Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds is still happening

December 5th, 2019


Destruction wrought by Turkish state in Diyarbak?r PHOTO/Green Left Weekly

Mass expulsion or the physical extermination of an entire ethnic or religious community – ethnic cleansing – is usually treated by the media in one of two different ways: either it receives maximum publicity as a horror story about which the world should care and do something about, or it is ignored and never reaches the news agenda.

It appeared at first that the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey after its invasion of northern Syria on 9 October would belong to the first category. There was angry condemnation of the forced displacement of 190,000 Kurds living close to the Syrian-Turkish border as Turkish soldiers, preceded by the Syrian National Army (SNA), in reality ill-disciplined anti-Kurdish Islamist militiamen, advanced into Kurdish-held areas. Videos showed fleeing Kurdish civilians being dragged from their cars and shot by the side of the road and reporters visiting hospitals saw children dying from the effects of white phosphorus that eats into the flesh and had allegedly been delivered in bombs or shells dropped or fired by the advancing Turkish forces.

People wonder why armies with complete military superiority should resort to such horrific weapons that are both illegal under international law or, at the very least, guarantee the user a lot of bad publicity. The explanation often is that “terror” weapons are deployed deliberately to terrify the civilian population into taking flight.

In the case of the Turkish invasion of Syria last month, the motive is not a matter of speculation: William V Roebuck, a US diplomat stationed in northeast Syria at the time, wrote an internal memo about what he was seeing for the State Department. The memo later leaked. It is one of the best-informed analyses of what happened and is titled: “Present at the Catastrophe: Standing By as Turks Cleanse Kurds in Northern Syria and De-Stabilise our D-Isis [sic] Platform in the Northeast.”

Roebuck, with access to US intelligence about Turkish intentions, has no doubt that Ankara would like to expel the 1.8 million Kurds living in their semi-independent state of Rojava. He says: “Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents an … effort at ethnic cleansing, relying on widespread military conflict targeting part of the Kurdish heartland along the border and benefiting from several widely publicised, fear-inducing atrocities these forces committed.”

Z Communications for more

Reform to preserve?

December 5th, 2019


Paul Collier, The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties

Allen Lane: London

The troubled aftermath of the great crisis has provoked a flood of books that aim to ‘fix’ the continuing malfunctions of Western capitalism. ‘The way our economic and political systems work must change, or they will perish’, the chief economics commentator of the Financial Times has proclaimed. Recommended reading for Martin Wolf’s reform agenda is Paul Collier’s The Future of Capitalism, a book that also featured on Bill Gates’s list (‘ambitious and thought-provoking’), while George Akerlof called it ‘the most revolutionary work of social science since Keynes’. Collier himself, who writes as a candid friend of capitalism, lamenting its deplorable fall from grace, sees his book as updating Anthony Crosland’s Future of Socialism—offering an ‘intellectual reset’ for a social democracy that may once again become the philosophy of the political centre. The Future of Capitalism claims to offer a new conceptual framework, as well as a range of practical proposals. Does it do so?

Collier is better known as a developmental economist than a saviour of the advanced-capitalist world. Born to a working-class family in Sheffield in 1949, in the book he describes his ascent to Oxford, Harvard and Sciences Po. His best-known work, The Bottom Billion (2007), praised the beneficial effects of globalization, which had set the vast majority of the world’s population—five billion, at least—on the road to mass prosperity. That book focused on the remaining billion, many of whom he detected in Africa, caught in the traps of civil war, bad government and resource dependence. Applying the binaries of individual rational-choice theory, driven by ‘greed’ or ‘grievance’—‘will I gain by rebelling against the government?’—Collier arrived at a set of brutally neo-imperialist solutions: globalization could work for Africa, but it would require long-term military occupations by the G8 governments to keep the peace and enforce the expansion of sezs to attract investment flows. The bottom billion was not ready for democracy, he explained in his next book, War, Guns and Votes (2008), as they were too likely to vote on ethnic lines. Collier duly acquired a cbe from Blair in 2008 and a knighthood for ‘services to policy change in Africa’ from Cameron.

New Left Review for more

How to escape the hell of an underwire bra at work

December 5th, 2019



I recently came across this jewel of a tweet from comedian, author and musician Lane Moore:

hey boy, are you a bra? because society keeps telling me i need you but i really don’t— Lane Morgue (@hellolanemoore) October 17, 2019

It’s true: Bras are just a holdover from the days when women wore corsets. During World War I, the metal used to make them was redirected to the war effort, shrinking corsets down to the bras we wear today. In that way, the bra “sprung from a perceived necessity, and also from an attempt to create necessity where there is none or very little,” Hillary Brenhouse wrote in her 2017 New Yorker article, “The Joy of Not Wearing a Bra.”

