Building autonomy in Turkey and Kurdistan: the DAF

By Corporate Watch On September 3, 2015

Post image for Building autonomy in Turkey and Kurdistan: the DAFIn this interview the DAF discusses the history of anarchism in Turkey, their initiatives in the anti-capitalist struggle and the Kurdish freedom movement.

In May this year, Corporate Watch researchers traveled to Turkey and Kurdistan to investigate the companies supplying military equipment to the Turkish police and army. We talked to a range of groups from a variety of different movements and campaigns.

Below is the transcript of our interview with three members of the anarchist group Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF, or Revolutionary Anarchist Action) in Istanbul during May 2015. DAF is involved in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, the Rojava revolution and against ISIS’ attack on Kobane, and has taken action against Turkish state repression and corporate abuse. They are attempting to establish alternatives to the current system through self-organization, mutual aid and co-operatives.

The interview was carried out in the run-up to the Turkish elections, and touches on the election campaign by the HDP, the pro-Kurdish Peoples‘ Democratic Party. Soon after the interview took place, the HDP passed the threshold of 10 percent of the total vote needed to enter the Turkish parliament.

The DAF members – who all preferred to remain anonymous – began the interview by talking about the history of anarchism in the region.

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DAF: We want to underline the relationship between the freedom struggle at the end of Ottoman times and the freedom struggles of Kurdistan.

In Ottoman times anarchists organized workers’ struggles in the main cities: Saloniki, Izmir, Istanbul and Cairo. For example [the Italian anarchist, Errico] Malatesta was involved in organizing industrial workers in Cairo. The freedom struggles of Armenia, Bulgaria and Greece had connections with anarchist groups. Alexander Atabekian, an important person in the Armenian freedom struggle, was an anarchist, translating leaflets into Armenian and distributing them. He was a friend of [the Russian geographer and anarchist, Peter] Kropotkin and distributed Kropotkin’s anarchist leaflets.

We are talking about this as we want to underline the importance of freedom struggles and to compare this to the importance of support for the Kurdish struggle.

Corporate Watch: what happened to anarchists after the Ottoman period?

Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the 19th century, Sultan Abdul Hamid II repressed the actions of anarchists in Turkey. He knew what anarchists were and took a special interest in them. He killed or deported anarchists and set up a special intelligence agency for this purpose.

Anarchists responded by carrying out attacks on the Yildiz Sarayi palace and with bomb attacks at the Ottoman bank in Saloniki.

The government of the Ottoman Empire didn’t end with the Turkish republic. The fez has gone since but the system is still the same.

At the beginning of the [Kemalist] Turkish state [in 1923] many anarchists and other radicals were forced to emigrate or were killed. The CHP, Mustafa Kemal’s party, didn’t allow any opposition and there were massacres of Kurds.

From 1923 to 1980 there was no big anarchist movement in Turkey due to the popularity of socialist movements and the repression of the state.

The wave of revolutions from the ’60s to the ’80s affected these lands too. These were the active years of the social movements. During this period, there were revolutionary anti-imperialist movements caused by the Vietnam war, youth organizations, occupations of universities and increasing struggle of workers. These movements were Marxist-Leninist or Maoist, there were no anarchist movements.

In 1970 there was a long workers’ struggle. Millions of workers walked over a hundred kilometers from Kocaeli to Istanbul. Factories were closed and all the workers were on the streets.

Was there any awareness of anarchism in Turkey at all at this time?

During these years many books were translated into Turkish from European radicalism but only five books about anarchism were translated, three of which were talking about anarchism in order to criticize it.

But in Ottoman times there had been many articles on anarchism in the newspapers. For example, one of the three editors of the İştirak newspaper was an anarchist. The paper published [Russian anarchist, Mikhail] Bakunin’s essays as well as articles on anarcho-syndicalism.

The first anarchist magazine was published in 1989. After this many magazines were published focusing on anarchism from different perspectives; for example, post structuralism, ecology, etc.

The common theme was that they were written for a small intellectual audience. The language of these magazines was too far away from the people. Most of those involved were connected with the academia. Or they were ex-socialists affected by the fall of the Soviet Union, which was a big disappointment for many socialists. That’s why they began to call themselves anarchists, but we don’t think that this is a good way to approach anarchism, i.e. as a critique of socialism.

Between 2000 to 2005 people came together to talk about anarchism in Istanbul and began to ask: ‘how can we fight?’. At this time we guess that there were 50-100 anarchists living in Turkey and outside.

Can you explain how DAF organizes now?

Now we get 500 anarchists turning up for May Day in Istanbul. We are in touch with anarchists in Antalya, Eskişehir, Amed, Ankara and Izmir. Meydan [DAF’s newspaper] goes to between 15 and 20 cities. We have a newspaper bureau in Amed, distributing newspapers all over Kurdistan. Until now, it is in Turkish but maybe one day, if we can afford it, we will publish it in Kurdish. We send Meydan to prisons too. We have a comrade in Izmir in prison and we send copies to over 15 prisoners.

A few months ago there was a ban on radical publications in prisons. We participated in demos outside prisons and we managed to build enough pressure so that now newspapers are allowed into prisons again.

The main issue for DAF is to organize anarchism within society. We try to socialize anarchism with struggle on the streets. This is what we give importance to. For nearly nine years we have been doing this.

On an ideological level we have a holistic perspective. We don’t have a hierarchical perspective on struggles. We think workers’ struggle is important but not more important than the Kurdish struggle or women’s struggles or ecological struggles.

Capitalism tries to divide these struggles. If the enemy is attacking us in a holistic way we have to approach it in a holistic way.

Anarchy has a bad meaning for most people in society. It has a link with terrorism and bombs. We want to legitimize anarchism by linking it to making arguments for struggles against companies and for ecology. Sometimes we try to focus on the links between the state, companies and ecological damages, like the thing that Corporate Watch does.

We like to present anarchy as an organized struggle. We have shown people on the streets the organized approach to anarchism.

From 1989 to 2000 anarchism was about image. About wearing black, piercings and “mohawks”. This is what people saw. After 2000, people started to see anarchists who were part of women’s struggles and workers’ struggles.

We are not taking anarchism from Europe as an imitation. Other anarchists have approached anarchism as an imitation of US or European anarchism or as an underground culture. If we want to make the anarchist movement a social movement, it must change.

DAF’s collectives are Anarchist Youth, Anarchist Women, 26A cafe, Patika ecological collective and high school anarchist action (LAF). These self-organizations work together but have their own decision-making processes.

