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Total number of comments: 92 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:53)


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  • In Trump's Shadow, is East Aleppo on Verge of falling to Regime, Russia?
    • Exactly. Leaders from Western-supported rebel groups like Al-Shams have promised to burn every Syrian shiite alive. How exactly is Assad meant to respond? How would any country? And what makes Assad's behaviour so different to the US/Iraqi governments in Mosul and Fallujah? As terrible as Assad is, the alternatives are unthinkable.

  • Israel’s sliding definition of anti-Semitism in the Trump era
    • There's a parallel here with Arthur Balfour, authour of the fateful Balfour Declaration that announced the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. He was no friend to the Jews - in supporting the Alien Act 1905, he supported immigration restrictions that targeted Jews.

  • France: Turkish-Russian 'War' Possible over Syria
    • Exactly. Worse yet, the Turks and Saudis are preparing to send in ground troops which will clearly be used to bolster their favourites among the rebel proxies and prevent the Syrian government regaining territories lost to ISIS... yet the western media insists that it's the Russians preventing peace in Syria.

  • In Retrospect: A Year of Sharpening Contradictions
    • "It wouldn’t be fair to say that the US is supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria"

      In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that the Syrian revolution had been hijacked by jihadists. Since then, various US agencies have provided a continuous stream of weapons to these groups, knowing full well that Al Qaeda will benefit more than anyone. The recent delivery of anti-tank missiles you mentioned is the tip of the iceberg. When the Russians started bombing Al Qaeda forces, leading US politicians started squealing incessantly that "moderate rebels" were being targeted instead of Daesh. This is is an alliance. If the US had stopped supporting Al Qaeda in 2012, we could perhaps call it a mistake, but the enduring nature of this support means we have to call it an alliance.

  • 10 facts the government doesn’t want you to know about Syria
    • "He is chief of military operations for the Islamic Front." Yes. That makes him important.

      “He is allied to a movement we are supposedly at war with.”
      I meant Al Qaeda. To quote Alloush once more: "The summary of this issue is that we in Jaish Al-Islam praise our brothers of the Nusrah Front and we don't consider them Khawarij as is propagated against us, We fight alongside them and they fight alongside us". Remember Al Qaeda? They were a big deal until some cynics in the US government quietly decided otherwise. I even referred to group above: "We invaded Afghanistan to deny them a home; giving them one in Syria has been criminal lunacy."

      Any US official who thinks the Islamic Front is a "swing vote" and some kind of acceptable jihadist group should be taken down to Ground Zero to have their face pushed into the rubble, much the same way you'd house train a dumb animal. You read Alloush's quotes; no parsing or pretense can hide the inhumanity they express.

    • The guy is hardly a minor figure in the movement. He preaches the torture and murder of other sects. The charter of the movement opposes democracy. He is allied to a movement we're still supposedly at war with. Your opposition to Assad has blinded you to the obvious: the west has no rationale for backing this movement that could possibly withstand public scrutiny.

      Now if our leader's true objectives are far more brutal, it's a different story. Yes, reducing yet another regional rival of Israel to bloody chaos can be achieved. Yes, preventing the consolidation of a pro-Iranian bloc can be achieved, at the expense of any prospect of civilization in Syria for god knows how long. Yes, the Saudis and Neo-Ottomans can pursue their own concept of caliphate. But there is no way to square all this with the professed western aims, which include peace. Clearly, religious minorities have no choice but to fight the Islamic Front; would you expect any Alawi who seems them coming to think "Let's not panic, these soldiers might not be part of the sub group that has sworn to torture and kill us."?

    • How do you conclude that the Islamic Front "are not traditional “jihadists” in the mold of al-Qaeda" and "could play a key role in advancing Western interests"? We invaded Afghanistan to deny them a home; giving them one in Syria has been criminal lunacy. The following facts have been pretty well publicised:

      "The Islamic Front's charter rejects the concepts of representative democracy and secularism, instead seeking to establish an Islamic state ruled by a Majlis-ash-Shura and implementing sharia."

      "Islamic Front leader Zahran Alloush gave a speech on the merits of Hajj in 2013 and praised Usama bin Laden"

      "Alloush gave a speech during Ramadan of 2013 attacking Shia whom he called "Rafidis" (الرافضة) and Alawites, whom he called "Nusayris" and the "Majus" (المجوس)(Zoroastrians), addressing them as "filthy" (الأنجاس) and saying that "the Mujahideen of Shaam will cleanse Shaam of the Filth of Rafidis & Rafidism, they will cleanse it for ever in sha Allah, till they will cleanse the land of Shaam of the filth of the Majoos (Fireworshippers) who fought the Religion of Allah the Almighty","the Shia are still despicable & pitiful though history", "And I give you the news, oh Filthy Rafidis: Just as Banu Umayya crushed your heads in the Past, the people of Ghouta & Shaam will crush them soon, They will make you taste a painful torment in this world, before Allah makes you taste it in the Hereafter, Oh you unclean Rafidis! You will collide into what you've never expected of Power from the Mujahideen of Islam"

  • Democracy in retreat in Half the 193 UN Member States
    • “The link between unethical business practices and closing civic space is becoming clearer as global inequality and capture of power and resources by a handful of political and economic elite rises. “

      Does anyone remember The End of History? How's that working out?

