionel Curtis, Robert Brand and Adam Marris strategised to control the world; how they deliberately provoked wars – such as the Jameson Raid and the Boer War in South Africa leading to the British colonisation of South Africa. He also documented how they created the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Institute of Pacific Relations, and the US Council on Foreign Relations.
This is the “Establishment”. Rhodes died in 1902, but the Anglo-American Establishment lives on and has mutated over time. Now it is represented by the global corporations that effectively control the world’s major resources (gold, diamonds, oil, etc.), banks including financial services, and the institutions of global governance (such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation).
Clinton is part of the Establishment. It is part of her inheritance to provoke wars and control the system in league with global corporations. To date Clinton has raised a total of $446.4 million, and Trump of $137.3 million, of which Clinton has spent $349,6m and Trump $96.7m. Clinton’s money comes almost entirely from the Establishment whereas Trump’s largely from his own resources.[iii] Clinton is still refusing to release the transcripts of three paid speeches she gave in 2013 at a Goldman Sachs event. The speeches collectively netted her $675,000.[iv]
Clinton and Henry Kissinger
The Clintons are very close to Kissinger both in personal life and ideologically. They often spend vacations together. [v] But more than that Hillary regards Kissinger as her mentor, her Guru.
The person who defines Kissinger’s realpolitik ideology best is Bernard Lewis, the well-known “expert” on Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. His advice to the West, stripped of scholarly veneer, and in contemporary terms, is quite simple: fight proxy wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and the global South – employ agents instead of our own soldiers; manipulate the media to provide “truths” to the masses; use money to buy people, buy governments, buy entire nations; and keep the wolf (read Putin) out of the door.[vi]
Kissinger walked the talk of Lewis during the “Cold War” (by the way, always put the Cold War in inverted commas; it was “cold” for them; for Africa – Algeria, South Africa, Mozambique – it was hot). In 1975 during a conversation with the US ambassador to Turkey and two Turkish and Cypriot diplomats, Kissinger admitted of illegally supporting the military junta in Spain, Greece, and Brazil. He told his hosts that he “worked around” an official arms embargo then in effect. Also, the US exempted the military government in Brazil from crimes of torture to allow it to receive US aid. These post-facto revelations are now documented and released by whistleblowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden (check the internet). See the video Hillary Clinton does not want you to see.[vii]
It is not surprising therefore that in the US Democratic presidential debates Kissinger’s ghost sprung up like, in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, lurking behind Hillary Clinton (“Prince” Hamlet). During a debate on foreign policy, Bernie Sanders, the candidate contesting Clinton, referred to Clinton’s close relations with Kissinger. “I happen to believe”, he said, “that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.” He cited “the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War as a Kissinger-orchestrated move that eventually led to genocide in that country.” [viii]
Clinton, following Kissinger, is an imperial jingoist. Under Clinton as Secretary of State the US and NATO went well beyond their UN Security Council mandate in the Libyan war. The end of the war was the gruesome death of Gaddafi cornered in a hell-hole. Clinton on viewing this remarked with characteristic cynicism: “We came, we saw, he died”. Here is another YouTube video Hillary would not want you to see.[ix] I was shocked when I saw this display of total cynicism and psychic lack of compassion. She is the “war candidate” of the Establishment, and has made her intentions amply clear in relation to Iran, Gaza/Palestine, Syria … and if she has her way, Russia and China.
Trump, the Ogre with a big mouth
In Trump, the Americans have a Presidential candidate who has gone out of his way to be distasteful. He is regularly depicted with a dog’s face in the American Establishment media. And for sure, he has said nasty things about the Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Africans – in fact, anybody who comes in his way. “I knocked the shit out of her on Twitter and she never said a thing about me after that”, he said of one of his detractors. “I really like Nelson Mandela”, he said on another occasion, “but South Africa is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode – not a good situation for the people!” [x] On the Black Lives Matter Movement he said:
“There’s no such thing as racism anymore. We’ve had a black president so it’s not a question anymore. Are they saying black lives should matter more than white lives or Asian lives? If black lives matter, then go back to Africa. We’ll see how much they matter there.”[xi]
Trump is criticised for being neurotic. The American journal, The Atlantic (June, 2016) did an article on him by Dan McAdams titled “The Mind of Donald Trump”. Among other things, McAdams says that Trump is an extrovert, “exuberant, outgoing and socially dominant” narcissist character. The cardinal feature of extroversion is “reward-seeking in the short run”.[xii]
But, nobody can deny that he defeated 16 other Republican contenders. In the end he got nominated as the Republican Party candidate. The Party is now distancing itself from him and trying, instead, to focus on winning seats in the Congress rather than backing Trump. But Trump marches on regardless, with his controversial off-the-cuff and “politically incorrect” innuendos against the Establishment, galvanising the youth who are sick and tired of the yawning divide between the rich and the poor in America.