Anarchist Youth makes connections between young workers and university students and their struggles. Anarchist Women focuses on patriarchy and violence to women. For example, a woman was murdered by a man and set on fire last February. On 25 November there were big protests against violence against women.

LAF criticizes education and schooling in itself and tries to socialize this way of thinking in high schools. LAF also looks at ecological and feminist issues, including when young women are murdered by their husbands.

PATIKA ecological collective protests against hydro-electric dams in the Black Sea region or Hasankey [where the Ilisu dam is being built]. Sometimes there is fighting to prevent these plants from being built.

26A cafe is a self-organized cafe focusing on anti-capitalist economy. Cafes were opened in 2009 in Taksim and in 2011 in Kadıköy [both in Istanbul]. The cafes are run by volunteers. They are aimed at creating an economic model in the place where oppressed people are living. It’s important to show people concrete examples of an anarchist economy, without bosses or capitalist aims. We talk to people about why we don’t sell the big capitalist brands like Coca Cola. Of course the products we sell have a relation to capitalism but things like Coke are symbols of capitalism. We want to progress away from not-consuming and move towards alternative economies and ways of producing.

Another self-organized collective, PAY-DA — ‘Sharing and solidarity’ — has a building in Kadıköy, which is used for meetings and producing the Meydan newspaper. PAY-DA gives meals to people three times a day. It’s open to anarchists and comrades. The aim of PAY-DA is to become a cooperative, open to everybody. We try to create a bond which also involves the producers in the villages. We aim to have links with these producers and show them another economic model. We try to evolve these economic relations away from money relations. The producers are suffering from the capitalist economy. We are in the first steps of this cooperative and we are looking for producers to work with.

All of these projects are related to DAF’s ideology. This model has a connection with Malatesta’s binary model of organization.

These are anarchist organizations but sometimes people who aren’t anarchists join these struggles because they know ecological or women’s struggles, and then at the end they will learn about anarchism. It’s an evolving process.

As DAF we are trying to organize our lives. This is the only way that we can reach the people who are oppressed by capitalism.

There is also the Conscientious Objectors’ Association, which is organized with other groups, not just anarchists. Our involvement in this has a relation with our perspective on Kurdistan. We organize anti-militarist action in Turkey outside of military bases on 15 May, conscientious objector’s day. In Turkey the military is related to state culture. If you don’t do your military duty, you won’t find a job and it’s difficult to find someone to marry because they ask if you’ve been to the army. If you have been to the army, you’re a “man”. People see the state as the “Fatherland”. On your CV they ask whether you did military service. “Every Turk is born a soldier” is a popular slogan in Turkey.

Is Kemalism [the ideology associated with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk]as strong a force as it used to be?

Kemalism is still a force in schools but the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] has changed this somewhat. The AKP has a new approach to nationalism focused on the Ottoman Empire. It emphasizes Turkey’s “Ottoman roots.” But Erdoğan still says that we are ‘one nation, one state, one flag and one religion.’ There is still talk about Mustafa Kemal but not as much as before. Now you cannot criticize Erdoğan or Atatürk. It’s the law not to criticize Atatürk and the unwritten rule not to criticize Erdoğan. The media follows these rules.

Can you talk about your perspective on the Kurdish freedom struggle?

The Kurdish freedom struggles didn’t start with Rojava. Kurdish people have struggled for hundreds of years against the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish state.

Since the start of DAF we have seen Kurdistan as important for propaganda and education.

Our perspective relates to peoples’ freedom struggles. The idea that people can create federations without nations, states and empires. The Turkish state says the issue is a Kurdish problem, but for us it is not a Kurdish problem, it’s an issue of Turkish policies of assimilation. It’s obvious that since the first years of the Turkish republic the assimilation of Kurdish people has not stopped. We can see this from the last Roboski massacre [of 34 Kurdish cross-border traders by Turkish F16s on 28 December 2011] by the state during the “peace process.” We can see this in the denial of Kurdish identity or the repeated massacres. Making people assimilate to be a Turk and making nationalist propaganda.

The AKP say they have opened Kurdish TV channels, allowed Kurdish language and that we are all brothers and sisters, but on the other hand we had the Roboski massacre which occurred under their rule. In 2006 there was government pressure on Erdoğan at a high level. Erdoğan said that women and children who go against Turkish policies would be punished. Over 30 children were murdered by police and army.

The words change but the political agenda continues, just under a new government. We do not call ourselves Turkish. We come from many ethnic origins and Kurdish is one of them. Our involvement in conscientious objection is part of this perspective. We want to talk to people to prevent people from going to the army to kill their brothers and sisters.

After the 2000s there has been an ideological change in the Kurdish freedom struggle. The Kurdish organizations no longer call themselves Marxist-Leninist and Öcalan has written a lot about democratic confederalism. This is important, but our relation to Kurdish people is on the streets.

Can you talk about DAF’s work in solidarity with people in Rojava?

In July 2012 at the start of the Rojava revolution, people began saying that it was a stateless movement. We have been in solidarity from the first day of the revolution. Three cantons have declared their revolution in a stateless way. We try to observe and get more information. This is not an anarchist revolution but it is a social revolution declared by the people themselves.

Rojava is a third front for Syria against Assad, ISIS and other Islamic groups. But these are not the only groups that the revolution is faced with. The Turkish republic is giving support for ISIS from its borders. The national intelligence agency of the Turkish republic appears to be giving weapons to ISIS and other Islamic groups. Kurdish people declared the revolution under these circumstances.

After the ISIS attack on Kobane began [in 2014] we went to Suruç. We waited at the border as Turkish forces were attacking people crossing. When people wanted to cross the border to or from Kobane they were shot. We stayed there to provide protection.

In October, people gathered near Suruç, and broke through the border. Turkish tanks shot gas over the border at them.

From 6 to 8 October there were Kobane solidarity demonstrations across Turkey. Kader Ortakya, a Turkish socialist supporter of Kobane, was shot dead trying to cross the border.

We helped people. Some people crossed the border from Kobane and had no shelter. We prepared tents, food and clothes for them. Sometimes soldiers came to the villages with tear gas and water cannons and we had to move. Some people came through the border searching for their families and we helped them. Other people came, wanting to cross the border and fight and we helped them. We wore clothing with DAF’s name on it.

The YPG and YPJ [the People’s Protection Units of Rojava, the YPJ is a women’s militia] pushed ISIS back day by day. Mıştenur hill was very important for Kobane. After the hill was taken by the YPG and YPJ some people wanted to return to Kobane. When they went back their houses had been destroyed by ISIS. Some houses were mined and some people have been killed by the mines. The mines need to be cleared, but by who and how? People need new houses and help. We have had conferences and talked about how to help Kobane. There was a conference two weeks ago in Amed.

