Category Archives: Terrorism (state and retail)

The World is Uniting for International Law, against US Empire

We oppose the extraterritorial application of unilateral measures.

That is not Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Russia, or China talking about the most recent unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against Venezuela, i.e. economic sanctions that have become an economic blockade, but the European Union. Even allies who have embarrassed themselves by recognizing the phony “interim president” Juan Guaido are saying the US has gone too far.

All of the countries listed above and many more have stated their opposition to the escalation of the US economic war against Venezuela. Venezuela, along with Iran, has become a prime target of US regime change, and both are uniting the world in opposition to US bullying behavior, which is hastening the demise of US domination. Popular social movements are growing against US unilateralism and violations of international law.

Activists in Indonesia on the World Day of Protest against the US blockade of Venezuela. Telesur.

Countries of the World are Uniting Against the United States

Six months ago, the US sought to install a puppet government led by Juan Guaido. Guaido, trained by the US, was an unknown personality to most Venezuelans. He is a minor politician who barely won election to the defunct National Assembly. Today, the failure of the US coup attempt is evident. Repeated efforts by Guaido, his allies, and the United States to rally support for Guaido from the people and Venezuelan military have failed.

A large rebuke on the international stage occurred in July when delegations from 120 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) united to oppose US policy against Venezuela, saying in a statement that only Venezuela can decide its fate, no other state can intervene in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The UN General Secretary pointed out the importance of the Non-Aligned Movement when she spoke at the beginning of the conference, stating that “two-thirds of the United Nations members and 55% of the world’s population” are represented by it, making it the second-largest multinational body in the world after the UN.

Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, put the US intervention against Venezuela in context, declaring upon his arrival for the meeting: “The resistance of the people of Venezuela against the United States is very important for all the countries of the world.”

The economic blockade, announced last week, has also escalated opposition to dollar domination. There are now 21 countries on the US sanctions list and scores of other countries are impacted by US sanctions. In reality, what the US is doing is imposing unilateral coercive measures against these countries, which violate the United Nations Charter. Sanctions imply there was a formal action that justified punishment, but that is not the case here.

The Caracas Declaration was passed at the NAM meeting. As Anya Parampil reported in the Grayzone, “the delegates unanimously affirmed their pursuit of a multipolar world and a desire to construct an international financial system independent of US control.”

The Declaration also contained a clause calling for following the Vienna Convention, which includes a provision to protect diplomatic missions. No doubt this was in response to the US seizure of Venezuelan diplomatic properties, highlighted by the work of the Embassy Protection Collective to uphold international law.

Minneapolis, July 15 (RHC) Demonstrators in the state of Minnesota condemned U.S. sanctions against Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and expressed solidarity with the peoples of these countries.

Sanctions are Economic Terrorism

At the NAM meeting, representatives of various countries described the impacts of the US’ economic war on their people. Zarif of Iran made the point clear: “Just Google ‘terrorism.’ This is the definition that the dictionary will give you: ‘unlawful use of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political gains’… so please friends, stop using [the term] ‘sanctions’… sanctions have a legal connotation. This is economic terrorism… we have to say it again and again.”

Illegal unilateral coercive measures have contributed to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans in 2017 and 2018. A leading Venezuelan Economist, Francisco Rodríguez, says the Trump Administration’s sanctions are costing Venezuela $16.9 billion annually and threaten a famine that could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. Two days after Trump’s new Executive Order was signed, a ship carrying 25 thousand tons of soy-made products for food production in Venezuela was blocked.

The NAM conference agreed to study and report on the impact of US sanctions, ensuring that the movement against illegal unilateral coercive measures by the United States will continue.

Russia, an observer of the NAM, was represented by Vice Minister Sergey Ryabkov who said the US was strangling Venezuela with one hand through sanctions while pick-pocketing it with the other by freezing its assets held in Western banks. Ryabkov told the Grayzone, “the US has sanctioned almost 70 countries in recent decades, impacting the lives of over one-third of the world’s population.”

The US tried to threaten diplomats to convince them not to attend the meeting, but was unsuccessful. Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, described the successful summit as “a failure of US diplomacy” driven home by “120 countries [that] are not aligned with the US… they want to be free, they want to be independent.” He described the Non-Aligned Movement as a “vaccine against unilateralism.”

President Maduro spoke at the meeting. He underscored the march of history toward freedom and the end of US empire describing the 21st Century as “the century of freedom, it is the century of the end of empires, and it is just beginning in 2019…nothing, nor anyone will stop us…no one can stop the course of the new story that is making its way!”

People’s Movements Organizing Against US’ Violations of International Law

The US blockade against Venezuela and continued threats of military attack galvanized worldwide protests this weekend. Popular Resistance joined with other social movements and civil society organizations in denouncing the blockade.

In addition to the Non-Aligned Movement’s renewed commitment to the United Nations Charter, popular movements are organizing along similar lines. This week, we launched the Global Appeal to Save International Law, an effort to create a global network of people and social movements to demand respect for the United Nations Charter and its use as a tool for maintaining peace, guaranteeing human rights and protecting the sovereignty of nations.

From September 20-23, a coalition of organizations is holding the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet. The Mobe will highlight the role of US militarism as the largest polluter on the planet during the Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20 and join in calling for decolonization at the Puerto Rico Independence March on September 21. The People’s Mobe will hold a rally at Herald Square at 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 22. On Monday the 23rd, we will hold an evening event: “A Path To International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter,” which will feature social movements and government representatives working for an end to US violations of international law. Registration is free, but is required. Register here.

Opposition to US violations of international law were also evident at the Sao Paulo Forum held in Caracas from July 25-28 with the participation of 190 organizations, political parties, social movements, workers’ movements, parliamentarians and intellectuals from Latin America, the Caribbean and several continents. Seven hundred people participated in the four-day event showing unity across Latin America against US aggression.

A dozen members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective attended the forum, spoke to the conference and were received with standing ovations for their work to uphold international law. The Collective had challenges getting to the Forum, due to US airlines no longer flying to Venezuela, and one member was harassed at the US border when he returned.

A Final Declaration was issued by the Forum in support for Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and other progressive governments under attack by US imperialism and for a demand to free Lula and other left-wing leaders imprisoned for political reasons.

Members of the Embassy Protection Collective in Caracas.

Rising Resistance

People are standing up to US interventions in many other countries. In Honduras, there are widespread protests against the US-installed coup president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was indicted last week in the US for drug trafficking. US-trained police are responding to protests with violence.  A hunger strike by political prisoners turned into a call for Hernandez’s resignation. Embassy Protector Adrienne Pine is there and reporting via Twitter.

In Nicaragua, peace has prevailed after a US coup attempt last year. A US-funded Human Rights Director was accused of massive theft of US regime change dollars and inflating death tolls. To understand Nicaragua, read this excellent book by social movement leaders. There is a great deal happening in Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and other countries responding to US domination. Stephon Sefton writes that the next five years will be pivotal for the Left in Latin America.

Another top target is Iran where the US has escalated its economic war after Trump violated the nuclear arms agreement. Iran is being very strategic in responding to US aggression in the Strait of Hormuz and the US has been unable to get traditional allies like France and Germany to join with it, causing concerns within the US foreign policy establishment. The US economic war is undermining the Iranian economy and causing tens of thousands of deaths annually.

Iran has never attacked another country nor invaded a country to steal its resources. They are proud of their skills in diplomacy and negotiation, as a veteran of the Iraq-Iran war wrote to President Trump in an open letter. He warns that the initiator of war is the loser, and attacks on Iran will backfire. Foreign Minister Zarif made a similar point with regard to the unilateral coercive measures saying US economic terrorism will backfire against the US.

High level officials at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Caracas, 2019. By the Grayzone Project.

The Loss of US Supremacy

Aggressive US actions being put in place by Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo are backfiring. Responses are being put in place that will unravel US economic power, which is more fragile than it seems.

Foreign Minister Zarif summarizes the situation saying, “Last year we did 35 percent of our bilateral transactions with Turkey in our own currencies. And this is happening between us and China, between us and India, between us and Russia, and between us and the countries in the region.”

Countries are responding to dollar domination by trading without the US dollar. JP Morgan’s private bank advised clients that “the US dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency” and urged investors to diversify their currency holdings. New financial structures are being created by Europe, Russia, Iran, China, and others to trade without the dollar. The value of the dollar is in decline and last month Credit Suisse predicted it would continue to fall.

The US political leadership seems unable to change course. The bi-partisans in Washington, DC passed a record-setting two-year military budget that continues to misspend US resources on an arms race and never-ending war rather than on critical needs at home. The failure to rebuild infrastructure, make education from pre-school through college free and available to all, confront the lack of investment in cities and rural areas and confront the crisis of healthcare with national improved Medicare for all will cause a downward US spiral.

