Drones and the New Ethics of War

Protesters march against President Obama’s drone wars on the day of his second inauguration on January 21, 2013. (Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc)

This Christmas small drones were among the most popular gift under the tree in the U.S. with manufacturers stating that they sold 200,000 new unmanned aerial vehicles during the holiday season. While the rapid infiltration of drones into the gaming domain clearly reflects that drones are becoming a common weapon among armed forces, their appearance in Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Amazon serves, in turn, to normalize their deployment in the military.

Drones, as Grégoire Chamayou argues in his new book, A Theory of the Drone, have a uniquely seductive power, one that attracts militaries, politicians and citizens alike. A research scholar in philosophy at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Chamayou is one of the most profound contemporary thinkers working on the deployment of violence and its ethical ramifications. And while his new book offers a concise history of drones, it focuses on how drones are changing warfare and their potential to alter the political arena of the countries that utilize them.

If Guantanamo was the icon of President George W. Bush’s anti-terror policy, drones have become the emblem of the Obama presidency.

Chamayou traces one of the central ideas informing the production and deployment of drones back to John W. Clark, an American engineer who carried out a study on “remote control in hostile environments” in 1964. In Clark’s study, space is divided into two kinds of zones—hostile and safe—while robots operated by remote control are able to relieve human beings of all perilous occupations within hostile zones. The sacrifice of miners, firefighters, or those working on skyscrapers will no longer be necessary, since the collapse of a tunnel in the mines, for example, would merely lead to the loss of several robots operated by remote control.

The same logic informed the creation of drones. They were initially utilized as part of the military’s defense system in hostile territories. After the Egyptian military shot down about 30 Israel fighter jets in the first hours of the 1973 war, Israeli air-force commanders decided to change their tactics and send a wave of drones. As soon as the Egyptians fired their initial salvo of anti-aircraft missiles at the drones, the Israeli airplanes were able to attack as the Egyptians were reloading.

Over the years, drones have also become an important component of the intelligence revolution. Instead of sending spies or reconnaissance airplanes across enemy lines, drones can continuously fly above hostile terrain gathering information. As Chamayou explains, drones do not merely provide a constant image of the enemy, but manage to fuse together different forms of data. They carry technology that can interpret electronic communications from radios, cell phones and other devices and can link a telephone call with a particular video or provide the GPS coordinates of the person using the phone. Their target is, in other words, constantly visible.

Using drones to avert missiles or for reconnaissance was, of course, considered extremely important, yet military officials aspired to transform drones into lethal weapons as well. On February 16, 2001, after many years of U.S. investment in R&D, a Predator drone first successfully fired a missile and hit its target. As Chamayou puts it, the notion of turning the Predator into a predator had finally been realized. Within a year, the Predator was preying on live targets in Afghanistan.

A Humanitarian Weapon

Over the past decade, the United States has manufactured more than 6000 drones of various kinds. 160 of these are Predators, which are used not only in Afghanistan but also in countries officially at peace with the US, such as Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. In Pakistan, CIA drones carry out on average of one strike every four days. Although exact figures of fatalities are difficult to establish, the estimated number of deaths between 2004 and 2012 vary from 2562 to 3325.

Chamayou underscores how drones are changing our conception of war in three major ways. First, the idea of a frontier or battlefield is rendered meaningless as is the idea that there are particular places—like homesteads—where the deployment of violence is considered criminal. In other words, if once the legality of killing was dependent on where the killing was carried out, today US lawyers argue that the traditional connection between geographical spaces—such as the battlefield, home, hospital, mosque—and forms of violence are out of date. Accordingly, every place becomes a potential site of drone violence.

Second, the development of “precise missiles,” the kind with which most drones are currently armed led to the popular conception that drones are precise weapons. Precision, though, is a slippery concept. For one, chopping off a person’s head with a machete is much more precise than any missile, but there is no political or military support for precision of this kind in the West. Indeed, “precision” turns out to be an extremely copious category. The U.S., for example, counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence proving them innocent posthumously. The real ruse, then, has to do with the relation between precision and geography. As precise weapons, drones also render geographical contours irrelevant since the ostensible precision of these weapons justifies the killing of suspected terrorists in their homes. A legal strike zone is then equated with anywhere the drone strikes. And when “legal killing” can occur anywhere, then one can execute suspects anywhere—even in zones traditionally conceived as off-limits.

Finally, drones change our conception of war because it becomes, in Chamayou’s words, a priori impossible to die as one kills. One air-force officer formulated this basic benefit in the following manner: “The real advantage of unmanned aerial systems is that they allow you to protect power without projecting vulnerability.” Consequently, drones are declared to be a humanitarian weapon in two senses: they are precise vis-à-vis the enemy, and ensure no human cost to the perpetrator.

From Conquest to Pursuit

If Guantanamo was the icon of President George W. Bush’s anti-terror policy, drones have become the emblem of the Obama presidency. Indeed, Chamayou maintains that President Barak Obama has adopted a totally different anti-terror doctrine from his predecessor: kill rather than capture, replace torture with targeted assassinations.

Citing a New York Times report, Chamayou describes the way in which deadly decisions are reached: “It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals… Every week or so, more than 100 members of the sprawling national security apparatus gather by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and to recommend to the president who should be the next to die.” In D.C, this is called “Terror Tuesday.” Once established, the list is subsequently sent to the White House where the president gives his oral approval for each name. “With the kill list validated, the drones do the rest.”

Obama’s doctrine entails a change in the paradigm of warfare. In contrast to military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz, who claimed that the fundamental structure of war is a duel of two fighters facing each other, we now have, in Chamayou’s parlance, a hunter closing in on its a prey. Chamayou, who also wrote Manhunts: A Philosophical History, which examines the history of hunting humans from ancient Sparta to the modern practices of chasing undocumented migrants, recounts how according to English common law one could hunt badgers and foxes in another man’s land, “because destroying such creatures is said to be profitable to the Public.” This is precisely the kind of law that the US would like to claim for drones, he asserts.

