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Total number of comments: 24 (since 2013-11-28 15:54:49)

Charles

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  • Dear Pres. Obama: Dissent isn't Possible in a Surveillance State
    • If I may recommend the following synopsis of a colloquy between legal scholars that occurred in the pages of Harvard Law Review.

      Surveillance crushes the dynamism and creativity of a society. It destroys not just dissent and general well-being, but the engine of prosperity itself.

      Surveillance is national suicide.

  • Uygur: Bush Targetting of Juan Cole proves that NSA can't be trusted with our Personal Data
    • Congratulations on making the Bush Enemies' List! Nothing--no academic prize, no award, no medal-- could be a higher honor and emblem of scholarship than having that bunch of thugs and crooks decide that you were a "problem".

  • Aljazeera's Conspiracy Theory about Obama and Egypt is Brainless Mush
    • Since there is no Reply button on Bill's posts below, here is a response just for the record.

      A statement that we should question an action of the US government is just that. It is not being "gullible" or even accepting the statement of Al Jazeera. Indeed, nothing in my post is based on the Al Jazeera article, which I called distorted and one-sided. Anyone who remembers how the Shah was installed in Iran knows that it is possible for street demonstrations and coups to be engineered by the US government.

      It is demagoguery and should be unacceptable on these boards to imply that a person is "gullible" or a "conspiratorial believer" for being skeptical about the motives of the US government. If there is any gullibility at all, it is from those who do not know their history and yet persist in the kind of arrogant know-nothingism that answers questioning with accusations of being a dupe or worse.

    • Bill, if you actually read my post, I think you'll find your question is answered.

      As for "the US engineering the coup against Morsi." that's a bizarre and inexcusable distortion of what I said, making any reply to whatever point you were trying to make completely superfluous.

    • I think it's over the top to call Al-Jazeera's piece a "conspiracy theory." It would be fair to call it "one-sided" or "distorted."

      But there's an important principle here. The US is refusing to call the removal of Morsi by the Egyptian army a "coup." This is bizarre, but it has equally bizarre precedent, namely in Honduras, where machine gunning the presidential palace and flying the legally-elected government to Costa Rica was deemed not to be a coup so that the US could supply finding to the dictatorship it had (probably) helped to install.

      It's difficult to believe that the Army acted without Washington's approval. That means that the US, to one degree or another, sponsored the coup. And that means we should be asking questions about exactly how the popular revolt was manipulated by the US. This is not to question the legitimacy of the popular movement or to say that Morsi should have stayed on. But when we start to approve of coups, we shouldn't be surprised when there are some that aren't benign.

      It's legitimate to question whether US funding helped to shape popular unrest... and important to question whether the US engineered the coup.

  • Why Correa might give Snowden Asylum: All the Horrible things the US has done to Ecuador
    • Professor Cole, you seem to have forgotten the attempted coup against Correa, which the US was believed to have fomented:

      The president was roughed up and sprayed with tear gas, and eventually fled to a hospital. Police officers across the country soon took over their barracks. Highways were blocked by burning tires, schools were shut down, and many businesses closed.

      The assistance rendered to Snowden by these countries amounts to an insurrection against US authority. Considering that Der Spiegel has been been fulminating against the soft totalitarianism of the US, it's pretty clear the US has irritated just about everyone.

  • 'Free Libya' Crowds in Benghazi rally against Militias, Drive al-Qaeda out of City
    • This may be the first real win in the so-called "war on terror."

      The Ambassador was popular. The US was seen as aiding rather than occupying the country. The Islamist militia was seen as an obstacle to liberty and peace. The people took their fate into their own hands and risked their own lives to get rid of the threat.

      In the end, that's what this is about: getting people to take charge of their own fate, providing help around the edges, but respecting their right to do whatever they want. It's how we, the American people, won our freedom.

      The only other recent precedent is the so-called (and misnamed) Iraq "surge," in which the Sunnis realized that AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) was a problem and teamed up with the US to expel them. But in that incident, the US was still an occupier and provided financial incentives, leaving the basic problems in place when the battle was over.