What is your position on the elections?

We do not believe in parliamentary democracy. We believe in direct democracy. We do not support the HDP in the election, but we have links in solidarity with them on the streets.

Emma Goldman said that if elections changed anything they would be illegal. There are good people in the HDP who say good things, but we think that the government can’t be good because the election system isn’t equal.

In Rojava they do not call it an anarchist revolution, but there’s no government, no state and no hierarchy, so we believe in it and have solidarity with it.

Can you tell us about the bombing in Suruç [we asked this final question by email, weeks after the original interview].

More than 30 people who wanted to take part in reconstruction of Kobane were killed by an ISIS attack. This attack was clearly organized by the Turkish State. They did not even do anything to stop it although they got the information of the attack one month before. Moreover, after the explosion the Turkish State attacked Rojava and launched operations against political organizations in Turkey. Now there are many operations and political pressures on anarchists and socialists and Kurdish organizations. They are using the explosion as a reason to make this political repression on both the domestic and international levels.

We have lost 33 of our comrades, friends who struggled for the Rojava Revolution against the state’s repression, denial and politics of massacre. There are people who are killed by state, ISIS and other powers. But our resistance won’t stop, our struggle will continue, as always in history.

This article was originally published by Corporate Watch and has been republished with their permission.

Corporate Watch is an independent research group that investigates the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power. You can follow them on Twitter via @CorpWatchUK.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/09/turkey-kurdistan-anarchist-struggle/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Who is responsible for the refugee crisis in Europe?

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4 September 2015

The gut-wrenching images of a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach, lying face-down in the sand, his lifeless body then cradled by a rescue worker, have brought home to people all over the world the desperate crisis that is unfolding on Europe’s borders.

The family of the toddler, Alan Kurdi, had come from Kobani, fleeing along with hundreds of thousands of others. A protracted siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and an intense US bombing campaign has left the northern Syrian city in ruins, its houses as well as water, electrical, sanitation and medical infrastructure destroyed. The boy was one of 12 who drowned in an attempt to reach Greece, including his mother and five-year-old brother. His distraught father, the family’s sole survivor, said he would return to Syria with their bodies, telling relatives that he hoped only to die and be buried alongside them.

There is plenty of blame to go around for these deaths, which are representative of many thousands more who have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean or suffocated after being stuffed like sardines into overheated vans.

Canada’s Conservative Party government ignored a request made in June by the boy’s aunt, who lives in British Columbia, to grant Alan’s family asylum.

The countries of the European Union have treated the surge in refugees as a matter of repression and deterrence, throwing up new fences, setting up concentration camps and deploying riot police in an effort to create a Fortress Europe that keeps desperate families like Alan’s at bay and condemns thousands upon thousands to death.

But what of the US? American politicians and the US media are deliberately silent on Washington’s central role in creating this unfolding tragedy on Europe’s borders.

The Washington Post, for example, published an editorial earlier this week stating that Europe “can’t be expected to solve on its own a problem that is originating in Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya and—above all—Syria.” The New York Times sounded a similar note, writing: “The roots of this catastrophe lie in crises the European Union cannot solve alone: war in Syria and Iraq, chaos in Libya…”

What, in turn, are the “roots” of the crises in these countries which have given rise to this “catastrophe”? The response to this question is only guilty silence.

Any serious consideration of what lies behind the surge of refugees into Europe leads to the inescapable conclusion that it constitutes not only a tragedy but a crime. More precisely, it is the tragic byproduct of a criminal policy of aggressive wars and regime change interventions pursued uninterruptedly by US imperialism, with the aid and complicity of its Western European allies, over the course of nearly a quarter century.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US ruling elite concluded that it was free to exploit America’s unrivaled military might as a means of offsetting US capitalism’s long-term economic decline. By means of military aggression, Washington embarked on a strategy of establishing its hegemony over key markets and sources of raw materials, beginning first and foremost with the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

This strategy was summed up crudely in the slogan advanced by the Wall Street Journal in the aftermath of the first war against Iraq in 1991: “Force works.”

What the world is witnessing in today’s wave of desperate refugees attempting to reach Europe are the effects of this policy as it has been pursued over the whole past period.

Decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, waged under the pretext of a “war on terrorism” and justified with the infamous lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction,” succeeded only in devastating entire societies and killing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.

They were followed by the US-NATO war for regime change that toppled the government of Muammar Gaddafi and turned Libya into a so-called failed state, wracked by continuous fighting between rival militias. Then came the Syrian civil war—stoked, armed and funded by US imperialism and its allies, with the aim of toppling Bashar al-Assad and imposing a more pliant Western puppet in Damascus.

The predatory interventions in Libya and Syria were justified in the name of “human rights” and “democracy,” receiving on this basis the support of a whole range of pseudo-left organizations representing privileged layers of the middle class—the Left Party in Germany, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, the International Socialist Organization in the US and others. Some of them went so far as to hail the actions of Islamist militias armed and funded by the CIA as “revolutions.”

The present situation and the unbearable pressure of death and destruction that is sending hundreds of thousands of people into desperate and deadly flight represent the confluence of all of these crimes of imperialism. The rise of ISIS and the ongoing bloody sectarian civil wars in both Iraq and Syria are the product of the US devastation of Iraq, followed by the backing given by the CIA and US imperialism’s regional allies to ISIS and similar Islamist militias inside Syria.

No one has been held accountable for these crimes. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell and others in the previous administration who waged a war of aggression in Iraq based upon lies have enjoyed complete impunity. Those in the current administration, from Obama on down, have yet to be called to account for the catastrophes they have unleashed upon Libya and Syria. Their accomplices are many, from a US Congress that has acted as a rubber stamp for war policies to an embedded media that has helped foist wars based upon lies upon the American public, and the pseudo-lefts who have attributed a progressive role to US imperialism and its “humanitarian interventions.”

Together they are responsible for what is unfolding on Europe’s borders, which, more than a tragedy, is part of a protracted and continuing war crime.

Bill Van Auken

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/09/04/pers-s04.html

The 2016 US election and the scapegoating of immigrants

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1 September 2015

New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie proposed over the weekend that Washington institute a system of control over foreigners entering the country akin to the methods used by the express shipping company Fedex to track its packages. This Orwellian scheme, evoking the branding and police-state hounding of everyone visiting the US, is one more contribution to a 2016 US presidential debate that expresses complete contempt for democratic rights and a seething hatred within ruling circles for workers of every nationality.