The strategy of militarized manhunting is essentially preemptive. It is not a matter of responding to actual attacks but rather preventing the possibility of emerging threats by the early elimination of potential adversaries. According to this new logic, war is no longer based on conquest—Obama is not interested in colonizing swaths of land in northern Pakistan—but on the right of pursuit. The right to pursue the prey wherever it may be found, in turn, transforms the way we understand the basic principles of international relations since it undermines the notion of territorial integrity as well as the idea of nonintervention and the broadly accepted definition of sovereignty as the supreme authority over a given territory.

Wars without Risks

The transformation of Clausewitz’s warfare paradigm manifests itself in other ways as well. Drone wars are wars without losses or defeats, but they are also wars without victory. The combination of the two lays the ground for perpetual violence, the utopian fantasy of those profiting from the production of drones and similar weapons.

The drone wars, however, are introducing a risk-free ethics of killing. What is taking place is a switch from an ethics of “self-sacrifice and courage to one of self-preservation and more or less assumed cowardice.”

Just as importantly, drones change the ethics of war. According to the new military morality, to kill while exposing one’s life to danger is bad; to take lives without ever endangering one’s own is good. Bradley Jay Strawser, a professor of philosophy at the US naval Postgraduate school in California, is a prominent spokesperson of the “principle of unnecessary risk.” It is, in his view, wrong to command someone to take an unnecessary risk, and consequently it becomes a moral imperative to deploy drones.

Exposing the lives of one’s troops was never considered good, but historically it was believed to be necessary. Therefore dying for one’s country was deemed to be the greatest sacrifice and those who did die were recognized as heroes. The drone wars, however, are introducing a risk-free ethics of killing. What is taking place is a switch from an ethics of “self-sacrifice and courage to one of self-preservation and more or less assumed cowardice.”

Chamayou refers to this as “necro-ethics.” Paradoxically, necro-ethics is, on the one hand, vitalist in the sense that the drone supposedly does not kill innocent bystanders while securing the life of the perpetrator. This has far-reaching implications, since the more ethical the weapon seems, the more acceptable it is and the more readily it will likely be used. On the other hand, the drone advances the doctrine of killing well, and in this sense stands in opposition to the classical ethics of living well or even dying well.

Transforming Politics in the Drone States

Moreover, drones change politics within the drone states. Because drones transform warfare into a ghostly teleguided act orchestrated from a base in Nevada or Missouri, whereby soldiers no longer risk their lives, the critical attitude of citizenry towards war is also profoundly transformed, altering, as it were, the political arena within drone states.

Drones, Chamayou says, are a technological solution for the inability of politicians to mobilize support for war. In the future, politicians might not need to rally citizens because once armies begin deploying only drones and robots there will be no need for the public to even know that a war is being waged. So while, on the one hand, drones help produce the social legitimacy towards warfare through the reduction of risk, on the other hand, they render social legitimacy irrelevant to the political decision making process relating to war. This drastically reduces the threshold for resorting to violence, so much so that violence appears increasingly as a default option for foreign policy. Indeed, the transformation of wars into a risk free enterprise will render them even more ubiquitous than they are today. This too will be one of Obama’s legacies.

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of Israel’s Occupation.

The legitimization of Marine Le Pen

RASSEMBLEMENT DU FRONT NATIONAL AU PALAIS ROYAL

20 January 2015

The international campaign to legitimize the fascistic politics of the French National Front (FN) reached a new stage Monday with the publication in theNew York Times of an op-ed piece on the Charlie Hebdo shootings by the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen.

By opening its pages to Le Pen, the Times, the crumbling pillar of American liberalism, is signaling that powerful sections of the American ruling class consider her ideas to be a critical part of the public debate. The Times took the added step of including a simultaneous translation in French, ensuring that the column would receive the widest possible distribution in France itself.

Le Pen is being elevated as part of a broader effort by the ruling elites to play the anti-Muslim race card in the face of entrenched opposition to imperialist operations in the Middle East and social reaction at home. The anti-Muslim cartoons in Charlie Hebdo have been proclaimed symbols of democracy, and now Le Pen is presented as its savior.

Le Pen’s chauvinist arguments in the Times (under the headline “To Call this Threat by Its Name”) are largely drawn from the political arsenal of the US “war on terror.” France, “land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism,” she writes.

She then calls for effectively scrapping freedom and human rights in order to wage political war on France’s five-million-strong Muslim population, proposing “a policy restricting immigration,” new policies to strip people of citizenship, and a fight against “communalism and ways of life at odds” with French traditions.

While providing a political platform for Le Pen, the Times does not bother to inform its readers of her political pedigree. The FN was formed in 1972 by former supporters of the World War II Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime and defenders of French colonial rule in Algeria. It is notorious for its anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic racism, its virulent nationalism, and its thuggish attacks on political opponents.

In justifying their decision to publish Le Pen’s column, the editors of the Timesmay argue that whether one likes it or not, Le Pen cannot be ignored. TheTimes and its apologists will probably claim that by providing her with a platform, she is being given the opportunity to expose herself.

This is nonsense. Le Pen is being deliberately legitimized by the Times, just as French President François Hollande increased her stature and that of the FN by inviting Le Pen to the Elysée Palace shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The promotion of Le Pen is part of a broader elevation of fascistic and extreme right-wing organizations internationally. Last year, the United States and Germany worked with the Right Sector and Svoboda—organizations that celebrate the Nazi collaborators in Ukraine during World War II—to overthrow the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych, an operation that was presented across the political establishment as a movement for democracy.

In Germany, as the ruling class moves to cast off all restraints imposed on German militarism following World War II, it is working to downplay and justify the crimes of its past. Jorg Baberowski, a leading historian at Berlin’s Humboldt University, recently argued that “Hitler was not cruel,” comparing his actions favorably to those of Stalin and the Soviet leadership.