  • Israelis slam Kerry over "Jewish State" Remarks as Abbas Rejects Demand
    • The Palestinians already recognised the right of Israel to exist. That secures the rights of the Jews who live in Israel. But recognising Israel as a Jewish State goes a long way past what is necessary for Jewish security. It implies an exclusive, expulsionist, openly chauvinist agenda - especially in the context of Israeli politicians like Lieberman openly calling for the ethnic cleansing of the remaining Arabs from Palestine.

      It is true that other states impose their own discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds... but those policies aren't being publicly championed by a large cohort of Western politicians. That puts them in a different class of state-sanctioned misery, I think.

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu faces Zionist Racism from Son dating Norwegian
    • Zionism is the pursuit of a Jewish state, and from very early on its proponents acknowledged that this will be achieved at the expense of the Palestinians (eg, Jabotinsky's Iron Wall - which essentially set out Israel's Grand Strategy). If zionism isn't racist, what the hell is?

  • Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is like saying the US is a White State
    • Bravo, Professor. As a non-observant jew-by maternal descent who has lived almost all his life overseas, I apparently have more right to live in Israel than the multitudes chased out of it in living memory: such is the nakedly racist idea that the USA is being asked to champion here.

      I also agree that it will deform the character of Israel itself to embrace it (to say nothing of what it will do to Palestinians). Israel needs to preserve its liberal and cosmopolitan character as best it can to maintain its links to the outside world, keep young people in the country and drive innovation in all fields.

  • How Peter O'Toole Saved the Arabs (According to David Lean)
    • While I wish I had my copy of Seven Pillars on hand to be sure, I think that some of these criticisms of Lawrence seem to have been anticipated by the man himself and challenged by some biographers. Lawrence, if I remember correctly, tried to pass himself off not as an Arab but as a Circassian, (a Caucasus ethnic group) when captured.

      And the Deraa episode, while bizarre, isn't necessarily implausible. The sadistic treatment at Deraa and the subsequent extreme masochism don't seem out of character (the masochism was already there to an extent, in Lawrence's school days, when he taught himself to live on bread and water for long periods, in emulation of some monastic ideal).

      Lastly, the Sykes-Picot treaty was known to the Arabs at least to some degree when Lawrence started working with them. Presumably, the Arabs expected that working with the Allies was worthwhile anyway; the Sharif clan obtained guns, money, loot, future political favours and vital food supplies for the Hejaz, after all. Lawrence I think at one point rationalises his role by arguing that he was helping to unite the tribes and build a viable Arab army - the essentials for an Arab state. Its a fairly egocentric view, to be sure, but again, one that has at least some basis in the facts. Faisal included Lawrence in the delegation that (unsuccessfully) lobbied for an Arab Syrian state in Paris soon after - this suggests that Lawrence's loyalties can't be dismissed as easily as the third last paragraph implies.

  • Dear Press: Stop Enthusing About Habitable Planets until People like Va.'s Cuccinelli Stop Destroying this One
    • Absolutely it is possible, JTM - but coming out of the black hole intact enough to say "Hell Yeah!" and pump a fist in the air probably isn't.

  • "Disposition Matrix": America's Drone Wars and Civilian Casualties (Moyers)
    • Because what other reason would anyone have to draw attention to the (god knows how many, really) innocent victims of US drone strikes, eh Bill? Your thoughts on the motivations of other people say more about you than they do about anything else.

  • Netanyahu and Iranian Jeans: Ironies of Modernity and Tradition
    • Do the Haredi still stone cars that travel on the Sabbath? When I lived there in the 1980s, a doctor making a house call on the Sabbath was dragged out of his car and beaten to death.

      I often suspect that Israel's next major war will be civil; the Haredi make even those Tea Party anarchists gleefully strangling their own government look like reasonable people.

  • Iran's Leader "Optimistic" about Rowhani's US Diplomacy, but Skeptical of Washington, Israel
    • I wouldn't say the remarks are equally offensive; one criticises a government, the other, with its reference to DNA, is openly racist towards a population as a whole (on the level of literal meaning, at any rate).

      Put it this way: how would the US media treat anyone remarking that for Israelis "deception is part of the DNA"?

  • Where is our Amsterdam? Lavabits, Snowden & Wikileaks Censorship recall age of Absolutism
    • Snowden sought refuge where he could. Ellsberg says he would have done the same, if he were in Snowden's shoes (because Obama's America is far more barbaric than Nixon's).

      Yet you infer a pretty sordid conspiratorial agenda on Snowden's part - "all I can think of is that he intended to sell something". Really? How about the idea that refuge from the US is a hard thing to obtain, and it must be sought in countries which have the clout and inclination to resist the US? Has it occurred to you that the laptops are probably heavily encrypted, and might be set to erase their contents if tampered with, thus reducing the risk that the contents are easy to extract? Casting aspersions with no basis says a lot about you. Shutter nailed it: you really are McCarthy.

  • Venezuela and the Middle East after Chavez
    • The focus of this site is the Middle east, so I guess its natural that this post and comment thread has overlooked Chavez's role in helping Latin America preserve a high degree of independence in the post cold-war era.
      There's no doubt that he emboldened the Latin left and helped to restrain the savage drive to impose the Washington Consensus on South America, which was gathering pace in the late 90's.

      The IMF's former chief Economist, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, spells out in some detail just how crippling its effects were, and how it was intended to replace the gunboat diplomacy and puppet dictators of old.