The myth of American Exceptionalism is being exposed, as we discuss with Danny Haiphong on Clearing the FOG. We need to prepare for a new era as the 2020’s offer potential for significant social and political transformation if we work at it.

The War on White Supremacist Terror

If you enjoyed the global corporatocracy’s original War on Islamicist Terror, you’re going to love their latest spinoff, The War on White Supremacist Terror. It’s basically just like the old War on Terror, except that this time the bad guys are all white supremacists, and Donald Trump is Osama bin Laden … unless Putin is Osama bin Laden. OK, I’m not quite sure who’s Osama bin Laden. Whatever. The point is, the Terrorists are coming!

Yes, that’s right, some racist psycho murdered a bunch of people in Texas, so it’s time to “take the gloves off” again, pass some new kind of Patriot Act, further curtail our civil liberties, and generally whip the public up into a mass hysteria over “white supremacist terrorism.”

The New York Times Editorial Board is already hard at work on that front. In a lengthy op-ed that ran last Sunday, We Have a White Nationalist Terrorist Problem,” the Board proposes that we would all be safer if the government — but presumably not the current government — could arbitrarily deem people “terrorists,” or “potential terrorists,” or “terrorist sympathizers,” regardless of whether they have any connection to any actual terrorist groups, and … well, here’s what the Editorial Board has in mind.

The resources of the American government and its international allies would mobilize without delay. The awesome power of the state would work tirelessly to deny future terrorists access to weaponry, money and forums to spread their ideology. The movement would be infiltrated by spies and informants. Its financiers would face sanctions. Places of congregation would be surveilled. Those who gave aid or comfort to terrorists would be prosecuted.

The Board didn’t mention the offshore gulags, wars of aggression, assassinations, torture, mass surveillance of virtually everyone, and other such features of the original War on Terror, but presumably all that kind of stuff would be included in “the awesome power of the state” that the Board would like the U.S. government to “mobilize without delay.”

And the mandarins of The New York Times were just getting started with the terrorism hysteria. The Tuesday edition was brimming with references to “white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism.” Here are some of the front page headlines … Trump is a White Supremacist Who Inspires Terrorism.” “White Terrorism Shows Parallels to Islamic State.” “The Nihilist in Chief: how our president and our mass shooters are connected to the same dark psychic forces.” “I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different.” “Trump, Tax Cuts, and Terrorism. And so on.

The Times was hardly alone, of course. In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the corporate media went into overdrive, pumping out “white supremacist terrorism” mass hysteria around the clock. The Guardian took a break from smearing Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite to proclaim that El Paso was Trump-inspired Terrorism.” The Sydney Morning Herald declared that the U.S. is now officially in the throes of a white nationalist terrorism crisis. The Atlantic likened Trump to Anwar al-Awlaki, and assured us that the worst is yet to come! Liberal journalists and politicians rushed onto Twitter to inform their followers that a global conspiracy of white supremacist terrorists “emboldened” or “inspired” by Donald Trump (who, remember, is a Russian secret agent) is threatening the very fabric of democracy, so it’s time to take some extraordinary measures!

Never mind that it turns out that two of the three “white supremacist terrorist” mass murderers in question (i.e., the Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton shooters) do not appear to have been white supremacists, and that none of them were linked to any terrorist groups. We’re living in the Age of Non-Terrorist Terrorism, in which anyone can be deemed a “terrorist,” or a “suddenly self-radicalized terrorist,” regardless of whether they have any actual connection to organized terrorism.

Terrorism isn’t what used to be. Back in the day (i.e, the 1970s), there were terrorist groups like the PFLP, ANO, BSO, IRA, RAF, FARC, the Weather Underground, and so on … in other words, actual terrorist groups, committing acts of actual terrorism. More recently, there was al Qaeda and ISIS. Nowadays, however, more or less any attention-seeking sociopath with a death wish and a knock-off AR-15 (or moron with a bunch of non-exploding pipe bombs) can be deemed a bona fide “domestic terrorist,” as long as it serves the global capitalist ruling classes’ official narrative.

The official narrative of the moment is Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis (also known as The War on Populism), which I’ve been covering in these columns, satirically and more seriously, for the better part of the last three years. According to this official narrative, “democracy is under attack” by a conspiracy of Russians and neo-Nazis that magically materialized out of thin air during the Summer of 2016, right around the time Trump won the nomination. OK, the Russia part kind of sputtered out recently, so the global capitalist ruling classes and their mouthpieces in the corporate media are now going full-bore on the fascism hysteria. They’ve been doing this relentlessly since Trump won the election, alternating between the Russia hysteria and the fascism hysteria from week to week, day to day, sometimes hour to hour, depending on which one is “hot” at the moment.

These recent mass shootings have provided them with a golden opportunity, not just to flog the fascism hysteria once again, but to fold it into the terrorism hysteria which Americans have been indoctrinated with since September 11, 2001 (the objective of which indoctrination being to establish in the American psyche “the Terrorist” as the new official enemy, replacing the “Communist” official enemy that had filled this role throughout the Cold War). If you think the original War on Terror was just about oil or geopolitical hegemony, check out “leftist” political Twitter’s response to the El Paso and Dayton shootings. You’ll find, not just hysterical liberals, but “leftists” and even so-called “anarchists,” shrieking about “white supremacist terrorism.” It was the number one U.S. hashtag on Monday.

No, the original War on Terror (whatever else it was) was probably the most effective fascist psy-op in the history of fascist psy-ops. Fifteen years of relentless exposure to manufactured “terrorism” hysteria has conditioned most Americans (and most Westerners, generally), upon hearing emotional trigger words like “terrorist” and “terrorism” emanating from the mouths of politicians (or the front page of The New York Times) to immediately switch off their critical thinking, and start demanding that the authorities censor the Internet, suspend the U.S. Constitution, and fill the streets with militarized vehicles and special “anti-terror” forces with assault rifles in the “sling-ready” position. This tweet by Geraldo Rivera captures the authoritarian mindset perfectly:

In the meantime, there must be active-shooter trained, heavily armed security personnel every place innocents are gathered.

I’m not quite sure what “in the meantime” means. Perhaps it means until the USA, Western Europe, and the rest of the empire, can be transformed into a happy, hate-free, supranational corporate police state where there is no racism, no fascism, no terrorism, and no one ever says bad things on the Internet.

What a glorious, transhuman world that will be, like a living, breathing Benetton ad, once all the racists, terrorists, and extremists have been eliminated, or heavily medicated, or quarantined and reeducated!

Until then, the War on White Supremacist Terrorism, Domestic Terrorism, Islamicist Terrorism, Russian Terrorism, Iranian Terrorism, anti-Semitic Labour Party Terrorism, and any other type of terrorism, extremism, hate, conspiratorial thinking … oh, and Populism (I almost forgot that one), and every other type of non-conformity to global capitalist ideology, will continue until we achieve final victory! It’s coming … sooner than you probably think.

Damn, here I am, at the end of my essay, and I almost forget to call Trump a racist. He is, of course. He’s a big fat racist. I should have put that right at the top. I’m already in hot water with my fellow leftists for not doing that enough. Oh, and for the record, in case there are any other kinds of Inquisitors reading this, I also renounce Satan and all his works.

The War on Innocence: Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Court

On July 29, 4-year-old Muhammad Rabi’ Elayyan was reportedly summoned for interrogation by the Israeli police in occupied Jerusalem.

The news, originally reported by the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), was later denied by the Israeli police, likely to lessen the impact of the PR disaster that followed.

The Israelis are not denying the story in its entirety, but are rather arguing that it was not the boy, Muhammad, who was summoned, but his father, Rabi’, who was called into the Israeli police station in Salah Eddin Street in Jerusalem, to be questioned regarding his son’s actions.

The child was accused of hurling a stone at Israeli occupation soldiers in the Issawiyeh neighborhood, a constant target for Israeli violence. The neighborhood has also been the tragic site for house demolition under the pretext that Palestinians there are building without permits. Of course, the vast majority of Palestinian applications to build in Issawiyeh, or anywhere in Jerusalem, are denied, while Jewish settlers are allowed to build on Palestinian land, unhindered.

With this in mind, Issawiyeh is no stranger to the ridiculous and unlawful behavior of the Israeli army. On July 6, a mother from the beleaguered neighborhood was arrested as a means to put pressure on her teenage son, Mahmoud Ebeid, to turn himself in. The mother “was taken by Israeli police as a bargaining chip,” Mondoweiss reported, quoting the Jerusalem-based Wadi Hileh Information Center.