In a recent speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel referred to the need for Christians to “strengthen their identity” and “speak even more and with self-confidence about their Christian values”—an encouragement of anti-Muslim sentiment calculated to bolster and legitimize the racist agitation of the right-wing Pegida movement in Germany.

As far as growing sections of the corporate-financial aristocracy are concerned, the voices of neo-fascists must be heard. At the same time that herTimes column appeared, Le Pen was featured in a glowing interview with theWall Street Journal. Pointing to the calculations of the ruling class, the Journalargued, “Once a political outlier, Ms. Le Pen has been gaining prominence as France’s problems—a moribund economy and its un-assimilated Muslim population—have become more acute and seemingly beyond cure by the traditional political class.”

Here the Journal refers to the fact that, under conditions of protracted economic crisis, the political establishment is deeply discredited in France and internationally. In an effort to create support for its rule, the financial elite is seeking to mobilize sections of the petty-bourgeoisie on the basis of extreme nationalism. At the same time, right-wing forces are exploiting the bankruptcy of the “left” to present themselves as an oppositional force.

The logic of developments is following channels traced previously. Contemporary politics assumes more and more the character of the 1930s, when the ruling elites of Europe turned to fascist parties and forces to defend their rule. Today, the promotion of the likes of Le Pen is part of a broader effort to use anti-Muslim racism as a central plank for imperialist operations abroad and a far-reaching assault on democratic rights at home. The ruling classes in France, the United States, Germany, Britain and the other major imperialist powers are plotting and launching new wars in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Domestically, the ruling class is increasingly concerned about the growth of social opposition in the working class. This week, as billionaires gather in Davos for their annual economic forum, a report has come out showing that by 2016, the richest 1 percent of the world’s population will own more than the bottom 99 percent. The richest 80 individuals own as much wealth as the poorest half of the earth’s inhabitants (about 3.5 billion people). Such conditions are unsustainable. Mass social opposition is inevitable.

Together with a vicious campaign against the immigrant population, the ruling class is promoting and legitimizing fascistic and chauvinist movements in order to direct them against the working class as a whole. The basic lesson of the experiences of the 1930s is that the fight against fascism must be waged as a struggle against the capitalist system and all of its political representatives.

Joseph Kishore and Alex Lantier

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/20/pers-j20.html

A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe

Je Suis Charlie Chaplin
by SHLOMO SAND

“To read the Koran is a revolting experience. After Islam is born, it distinguishes itself by its will to subjugate the world. Its nature – it is subjugation.”

— Michel Houellebecq, reported 31 August 2001.

Nothing justifies an assassination, all the more a mass murder committed in cold blood. What has happened in Paris, the beginning of January, constitutes an absolutely inexcusable crime.

To say that involves nothing original: millions of people think and feel likewise on this account. However, in the light of this appalling tragedy, one of the first questions that occurrs to me is the following: in spite of the profound disgust experienced by the murders, is it obligatory to identify oneself with the victims’ actions? Must I be Charlie because the victims were the supreme incarnation of the ‘liberty of expression’, as the President of the Republic has declared? Am I Charlie, not only because I am a secular atheist, but also because of my fundamental antipathy towards the oppressive roots of the three principal Western monotheistic religions?

Certain caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo, that I’ve seen ages ago, appeared to me to be in bad taste; only a minority amongst them made me laugh. But isn’t the problem to be found there! In the majority of the caricatures on Islam published by the weekly, in the course of the last decade, I have discerned a manipulative aggro intended to further seduce the readership, obviously non-Muslim.

The reproduction by Charlie of the caricatures published in the Danish magazine seemed to me appalling. Already, in 2006, I had perceived as pure provocation the drawing of Mohammed decked in a turban in the form of a bomb. This is not so much a caricature against Islamists as a stupid conflation of Islam with Terror; it’s on a par with identifying Judaism with money!

It has been affirmed that Charlie, impartially, lays into all religions, but this is a lie. Certainly, it mocks Christians, and, sometimes, Jews. However, neither the Danish magazine, nor Charlie would permit themselves (fortunately) to publish a caricature presenting the prophet Moses, with kippah and ritual fringes, in the guise of a wily money-lender, hovering on a street corner. It is good that in the society these days called ‘Judeo-Christian’ (sic), it should no longer be possible to publically disseminate anti-Jewish hatred, as was the case in the not-too-distant past. I am for the liberty of expression while being at the same time opposed to racist incitement.

I admit to, gladly, tolerating the restrictions imposed on Dieudonné from expressing too far and wide his ‘criticism’ and his ‘jokes’ against Jews. On the other hand, I am positively opposed to attempts to restrain him physically. And if, by chance, some idiot attacks him, I will not be very shocked … albeit I will not go so far as to brandish a placard with the inscription: ‘je suis Dieudonné’.

In 1886, there was published in Paris La France juive of Edouard Drumont. And in 2014, the day of the assassinations committed by the three idiot criminals, there appears, under the title: Soumission[Submission], effectively Muslim France, of Michel Houellebecq. The pamphlet La France juive was a genuine bestseller by the end of the 19thCentury. Even before its appearance in the bookstores, Soumission was already a bestseller!

These two books, each in its own time, have benefited from sizeable and heated media coverage. There are, certainly, differences between them. Amongst other things, Houellebecq knows that, at the beginning of the 21st Century, it is no longer acceptable to generate fear-mongering of a Jewish threat, but that it remains readily acceptable to sell books implying a Muslim threat. Alain Soral, less adept, has not understood the ‘rules’ and, for this fact, he is marginalized in the media – and so much the better! Houellebecq, on the other hand, has been invited, with much fanfare, to appear on the coveted 8 o’clock program (journal de 20 heures) of French public television, while his book is simultaneously responsible for the dissemination of the fear of Islam.

A bad wind, a fetid wind of dangerous racism, hovers over Europe: there exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

On the other hand, in France or in Denmark, in Germany or in Spain populated by millions of Muslim workers, more often forced into the worst jobs, at the bottom of the social scale, it is necessary to show the greatest prudence before criticizing Islam, and above all to not crudely ridicule it.