Christie’s appeal to anti-immigrant chauvinism and xenophobia came in the same week that his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, raised the need for not only sealing off the US southern border with Mexico, but constructing a wall along the 5,525-mile-long border with Canada to the north.

Meanwhile, a phony furor has been whipped up over the use by both Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, a candidate for the Republican nomination, of the word “boxcar” in referring to proposals for the mass deportation of over 11 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in the US. Clinton’s press aide was compelled to issue a statement affirming that she did not intend any allusion to the trains the Nazis used to send Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps.

This strained disavowal only draws attention to the fact that campaign stump speeches in the US in 2015 are echoing the rhetoric of 1930s-style fascism.

Donald Trump, the bloated, bullying billionaire and current Republican front-runner, has set the tone for this rabid scapegoating of immigrant workers. Slandering immigrants, who do the most grinding and ill-paid work, from the agricultural fields to the slaughterhouses, as “rapists” and “murderers,” Trump has demanded that they be rounded up and deported en masse.

He also advocates the building of a wall along the US-Mexican border—paid for by seizing the remittances sent by immigrants working in the US to support their families—and the revocation of citizenship for immigrants’ children born on US soil.

This last measure has either been endorsed or sidestepped by virtually the entire Republican pack. Jeb Bush, who has attacked Trump’s plan based on its cost rather than its gross inhumanity, vowed that his own plan would effectively seal the border “so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies’, as they’re described, coming into the country.”

With all of the arrogance, raw prejudice and stupidity that he brings to every subject, Trump has described the citizenship of these children as “illegal.”

In reality, citizenship rights for everyone born in the US, no matter what the status of their parents, has stood as a foundation of American bourgeois democracy for nearly a century and a half. Enshrined in the 14th Amendment, this right was a product of the Civil War and the overturning of the Supreme Court’s hated Dred Scott decision of 1857, which found that African-Americans were “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The first sentence of the first section of this article of the US Constitution, establishing the bedrock for the assertion of equal rights, reads: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The determination of citizenship based on “soil,” or place of birth, rather than “blood,” or the nationality of one’s parents, was rooted in the principles of the American and French Revolutions and was what distinguished the US from Europe’s old monarchies and empires.

Attempts by the Democratic presidential candidates to exploit the Republicans’ anti-immigrant tirade for their own electoral purposes are as hollow as they are hypocritical.

In her speech last week to the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton denounced the Republicans for saying “hateful things about immigrants and their babies,” while her contender for the presidential nomination, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, insisted that the symbol of the US must be “the Statue of Liberty, not a barbed wire fence.”

In the real world, however, both support the current Democratic administration, which has driven deportations to record levels, expelling close to 3 million undocumented immigrants since Obama came to office promising immigration reform within 100 days. This deportation rate is nine times higher than 20 years ago.

Over the course of the past month, the administration has sent its lawyers into federal court to defend an illegal and inhuman system of jailing behind barbed wire fences thousands of children and their mothers who fled to the US to escape rampant violence in Central America.

The White House and Department of Homeland Security want to maintain this system, which reproduces the methods of Guantanamo and is described by some who worked in it as tantamount to torture. It is a means of deterring others from attempting to flee the horrific conditions created by decades of US-backed dictatorships, dirty wars and military coups, and of denying those who reach the US border their right to asylum.

The rhetoric of the Republicans and the deeds of the Democratic administration are of a piece with the attempts by governments across the Atlantic to erect a “Fortress Europe” to repel by force the hundreds of thousands of defenseless refugees fleeing for their lives from the devastation and bloodshed wrought by the succession of US-led wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. On both continents, the mistreatment and witch-hunting of immigrants is one of the rawest and most tragic expressions of the incompatibility of world economy with the outmoded and reactionary capitalist nation-state system.

Capitalism can provide no answer to the reality of mass global migration outside of violent repression, detention camps and mass deportations. The big-business politicians and media attempt to generate support for these odious methods by scapegoating immigrants for the loss of jobs, wages and vital social services that are produced by the crisis of the profit system.

These claims, made by candidates ranging from Trump to the Democratic “socialist” Bernie Sanders, are deserving only of contempt. There are resources to provide for all—native born and immigrant alike—but they are monopolized by a financial oligarchy that has enriched itself off of the destruction of the living standards of working people.

The defense of the democratic right of immigration and opposition to the police-state measures advocated by Trump and employed by Obama is a vital task of the working class as a whole, which is the ultimate target of the methods being honed in the crusade against immigrant workers.

Bill Van Auken

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/09/01/pers-s01.html

The atrocities of ISIS and the US wars of sociocide

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26 August 2015

Images posted Tuesday on social media have confirmed the destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra. The images show ISIS fighters planting explosive charges throughout the ancient structure and then detonating them, reducing the temple to rubble.

The willful demolition of this site, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world and one of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in existence, followed the savage murder a week earlier of Professor Khaled Assad. The 82-year-old Syrian archeologist had participated in the excavation and restoration of Palmyra’s ruins and had remained there as the head of antiquities for nearly half a century. He was beheaded for refusing to assist ISIS in looting the site.

UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and educational agency, justifiably denounced these atrocities as “war crimes,” adding that “their perpetrators must be accountable for their actions.”

There is no question that those responsible for these acts and for far bloodier atrocities against the Syrian people are criminals and should be held accountable. The obstacle to bringing to justice those principally responsible, however, is the fact that they are the former and current chief officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.

It was they who laid waste to one Middle Eastern country after another, while working with the Islamist forces that comprise ISIS to carry out their wars of regime-change against a series of secular Arab governments.

The systematic destruction of a cultural heritage carried out by ISIS has a historical precedent in the crimes carried out by the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. This regime set out to erase the country’s cultural heritage, while carrying out a reign of terror and mass murder against the population.

The similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge do not end with their barbaric assaults on culture and human life. In both cases, the preconditions for these atrocities had been created through the destruction of entire societies by US imperialism.

In Cambodia, a US bombing campaign dropped some 532,000 tons of explosives on the country in four years—more than three times the tonnage dropped on Japan during all of World War II. The resulting death toll is estimated as high as 600,000, while 2 million people out of a population of 7 million were made homeless and economic life was shattered.

ISIS and the current bloodshed across Syria and Iraq are the direct products of similar acts of sociocide on the part of US imperialism. In Iraq, the illegal US invasion of 2003, the subsequent occupation and the systematic destruction of what had been one of the most advanced health and social infrastructures in the Arab world claimed the lives of over 1 million Iraqis, while turning another 5 million into refugees. The divide-and-rule strategy pursued by the Pentagon stoked a sectarian civil war by deliberately manipulating tensions between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations.