Israeli authorities are justified in feeling embarrassed by the whole episode concerning the 4-year-old boy, thus the attempt at poking holes in the story. The fact is WAFA’s correspondent in Jerusalem had, indeed, verified that the warrant was in Muhammad’s, not Rabi’s, name.

While some news sources bought into the Israeli ‘hasbara’, readily conveying the Israeli cries of ‘fake news’, one must bear in mind that this event is hardly a one-off incident. For Palestinians, such news of detaining, beating and killing children is one of the most consistent features of the Israeli occupation since 1967.

Just one day after the summoning of Muhammad, Israeli authorities also interrogated the father of a 6-year-old child, Qais Firas Obaid, from the same neighborhood of Issawiyeh, after accusing the boy of throwing a juice carton at Israeli soldiers.

“According to local sources in Issawiyeh the (Israeli) military sent Qais’ family an official summons to come to the interrogation center in Jerusalem on Wednesday (July 31) at 8 am,” reported the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC). In one photo, the little boy is pictured while holding up to a camera the Israeli military order written in Hebrew.

The stories of Muhammad and Qais are the norm, not the exception. According to the prisoners’ advocacy group, Addameer, there are currently 250 children in Israeli prisons, with approximately 700 Palestinian children going through the Israeli military court system every single year. “The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years,” Addameer reports.

Indeed, Israel has so much to be embarrassed about. Since the start of the Second Intifada, the popular uprising of 2000, some 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli army.

But it is not only children and their families that are targeted by the Israeli military, but also those who advocate on their behalf. On July 30, Palestinian lawyer, Tariq Barghouth, was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Israeli military court for “firing at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions.”

As flimsy as the accusation of a well-known lawyer firing at ‘buses’ may sound, it is important to note that Barghouth is well-regarded for his defense of many Palestinian children in court. Barghouth was a constant source of headache for the Israeli military court system for his strong defense of the child, Ahmad Manasra.

Manasra, then 13-years of age, was tried and indicted in Israeli military court for allegedly stabbing and wounding two Israelis near the illegal Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in Occupied Jerusalem. Manasra’s cousin, Hassan, 15 was killed on the spot, while wounded Ahmad was tried in court as an adult.

It was the lawyer, Barghouth, who challenged and denounced the Israeli court for the harsh interrogation and for secretly filming the wounded child as he was tied to his hospital bed.

On August 2, 2016, Israel passed a law that allows authorities to “imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14.” The law was conveniently crafted to deal with cases like that of Ahmad Manasra, who was sentenced on November 7, 2016 (three months after the law was approved) to 12 years in prison.

Manasra’s case, the leaked videos of his abuse by Israeli interrogators and his harsh sentence placed more international focus on the plight of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system.

“Israeli interrogators are seen relying on verbal abuse, intimidation and threats to apparently inflict mental suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession,” Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children- Palestine, said at the time.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel, as of 1991, is a signatory, “prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Yet, according to Parker, “ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military and police is widespread and systematic.”

So systematic, in fact, that videos and reports of arresting very young Palestinian children are almost a staple on social media platforms concerned with Palestine and Palestinian rights.

The sad reality is that Muhammad Elayyan, 4, and Qais Obaid, 6, and many children like them, have become a target of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This horrendous reality must not be tolerated by the international community. Israeli crimes against Palestinian children must be effectively confronted as Israel, its inhumane laws and iniquitous military courts must not be allowed to continue their uncontested brutalization of Palestinian children.

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

Killing Tariq: Why We Must Rethink the Roots of Jewish Settlers Violence

Tariq Zabania

Seven-year-old Tariq Zabania from Al-Khalil (Hebron) was killed on the spot when an Israeli Jewish settler ran his car over him on July 15. Little Tariq’s photograph, lying face down on the road, was circulated on social media. His untimely death is heartbreaking.

Tariq’s innocent blood must not go in vain. For this to happen, we are morally obliged to understand the nature of Jewish settler violence, which cannot be viewed in isolation from the inherent racism in Israeli society as a whole.

We are all often guilty of perpetuating the myth that militant Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are a different and distinct category from other Israelis who live beyond the so-called “Green Line”.

Undoubtedly, the violent mentality that propels Israeli society, wherever it is located, is not governed by imaginary lines but by a racist ideology, of which disciples can be found everywhere in Israel, not just in the illegal Jewish colonies of the West Bank.

Israel is a sick society and its ailment is not confined to the 1967 Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

While Palestinians are imprisoned behind walls, fences and enclosed regions, Israelis are a different kind of prisoners, too. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness,” wrote the late anti-Apartheid hero and long-time prisoner, Nelson Mandela.

It is this racism and bigotry that makes Tariq invisible to most Israelis. For most Israelis, Palestinian children do not exist as real human beings, deserving of a dignified life of freedom. This callousness is a defining quality, common among all sectors of Israeli society — right, left and center.

An example is the terrorist attack carried out by Jewish settlers against the Palestinian Dawabshe family in the village of Duma, in the northern West Bank in July 2015, resulting in the death of Riham and Sa’ed, along with their 18-months old son, Ali. The only member of the family spared that horrific death was Ahmad, 4, who was severely burned.

This cruelty was further accentuated in the episodes that followed this criminal incident. Later that year, Israeli wedding guests were caught on tape while dancing with knives, chanting in celebration of the death of the Palestinian baby.

Three years later, as the Dawabshe family members were leaving an Israeli court, accompanied by Arab parliamentarians, they were greeted by a crowd of Israelis chanting “Where is Ali? Ali’s dead” and “Ali’s on the grill”.

The passing of time only cemented Israelis’ hatred of a little child whose only crime was his Palestinian identity.

The only survivor, Ahmad, was punished thrice: when he lost his whole family; with his severe burns and when he wasdenied compensation. The then Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, simply resolved that the boy was not a “terror victim.” Case closed.

Although the Dawabshes were killed by Jewish settlers, the Israeli court, army and political system all conspired to ensure the protection of the killers from any accountability.

This was no different in the case of Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, who, on March 24, 2016, killed an unconscious Palestinian man in Hebron. In his defense, Azaria insisted that he was following army manual instructions in dealing with alleged attackers, while top Israeli government officials came out in droves to support him.

When Azaria was triumphantly released following only nine months in jail, he was hailed by many Israelis as a hero. Possibly, he will have a successful career in politics should he decide to pursue that route. In fact, he was courted by Israeli politicians to help them garner more votes in April’s general elections.

Condemning solely Jewish settlers while sparing the rest of Israeli society is equivalent to political whitewashing, one that presents Israel as a healthy society prior to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This view presents Jewish settlements as a cancerous disease that is eating up at the otherwise proud and noble achievements of early Zionists.

It is convenient to classify Jewish settlers as right-wing extremists and to link them with Israel’s ruling right-wing political parties. But history proves otherwise.

It was Israel’s Labor Party that created the settlement projects originally, soon after the colonization of the West Bank. Some of Israel’s largest, and most militant colonial enterprises, in occupied East Jerusalem — Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, Ramot and Armon Hanatziv – are all the creation of the Labor Party, not the Likud.

Neither is the ‘settler’ a new phenomenon. Historically, the early settlers who preceded the establishment of Israel in 1948 were idealized as true Zionists, celebrated as “cultural heroes” — the Jewish redeemers, who eventually ethnically cleansed historic Palestine from its native inhabitants.

“The original Labor movement,” wrote Amotz Asa-El in the Jerusalem Post, “never thought settling beyond the Green Line was illegal, much less immoral.” If there was any debate in Israel regarding settlements, it was never truly concerned with the issue of legitimacy or legality, but practicality: whether these colonial projects can be sustained or defended.

Protecting the settlements is now the overriding task of the Israeli occupation army. The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, which monitors the conduct of the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank, explained the nature of this relationship in a report published in November 2017.

“Israeli security forces not only allow settlers to harm Palestinians and their property as a matter of course – they often provide the perpetrators escort and back-up. In some cases, they even join in on the attack,” B’Tselem wrote.

Another Israeli organization, Yesh Din, concluded in a report published earlier that 85% of cases involving settler violence against Palestinians are never pursued by law. Of the remaining cases, only 1.9% led to conviction, which is likely to be inconsequential.

Jewish settler violence should not be analyzed separately from the violence meted out by the Israeli army, but seen within the larger context of the violent Zionist ideology that governs Israeli society entirely.

This violence can only end with the end of the racist ideology that rationalizes murder, like that of little Tariq Zabania.