At the moment, and particularly after this terrible massacre, my sympathy goes to the Muslims who reside in ghettos adjacent to the metropolises, who are at considerable risk of becoming the second victims of the murders perpetrated at Charlie Hebdo and at the Hyper Casher supermarket. I continue to take as a reference point the ‘original Charlie’: the great Charlie Chaplin who never mocked the poor and the little-educated.

Moreover, and knowing that one’s writings always occur in context, how to not raise the fact that, for more than a year, so many French troops are present in Africa to ‘combat the jihadists’, when no serious debate has taken place in France on the usefulness or the damage of these military interventions? The colonial gendarme of yesteryear, who carries an incontestable responsibility in the chaotic heritage of [arbitrary] borders and regimes, is today ‘recalled’ to reinstall ‘law and order’ by means of its latterday neo-colonial gendarmerie.

France joins the military coalition in Iraq, beside the US military, firefighting pyromaniac, responsible for the chaos created in the region, and notably in the rise to power of the frightful ‘Daesh’. Allied with the ‘enlightened’ Saudi leadership, and other ardent partisans of the ‘liberty of expression’ in the Middle East, [France] shores up the illogical border carve-up that it had imposed a century ago according to its imperialist interests. It is summoned to bombard those who threaten the precious oil reserves whose product it consumes, without understanding that, in doing so, it invites the risk of terror attacks in the heart of the metropolis.

But, in fact, it is possible that this process is well understood. The enlightened West can’t possibly be the naive and innocent victim as it loves to present itself. Of course, for an assassin to kill in cold blood innocent and unarmed people it is necessary to be cruel and perverse. But it is necessary to be hypocritical or stupid to close one’s eyes on the particulars that have provided the foundations of this tragedy.

This is also proof of a blindness that we had better understand: this conflict will further escalate if we don’t all work together, atheists and believers, to open true ways of living together without hating each other.

Shlomo Sand is the author of How I Stopped Being a Jew, Verso, 2014.

In November 2014 Sand was denied the opportunity to talk at a University in France (seat of the liberty of expression). The UJFP summarises the affair here.

An earlier version of this article was published on the site of the Union Juive Française pour la Paix, and reproduced on Mediapart. Translated from the Hebrew by Michel Bilis; translated from Bilis’ French by Evan Jones.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/16/je-suis-charlie-chaplin/

France Arrests 54 People for Offensive Speech

Observers warn that government reaction in wake of Charlie Hebdo killings reminiscent of post-9/11 fear campaign

Dieudonné, the controversial French comic pictured here in 2007, was arrested Wednesday morning for a Facebook post mocking the Charlie Hebdo attack. (Photo: Alexandre Hervaud/cc/flickr)

Dieudonné, the controversial French comic pictured here in 2007, was arrested Wednesday morning for a Facebook post mocking the Charlie Hebdo attack. (Photo: Alexandre Hervaud/cc/flickr)

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week and just days since the historic Parisunity rally when world leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder and declared their support for freedom of speech, French authorities have arrested 54 people on charges of “glorifying” or “defending” terrorism.

The French Justice Ministry said that of those arrested, four are minors and several had already been convicted under special measures for immediate sentencing, AP reports. Individuals charged with “inciting terrorism” face a possible 5-year prison term, or up to 7 years for inciting terrorism online. None of those arrested have been linked to the attacks.

Why is one view permissible and the other criminally barred—other than because the force of law is being used to control political discourse and one form of terrorism (violence in the Muslim world) is done by, rather than to, the west?
-Glenn Greenwald

Controversial comic Dieudonné was one of those taken into custody Wednesday morning for a Facebook post in which he declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly”—merging the names of the satire magazine and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four hostages at a kosher market on Friday.

Since last week’s multiple terrorism attacks that left 17 people dead, “France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism,” AP reports.

The irony that the west was rallying to defend a magazine that was attacked for its alleged slander of Islam, while at the same persecuting individuals for voicing their views was not lost on many.

“As pernicious as this arrest and related ‘crackdown’ on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west,” journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote on Wednesday.

Greenwald went on to question the charge of “defending terrorism” brought against Dieudonné and others. Greenwald continued:

If you want “terrorism defenses” like that to be criminally prosecuted (as opposed to societally shunned), how about those who justify, cheer for and glorify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, with its “Shock and Awe” slogansignifying an intent to terrorize the civilian population into submission and itsmonstrous tactics in Fallujah? Or how about the psychotic calls from a Fox News host, when discussing Muslims radicals, to “kill them ALL.” Why is one view permissible and the other criminally barred – other than because the force of law is being used to control political discourse and one form of terrorism (violence in the Muslim world) is done by, rather than to, the west?

Also Wednesday, Ines Pohl, who runs the German satire magazine die tageszeitung,published an op-ed in Politico warning against the exploitation by political leaders in the wake of such an attack or crisis, which in this case is the European right pushing an agenda of closed borders and general ethnocentrism.

“The blood in Paris wasn’t even dry when the first German politician, Alexander Gauland, one of the top candidates from the Alternative für Deutschland party, claimed this killing as a proof that Germany has the right to fear the influence of Muslim culture and that Germans have the right, and the obligation, to defend their Christian heritage,” Pohl writes.

Drawing a line between the current climate since the Paris attacks and the post-9/11 crackdown, Pohl goes on to note that next week the CIA torture reports are to be released in German and adds: “This report is the proof of how a country can be misled when it becomes ruled by fear.”

Torture victim Maher Arar and others shared their reactions to the French crackdown online.

Europe’s terror attacks: The blowback from Western intervention

us_terrorism_safety_400x300

17 January 2015

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of January 7 in Paris, police across Europe have launched a wave of arrests, rounding up dozens of alleged Islamist militants, many of whom have reportedly traveled to and from Syria, where the US and its allies have fomented a bloody civil war.