Our image of bralessness goes back to the bra-burning feminists of the 1960s. Today, Lina Esco’s Free the Nipple campaign has garnered the support of celebrities including Rihanna and Chelsea Handler. Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen leave their headlights on in public all the time. Meanwhile, high school students in Florida and Montana have boycotted for the right to go braless, rightly pointing out that they should not be disciplined for having a female body.

Theoretically, I love the idea of tearing off my bra — for good. But the reality is that, as a 30GG, I’ve been socialized to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious if I leave the house without one.

But the attitude of the real women we spoke to is: Who cares? “Last I checked, which was a very long time ago, I was a 34DDD,” Brenhouse said. “I’ve got nothing to recommend to anyone other than that they dress so as to feel good. I feel good in high-waisted bottoms, so typically my tits are hanging … just above my waistband.”

For many women, dressing to feel good means foregoing a garment with straps that leave indentations in their shoulders or underwire that digs painfully into their skin. Lizzy Martinez, the teen who started the Florida “bracott,” decided to not wear a bra because her shoulders were painfully sunburned.

support the #bracott ?— liz (@lizzymartineez) April 12, 2018

Consider the dress code.

But how can you actually feel comfortable going braless in your day-to-day life? At work, at your cousin’s graduation party, at parent/teacher night? And, when it comes to work, is bralessness even legal?

The answer, Monica Torres wrote in HuffPost, “is yes and no. Yes, your employer can make you conform to a dress code.” But, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, your boss can’t create or enforce a dress code that institutionalizes gender inequity. So if an employer wants people to cover up on top, they have to draft rules that place the burden on men and women equally.

Sarah Wasilak, a fashion editor at Popsugar and a size 30B, steps out sans bra three to five days a week. She thinks society needs to get over its fear of women’s nipples but noted, “I’d never make co-workers feel uncomfortable by violating our own dress code at Popsugar, for example. I think remaining tasteful is important, of course, and … it’s necessary to read the rules and regulations that HR has set in stone.”

Huffington Post for more

Berlin 1884: Remembering the conference that divided Africa

December 4th, 2019


The conference of Berlin, as illustrated in ‘Illustrierte Zeitung’, 1884 PHOTO/WikiCommons

On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15, 1884, an international conference was opened by the chancellor of the newly-created German Empire at his official residence on Wilhelmstrasse, in Berlin. Sat around a horseshoe-shaped table in a room overlooking the garden with representatives from every European country, apart from Switzerland, as well as those from the United States and the Ottoman Empire. The only clue as to the purpose of the November gathering of white men was hung on the wall – a large map of Africa “drooping down like a question mark” as Nigerian historian, Professor Godfrey Uzoigwe, would comment.

Including a short break for Christmas and the New Year, the West African Conference of Berlin would last 104 days, ending on February 26, 1885. In the 135 years since, the conference has come to represent the late 19th-century European Scramble and Partition of the continent. In the popular imagination, the delegates are hunched over a map, armed with rulers and pencils, sketching out national borders on the continent with no idea of what existed on the ground they were parcelling out. Yet this is mistaken. The Berlin Conference did not begin the scramble. That was well under way. Neither did it partition the continent. Only one state, the short-lived horror that was the Congo Free State, came out of it – though strictly speaking it was not actually a creation of the conference.

It did something much worse, though, with consequences that would reverberate across the years and be felt until today. It established the rules for the conquest and partition of Africa, in the process legitimising the ideas of Africa as a playground for outsiders, its mineral wealth as a resource for the outside world not for Africans and its fate as a matter not to be left to Africans.

From the very start, the conference laid out the order of priorities. “The Powers are in the presence of three interests: That of the commercial and industrial nations, which a common necessity compels to the research of new outlets. That of the States and of the Powers summoned to exercise over the regions of the Congo an authority which will have burdens corresponding to their rights. And, lastly, that which some generous voices have already commended to your solicitude – the interests of the native populations.” It also resolutely refused to consider the question of sovereignty, and the legitimacy of laying claim to someone else’s land and resources.

Uzoigwe notes that: “Bismarck … stated in his opening remarks that delegates had not been assembled to discuss matters of sovereignty either of African states or of the European powers in Africa.” It was no accident that there were no Africans at the table – their opinions were not considered necessary. The efforts of the Sultan of Zanzibar to get himself invited to the party were summarily laughed off by the British.