Why the Taliban Will Regain Power

Zaeef freed from Guantanamo

We are fed a load of tripe about the Taliban in the western press. They are portrayed as crude, illiterate, opium traffickers and murders. They are quite the opposite. They are, in the first place, a legend, which began in the 1980s when a movement to resist the lawlessness left by the collapse of the secular regime was formed by brave, uncorrupt ‘talibs’ like Abdul Salam Zaeef, one of the founders of the Taliban, coined by the BBC in 1994.

The ‘students’ were the educated branch of the native Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, though there was never any interest or need for western style formal parties. Good, educated Muslim leaders were respected and consulted by all. Sectarian politics is alien to Muslim society, seen as divisive and even authoritarian, as proven time and again by majority-rule pseudo-democracies, as developed to meet the needs of regulating modern-day imperialism from the 19th century on.

Freedom fighters

Afghan society at a tribal-village level has traditionally operated on sharia law and consensus. When something needed to be done (i.e., a governance issue), people in the village worked out how to accomplish it and got on with it, albeit within limitations of tribal customs.

Technologically-driven capitalism doesn’t recognize this truly ‘democratic’ rule. So, apart from a handful of settler colonies, three centuries of colonialism were a spectacular failure. And the settler colonies? The natives were mostly exterminated, and ‘democracy’ of poor (mostly British) settlers gelled, with generous financial help from the mother country. Culminating in the absurdity, if not outright fascism, of US politics today, a settler colony gone berserk.

As Trump ponders how to extract the last of the troops from (hopefully) the last US colonial adventure, what to do with Reagan’s “freedom fighters” is a dilemma.

Reagan embraced the mujahideen in the heady 1980s, when the Cold War was at its peak, and the Islamic forces briefly were in sync with US imperialist objectives. As Ibrahim Haqqani1 told US journalist Jere Van Dyk, explaining why the once revered Taliban suddenly became the enemy, and have been murdered nonstop for almost two decades, “We haven’t changed, only the US has changed.”

Not strictly true, as Van Dyk points out in The Trade: My Journey into the Labyrinth of Political Kidnapping (2017). ‘You have suicide bombers and kidnappings as a racket.’ To which Haqqani could argue, ‘Yemenis have kidnapped people for centuries and kamikaze fighters are as old as warfare itself. We adopted them as tactics out of necessity.’ When all you have is your life to give, you give it. And kidnapping is certainly better than murder.

In The Trade, Van Dyk looks at the kidnappings by Islamists (including his own) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. While kidnappings by Iraqi insurgents from 2004 on, and ISIS from 2014, have resulted in dozens of deaths of hostages, only a few dozen foreign hostages have been taken in Afghanistan, resulting in only a handful of deaths. Van Dyk points out that the Haqqani network, kidnapping-central, has not killed any foreign hostages. Kidnapping is called ‘the Trade’, and is to produce revenue and to get the release of Taliban prisoners. The risk is more of botched rescue missions and the pretense of ‘no negotiations with terrorists’.

The Taliban are more like the North American natives, who were mowed down by racist, greedy settlers. Those Americans like Van Dyk who admire these ‘freedom fighters’, even after his own harrowing two months as a hostage, are also rediscovering the real North American ‘freedom fighters’: not the storybook colonial militiamen fighting the nasty Brits, but the natives who resisted the invaders, those very colonists, and the abolitionist colonials, who fought against slavery.

If we add in the many Muslim immigrants to North America, we have the making of a cultural shift against the whole colonial narrative. No wonder Trump tried to ban all Muslims, and hounds and tortures Muslims at home and abroad. He senses the beginning of the end of the colonial confidence trick, and lashes out blindly.

The real plot line is not ‘we come to Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, wherever, to liberate natives from tyranny,’ but ‘we invade for geopolitical reasons to oppose those who resist US hegemony.’ And the fallout is the hordes of economic refugees trying to get a piece of the pie, now waiting impatiently at the colonial doorway to their stolen wealth.

Westerners who can join the dots will look for ways to help the underdog, the ‘good guys’. Some of these efforts are misguided (joining ISIS), but some, like Van Dyk’s, struggle to make sense of the new narrative, and even accept what the media depicts as ‘terrorism’ as legitimate forms of struggle, given the way the cards are stacked to favour the ‘bad guys’.

So we have John Lindh, who joined up with the Taliban in 2000 and was caught in the invaders’ crosshairs in 2001. His crime? Liking the Taliban, trying to help them build an Islamic society in the face of US hostility. Finally out of prison after 17 years, as pro-Taliban as ever.

Then there’s Bowe Bergdahl, who seems to have joined the army with the unconscious motive of defecting to the Taliban, bringing the invaders’ killing to a halt, and risking his life as a hostage to help give them a helping hand. It worked. He liberated 5 Taliban leaders from Guantanamo, and exposed the madness of the occupation, as documented in his biography, which is a litany of military cruelty, cynicism, infighting between the Pentagon, the CIA and FBI, and incredible waste. His 4 years of captivity kept the army et al busy looking for him, arguably making life under occupation more bearable for Afghans and even for US soldiers, who didn’t have to press the agenda of terror so forcefully.

There are other unsung western heroes of resistance to the US wars in the Muslim world, some of whom convert to Islam, just as some of the colonists in North America ‘went native’, embracing the native way of life, rejecting their appointed role as invader-colonizer.

The fact that the Afghans have continued to resist the invaders, despite the overwhelming military force opposing them, is an inspiration, not only to the other resistance forces in the West and the Muslim world, but to wealthy Gulf Arabs, who continue to finance the Taliban (and who despise their own Saudi overlords). A Taliban official told Van Dyk: Arabs respect us because we gave up everything to protect bin Laden and fight for our country. We have never given in and we are an inspiration to them.

Even as Obama hurriedly spirited the five Taliban officials out of Guantanamo to ensure the safe return of Bergdahl in 2016, he boasted of assassinating (by drone) Mullah Akhtar Mansour, leader of Taliban. Hold on. By initiating direct negotiations with the Taliban and making the prisoner exchange, doesn’t that mean you’re officially recognizing the Taliban and the Afghan Emirate? Is assassinating their leader a good way to instill confidence?

Founding an Islamic state

Abdul Salam Zaeef, who last served as ambassador to Pakistan (i.e., Afghanistan’s public face), lived through the Soviet and US invasions, capture by his Pakistani ‘brothers’, and Guantanamo hell. He came back to Afghanistan in 2006, but chose to live in Kabul in obscurity, insisting he was no longer interested in politics, and politely declining giving any advice to US occupiers or Afghan officials. They wouldn’t leave him in peace, and, fearing for his life, he fled to to the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

But if things move quickly, he and others like him will be able to step in and finally allow Afghanistan to heal. In any case, we can thank Zaeef for his courage both as a ‘good’ Taliban and as a chronicler. We are allowed inside the Taliban experience and can appreciate it for its basic sense of justice, divine justice.

In My Life with the Taliban (2010), Zaeef recounts his adventures as a mujahid. So many seemingly miraculous close-calls with bombs, snipers, ambushes, runaway tractors, duplicitous Pakistani officials … He is a methodical thinker and his story rings true. Taliban history is colourful enough without resorting to exaggeration.

They are the stuff of legend, like the Vietnamese a half century ago. They are the only uncorrupt force Afghanistan has left after 40 years of US meddling. Why don’t we know this? Because the Taliban are not following (and never have) the American agenda. Iran gets the same treatment. You can call yourself an Islamic state — as long as you follow US instructions (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan). In any case, our cynical culture would laugh at the simple ‘straight path’ narrative and worldview of Zaeef.

The last real Afghan leader before the Taliban’s Mullah Omar was Mohammad Najibullah, a sincere communist. He was educated as a doctor in Moscow and knew and respected Soviet (and progressive western) culture. And his lurking mujahideen enemy, waiting to pounce, knew and respected that, grudgingly. He could easily have left along with the Soviet troops in 1989, or later in 1992 when it was clear that without the Soviet Union, he was doomed. But he chose to stay, to die with honour. He was no wallflower.

On the contrary, he took the initiative and negotiated “cash-for-compliance”, self-government to local tribal leaders, financing them to work not against him, but with him. In western political jargon, a coalition government. Essentially, an alliance between the urban intelligentsia and the rural farmers.

No talk of land reforms or anti-niqab/birqa stuff. Just basic, uncorrupt law and order. For a while, it was a success. (Ask almost any Afghan who is old enough what the least-bad time was, and they will say ‘after the Russian troops left when Najibullah was the leader.’) A truce with the insurgent mujahideen remnants. Many fighters were tired of endless war and were happy to get on with life.

The pressure from the US-Pakistan-backed anti-communist crusade finally forced Najibullah to cede power in 1992, and he was eventually assassinated in 1996. Communism was dead, but the collapse of order meant a collapse not only of the economy but of morality, as looting, extortion, sexual license and rape took over. Having successfully destroyed Afghanistan, the American ‘allies’ lost interest.