      In any case, working with the population sure beats working against them.

  • Obama Plays Hardball and Egypt's Morsi Folds
    • If the government were really sincere, it would get the simple facts into the media: that the film was not broadcast on TV and was a failure when they tried to show it in a theater, that the people behind it are unknown--could even be Al Qaeda for all anyone really knows, and that to murder people who had nothing to do with the film as vengeance is a far greater insult to the Prophet than anything a mere film could do.

      The Morsi government seems to me based on my very limited understanding to be much too focused on Egyptian politics and far too little focused on what's right and in Egypt's long-term interests. That said, I think the blame for the failure to protect the embassy has to fall on the military dictatorship. My guess is that they were also sending a message, and it was that to which Obama was responding with a little creative messaging of his own.

  • Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect
    • I think it's too early to judge who is responsible for the film. A fraudster would not make a film for free. Presumably there is some half-serious money (say, $100,000?) behind him.

      Furthermore, there's the question of who publicized the film and spread the false rumor that it had appeared on US TV.

      I'm disappointed in AP for reporting that Bacile was an Israeli before fully checking out his story. I wonder whether that, in itself, might not have contributed to the reaction in the Arab world. But I can understand that it's not so easy verifying the identity of a man whose livelihood is based on deception.

  • Morsi and Brotherhood isolated vs. Military, Courts, Secularists
    • I cannot see how a president, operating under the thumb of a military dictatorship without the participation of a parliament could be acceptable to the anti-dictatorship forces. I am perplexed by the liberal/left's characterization of the attempt to gain some legality (in the larger sense of operating with the counsel of elected representatives of the people)as "disrespectful." Even if the people's representatives cannot pass laws, they could provide constructive debate.

      A split among the anti-dictatorship forces is, of course, a boon to the military dictatorship. But I would not place much stock in the number of votes for Shafiq. Some of the people who voted for him were simply voting against hegemony by Islamists, and some people didn't vote because they felt that either choice was unacceptable. In other words, support for Shafiq seems tepid, while support for Morsi seems more strongly felt among his supporters.

      Egypt does seem to be headed toward anarchy. But in the face of a dictatorship that refuses to allow the people's representatives to even meet, I don't see how Morsi has a choice.

  • South Carolina & Gingrich, Egypt & the Muslim Brotherhood
    • Bill says, "In Egypt, there is a real possibility that such a coalition could impose their religious views on all Egyptians. In the United States, the Constitution’s separation of church and state forbids it, a proposition that has been upheld many times by the courts."

      The US Supreme Court has made it clear that it is not bound by such petty considerations as the law or the Constitution. Elections are a state matter under the Constitution, but the Court intervened in 2000 on specious grounds of equal protection, for example. Citizens United is another example of the complete contempt with which this court regards the law. It is no surprise to me, since one of the members of the Court is well-known as a perjurer, and he's not the only one, past or present.

      Meanwhile, the Congress is heavily populated by people who claim that the US is a "Christian Nation", despite the fact that this was formally denied by the US Senate in 1796 and is completely inconsistent with basic American history in which people fled from government-imposed religion. The level of bizarre pseudohistory to which proponents of "Christian Nation" ideology have resorted to justify their fundamentally tyrannical efforts exceeds anything regarding the Twelfth Imam (or anything else out of the Muslim World).

      The protections that Americans enjoy have substance not because of laws or the Constitution, which (in addition to providing a governmental structure) merely states some of the rights inherent to human beings, rights which if not respected lead to conflict. The protections that Americans enjoy exist because most of us are sane, considerate of the feelings of others, hesitant to force anyone to do anything unless the greater national good absolutely compels it.

      This sentiment is not shared by all too many of the people who turned out for the South Carolina primary. It is also not shared by many of the Salafists, who are not satisfied with the fact that Egyptian law is based on Islamic law. They want to force the courts to heel to their branch of Islam.