Amid press reports of imminent plots being disrupted, it is evident that European security officials were well aware of who the alleged plotters were and had been closely following their movements and activities.

The media, throwing itself into the state-backed campaign to terrorize the public, fails to ask the most obvious questions. How is it, for example, that these individuals were able to freely travel to a foreign war zone, fight there, and then return, no questions asked?

The most obvious answer is that they enjoyed the acquiescence, if not direct support, of elements within the state itself. They were left alone until now because they were deemed to be useful.

For nearly four years, Washington and its Western European allies—France first among them—have politically orchestrated and helped finance and arm a war for regime-change in Syria in which Islamist fighters, like the men who carried out the mass killing at the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, have served as the principal ground troops.

Weapons, foreign fighters and money have been sent into Syria largely through Turkey, where the CIA set up a secret station to coordinate these operations. Much of the arms and aid flowing to the imperialist-backed “rebels” have come from Washington’s key Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Two organizations have emerged as the preeminent armed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: the Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off that has been condemned by Al Qaeda itself for its excessive brutality.

German reporter Jürgen Todenhöfer, the first Western journalist to travel through ISIS-held areas in Syria since the outset of the latest US-led war in the region, reported last month that fully 70 percent of those fighting to overthrow Syria’s Assad regime are foreign fighters, funneled into the country from throughout the Middle East, Chechnya, Western Europe, North America and elsewhere. According to a recent US government estimate, as many as 1,000 foreign fighters are joining these militias each month.

The death toll in Syria approaches 200,000. Terrorist attacks, mass executions and other crimes have for years been carried out there by the same elements that committed the killings in Paris, without a word of protest from the official circles now promoting the “Je suis Charlie” campaign. They were doing the West’s dirty work.

With the entry of ISIS into Iraq last summer, however, today’s imperialist crimes collided with those of yesterday, creating a serious crisis. The debacle suffered by the Iraqi army at the hands of ISIS was the product of nearly nine years of US war and occupation that ravaged the country, claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, turned millions into refugees, and provoked an intense Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict.

Washington and its allies moved quickly to exploit this crisis, organizing a bombing campaign in both Iraq and Syria and sending thousands of US troops back into Iraq. Yesterday’s proxy forces in the war for regime-change in Syria were transformed into today’s enemies in the revived “war on terror.” This is the political context for the attack in Paris and the warnings of threatened attacks elsewhere.

This is hardly a new story. US imperialism has for over half a century given its support to Islamist forces, with the aim of combating secular nationalist movements and regimes bent on asserting control over the region’s oil wealth or cementing close ties with the Soviet Union.

The most famous example is Afghanistan, where the CIA, working in close collaboration with Pakistani intelligence, sponsored a war by Islamist fundamentalist forces to overthrow a Soviet-backed government in Kabul. The forces that would later emerge as Al Qaeda played a key role in this operation.

Since then, virtually all those designated as prominent targets and suspects in the “war on terror” are individuals well known to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

There are the 9/11 attacks themselves, in which the principal hijackers enjoyed close ties to the government of Saudi Arabia, Washington’s key ally in the Arab world. More than 13 years after the event, the US government has refused to declassify 28 pages from a report produced by a congressional investigation into the September 11 events that deal with Saudi financing for the attacks. Key organizers of the attack were under direct surveillance by the CIA, but were allowed to enter, leave and re-enter the US freely, without even possessing proper visas. Once in the US, they were allowed to train as commercial jet aircraft pilots.

Then there is the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Muslim cleric who was assassinated in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Now blamed for a host of alleged plots, including providing direction to the Paris gunmen, al-Awlaki had intimate ties with the American state. He became the first imam to conduct a prayer service for Muslim congressional staff members at the US Capitol in 2002. Months after the 9/11 attacks, he was brought to the Pentagon to speak on easing tensions between Muslims and the US military.

More recently, in the case of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the key suspect in the attack, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was not only under surveillance by the FBI, but was targeted for recruitment as an informant against the Muslim community. Tsarnaev, who was killed four days after the bombing, was allowed to travel freely to and from southern Russia, meeting with Islamists fighting the Moscow government. Moscow itself warned US authorities about his activities not once, but twice.

As for the gunmen killed last week in Paris, it is acknowledged that they had been under surveillance by not only French, but also US and British intelligence.

How is it that those under surveillance by and in direct contact with police and intelligence agencies are the authors of one terrorist attack after another? The possibility of deliberate provocation can by no means be excluded. It is impossible to say for certain in each of these events whether some form of CIA skullduggery was involved, with events allowed to transpire, carried out by individuals known to the state, either through acts of omission or commission by the authorities.

The media’s attempt to present those involved in these acts of terrorism as mysterious and unknown individuals is fraudulent. On Friday, they reported in succession the mass arrests in Paris and the rollout of new US plans to fund and train Syrian “rebels.” There was no examination of the connection between these developments.

After the first decade of the “global war on terrorism,” in which Al Qaeda was portrayed as an existential threat, these same forces were employed as proxies in Western-backed wars for regime-change against secular Arab governments, first in Libya and then Syria. Now, their actions are once again being exploited to promote war abroad and repression at home.

Ultimately, attacks like the one carried out on Charlie Hebdo are the product of decades of imperialist intervention in the Middle East. The wars that have devastated one country after another have unleashed a wave of violence that cannot but spill beyond the region. Meanwhile, Washington and its allies promote and work with the very forces involved in these attacks.

Bill Van Auken

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/17/pers-j17.html

How Israel Covers Up Its Ugly Racial Holy War

netanyahu_4_10_02

As the incitement to violence by Israeli leaders ramped up, so did racist attacks by Israeli citizens.

The year 2014 will be remembered as a banner year for violence in Israel and Palestine; most of the casualties occurred in the Gaza Strip, and most of these were Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli army. Six months later, however, these tragic deaths are almost forgotten, chiefly because the powerful propaganda of the Israel lobby is able to explain them away with a well-rehearsed narrative: “Israel only wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but the Palestinians hope to kick us all out of the country, so we have no choice but to retaliate.” Zionist hasbara can be even further condensed, distilled down to just six words: “They hate us for our equality.”

