The imam of Florence has posted a picture of habit-wearing nuns splashing along the seashore on Facebook, calling for dialogue about burqini bans… but got his account blocked instead.
The post by Izzedin Elzir got some 2,700 shares, and came in response to the French southern cities – like Cannes and Nice – prohibiting the wearing of burqinis on the beach.
The day after the imam published his post, he awoke to find his account blocked.
“It’s incomprehensible. I have to send them an ID document to reactivate it. They wanted to make sure it’s my account – it’s a very strange procedure,” the indignant imam told La Repubblica.
On Friday, his account was back in, and the imam said he hopes it wasn’t blocked because of the picture, as it urges dialogue, and “we live in a society of law and freedom.”
He also noted that the burqini had only come into fashion among Muslim women over the past few years, and he expressed regret that “some politicians in France, instead of responding to the political and economic needs of their citizens, are focusing on how Muslims dress.”
Many online commenters tended to agree with the imam, saying that “The sea is for everyone,” and describing the ban as “a psychological tool against Muslims.”
However, others disagreed, “Don’t confuse the two different situations: these are women who have CHOSEN to religious life with the rules that it imposes, the ‘others’ are FORCED to dress even on the beach,” a comment read.
It’s not the first burqini-linked scandal this week. On Thursday, Austrian politician Ahmet Demir caused uproar after publishing a photo of two nuns and joking that they were “oppressed women” in burqas. Later, he took the post down and apologized, but defended his post saying that he was attempting to convey the message that “every woman should be able to wear what they want as long as they chose the clothes themselves.”
On Tuesday, Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Corriere Della Serra that Italy wouldn’t follow France’s suit and ban the burqini, but will step up regulations of imams and mosques.
Two days later, Italian authorities expelled the Tunisian imam Khairredine Romdhane Ben Chedli. The 35-year-old imam was lately absolved of terrorism-related charges, but still deemed unfit to remain in his post, the ANSA news agency said.
Will Hungary be the next nation to exit the dysfunctional European Union? The question isn’t at all as far-fetched as it might seem. On October 2, voters in Hungary will participate in a nationwide referendum to vote whether they agree to the forced settlement of migrants in Hungary by the EU or not. It’s a major issue in Hungary, a land of proud and staunchly independent-minded people who have endured 150 years of Ottoman rule; wars with Habsburg Austria until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created a peaceful coexistence under the dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary. After that, Hungarians were subject to the Soviet Union since 1945, initially under the dreaded Mátyás Rákosi, until it became the first Warsaw Pact communist country to declare a constitutional republic in October, 1989 and open its borders to Austria, setting in motion the domino fall of East Germany and then of the entire Warsaw Pact and, ultimately, the Soviet Union. Like every nation, they have a very special history.
It might well be said that Hungarians, always an ethnic melting-pot population whose parliament enacted the first laws of ethnic and minority rights in the world in 1849, are not a passive people when they sense something is wrong in the way they are being treated. So it is today regarding the Brussels proposal that Hungary and other EU member states must accept a Brussels-determined number of political war refugees from the Middle East and pay for all their costs whether they want them or not. Countries that refuse to take their quota would face severe financial penalties. In 2015 some 400,000 refugees arrived in Hungary in 2015 before a four-meter high razor wire fence was erected on the border with Serbia.
About half, or 200,000, attempted to gain asylum in Hungary, and after government procedures, only 264 refugees were granted political asylum. Since the erection of the fence the inflow via the so-called Balkan Route has all but stopped. The Austrian government has also decided to cooperate with the Orban government in jointly patrolling their common border.
Hungary is joined in opposing the Brussels mandatory refugee quota proposal by the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland–the so-called Visegrad Four group. So far only Hungary has decided on a national referendum on the issue. Polls show well over 66% opposed to the mandatory quotas, including Orban, who has urged a No vote.
Hungary’s outspoken Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, the only prime minister since 1989 to serve a full term and be re-elected, is very popular among Hungarians for speaking his mind against what he feels are wrong policies coming out of Brussels. Many Hungarians see him as a modern David pitted against the far larger Goliath, the faceless, unelected EU Commission.
On October 2 Hungarians will vote on a single question in a special national referendum: “Do you want the European Union to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?”
Orban: ‘terror risk…’
On the war refugee issue Orban minces no words: “Hungary does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future,” he said in a recent interview. On the contrary, he stated, “Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk. This is why there is no need for a common European migration policy.” Whoever needs migrants can take them, but don’t force them on us, we don’t need them.” As far as Hungary is concerned, he stated in an interview with RT, “migration is not a solution but a problem… We don’t need it and won’t swallow it.” The Hungarian government insists that the right to decide refugee issues should be reserved exclusively for national governments.
Hungary and three other central European states that constitute the Visegrad Four group, which includes Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, have been opposing the mandatory quotas the EU wants to impose on each member state. Last December Hungary filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice to thwart the EU’s attempt to redistribute incoming arrivals across the European Union. A decision could take years. The referendum is intended to give a broad popular mandate against Brussels’ forced quota attempts.
First step to EU Exit?
Clear to all from Brussels to Berlin to Budapest is that Hungarians will vote an overwhelming No to refugee forced quotas. At that point the real question will be whether Hungarians hold a second referendum, as the British did recently, to vote on leaving the EU or not when it becomes clear that Brussels will ignore the Hungarian vote with their usual deafening silence. The idea of a Hungarian EU exit is not unthinkable at all at this point now that Britain has become “first out the door,” establishing the precedent exit is possible.