  • Israel Spy Scandal and Press Censorship
    • Zygier had been contacted by a well-known Australian journalist (Jason Koutsoukis), who asked him out his Mossad work - which Zygier appears to have denied strenuously. I did see an earlier report suggesting that Zygier might have been about to go public, but I haven't been able to find it again. At any rate, the fact that he had any contact with a journalist at all would have made Mossad pretty unsettled.

      link to

    • One or two days after talking to one of Israel's top human rights lawyers, he died from hanging in a cell designed to prevent hanging. The lawyer confirmed that there was nothing in Zygier's manner that would suggest that he was suicidal.

      In short: the Israeli government used Australian passports in order to kill a HAMAS leader in Dubai, then used secret charges to jail an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent who was starting to go public about it, then they murdered him and conducted a whitewashing inquiry.

      Horrifyingly, the Jewish community over here in Melbourne seems to be locking ranks and refusing to call Israel to account for its many crimes in regard to this saga (our government is still trying to work out who knew what and when).

  • Why Tunisia's Arab Spring is in Turmoil
    • Have you ever thought about relating your posts to what Juan Cole is writing about? Since any one of your comments could relate to any one of his posts, I guess the answer is no. I'd honestly love to see what you would write if you decided to stay on point for five minutes.

  • Top Ten Ways President Obama has Expanded our Rights, in Rev. King's Footsteps
    • The running theme is that Obama's most significant legacy may be that he made the republican assault on core democratic values a bipartisan thing, and that he has squandered the kind of hope that may not re-emerge for a generation. After condemning torture, pardoning the torturers and allowing Manning to be tortured fills people with horror and despair, so they can't help but raise those points when you attempt to draw the comparison with MLK.
      Ditto for Obama's pre-election embrace of international law, and post-election commitment to drone war at the cost of civilian lives. Ditto for the promise of transparency, and the subsequent War on Whisteblowers. Ditto for the horrendous Intellectual Property regime his people are trying to foist on the world (see ACTA and TPP-IP).

      Credit where credit is due is one thing - and all here besides the unsatisfiable must be happy that he won in November - but unless Obama's second term is much different, his main legacy may be that he left Americans more cynical than ever about the positive potential of politics. Fortunately, there are some encouraging signs that the second term will be different. Hope dies hard.

  • Anti-Mercury UN Minimata Convention Approved in Geneva: Impact on Coal?
    • The greatest irony of our time: a civilization addicted to accounting standards - which discipline everyone from minor employees to national governments - can't be bothered to measure the true costs of its energy production by incorporating those costs into the price of energy.

  • 13 gigawatts of New Wind power in US in 2012, Renewables Half of all New Energy
    • Yes, its mostly brown coal here. We rely on exporting it too, and we are expanding our mines and associated infrastructure rapidly. Sorry about that.

  • Climate Change is turning Australia Purple with Blazing Heat
    • The tax is on the large producers of CO2 (heavy industry and power stations), who pay $23 per tonne, a figure that will rise in the future. Its a fairly complicated system; permits, a trading scheme, compensation for poorer households, and changes to income tax are all involved.

      But I agree with you, there's real dissonance at work in the fact that we're continuing to expand our coal mines and the infrastructure to ship that coal. As if physics is meant to be impressed by the needs of our stock market, and the politicians who need votes in coal mining regions.

    • Lets just hope this isn't the Eve of Destruction.

    • Its not just that average temperatures are rising; rainfall patterns are shifting too, leaving more of the rain to fall in the Southern Ocean (not that we had much to begin with).
      I grew up in Tasmania, which has just clocked in at over 41 degrees celsius for the first time. This is close to unimaginable, for me. There are old huts in the mountain areas which contain huts lined with ice skates, because the highland lakes used to freeze over in the winter, early last century.

      Australia is in a conundrum where we have escaped the OECD recession by selling our brown coal to China, yet ours is the developed country most threatened by climate change. As you can imagine, there's a lot of cognitive dissonance surrounding the issue over here (however, due to the Greens holding the balance of power, we do have a carbon tax).

  • Top Ten Reasons Chuck Hagel Should be Secretary of Defense
    • Thank you, Jean, for inadvertently confirming what a fine choice Hagel would be.

      The major criticisms of his appointment that you cite are:
      1) there's a bunch of malicious gossip about him that we're supposed to take seriously, despite EVERY source you cite being anonymous (guess what, Jean? "Sources say" you work for Gush Emunim. For shame.)
      2) Hagel isn't keen to incinerate Iran.
      3) Hagel's domestic positions are possibly out of sync with Obama's - although as Juan pointed out, they're hardly relevant to the Def Sec's core responsibilities.

      By setting out the strongest objections to Hagel's appointment, you have made it clear that there isn't much reason to deny him the appointment.

  • The Afghan Sk8ter Girrls of Kabul (Video) - (Female Literacy has Tripled in Afghanistan)
    • I hate to pile on here, but Hossein - when did Cole push the era as a "golden age for Afghani life in some aspect" or a "high point"? He states some pretty uncontroversial facts that are relevant to the video - women had rights, studied, and sometimes wore miniskirts. On the basis of this, you've gone into a rant about westerners viewing muslims as baboons.
      Maybe you could be a little more upfront about your beliefs instead. If you think women simply exist to cook and breed, and you're horrified by seeing women unveiled, just say so (although the prophet would despise your small-mindedness - just look at who his first wife was). Don't hide behind the "tens of millions of muslim families" line.