The ramifications of this policy have long since spilled across national borders, with increasingly catastrophic consequences, all driven by Washington’s resort to militarism to advance its aim of hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

To this end, the US has been involved in wars for over 35 years, beginning with the CIA’s orchestration of the war for regime-change against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, where it allied itself with Islamist forces, including Osama bin Laden and the other founders of Al Qaeda.

Nine months before the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, Washington and its NATO allies launched another unprovoked war of aggression to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and impose their own puppet regime over the oil-rich North African country. The destruction of the Libyan state and the murder of Gaddafi plunged the country into chaos and bloodshed that continues to this day. Islamist militias used as US proxies in the Libyan war, along with tons of captured Libyan weapons, were subsequently funneled—with the aid of the CIA—into the civil war in Syria, strengthening ISIS and helping create the conditions for it to overrun more than a third of Iraq.

In the name of the never-ending “war on terrorism,” Washington is prosecuting another military campaign in alliance with the Shia-based government in Baghdad against ISIS in the predominately Sunni regions of Iraq, while in Syria it is stepping up military operations in alliance with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf monarchies, while attempting to find “moderate” Sunni Islamists it can utilize as proxies in the war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York Times Tuesday published a lengthy article reflecting an internal debate within the Obama administration over whether to provide more direct US support to Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist militia with multiple links to Al Qaeda. The group already receives extensive backing from key US allies Turkey and Qatar.

The horrific consequences of decades of US wars are now spilling into Europe, with the increasingly desperate flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees—in many cases at the cost of their own lives—from homelands that Washington has turned into killing fields.

Politically and morally, the US government and its top officials, starting with Bush and Obama, are totally responsible for all of the crimes, atrocities and human suffering resulting from the multiple wars of aggression they initiated.

None of them have been held to account. Representatives and defenders of an oligarchy of corporate billionaires, they are not, under the present political setup, answerable to the American people, whose opposition to war they routinely defy.

The task of bringing these war criminals to justice and putting an end to the succession of wars and growing threat of a new world war lies with the working class. It must mobilize its independent strength in a mass international antiwar movement.

Bill Van Auken

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/08/26/pers-a26.html

From genocide to resistance: Yazidi women fight back

By Dilar Dirik On August 23, 2015

Post image for From genocide to resistance: Yazidi women fight backHaving suffered a traumatic genocide, Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar mobilize their autonomous armed and political resistance with the PKK’s philosophy.

Originally published by teleSUR English.

The old Kurdish saying “we have no friends but the mountains” became more relevant than ever when on August 3, 2014, the murderous Islamic State group launched what is referred to as the 73rd massacre on the Yazidis by attacking the city of Sinjar (or Shengal, in Kurdish), slaughtering thousands of people, and raping and kidnapping the women to sell them as sex slaves.

Some 10,000 Yazidis fled to the Shengal mountains in a death march in which many, especially children, died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion. This year on the same day, the Yazidis marched in the Shengal mountains again. But this time in a protest to vow that nothing will ever be the same again.

Last year, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) promised the people to guarantee Shengal’s safety, but ran away without warning when IS attacked, not even leaving arms behind for people to defend themselves. Instead, it was the guerrilla of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as the the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and its women’s brigade (YPJ) from Rojava, who — in spite of carrying just Kalashnikovs and being only a handful of fighters — opened a corridor to Rojava, rescuing 10,000 people.

For an entire year, the Yazidi women have been portrayed by the media as helpless rape victims. Countless interviews repeatedly asked them how often they were raped and sold, ruthlessly making them relive the trauma for the sake of sensationalist news reporting. Yazidi women were presented as the embodiment of the crying, passively surrendering woman, the ultimate victim of the Islamic State group, the female white flag to patriarchy. Furthermore, the wildest orientalist portrayals grotesquely reduced one of the oldest surviving religions in the world to a new exotic field yet to be explored.

Ignored is the fact that Yazidi women armed themselves and now mobilize ideologically, socially, politically and militarily with the framework laid out by Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK. In January, the Shengal Founding Council was established by Yazidi delegates from both the mountain and the refugee camps, demanding a system of autonomy independent of the central Iraqi government or the KRG.

Several committees for education, culture, health, defense, women, youth, and economy organize everyday issues. The council is based on democratic autonomy, as articulated by Öcalan, and has met with harsh opposition by the KDP, the same party which fled Shengal without a fight. The newly-founded YBŞ (Shengal Resistance Units), the all-women’s army YPJ-Shengal and the PKK are building the front-line against the Islamic State group here, without receiving any share of the weapons provided to the peshmerga by international coalition forces. Several YBŞ and council members were even arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On July 29, women of all ages made history by founding the autonomous Shengal Women’s Council, promising that “the organization of Yazidi women will be the revenge for all massacres.” The women decided that families must not intervene when girls want to participate in any part of the struggle and committed to internally democratizing and transforming their own community. They do not want to simply “buy back” the kidnapped women, but liberate them through active mobilization by establishing not only a physical, but also a philosophical self-defense against all forms of violence.

The international system insidiously depoliticizes people affected by war, especially refugees, by framing a discourse to render them without will, knowledge, consciousness and politics. Yet the Yazidi refugees on the mountain and in the Newroz camp in Dêrîk (al-Malikiyah), which was created in Rojava immediately after the massacre, insist on their agency. Though some international organizations provide limited aid now, almost no aid was able to cross to Rojava for years as a result of the KRG-imposed embargo.

The people at Newroz Camp told me that in spite of attempts by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to model the camp and its educational system according to its top-down vision, the camp’s assembly resisted, forcing one of the biggest international institutions to respect its own autonomous system. Now, education in literacy, art, theater, culture, language, history and ideology are taught across ages, while commune-like units organize daily needs and issues in Dêrîk and Shengal.

“With all these councils, protests and meetings, the resistance may seem normal. But all of this emerged within a year only, and for Shengal. This is a revolution,” one Yazidi PKK fighter said. “The atmosphere of Rojava has reached Shengal.”

Hedar Reşît, a PKK commander from Rojava who teaches the sociology of Shengal before and after the latest genocide, was among the seven people who fought the Islamic State group at the beginning of the massacre and was wounded opening the corridor to Rojava. The presence of women like her from four parts of Kurdistan enormously impacts the Shengal society.