The Orban government to date has moved with a certain directed caution to test the limits of EU rules. Far from a “right-wing tyrant” as Brussels bureaucrats and politically-correct mainstream EU media have portrayed him, the Oxford-educated Orban is a highly-sophisticated, apparently not corrupt (a real novelty in today’s politics if true) genuine democrat who always turns to his voters on key policy decisions to be sure he has them with him, something anathema to the unelected Brussels oligarchy.
Viktor Orban’s views on the current refugee crisis, which media deliberately misnames the far more benign-sounding mass migration situation of the EU, he outlined in detail in his February 28 annual State of the Union address to the nation, midway into his third term as (elected) Prime Minister.
Referring to the country’s recent experience extricating itself from the destructive decades of communist rule, now as an EU member state since 2004, Orban notes, “we are concerned as to how we should protect our national interests within the European Union.” This sounds reasonable enough unless one realizes that the aim of the EU as an institution is precisely the opposite–to ultimately destroy any and all national interests in favor of a top-down Brussels-centered autocracy of the unelected.
As so much about the true Hungary and Orban’s actual accomplishments is either ignored or distorted by mainstream non-Hungarian media, it’s first useful to note some of what Viktor Orban has accomplished in the first term from 1998-2002 when his Fidesz Party won in a coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party (FKGP) and in his sole majority government since 2010. After 8 years out of office, Orban’s Fidesz Party won an overwhelming popular mandate of 53% of the vote and two-thirds of Parliament seats in 2010 and re-election in 2014 to the present.
As Orban notes in his February address to the nation, “within three years we had consolidated the budget, stabilized the economy, avoided bankruptcy, curbed inflation and reduced unemployment – the latter not marginally, but from 11.5% to 6.2%. We sent the IMF packing, repaid our loan ahead of schedule, and this year we shall also repay the last blessed penny of our debt to the European Union. All in all, in 2014 we rounded off this period of stabilization with economic growth of 3.7%, and opened a new chapter.”
In addition, under Orban’s term, the government managed “in five years to reduce personal income tax from 35% to 15%, and in five years we have left 1,300 billion forints in the pockets of families. We have reduced household utility bills by 25%, and in five years the minimum wage in Hungary has increased by 50%. We have achieved this together: the state and the market; the Government and the business sector; employers and employees; Hungarian micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises and the local subsidiaries of global conglomerates… Compared with 2010, we have allocated forty per cent more funding to health care. We have halved waiting lists. We have allocated more than five hundred billion – more than five hundred billion forints – to the development of our hospitals.”
That is the background of Hungary’s present economy under Orban’s term and the background to understand why the population supports his call for a no to mandatory refugee quotas. Now his remarks on the refugee crisis are relevant.
‘name of this danger is mass migration…’
Orban continues, “I would now like to explain why I have said all this. In summary, it is because all of this is now in danger. The financial stability we have worked so hard for is in danger… Our nationally-oriented foreign policy – which has been built with such painstaking attention to detail – is in danger. Restored public order and public security free of terrorist threats are in danger. And our national culture… is also in danger.”
He gets precise: “The name of this danger is mass migration… The year 2015 brought to an end an age in which, believing that it was under Europe’s control, we took the protection and safety of our continent for granted. One year ago, on this same occasion, we were already warning that a new age of mass migration had begun. We were mocked mercilessly, and insulted by friends, allies and rivals alike… The reality is that those coming here have no intention whatsoever of adopting our way of life, because they see their own as more valuable… And why, indeed, would they give it up? The reality is that they will not provide the supply of labor needed by the factories of Western Europe. Facts show that, across entire generations, the unemployment rate is much higher – sometimes several times higher –among those born outside Europe. The reality is that the European nations have been unable to integrate even the masses who arrived from Asia and Africa gradually, over a number of decades. How could they succeed in doing so now, so rapidly and for such large numbers?”
All those statements can be argued. But here is the core point on which Orban bases his strategy of Referendum, and the ultimate reason he will next be forced after October 2 to begin preparing a ‘Huexit’ from the EU for Hungary:
“… it is hardly the migrants whom we should be so angry with. The majority of them are also victims: victims of their countries’ collapsing governments, victims of bad international decisions, victims of people smugglers. They are doing what they see as being in their own interests. The problem is that we Europeans are not doing that which would be in our own interests. There is no better word for what Brussels is doing than “absurd”. It is like a ship’s captain heading for collision who, instead of wanting to take avoiding action, is more interested in deciding which lifeboats should be non-smoking. It is as if, instead of repairing the leaking hull, we are arguing about how much water should flood into which cabins…”
Orban then continues:
“It is a big enough problem that Brussels is not capable of organizing the defense of Europe, but it is an even bigger problem that it lacks the intent to do so. In Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava it is difficult for us to understand how we have reached a point at which it is even possible that those wanting to come here from other continents and other cultures can be let in without controls. It is difficult to understand the weakening of our civilization’s natural and fundamental instinct for the defense of ourselves, our families, our homes and our land… This is Europe. Europe is Hellas, not Persia; it is Rome, not Carthage; it is Christianity, not a caliphate. When we say this we are not claiming that we are better, but that we are different. To point to the existence of an independent European civilization does not mean that it is better or worse; it only means that “we are like this, and you are like that.”
This move by Hungary, its Prime Minister and its population is no superficial political ploy to bargain for a better deal from Brussels as David Cameron intended with his Brexit fiasco (seen from Cameron’s view). It’s a fundamental drawing of a line in the sand of the entire European Union between countries who believe in a dissolved national sovereignty in favor of a supranational Brussels-based United Europe, and those countries who fiercely intend in the wake of this refugee crisis and all its ramifications, to demand essential national sovereign rights.