Within Israel, however, the messages emanating from the government have been nothing if not the diametric opposite of these platitudes. Anti-Palestinian incitement has always existed in Israeli politics, but in 2014 this racist discourse took a sharp turn for the worse. When three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian militants in June, Israeli political leaders did not call for the criminals to be caught and convicted. Rather, they demanded that mutilation and mass murder be visited on the general Palestinian population.

Prime Minister Netanyahu called for vengeance, and his coalition partners called for ethnic cleansing and genocide. Government faction whip Ayelet Shaked wrote: “Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people… are all enemy combatants… this also includes the mothers,” while ruling party faction leader Moshe Feiglin wrote: “The civilian population will be concentrated” and “Gaza will become part of… Israel and will be populated by Jews.”

Other public figures were even more specific, calling for sexual violence. A top Israeli academic announced that terrorism could only be averted by threatening to rape the mothers and sister of Palestinian militants. The leader of the largest religious Jewish youth group in the world called for the Israeli army not only to kill at least 300 Palestinians, but to bring back their foreskins as war trophies. The Jerusalem councillor in charge of the city’s securityimplored Jewish youth to “commit acts of Phineas,” a coded call to kill Palestinians and the Jews who befriend them. (Phineas is a reference to the Biblical figure who is said to have murdered an interracial couple in the middle of love-making by skewering their intertwined genitals, some rabbis say.)

As the incitement to violence by top Israeli leaders ramped up, so did the racist attacks by regular Israeli citizens.  Vigilante assaults on Palestinians have been the most common type of attack. A third of all Palestinian bus drivers working in Jerusalem for Israel’s largest bus company Egged have left their jobs since the summer, because racist attacks on them have become a daily occurrence. Hardly any Palestinians venture into downtown Jerusalem at night anymore, for fear of being attacked by gangs of Jewish thugs who patrol the streets, looking for Arabs to assault. In July, Israelis kidnapped a Palestinian teenager, forced gasoline down his throat, and burned him to death from the inside out. The suspects later told police they were inspired by the acts of Phineas.

Another type of racist assault that has become increasingly common in Israel is attacks on Africans. Incitement against the 50,000 non-Jewish Africans who have sought asylum in Israel in recent years, including top government officialscomparing them to cancer and Ebola, has made them a popular target for racist ruffians in Tel Aviv. Locals report it is not uncommon for Israeli youths tothrow dog feces at African mothers nursing their babies. In January, an Israeli man stabbed a one-year-old African baby in the head and later explained to police that he did it because “they said that a black baby, blacks in general, are terrorists.”

A third type of racist assault that is occurring with increasing frequency in Israel is attacks on public spaces which are shared by Jews and non-Jews. There are fewer than 10 integrated schools in all of Israel in which Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking students learn together in the same classrooms, yet these have continuously been the targeted with Hebrew graffiti reading “End the miscegenation,” “There is no coexistence with cancer” and other racist messages. In November, Israelis vandalized the only mixed school in the Jerusalem area, torching schoolbooks and the first-grade classroom.

Increasingly, Jewish Israelis who protest the racist incitement and assaults are also subject to verbal and physical attacks on the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Although these pale in comparison to the threats against Palestinians, Africans and other non-Jewish groups, many of these liberal Israelis are now afraid to express themselves in public or even on the Internet, for fear of losing their friends, their jobs, or worse. Increasing numbers of Israelis are applying for second passports and job opportunities abroad, despairing over the direction the country is headed in and their inability to bring it back from the brink. Instead, they are seeking to save themselves and their families.

Despite painstaking efforts by mainstream media gatekeepers, word of Israeli incitement and racist attacks against non-Jews is finally starting to seep out. Outside observers who had previously assumed that Israel’s war with Palestinians is based on age-old enmity and an intractable battle over land are starting to wonder if a Zionist drive for ethno-religious purity might actually be a main cause of the conflict.

Last year, the European Union announced it would specifically label goods made in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, to distinguish them from other Israeli products. In recent months, one European parliament after another has voted in favor of officially recognizing the “State of Palestine”: Sweden, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In North America, progressive churches and labor unions have started supporting the BDS movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it treats all citizens equally, ends its military occupations, and solves the problem of Palestinian refugees. With anti-racist advocacy in the United States experiencing a resurgence, communities of color are re-establishing ties with global allies, including Palestinian activists.

The visions of average Americans for the future of Israel and Palestine are also starting to shift. A survey published earlier this month by The Brookings Institution found that a third of all Americans want Israel and Palestine to be a single state with equal rights for all, regardless of race or religion.

Asked which alternative would be preferable if the option of separate sovereign states of Israel and Palestine proves to be impossible, 71% of Americans surveyed (84% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans) said they would prefer that it become a single democratic state. Of the Jewish Americans and Jewish-Israeli Americans surveyed, 61% expressed the same preference; only 34% said they would rather Israel discriminate in favor of Jews and against non-Jews.

In recent years, fearful of losing these last bastions of unqualified international support, Israeli leaders turned to American marketing managers for guidance. The advice of these ad executives was to re-brand “crazy” Israel as “sexy” and “cool.”

To make Israel seem sexy instead of brutal, conventionally attractive Jewish Israeli women would be chosen to represent Israel, sometimes wearing elements of Israeli army uniforms, and often in various states of undress. To make Israel seem cool instead of racist, token Jewish African-Israeli success stories would be said to represent the rule in Israel, when they are only the few exceptions that prove the rule of state racism towards people of color.

I delineated these two tactics, called “sex-washing” and “black-washing,” respectively, in a series of lectures at Florida colleges in October. Israel’s strategic use of sex-washing and black-washing are misogynist and racist in and of themselves, to be sure, but they also harbor deep internal inconsistencies. The woman who best embodies the overlap between both campaigns, the first Black Miss Israel, perfectly illustrates this contradiction. During her hasbara tour of the United States in February, Yityish Aynaw used her limelight to defend Israel’s persecution of non-Jewish African refugees.