The British paper the Guardian explains the “great paradox” of American politics that holds the secret of Trump’s success:
Trump is an “emotions candidate”. More than any other presidential candidate in decades, Trump focuses on eliciting and praising emotional responses from his fans rather than on detailed policy prescriptions. His speeches – evoking dominance, bravado, clarity, national pride, and personal uplift – inspire an emotional transformation. Then he points to that transformation. Not only does Trump evoke emotion, he makes an object of it, presenting it back to his fans as a sign of collective success…. His supporters have been in mourning for a lost way of life. Many have become discouraged, others depressed. They yearn to feel pride but instead have felt shame. Their land no longer feels like their own. Joined together with others like themselves, they feel greatly elated at Trump’s promise to deliver them unto a state in which they are no longer strangers in their own land.”[xiii]
I’m waiting to buy “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” (to be published in October, 2016) in which the author, Arlie Hochschild, goes on a reflective expedition from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country – a stronghold of the conservative right – exposing America’s ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, the right and left.[xiv]
This is what probably explains why Trump is trouncing the Establishment.
The truth is that nobody knows what lies behind Trump’s mask. May be he wants to “knock the shit” out of the Establishment. May be he is a “narcissist character” seeking reward in the short run. Whatever he is, he has put the Establishment – both Republican as well as Democrats – in a quandary.
Trump has raised questions the people of America should have asked a long time ago. Why is the youth in America angry with the Establishment? Why is the American foreign policy such a disaster?
Trump might make peace with Russia and China. For Africa, this is good. The continent does not wish to be dragged into another proxy war like during the “Cold War”.
Trump shocked the Establishment when he said that if he were president, the US might not come to the defence of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its “obligation to make payments.”[xv] Africa should urge him to go further – NATO should be dismantled like Russia did with the Warsaw Pact. NATO is a danger to world peace.
Trump has come out openly against trade and investment agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). On TPP he said, “The deal is insanity … That deal should not be supported and it should not be allowed to happen.”[xvi] Africa has, ALSO, come out against these mega-trade agreements, driven by American mega corporations.
Trump might scrape AGOA (African Growth and Opportunities Act) which is all about serving America’s, not Africa’s, interests. Trump could also scrape Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative. It is a $7 billion plan to facilitate American corporate investments in Africa. Africa needs to be liberated from these tools of the American empire.
Trump has criticised the notion of “exporting democracy” to the countries of the South saying it is not the business of America to tell Africa how to run their countries. Exactly.
Trump and Jeremy Corbyn – the Labour Party leader in the UK – though poles apart politically, have one very significant thing in common. They are both harangued by the mainstream media and the established order in their respective countries. Like Trump, Corbyn is under attack not only by the Conservatives but also by the Establishment in the Labour Party spearheaded by the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Africa has for centuries (during slave trade and later through colonisation) been victim of the Establishment. Both Corbyn and Trump have an impressive backing from the youth of their countries. Why? Because they too, like the masses in Africa, are bitter against the dominant global order. We may not connect with Trump, but he could open space for us to establish solidarity links with the people in America, especially the youth, who too are suffering from the oppression of the Establishment warlords.
Conventional wisdom holds that a known devil is better than an unknown angel. Of course, Trump is no angel. But in this instance, and from an African (and possibly third world) perspective, Trump as an unknown devil is far better than Hillary Clinton, the known devil.
* Yash Tandon is from Uganda and has worked at many different levels as an academic, teacher, political thinker, a rural development worker, a civil society activist, and an institution builder. His latest book is Trade is War.
