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Updated: 8 hours 22 min ago

Israeli protesters demand separate roads for Palestinians, Israelis

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 - 2:52am

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Dozens of Israelis protested in front of an Israeli government building in Jerusalem on Sunday, demanding Palestinians be barred from using the same roads as Israelis in the occupied West Bank, Hebrew media reported.

The protesters also called for increased violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Many of the protesters were reportedly from the illegal Israeli settlements of Gush Etzion and Kiryat Arba, Hebrew media reported.

Additionally, Israeli students in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on Sunday went on a strike in protest of the current security situation.

On Thursday, Israeli officials agreed to increase security measures in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, located in the occupied West Bank, including increased restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.

The move wasin response to a deadly shooting attack near Gush Etzion on Thursday, where two Israelis were killed, and at least ten other shot and wounded. The Palestinian gunman was also shot dead.

Israeli news site Ynet reported Friday that the measures could include the temporary restriction of movement of Palestinians in the area, the deployment of extra Israeli security forces, and the construction of a “fence” along certain roads.

The discussed measures came after a meeting between the Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli army’s chief of staff, and the mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, an administrative body for illegal settlements in the area.

The regional council also urged settlers who own firearms to voluntarily accompany children on school buses to assist as first responders after attacks.

Ongoing restrictions

The freedom of movement for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank is already severely restricted by at least 100 permanent military checkpoints, hundreds of physical barriers, and the separation wall.

Since an escalation in violence last month, Israel has closed off entire neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem with concrete blocks and flying checkpoints, severely disrupting the daily routine of 300,000 Palestinians.

A researcher for Amnesty International said the restrictions witnessed in the al-Issawiya neighborhood amounted to “collective punishment.”

In Hebron, another area where attacks have been concentrated, the entire Old City was declared a closed military zone, with shops forced to close and residents having to register for special permits to cross through the 18 military checkpoints in the city center.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem called the measures in Hebron “draconian” and constituting “collective punishment.”

A series of attacks have been carried out by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military and civilians since the beginning of last month, leaving at least 15 Israelis dead.

More than 90 Palestinians have been killed during the same time period, many of whom were shot dead under circumstances in which rights groups said Israeli forces used unnecessary force.

Via Ma’an News Agency

Dragon v. Eagle: China & the US compete for Eurasia

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 - 2:48am

By Pepe Escobar | ( ) – –

The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled 13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least 2020.

Xi Jinping via Wikileaks

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the U.S. and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made — and Xi’s ready to make it — that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again.  After all, U.S. military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer — or “threat” — that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia.

Xi’s Bedside Reading

Swarms of Chinese tourists iPhoning away and buying everything in sight in major Western capitals already prefigure a Eurasian future closely tied to and anchored by a Chinese economy turbo-charging toward that third industrial revolution. If all goes according to plan, it will harness everything from total connectivity and efficient high-tech infrastructure to the expansion of green, clean energy hubs. Solar plants in the Gobi desert, anyone?

Yes, Xi is a reader of economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin, who first conceived of a possible third industrial revolution powered by both the Internet and renewable energy sources.

It turns out that the Chinese leadership has no problem with the idea of harnessing cutting-edge Western soft power for its own purposes. In fact, they seem convinced that no possible tool should be overlooked when it comes to moving the country on to the next stage in the process that China’s Little Helmsman, former leader Deng Xiaoping, decades ago designated as the era in which “to get rich is glorious.”

It helps when you have $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves and massive surpluses of steel and cement.  That’s the sort of thing that allows you to go “nation-building” on a pan-Eurasian scale. Hence, Xi’s idea of creating the kind of infrastructure that could, in the end, connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe.  It’s what the Chinese call “One Belt, One Road”; that is, the junction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road.

Since Xi announced his One Belt, One Road policy in Kazakhstan in 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers in Hong Kong estimates that the state has ploughed more than $250 billion into Silk Road-oriented projects ranging from railways to power plants. Meanwhile, every significant Chinese business player is on board, from telecom equipment giant Huawei to e-commerce monster Alibaba (fresh from its Singles Day online blockbuster). The Bank of China has already provided a $50 billion credit line for myriad Silk Road-related projects. China’s top cement-maker Anhui Conch is building at least six monster cement plants in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Laos. Work aimed at tying the Asian part of Eurasia together is proceeding at a striking pace.  For instance, the China-Laos, China-Thailand, and Jakarta-Bandung railways — contracts worth over $20 billion — are to be completed by Chinese companies before 2020.