“For the first time in our history we take up arms, because with the last massacre we understood that nobody will protect us; we must do it ourselves,” I was told by a young YPJ-Shengal fighter, who renamed herself after Arîn Mîrkan, a martyred heroine of the resistance of Kobane.

She explained how girls like herself never dared to have dreams and only sat at home until they got married. But like her, hundreds have now joined the struggle, like the young woman who cut off her hair, hung the braid on her martyred husband’s grave, and joined the resistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Dilar Dirik.

The physical genocide may be over, but the women are conscious of a “white” or bloodless genocide, as EU governments — especially Germany — try to lure Yazidi women abroad, uprooting them from their sacred homes and instrumentalizing them for their own agendas.

Mother Xensê, member of the women’s council, kisses her granddaughter and explains: “We receive armed training, but ideological education is far more important for us to understand why the massacre happened and what calculations people make at our expense. That is our real self-defense. Now we know that we were so vulnerable because we were not organized. But Shengal will never be the same again. Thanks to Apo [Abdullah Öcalan].”

A Yazidi woman herself, Sozdar Avesta, a presidency council member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) and a PKK commander, elaborates:

It is not a coincidence that the Islamic State group attacked one of the oldest communities in the world. Their aim is to destroy all ethical values and cultures of the Middle East. In attacking the Yazidis, they tried to wipe out history. The Islamic State group explicitly organizes against Öcalan’s philosophy, against women’s liberation, against the unity of all communities. Thus, defeating the group requires the right sociology and history-reading. Beyond physically destroying them, we must also remove IS’ ideology mentally, which also persists in the current world order.

One year ago, the world watched the unforgettable genocide of the Yazidis. Today, the same people who — while everyone else ran away — rescued the Yazidis, are now being bombed by the the IS-supporting Turkish state, with the approval of NATO. When the states that contributed to the rise of IS promise to defeat it and destroy the social fabric of the Middle East along the way, the only survival option is to establish autonomous self-defense and grassroots democracy.

As one drives through the Shengal Mountains, the most beautiful indicator of the change that hit this wounded place within a year are the children on the streets, who whenever heval — “the comrades” — drive by chant: “Long live Shengal’s resistance! Long live the PKK! Long live Apo!”

Thanks to democratic autonomy, the children who once opened their tiny hands and asked for money when peshmerga fighters drove by now raise the same hands to fists and victory signs.

Dilar Dirik is part of the Kurdish women’s movement. She is a writer and PhD student at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/08/yazidi-women-genocide-resistance/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Noam Chomsky: Why America Is the Gravest Threat to World Peace

What, exactly, is the alleged Iranian threat?

Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

There are, however, striking exceptions to the general enthusiasm: the United States and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. One consequence of this is that U.S. corporations, much to their chagrin, are prevented from flocking to Tehran along with their European counterparts. Prominent sectors of U.S. power and opinion share the stand of the two regional allies and so are in a state of virtual hysteria over “the Iranian threat.” Sober commentary in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum, declares that country to be “the gravest threat to world peace.” Even supporters of the agreement here are wary, given the exceptional gravity of that threat.  After all, how can we trust the Iranians with their terrible record of aggression, violence, disruption, and deceit?

Opposition within the political class is so strong that public opinion has shifted quickly from significant support for the deal to an even split. Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the agreement. The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Senator Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals among the crowded field of presidential candidates, warns that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an Electro Magnetic Pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United States, killing “tens of millions of Americans.”

The two most likely winners, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are battling over whether to bomb Iran immediately after being elected or after the first Cabinet meeting.  The one candidate with some foreign policy experience, Lindsey Graham, describesthe deal as “a death sentence for the state of Israel,” which will certainly come as a surprise to Israeli intelligence and strategic analysts — and which Graham knows to be utter nonsense, raising immediate questions about actual motives.

Keep in mind that the Republicans long ago abandoned the pretense of functioning as a normal congressional party.  They have, as respected conservative political commentator Norman Ornstein of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute observed, become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal congressional politics.

Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, the party leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilizing parts of the population that have not previously been an organized political force.  Among them are extremist evangelical Christians, now probably a majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding states; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society — though not from the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.

The departure from global standards, however, goes far beyond the bounds of the Republican radical insurgency.  Across the spectrum, there is, for instance, general agreement with the “pragmatic” conclusion of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Vienna deal does not “prevent the United States from striking Iranian facilities if officials decide that it is cheating on the agreement,” even though a unilateral military strike is “far less likely” if Iran behaves.

Former Clinton and Obama Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross typically recommends that “Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving towards a weapon, that would trigger the use of force” even after the termination of the deal, when Iran is theoretically free to do what it wants.  In fact, the existence of a termination point 15 years hence is, he adds, “the greatest single problem with the agreement.” He also suggests that the U.S. provide Israel with specially outfitted B-52 bombers and bunker-busting bombs to protect itself before that terrifying date arrives.

“The Greatest Threat”

Opponents of the nuclear deal charge that it does not go far enough. Some supporters agree, holding that “if the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.” The author of those words, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, added that “Iran, in its national capacity and as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement [the governments of the large majority of the world’s population], is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy.” Iran has signed “a historic nuclear deal,” he continues, and now it is the turn of Israel, “the holdout.”

Israel, of course, is one of the three nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, whose weapons programs have been abetted by the United States and that refuse to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Zarif was referring to the regular five-year NPT review conference, which ended in failure in April when the U.S. (joined by Canada and Great Britain) once again blocked efforts to move toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Such efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years.  As Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, leading figures in the promotion of such efforts at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, observe in “Is There a Future for the NPT?,” an article in the journal of the Arms Control Association: “The successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT.”  The NPT, in turn, is the most important arms control treaty of all.  If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Repeatedly, implementation of the resolution has been blocked by the U.S., most recently by President Obama in 2010 and again in 2015, as Dhanapala and Duarte point out, “on behalf of a state that is not a party to the NPT and is widely believed to be the only one in the region possessing nuclear weapons” — a polite and understated reference to Israel. This failure, they hope, “will not be the coup de grâce to the two longstanding NPT objectives of accelerated progress on nuclear disarmament and establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.”

A nuclear-weapons-free Middle East would be a straightforward way to address whatever threat Iran allegedly poses, but a great deal more is at stake in Washington’s continuing sabotage of the effort in order to protect its Israeli client.  After all, this is not the only case in which opportunities to end the alleged Iranian threat have been undermined by Washington, raising further questions about just what is actually at stake.

In considering this matter, it is instructive to examine both the unspoken assumptions in the situation and the questions that are rarely asked.  Let us consider a few of these assumptions, beginning with the most serious: that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace.

