Sunday, November 20, 2011

WKMA may not get around to answering all the rhetorical questions posed by Obama campaign staffers, but as for Anita Dunn's question found in the article "Lobbying Firm's Memo Spells Out Plan to Undermine Occupy Wall Street:"

"She rejected the suggestion that the president himself is too close to Wall Street, saying “If that’s the case, why were tough financial reforms passed over party line Republican opposition?”

..because they weren't tough, written by the same advisers that spearheaded the era of deregulation, and they were without question bipartisan. Deceptiveness concerning matters of creating a sustainable economy is precisely why Occupy Wall Street is necessary.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There are fewer sham stories with Obama in charge than with Bush, but they're no less irritating, and it is, of course, the same unelected corporate media monopolizing the public airways to incite wars we can't afford with sham stories.

1. Los Zetas make billions in profits a year. The idea that someone would consider hiring them to work as hit men against an ambassador in Washington, potentially alienating and inciting the US government against them, for $1.5 million is not credible;

2. Everyone with a cursory knowledge of covert affairs knows that Los Zetas, like every major drug trafficking organization, is infiltrated. The idea you would hire such an organization for such is hit is not credible;

3. It is a published, verified, and mutually agreed upon fact that Los Zetas was founded by graduates of the School of the Americas. What caused these graduates to go into this livelihood is a matter of speculation, but the idea that a bunch of Iranians would hire Los Zetas to attack the US knowing this, which everyone knows, is not credible;

4. There is no evidence whatsoever linking this plot to the Iranian government. The corporate media says that Attorney General Holder "stopped short" of linking the plot to Iran, which means he didn't say it;

5. The idea that Iran would choose the US as a place to kill a Saudi ambassador, considering the viability of such an attack in the US and the potential ramifications of such an attack in the US, makes no sense whatsoever to Iran;

6. The consensus among regional scholars that this is completely uncharacteristic of how Iran conducts itself diplomatically, while war hawks like Elliott Abrams, whose judicial censure for giving misleading testimony to Congress on three separate occasions makes him a perfect columnist for the New York Times, are jumping on the opportunity to call for increased sanctions on Iran;

7. With regard to Iran, folks like Ray McGovern have recently raised concerns about an attack against them in the works. My take on this is that if any potential attacker knew what to attack, that is, had solid knowledge of a nuclear weapons facility in Iran, it would be all over the media, since the reticence of international institutions to condemn Iran further has been hindered by a lack of a shred of evidence. We are seeing psychological warfare but there is no self-interest on anyone's part to attack a facility that most certainly doesn't exist (Update 10/14: McGovern on the "plot");

8. I hope that seven is true, but the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton would say we could "obliterate" a country of 70 million people, more than those obliterated by Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot combined, and be confirmed as Secretary of State is something historians will find revealing about the times and culture we live in;

9. This has the stamp of the Axis of Evil tactic: fabrication of a coalition of expedient enemies. It has been proven that the Mexican government, with the assistance of the US, has sided with the Sinaloa Cartel against Los Zetas. Presidential candidates are talking openly about the US military getting involved in the Mexican drug war in the same breath of talking about the Iranian threat.

Update 10/14: This sham story is predictably falling apart like a cheap suit, with a chorus of regional specialists having to bring up how sloppy the yarn is.. Iran expert Gary Sick says "I find this very hard to believe. In fact, this plot, if true, departs from all known Iranian policies and procedures.." "Iran has never conducted — or apparently even attempted — an assassination or a bombing inside the US. And it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions. In this instance, they allegedly relied on at least one amateur and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and US intelligence agents. Whatever else may be Iran’s failings, they are not noted for utter disregard of the most basic intelligence tradecraft." Patrick Cockburn: "The claim ... goes against all that is known of Iran’s highly sophisticated intelligence service." Glenn Greenwald put it succinctly: "The most difficult challenge in writing about the Iranian Terror Plot unveiled yesterday is to take it seriously enough to analyze it." But Hillary and co. is still banging on the war drums and the cartel in Sinaloa is celebrating a major Los Zetas kingpin getting nabbed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conversation from '68 on leaderless movements and specifying demands:

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: We must abandon the theory of the "leading vanguard" and replace it by a much simpler and more honest one of the active minority functioning as a permanent leaven, pushing for action without ever leading it... In certain objective situations - with the help of an active minority - spontaneity can find its place in the social movement. Spontaneity makes possible the forward drive, not the orders of a leading group.