Al Jazeera for more

Kashmiris and Indian Muslims

December 4th, 2019


Pakistani politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) with India’s
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during a visit to India in 2003

In the aftermath of the anti-Ahmadi violence in the 1950s, Maulana Abul Hasanat Sayyed Muhammad Ahmad Qadri, President of Jamiatul Ulema-i-Pakistan, demanded an Islamic state in Pakistan. And he deposed before the Justice Munir Commission that looked into the violence.

Q: You will admit for the Hindus, who are in a majority in India, (a similar) right to have a Hindu religious state?

A: Yes.

Q: Will you have any objection if the Muslims are treated under that form of government as Malishes (Mlechhas) or Shudras under the law of Manu?

A: No.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman heads a faction of the Jamiat today. I gained a nodding acquaintance with the maulana when, for a reason difficult to fathom at the time, he became a regular interlocutor with Indian journalists visiting Pakistan. The maulana’s portly bearing and merry laughter had a likeness to Friar Tuck whose Robin Hood, albeit too briefly, Musharraf had become. A version of the English legend has the monk fording the river in Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood on his back when, in midstream, for no apparent reason, he hurled his friend into the freezing waters. That’s more or less what the maulana is said to have done with Musharraf.

A recent JUH statement effectively endorsed the abrogation of Kashmir’s autonomy.

In recent days, the cleric from the doctrinaire Deoband school of Muslim theology has been raging at Imran Khan, accusing the prime minister of insincerity towards the Kashmiri people facing Indian high-handedness since Aug 5. The stance is double-edged.

Fazlur Rehman has friends in high places with the Indian government. Besides, he has the entire Jamiatul Ulema-i-Hind (JUH) and the Deoband seminary eating out of his hands. Atal Behari Vajpayee embraced him and Manmohan Singh welcomed him to the prime ministerial residence. This was around the time when Benazir Bhutto was struggling to get an appointment with Vajpayee in New Delhi, when, as the grapevine had it, she was seeking his intervention to iron things out with Gen Musharraf.

Important Pakistani visitors from the left and liberal corner have not had the ease of access to the prime minister’s office in recent years as the maulana did. His equation with the Modi establishment is not clear, but given the Indian prime minister’s chummy relationship with the rulers of Saudi Arabia — a common link between Rehman and the JUH — it’s not difficult to imagine an agreeable prospect.

The fact that the maulana would routinely drive off to the Deoband seminary, not far from the Indian capital, following his official sojourns, suggests a link between the two stops. That P. Chidambaram made a much-publicised visit to the seminary as home minister further indicates a strong political interest between the Indian government and the orthodox clerics of Deoband. And perhaps it also delivers a handy vote bank that the clerics control.

There are Indian Muslim groups as well as non-Muslims who harbour sympathy for the Kashmiri people, but it is mostly with regard to their claim on Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy within the Indian arrangement. Such groups also speak up against perennially violated human rights endured by the mainly Muslim people of the disputed area. To that extent the JUH has stood with the Kashmiri people, but only from the perspective that their interests were not separate from those of Indian Muslims.

In 2010, during Congress rule there was a surge in India’s stand-off with Kashmiri Muslims, and the JUH, a close cross-border comrade of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, did express its formulaic sympathy. A recent statement was, however, more assertive in its pro-government stance, effectively endorsing the abrogation of Kashmir’s autonomy.

Dawn for more

China’s Brazilian beef demand linked to Amazon deforestation risk

December 4th, 2019


Beef production is linked with the deforestation of the Amazon but traceability in supply chains is poor PHOTO/Fábio Nascimento

Porto Velho is one of the biggest cities in the Brazilian Amazon but it still feels like a small town. There is little traffic in the urban centre located in the heart of Rondônia state. Trade is still modest and the population is growing slowly. In a decade, it has increased from 428,000 to 530,000 inhabitants.

The cattle population, however, is growing much quicker. A decade ago, the human and bovine populations in Porto Velho were similar. Today, there are two head of cattle for each human.

This same trend is repeated in the other states that encompass the Amazon biome. Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) show that cattle herds in the north of the country have grown more than any other Brazilian region. Here, herds grew 22%, compared to the national average of 4%, as shown in a new cattle ranching map of Brazil, produced by InfoAmazonia and Diálogo Chino.

?This growth is driven by demand. With more money in their pockets, families worldwide, and especially those in developing countries, are consuming more meat.