With business booming, right now the third industrial revolution in China looks ever more like a mad scramble toward a new form of modernity.

A Eurasian “War on Terror”

The One Belt, One Road plan for Eurasia reaches far beyond the Rudyard Kipling-coined nineteenth century phrase “the Great Game,” which in its day was meant to describe the British-Russian tournament of shadows for the control of Central Asia. At the heart of the twenty-first century’s Great Game lies China’s currency, the yuan, which may, by November 30th, join the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights reserve-currency basket. If so, this will in practice mean the total integration of the yuan, and so of Beijing, into global financial markets, as an extra basket of countries will add it to their foreign exchange holdings and subsequent currency shifts may amount to the equivalent of trillions of U.S. dollars.

Couple the One Belt, One Road project with the recently founded, China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Beijing’s Silk Road Infrastructure Fund ($40 billion committed to it so far).  Mix in an internationalized yuan and you have the groundwork for Chinese companies to turbo-charge their way into a pan-Eurasian (and even African) building spree of roads, high-speed rail lines, fiber-optic networks, ports, pipelines, and power grids.

According to the Washington-dominated Asian Development Bank (ADB), there is, at present, a monstrous gap of $800 billion in the funding of Asian infrastructure development to 2020 and it’s yearning to be filled. Beijing is now stepping right into what promises to be a paradigm-breaking binge of economic development.

And don’t forget about the bonuses that could conceivably follow such developments. After all, in China’s stunningly ambitious plans at least, its Eurasian project will end up covering no less than 65 countries on three continents, potentially affecting 4.4 billion people.  If it succeeds even in part, it could take the gloss off al-Qaeda- and ISIS-style Wahhabi-influenced jihadism not only in China’s Xinjiang Province, but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Imagine it as a new kind of Eurasian war on terror whose “weapons” would be trade and development. After all, Beijing’s planners expect the country’s annual trade volume with belt-and-road partners to surpass $2.5 trillion by 2025.

At the same time, another kind of binding geography — what I’ve long called Pipelineistan, the vast network of energy pipelines crisscrossing the region, bringing its oil and natural gas supplies to China — is coming into being.  It’s already spreading across Pakistan and Myanmar, and China is planning to double down on this attempt to reinforce its escape-from-the-Straits-of-Malacca strategy. (That bottleneck is still a transit point for 75% of Chinese oil imports.) Beijing prefers a world in which most of those energy imports are not water-borne and so at the mercy of the U.S. Navy. More than 50% of China’s natural gas already comes overland from two Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) and that percentage will only increase once pipelines to bring Siberian natural gas to China come online before the end of the decade.

Of course, the concept behind all this, which might be sloganized as “to go west (and south) is glorious” could induce a tectonic shift in Eurasian relations at every level, but that depends on how it comes to be viewed by the nations involved and by Washington.

Leaving economics aside for a moment, the success of the whole enterprise will require superhuman PR skills from Beijing, something not always in evidence. And there are many other problems to face (or duck): these include Beijing’s Han superiority complex, not always exactly a hit among either minority ethnic groups or neighboring states, as well as an economic push that is often seen by China’s ethnic minorities as benefiting only the Han Chinese. Mix in a rising tide of nationalist feeling, the expansion of the Chinese military (including its navy), conflict in its southern seas, and a growing security obsession in Beijing. Add to that a foreign policy minefield, which will work against maintaining a carefully calibrated respect for the sovereignty of neighbors. Throw in the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia and its urge both to form anti-Chinese alliances of “containment” and to beef up its own naval and air power in waters close to China.  And finally don’t forget red tape and bureaucracy, a Central Asian staple. All of this adds up to a formidable package of obstacles to Xi’s Chinese dream and a new Eurasia.

All Aboard the Night Train

The Silk Road revival started out as a modest idea floated in China’s Ministry of Commerce. The initial goal was nothing more than getting extra “contracts for Chinese construction companies overseas.” How far the country has traveled since then.  Starting from zero in 2003, China has ended up building no less than 16,000 kilometers of high-speed rail tracks in these years — more than the rest of the planet combined.