Jean-Paul Sartre: What many people cannot understand is the fact that you have not tried to work out a program or to give your movement a structure. They attack you for trying to "smash everything" without knowing - or at any rate saying - what you would like to put in place of what you demolish.

DCB: Naturally! Everyone would be reassured, particularly Pompidou, if we set up a Party and announced: "All these people here are ours now. Here are our aims and this is how we are going to attain them." They would know who they are dealing with and how to counter them. They would no longer have to face "anarchy," "uncontrollable effervescence." Our movement's strength is that it is based on an "uncontrollable" spontaneity, that it gives an impetus without trying to canalize it or use the action it has unleashed to its own profit. There are clearly two solutions open to us today. The first would be to bring together half-a-dozen people with political experience, ask them to formulate some convincing immediate demands, and say, "Here is the student movement's position, do what you like with it!" That is the bad solution. The second is to try to give an understanding of the situation not to the totality of the students nor even to the totality of the demonstrators, but to a large number of them. To do so we must avoid building an organization immediately, or defining a program; that would inevitably paralyze us. The movement's only chance is the disorder that lets men speak freely, and which can result in a form of self-organization. For example, we should now give up mass-spectacular meetings and turn to the formation of work and action groups.

Foucault in 1972: "(In May '68) the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one which profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power - the idea of their responsibility for 'consciousness' and discourse forms part of the system."

Current account of active minority:

"... things started in very late july or early august. Adbusters made a call. Some activists spotted it online and decided to go with it. The website ( was built by anarchist friends in a "let's make this real" drive as we were more or less expecting something to happen. Activists in NYC decided to do something as well, many of them linked to Bloombergville, but also assorted syndicalists, progressives, and communists (the WWP was active at least in the early days, I'm not sure whether they still are), and anarchists... David Graeber came although he seemed initially mostly to observe things, and informed that he'd just been told the week before that Adbusters wanted him to represent them."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Update: (10pm Mon.) The Honduras Solidarity Network delegation just issued the following:

"Beginning at 1pm today a helicopter started flying very low over Rigores taking pictures of the community.

"At approximately 4.30 the attack on the community began, some people ran into hiding. Troops came in and started tearing things up, breaking dishes, throwing peoples things around, hitting people, they grabbed a young girl by the hair, threatened people, and then grabbed Santos Bernabe Cruz Aldana, the 16 year old son of the president of the Movimiento Campesino de Rigores, and dragged him into the bushes, also taken was 15 year old Darwin Leonel Cartagena, it is believed that maybe six people have been taken. A helicopter with armed men hang out of it was hovering very low as if they were going to land, the people are terrorized."

Update 9/20: I should note that I have recently become aware that several pro-coup newspapers in Honduras have printed unverified reports that the violence is in response to deaths of two soldiers of the Honduran military in the region, which the military attributes to armed insurgents and the camposinos attribute to a grenade going off in the vehicle. It is difficult to verify what happened because of the disinformation that is common in these matters, as such incidents are commonly used to justify such reponses, a response that would constitute a human rights violation even if such an attack took place, and considering that pro-coup papers have already reported the canard that the camposinos have the military support of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Also, you would expect an automatic weapon attack to murder any possible witness of such an attack. I just pass this on.

Update 9/27: "Campesinos denied from the beginning that there was an ambush and suggested that a drunken soldier accidentally detonated a grenade inside the vehicle. Vitalino Alvarez, a spokesperson for the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), told Honduran media that the road is straight where rebels allegedly ambushed the patrol vehicle and that there aren’t enough trees and bushes there to provide cover for attackers. Alvarez says he went to the hospital right after the attack and saw injuries that were consistent with a grenade explosion, not an assault with rifles."

Previous: A recent symptom of the past 80 years of foreign intervention in Honduras is the US-funded massacres and torture of peaceful camposino activists in the Aguan Valley, on behalf of the richest man in Honduras, Miguel Facusse, who a new Wikileaks cable reveals has been using the area for drug running, covered up by the US State Department. Good background articles on the camposino movement in the valley can be found here and here, a declaration by Honduran artists and intellectuals can be found here. Here's a video about it if you want to watch one:

I am posting this in advance because right now, a large group of camposino activists have been rounded up by the Honduran military/police, possibly with the help of paramilitaries imported from Colombia, and are being detained at the Tocoa police station, and some well meaning folks who don't work for a paper that covers up this sort of thing want the word spread. AU professor Adrienne Pine says "It is feared that the detained are being tortured, also we fear for the safety of the campesinos still seeking refuge, in other forced evictions in the region campesinos have been killed and rapes reported." She reports that last night Dana Frank "said (she) was a journalist and human rights worker, calling about the situation of the detained campesinos. She said, and I heard it exactly and correctly: "Dile que han matado todos los campesinos" [Tell her they've killed all the campesinos]. I said, excuse me? and she laughed with someone else, and hung up." Then Frank called back and asked "how the campesinos from Rigores were being treated. After some back and forth, during which she seemed to be evading the question (I had to repeat myself two or three times) she responded "como perros"—"like dogs." I repeated her words and asked, "are they being tortured?" She laughed at that and said "ojala y fuera asi"—"if only that were true." She told me, in response to my question about when they would be released, that they'd let them out when they damn pleased, and then told me she didn't have time to be bothered and hung up." If you'd like to practice your Spanish with the friendly folks from the Tocoa police station, you can call:

Posta – Comisario Diaz / Colonel Espinal
00 504 2444-3101
00 504 2444-3105

Your federal tax money is paying for this in the form of annual assistance for the Honduran military in the millions, and Obama's support for the practices of the illegally elected government that carries out these human rights violations is well documented. You can thank Obama for bringing back the death squads at 202-456-1414, and email addresses and phone numbers for the State Department and embassy, as well as reliable background information, can be found here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"In the long run, as Milton once wrote, the winning side tends to be the one whose weapon is the truth.. As long as the alternate sources are there, the widespread recurrance of censorship and lies in the major media must be taken as a sign of the establishment's weakness, not its strength.

"It will be important to monitor whether the Internet remains free, both economically and politically. I believe that if it does, the American republic will be secure, despite challenges from above. Thus internet freedom is like a canary in the caverns of our modern mass society. It was indeed ominous when in December 2004 former CIA director George Tenet proclaimed: 'Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they can take security seriously.' That a former CIA director was proposing that the United States adopt the restrictive Web policies of China and Myanmar was barely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. press. But it was soon reported in fifteen hundred sources on Google, including sources in French, German, and Dutch." - Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9-11, 264-5.

"The legend is your cover story.. the lie that holds together long enough to let you slip away.." - Daniel Hopsicker

Saturday, September 10, 2011

WKMA remembers 10 years ago today when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held a press conference saying "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." (full text)

The next day's events overshadowed the urgency of his concerns, and on the 15th of September, President Bush made his "trifecta" joke for the first time at a White House meeting, later recounted at a GOP luncheon: "You know, I was campaigning in Chicago and somebody asked me, is there ever any time where the budget might have to go into deficit? I said only if we were at war or had a national emergency or were in recession. Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta. (Laughter.)"

Last June, the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University estimated the cost of the War on Terror since that date to be between $2.3-2.7 trillion, soon to exceed $4 trillion factoring in disability payments and further military engagements.

Former HUD Assistant Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts mused on this topic in 2006: "Those who are saying that the Bush Administration has failed in Iraq or that we are not winning the war apparently do not understand that a policy must be judged according to its goals... A successful war policy is one that pours money into the private pockets that promoted it. So to whom is the (money) going? It appears that the Pentagon may not have to say because they are still allowed to hide behind the ruse that they and the most powerful corporate contractors and banks in the world who run their systems are not capable of maintaining a basic accounting system." (Her links to more information on the topic)

What do you know, turns out we needed that money. As you may have heard somewhere, $1.5 trillion is the figure the Super Congress has been asked to cut over the next ten years to prevent a US sovereign debt default.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I don't consider myself an expert on Brixton, but I stayed there a couple of weeks a while back and have certain impressions. First of all, Brixton has its Caribbean pockets, but is a mostly white, working class section of town, not racially homogenous like many black sections of US cities. It is unlikely that these riots will result in significant "white flight" as seen in US cities for various reasons, such as less intense suburbia and the price of London real estate. In the whole of Brixton there was one "mixed pub" which we went to, which drew a sedate slightly older crowd of whites and blacks that generally didn't sit together. I never felt unsafe there, though on one occasion I photographed a colorful Caribbean van - back when I used to take pictures of things - which didn't seem to be selling anything, and had to withstand the angry insistance of its owner that I hand over my camera. I was never offered drugs on the street. The whites were very cordial to me, as I had the look of a regular punter looking for his next pint. I was hosted by a pair which included an openly gay "public" (private) school teacher, who grew up Catholic in Ulster and had been involved in the IRA. The homophobia directed at him by whites in Brixton was shocking to me - not a case of some hooligan remarks but a sustained, premeditated sequence of threats that had compelled him to contact the police on more than one occasion.