  • Egypt: Faction Fighting in the Streets Threatens Stability, leaves 5 dead, 450 wounded
    • In neutering the judiciary and ramming through a new constituton, Morsi is probably doing the right thing. This is because no modern state can function for several years without a constitution, and because Mubarak's pets in the judiciary have no legitimacy whatsoever; the idea that these holdovers should exercise a veto over the country's future is absurd (especially after they let Mubarak's thugs off the hook).

      So there is no real alternative to seizing power and installing a new constitution. The trouble is that this allows an opportunity to inscribe 25 or so provisions into the constitution which bed down the Islamist agenda and threaten human rights. The temptation to abuse his power has proven too much for Morsi. But this reading of things also points to a way out of this mess: if he gets the constitutional assembly to drop the contentious provisions, and leave them to referenda at some later day, he has a strong possibility of satisfying both Islamists and secularists, as well as getting the country back on its feet quickly.

  • Rupert Murdoch, in midst of Hacking Scandal, tried to entice Petraeus with Presidency: WaPo
    • Thank you. That was brilliant, I agree that it would be great to see Woodward abandon the groupie role and become a journalist once more.

  • Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker in Gaza Conflict
    • Threats from Israel are probably a large part of the answer. The current Israeli foreign minister once called for the Aswan Dam to be destroyed (which would kill millions), in retaliation for Egyptian support for the PLO. Unlike Ahmedinejad, Israel usually makes good on its threats. An open Gaza border means another Israeli invasion of the Sinai, at the very least.

  • Why Bill O'Reilly is Wrong about Minorities 'Wanting Things" & the Election
  • Syrian Regime flies 60 bombing Raids against Rebel City Quarters
    • My flatmate watches them in Arabic all day. He tells me that give ample coverage to rebel atrocities. This makes them more unbiased and credible than most Western news organisations. Most of the success of the station is due to it building a diverse audience by heightening controversy, and they haven't abandoned this formula.

      Every day, they have blistering arguments by pro- and anti-Assad speakers. Again, this makes them more unbiased and credible than the Western media. And the Russian media as well, which prefers to whitewash Assad (from what little I know - if other readers know otherwise, please say).

  • Malala Yousufzai taken to UK for Treatment; and Pakistan's Education Shame
    • "the former is an almost ancient problem"
      And that means it silly for Cole to complain about it because...?

      For that matter, can you imagine one western headline dedicated to this girl if she had been the victim of a drone strike, as opposed to a Taliban assassin?

      None of this belittles the horror of what the Taliban does, but this blog is about informing, not just commenting, and informing people about the Taliban means informing people about the context that allows these murderous medievals to garner support. In placing such a low value on literacy among women, the Pakistani elite creates a context where the Taliban can appear less deranged than they really are.

  • Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State)
    • It is a weak case - which is why it was dropped (before the politicians intervened), and why no charges were restored. His lawyer claims that Assange offered to answer questions by videolink, and the Swedish government rejected that.

    • Ansolutely. All other Australians should call the foreign minister's office on (02) 6277 7500 to protest Assange's abandonment.

    • Officially, he's wanted for questioning in Sweden. He's offered to answer questions via videolink, but the Swedes aren't interested in that.

    • There's no rape and no charge. Pay attention. He is wanted for questioning in relation to allegations that he committed something that translates to "sexual misconduct". Why is there no charge? Well, the original prosecutor said there is absolutely no basis on which to charge Assange (so the prosecutor was replaced by the swedfish government). One "victim" didn't even go to the police to report a rape, but to check if Assange could be compulsorily tested for STDs. The other continued to associate with him for weeks after the events in question (which doesn't disprove any "rape" claim, but doesn't exactly support it either).

  • Romney shills for dirty Big Coal as Obama touts Iowa Wind Power
    • The same can be safely said of anyone who goes on the internet telling people (or sheeple) to "wake up".

    • Commentators who insist that drawing most of our energy from renewables will never be economically viable (no matter what the evidence to the contrary) inbound in 3, 2, 1...

  • Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others
    • Very true, Jason. Breivik had extensive connections in the far right world, and his manifesto cited a lot of politicians who are in the mainstream of their country - including the former Australian PM, John Howard.

  • White Terrorism at Oak Creek: The Paranoid Style in American Violence
    • Congratulations for spotting a reference. Now please tell us what you consider "gravely mistaken and blind to the dangers of statism" about the views expressed in this article.

  • On the superiority of organized masses over desperate men with guns (Martin Luther King Jr Poster)
  • 58 Murders a year by Firearms in Britain, 8,775 in US
    • When will you use those guns against the government? Not trolling, just curious.

    • Mexico does have easy gun availability, no matter what the ownership figures are. Apparently, 10% of US gun dealers are based n the Mexican border. The point stands: America's lack of gun control is in large part responsible for an ongoing bloodbath; its not the only factor, but its a necessary factor.

  • How Long will We let the National Rifle Association and Corrupt Politicians Kill our Children?
    • Everyone else gets by with fairly strict gun laws, the same way we all get by with universal healthcare. And I think you'll find that America is not importing many guns - it exports them to many places - Mexico in particular.

    • Who actually uses their guns to combat police brutality, or other infringements on civil liberties? I'm genuinely curious.

  • Top Five Reasons Israel is Losing the Public Relations Battle
    • I'm Jewish myself, and feel much the same. The survival of Judaism would be an inspiring story were it not for the consciption of Jewish communities into endless Hasbarah. I loved the hasidic idea that Hashem made the material out of the spiritual, and our task is to reach back into the spiritual to find unity with the creator, and thereby be an inspiration to all peoples.