What happened next reads like a modern day hijrah. Zaeef and friends  Abdul Qudus and Neda Mohammad decided to form a kind of citizens militia to resist the protection racket in their village. They appealed to others, distancing themselves from the decadent, chaotic post-communist nightmare.

Soon they had their own checkpoint and scared the village’s bandits away. Volunteers joined and began to unite with others as Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought about their peaceful return to Mecca (629–630), involving no plunder, and granting amnesty to their enemies.

What happened in 1994-6 was a repeat of that 7th century religious-political moment, redeeming a society out of violence and chaos, no less astounding in its speed of transformation, and resulting — in an instant — in the rule of peace (sharia).

The Taliban had given beauty to the region just as a flower can brighten even the most barren desert. Soon dozens of volunteers came to join us, and only a few days after the movement started it had over four hundred members. Many businessmen and traders began to donate money.

Suddenly thrust into western-style political power, the Taliban had neither the experience nor even the interest in state-building. They forged on, declared Afghanistan to be an emirate and used a literal application of sharia according to the Hanafi school.

After close to two decades of war, millions of lives lost, their public executions, stonings, etc shocked the West. But their successes in bringing peace, disarming the population, ending opium production were ignored. They faced sanctions from outside and opposition from the Dari ethnicity in the north and the Hazara. They struggled to suppress these rebellions. They were never implicated in bin Laden’s terrorism, but their efforts to reach an accommodation with the US were ignored, and the US used 9/11 as a pretext to invade.

Lessons

So the most obvious lesson is that Afghans will continue to look to the Taliban as the only honest force in Afghanistan, promising peace and sharia law. Mirwais Yasini, head of Hezb-i-Islami Khalis, now parliament’s first deputy speaker, told Van Dyk: I am positive they will return. I know the blood of our people. We need to bring civilizations closer together.

Zaeef hints at past mistakes and the actual program of the Taliban today. While the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhist cliff statues was “within the letter of the Islamic law,” he says it was “unnecessary”. As a loyal Taliban, he will not denounce his then-leader and friend, Mullah Omar, but he had no part of this decision.

Zaeef admires Ismail Khan, the Hazara warlord and sworn enemy of the Taliban, as the only warlord who used revenues to help his people. But he insists

In Afghanistan each ethnic group may only prosper if there is unity. No one can protect their national honour with selfishness … Afghans need to unite. Not let themselves and their children serve the Americans, killing other Afghans and being killed themselves.

Lesson two: Pakistan is the ‘gray eminence’ at work in Afghanistan. The Taliban are walking a minefield between Pakistan and the US with its puppet government in Kabul.

Pakistan is obsessed with India. During the 1980s, Pakistan used the jihad groups to wipe out Indian influence in Afghanistan. They were happy with the Taliban and with bin Laden. The stars of the Twin Towers bombings in 1993 and 2001 were  Pakistanis Ramzi Yusef and Ahmed Omar Sheikh, and there are lots of fingerprints, including harbouring bin Laden for a decade after 9/11.

So while Pakistan publicly announced that it was siding with the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, in reality it is keeping the Taliban alive, gambling on the eventual collapse of the Karzai-Ghani government, and its ability to control Afghanistan as their patron.

Their only betrayal was the 2010 capture of Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Baradar. But many believe Baradar’s removal from the scene suited elements in the Pakistani establishment, as he had been acting outside Pakistan’s control, holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government, and drifting closer to India.

The Taliban are not fools, and in power, will not follow Pakistan’s intrigues. The spectre of Pashtunistan will never go away. And just in case Trump thinks his faux peace talks are paying off, a suicide attack in early May 2019 in Pul-e-Khumri blew up the police station and killed 13 when talks produced nothing. And Kandahar police stations have been under constant attack since April 2019.

How sharia law will be practiced will be debated. In public statements, the Taliban have renounced support for al-Qaeda, and accepted girls’ education. The only way the West can help is through reconstruction under control of the uncorrupt Taliban.

Making peace with the Taliban

The US must give up its insistence on trying to push its own blanket electoral agenda on the Afghans. To not only respect Islam, but welcome it. “The Taliban was now a part of our family,” said Bowe Bergdahl’s mother Jani, as she waited stoically for news of her son. And she was just stating a fact and dealing with it, not rejecting or despising it.

Those embracing or at least admiring Islam in the West have seen through the moral swamp that they are growing up in. Lindh’s parents’ divorce was a turning point, his father announced he was gay, pushing John to look for a moral anchor in Islam. Our PC ‘cultural Marxism’ has produced a flat, dead world. Lindh and Bergdahl’s quests are a tonic, not something to belittle or, worse, punish.

The victory in Afghanistan will be when the US acknowledges its colonial sins, not only in Afghanistan, but around the world, and most importantly, at home, where the remnants of the real Americans, the natives, must be acknowledged, and their wisdom of loving and working in harmony to honour nature integrated into what remains of Turtle Island.

  1. Brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s senior military leader in Afghanistan. He approached the NATO forces in 2002 at the behest of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Abdul Jalil with an offer of peace, but was instead arrested and tortured. Upon his release, Ibrahim Haqqani was appointed a governor by Hamid Karzai.

Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis

History never truly retires. Every event of the past, however inconsequential, reverberates throughout and, to an extent, shapes our present, and our future as well

The haunting image of the bodies of Salvadoran father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, who were washed ashore at a riverbank on the Mexico-US border cannot be understood separately from El Salvador’s painful past.

Valeria’s arms were still wrapped around her father’s neck, even as both lay, face down, dead on the Mexican side of the river, ushering the end of their desperate and, ultimately, failed attempt at reaching the US. The little girl was only 23-months-old.

Following the release of the photo, media and political debates in the US focused partly on Donald Trump’s administration’s inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants. For Democrats, it was a chance at scoring points against Trump, prior to the start of presidential election campaigning. Republicans, naturally, went on the defensive.

Aside from a few alternative media sources, little has been said about the US role in Oscar and Valeria’s deaths, starting with its funding of El Salvador’s “dirty war” in the 1980s. The outcome of that war continues to shape the present, thus the future of that poor South American nation.

Oscar and Valeria were merely escaping ‘violence’ and the drug wars in El Salvador, many US media sources reported, but little was said of the US government’s support of El Salvador’s brutal regimes in the past as they battled Marxist guerrillas. Massive amounts of US military aid was poured into a country that was in urgent need for true democracy, basic human rights and sustainable economic infrastructure.

Back then, the US “went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador,” wrote Raymond Bonner in the Nation. “The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.”

These crimes, included the butchering of 700 innocent people, many of them children, by the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion in the village of El Mozote, in the northeastern part of the country. Leaving El Salvador teetering between organized criminal violence and the status of a failed state, the US continued to use the country as a vassal for its misguided foreign policy to this day. Top US diplomats, like Elliott Abraham, who channeled support to the Salvadoran regime in the 1980s carried on with a successful political career, unhindered.

To understand the tragic death of Oscar and Valeria in any other way would be a dishonest interpretation of a historical tragedy.

The dominant discourse on the growing refugee crisis around the world has been shaped by this deception. Instead of honestly examining the roots of the global refugee crisis, many of us often oscillate between self-gratifying humanitarianism, jingoism or utter indifference. It is as if the story of Oscar and Valeria began the moment they decided to cross a river between Mexico and the US, not decades earlier. Every possible context before that decision is conveniently dropped.

The politics of many countries around the world have been shaped by the debate on refugees, as if basic human rights should be subject to discussion. In Italy, the ever-opportunistic Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has successfully shaped a whole national conversation around refugees.

Like other far-right European politicians, Salvini continues to blatantly manipulate collective Italian fear and discontent regarding the state of their economy by framing all of the country’s troubles around the subject of African migrants and refugees. 52% of Italians believe that migrants and refugees are a burden to their country, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Those who subscribe to Salvini’s self-serving logic are blinded by far-right rhetoric and outright ignorance. To demonstrate this assertion, one only needs to examine the reality of Italian intervention in Libya, as part of the NATO war on that country in March 2011.

Without a doubt, the war on Libya, justified on the basis of a flawed interpretation of United Nations Resolution 1973, was the main reason behind the surge of refugees and migrants to Italy, en-route to Europe.

According to the Migration Policy Center, prior to the 2011 war, “outward migration was not an issue for the Libyan population.” This changed, following the lethal NATO war on Libya, which pushed the country squarely into the status of failed states.