This is the fourth major race riot in Brixton in thirty years, and each of them has started when a black person was killed by police. The first one, in 1981, led to the conclusion by a government-sponsored inquiry that the police force was "institutionally racist." I recall witnessing while sitting in a bus an elderly black man in a suit, bowler, and overcoat entering the bus first and sitting in the front row, and then a white man next in line stopping to glare at him and the seat, causing the black man to say "mind me ahh-I'm a pensioner," which struck me as odd then, as in the US whether or not senior citizens have pensions is a more delicate and variable matter, and people do not refer to themselves as Social Security recipients, and, of course, American blacks don't feel compelled to justify their Rosa Parks move to other commuters, but more than anything Yanks feel less compelled to appeal to others for respect, and respect for elders is less commonly evoked here. One of the more pleasant by-products of the current strife in Britain is the televised appearances of veteran columnist Darcus Howe, and his retort to Fiona Armstrong at the BBC "Have some respect for an old West Indian negro instead of accusing me of being a rioter because you want me to get abusive. You just sound idiotic. Have some respect. I have grandchildren.." reminds me of that moment on the bus.

But the common British term "pensioner" also hit home a different observation at the time: that in America there was comparitavely much more openness to people from different classes and races among the weathy as long as they could help create wealth and look the part, while in Europe there was more working class solidarity, as more people were going to stay in the social class they were born in, resulting in more activism by and social services for the working class. Britain's current austerity cuts and the looting for retail consumer items both suggest an ascending Yankee influence.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

While Olivier Besancenot* has advanced his media persona by romanticizing the workers' struggle, Dominique Strauss-Kahn gets romantic when the workers are struggling against his sexual advances, and, as WKMA readers may be aware of my ongoing interest in how the political class finesses its disagreements with the public over major issues, I'm interested in how their removal from the 2012 Presidential field could have ramifications on the debate over the European Union and neoliberalism. Besancenot was potentially the most high-profile left of center first round candidate to oppose the European Constitution, aside from Laurent Fabius, who is likely to run for the Socialist Party (PS) nomination. Right of center, Jean-Marie Le Pen played himself against globalization to make it to the 2002 runoff, and his daughter, Marine, is currently showing strength in the polls. While centrist politicians talk about the "presumption of innocence" surrounding Strauss-Kahn's incarceration, Marine has come out swinging, and can turn conservative voters against Sarkozy utilizing the "Exit les 'candidats bling-bling'" argument, a lifestyle argument that can also help centrist Jean-Louis Burloo squeeze Sarkozy's declining support further. Any candidate in a run-off with Le Pen has essentially won and can employ Chirac's 2002 script: don't debate her as the protestors in Paris brandish signs saying "Vote for the crook, not the Nazi."

When Laurent Fabius was tapped by Mitterand to be France's youngest prime minister in 1984, it symbolized Mitterand's rightward shift following the victory of Reagan in the US, ushering in a political age of triangulation in the West. Fabius, though, led both the coalition within the PS in 2004 to reject the European Constitution and the successful campaign against the EC referendum in 2005. Despite the success of the 2005 "no" campaign, Fabius only placed third in the PS primary of 2006, behind the pro-EC Ségolène Royal and DSK. Royal, who attempted a half-hearted leftward drift during the 2007 runoff, has announced but is polling poorly, but her ex-partner, François Hollande, is widely expected to run and has established himself as the post-DSK PS frontrunner, and if that's not insular enough for you, Fabius once dated Sarkozy's wife.

If Fabius doesn't beat out Hollande in October's primary, past history suggests he won't form his own party, which would benefit Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former PS who once supported the EC but has broken from the party and that position to co-found the Left Party. The time he's spent bickering with Besancenot's New Anticapitalist Party will present a challenge to winning over their rank and file. The then-Trotskyist Besancenot's ascension in 2002, along with a high water mark that year for Arlette Laguiller and her Lutte Ouvrière, a more purist, underground Trotskyist line, dealt a historic blow to the old-guard PCF, formerly Moscow-aligned, as well as helping to deny the PS's Lionel Jospin a berth in the runoff. In 2007, Besancenot retained his level of support but the LO lost theirs while the PCF continued to lose support. It will be interesting to see who wins the "Marxist primary" between candidates without former PS participation, but the vacuum provides Mélenchon with a potentially greater opportunity to mount a long shot bid for the run-off. If Hollande wins in October, any combination of him, Le Pen, Sarkozy, Burloo, or Mélenchon could advance to the runoff, if Fabius wins, he would likely face off against one of the first three. The presence of Sarkozy and Burloo in the race could help get Le Pen into the runoff, but Burloo appears to be the main threat to a PS victory.