In the U.S., it is a virtual cliché among high officials and commentators that Iran wins that grim prize.  There is also a world outside the U.S. and although its views are not reported in the mainstream here, perhaps they are of some interest.  According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States.  The rest of the world regards it as the gravest threat to world peace by a large margin.  In second place, far below, is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote.  Iran is ranked below those two, along with China, Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

“The World’s Leading Supporter of Terrorism”

Turning to the next obvious question, what in fact is the Iranian threat?  Why, for example, are Israel and Saudi Arabia trembling in fear over that country?  Whatever the threat is, it can hardly be military.  Years ago, U.S. intelligence informed Congress that Iran has very low military expenditures by the standards of the region and that its strategic doctrines are defensive — designed, that is, to deter aggression. The U.S. intelligence community has also reported that it has no evidence Iran is pursuing an actual nuclear weapons program and that “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

The authoritative SIPRI review of global armaments ranks the U.S., as usual, way in the lead in military expenditures.  China comes in second with about one-third of U.S. expenditures.  Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are nonetheless well above any western European state.  Iran is scarcely mentioned.  Full details are provided in an April report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which finds “a conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have… an overwhelming advantage of Iran in both military spending and access to modern arms.”

Iran’s military spending, for instance, is a fraction of Saudi Arabia’s and far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades.  The CSIS report adds: “The Arab Gulf states have acquired and are acquiring some of the most advanced and effective weapons in the world [while] Iran has essentially been forced to live in the past, often relying on systems originally delivered at the time of the Shah.”  In other words, they are virtually obsolete.  When it comes to Israel, of course, the imbalance is even greater.  Possessing the most advanced U.S. weaponry and a virtual offshore military base for the global superpower, it also has a huge stock of nuclear weapons.

To be sure, Israel faces the “existential threat” of Iranian pronouncements: Supreme Leader Khamenei and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously threatened it with destruction.  Except that they didn’t — and if they had, it would be of little moment.  Ahmadinejad, for instance, predicted that “under God’s grace [the Zionist regime] will be wiped off the map.”  In other words, he hoped that regime change would someday take place.  Even that falls far short of the direct calls in both Washington and Tel Aviv for regime change in Iran, not to speak of the actions taken to implement regime change.  These, of course, go back to the actual “regime change” of 1953, when the U.S. and Britain organized a military coup to overthrow Iran’s parliamentary government and install the dictatorship of the Shah, who proceeded to amass one of the worst human rights records on the planet.

These crimes were certainly known to readers of the reports of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, but not to readers of the U.S. press, which has devoted plenty of space to Iranian human rights violations — but only since 1979 when the Shah’s regime was overthrown.  (To check the facts on this, read The U.S. Press and Iran, a carefully documented study by Mansour Farhang and William Dorman.)

None of this is a departure from the norm.  The United States, as is well known, holds the world championship title in regime change and Israel is no laggard either.  The most destructive of its invasions of Lebanon in 1982 was explicitly aimed at regime change, as well as at securing its hold on the occupied territories.  The pretexts offered were thin indeed and collapsed at once.  That, too, is not unusual and pretty much independent of the nature of the society — from the laments in the Declaration of Independence about the “merciless Indian savages” to Hitler’s defense of Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles.

No serious analyst believes that Iran would ever use, or even threaten to use, a nuclear weapon if it had one, and so face instant destruction.  There is, however, real concern that a nuclear weapon might fall into jihadi hands — not thanks to Iran, but via U.S. ally Pakistan.  In the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, two leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian, write that increasing fears of “militants seizing nuclear weapons or materials and unleashing nuclear terrorism [have led to]… the creation of a dedicated force of over 20,000 troops to guard nuclear facilities.  There is no reason to assume, however, that this force would be immune to the problems associated with the units guarding regular military facilities,” which have frequently suffered attacks with “insider help.” In brief, the problem is real, just displaced to Iran thanks to fantasies concocted for other reasons.

Other concerns about the Iranian threat include its role as “the world’s leading supporter of terrorism,” which primarily refers to its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.  Both of those movements emerged in resistance to U.S.-backed Israeli violence and aggression, which vastly exceeds anything attributed to these villains, let alone the normal practice of the hegemonic power whose global drone assassination campaign alone dominates (and helps to foster) international terrorism.

Those two villainous Iranian clients also share the crime of winning the popular vote in the only free elections in the Arab world.  Hezbollah is guilty of the even more heinous crime of compelling Israel to withdraw from its occupation of southern Lebanon, which took place in violation of U.N. Security Council orders dating back decades and involved an illegal regime of terror and sometimes extreme violence.  Whatever one thinks of Hezbollah, Hamas, or other beneficiaries of Iranian support, Iran hardly ranks high in support of terror worldwide.

“Fueling Instability”

Another concern, voiced at the U.N. by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, is the “instability that Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program.” The U.S. will continue to scrutinize this misbehavior, she declared.  In that, she echoed the assurance Defense Secretary Ashton Carter offered while standing on Israel’s northern border that “we will continue to help Israel counter Iran’s malign influence” in supporting Hezbollah, and that the U.S. reserves the right to use military force against Iran as it deems appropriate.

The way Iran “fuels instability” can be seen particularly dramatically in Iraq where, among other crimes, it alone at once came to the aid of Kurds defending themselves from the invasion of Islamic State militants, even as it is building a $2.5 billion power plant in the southern port city of Basra to try to bring electrical power back to the level reached before the 2003 invasion.  Ambassador Power’s usage is, however, standard: Thanks to that invasion, hundreds of thousands were killed and millions of refugees generated, barbarous acts of torture were committed — Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century — leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls.  Meanwhile, sectarian conflict was ignited, tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the creation of the monstrosity that is ISIS.  And all of that is called “stabilization.”

Only Iran’s shameful actions, however, “fuel instability.” The standard usage sometimes reaches levels that are almost surreal, as when liberal commentator James Chace, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explained that the U.S. sought to “destabilize a freely elected Marxist government in Chile” because “we were determined to seek stability” under the Pinochet dictatorship.

Others are outraged that Washington should negotiate at all with a “contemptible” regime like Iran’s with its horrifying human rights record and urge instead that we pursue “an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states.”  So writes Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor to the venerable liberal journal the Atlantic, who can barely conceal his visceral hatred for all things Iranian.  With a straight face, this respected liberal intellectual recommends that Saudi Arabia, which makes Iran look like a virtual paradise, and Israel, with its vicious crimes in Gaza and elsewhere, should ally to teach that country good behavior.  Perhaps the recommendation is not entirely unreasonable when we consider the human rights records of the regimes the U.S. has imposed and supported throughout the world.