China, the final destination of more than a third of meat produced in Porto Velho, is a case in point. Chinese consumers eat 30% more meat compared to a decade ago. Though the average Chinese still consumes almost ten times less meat than the average Brazilian, the size of the country’s population means consumption habits have a tremendous impact.

Dialogo Chino for more

Rwanda : An occasional French memory

December 3rd, 2019


(Translated by EOIN DOWNEY)

French president François Mitterrand greets Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in Paris on October 18, 1990 PHOTO/Gulf News

A longtime ‘top-secret’ document is disputing the theory of large sections of French political and judicial authorities regarding the attack on then Rwandan President, Juvénal Habyarimana on 6th April 1994.

On April 7th 1994, the Rwandan capital began to lose control of the genocide. One million martyrs in one hundred days and some twenty-five years later, many questions remain unanswered. These questions are centered around the role played by France both before and during the genocide, as well as during the civil war (October 1990 to August 1994). On the morning of 7th April, the targeted murders continue. The presidential guard assassinated two opposition candidates for the presidency of the transition assembly. The President of the constitutional court, the first Hutu minister of the transition government (Agathe Uwilingiyimana) and ten Belgian peacekeepers assigned to his protection are all lynched. The political crimes are immediately drowned in a madness of ‘ethnic’ bloodshed, which in three months will result in the deaths of one million Tutsi. The evening before, the plane of the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was struck by two missiles when arriving in Kigali, a precursor to the massacres.

Both racist militias and the presidential guard stood visibly ready for weeks. Talks for the creation of a temporary government began simultaneously and took place in the French embassy in Rwanda, a memory which Paris would rather forget. How can they be opposed to questions regarding Operation Turquoise for example, which theoretically consisted of a humanitarian operation beginning in June 1994? It is what it is and there is no point in arguing! The response is the same for the other documents, such as those relating to the attack against the presidential plane. As the code of silence comes with a risk that the tables could be turned on those who abide by it at a later time, it is necessary to occasionally provide a gesture of good faith, such as the opening of a sprinkling of carefully selected top secret documents. The declassification remains sketchy but gives the effect of making a stance without really shining a light on the heart of the problems. Limited as it is, it can however have cruel effects. An example includes letters addressed on June 15th 1998 by General Jean Rannou, the Air Force Chief of Staff to head of the ‘Rwanda’ committee to the cabinet of the Ministry of Defence General Mourgeon, which were declassified by decision number 009560 on October 9th from the Minister of Defence. A form dated 22nd September 1994, barely two months after the end of the genocide, appears in this document under the title, ‘Theory of the department on the responsabilities of the attack against the plane of President Habyarimana’

L’Humanite for more

Nikole Hannah-Jones, race theory and the Holocaust

December 3rd, 2019


Nikole Hannah-Jones at the 2016 Peabody Awards PHOTO/Wikipedia

On the evening of November 18, New York Times staff writer and 1619 Project director Nikole Hannah-Jones addressed an audience at New York University on the subject of the Times’ initiative marking the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first African slaves in Virginia. NYU President Andrew Hamilton introduced the event, stating that the 1619 project had the trademarks of “the best pieces of journalism.” The event was moderated by Fordham Professor and MSNBC commentator Christina Greer.

There was not a single statement made by Hannah-Jones that evening, on historical issues, that withstands serious examination.

She presented her personal opinions—and, in the absence of historically informed substance, that is all they were—on the “undemocratic” character of the American Revolution and Constitution. The white working class opposes social programs because of a conscious desire to “punish black people,” she claimed, adding that “whiteness” is in the best interest of white people: “So we hear again and again, why are poor white people voting against their interests? Well, it’s assuming that whiteness isn’t in your best interest. And it is. And they know that. And so we cannot rid ourselves of that.”

Jones never explained what this “best interest” actually is. The assumption underlying her ungrounded assertion is that racial self-identification is a self-supporting interest in itself—indeed, the supreme interest that overwhelmed all others.

The intellectually bankrupt, historically false and politically reactionary character of Hannah-Jones’ race-fixated conceptions found its most disturbing and chilling expression when she turned to the subject of the anti-Semitism and genocide carried out by the Nazi regime in Germany. Hannah-Jones stated:

I’ve thought a lot about this. I’m reading this book now comparing what Nazi Germany did after the Holocaust to the American South or America. And one thing you realize is Germany, though they didn’t initially want to, dealt with a cleansing of everything that had to do with Nazism and in some ways had a reckoning of what the country did. But that’s also because there’s really no Jewish people left in Germany, so its easy to feel that way when you don’t have to daily look at the people who you committed these atrocities to, versus in the United States where we are a constant reminder.