Brussels, and clearly Merkel’s Berlin, will oppose Hungary tooth-and-nail to defend their supranational concept. They will do that with the backing of George Soros and his European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. Not surprising, Viktor Orban has repeatedly openly opposed Hungarian-born billionaire speculator George Soros and his NGOs for trying to destabilize Hungary. Soros money also funded the document known as the Merkel Plan, which is the direct opposition to Orban’s defense of national sovereignty over the admission of refugees.
At this point the unfortunate experiment known as the European Union is flying apart in every direction. Hungary may well be forced to rethink its EU identity after October 2 if not well before as events are going, and that will ineluctably feed the forces of dissolution in the EU, perhaps a not at all bad consequence.
Twenty-one countries in Eastern and Central Europe want their citizens to return from abroad as emigration has led to a 7 percent drop in GDP. According to the IMF, the figure could grow to 9 percent if the trend continues.
Countries such as Latvia, whose population has been falling since the early 1990s due to low birth rates, have seen hundreds of thousands of people emigrate. After Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, many people left the country to seek a better life in the bloc’s more prosperous states.
Overall, the Baltic region has been hit most by the trend. Latvia and Lithuania have seen 0.6-0.9 percent of their GDP shaved off annually by emigration.
According to the IMF, Eastern European migrants’ education levels tend to be higher than their home country averages.
This has inspired a Latvian institute to launch the ‘I want you back’ campaign, inviting Latvians to tell their relatives and friends abroad they are welcome to return to the country.
“The initiative concerns our relationships with our relatives, friends and people close to us that are abroad, and [aims to] tell them clearly and directly – ‘I want you back,’” the initiative’s leader, Aiva Rozenberga, told national radio.
Latvian residents are being encouraged to use the hashtag #GribuTeviAtpakaļ (“I want you back” in Latvian) on Twitter and other social networks.
“The diaspora living abroad represent a huge untapped potential for their countries of origin,” Lithuania-based economist Rokas Grajauskas, working for Danske Bank, told Bloomberg.
Despite deep political tensions between Russia and the West, Moscow will continue to invest its surplus of currency in US Treasuries, a reliable and stable investment tool, analysts say.
As for the end of June, Russia increased its holdings of United States Treasuries to $90.9 billion, three percent more against the previous month, according to data from the US Treasury.
A year ago, Russia held $72 billion in US Treasuries. Thus, in 12 months, Russia increased investment in the US economy by 26 percent.
Moscow is the 16th biggest holder of US debt. The top three countries are China ($1.24 trillion), Japan ($1.15 trillion) and Ireland ($270.6 billion).
Currently, Russia is dealing with a sluggish economy. However, the government has ruled out the possibility of a default. Flexible exchange rates and low sovereign debt are helping to stabilize the economy. In addition, Russia has formidable gold and foreign exchange reserves of nearly $400 billion. The Russian Central Bank plans to increase reserves, from the actual $400 billion to $500 billion.
In theory, Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves, including the Reserve Fund ($38 billion), should be put in operations and bring profits.
Currently, there is a discussion between Russian economists and politicians about the ways to boost the Russian economy.
Some say that all reserves should be accumulated within one investment fund and used to invest in the economy. However, there is the risk that such a measure will not be effective and would only accelerate inflation rate. Finally, the Russian government has confirmed it will continue to invest in foreign assets.
Relations between Moscow and Washington now seem to be at their worst phase since the end of the Cold War. At the same time, nearly a fourth of the sum ($91 billion) has been invested to the US economy.
Many in Russia have repeatedly called to abandon investment in US debt. One of the arguments is that US Treasuries have a low yield. The most popular 10-year bonds have an annual yield of 1.5 percent. This is higher than the dollar inflation rate (0.7 percent in 2015), but is still extremely low. If all of Russia’s reserves were invested in US Treasuries Moscow would gain $6 billion of annual profits and only $3 billion in real terms (adjusted for inflation in the US).
However, Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves as well as its sovereign wealth fund are very limited financial tools. These funds can be invested only in the most reliable assets, including bonds issued by countries with high credit ratings. By contrast, for example, Norway’s welfare fund can invest across the world, buying stakes in European, Asian and American companies.
Russia invests the bulk of its money in conservative low-yield assets denominated in US dollars and euros. In this context, investing in US Treasuries is logical and clear.
Currently, bonds issued by European countries are a bit more profitable than US debt but their reliability is in question, taking into account the permanent debt crisis in the eurozone and uncertainty about the bloc’s future.
“Treasury bonds of the US and other developed countries are the most popular tool to invest surplus of currency. It is risk-free, in terms of liquidity, volatility and the possibility of a default. In fact, US Treasuries are a low-yield deposit account that can be closed at any moment and the money can be used for other needs,” Evgeny Loktyukhov, senior analyst at Promsvyazbank, told the Russian news website Lenta.ru.
According to the expert, the Russian government is investing in the US economy because this is the only possible way to invest. Loktyukhov said that there is no significant domestic demand for foreign currency in Russia. What is more, Russia does not have a large-scale international investment program.
US treasuries are high in demand because of their reliability and high liquidity, Bogdan Zvarich, analyst at Finam, added.
“The default risk on US Treasuries is extremely low. Of course, the flip side is their low yield. Nevertheless, US Treasuries are very attractive as an investment tool. As for their liquidity, US Treasuries can always be sold in the market at actual prices without serious losses,” he pointed out.