While DSK has battled the more austere hardliners in the IMF, he has smoothed over global capital's tense relationship with public opinion. His absence, and the particularly scandalous and symbolic circumstances of his arrest, could lead to a backlash against the current course of the European Union which would benefit Le Pen, Fabius, Mélenchon, or some other candidate.

*..who has perhaps my favorite recent author's blurb: "Olivier Besancenot lives in France, where he works as a postal carrier. He received 1,498,581 votes in the first round of the French presidential elections in 2007."

Monday, April 11, 2011

WKMA would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the human race for reaching the point where it has become too smart (and healthy) for the World Bank, which has just recommended global cutbacks on education and health spending in favor of more police. (BBC, AAN)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Other than the fleeing of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, the historical events in North Africa and the Middle East haven't yet brought about major political reforms, but we are very early in the process. If indeed the Arab World was affected by Obama's Cairo speech, an effect which can be easily overestimated by Americans, they are benefiting from the fact that hypocrites at least don't attempt to publicly disagree with the popular sentiment they're appropriating. Obama, for sure, has done absolutely no favors for the protesters around the region, providing support for the regimes of Egypt and Bahrain while they gunned down their people.

Except for one favor: he keeps them angry and united against him. A Machiavellian move would have been to acknowledge that the four year old blockade of Gaza wasn't going to last much longer, and lift it immediately to shore up support for the Egyptian military junta, which is led by a bunch of dimwits flipping burgers for the US. Instead, Muslim Brotherhood "spiritual godfather" Yousef Al-Qaradawi, whose imprisonments in Egypt began with Nasser, returned from years of exile to address two million Egyptians on Friday, saying that Egypt should "open wide the Rafah crossing and to pray for the re-conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims, so that he and the Muslims could pray in security at Al-Aqsa Mosque." Al-Qaradawi's rousing welcome bolsters the claim of those who think Egypt will be taken over by the Brotherhood, but truly the military junta has done something to irritate everyone: the labor movement, by banning strikes and pledging to move against them, and the student movement, by not lifting the emergency laws.

On the same day that Al-Qaradawi made his point about the blockade, the Palestine Liberation Organization pressed for a vote on a UN Securty Council resolution declaring Israeli settlement activity "illegal." Obviously, the revolts of the past month affected the decision to press for the vote, but also the Palestine Papers leaked to Al-Jazeera have put the PLO in a position where they must re-establish their credibility with their constituents. Barack and Hillary responded in their trademark fashion: they were in agreement with the resolution but vetoed it, and "a senior member of the PLO Ahmad Majdalani told AFP Friday that 'Yesterday Obama warned that he would take action against us, and this is not a new development. Since more than a week ago we have gotten American threats...' Obama said 'If we push this in the Security Council several circles within the US congress [will] reconsider the American aid that the Palestinian Authority receives from the United States.'" Obama's veto will certainly erode any support he may have still had in the Arab world.

Longtime insider Amr Moussa is emerging as the front-runner for the Egyptian presidency, supported by opponents of Mubarak for his Nasserite Pan-Arab views and his criticism of Israeli actions in Palestinian territories. The Los Angeles Times writes "Edward S. Walker Jr., who worked closely with Moussa when Walker was U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997, said 'he established an independent base' of support and that 'people like him because he is not seen as a pawn of the U.S.'" and this past cooperation with US diplomats may have caused Seymour Hersh to comment on Al-Jazeera that he was US's Plan B. However, the NY Times reported on February 11 "the White House and the State Department were already discussing setting aside new funds to bolster the rise of secular political parties" and this could likely be spent on Plan C. Since the revolts are uniformily erupting throughout the Arab world, though, it will be hard for the US to stop a new phase of Pan-Arabism in some form.

In Bahrain, a Shi'ite uprising is perceived as a threat not just to the US's naval base in the region, but the continued rule of the Saudi dynasty and all the pro-US states in the GCC, an alliance of that peninsula set up in 1981. That includes Qatar, sponsor of Al-Jazeera, which accounts for the network's assessment that the revolts and killings were less newsworthy than those elsewhere in the region.