As the government rounds Africans, who have committed no crime except for requesting political asylum, off the streets of Tel Aviv into desert detention centers, Aynaw smeared them as rabid rapists, one of the oldest and most disgusting anti-black tropes. Israeli police statistics show that African crime rates, including for violent crimes, are far lower than those of native Israelis.

Likewise, just as Israel’s black-washing strategy contains the seeds of its own anti-blackness, its sex-washing strategy also contains the seeds of its own sexism. Top Israeli politicians smear all Palestinians and Africans as potential domestic abusers, while a long string of sex criminals and alleged sex criminals oozes out of their own ranks: multiple ministers, multiple directors of the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s driver and multiple candidates for president and the former president himself, among others.

Rampant rape culture is not confined to political elites in Israel. Studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 found that 20% of Israeli men admit to having forced a woman to have sex, and 61% of Israeli men do not consider forcing a woman to have sex constitutes rape—if she is a previous acquaintance.

The government makes no effort to combat this horrific phenomenon, for which it is at least partially culpable. Just the opposite: it multiplies the misogyny by promoting Jewish Israeli women as sex objects for its own political ends.

On one hand, the government markets the sexual availability of Jewish Israeli women in order to entice a male and mainly non-Jewish audience outside of Israel to support the state. On the other hand, inside the country, state-sponsored groups conduct witch-hunts against the few Jewish Israeli women that have the courage to date non-Jewish men, despite the avalanche of social pressure bearing down on these couples.

These developments may be disturbing, but sadly, they are not unique. In fact, sex-washing was used as a tactic by the official organizations of the Jewish settlement enterprise in Palestine even prior to Israel’s existence. As dramatized in the 2011 British mini-series The Promise, the Yishuv trained Jewish women to court the British soldiers stationed in the country and use their wiles to convince them of the merits of the Zionist idea to establish a Jewish state. At the same time, the Jewish leadership condemned those women who struck up real romantic relationships with non-Jews and ostracized them as race-traitors. Many of these women were threatened and physically attacked, and some were even murdered by anti-miscegenation syndicates.

With every passing day, far-right Members of Knesset are further emboldened, vying to enshrine state-sponsored discrimination in Israeli law, as it already is, de facto. With progressive parliamentarians only holding one-seventh of the seats of the nationalist camp—and this number likely to drop even further in the next Knesset—there seems to be no force in Israeli society that can hold back this frightening tide.

If a coalition of foreign forces finally musters up the courage to call out Israeli leaders on their rampant racism, it will require the ability to see through the state’s deceptive propaganda campaigns. Israel’s friends must realize that the government’s cynical use of Jewish women and people of color are not reasons to shield the regime from judgment, but rather to ramp up criticism of it and demand it end racist incitement and protect all populations, regardless of religion or gender.

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/how-israel-covers-its-ugly-racial-holy-war?akid=12692.265072.rxThMf&rd=1&src=newsletter1030376&t=6

Yazidi refugees in Turkey: back to their homeland?

By Aysan Sonmez On January 14, 2015

Post image for Yazidi refugees in Turkey: back to their homeland?
Suffering brutal attacks by ISIS, many Yazidis fled to Turkey. Now they are settled in refugee camps in the very lands their ancestors once came from.

Editor’s note: Last month Ayşan Sönmez visited the refugee camps of the displaced Kurds from Kobani in Suruç, Turkey. This is her report from her recent visit to the Yazidi refugee camps in Diyarbakir and Mardin.

The price of oil has hit rock bottom and the dollar has skyrocketed against the Turkish lira. In the meantime a war is raging just across the border and the Yazidis have been displaced for something like the 74th time in their history. Indeed, isn’t this how things stand?

When commenting on Turkish history, we tend to say that history repeats itself and we complain about the lack of memory in our society. It appears that, as globalization increases pace, we are destined to go on living with such a short-lived memory in this so-called global village. In countries like Turkey, the drop in the price of oil led to excitement, but this was quickly replaced by consternation as the dollar rose as the result of the economic crisis in Russia and the Turkish lira depreciated.

In that environment, the unpopular war in Syria and its victims were forgotten both in Turkey and abroad. In the meantime, people and governments who have supported and encouraged the war busied themselves with the new issues that have arisen.

Yet again, are we going to pass it all off by saying that history simply repeats itself? Are we going to lament that war has reared its head, this time in Syria, leading to the same suffering that occurred a hundred years ago in the same region, a suffering with different faces that we have been enduring for years here in our country? I hope that’s not the case. I hope that we make the best of the peace process currently underway and that both in civil and official discourses we can bring about genuine peace with the core origins of our homeland.

Of course, Turkey and the Middle East as a whole are peopled by members of various religious and ethnic groups. And prioritizing any one group over another and stoking conflicts among them leads to nothing but death and suffering. Those who manage to survive are expected to just shoulder their suffering and continue along. This has been going on for years, from the Balkans and the Caucasus to Mesopotamia.

International powers that have had an impact on the Middle East, including the United States, Europe, Russia, and the Arab nations, have persistently meddled in the region despite the negative consequences of their actions.

The Yazidis return to their original homeland

On August 9 nearly 36,000 Yazidis began fleeing into Turkey to escape advancing ISIS forces. The refugees claim that while waiting to enter Turkey numerous children succumbed to thirst and starvation. Due to the chaotic situation and generally poor infrastructural conditions at the border these claims are hard to verify, but the refugees themselves speak of “thousands of deaths.”