As for the increase of Russian investments in the US economy, analysts say the reason is that the situation with moving capital across Russian borders has improved.
“Increased investment in foreign obligations, including US Treasuries, is the consequence of the improved situation with the current account balance,” Loktyukhov said.
More indications emerge to show that banking problems remaining from the sanctions against Iran are still obstructing the country’s exports.
Fariborz Karimaei, the deputy head of the Association of Petrochemical Industry Corporation of Iran, was quoted by the media as saying that Iran’s petrochemical exports to Europe are facing problems as a result of sanctions-related banking issues that have not been fully settled.
Karimaei emphasized that the European banks are still failing to cooperate with the Iranian exporters of petrochemical products even eight months after the removal of the sanctions.
In January, a series of economic sanctions that had been imposed against Iran were removed after a deal that the country had last year reached with the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – came into effect.
The sanctions restricted banking transactions with the country among other issues.
Iran has been persistently urging European countries to take the required measures to encourage their banks to facilitate transactions with Tehran now that the sanctions have been removed.
However, the country’s plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears so far.
Analysts have already emphasized that the banks remain wary of the impacts of the remaining American sanctions against Iran, specifically those that address banking transactions with the country.
Reports earlier said they want a promise that the US will not prosecute or punish them for transactions involving Iran — a step the US has so far been reluctant to take.
In May, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a meeting of top EU bankers that they will not be penalized for conducting or facilitating business with Iran.
However, European banks have already emphasized that Kerry’s assurances are not enough and a series of confusions that remain over transactions with Iran need to be cleared by Washington.
Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested.
James Clapper, US Director of Intelligence on Turkish Coup, Financial Times, 8/3/16, p. 4
Washington has organized a systematic, global, no holds barred campaign to oust Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump from the electoral process. The virulent anti-Trump animus, the methods, goals and mass media resemble authoritarian regimes preparing to overthrow political adversaries.
Comparable propaganda efforts led to political coups in Chile in 1973, Brazil 1964, and Venezuela in 2002. The anti-Trump forces include both political parties, a Supreme Court judge, Wall Street bankers, journalists and editorialists of all the major media outlets and the leading military and intelligence spokespeople.
Washington’s forcible and illegal ouster of Trump is part and parcel of a world-wide campaign to overthrow leaders and regimes which raise questions about aspects of the imperial policies of the US and EU.
We will proceed to analyze the politics of the anti-Trump elite, the points of confrontation and propaganda, as a prelude to the drive to oust opposition in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The Anti-Trump Coup
Never in the history of the United States, has a President and Supreme Court Judge openly advocated the overthrow of a Presidential candidate. Never has the entire mass media engaged in a round-the-clock one-sided, propaganda war to discredit a Presidential candidate by systematically ignoring or distorting the central socio-economic issues of their opposition.
The call for the ouster of a freely elected candidate is nothing more or less than a coup d’état.
Leading television networks and columnists demand that the elections be annulled, following the lead of the President and prominent Republican and Democratic Congressional and Party leaders.
In other words, the political elite openly rejects democratic electoral processes in favor of authoritarian manipulation and deception. The authoritarian elite relies on magnifying tertiary, questionable personal judgement calls to mobilize coup backers.
They systematically avoid the core economic and political issues which candidate Trump has raised – and attracted mass support – which challenge fundamental policies backed by the two Party elites.
The Roots of the Anti-Trump Coup
Trump has raised several key issues which challenge the Democratic and Republican elite.
Trump has drawn mass support and won elections and public opinion polls by:
(1) rejecting the free trade agreements which has led major multinationals to relocate abroad and disinvest in well-paying industrial jobs in the US.
(2) calling for large scale public investment projects to rebuild the US industrial economy, challenging the primacy of financial capital.
(3) opposing the revival of a Cold War with Russia and China and promoting greater economic co-operation and negotiations.
(4) rejecting US support for NATO’s military build-up in Europe and intervention in Syria, North Africa and Afghanistan.
(5) questioning the importation of immigrant labor which lowers job opportunities and wages for local citizens.
The anti-Trump elite systematically avoid debating these issues; instead they distort the substance of the policies.
Instead of discussing the job benefits which will result from ending sanctions with Russia, the coupsters screech that ‘Trump supports Putin, the terrorist’.
Instead of discussing the need to redirect investment inward to create US jobs, the anti-Trump junta mouth clichés that claim his critique of globalization would ‘undermine’ the US economy.
To denigrate Trump, the Clinton/Obama junta resorts to political scandals to cover-up mass political crimes. To distract public attention, Clinton-Obama falsely claim that Trump is a ‘racist’, backed by David Duke, a racist advocate of “Islamophobia”. The anti-Trump junta promoted the US-Pakistani parents of a military war casualty as victims of Trump’s slanders even as they rooted for Hillary Clinton, promotor of wars against Muslim countries and author of military policies that sent thousands of US soldiers to their grave.
Obama and Clinton are the imperial racists who bombed Libya and Somalia and killed, wounded, and displaced over 2 million sub-Saharan Black-Africans.
Obama and Clinton are the Islamaphobes who bombed and killed and evicted five million Muslims in Syria and one million Muslims in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
In other words, Trump’s mistaken policy to restrict Muslim immigration is a reaction to the hatred and hostility engendered by the Obama-Clinton million-person Muslim genocide.
Trump’s “America First” policy is a rejection of overseas imperial wars – seven wars under Obama-Clinton. Their militarist policies have inflated budget deficits and degraded US living standards.
Trump’s criticism of capital and job flight has threatened Wall Street’s billion-dollar profiteering – the most important reason behind the bi-partisan junta’s effort to oust Trump and the working class’s support for Trump.