      Instead, Zionism sacrifices every spiritual goal to the sordid, brutal business of stealing land.

    • Yes. The central premise of zionism must be exposed as the archaic, inhumane vision that it is. Ethnic cleansing was unjustifiable in the former Yugoslavia, and its unjustifiable in Palestine.
      In this day and age, where code that suggests the mildest hint of a euphemism for a racial slur draws immediate widespread condemnation, the fact that a government can run around and proclaim its devotion to an openly racist vision, and make its citizens sign pledges to preserve the racist character of the nation, is nothing short of a rhetorical miracle.

  • "Bully Worship has become a Universal Religion" (George Orwell Poster)
  • "Surgeon of Damascus" Promises more Blood, Blames West for Syria Violence
    • I favour interfering, but I agree with your points; the lack of a unified, recognised and reputable Syrian opposition is a crucial obstacle to stopping the state genocide.

      At the most, perhaps intervention could take the form of strikes on heavy weapons that are shelling civilian areas. Coupled with the provision of medical aid, food, intelligence and secure communications, this measure should give the opposition groups in their various zones a little breathing space, and a chance to coalesce behind a programme and an umbrella organisation (like the PLO).

      Of course the Russians won't like this strategy, but the more they block foreign intervention the greater the political cost they'll pay as the bloodshed continues.

  • In Race against Carbon Catastrophe, Solar Power is Making Strides
    • Both versions seem plausible. But I do believe that the energy debate would be transformed if all the direct and indirect subsidies were acknowledged, and I can't think of a bigger subsidy to any industry than the strategic commitment to controlling the world's oil.

    • I've met many self-described "Realists" who hold two beliefs simultaneously: a)we need to control events in the middle east to secure energy supplies, and b) an industrial economy primarily powered by renewable energy is not an economical option for the foreseeable future, given that it needs high levels of subsidy and government intervention.

      But the realists never seem to factor in the most expensive subsidy imaginable: the trillions that go into playing the Great Game across the middle east (and a few other regions). Military occupation, civil and military aid, the cost of dealing with blowback from terrorist groups responding to the incursions... the tangible economic costs are almost incalculable, before we even get into the deformation of American political life.

      Perhaps the optimists are the true realists here.

  • Rubio Calls for War on Iran, Syria-- as Israeli Army Rejects Strike
  • China hopeful Iran will compromise with the UNSC
    • It is an argument worth taking seriously in the context of Iran. Its not that Iran deserves a nuke just because its been invaded in the 1980s and subject to constant threats (from the US and Israel - both nuclear powers) and terrorist outrages, or because its oil reserves have inspired repeated imperial interventions in the last century. But there can be no fruitful negotiations with Iran unless these realities are taken into account. Doing so will not, in itself, cripple the anti-proliferation case, because few countries with breakout capability are as vulnerable. Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea etc have nothing in their recent history that compares to what Iran has been through in the last few decades, and neither is surrounded by a ring of enemy military bases.

  • Romney "Wins" with Latinos in Puerto Rico
  • Why don't we have better Reporting on the Afghanistan Army? It is our Best Hope for Getting Out
    • The ANA's problem is even more stark than Juan's column would suggest. This is a country that:
      a)is famed for its martial traditions,
      b)has been at war for over thirty years,
      c)has a fairly young population (median age: 18), and
      d)has very high unemployment (I've seen estimates of 40%).

      The failure to assemble a large national army under these conditions is breathtaking. I think it indicates the complete political failure of NATO and the Karzai regime, more than any other measure possibly could.

    • Its true that fighter jets aren't particularly useful against guerrillas in rugged terrain, but they are useful for countering air and armour deployed by other countries. Is it possible that Karzai wants the jets to prevent or oppose an invasion by some regional power (I'm looking at you, Pakistan)?

  • Santorum Can't Run Away from Limbaugh, who is just taking Santorum's ideas to their logical conclusion
  • US Interventions in the World since WW II
    • There is value in displaying information in a nuanced manner. Sometimes, however, nuance distracts from important fundamental truths. As Chomsky covered in the recent post here - there is a global system that even State dept doves feel compelled to maintain at all costs; this map demonstrates that in a visual manner.

      In Chile, a president was butchered, and the stadiums were turned into torture centres. In Australia, a constitutional convention was violated, to enable a dismissal. Similar goals, different means. Sometimes its worth emphasising the similarities.

    • I recommend you read "A Secret Country" by John Pilger. The 1975 dismissal of PM Gough Whitlam, the funding of his opponent, and the role played by the right-wing union leader, CIA asset and future PM Bob Hawke in quelling the subsequent outrage, are all very much from the CIA playbook. If I recall correctly, the team that overthrew Allende was dispatched to Australia to repeat the job here. The motive was the protection of the vast surveillance apparatus located on Australian soil (operated exclusively by the USA and directed against Asia).

    • No!
      God damn it... screwed by the cartographers again.

  • Iran Hype undermined by Obama Administration Admissions
    • THAT guy favours a radical devolution of power to the state level and the axing of a wide number of federal programs and agencies. In reducing government to its 18th century size and capabilities his program would eliminate what little restraint already exists on the corporations and, by extension, the 1% that control them. Several kinds of profiteer would lose out, of course - such as the military ones, and many in the finance community - but profiteering in general would be utterly unrestrained.
      Libertarians should stop going on about fiat money and strict constructionism and instead look around at the rest of developed world... and see that government tends to work, if coupled to a proper Keynesian policy (eg: don't inflate during the boom times, contra Greenspan).