Between the start of the war on March 19 and June 8, 2011, 422,912 Libyans and 768,372 foreign nationals fled the country, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Many of those refugees sought asylum in Europe. Salvini’s virulent anti-refugee discourse is bereft of any reference to that shameful, self-indicting reality.

In fact, Salvini’s own Lega party was a member of the Italian coalition which took part in NATO’s war on Libya. Not only is Salvini refusing to acknowledge his country’s role in fostering the current refugee crisis, but he is designating as an ‘enemy‘ humanitarian GOs that are active in rescuing stranded refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHRC), an estimated 2,275 people drowned while attempting to cross to Europe in 2018 alone. Thousands of precious lives, like those of Oscar and Valeria, would have been spared, had NATO not intervened on the pretext of wanting to save lives in Libya in 2011.

According to UNHRC, as of June 19, 2019, there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people worldwide; of them, 41.3 million are internally displaced people, while 25.9 million are refugees who crossed international borders.

Yet, despite the massive influx of refugees, and the obvious logic between political meddling (as in El Salvador) and military intervention (as in Libya), no western government is yet to accept any moral – let alone legal – accountability for the massive human suffering underway.

Italy, France, Britain, and other NATO members who took part in bombing Libya in 2013 are guilty of fueling today’s refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. Similarly, the supposedly random ‘violence’ and drug wars in El Salvador must be seen within the political context of misguided American interventionism. Were it not for such violent interventions, Oscar, Valeria and millions of innocent people would have still been alive today.

Why are Anti-Migrant Arguments in the E.U., U.S. Pure Hypocrisy?

Almost every day we read about the latest outbursts in Europe, targeting pro-immigration policies. There are protests, even riots. Right-wing governments get voted in, allegedly, because the Europeans “have had enough of relaxed immigration regulations”.

That is what we are told. That’s what we are supposed to understand, and even sympathize with. Anti-immigration sentiments are even pitched to the world as something synonymous with the desire of Europeans “to gain independence from Brussels and the elites”. The right-wing, often racist, spoiled and selfish proletariat is portrayed by many as a long-suffering, hard-working group of people, with progressive aspirations.

If seen from a distance, such arguments are outrageous and even insulting; at least to the billions of those who have already lost their lives, throughout history; victims of the European and North American expansionist genocides. And to those individuals who have, until this day, had their motherlands ruined, livelihoods destroyed, political will violated, and in the end, free and unconditional entry denied; entry into those very countries that keep violating all international laws, while spreading terror and devastation to virtually all corners of the world.

*****

In this essay, let us be as concrete as possible. Let us be brief.

I declare from the start, that every African person, every Asian, every citizen of the Middle East and every Latin American (how perverse this very name “Latin” and “America” is, anyway) should be able to freely enter both Europe and North America. Furthermore, he or she should be then allowed to stay for as long as desired, enjoying the free benefits and all those goodies that are being relished by Westerners.

To back this statement, here are several (but not all) basic moral and logical arguments:

First of all, Europe and North America do not belong to their people. They belong to the people from all corners of the globe. In order to build the so-called West, close to one billion (cumulatively, according to my friends, the UN statisticians) had to die, throughout modern and the not so modern history. Virtually everything, from theatres, schools, hospitals, parks, railroads, factories and museums, have been built, literally, on the bones and blood of the conquered peoples. And nothing much has really changed to these days. Europe and later North America invaded almost the entire planet; they looted, killed, enslaved and tortured. They robbed the world of everything, and gave back nothing, except religion and a servile and toxic bunch of ‘elites’, who are continuously plundering their countries, on behalf of the West. Therefore, Europe and North America were built on credit, and now this credit is due.

Secondly, the Western culture, without any competition, is the most violent civilization on earth. I repeat, without any competition. It cannot be defeated militarily, without further losses; losses which could be easily counted in billions of human lives. Therefore, the only possibility of how to reduce the scale of further global tragedies is to ‘dilute’ the West and its fundamentalist culture of racial and cultural superiority. The fact that Westerners are now in minority in such cities like London or New York, has not fully stopped the U.K. and U.S.A. from committing monstrous crimes, attacking and pillaging foreign countries. But were Europe and North America still homogeneous, there would hardly be any free, independent country left anywhere in the world. Migration to the West is helping, at least to some extent, to save the world. Migrants, from the first and oldest generations, demand that the voices of non-westerners, would be listened to, at least some extent.

Furthermore, and this is, of course, a well-known argument: the only reason why people from previously wealthy countries like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Iran or Syria are forced to emigrate, is because their nations were either bombed back to the Stone Age, or destroyed through sadistic sanctions. Why? So, there would be change of the government, and instead of local citizens, the profits from natural resources would benefit Western corporations. Also, of course, in order to prevent the “Domino Effect”. The West hates the idea of the “Domino Effect”: read, the regional or global influence of Communist, socialist or progressive governments which would be determined to improve the lives of their people. West needs obedient, frightened slaves, not great heroes and bright thinkers! To stop the “Domino Effect”, millions had to die in the 1965 coup in Indonesia, in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, to name just a few unfortunate nations. If you come to a rich, socially-balanced nation, rob it of everything, overthrow its government, and reduce it to a ‘failed state’, in order for your own nation and people to prosper, would you be shocked if some of its people were to decide to try to follow the resources that you have stolen; meaning, moving to your own country?

The reason why people in the West do not follow this train of logic is simply because they are thoroughly ignorant; trying extremely hard, for decades and centuries, to remain blind. If they claim ignorance, they don’t have to act. They can just enjoy the loot, without paying the price. It is simple, isn’t it?

*****

Are those right-wing voters in the U.K., in Hungary, in Greece, France and Italy, as well as in other EU countries, really so blind, or so morally corrupt, that they do not see the reality?

Do they expect to have a ‘free ride’ for another century or two?

Do they teach history in European schools? I wonder. And if they do, what kind of history? I was shocked to realize that even some of my Spanish friends who are working for the United Nations, have absolutely no clue about the barbarity their country had committed in Central and South America. Or Portugal, in what is now Brazil or Cape Verde.

Now, the Italians with their Northern League (oh yes, “anti-establishment”, they love to say) firmly in government, are criminalizing people who are helping the ‘boat people’ sailing from Libya and other devastated African countries (mainly ruined by France and other EU nations) to reach Italian shores. Good ‘working people’ would rather if the refugees sank in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as hundreds and thousands already have. And this anti-immigration rhetoric is actually being glorified as ‘brave’ and ‘anti-establishment’. How beastly, how low, the European culture continues to be. It was always ultra-violent and aggressive, but now it is also shallow, illogical and fanatic. It is not racist anymore. It is far beyond that. It is turbo-racist, monstrously selfish. I often describe it as ‘fundamentalist’, not unlike what one encounters in the so-called ‘logic’ of movements such as ISIS and al Nusra.

In the U.S.A., the situation is not much better. Wall on the Mexican border? Study your history! The United States robbed half of Mexico, through expansionist wars. Most of migrants who are crossing the border illegally, are actually not Mexicans (Mexico is, with all its social problems, an OECD country), but from impoverished Central American nations. And why are these nations impoverished? Every time they democratically elect their progressive governments which would be ready to work on behalf of the people, the U.S. immediately applies its fascist dictatorial “Monroe Doctrine”, overthrows the government, injects right-wing death-squads, forces privatization, and strips the country of everything, like a locust. Don’t the people from Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras or Dominican Republic, have the full right to follow the loot, too, and settle near it, in the United States?

*****

The Western doctrine is simple and at the same time, absolutely irrational. It is not defined, but if it were, it would read like this: “We can attack, rob, migrate wherever we choose to. Because we are white, Christian people with a superior culture and much better weapons than everyone else. No other reason, but this should suffice. Other people have to stay away, far away. Or else! If they disobey, they will be sunk by the Italians, beaten with rubber hoses on the open seas by the Greeks. Walls will be built, and people concentrated in repulsive camps, like what is being done if refugees try to cross from the south to North America.”

Oh, North America, where predominately first but also second and other generations of Europeans hunted down local native people like animals. Where the great majority of the First Nation died horrible deaths. Where the native people, in the U.S.A. and Canada, are often forced to live, to this day, in total destitution. North America, but also Australia – the same culture, same pattern, same ‘logic’.

And after murdering native people, what came next? Millions of Africans, in chains, brought as slaves by the Europeans, to build “the new world”. Men tortured and robbed of their dignity. Women tied in the fields and raped, day after day, by white plantation owners. Democracy. Freedom. Western-style.

Does such a ‘nation’, like the United States, have any moral right to decide who should cross its borders, and who to settle on its territory?

I don’t think so. Do you?