[ii] Carroll Quigley (1981). The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden. New York: Books in Focus
[vi] President Obama, who carries the Clinton flag, condemned Trump for admiring Putin and appearing on RT, the Russian television. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-trump-putin_us_57d84156e4b0fbd…
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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A former employee of the UK PR firm that was hired by the Pentagon to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq told RT that he arrived thinking he would be working with media agencies, but ended up creating materials for a secret propaganda campaign instead.
Bell Pottinger’s staff was stationed inside a highly secured US military and intelligence HQ at Camp Victory in Baghdad.
“The arrival there [in Camp Victory in Iraq] was quite a shock… very very, I guess, distressing, really… You just felt you as if you didn’t know what was going to happen,” Martin Wells, a former employee of Bell Pottinger who worked for the US military in Iraq from 2006 to 2008, told RT.
The news that the Pentagon had paid Bell Pottinger over half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq hit the headlines on Sunday when it was divulged by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had received the information from Wells.
Wells says that he was initially told that he would be working on news.
“As it transpired, it was news, but not news as I expected. I expected it to be doing stuff for news agencies such as yourselves and Reuters. And just providing footage for them,” he said.
However, the reality turned out to be quite different from what the video editor had anticipated. Wells said that when he arrived at his workplace, he was introduced to the American intelligence staff there.
“I still at that point had no idea what I was doing, but I knew as soon as I walked through that door I certainly wasn’t doing news… Then, later as I went through… and worked out what I was actually doing, it transpired that it was essentially… a form of propaganda.”
The media was set completely abuzz when it was revealed that the Pentagon had paid Bell Pottinger $540 million for contracts from 2007 to 2011, with another contract for $120 million signed in 2006. The firm ended its work with the Pentagon in 2011.
Bell Pottinger is known for serving an array of controversial clients, including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation.
The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon on the project, with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers. Critics claim, however, that the videos may have actually promoted the terrorists’ agenda instead.
The Bell Pottinger operation, which began soon after the US invasion of Iraq, was tasked with promoting “democratic elections” for the administration before moving on to more lucrative psychological and information operations.
The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light, as well as content which looked as though it had come from “Arabic TV.” The videos were created to play on Real Player, which needs an internet connection to run. The CDs were embedded with a code linked to Google Analytics that allowed the military to track the IP addresses the videos were played on.
They would also craft scripts for Arabic soap operas in which characters would reject terrorism with favorable consequences. The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes that they raided.
“In terms of the [fake Al-Qaeda] VCDs, I was the only one, who while I was there, cut those. Nobody else was tasked with those because I was running the department. The footage was also given to us, and it was genuine Al-Qaeda footage that they’d shot, and we then repurposed this for our footage to put on the VCDs and then went out and dropped them,” he explained.
“Most of the stuff we did went out on local news, on national news, and would be broadcast in different countries in the region. But the VCDs were targeted at Al-Qaeda themselves. That was used by marines – left of raids amongst a bunch of VCDs people had been using anyway. If you watched that when it opened up, it was on a player that was linked to an analytical site, so wherever in the world you watched it, it could be tracked. So you’d know where it was played, and the IP address would flash up, so you’d basically know who had watched it,” he said.
At least 20 Iraqi pro-government fighters have been killed when the US-led coalition targeted their position near the militant-held northern city of Mosul, media reports say.
A local source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US-led military aircraft struck a building in the Kharaeb village of the al-Qayyarah region, located approximately 300 kilometers north of the capital, Baghdad, on Wednesday morning, leaving 20 Iraqi tribal fighters dead and five others injured, Arabic-language Shafaq news agency reported.
The source added that the fighters were members of a clan led by a tribal elder identified as Sheikh Nazhan Lahibi.
The pro-government forces had reportedly gathered at the site when the aerial attack took place.
Last December, over 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 30 injured in an air strike carried out by the US military.
Head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, Hakim al-Zamili, said the incident took place near the town of al-Naimiya in the western province of Anbar after Iraqi government forces had liberated “a strategically important area” from Takfiri Daesh militants.