      The comparison Juan Cole draws therefore is exact. Whether the Muslim Brotherhood does or does not have respect for the rights of minorities will be determined by its behavior in office.

    • In the discussion of the SC vote, it is important to note that turnout was up by over 30%, while it was flat in IA and NH. That means that there is more to it than a shift of votes from Romney to Gingrich. Indeed, there was strong evangelical opposition to Gingrich on the basis that his election would make an adulteress First Lady (cleverly avoiding Newt's participation in the proceedings).

      So, if it were just an evangelical phenomenon, one might have expected a shift to Santorum or even Paul. The fact that there was a rise in turnout suggests that an energizing of people who ordinarily do not vote.

      The logical connection to make is with Gingrich's putdown of Juan Williams, which seemed to be the moment that everyone cheered.

      In the Egyptian elections, my suspicion that the reason the Muslim Brotherhood did so well is that there was a tacit deal cut with the military. They may well be perceived as less corrupt than the ruling party--how could they not be? But the one thing the Brotherhood is famous for, after having been so badly brutalized in the past, is its caution and restraint. It would not be surprising if the dictatorship had infiltrated and partially neutralized the Brotherhood.

  • Egyptian Women Rally against Police Brutality
    • Juan Cole says: “The military council is cracking down hard on the left, and the more electorally successful Brotherhood is not standing up for them.”

      Inkan1969 says: “The religious parties seem to be collaborating with the SCAF rather than working to expedite their removal.”

      And Charles says: Hillary Clinton just congratulated Prime Minister on his installation and, at least according to today's State Department Briefing, didn't add anything to the previous complaint against violence against women (which, in turn, didn't address the broader problem of military violence against all protesters). The disconnect is so evident that it provoked a press question, "Is this an ostrich head in the sand material here?"

  • Egyptian Protesters Demand Military Step Down in Wake of Blue Bra Beating
    • Juan, a question occurred to me. If the Islamists were going to resist military rule in any way, it would seem that this brutal assault on an apparently conservative woman would be a heckuva opening. But instead, they seem to be directing a lot more energy against Coptic Christians.

      Meanwhile, the military is focusing its energy on repressing any opposition by secular or westernized Egyptians. The net effect would be to clear the way for imposition of religious law, since the secular/western opposition will be at a low ebb, while the Islamists will hold the levers of government.

      This suggests to me that the Islamists may have made a tacit deal with the military: let us enact religious law, and we will leave military rule completely intact. The US could shovel in some food aid to make ordinary people think things are getting better.

      I haven't seen any comment on this possibility (perhaps because I know so little about the details of the situation or where one would go to find out). What do you think? Could a deal with the devil of this kind have been cut?

  • An Open Letter to the Left on Libya
    • Just as I think it's a mistake (or even a libel) to characterize the uprising as Al Qaeda, I think it's a mistake to ignore the question of who we will likely be dealing with if Gaddafi is overthrown. The concern about Al Qaeda influence did not emerge from a total vacuum. As I pointed out in a previous thread, there is a report by two academics at West Point that very cautiously says that the support for the non-native Iraqi anti-American resistance in Iraq (which comes out in short hand as "Al Qaeda" but should be "'Al Qaeda' in Iraq") was disproportionately Libyan. The authors themselves say that the documents their data come from are at odds with other analyses.

      I've listed a number of additional reasons why that report should be treated skeptically. But I think it has to be acknowledged and not simply dismissed. I would also say that it is a bit late to oppose the war based on any set of principles--we are in the war and, agree with it or not--we should focus on figuring out the end game. That end game includes getting to know who we are likely to be dealing with if Gaddafi falls. There is almost no question that the opposition will be more nationalistic and probably more religious in character than Gaddafi. Within very broad parameters, neither should be a problem for a US government that is not interested solely in extracting oil at the lowest possible royalty rate.