*****

Things can be very different. Look at Russia during the Soviet Union. It never occupied the Central Asian republics. They joined voluntarily, and if you talk to people in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, a great majority would happily join Russia, again; almost all feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union.

During the USSR, Moscow made sure that the standards of living in Tajikistan or Kirgizstan were almost the same as in Russia.  Instead of plundering, Russia provided great subsidies and internationalist support.

And then, after the Soviet Union was destroyed by external forces, (the arms race with the West and by Western propaganda), the country broke into several independent states. And the flow of migrants began.

Russia never closed its borders. Travel from Central Asia (destabilized by Washington) to now rich Russia is easy. Millions of people from the former Soviet republics are happily working all over the Russian Federation. And there is no ‘moral obligation’ that the Russian state has towards them. All this is actually just common sense, respect for shared history and values, and normal human kindness.

*****

Some will say, what the West did, it all happened long time ago. But no, it did not. It is still happening now, right now.

Of course, if you are frying your brains in some pub or club in London, or if you are sitting in a posh café in Paris, you would never think so. All you want is to be left alone, and to live your suave European life. A life built on the bones and blood of hundreds of millions of victims.

Huge and super-rich Europe cannot accommodate even one million of people flowing from the ruined Middle East? Seriously? Tiny Lebanon managed to survive an influx of 2 million refugees at the height of so-called “Syrian crises”. Crime rate did not skyrocket, country did not collapse. You know why? Because Lebanese people have heart and decency. While the West has nothing of that nature.

If your family became rich because it was robbing and murdering, would you want to return the booty? Would you open the doors to those whom your parents and brothers tortured and pillaged? Some would. After opening their eyes, they would. But not the West. It only takes. It never gives. It hates those who give. It smears, even attacks all decent nations.

The horrors are still happening right now, in devastated Afghanistan, a country reduced to ashes, after being designated as a training base for the fundamentalists ready to infiltrate and damage China, Russia, former Soviet Central Asia republics, Iran and Pakistan. I work there, I know. Or Syria. I work there too. Or Venezuela, one of my favorite countries on earth. And the list goes on and on.

I cannot anymore read those self-righteous, hypocritical outbursts, coming from the British, French, Italian, North American and Greek voters who only want benefits, while choosing to remain blind to the global genocides their regime is committing all over the world.

These people could not care less about who pays for their welfare, or how many millions die supplying them with their privileges.

They want more. They always complain “how poor and exploited they are”. They do not want to stop neo-colonialism. They only desire more money and better living conditions for themselves. “We are all humans”, they say. “We are all victims”. And then they vote in the extreme right-wing, and demand that the “refugees” be kept out.

They have blood on their hands. And most of them are not victims, but victimizers. They are not internationalists. Just mini-imperialists, selfish products of their culture of colonialism.

The West has to open the doors to the world which has been devastated during the long centuries.

Some people ‘outside’ have been literally turned into beggars, so the West could thrive.

‘Political correctness’ in London or New York lies, saying how wonderful the world outside is. No! It is not. Much of it is poor, gangrenous, horrid! Disgusting. Because it was made like that. Because it was beaten, violated, and robbed for centuries.

These people, the true victims, are demanding only two things: to be left alone and to be allowed to build their own nations, without Western military interventions, without self-serving NGO’s and Western-controlled U.N. agencies. That’s one.

Two, to go when they want to go, where their stolen riches are!

Either they will be let in, compensated and asked for forgiveness, or they will do what is their right: break the gates!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Embassy Protection Collective: We’re Still Here And We’re Staying

The Embassy Protection Collective formed on April 10, the day after the Trump administration manipulated the Organization of American States (OAS) to change the rules so they could recognize their puppet, Juan Guaido, as president of Venezuela. The OAS could not get the required two-thirds vote to recognize a government so they changed the rules to a mere majority and barely got that. By then, the US had allowed their Guaido coup forces to take the Venezuelan military attaché building in Washington, DC and three diplomatic offices in New York City.

The Trump administration is allowing extreme violent right-wing Guaido supporters to blockade the embassy. Despite a standoff in the last week, we had a series of victories over those forces and remain steadfast protectors of the embassy.

Surround the embassy with love and resistance

We adopted a theme song for the Embassy Protection Collective, “We’re Still Here” by Holly Neer. The chorus begins with:

We’re Still Here
Choosing Love Over Fear
When the Lines Are All Drawn
We’re Still Here

Challenges and Victories

We woke up on April 30 to the news that Juan Guaido was going to attempt a coup again, which made us wonder why he needs to conduct a coup if he is the “president.” We were alerted by our Venezuelan allies that this second coup attempt would be easily defeated, which it was, but to expect coup-supporters in the US to protest at the embassy.

In fact, the extremist Venezuelan coup supporters showed up that morning and tried to take over the steps in front of the building. A team of embassy protectors took a stand on the steps and stopped them from taking over the entry. More violent extremists showed up throughout the day, causing police to erect a barricade between us in front of the embassy. We sang almost non-stop to keep ourselves from engaging with them while they blew sirens and other loud noises and insulted and threatened us shouting racist and misogynist comments and using lewd gestures. Police refused to pass food and water to us or to allow our allies into the space in front of the embassy. We held that space through the night by taking shifts.

In the courtyard behind the embassy, the pro-coup forces harassed, intimidated, threatened and assaulted our allies outside who bravely prevented them from entering the building while folks inside set up reinforcements to stop them from coming in the door. This lasted until 1:00 in the morning.

The next day, May 1, we agreed to cede the front steps if the police would protect the front porch and doors from damage. We moved inside to focus on protecting the embassy from within, thinking the police would honor their duty to protect the embassy from harm. That afternoon, Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s fake “ambassador” showed up, with the intention of taking over the embassy.

We were ready for him to enter and be forced to remove us. As he came to the front porch to speak, we stood resolute behind him holding signs and chanting, ‘No Coup.’ When he began to speak, we cut off the power to his sound system and out-shouted him. Vecchio was forced to flee, chased by reporter Anya Parampil who asked him, “Where are you going next, the White House?”  A representative vaguely told the crowd they were “working on a process to evict us.” The coup failed in Venezuela on April 30, and failed again in Washington, DC on May 1.

Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Anya Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Watch @carlosvecchio’s staff fail to answer what they plan to do from within the Maduro government’s embassy, considering they won’t even be able to issue visas.

Also can’t answer why their colleagues attended a DC think tank meeting to plan for the invasion of Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/xHXWc7bRua

The coup supporters started setting up tents around the embassy that night and blocking our people from entering the building as police stood by and did nothing. When members of CODE PINK brought food the next day, surrounded by clergy, they were stopped from delivering it. Two allies, Ariel Gold of CODE PINK and Chris Herz tossed bread and other foods onto a patio to us. They were arrested and charged with “hurling missiles” at a building.

We pushed back at police for not allowing the food in, and they provided a blockade for our members to come down and get the groceries. Coup supporters stole hundreds of dollars worth of the food. We were also able to get some medications in that day for people who required it. Since then, we have struggled to get supplies. When we lowered a rope from a window and successfully brought up four bags of food, the coup supporters rushed a barricade and assaulted our allies. It was our people who were threatened with arrest even though they were the ones who were knocked to the ground.

An older gentleman from the neighborhood wanted to bring us toothbrushes and toothpaste. He was swarmed by the violent extremists. When he tried to pass between two people to get to the door, he was thrown to the ground violently and seriously injured. He was arrested, not the ones who threw him down. It has become common for police to arrest the victims of assault, not the people who committed the assault.

These seem to be US-trained regime change operatives who use violence, psy-ops and and intimidation against us. Some are Nicaraguans and Cubans, not Venezuelans. They have unlimited resources. They are constantly bringing in more supplies. From early in the morning, we are surrounded by them and subjected to their sirens, banging of pots and pans, loud music, taunts and threats of physical harm.

They have tried to break in numerous times. They drilled through a door to the garage and damaged the lift gate with a sledgehammer. On Friday night, they banged on the doors so hard for hours that they were damaging them. We had to fortify the old wooden doors so they would not break through. The Secret Service watched while they did it and not only let them but refused to say they would protect our safety. When we called them, they said we should ask the Venezuelan government for help. It took hundreds of calls from supporters to get them to stop.

The Secret Service is allowing them to do all they can to intimidate us very likely under orders from the White House. They want the extremists to frighten us so we leave the embassy. Their actions have had the opposite effect. They have united us in our determination to protect the embassy.

Despite being barricaded in the building and cut off from access to supplies, we are victorious. We are still here and there is little chance of eviction because we are violating no laws. We have built a powerful and united community that works together to protect the embassy and to keep the violent extremists and Trump administration out.