By not following the bi-partisan Wall Street, war agenda, Trump has outlined another business agenda which is incompatible with the current structure of capitalism. In other words, the US authoritarian elite does not tolerate the democratic rules of the game even when the opposition accepts the capitalist system.
Likewise, Washington’s quest for ‘mono-power’ extends across the globe. Capitalist governments which decide to pursue independent foreign policies are targeted for coups.
Obama-Clinton’s Junta Runs Amok
Washington’s proposed coup against Trump follows similar policies directed against political leaders in Russia, Turkey, China, Venezuela, Brazil, and Syria.
Russian President Putin has been demonized by the US propaganda media on an hourly basis for the better part of a decade. The US has backed oligarchs and promoted economic sanctions; financed a coup in the Ukraine; established nuclear missiles on Russia’s frontier; and launched an arms race to undermine President Putin’s economic policies in order to provoke a coup.
The US backed its proxy Gulenist ‘invisible government’ in its failed coup to oust President Erdogan, for failing to totally embrace the US Middle East agenda.
Likewise, Obama-Clinton have backed successful coups in Latin America. Coups were orchestrated in Honduras, Paraguay, and more recently in Brazil to undermine independent Presidents and to secure satellite neo-liberal regimes. Washington presses forward to forcibly oust the national-populist government of President Maduro in Venezuela.
Washington has escalated efforts to erode, undermine and overthrow the government of China’s President Xi-Jinping through several combined strategies. A military build-up of an air and sea armada in the South China Sea and military bases in Japan, Australia, and the Philippines; separatist agitation in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and among the Uyghurs; a US-Latin American-Asia free trade agreement which excludes China.
Washington’s strategy of illegal, violent coups to retain the delusion of empire stretches across the globe, ranging from Trump in the US to Putin in Russia, from Erdogan in Turkey to Maduro in Venezuela to Xi Jinping in China.
The conflict is between US-EU imperialism backed by their local clients against endogenous regimes rooted in nationalist alliances.
The struggle is ongoing and sustained and threatens to undermine the political and social fabric of the US and the European Union.
The top priority for the US Empire is to undermine and destroy Trump by any means necessary. Trump already has raised the question of ‘rigged elections’. But each elite media attack of Trump seems to add to and strengthen his mass support and polarize the electorate.
As the elections approach, will the elite confine themselves to verbal hysteria or will they turn from verbal assassinations to the ‘other kind’?
Obama’s global coup strategy shows mixed results: they succeeded in Brazil but were defeated in Turkey; they seized power in the Ukraine but were defeated in Russia; they gained propaganda allies in Hong Kong and Taiwan but suffered severe strategic economic defeats in the region as China’s Asian trade policies advanced.
As the US elections approach, and Obama’s pursuit of his imperial legacy collapses, we can expect greater deception and manipulation and perhaps even frequent resort to elite-designed ‘terrorist’ assassinations.
Not that long ago in Europe, one had to go to a church, a temple or a mosque to imbibe industrial quantities of religious doctrine.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, however, it has become possible to access it in a great and self-satisfied profusion on the editorial pages of the continent’s “serious” and nominally progressive dailies, papers like The Guardian, El País, La Repubblica, Le Monde, and Suddeutsche Zeitung.
The particular brand of theology being pushed?
Neo-Liberal Imperialism, something the faith’s leading clerics—people like Timothy Garton-Ash, Niall Ferguson. Moisés Naim, Mario Vargas Llosa, Hermann Tertsch, Antonio Caño, Joseph Joffe, and that erstwhile philosopher-clown, Bernard Henry-Levi—prefer to describe in terms of “promoting trans-Atlantic partnerships” and creating and maintaining “Open Societies”.
One day, historians will wonder how it was [US military occupation?] that the EU, a wealthy and ostensibly unified polity with a population of over 500 million people and an extremely deep and sophisticated history of indigenous intellectual production, came to have its public discourse dominated by the narrow and often quite parochial concerns of the elites of another country (right down to their absurd and largely unconditional devotion to a small and bellicose apartheid state in the Middle East) located halfway around the globe.
And if these historians are sharp, they will zero in on whatever it was that took place in newsrooms and other centers of media production (or perhaps more germanely, the boardrooms that set their policies) in Europe during the first decade of the 21st century.
The US desire to spread the Atlanticist creed, which essentially holds that life for Europeans is best when they sublimate their economic and strategic interests to those of the US security and financial establishments, is nothing new. Indeed, it has been one of the primary thrusts of US diplomatic and intelligence activity in Europe since the end of World War II.
The career of Joffe, marked by residencies at the Stanford’s Hoover Institution and appearances on the US establishment’s pre-eminent venue for self-promotion and the consolidation of US-Israeli official talking points, The Charlie Rose Show, provides eloquent testimony to the benefits that accrue those willing to promote the American view of reality to their European countrymen on a daily basis.
What is different today is the relative weight of this ideology, with its love of military force and fiscal bullying, on one hand, and crass indifference to the clear long-term interests of the great bulk of the European population (e.g. establishing vigorous cultural and commercial interchanges with Russia, the basic physical health of Greeks) on the other, within the continent’s opinion-making landscape. Whereas slavish pro-Americans like Joffe used to constitute one voice among many, they and their views on foreign policy are now predominant in most major European papers.
How did this happen?
For those with a need to believe—and there are, sadly, still many—in the essentially benevolent nature of the US foreign policy and the existence of a more or less free and unfettered “marketplace of ideas” within the US and Europe, the answer is simple. As they got older and more prosperous Europeans became more conservative and began to demand the presence in major outlets of people whose ideas reflected these changing views.