  • Libyan Liberation Movement Strikes Back as NATO Comes to the Rescue
    • Juan, there's a post by Robert Parry that you would probably be very interested in: link to consortiumnews.com

      It links a report by West Point that suggests that there could be a significant Al Qaida presence in eastern Libya. I've posted my skepticism about the reasoning toward that conclusion, but it's certainly an interesting question.

  • It's Official: Tunisia Now Freer than the U.S.
    • I don't think it's arguable that Tunisians are freer than Americans, and I am surprised that a Michigander would even make the attempt.

      This is a day in which the Governor of Michigan is arrogating to himself the power to dismiss local officials, seize control over their finances, dissolve municipalities, and even set corporations in the place of elected government to be the overlords of towns and cities.

      It is bizarre, surely unconstitutional-- but since our courts are owned by corporations--perhaps impossible to get a fair ruling on.

      Soon, it won't be that Tunisians are freer than America. It will be that some dictatorships are freer than America.

  • Cole on Egypt at Virtually Speaking
    • Juan, you are a little naive about corporations. That journalists hate (or say they hate) their bosses means very little. That journalists are "nice" or "smart" means very little.

      Whatever a corporation does is by design. The people who choose to work there have accepted what their corporation does and internalized its values. People who do not do so are harassed until they leave.

      The US news system is a propaganda system. That doesn't mean that someone gives out written talking points every day (as actually does happen at FOX). It means that certain propositions cannot be questioned. Ultimately, those propositions are decided by the publisher or management team.

      So, OK, journalists are working stiffs who don't make the rules as to what gets published. The ones at the elite papers get very, very nice salaries to not notice what is going on, to not see the bloodshed and misery the US is sowing. They have sold themselves.

      So, pity them... but not too much.

      Otherwise, a fine interview. Thanks for it.

  • Egypt: I ask Myself Why
    • I ask very similar questions during the Honduran coup.

      After I did a 20,000 word analysis of events, attempting to be even-handed, I concluded that the US military was behind the coup. I also concluded that the civilian government of the US has a lot less control over events than we think they do. The recent release of a Wikileaked cable from the US Ambassador to Honduras makes it clear that State was warned, quite bluntly, that their actions relative to the coup amounted to collusion in a crime under international law.

      It was a painful conclusion to reach. We want to think of ourselves as being part of something wonderful and constructive, that rogue actions like the invasion of Iraq are the exception to a altruistic endeavor. But the evidence confronts one, shocks one, nags one if one turns away.

      Reaching the same conclusion about Egypt was not as difficult.

  • 5 Year Old Child Heads Demo in Alexandria Egypt
    • Incredible that the Obama Admin sends a negotiator and then immediately disowns what he says. Incredible both that an envoy would be so indiscreet as to state recommendations without checking in with the White House, and incredible that they would dispatch someone who doesn't understand the basic requirements of diplomacy. A quote from Wikipedia: "Adding fuel to the furor over Wisner's comments was the fact that after retirement from the diplomatic corps, he had been a highly placed official of a firm that has lobbied on behalf of the dictator, as well as serving on the board of the largest Egyptian bank."

      Truly, we are ruled by idiots.

  • Top Ten Accomplishments of Egypt Demonstrators
    • Thanks for bringing to attention the names of Amr Mussa, Ayman Nour, and Mohamed Tantawi, who (in addition to El-Baradei) have sufficient stature that they could become successors to Mubarak. Are there any others?

      Repressive regimes do have the capacity to do something that is horribly effective in shutting down protests: nothing. That is, they avoid confrontation while maintaining heavy press censorship; they put enough military force on the streets to allow the economy to function; and they quietly assassinate/terrorize/jail lower-level leaders within the protest movement. This is what has been done in Honduras, whose resistance movement is proportionately an order of magnitude larger than than the Egyptian resistance. It's also the basic strategy used against the Oaxaca uprising, where perhaps one-third of the population was actively involved (think of it... in Egypt, proportionately that would mean almost 30 million people in the streets).