And that’s just the beginning. Beijing is now negotiating with 30 countries to build another 5,000 kilometers of high-speed rail at a total investment of $157 billion. Cost is, of course, king; a made-in-China high-speed network (top speed: 350 kilometers an hour) costs around $17 million to $21 million per kilometer. Comparable European costs: $25 million to $39 million per kilometer. So no wonder the Chinese are bidding for an $18 billion project linking London with northern England, and another linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas, while outbidding German companies to lay tracks in Russia.

On another front, even though it’s not directly part of China’s new Silk Road planning, don’t forget about the Iran-India-Afghanistan Agreement on Transit and International Transportation Cooperation. This India-Iran project to develop roads, railways, and ports is particularly focused on the Iranian port of Chabahar, which is to be linked by new roads and railways to the Afghan capital Kabul and then to parts of Central Asia.

Why Chabahar? Because this is India’s preferred transit corridor to Central Asia and Russia, as the Khyber Pass in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands, the country’s traditional linking point for this, remains too volatile. Built by Iran, the transit corridor from Chabahar to Milak on the Iran-Afghanistan border is now ready. By rail, Chabahar will then be connected to the Uzbek border at Termez, which translates into Indian products reaching Central Asia and Russia.

Think of this as the Southern Silk Road, linking South Asia with Central Asia, and in the end, if all goes according to plan, West Asia with China. It is part of a wildly ambitious plan for a North-South Transport Corridor, an India-Iran-Russia joint project launched in 2002 and focused on the development of inter-Asian trade. 

Of course, you won’t be surprised to know that, even here, China is deeply involved. Chinese companies have already built a high-speed rail line from the Iranian capital Tehran to Mashhad, near the Afghan border. China also financed a metro rail line from Imam Khomeini Airport to downtown Tehran. And it wants to use Chabahar as part of the so-called Iron Silk Road that is someday slated to cross Iran and extend all the way to Turkey. To top it off, China is already investing in the upgrading of Turkish ports.

Who Lost Eurasia?

For Chinese leaders, the One Belt, One Road plan — an “economic partnership map with multiple rings interconnected with one another” — is seen as an escape route from the Washington Consensus and the dollar-centered global financial system that goes with it. And while “guns” are being drawn, the “battlefield” of the future, as the Chinese see it, is essentially a global economic one.

On one side are the mega-economic pacts being touted by Washington — the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — that would split Eurasia in two. On the other, there is the urge for a new pan-Eurasian integration program that would be focused on China, and feature Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and India as major players. Last May, Russia and China closed a deal to coordinate the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with new Silk Road projects. As part of their developing strategic partnership, Russia is already China’s number one oil supplier.

With Ukraine’s fate still in the balance, there is, at present, little room for the sort of serious business dialogue between the European Union (EU) and the EEU that might someday fuse Europe and Russia into the Chinese vision of full-scale, continent-wide Eurasian integration. And yet German business types, in particular, remain focused on and fascinated by the limitless possibilities of the New Silk Road concept and the way it might profitably link the continent.

If you’re looking for a future first sign of détente on this score, keep an eye on any EU moves to engage economically with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  Its membership at present: China, Russia, and four “stans” (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). India and Pakistan are to become members in 2016, and Iran once U.N. sanctions are completely lifted. A monster second step (no time soon) would be for this dialogue to become the springboard for the building of a trans-European “one-belt” zone.  That could only happen after there was a genuine settlement in Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia had been lifted. Think of it as the long and winding road towards what Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to sell the Germans in 2010: a Eurasian free-trade zone extending from Vladivostok to Lisbon.

Any such moves will, of course, only happen over Washington’s dead body.  At the moment, inside the Beltway, sentiment ranges from gloating over the economic “death” of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), most of which are facing daunting economic dislocations even as their political, diplomatic, and strategic integration proceeds apace, to fear or even downright anticipation of World War III and the Russian “threat.”

No one in Washington wants to “lose” Eurasia to China and its new Silk Roads. On what former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski calls “the grand chessboard,” Beltway elites and the punditocracy that follows them will never resign themselves to seeing the U.S. relegated to the role of “offshore balancer,” while China dominates an integrating Eurasia.  Hence, those two trade pacts and that “pivot,” the heightened U.S. naval presence in Asian waters, the new urge to “contain” China, and the demonization of both Putin’s Russia and the Chinese military threat.