Surrounding the Embassy with Love and Resistance

The Trump administration realizes that entering the Venezuelan Embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention would set a precedent that could put US embassies around the world at risk. As a result, they are allowing right-wing extremists to harass and threaten us and try to starve us out. That is their only hope of taking over the embassy.

We refuse to give in no matter what they do. Our lawyers are making sure there is a record of the incidents, which we have in large part due to our embedded media, Anya Parampil of The Grayzone Project and Alex Rubinstein of Mintpress News. We also have to give a shout out to TeleSur, who was embedded with us until the pro-coup forces arrived and now is providing coverage from the outside. Allies outside are identifying the pro-coup actors. We wrote to the State Department and Secret Service about the violence and have told them we will hold decision-makers and police officers responsible for their actions.  But mostly, we have responded to these intimidation tactics in solidarity and have strengthened our resolve to protect the embassy.

A highlight of the week for us, after many difficult days, was to see hundreds of Embassy Protectors show up outside yesterday. They chanted with us and sang. We ended the night with revolutionary music blasting from the second floor embassy windows and dancing together even though they were on the sidewalk across the street and we were inside the embassy. The extremists’ banging of pots, strobe lights and blasting sirens at us only added to the festive atmosphere.

Today, more Embassy Protectors returned to show solidarity and express their love. We also started receiving many messages of solidarity and appreciation from individuals and social movements in Venezuela. This means the world to us. We are surrounded by violent, right-wing, regime change forces who are trying to wear us down. These are the same actors who held violent protests in Nicaragua and Venezuela. They are making death threats, threatening women with rape and mocking us, all in a posh Georgetown neighborhood. It is surreal.

We recall the mass mobilizations in Charlottesville, Boston and New York when right-wing, racist, misogynist hate-filled people came there and urge that mass resistance to join us now. This is a critical struggle. If the embassy is overtaken, it will set us on a path to war in Venezuela, and chaos and devastation to the region. If we can continue to protect the embassy, Venezuela and the United States will have time to negotiate with third countries to serve as protectorates for their embassies and this could begin a path to peace. Perhaps Trump will even see that the Bolton-Abrams-Pompeo team has misled him and reverse the disastrous policy course he is on. There is no reason to steal Venezuela’s resources, the US should respect Venezuelan sovereignty and negotiate agreements as has been done previously.

We are asking people to come to DC to surround this embassy with love and resistance. Let’s show that love will prevail.

If you absolutely can’t come to DC, please contact your member of Congress to make them aware of the situation. Tell them:

  1. The US is required to protect embassies under the Vienna Convention, but is allowing the Venezuelan Embassy to be damaged when the Secret Service could easily protect it.
  2. The United States’ coup in Venezuela has failed. Maduro is the legitimate elected President of Venezuela and is recognized by the United Nations and over 140 countries.
  3. The Secret Service is violating the human rights of the Embassy Protectors by failing to ensure safe passage in and out of the embassy and access to supplies. We are literally under siege.
  4. Review the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective and sign on to show your support.

And finally, please make a donation as we have incurred many unexpected costs for this mobilization.

Venceremos!

Islamic State Celluloid

Nothing turns on the charlatan class of terrorism expertise than a video from an elusive, unknown destination, adjusted, modified and giving all the speculative trimmings.  In reading, E.B. White suggested the presence of two participants: the author as impregnator; the reader as respondent.  In the terrorism video, the maker consciously penetrates the shallow mind of the recipient, leaving its gurgling DNA to grow and mutate.

When Islamic State began its gruesome foray into the world of terrorist snuff videos, experts resembled overly keen cinephiles seeking the underlying message of a new wave.  The burning of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh in a cage in 2015 caused a certain rapture amongst members of a RAND panel.  Was this, perhaps, a celluloid standoff with rival al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose affiliates had just slaughtered the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in their Parisian offices?

Senior Adviser to the RAND President, Brian Michael Jenkins, could not “recall a single incident in modern terrorism where terrorists deliberately killed a hostage with fire.”  There was “no religious basis for it this side of 17th century witch burning.”  Senior political scientist Johan Blank turned to scripture, finding “at least one specific prohibition of death by fire in the ahadith literature” on “the grounds that it resembled hellfire.”  The inspiration had to stem from somewhere, and Blank’s judicious offering was Ibn Taymiyyah, “fountainhead of much current jihadi reinterpretation of longstanding Islamic orthodoxy.”  Andrew Liepman, senior policy analyst, saw the video as a lucid moment of proof. “I wonder how much more evidence we need to confirm that ISIS is acting outside the norms of Islam.” Not modish, it would seem.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, has begun to resemble, in no small part, previous heads of franchise terrorist groups who have become reproductions and simulacra of themselves.  Terrorism is big business, stage sets and props, all tweeted for good measure; it is bestial theatre that draws out the voyeurs, the google-eyed analysts, and the lunatic converts.  Whether such heads are dead or not is of little consequence past a certain point: Baghdadi had supposedly been dead yet his corpse seems more than capable of putting together a presentation for audiences.  It is also incumbent on those seeking his capture or death to claim his general irrelevance.  Everyone did know one thing: the last time he gave a public performance was the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in July 2014.

The video, aired on the Al Furqan network, is filmed in appropriately Spartan surrounds, but that is neither here nor there.  Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi thinks otherwise linking, erroneously, the making of the film with the current location of the protagonist.  “Regarding the location of Baghdadi, we can’t give intelligence information right now but it’s clear from the video that he’s in a remote area.”  As is the fashion, neither the date nor the authenticity of the recording is verifiable.  All else is a wonder, and even the Middle East Monitor is careful to suggest that the speaker was “a bearded man with Baghdadi’s appearance”.

Baghdadi lacks complexity in his message, never straying from the apocalyptic line.  “Our battle today is a battle of attrition, and we will prolong it for the enemy, and they must know that the jihad will continue until Judgment Day.” He is mindful of the fruitful carnage inflicted by the Easter Sunday bombers in Sri Lanka, and thanks them.  Such acts, he reasons, were retribution for the loss of Baghouz in Syria.

The speculations duly form a queue, and talking heads have been scrambled into studios and Skype portals.  This video may have been a retort, and reassurance, before the potential usurping moves of another ISIS figure of seniority, Abu Mohammed Husseini al-Hashimi.  Hashimi had staked a claim in stirring up discontent against Baghdadi’s more extreme tyrannical methods.  Not that he is averse to the application of hudud punishments (stoning for adultery excites him), and the quaint notion that the ruler of any Islamic State caliphate is bound to be a successor to the prophet Muhammed.  Modesty is a drawback in such line of work.

Colin P. Clarke, senior fellow at the Soufan Centre, aired his views that Baghdadi’s “sudden appearance will very likely serve as both a morale boost for ISIS supporters and remaining militants and as a catalyst for individuals or more groups to act.”  It was a reassurance that he remained the grand poohbah, atop “the command-and-control network of what remains of the group, not only in Iraq and Syria, but more broadly, in its far-flung franchises and affiliates.”

The teasing out and ponderings on minutiae are not far behind.  Resting upon a flowered mattress, and leaning against a cushion with an assault rifle by his side (nice touch for the old fox), it was bound to have an effect. The expansive beard caught the eye: The Washington Post noted that it “has greyed since his only other video appearance”. Previously, the paper noted, it had been “tinted with henna”.  Then there was the AK-74 prop, a rather popular Kalashnikov variant reprised from previous showings in the video work of Abu Musab Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden.

Such superficial renderings, the stuff of terrorism kitsch, lends itself to fundamental fact that Baghdadi might be somewhere, anywhere, or nowhere, a nonsense figure, to a degree, in a nonsense medium.  The modern terrorist franchise is fluid and far-reaching.  Followers need not feel estranged.  They can use social media, cosy-up and wait for eschatological endings.

The pioneer of this terror mania (global yet local) was al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, a figure who, along with his sparring counterpart US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, formed a perfect symmetry of simulative nonsense, the gobbledygook of post-2011 security.  Each time US forces and their allies sought to target the slippery Saudi, he vanished.  The raid and bombing of the Tora Bora complex in Afghanistan yielded no returns; the man was nowhere to be seen, having escaped, possibly, in female garb. Sightings, and rumoured killings, remained regular till the penultimate slaying in Abbottabad in May 2011.  The man, declared dead on numerous occasions, was Lazarus in reverse.

Rumsfeld, for his part, insisted on those known knowns, known unknowns and “things we do not know we don’t know”. Unwittingly, he had given the age its aptly absurd epitaph, and with that, much work and fare for the witch doctors of terrorism keen to gorge upon the next video offering from their beloved subjects.  Ignorance in this case, not knowledge, is power.