      Given how many wars have been started by the profiteers, I think that unshackling them altogether would be no recipe for peace.
      -An Australian

  • Omar Khayyam (3)
    • "its a shame that not one of our problems
      was ever solved."
      As any wise man could have foreseen: we never ended slavery, never conquered the fascists, never drove any tyrants from power, never saw the end of any Latin American Dictators, never made it through the Cold War without nuclear war, never made any progress towards a world free from crippling hunger and poverty for the vast majority.
      Oh wait, we did.
      Perhaps Patrick Pearse had it right: "And would you have us be wise?"

  • Berube on Libya and the Left
    • Whatever the legal arguments are, you can't imply that only the legalists have principles. Allowing massacre is against my principles. I would have loved it if the UN forces standing by during the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda had disobeyed their mandate and shot the murdering, raping scum. Sadly, legality prevailed instead; if legality meant Gaddafi would have killed thousands more who simply demanded a vote, I'm very glad legality failed this time.

    • From "mission creep" to "obviously a hidden agenda" to "every conspiracy theory I can think of" is not necessarily good reasoning. Those arms and oil conspiracies are so versatile, aren't they? If the west had stood by while Benghazi became a bloodbath, many on the left would have trotted out those theories to explain Western NON-intervention.
      Try this explanation: after seeing how widespread the uprisings were, and after NATO smashed the armored columns with air strikes on the ourskirts of Benghazi, the success of the rebels must have seemed imminent, or at any rate, easy. Then the war ebbed back and forwards along the central coast, Misrata came under relentless bombardment, Gaddafi dug right in and called in mercenaries, and a long stalemate, or even a rebel loss, began to seem likely. Not only would this mean all sorts of practical problems for the NATO leaders (and the Arab Spring), it would make Sarkozy et al look ineffectual, so NATO did what it could to help the rebels - stretching the resolution and sending in special forces. Realistically, they had no option - by equipping the Gaddafi regime so well before the war, they HAD to intervene a lot to gve the rebels a chance.

  • Likud Government takes Revenge on Palestinians for UNESCO Membership
    • Bipartisan support for the US "alliance" has almost always been solid in Australia (I use inverted commas because its not a defence guarantee, even though we constantly join US wars to maintain it). Fear of the "yellow peril" to the North, though more muted these days, is still a strong undercurrent in our politics, and this makes us far less independent of the US than Canada. The only Australian PM to question the alliance was Whitlam, in the 70s, and he was removed from power soon afterwards.
      Despite our enduring loyalty, we have very little clout in Washington, and the fear would be that the israeli lobby could shut us out even more were we to take a pro-israeli position. We do have our own version of AIPAC, but we don't have anything like the US Jewish community; our craven stance stems from cowardice, not vicarious ethnic chauvinism.

  • Toothless UNSC Condemnation of Syria shows Russian, Chinese Clout
    • Its never about a regime crushing its own people with tanks and torture, is it? Most contributors addressing the issue have to make it all about US hypocrisy. This attitude is almost as obsessive and inhumane as that of the neo-cons who live to see Iran incinerated.
      Syrians clearly want and deserve a say in how they are ruled, and they are being subject to unspeakable atrocities by a regime that ought to be called on it and isolated by the international community. And even though Libya may have reached a stalemate (which is dubious - a six-month civil war is not a long one, really), NATO intervention has saved the rebel areas from an almighty purge.

  • Answer to Glenn Greenwald
    • 'If Qaddafi’s forces overrun the rebels, he SHOULD be in control of Libya."
      Even when most of the country has risen against him, and the only way he can retake those areas is with a technologically far superior force? If political power inside Libya = military power, your argument would have substance.

      Instead, all we have is a situation where an autocrat sells oil to buy weapons from abroad to oppress his people. There's no justice in letting him slaughter his enemies with them, especially if his enemies are simply demanding freedoms that you take for granted. Sometimes democrats need a hand from outside their borders. Myself, I think Gaddafi made it clear that he has no mercy for his opponents, and I don't see why sovereignty should allow him to slaughter them.

  • All Hell Breaks Loose in the Middle East
    • Eurofrank, you spell out some interesting opportunities that the Arab revolts offer to Western interests. Then you overplay your hand and start to insinuate that those interests are directing the revolt, as if the Arabs possess no nous, agency, courage, or legitimate radical demands.

      A similar regional upheaval occurred after during world war one (against the Ottomans) and another occurred after world war two (against the European colonisers and their puppets); both upheavals featured extensive foreign involvement, but both had their origins in the region, and answered legitimate political demands. The "Arab Spring" has these characteristics as well. What the distant opportunists do with it is another story.

  • Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN No-Fly Zone
    • Your original comment "a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same" contained no such qualification. Revolutions typically need some overseas aid, because the state and the ruling elites tend to fight hard and dirty, but whether the new regime is beholden to its backers depends upon many other factors. Sometimes a revolution turns decisively against its foreign backers very quickly - eg, Kabila's takeover in Zaire, which initially had major support from Rwanda.