The US's relations with the Saudi dynasty was established in the 1930s not only because of the US's oil drilling and refining technology, but to a large extent because the Saudis were angry at Britain over the Balfour Declarations. The game of "the other colonial superpower is more tied to Israel" may move into a new phase now, and indeed Mubarak stepped down the day after French President Sarkozy finally said that his doing so was "inevitable," a stronger statement than Obama ever made. Whether or not Mubarak's US sponsors were worried Europe would have the relative support of the Egyptian people, the anti-immigration positions and general reputations of Sarkozy, Cameron, Merkel, and Berlusconi prevent them from having any such foothold.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Obama's tactics against the protestors; Žižek rants

In case you missed it.. there's a Reuters Africa article that apparently hasn't been picked up by Western papers, stating that Obama is attempting to engineer an anti-democratic perpetuation of military rule in Egypt: "Egypt's army is working with the West to remove President Hosni Mubarak from power in return for keeping its behind-the-scenes dominance of the political system..

"Robert Springborg, Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, said the army was dragging out a resolution of the crisis to "exhaust" the energy of a 12-day-old revolt against Mubarak 30-year-old rule.

"The tactic would also focus the anger of the uprising against Mubarak, and not against the military-based system.

"'Its political jujitsu on the part of the military to get the crowd worked up and focused on Mubarak and then he will be offered as a sacrifice in some way, he said by telephone.

"And in the meantime the military is seen as the saviours of the nation."

"We are working closely with the military ... to ensure a continuation of a dominant role of the military in the society, the polity and the economy."

"The demands (from the West) are NOT for the removal of the military from power and to establish a civilian-led democracy."

"So what are the people who did all this left with? The feeling that they got rid of Mubarak. Some will congratulate themselves. Some will feel they got outplayed in the endgame. But they will be fragmented for some considerable period of time."


Also a televised interview of Žižek was playing here as I was attempting to caffeinate:

Multiculturalism v. universalism: "How often we are so suspicious of universalism, we like to hear how democracy as we understand it is something specifically Western, we should understand different cultures, so forth and so on, but what affected me tremendously when I was not only looking at the general picture of Cairo but listening to interviews with protesters there, is how cheap, irrelevant all this multicultural talk becomes, there - where we are fighting a tyrant - we are all universalists, we are immediately in solidarity with each other. That's how you build universal solidarity. Not with some stupid Unesco multicultural respect - we respect your culture, you ours - it's the struggle for freedom. Here we have direct proof (a) that freedom is universal (b) especially proof against that cynical idea that Muslim crowd prefer some religious fundamentalist dictatorship, whatever.. No! What happened in Tunisia, what happens now in Egypt, it's precisely this universal revolution for dignity, for human rights, for economic justice, this is precisely that universalism at work. What we see daily in Egypt: one Egyptian protester said I'm proud that I'm Egyptian.. I'm proud for them.. they gave us the lesson against this falsely respectful but basically racist prejudices, you know.. 'Oh, Arabs have their specific culture, they can't really get it.' They got it, they understand democracy by doing what they are doing better than we do in the West, in Western Europe, with our anti-immigrant parties and so on and so on. So I'm proud for them. This is universalism, this is the best argument that you can see on TV against all that trash about Clash of Civilizations and so on.. the moment you fight tyranny we are in solidarity - no clash of civilizations. We all know what you mean. No miscommunication here."

I agree with this, but the argument substitutes the Western corruption of "multiculturalism" (just in time for the AWP conference) for anything antithetical to universalism, at a time when multicultural studies are under attack by Merkel, Cameron, and US states like Arizona. Later he says:

"In Tom and Jerry cartoons, you have often a scene when a cat walks, it walks over the precipice, and it's nothing below its feet, but it doesn't fall down. When it looks down, and it sees it has nothing below its feet, it falls down. Those in power must find themselves in such a situation in order to fall down. That's where we should push Mubarak."

To use an analogy from a cartoon is a show of faith in the universal, or what Deleuze calls in cinematic terms "the originary world"... "The originary world may be marked by the artificiality of the set.. the characters are like animals.. because their acts are prior to all differentiation between the human and the animal.. This is naturalism. It is not opposed to realism, but on the contrary accentuates its features by extending them in an ideosyncratic surrealism. Naturalism in literature is essentially Zola: he had the idea of making real milieux run in parallel with originary worlds. In each of his books, he describes a precise milieu, but he also exhausts it, and restores it to the originary world; it is from this higher source that the force of realist description derives." (Cinema 1, 123-4)