However, for those that understand the enormous importance that the post-war US establishment has always put on “perception management” and how information warfare was and is an enormously important element of the Rumsfeldian notion of “Full Spectrum Dominance”, such an explanation strains credibility.
For example, are we really supposed to believe that of all the intelligent, experienced and well-traveled people available in the traditionally pro-Palestinian country of Spain, the person best equipped to serve as El País’ weekend foreign policy guru was Moisés Naím, a Zionist former minister of the arch-corrupt Venezuelan government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, former executive director of the World Bank, and long-time editor of the in-house bible of mainstream US imperialism Foreign Policy? Do we really believe that the paper’s core socialist readership, which is traditionally pro-welfare state and very solidly anti-interventionist was pining for that?
Lest this all seem too speculative, I suggest you watch an interview conducted with Udo Ulfkotte, a veteran German reporter and former assistant editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, conducted in 2014. In it, he speaks of how he and other European journalists were, and are, routinely bought off by American operatives of one sort or another, going so far as to describe his country, Germany, as a “banana republic” and also a “colony of the Americans” where journalists who serve the interests of “trans-Atlantic” organizations are rewarded handsomely and where those that do not play along suffer dire consequences.
The interview took place on the occasion of the release his book Gekaufte Journalisten which is to be translated, I am told, as “Bought Journalists”, in which he goes into great detail about these matters. It is interesting to note that despite having been published two years ago and quickly rising to the status of a best-seller in Germany, it is still not available in English or any other European language. There has been talk for a while now of a “forthcoming” English version of the text. But every time I check up on it, the release date seems to have been pushed back another few months.
Think there is any pressure being applied to the people in charge of bringing the English translation of the book to market?
According to a new report by Princeton University’s Andrew Moravcsik, ‘Western policy to block Russian assertiveness in Ukraine has been surprisingly successful.’
The report, entitled Lessons from Ukraine: Why a Europe-led Economic Strategy is Succeeding, is published by the Transatlantic Academy, which describes itself as ‘a research institution devoted to creating common approaches to the long-term challenges facing Europe and North America.’ In a chapter entitled ‘Ukraine as a Western Policy Success’, the report says that ‘the current outcome in Ukraine, a “frozen conflict”, is in many respects a failure rather than a victory for Moscow, and a positive outcome for the West. … It is essential to remember that just two years ago, most observers … expected Russia to prevail easily.’ But, ‘Putin did not succeed’, and Russia ‘reversed its military advances, trimmed its ambitions, and eventually reverted to economic and diplomatic haggling with the West.’
‘Western policy success’ is thus measured not in terms of any positive gains by the West, but in terms of alleged ‘Russian failure’. This takes three forms, Moravcsik writes: 1) ‘Russia’s military was stalemated in the eastern Ukraine’; 2) ‘the Kremlin achieved few major political objectives in eastern Ukraine’; and 3) ‘with the insurgency in eastern Ukraine essentially over … Moscow’s only remaining alternative has been to negotiate with Ukraine and Europe using energy, trade, finance, domestic political influence, propaganda, and diplomacy.’
I can agree with number 2 of these: Russia certainly hasn’t gained anything out of the war in Donbass. But the other two propositions don’t match the facts. Russia’s military wasn’t stalemated – Ukraine’s was. It began the war against the insurgency in Donbass with a massive military advantage over its opponents, but in the end it failed to defeat them. Direct Russian military intervention in Donbass was brief, and was certainly not halted because of the efforts of the Ukrainian military. The Russians halted because they chose to halt, a fact which demonstrates the very limited nature of Russian objectives.
As I pointed out in an article in the journal European Politics and Society, ‘Moscow has largely been reacting to events and trying to gain some control of a process which was originally almost entirely outside of its control. Its primary aim has been to get the Ukrainian government to negotiate directly with the rebels, in order to produce a permanent peace settlement’. In that, the Kremlin has not succeeded. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about Moscow’s failure to ‘prevail’, when it wasn’t ever actually pursuing some broader objective of destroying Ukraine or the like. Moreover, since what Russia did want was precisely a return to negotiation, Moravcsik’s point 3 can hardly be said to constitute a failure.
In any case, it isn’t sensible to define Western ‘success’ purely in terms of Russian ‘failure’, as if international politics is entirely a zero-sum game. We must define success instead in terms of achieving some positive results for Western countries. It is hard to see what those might be. Moravcsik says that, ‘For Western governments, the ideal outcome would be for states of the former Soviet Union to evolve into prosperous market-oriented, democratic regimes able to control their own territorial sovereignty and cooperate with the West.’ In those terms, European policy towards Ukraine, from the time it pressed an EU association agreement on Ukraine, through its support of the Maidan revolution to today, has been entirely unsuccessful. Ukraine is now less prosperous, not obviously any more democratic, certainly not able to control its territory, and still divided about its relationship with the West, as shown by recent opinion polls indicating that support for NATO membership among Ukrainians has once again fallen below 50%.
The only real success Moravcsik can point to is that the Ukrainian economy has not completely collapsed because of the financial aid European countries have given, and indeed it is true that the provision of financial aid has had a more positive effect on the situation in Ukraine than anything else Western states have done. The one strong point of this report is that it makes this clear. Moravcsik pours some welcome cold water on NATO hawks who see Russia as a military threat which requires a firm military response. Commenting on the very limited extent of Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, he writes:
The obvious lesson from Ukraine is that Putin lacks the political will to fight a major war even under the most propitious of circumstances. … If the Kremlin was unwilling to tolerate even modest expenditures of blood, treasure, and prestige to sustain a modest military advance in support of a majority Russian-speaking population in a small corner of Ukraine for a few weeks, why should we expect that it would attack even a weak NATO ally like Latvia or Estonia, let alone a heavily armed, strongly anti-Russian country without a substantial Russian minority, such as Poland?