    • Juan criticises people who think this should all be over within a week, not people who have reached conclusions about events. And what, exactly, is wrong with the conclusions the professor draws? International support remains strong, massacres have been averted, and aid is getting through. The international community has achieved more in this week than it has in a long time.
      The Libyan war could turn into a long grinding stalemate, but, if nothing else, the rebels aren't being shot and tortured in their thousands right now, and they would be were it not for the intervention. Gaddafi's own words (and actions in Zawiya and Misrata) prove this point. A humanist would consider saving many lives to be a success; someone who is more deeply committed to anti-imperialism than humanism would think differently, I guess. But I don't think Juan has ever identified himself as belonging to the latter category.

    • "a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same"

      I guess that explains why the United States remains a vassal of France ;)

  • How the No Fly Zone Can Succeed
    • What Stalin and Pol Pot did to their political opponents has been classed by some academics as genocide, so I'm using the term in that sense. As Cole has observed, there is a difference in scale between events in Libya and events in Bahrain, even if we account for the differences in population. At any rate, its a lot easier to prevent what is happening in Libya, since Libya is isolated diplomatically. You could cry about inconsistency, as many have done, or just be glad that a pogrom/genocide/unjustifiable slaughter of civilians has been averted, even though others continue to occur.
      Humanity or consistency is the choice here.

    • Moi - How do I know there was going to be a gigantic massacre?
      Gaddafi's forces started the civil war by firing tank shells into unarmed demonstrations. He has attacked hospitals and put his own cities under siege, shooting his people from the rooftops. He has had decades to grant democratic freedoms, and shown no willingness to do so. Benghazi is the centre of his opposition, a rebellion that has come close to toppling, and may still do so - not to mention one that has disgraced him in front of the world. He has accused them of being drug-fueled al qaeda terrorist imperialist stooges - an accusation that sounds insane to us, but carries absolutely no connotations of mercy either. Plenty of reports suggest that he has been ruthless in the cities that he has reoccupied.
      To me, that all indicates a massacre was imminent in Benghazi. Some of these facts may be disputed or reinterpreted, and no doubt there has been propaganda at work (on BOTH sides, to be fair). But the pattern does suggest a huge slaughter was averted. Put it this way, where was the armed rebellion against the Benghazi rebels in the rebel held areas? There was none. All those areas were retaken by elite armoured units and mercenaries. The people in these areas clearly demonstrated they have no allegiance to Gaddafi - and you think he'll just let that slide?

    • Hypocrisy can be dangerous. So can absolute consistency. I see one less gigantic massacre of citizens petitioning for basic freedoms. The fact that such massacres occur elsewhere hardly demonstrates, in its own right, that there is a flaw in the Libya intervention. Does no one here have a serious criticism of it? The hypocrisy line is very weak.

    • If the rebels were massacred because their calls for a No Fly Zone were rejected by the West, many on the Left would attribute that to imperialist agendas, ie: "They all prefer to deal with the devil they know, someone who kills Islamists and keeps the oil flowing, and they'd all like to see the democratic revolts peter out".
      Now that the rebels won't be massacred, imperialism is cited as the reason that the rebels are being aided. Anything used as an all-purpose explanation is being overused, and has lost its analytical power.
      The possibility that its shocking to stand by and watching a massacre is too easily dismissed, I think. To even suggest an altruistic motive for actions in international affairs seems laughably naive in some circles, but then again, how can we ever prove an altruistic motive, on any scale of human affairs?
      I'm not blind to the way the intervention aids Sarkozy's domestic agenda, forestalls the possibility of massive refugee flows into Europe, and demonstrates that the West remains capable and willing to use its might in the middle east. Isn't it possible that the politicians responsible for the intervention are trying to reap political advantages from doing the right thing? And isn't what matters the fact that they are doing the right thing?
      We could of course, wait for an intervention that has no ulterior motives whatsoever, that is supported by a consensus in the international community. Didn't work in the 1930s though, did it?

    • Gaddafi promised to massacre the rebels in Benghazi, as he did in Zawiya. The rebels called for help and got it, and a genocide was prevented. I think most of us here identify with a leftist position in foreign affairs, but its pretty sad to see that anti-imperial posturing trumps the prevention of genocide, for so many people. This is the attitude that condemned socialism, because it meant spending decades rationalising Stalin and Mao, no matter what contortions were required.
      The main differences with Iraq were that there were no massacres imminent in 2003, and no UN mandate to prevent human rights abuses - in fact, there was no UN mandate at all, really - and the region strongly opposed the war.

  • Qaddafi Bombards Rebel Cities, Defies UNO
    • Things just might work out well here...
      Gaddafi fails to make good on his threat to chase down and kill his opponents in their closets. The remaining rebel cities aren't levelled (like Zawiya). Gaddafi's vehicles get destroyed and /or their commanders desert. As his forces retreat, new uprisings break out against him. The Benghazi rebels close in on Tripoli and finish him off. The new regime is established under the watchful eyes of the world community, ensuring it operates in a democratic fashion and inhibiting it from launching vicious reprisals against the old guard and their supporters.
      Some readers may find this implausibly optimistic. But what is even more likely is that the regime will kill and torture multitudes if NATO remains aloof.

  • Japan Nuclear Threat, Libya Oil Crisis, Highlight Need for Renewable Energy
    • As a citizen of “sun drenched” Australia", I can assure you that out government spends a bilion dollars each year on incentives to promote renewable energy.
      Cynics point out that our government spends 12 billion dollars each year promoting the burning of fossil fuels, through tax rebates for diesel, company car fleets, and so on, but that's entirely irrelevant to the issue, according our wise leaders.