It is hard to know where to begin with Hannah-Jones’ head-spinning combination of ignorance, historical falsification and anti-scientific race theory. Failing to work through the implications of her opinions, Hannah-Jones came dangerously close to endorsing the conception that genocide, by ending the daily encounter of Germans and Jews, was a solution to inherent racism. Hannah-Jones does not, of course, support genocide. However, she argues that once the Nazis killed the Jews, it eliminated the source of the underlying racial problem and, therefore, anti-Semitism disappeared in Germany. In the United States, on the other hand, racism has persisted because whites still have to look at and interact with blacks. There is nothing in this twisted narrative with which a Nazi would disagree.

World Socialsit Web Site for more

Iran’s shadow war on ISIS

December 3rd, 2019


Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters at their base on a hill overlooking Makhmour, a town the Kurds recently recaptured from the Islamic State, on Nov. 27, 2014. PHOTO/Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

While U.S.-Led Forces Dropped Bombs, Iran Waged Its Own Covert Campaign Against the Islamic State

In the summer of 2014, with a campaign of shocking violence, the Islamic State established itself as the most fearsome terrorist organization in the Middle East.

In early June, the extremist group stunned the world by taking control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, home to more than 1.2 million people. Days later, ISIS fighters broadcast scenes from a gruesome massacre of more than 1,500 Iraqi army cadets at a former U.S. military base near Tikrit. By the end of the month, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared himself head of a new proto-state, the “caliphate,” as his fighters continued their genocidal rampage across northern Iraq, killing and enslaving members of the Yazidi minority and seizing Western hostages, among them an American journalist named James Foley.

As the international community groped for a response, ISIS fighters reached the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, within striking distance of the glass high-rises of the bustling Kurdish capital, Erbil. It was there, from a dusty, remote Kurdish military base nicknamed “Black Tiger” outside the town of Makhmour, that ISIS was finally confronted by Kurdish Peshmerga in a battle that began to turn the tide against the extremists.

“Makhmour was the first place that we took territory from ISIS,” Staff Col. Srud Salih, the Kurdish commander of the Black Tiger base, told The Intercept this summer. “The victories of the Peshmerga began from here.”

The battle of Makhmour represented another important milestone in the war against ISIS: It was the place where two foreign military interventions began. One was directed by the U.S.-led international coalition, which provided air support and later, heavy weaponry. The other, in the form of ammunition, training, and intelligence support, came from Iran. Over the course of a few short days that August, coalition airstrikes hit ISIS positions in the parched desert hills near Makhmour, leveling the playing field between the heavily armed extremists and the Kurdish fighters.

Intercept for more

Sinophobia simmers across Central Asia

December 2nd, 2019


Central Asia is a key crossroads for China’s BRI, but resentment is rising against Chinese investment. PHOTO/iStock / Getty

In the ‘Stans, BRI debt traps, broken promises, corruption and Xinjiang persecution generate resentment and violence

It is just a tiny grocery store in a decrepit, Khruschev-era five-story apartment block in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – but it is flooded with shoppers, 24 hours a day.

Located just off the busy Oruzbekov Street, surrounded by poplars and oaks, Dostyk (“Friendship”) is run by Bakyt Akylbekov, a bearded, broad-shouldered man in his 60s. Bakyt has run the business since the Gorbachev era of the late 1980s green-lighted the first private stores.

From there, the proprietor witnessed the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Kyrghyz independence declaration, two coups, three popular revolts and a “color revolution.”

Now, Dostyk’s days are numbered.

Bakyt had rented the annex for decades – until the new owner wanted to renovate the entire property. That’s when the Chinese showed up.

The “generous” Chinese offered to renovate the premises – as long as they could open a travel agency in Dostyk’s wing.

Bakyt was helpless in the face of the “confident and arrogant Chinese with pockets full of money,” he told Asia Times. He is bitter about these “guests from the east” – and he is not alone.

The downside of investment

In September, Bishkek shopkeepers and farmers tried to protest. They were quickly dispersed by China-friendly authorities, while local media maintained a blackout of the event – for protest is not the official narrative of the Chinese influx.

That narrative was visible on October 1, when thousands of Chinese across Central Asia – not to mention many millions beyond – celebrated their National Day by organizing parades, concerts and festivals. One event, at Kyrghyz National University, included music, concerts and film screenings.

Asia Times for more