Given that the answer to this question is that Russia wouldn’t do such a thing, Moravcsik concludes that Europe should focus on supporting Ukraine economically, rather than on resisting or deterring Russia militarily. This is a sound conclusion – a flourishing Ukrainian economy is in everybody’s interests (including Russia’s), and helping that economy would be far more productive than wasting yet more money on defence. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that Ukraine, whose GDP per capita is a third of that of Gabon, is suddenly going to turn into Switzerland. Nor should we kid ourselves that Western policy in Ukraine has been anything other than a failure.
Once again, Israel is exerting a great deal of effort in order to prevent discussion of an EU paper among European institutions. The internal report, which was drafted in December 2015 and then endorsed by all EU member states, attributes the development of the Jerusalem Intifada (Uprising) to “Israel’s occupation”. It included reference to the living conditions of Palestinian citizens and the failure to implement the two-state paradigm.
The EU Observer, which has seen the 39-page report, has stated that the document is intended as a reference for EU foreign ministers and “for proposals put forward by the EU Foreign Service.”
While having a dearth of facts, the report is not lacking in the kind of contradictions that mark the constant cycle of condemnation and appeasement of Israel at the expense of withholding Palestinian narratives. The Jerusalem Post has deemed the EU document to be veering away from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Israel and the rest of the world are facing the same terror threats. Rhetorically, the EU has distanced itself from Netanyahu’s sweeping statements that generalise every terrorist incident in order to normalise state violence against Palestinian resistance. Nevertheless, as on other occasions, the EU has devised its own strategies which uphold Israel’s narrative at a regional and international level.
The report is ambiguous in the extreme. “Some Palestinian perpetrators of individual attacks,” it explains, “have apparently been shot and killed in situations where they no longer pose a threat.” Despite Netanyahu himself publicly endorsing such extrajudicial killings, the EU has preferred to subjugate the facts to hypotheses through the use of terminology like “apparently”, “appeared” and “possibly amounting in certain cases to unlawful killings.” By not condemning such unlawful killing explicitly, the discourse suggests the EU’s tacit approval of Israeli state and settler violence. This is illustrated further in the report’s standard equivalence clause that “both sides” have indulged in “inflammatory rhetoric”, thus negating the fact that Palestinian resistance is a legitimate response to illegal Israeli colonial violence.
EU Foreign Relations chief Federica Mogherini has opposed the proposal that “known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence” should be placed under EU visa bans. According to Mogherini: “There’s currently no question of sanctioning anybody. The question is rather how to motivate people to… restart peace talks.” Such leniency works in concordance with Israeli policy towards settler terrorists who are mostly shielded by the colonial state, enabling them to act with impunity.
Perhaps the most incriminating evidence of support for Israeli colonisation is the recommendation that the EU develops “further guidelines that differentiate between Israel and its illegal settlements,” according to the EU Observer. This distinction has been of interminable benefit to Israel and its implications are many, including the refusal to recognise the fact that Israel is a colonial entity and that its manifestation is contrary to the principles enshrined in international law. Referring to Israel as the “occupying power” without any reference to colonisation in effect absolves both Israel and the international community of accountability when it comes to recognising the Palestinian right to resistance and liberation. Unless this anomaly is rectified, all reports issued by the EU will be inherently biased towards Israel, regardless of the content. To treat colonial expansion as a recent phenomenon is a transgression of truth and an impediment to Palestinian struggle, although that is, after all, the apparent international intent behind such blatant deception.
ANTI-NUCLEAR activists have claimed that a recent incident off the coast of Gibraltar in which a nuclear-powered submarine made a “glancing collision” with a merchant vessel shows the “risks” of the technology.
A statement on the Ministry of Defence website said the collision took place at approximately 1.30pm yesterday, with the submarine suffering “some external damage”, but claimed the nuclear reactor was was left undamaged while none of the submarine’s crew were injured.
The statement says the MoD were in contact with the merchant ship and that “initial indications are that it has not sustained damage”, and that the submarine – HMS Ambush – would be entering Gibraltar for further checks.
“It is yet another example of the risks of nuclear submarines operating out of Faslane.” John Ainslie
HMS Ambush is part of the Royal Navy’s Astute-class, of which there are seven in development. They are distinct from the Vanguard-class of submarines which carry the UK’s Trident nuclear missiles.
John Ainslie, co-ordinator with the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said: “You can’t have a minor incident on a nuclear submarine, there’s no such thing. It’s a question of what follows on. Clearly from the picture there’s major damage to the conning tower. The shock of that will have upset everything on the submarine.”
Ainslie questioned whether it was genuinely a “glancing” collision, pointing out that similar incidents have taken place in the past: “The MoD describe this as a ‘glancing’ collision but HMS Triumph ran aground in Skye at high speed and the description of the circumstances was pretty scathing.
“One of the main risks on a nuclear submarine is fire. The reactor may have automatically shut down, as a result of the shock, but these submarines carry an over-ride system which can over-ride the shutdown.
“We have consistently campaigned against nuclear-powered submarines as well. The whole thing is linked in. All the nuclear armed submarines are all nuclear-powered. It is yet another example of the risks of nuclear submarines operating out of Faslane.”