  • Libya Skirmishes as Saudi Quivers and Iran, Iraq under Pressure
    • Thank you, professor, for your work, especially lately. I come here at least twice a day now, and the gulf between the quality of your coverage and what else is out there is huge.

      The developments in the Arab world are the most interesting geopolitical events for at least twenty years, and its hard to imagine that the unrest will be confined to these societies. I know that the unrest has inspired activists in Iran and Africa, but are you aware of increased dissent in Central Asia? The Stans are undeniably similar to the mideast dictatorships in many ways, and have recently seen some pretty serious unrest.

  • Senate Repeal of DADT in Global Context
    • Excellent article, and I think it is well complemented by super390's exploration of the militarism angle.
      One issue though: if Sweden is as progressive, on women's issues, as it is often made out to be, why doesn't it prosecute sex crimes unless they involve Julian Assange?

      link to

  • The Karzai Problem in Afghanistan: Wikileaks
    • According to the article I referred to, China built the port and the US government finessed it from them by using their contacts in the Pakistan military, so now it has effectively become a US Navy Base. Like I said, I don't know how true that is - damn interesting if it is, though.
      Incidentally, being in hock to China is unlikely to cause the US to scale back on its strategic competition - if anything, it could heighten it, as the neocon troglodytes plot ways to transform military might into economic advantage and bring about a New American Century. Also, if the debts are rapidly called in and the US dollar crashes, the colossal reserves held by China crash in value as well, so its not a form of leverage the Chinese can easily use.

    • Four or five months ago this site featured an article by a Pakistani journalist detailing possible US attempts to carve off Baluchistan, or at least make it an autonomous province dominated by its three US airbases and the US-Navy-controlled deep water port at Gwadar . The arms supplied to the Baluch by the US to fight the Iranians are also being used to aid the secession from Pakistan, and the US is aware of this, and is exploiting the fact. The bases straddle the shortest route to Turkmenistan, and would allow the US to cut out Russia from the Central Asian energy business.
      I'm not saying I think this strategy would work out for America, or even that the speculation is accurate, but to me it highlights the difficulty in discerning among the many kinds of conspiracy theories that a man like Karzai must discern: the true, the plausible, the possible, and the utterly mad. I suspect his outbursts about the USA are more calculated than they appear, - he has to present himself as more than a puppet, after all, without also losing foreign support and ending up hanging from a lamppost.

  • Juppe: Afghanistan a 'Trap'; NATO stuck There Past 2014
    • "by forcing Afghans to travel to their local governors’ offices to submit damage claims, the official said: “in effect, you’re connecting the [Afghan] government to the people.”
      This is so stupid its genius - merging the doctrines of Endless Overkill and Winning Hearts and Minds. With officials like this in charge in charge of the war effort, I think I might start growing a beard now, just to be safe.

  • Bush-Cheney Use of Torture Derails Ghailani Prosecution
    • And the congressman who leads a successful push to eliminated the gropes and pornoscans will be blamed for the next airline terrorist attack (whether or not the attack fails). And you can not say that most people are willing to participate in this bureaucratic BDSM. Intimidation is what secures compliance here, that and the fact that flying is the only realistic option for many journeys.

      Its strange, you'd think America would be proud of being the nation that pioneered aviation. It would be funny if they were the first to make it too degrading to use.


  • Bachmann Harms US Economy, Security with Scurrilous Charges about Obama in India
    • Finally, something Washington does let Obama do: bring jobs to the US and suck $20 billion out of the material welfare of India. The idea that the US is just another player in the arms trade is ludicrous - that's like saying the Fox conglomerate is just a TV station.

  • Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law
    • Arsalan, I could have kept going in regards to christianity - instead I said "the same thing applies to all religions" (at least, all the ones which have had control of a state). I am aware that the muslim conquerors were far ahead of their time in their laws of war and treatment of conquered peoples, but while I do not know the particular circumstances which prompted each campaign, I can't help thinking that a continental expansion in a lifetime suggests a concerted effort to expand the religion through conquest. If that was not the primary motive, it must have been pretty damn prominent.
      And I'm not saying that people were forced to convert at swordpoint, but they were suddenly subjects of a new muslim ruling class and that naked political fact, brought about at swordpoint, would have made a pretty convincing reason to convert.
      Its not that Islam is the religion of war or peace; it is the religion of whatever people want to use it for. Like all creeds, it gets far too much blame and credit for the activities of its adherents.

    • If Islam can't be spread at the point of a sword, what were the armies of Islam doing in southern France mere decades after The Prophet died? And why did the Sikhs feel the need to revolt against Aurangzeb?
      If forced conversion is antithetical to the spirit of Islam, why can't the spirit of Islam prevent its followers carrying it out? And how does that passage "slay all polytheists" in the later part of the Koran fit with the soft and fuzzy sections?
      Such contradictions are found in all faiths; and no, atheists don't have all the answers - its just that atheists are the only ones honest enough to say we can only find the answers on Earth. Proclaiming that certain strains of religion are rational in contrast to others simply serves to legitimate the insane ones by association. Why do that, when its already hard enough to get people agreeing on rational responses to the world's problems?

  • Abedin: The Illusion of a ‘limited war’ against Iran
    • But what would such a war do to the balance of power in US domestic politics? I think it would complete both the emasculation of the Obama presidency and the shift towards an openly authoritarian system centred on the familiar military-industrial-security interests. If the US body count is as you say, the post 9-11 madness would be nothing by comparison.

  • Taliban influence Spreading in Afghanistan

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