Though the Iranian government is no doubt a threat to its own people, it regrettably breaks no records in this regard, not descending to the level of favored U.S. allies.  That, however, cannot be the concern of Washington, and surely not Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

It might also be useful to recall — surely Iranians do — that not a day has passed since 1953 in which the U.S. was not harming Iranians. After all, as soon as they overthrew the hated U.S.-imposed regime of the Shah in 1979, Washington put its support behind Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who would, in 1980, launch a murderous assault on their country.  President Reagan went so far as to deny Saddam’s major crime, his chemical warfare assault on Iraq’s Kurdish population, which he blamed on Iran instead.  When Saddam was tried for crimes under U.S. auspices, that horrendous crime, as well as others in which the U.S. was complicit, was carefully excluded from the charges, which were restricted to one of his minor crimes, the murder of 148 Shi’ites in 1982, a footnote to his gruesome record.

Saddam was such a valued friend of Washington that he was even granted a privilege otherwise accorded only to Israel.  In 1987, his forces were allowed to attack a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Stark, with impunity, killing 37 crewmen.  (Israel had acted similarly in its 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.)  Iran pretty much conceded defeat shortly after, when the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian ships and oil platforms in Iranian territorial waters.  That operation culminated when the USS Vincennes, under no credible threat, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in Iranian airspace, with 290 killed — and the subsequent granting of a Legion of Merit award to the commander of the Vincennes for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and for maintaining a “calm and professional atmosphere” during the period when the attack on the airliner took place. Comments philosopher Thill Raghu, “We can only stand in awe of such display of American exceptionalism!”

After the war ended, the U.S. continued to support Saddam Hussein, Iran’s primary enemy.  President George H.W. Bush even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production, an extremely serious threat to Iran.  Sanctions against that country were intensified, including against foreign firms dealing with it, and actions were initiated to bar it from the international financial system.

In recent years the hostility has extended to sabotage, the murder of nuclear scientists (presumably by Israel), and cyberwar, openly proclaimed with pride.  The Pentagon regards cyberwar as an act of war, justifying a military response, as does NATO, which affirmed in September 2014 that cyber attacks may trigger the collective defense obligations of the NATO powers — when we are the target that is, not the perpetrators.

“The Prime Rogue State”

It is only fair to add that there have been breaks in this pattern. President George W. Bush, for example, offered several significant gifts to Iran by destroying its major enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.  He even placed Iran’s Iraqi enemy under its influence after the U.S. defeat, which was so severe that Washington had to abandon its officially declared goals of establishing permanent military bases (“enduring camps”) and ensuring that U.S. corporations would have privileged access to Iraq’s vast oil resources.

Do Iranian leaders intend to develop nuclear weapons today?  We can decide for ourselves how credible their denials are, but that they had such intentions in the past is beyond question.  After all, it was asserted openly on the highest authority and foreign journalists were informed that Iran would develop nuclear weapons “certainly, and sooner than one thinks.” The father of Iran’s nuclear energy program and former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was confident that the leadership’s plan “was to build a nuclear bomb.” The CIA also reported that it had “no doubt” Iran would develop nuclear weapons if neighboring countries did (as they have).

All of this was, of course, under the Shah, the “highest authority” just quoted and at a time when top U.S. officials — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger, among others — were urging him to proceed with his nuclear programs and pressuring universities to accommodate these efforts.  Under such pressures, my own university, MIT, made a deal with the Shah to admit Iranian students to the nuclear engineering program in return for grants he offered and over the strong objections of the student body, but with comparably strong faculty support (in a meeting that older faculty will doubtless remember well).

Asked later why he supported such programs under the Shah but opposed them more recently, Kissinger responded honestly that Iran was an ally then.

Putting aside absurdities, what is the real threat of Iran that inspires such fear and fury? A natural place to turn for an answer is, again, U.S. intelligence.  Recall its analysis that Iran poses no military threat, that its strategic doctrines are defensive, and that its nuclear programs (with no effort to produce bombs, as far as can be determined) are “a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Who, then, would be concerned by an Iranian deterrent?  The answer is plain: the rogue states that rampage in the region and do not want to tolerate any impediment to their reliance on aggression and violence.  In the lead in this regard are the U.S. and Israel, with Saudi Arabia trying its best to join the club with its invasion of Bahrain (to support the crushing of a reform movement there) and now its murderous assault on Yemen, accelerating a growing humanitarian catastrophe in that country.

For the United States, the characterization is familiar.  Fifteen years ago, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard, warned in the establishment journal Foreign Affairsthat for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower… the single greatest external threat to their societies.” Shortly after, his words were echoed by Robert Jervis, the president of the American Political Science Association: “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” As we have seen, global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin.

Furthermore, the mantle is worn with pride.  That is the clear meaning of the insistence of the political class that the U.S. reserves the right to resort to force if it unilaterally determines that Iran is violating some commitment.  This policy is of long standing, especially for liberal Democrats, and by no means restricted to Iran.  The Clinton Doctrine, for instance, confirmed that the U.S. was entitled to resort to the “unilateral use of military power” even to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” let alone alleged “security” or “humanitarian” concerns.  Adherence to various versions of this doctrine has been well confirmed in practice, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.

These are among the critical matters that should be the focus of attention in analyzing the nuclear deal at Vienna, whether it stands or is sabotaged by Congress, as it may well be.

Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A TomDispatch regular, among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Power Systems, Hopes and Prospects, and Masters of Mankind. Haymarket Books recently reissued twelve of his classic books in new editions. His website is www.chomsky.info

Copyright 2015 Noam Chomsky

 

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AT&T Helped the NSA Spy On Internet Traffic

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The National Security Agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. The agency has gotten access to billions of emails with the cooperation of AT&T.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

Newly disclosed NSA documents show that the agency gained access to billions of emails through a “highly collaborative” relationship with AT&T. The company provided access from 2003 to 2013, including technical assistance to carry out court orders permitting wiretapping. “The company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. And its engineers were the first to try out new surveillance technologies invented by the eavesdropping agency. One document reminds NSA officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, noting, ‘This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.'” The new files don’t indicate whether the partnership currently exists, but the government has been doing its best to keep corporate partnerships hidden. The article also notes that “In 2011, AT&T began handing over 1.1 billion domestic cellphone calling records a day to the N.S.A. after ‘a push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11,’ according to an internal agency newsletter.”