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | July 21, 2016
Events in Turkey just become stranger with each passing day.
We now have Middle Eastern and Persian sources, cited by Russian and German papers, that Russia’s security agencies overheard helicopter radio transmissions by the coup participants, and President Putin warned Erdogan about what was happening, likely saving his skin.
If true, this would help explain the apparent ineptness of the coup forces. My first hypothesis explaining this ineptness plus other peculiarities of the coup was that the plotters were unwittingly working in a dark operation run by Turkish security forces, intended to make them fail while flushing them out and giving Erdogan a free hand.
This possibility of Russian advance warning put together with Erdogan’s own belief that the coup originated in America should yield some serious geopolitical shifts in the region.
We could have an even stronger rapprochement between Turkey and Russia than was already underway, a rapprochement, by the way, which could well have helped tip the United States into giving a wink and a nod (and of course, as always, some cash) to Turkish rebel forces.
But that would not be the only reason for America’s supporting a coup. The truth is, from the American point of view, Erdogan’s erratic behavior – shooting down a Russian war plane, firing artillery into Syria at American Kurdish allies, blackmailing Europe over large numbers of refugees resident in Turkish camps, and still other matters – over the last few years has added uncertainty and potential instability to a strategically important region.
Even if the United States were not involved in the coup, although right now Turkey’s government appears to believe firmly that it was, Putin’s warning would add a powerful positive element to Russian-Turkish relations.
Just as America’s failure to warn Erdogan adds a new negative element to Turkish-American relations. After all, no one is better equipped for international communication interception than the NSA. If the United States were not involved, why didn’t it warn Erdogan? Either way, the outcome is negative for Turkish-American relations.
One of the strongest suggestions for American involvement is the fact that Turkish jets, for bombing and fuel supplies, took off from the İncirlik Airbase during the coup. This airbase is Turkish, but has many Americans resident, including some high-level ones since there is not only a sizable air force stationed there but an estimated fifty thermonuclear bombs. The Turkish commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was in daily contact with the Americans and sought asylum in the United States before he was arrested by Turkey.
If it is true that Putin warned Erdogan, this would also be the second time Putin has blunted the success of a major American-inspired coup, as he very much did in Ukraine.
Seems as though poor old America, for all its grossly swollen and over-paid security services, just cannot run a good coup anymore.
Putin is disliked by Washington’s establishment precisely because he successfully blunted a huge and costly operation in Ukraine, so disliked that NATO has been pushed dangerously into something resembling the terrifying preparations for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in Eastern Europe, 1941.
And, of course, Putin also has thwarted the American effort to overthrow President Assad with paid and supplied proxy forces of mercenaries and religious maniacs. Interestingly, Erdogan has been a key player there. French intelligence has just estimated that even now about a hundred thugs cross the border from Turkey into Syria each week.
If Putin has now also stopped a Turkish adventure, the hissing in Washington will likely become much louder.
A new relationship between Turkey and Russia offers a lot of possibilities, none of them favorable from America’s point of view, the restart of the Turkish Stream natural gas project being just one.
And if Europe speaks up or acts too strongly against Erdogan’s counter-coup measures, there’s always the possibility of a new release of refugees from Turkish camps, something which could genuinely destabilize the EU after so many other recent woes. And smooth control of the EU has been one of America’s chief policy objectives for years.
Of course, we should remember that Churchill’s famous quote originally applied to Russia in the days of Stalin. It does not apply to contemporary Russia, and Putin’s deft moves have made some of America’s clumsy efforts at re-ordering the world rather make it resemble Stalin in international affairs.
A senior European Union security official says the body is looking into Israeli technology for online surveillance in Europe.
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said Tuesday that the bloc was turning to Israeli methods after internet companies proved reluctant to monitor individuals.
The official cited a series of deadly attacks across Europe which had prompted officials to think of using Israeli technologies.
Once focused on “meta data” or information regarding individuals’ communications patterns, Israeli spy agencies now have refocused on social media as a complementary means of snooping on Palestinians.
An Israeli military official who administers these methods said human intervention is required to set parameters such as age, religiosity, socio-economic background for the population being monitored.
Traditionally a source of funds for the Israeli military to maintain its “edge” in the Middle East, the US and Europeans have recently turned to a major customer of Israeli weapons.
Last month, the US military said it had tested an Israeli short-range missile for possible use in its European network of missile systems to deter Russia.
Major General Glenn Bramhall of the US Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command said a variant of the Israeli “Tamir” rocket which is incorporated to Tel Aviv’s so-called Iron Dome missile system had been tested.
Last month, a report said European countries were increasingly purchasing weapons from Israeli arms manufacturers, promoting their products on the grounds that they have been “field-tested” against Palestinians.
The report came as 29 Israeli arms makers displayed their military technologies earlier this week at the Eurosatory conference in Paris, one of the world’s largest land defense exhibitions.
French purchases of weaponry from Israeli firms more than doubled in 2015 compared to a year earlier, amounting to $355 million.
In 2016, Israel is projected to overtake Italy as the world’s seventh-largest weapons exporter, the report said, citing IHS Jane’s.
Many of the Israeli arms technologies being sold to Europe are used in the repression of Palestinians, including in the destructive 2014 war on the besieged and densely-populated Gaza Strip.
The war left over 2,200 dead — mostly civilians — while injuring thousands more and displacing nearly 500,000 people, according to UN figures.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the purchase of field-tested Israeli weapons, saying the group has documented “violations of the rules of war that appear to rise to the level of war crimes in Gaza using some of these weapons.”