Mubarak, on the other hand, reportedly told Obama "Obama was a good man, but he didn't understand the culture here, but if he resigned now in this kind of situation immediately, there would be chaos, and he had to do it in an orderly way." These theatrics put the 'prejudice', the 'Oh, Arabs have their specific culture..' in the mouth of the Egyptian leader. The stated threat in Western media of the Muslim brotherhood - reiterated by Mubarak - is covered elsewhere in Žižek's comments:

"If the true choice is between Muslim fundamentalism and Western liberalism we are lost. I think the true tragedy for the Arab nations is the disappearance of - not secular in the way of religious, but secular in the sense of secularity of its demands: justice, freedom, and so on, of this kind of a left: non fundamentalist - it can be Muslim - but non fundamentalist left. This to me is the true tragedy, and I think the rise of deplorable fundamentalism is strictly something that entered the stage, filing in this void of the left, and here I draw a much more radical conclusion: this is not just in Islamist countries - this can repeat itself again and again, for instance in Afghanistan. Its presented in Western media as a crazy fundamentalist country: sorry, I'm old enough to remember 40 years ago, Afghanistan was a very open, secularized country with a pro-Western, democratic model, strong local Communist Party. Then we know the story: Communists made the coup d'etat, Soviet Union intervened, America intervenes against.. It's part of this process that Afghanistan was - if we use this awkward word - fundamentalized."

I always ask older Afghans what they thought of Nur Muhammad Taraki and I've received only positive, excited reminiscences, and when I ask the followup "Was he autocratic?" they say no. Taraki called himself non-aligned but visited Brezhnev, and historians say that the USSR didn't fully trust Taraki and preferred their puppet Babrak Karmul, who took over after Taraki was killed by a US puppet, Hafizullah Amin. The US State Department wrote a memo in summer of 1979 "The United States' larger interest would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime [when Amin was working for Taraki], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan." After Taraki was killed, Amin took over, then the Soviets, then the US trained the Mujahideen including Osama bin Laden, and Afghan life has been uninterrupted hell for thirty years.

Islamic fundamentalism offers many benefits to Western militarization: it is an easier foe than Cold War communism and it is easier to rally people against.

And don't miss Žižek's hand gestures at 20:04...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

As has been reported elsewhere, the US is playing all ends of the Egyptian conflict in the sense that it has for decades sponsored Mubarak with full knowledge of his frequent use of torture, has for years infiltrated the Muslim Brotherhood, whose collaboration with Mubarak has led to diminished influence, and by infiltrating and training the April 6 movement, which has hosted events with the neoliberal Mohamed ElBaradai and no doubt wishes to maintain US aid but with different domestic policy. If Mubarak flees, the process presumably moves to setting up elections which often means for the US: first get your guy elected by hook or by crook, then try to prop up his legitimacy as much as you can.

Israel is sweating this out not because they're concerned that the US won't push - through ElBaradai or anyone else - to maintain Egypt's ties to them, but that they have to consider for a moment the popular will in Egypt and Jordan, two countries with which they've developed strong diplomatic ties since beating them on the battlefield. Elections in Tunisia (which despite being a pro-Western Italian beach resort hasn't for a while allowed those with Israeli passports in) and Egypt, and the possible political changes in Jordan, mean that Israel has to lie low for a while, and getting the US to publicly pander becomes counterproductive (which most likely won't stop them). The release by Al-Jazeera of the Palestinian Papers, which show total subordination and acquiescence of the Palestinian Authority to Israel, may not have sparked the North African revolts but will in some way affect the outcome.

The US-Israeli relationship here should be viewed in light of their shared function -- Israel gets an annual stock of military hardware to drop on Gaza and the US has, over the course of the last 50 years, used Israel to help wrest the geopolitical prize of the Suez Canal from European powers. Agence France-Presse writes "the US is leading international support for a new Tunisia, to the detriment of its former colonial power, France."

Col. Fletcher Prouty maintained that "The Egyptians receive 2-1/2 -- 3 billion dollars from us.. How does Egypt earn its money? It meters the Suez canal to oil and no oil goes through the Suez canal. So the movement of oil causes the tide of prices to rise all over the world." Around 2-4 million barrels a day of oil ships northbound through the Suez Canal and the Suez-Mediterranean Pipeline, though these numbers are subject to wide fluctuation and subsequent price changes, higher prices obviously bolstering the oil companies. Prouty has an interesting take on the US power play against Europe in the 1956 Suez Crisis:

"In 1956, just before the Arab-Israeli War, the British.. and the French.. had made covert plans to help the Israelis against Nasser for their own interests. Naturally, General Dayan wanted to defeat and roll back the Egyptians, and the British and French were more than willing to help re-establish some control over the Suez and relieve Arab pressures over Algeria. These three interested partners planned in secret to strike at Egypt, defeat the Egyptian army, and depose Nasser. A French undercover unit of navy commandos disguised as Arabs was in Cairo for the express purpose of killing Nasser.. Neither Britain nor France informed John Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State, of their plans. As events progressed, Dulles played on this lack of formal coordination heavily, assuming the role of an unwitting and appalled outsider...