The United States and some its allies have been carrying out air strikes in Iraq since June 2014 allegedly targeting Daesh terrorists in the northern and western parts of the conflict-plagued Arab country.
Gruesome violence has beleaguered the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since Daesh extremists mounted an offensive there more than two years ago, and took control of portions of Iraqi territory.
Iraqi army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Mobilization Units are trying to win back militant-held regions in joint operations.
A UK House of Commons inquiry into the 2011 attack on Libya and the country’s subsequent collapse has found what many suspected: NATO and its Gulf Arab allies used their ‘Responsibility To Protect’ to launch their attack even though:
“… the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”
Though the MPs’ damning report blames Libya’s political and economic collapse on former Prime Minister David Cameron, the manipulation of public opinion to lay the basis for war is built upon longstanding – but now sharpened – processes and semantic structures that prepare populations to accept punitive action against a targeted ‘other’.
In an earlier example, on October 10 1990, a young Kuwaiti woman known as ‘Nayirah’ testified before the United States’ Congressional Human Rights Caucus that invading Iraqi soldiers had gone into hospitals and thrown babies from their incubators.
Nayirah turned out to be the daughter of the then Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. Her testimony was false and prepared by a PR company. But it was solid gold for the US campaign to intervene militarily. Amnesty International provided influential support for Nayirah’s story. The ‘depravity’ of Saddam Hussein’s government was proffered by governments and mainstream media as a key reason for military intervention.
In March, 2011, Libyan opposition fighters and a Libyan psychologist, Dr Seham Sergewa told foreign media that pro-Qaddhafi fighters were being ordered to carry out viagra-fuelled mass rapes. The claim – spread by Al-Jazeera – was this time picked up by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Although Amnesty International questioned some of the claims this time, the rape story was one of many myths that contributed to the NATO bombardment of Libya – the beginning of the end of the Libyan state.
The ‘humanitarian’ battle cry of 2011 was another manifestation of neo-Orientalist rhetoric directed towards out-of-favour leaders or groups.
Edward Said’s “Orientalism” referred to Western stereotyping of Arabs and Arab culture through a colonial lens. Currently, Neo-Orientalism is typically based on sensational claims that target ‘others’ (leaders or groups) by depicting them as intrinsically alien, evil and irrational, in order to justify aggression against them.
Qaddhafi’s relationship with the West was full of moments that prepared us to unquestionably accept claims of his barbarity – to the extent that Hillary Clinton could mock his torture and murder by rebels.
Regardless of his positive and negative attributes, the language used to describe Qaddhafi – a son of peasant goat herders – was often insulting and unprofessional. Journalist and historian Gwynne Dyer for example: “
… resplendent in the gold brocade robes that he probably made from his mother’s curtains and wearing his usual bug-eye sunglasses… The world’s oldest teenager…”
The New York Times treated Qaddhafi’s international visits featuring his bedouin tent as a circus fit for New York’s Coney Island rather than an important cultural symbol of Libya’s or Qaddhafi’s heritage. One wonders whether anyone would dare attempt similar treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal Tent Embassy which has been a feature of the capital Canberra since 1972.
There were numerous stories of the ‘chauvinistic’ displays of Qaddhafi’s ‘Amazonian’ republican guard. However ‘Amazonian’ legends of powerful female bodyguards have a long history in North Africa and especially Libya. Greek mythology – the source of Amazonian legends – speaks of Queen Myrina the Amazonian queen who led military victories in Libya. Under Islam there was the wealthy and powerful King Musa I of Mali, who was protected by such an Amazonian troop while undertaking the Hajj in 1332. It seems not a single commentator bothered to note the antecedents of such symbolism before resorting to ridicule.
It is not only the media and politicians who join the neo-Orientalist derision of disagreeable leaders. Descriptions of Qaddhafi in Harvard professor and historian Roger Owen’s recent work The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life, exhibit shades of cultural superiority. After indulging in psychological speculation about Arab leaders, Owen (p.199) criticises Qaddhafi’s relationship with the African Union particularly his “bringing African heads of state to Libya and posturing before them in ‘African’ costumes of his own design with absurd-looking little round caps”.