Once in Turkey, the Yazidis were “temporarily settled” in villages and camps in the area, particularly in the village of Bacini in Midyat, which is originally a Yazidi village which had been razed by the Turkish army in the 1990s in the context of the war with the PKK. Even though they were intended to be temporary, the tent camp of Çınar in Diyarbakır and the bus terminal in Mardin, the opening of which was postponed so that the refugees could stay there, were transformed into more permanent camps due to the massive influx of refugees (nearly 400,000) from Kobani in September as the result of further assaults by ISIS.

While some of the refugees from Kobani had relatives in the region with whom they could stay, the Yazidis were not so lucky, and they were not enthusiastic about the idea of staying in a Muslim country where their forebears had once been massacred, nor did they want to be separated from one another.

The majority of the Yazidis are consulting with representatives from the UN so that they can migrate to the United States and countries in Europe. Some of them have returned to Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan, while those experiencing health issues are trying to get to the state-run camp in Nusaybin where they can receive health care. Still others have moved to different provinces in Turkey after having been swindled by human traffickers who promised they would get them into Europe illegally.

Although the figures are constantly changing, it is estimated that the number of Yazidi refugees in the region has dropped to around 15,600. At the Çınar camp, there are around 3,835 refugees, 1,350 of whom are children, and at the bus terminal camp in Mardin, there are around 300 refugees, half of whom are children. It is estimated that the number of refugees around Mardin has dropped to around 1,600.

One pressing issue is the fact that fundamentalist and separatist groups in Diyarbakır and Mardin, including ISIS sympathizers, pose a threat to Yazidis staying in the camps, and they have even attempted to attack them. Whenever a tip is received or there are suspicions that an attack might be carried out, local residents take turns holding watch over the camps to prevent killings from taking place. Based on what we were told, this system is still in place.

Complaints and information have come in about traffickers in women and children and black market organ dealers in the region, and we were told that efforts have been made to prevent refugees from becoming involved in such schemes.

How can sustainability be created?

At present, the refugees’ winter needs are being met and a food distribution system is in place, but it is not currently able to ensure that their dietary needs are met in a sustainable manner. NGOs and individuals regularly step in to provide aid, and a team consisting of Yazidis is responsible for distributing the aid that comes in.

The camps have equipment and personnel for first aid, the local municipalities have set aside finances and workforces for the camps, pharmaceutical associations are providing medicine, and further help is being provided by citizens living abroad, civil society organizations, the Faculty of Theology at Dicle University, local chapters of the Olive Branch Aid Association, human rights associations in Turkey, and the Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce. These groups also visit the camps to make assessments.

Businessmen in the region are also providing assistance and local residents are helping as well, but in their case, it is a matter of the impoverished helping the impoverished. Civil solidarity is very important but the number of people in need of help is very high, so it is questionable how long this situation can remain sustainable. The minimum amount of funds needed to cover the weekly needs of the Çınar camp is estimated to be 60,000 TL (roughly 20,000 Euro).

In the eastern regions of Turkey alone there are approximately one million refugees, and the cost of meeting their needs is consequently high. It has become quite clear that refugees fleeing from the war should be integrated into Turkish society with the same rights as local citizens and opportunities for employment should be opened up for them. Additionally, steps should be made to normalize their lives and their children should be able to attend school.

Despite the fact that this is a pressing issue in terms of the Turkish economy, the government has largely remained silent. Aside from setting up a tent city capable of housing 10,000 people, for all practical purposes the government is nonexistent in the region. Municipalities headed by the Kurdish-led HDP (People’s Democratic Party) are deeply in debt. It appears that this situation is being exacerbated by the AKP, which probably hopes to win votes in the general elections to be held in August later this year.

One possible scenario in that regard: Funds will not be provided to municipalities in the region during this period of turmoil, refugees’ needs in the camps will not be met, local residents will sink deeper into poverty (the economy is becoming increasingly uncertain), and problems will arise with the refugees – and, in the meantime, everyone will struggle to get through the winter. In this situation, the AKP will come along in August and say, “Look, you voted for these people but they haven’t done anything for you, so vote for us.”

It appears that the AKP will use this state of affairs to their own advantage. How else can it be explained? When people are living in such poverty, how else can you explain this lack of effort, this refusal to reach out for international aid? It is my hope that we are mistaken and that steps will be taken in that direction.

“Our forefathers massacred the Yazidis”

The inhabitants of the region are considerate when it comes to the camps. The reason for this is again historical. We were told that the region is the original homeland of the Yazidis and that fifty to sixty percent of the Yazidis who moved to the area of Shengal were originally from there. A hundred years ago, their lands were confiscated solely for economic reasons during the upheaval of the times.

We were told that the Yazidis, with the Assyrians and Armenians, were victims of genocide, and we were told that the local Kurds, whose forefathers carried out that genocide, felt that they had to look after the Yazidi refugees out of a sense of moral responsibility. The locals told us that the Yazidis had returned to their true homeland and that they should stay.

As we were walking the streets of Diyarbakır, we came across a bookstore in Sülüklü Han. My friend bought me a copy of Hagop Mintzuri’s book Crane, Where Do You Come From? I had never read his work before. When I was in Diyarbakır, I didn’t have a chance to read it, but on the plane to Istanbul, I started reading the back cover. As I set out on my journey back home, nothing could have described my state of mind at that moment as well as the words of Hagop Mintzuri:

For us, it didn’t matter if we suckled from our own mother’s breast or not. If she wasn’t around in the village, they would take us to any woman who happened to be lactating. That’s how it was in the fields as well. It didn’t matter if the woman was Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, or Kızılbaş, they would put us in their lap so we could suckle. They were happy to do it. And they were afraid of God. If they were to withhold their milk, God would punish and never forgive them.

Mintzuri’s life was filed with suffering, but I was deeply struck by his words. We may take shelter in any belief or worldview, religious or otherwise, but the critical issue is that we have a point of reference that stops us from committing, and approving of, malignant acts. I wish that our ranks were filled with more people who held to tenets like that.

Ayşan Sönmez is an artist and activist from Istanbul working with the Bogazici Performing Arts Ensemble.

http://roarmag.org/2015/01/yazidi-refugees-turkey/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29