"For whatever reason, Dayan jumped off against the Egyptians with crushing air attacks about forty-eight hours ahead of the joint plans. This locked the British and French and called their hands... The French.. moved in swiftly to do away with Nasser. French and British forces steamed across the Mediterranean at top speed to join the action. It was certain that Nasser would be knocked out in a short time.

"John Foster Dulles, seeing all this.. demanded that the British and the French stop where they were and ordered Dayan to a halt. Over the shorter horizon, Khruschchev thundered that if the attack did not stop he would hurl missiles at all hostile targets in Europe. With pressure from Dulles, from Khrushchev.. England.. submitted. The Suez Affair.. prevented the British from re-establishing an enlightened control over the Canal, and it created a situation that made further French action in North Africa untenable.., unrest on the Arab-Israeli border.., (and had) a tremendous impact on the United States... (which) heard Khrushchev's threat to hurl rocket across Europe loud and clear," leading to the installation of inter-ballistic missiles in Europe. (Secret Team 392-3)

The Sinai Peninsula is considered an emerging area for oil exploration but drilling hasn't started, a major impediment to Egyptian drilling in the past being the Israeli occupation of it. Here again, the US's influence with Israel provides another form of leverage to control Egypt.

Noam Chomsky documents the conversion of Egypt into a client state in the mid-70s, when Kissinger was pressured by oil companies to fund Sadat and held off, but later sold the idea to Israeli interests after Egypt's show of military strength in 1973: a FOAI document of one such pitch has Kissinger proposing funding Sadat to "'ensure that the Europeans and Japanese did not get involved in the diplomacy concerning the Middle East,' 'to keep the Soviets out of the diplomatic arena,' 'to isolate the Palestinians,' so that they would not be a factor in the outcome, and 'to break up the Arab united front,' thus allowing Israel 'to deal separately with each of its neighbors' while of course remaining dependent on the United States." (World Orders Old and New 212-3)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Honest Diplomat Weeded Out of OAS

The Organization of American States' Haiti rep Richard Seitenfus was on his way out anyway, but he managed to hasten his departure by displaying candor uncharacteristic of OAS offiicals, freeing up the post for a lying prick. WKMA wishes Doutor Seitenfus the best in his future endeavors.

"Seitenfus said in the interview published Dec. 20 that the U.N. had 'imposed' the presence of its troops in Haiti despite the fact that the country was not involved in a civil war.

"Haiti is not an international threat. We’re not in a situation of civil war. Haiti is neither Iraq nor Afghanistan. However, the (U.N.) Security Council, given the lack of any alternative, has imposed the blue helmets since 2004, after the exit of the president (Jean-Bertrand Aristide),” the OAS diplomat told Switzerland’s Le Temps.

"The Brazilian diplomat, who had been scheduled to leave the post anyway in the coming months, also said in the interview that Haiti 'is on the international stage mainly due to its great proximity to the United States. Haiti has been the object of negative attention on the part of the international system. For the U.N., this is about freezing power and transforming the Haitians into prisoners on their own island,' namely Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic.

"The Haitians committed the unacceptable in 1804 (the year of their independence): a crime of lèse majesté for an anxious world. The West (was) then a colonial, slave-holding and racist world that based its wealth on the exploitation of conquered lands. So, the Haitian revolutionary model made the great powers afraid,” Seitenfus said.

"The OAS official also analyzed the role of non-governmental organizations in Haiti, in particular after the Jan. 12 earthquake, and he said that 'the cooperative (organizations) that arrived after the quake are not very old; they came to Haiti without any experience ... (and) after the earthquake, the professional quality fell a great deal. There exists a maleficent or perverse relationship between the NGOs’ strength and the Haitian state’s weakness.”

Who hired this guy?

The last line is one that particularly bears repeating: all those people 'doing good things' in Haiti are not only a poor replacement for autonomous civic institutions, but working almost exclusively on behalf of those who have systematically and persistently destroyed those institutions.