Aside from Owen’s dismissal of the African Union, he sees no irony in ridiculing Qaddafi for doing exactly what the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries do at APEC and G20 meetings – put on ‘absurd’ cultural uniforms like the imagined Australian stockmen’s outfits worn by APEC leaders in Sydney in 2007:
John Howard and George W. Bush at APEC in Sydney 2007, Source: The Guardian
Owen depicts Arab governments as wholly subject to the whims of a strongman leader. While the West – and sometimes Arab leaders themselves – like to portray authoritarian governments as ruled by maniacal and all-powerful men individually, this is rarely the case – especially in Libya as demonstrated by this Wikileaks cable showing disagreements amongst the Libyan leadership.
Such systems are far too complex to be overseen by one person. As Oxford Professor Richard Bosworth argues, in addition to clouding other factors involved in the operation of such states, judgemental and presumptive treatments such as Owen’s tend to dismiss leaders as mad and evil which prevents comprehensive understanding.
The terminology of ‘regimes’ and ‘governments’ is another rhetorical tool aimed at demonising chosen targets. ‘Regimes’ sound all controlling, mechanical and despotic while ‘governments’ sound rational, responsive and civil. But as academic Lisa Anderson has pointed out the term ‘regime’ is widely misused. A regime is the: “set of rules, or cultural or social norms that regulate the relations between ruled and rulers. Including how laws are made and administered and how the rulers are themselves selected”. As such regimes come in types, Totalitarian, Authoritarian, Democratic etc.
A ‘government’ on the other hand “comprises those incumbents and the policies associated with them”. Referring to the ‘Qaddhafi Regime’ or ‘Mubarak Regime’ is a problematic conflation of regime type, government and the actors involved in it. Applying the same conflation to Western governments would result in labels like ‘Obama regime’.
‘Orientals’ or just the non-compliant?
Neo-Orientalist language cannot be explained away as a reaction to brutality. If a leader’s brutality was the benchmark for engaging in this form of vitriol, it could be just as easily applied to every US President.
Rather the point of this type of language is to de-legitimise and de-humanise or barbarise a targeted ‘other’. Neo-Orientalist language has (mostly) retreated from typecasting entire civilisations – as this has become less acceptable among western audiences – and has retreated to depictions of individual leaders, sub-groups or sub-ideologies.
Those selected, most commonly for their ‘uncooperative’ international behaviour, are not worthy of engagement or understanding, simply of fear and loathing. The use of violence against such ‘irrational’ forces becomes legitimate and ‘just’.
The language of neo-Orientalism takes many guises, from the ‘war on terror’ to ‘humanitarian intervention’ and has been so successful in cloaking itself in ‘liberal’ values that it attracts support from across the political spectrum.
As Robert Irwin pointed out in his 2006 critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism, the expression of ‘Orientalist’ language does not need to be limited in time (to the European colonial period) or place (the Arab world). By seeking to solely link Orientalism to the European and American imperial ages Said confused and understated the breadth of his argument. Orientalism was not limited to ‘the Orient’, but was and is directed at other groups – both ethnic and political.
For example, western media treatment of Russian President Vladimir Putin also involves ridicule of both cultural symbolism and psychological state.
According to Vox News and Angela Merkel, Putin’s machismo is a cover for “personal insecurity as a weak leader” and is responsible for his “invasion of Ukraine”. We are also told Putin’s ‘machismo’ and ‘aggression’ is the cumulative embodiment of Russian shame and weakness. Merkel was quoted as saying “Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this [machismo].”
Without delving into to the possible objections to this account, why is Putin’s ‘aggressive’ behaviour seen as a unique flaw in individual and national character? What about the destruction that the United States wrought following the ‘injury’ to the American ego that was September 11? What about the UK’s war of indignation in the Falkland Islands? With the same logic and tone one could posit that the entire British colonial age was a result of ego issues within the ‘lonely little island in the North Sea’.
What of Hillary Clinton’s psychological state or the culture she embodies? Sold as the ‘normal’ presidential candidate, this is the woman who mocked Qaddhafi’s death with “We came, we saw, he died…” and seems to carry no baggage from the destruction of a country on almost entirely false pretences.