      So, the next steps that the protesters take are critical. They have to keep the story alive, or else the foreign media and Washington's willingness to deal will go away. They have to do it in a way that doesn't involve inflicting casualties or alienate the masses of Egyptians or cause the Army to side openly with the regime.

      I think that the Army's enforcing a line around Tahrir may be an attempt to encapsulate the protest. That is, make one safe place for protest, so that there's no conflict for the cameras to record, but shut down any protest outside Tahrir. Then turn the security forces loose on the families of the protesters outside of the view of the media.

      I hope that I am wrong. I hope the protesters have a clear plan of what to do now that they have won their first point.

  • Repression Fails as Thousands Demand Mubarak Departure
    • While I'm generally pessimistic that the demonstrators will manage to transform Egyptian governance in the short term, I see the following:

      1. There appears to be no leader among the anti-Mubarak forces, with the exception of El-Baradei, who has the stature to be a national figure. El-Baradei is, from what I hear, highly recommended by Freedom House, and is therefore probably about the last person Egyptians would want to see in a decision-making position. I'd be interested in Juan's analysis of who in Egypt could emerge and what their qualifications are.

      2. In the first days of the occupation of Tahrir, there did not seem to be much coordination of activity by the demonstrators. Since the attacks, that seems to have changed, with genuinely impressive efforts to treat the wounded, set up barricades against the thugs, and clean up the debris. This is one of the lessons of the American Revolution: that the struggle itself teaches people the cooperation necessary for self-governance.

      3. The playbook being used by the US is almost identical to the playbook they used after the Honduran coup: some mild tut-tutting, agreement that the dictator has to be replaced (but without a meaningful deadline), delays in or failure to impose sanctions (like suspending diplomatic visas, cancellation of joint military exercises, and suspension of aid) that would make it clear that the US is serious, and failure to lead action in the UN to sanction Egypt by imposing travel bans, etc. The only real difference is that Egypt already was a dictatorship, whereas in Honduras, the optics of overthrowing an elected government were even worse.

      4. The best outcome to hope for is a government ala Erdogan, i.e. one that is popular enough to withstand the inevitable attempt of the military to re-impose itself on the country. For that to happen, the emergence of a young and charismatic leader--one who is resilient and capable--is required. If that does not happen, the default will be a new leader from the military, since that person will not be vulnerable to overthrow by the military.

      5. I'm concerned about the failure of the mass of Egyptians to recognize that this is their best chance to achieve genuine change. I'm sure that people are scared about what the future may bring. But nature has already decreed that the end of Mubarak is near, and the odds of his son being even as capable as the father are very slim. So, a transition would come whether there were demonstrations or not. If the mass of people do not shape the outcome, then it is likely to be messy.

      One always hopes that a miracle will occur and the popular revolution will somehow produce a brilliant, dynamic young democracy. But even our own government, which enjoyed many advantages, was pretty much a mess for the first several decades... mired in debt, hampered by the ineffectual Articles of Confederation, and then invaded by the British. Good luck, Egypt! You're going to need it!

  • Mubarak's Response to Demand for end of Military Rule
    • I'm simply reporting my impression of what Al Jazeera English live sounded like. The Arabic version could sound different, especially to Arab ears.

      But this also illustrates something important about media. Praising someone as "elegant" in a country suffering great privation, describing him as the head of the intelligence services in a country suffering repression, and mentioning that he is such a great friend to Israel that they asked for his help speaks as clearly, if not as loudly, as saying that he's an "eminence grise", that he will go to any length to repress the Islamic movements and that he's a "dishonest broker", as Clayton Swisher said. The same words can sound very different to people with different contextual frameworks.

    • Ironically, Al Jazeera made a big deal out of how Suleiman was respected by Israel and the US, and also lingered on how elegant he is (and mentioned what sounded to me like his collaboration with Israel against the Palestinians).

      I think they intended it without irony--I imagine that all Arab governments are hoping that Mubarak's succession can be arranged without anything fundamental changing-- but they couldn't have blackened his name more thoroughly than with their praise.

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