One persuasive critic of neo-Orientalism, Alastair Crooke, identifies it as a manifestation of a Western mindset of dominance in the present era. “
… this is the new racialism… a hierarchy of civilisations in which the West sees its civilisation as the most appropriate one for the future… superior and the template that should be imposed on others…”
Status quo powers deploy much effort and money to explain their transgressions but most are based on the simple assumption that equal standards do not apply; we are ‘rational’ and ‘just’, they are not.
Alex Ray works on cultural exchange between the West and the Arab world. Based in Jordan, he holds a MA in Middle East and Central Asian Studies from the Australian National University and is a former student of the University of Damascus. He writes at https://betweendeserts.wordpress.com/
Speaking at Minot Air Force Base (North Dakota) on Monday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter accused Russia of «nuclear saber-rattling» and argued that even though the Cold War is long over, the US Army still needs nuclear weapons to deter Russia and other potential aggressors from thinking they could get away with a nuclear attack.
However, knowing it would be difficult to sell the image of «Russian aggressors» as suicidal, (everything will burn in a global nuclear war, including those who started it), the head of the Pentagon was quick to say that people should probably not expect a global conflict. «Today», he stated, «it’s a sobering fact that the most likely use of nuclear weapons is not the massive nuclear exchange of the classic Cold War-type, but rather the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example, by Russia or North Korea».
The manner in which Ashton Carter frightened his audience could be considered a banal attempt to get even more money to modernise America’s nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. It seems that the $108 billion he mentioned, which will be used for this purpose over the next five years, is not enough for the Pentagon.
Carter’s speech in North Dakota was not limited to this, however. The head of the Pentagon also expressed attitudes of a political-military and international legal nature.
I would like to ask: what has Russia done, exactly, to justify the US Defense Secretary’s allegation that Moscow is preparing «unprecedentedly terrible attacks» involving the use of nuclear weapons? Has it issued the kind of threats that have made the world more volatile, perhaps? Or abandoned its international obligations? Or is it following America’s example and deploying nuclear weapons outside of its borders?
We can assume that our negative responses to all these questions are neither here nor there to Mr. Carter, but there is an expert who responds in the same vein that Carter cannot disregard so easily, and that is one of his predecessors at the US Department of Defense, former US Defense Secretary William Perry. When asked by journalists how much more volatile the world has become in recent years, Perry replied: «Fundamentally nothing has changed… The number of weapons are sufficient to destroy, obliterate all of civilization… It doesn’t take that many. We still have more than 1,000 nuclear weapons on alert ready to go».
In other words, neither Russia’s position as a nuclear power nor the status of America’s nuclear capabilities gives grounds for warmongering and the rapid modernisation of strategic nuclear forces (nuclear deterrents). In this regard, William Perry has unwittingly disarmed his successor.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that Carter ranked Russia alongside North Korea among the «potential aggressors» preparing «unprecedentedly terrible attacks». He is willing to admit that Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are very different countries, but they are seemingly distinguished by the fact that both are prepared to resort to a nuclear attack «to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis».
It is characteristic that, in unison with Carter, Theresa May also pointed to Russia and North Korea as potential threats in her first parliamentary speech as UK Prime Minister, when she justified the need to modernise the UK’s nuclear arsenal.
If Pyongyang is aspiring to become a fully-fledged member of the nuclear club in violation of UN sanctions, carrying out nuclear weapons testing, and stating its willingness to launch a nuclear strike against US and South Korean armed forces in the event of provocation in the Asia-Pacific Region, then how is any of this similar to Russia’s actions? It’s not. Yet the head of the Pentagon has brought Russia and North Korea together as nuclear threats and has undoubtedly made this sound significant. One must assume that Moscow is drawing conclusions from this.
There is another side to Ashton Carter naming Russia and North Korea as the main nuclear threats, however. While Russia, China, North Korea and Iran were identified in the US National Military Strategy, updated last year, as «revisionist states» that need to be countered, Iran and China have now (take note!) disappeared from the traditional group of ‘global villains’. Why Iran – following the closure of Iran’s nuclear dossier and the lifting of international sanctions – is understandable. But China? Or is it that against the backdrop of the «Russian danger», the US does not regard China’s nuclear weapons as a threat?
Hardly. It is simply that with such a curious selection of targets, Carter is aiming to divide Beijing and Moscow, which hold similar, and in some cases identical, positions on a number of key issues of strategic stability and the strengthening of the nuclear deterrent regime.
One merely has to consider the joint initiative of Russia and China to prevent the placement of weapons in space that was announced at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly last year and that was rejected by the United States, incidentally. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who spoke at the ongoing 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, «the start of substantial negotiations on… the Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on the Non-Deployment of Weapons in Space could end the impasse over the key component of the multilateral disarmament mechanism – the Disarmament Conference».
Ashton Carter’s lengthy speech at the military base in North Dakota did not contain a single concrete fact that would implicate Russia in attempts to undermine strategic stability, but the United States is undertaking such attempts. One need only think of America’s plans to deploy additional modernised nuclear weapons – ‘general-purpose’ B61-12 bombs – in Europe. There will be plenty of these US bombs in the Old World – estimates range from 250 to 400. And the fact that these new bombs are «more ethical», as the Pentagon puts it, i.e. they have a smaller yield, only exacerbates the situation. A smaller yield, but greater accuracy. This may suggest that they are going to be used against military targets, including in densely-populated areas.
Finally, the US is planning to give the right of control over the use of these nuclear weapons systems to its European allies and is already training military pilots in Poland and the Baltic States how to use the nuclear weapons. This is a direct violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as recently emphasised by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
By accusing Russia, without evidence, of intending to depart from the «long-established rules of using nuclear weapons» (to quote Carter’s speech once again), the US is using this accusation as a cover for its own actions, which are undermining the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has recently presented the UN Security Council with its third report, in which it alleges the Syrian Armed Forces were involved in two uses of chemical weapons in Syria.
While appreciating the significant amount of work done by the JIM and its experts, conclusions drawn by its leadership panel are hardly convincing. It has become obvious that due to objective reasons it had very little chance to conduct an effective investigation. One of the main problems was lack of access to the locations due to the dire security situation on the ground.
There are also other factors that have seriously affected the quality of the investigation, including it being carried out in some cases more than two years after the incident, some of the information was misleading, and sources of information were of second or third hand. The accusation against Damascus is mostly based on the testimonies of the “witnesses” handpicked by opposition NGO’s, and the assumption that nobody but the government forces in Syria have access to aircraft, which could be used to drop barrel bombs filled with chlorine.
Taking into consideration the gaps and inconsistencies in the report, one may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to state that any party, be it the government of Syria or even ISIS, was undoubtedly involved in the use of chemical weapons. It is also necessary to ask ourselves, what is the motive behind such an insignificant, from a military point of view, use of chlorine as a chemical weapon?
Such acts serve no purpose for Damascus in view of its possession of much more destructive conventional weapons and especially given the fact that no military operations to recapture towns mentioned in the report followed the incidents. Apart from the fact that such acts carry a clear hallmark of propaganda tailored to putting the blame on the Syrian government at pivotal moments of the ongoing civil conflict.
There are talks about the need to impose sanctions against Damascus on the basis of the JIM’s conclusions. There are no grounds for such action which, above all, might be extremely detrimental for efforts aimed at a political settlement.
For more than two years Russia has been trying to draw attention of the international community to the fact that terrorist organizations have repeatedly used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq. Together with China we proposed to adopt a brief and pragmatic UNSC resolution, which would have constituted a first step toward solving this issue. Considerations of a strictly political nature on the part of some of our colleagues in the Council have caused the international community to lose a minimum of two years that could have been spent in developing measures to address the threats and challenges of chemical terrorism.
Unfortunately, the time lost in pointless political rhetoric has also affected the work of both the OPCW and the JIM, and made it much harder for them to execute their respective mandates. Even now some of the proponents of imposing sanctions against Damascus blatantly call to turn a blind eye to chemical crimes committed by ISIS. Despite this shortsighted policy the time has come for serious action to address this problem.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Top Washington officials are set to discuss striking positions of the Syrian military without a UN Security Council resolution. Bombing air force runways with missiles fired from coalition planes and ships is being considered, according to a report.
“One proposed way to get around the White House’s objection to striking the Assad regime without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment,” one administration official who is to take part in the discussions told the Washington Post.
A meeting of the Obama administration’s Principals Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, the newspaper reported, adding that a meeting of the National Security Council could follow this weekend.
The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed support for “limited military strikes against the Syrian government,” last Wednesday, when the US discussed such “kinetic” options, the official told the Washington Post.
“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime,” one senior administration official was quoted as saying.
“The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria,” he added.
After threatening to withdraw from the Syrian peace process for weeks, Washington finally announced the “suspension” of bilateral contact with Moscow concerning the crisis on Monday.
Although contact to “deconflict” encounters between the aircraft of the US and Russian militaries in Syrian skies will continue, the US is withdrawing personnel dispatched for the purpose of setting up a Joint Implementation Center (JIC) for the ceasefire. The JIC, which would have been located in Geneva, was to coordinate military cooperation and intelligence-sharing between Russia and the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.
There is “nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about” in Syria, White House spokesman Josh Earnest concluded on Monday.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed” by the decision, while accusing the US of trying to shift the blame for its own failure in Syria. Russia has made efforts to preserve the September 9 ceasefire agreement, repeatedly urging Washington to live up to its obligations, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Monday.
“It turns out that Washington has failed to fulfill the key condition of the agreement to ease humanitarian situation for the residents of Aleppo” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “And now, apparently, having failed to honor these agreements that they themselves worked out, [the US] is trying to shift the blame.”
Asked if the US had fulfilled its own long-standing obligation to separate the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau replied, “We believe we did.”
When RT’s Gayane Chichakyan reminded Trudeau that several major rebel groups had refused to abide by the ceasefire outright, the spokeswoman hit back: “We expected good faith efforts, not only from rebel groups on the ground… but also Russia.
“If attacked, opposition groups have the right to defend themselves,” she added.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in a program that disposes of plutonium from decommissioned nuclear warheads, citing “a radical change in the environment, a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia, and the inability of the US to deliver on the obligation to dispose of excessive weapons plutonium under international treaties.”
Washington deemed that decision “disappointing.”
The deployment of Russian SE-23 missiles to Syria undermines the Israeli deterrence against the Syrian military force and Hezbollah, and enhances the power of Iran indirectly, Zionist daily Yadiot Aharonot reported Wednesday.
“All of this gets here at a time where there is no confirmation that the Americans will take a move in Syria,” Yadiot Aharonot said.
The Zionist newspaper underlined that “installing the SE-23 anti-aircraft missiles by Russia in Syria is a bad news for Israel because the two installed models are able to “shoot down planes in Israeli airspace or over the sea and when Israeli aircraft attack targets inside Syria or Lebanon.”
“The Russians might use those missiles against our aerial activities in the region,” it added.
In a related development, the Zionist website Walla stated that Moscow’s decision to deploy modern S-300 missiles in naval bases in Syria will change the rules of the game, because it will restrict the “freedom of the Israeli air force in the Syrian airspace.”
“There is fear in the Israeli security service that this would increase the confidence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and increase hostilities against Israel,” the Zionist website said.
For its part, Israel Hayom newspaper said that the battle for Aleppo has “painted a picture of the new world,” adding that “it is sad that the Americans have left the field to the Russians.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi
The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman has denied claims made by a US official that a missile used by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters to destroy an Emirati military vessel was made by Iran.
Bahram Qassemi added on Tuesday that the US should take a look at its own heavy dossier concerning the supply of arms and weapons to those attacking civilians in Yemen instead of projecting the blame on others.
Qassemi noted that the accusation has been made as US planes and weapons have been used and are still being used to kill thousands of Yemeni women and children, and destroy hospitals and schools in Yemen.
On Saturday, Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed the Emirati military vessel in a rocket attack near the Red Sea port city of Mokha.
Yemen has been under Saudi military strikes since late March 2015. The war was launched in a bid to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has stepped down as president but is now seeking to grab power by force. The United Nations puts the death toll from the military aggression at about 10,000.
Houthi Ansarullah fighters, allied with Yemeni army factions, and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have united and are fighting back the Saudi invaders.