Thucydides, Eat Your Heart Out

Which brings us full circle to Xi’s crush on Jeremy Rifkin. Make no mistake about it: whatever Washington may want, China is indeed the rising power in Eurasia and a larger-than-life economic magnet. From London to Berlin, there are signs in the EU that, despite so many decades of trans-Atlantic allegiance, there is also something too attractive to ignore about what China has to offer. There is already a push towards the configuration of a European-wide digital economy closely linked with China. The aim would be a Rifkin-esque digitally integrated economic space spanning Eurasia, which in turn would be an essential building block for that post-carbon third industrial revolution.

The G-20 this year was in Antalya, Turkey, and it was a fractious affair dominated by Islamic State jihadism in the streets of Paris. The G-20 in 2016 will be in Hangzhou, China, which also happens to be the hometown of Jack Ma and the headquarters for Alibaba. You can’t get more third industrial revolution than that. 

One year is an eternity in geopolitics. But what if, in 2016, Hangzhou did indeed offer a vision of the future, of silk roads galore and night trains from Central Asia to Duisburg, Germany, a future arguably dominated by Xi’s vision.  He is, at least, keen on enshrining the G-20 as a multipolar global mechanism for coordinating a common development framework. Within it, Washington and Beijing might sometimes actually work together in a world in which chess, not Battleship, would be the game of the century.

Thucydides, eat your heart out.

Pepe Escobar is an independent political analyst who writes for RT and Sputnik, and is a TomDispatch regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos. His next book, 2030, is out this month. Follow him on Facebook.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Pepe Escobar


“A Profile in Cowardice” (Political Cartoon)

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 - 2:39am

Paul Jamiol | Jamiol’s World | – –

Via Jamiol’s World

Trump’s call for Spying on US Muslims recalls FBI bugging of MLK, Black Churches

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 - 4:06am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

As Donald Trump supporters beat a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protester at his rally in Birmingham, Ala., Trump himself reminded us of the dark days when a paranoid J. Edgar Hoover had the FBI monitor the Rev. Martin Luther King and black Churches of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Trump said in Birmingham, “I want surveillance of certain mosques . . . We’ve had it before, we’ll have it again. … We have a situation where ISIS has raised its ugly head again and we have to chop off that head like they’re chopping off heads.” He also said he would send Syrian refugees back to Syria if he were elected. Many Syrian refugees have fled because they would be killed in their homeland.

The African-American protester was beaten, kicked and pulled down, with 8 or 9 people on top of him, as he was called a “monkey” and the N-word. You wonder if they were wearing brown shirts. The Trump campaign later said it did not condone the behavior, but we haven’t heard Trump himself publicly denounce it. During the altercation, Trump said from the podium, “Yeah, you can get him out. Yeah, get him out. Get him the hell out of here.”

Trump’s desire to spy on American congregations recalls Cointelpro and other domestic surveillance programs of the 1960s that led to massive abuses and in some ways led to Watergate under Nixon.

The ACLU noted that the FBI looked into King in the late 1950s and:

“The FBI formally opened another investigation of Dr. King and the SCLC in late 1962 under an FBI pro gram called COMINFIL that permitted investigation of legitimate noncommunist organizations suspected by the FBI of having been infiltrated by communists. The charge was ludicrous. Dr. King repeatedly criticized Marxist philosophy in his writing and speech es and all evidence indicated the Communist Party had little, if any, influence on Dr. King or the SCLC.”

Since Rev. King and the SCLC advocated nonviolence, there were no actual legal grounds for an FBI investigation of them. They had broken no federal law.

The FBI also tried to stop Rev. King from meeting the Pope, and pressured church leaderships to make sure he received no donations for his work from their congregations. It tried to prevent him publishing in a national magazine, a clear violation of the First Amendment. And, of course, field officers unconstitutionally bugged his bedroom without any warrant.

On another occasion, according to the ACLU says documents show that the FBI spied on a Roman Catholic group:

‘The Catholic Workers Group (CWG), a religious group dedicated to nonviolence, appears in another FBI document describing a National Missile Defense protest. The document states that “CWG … advocates a comm unist distribution of resources.” ‘

In an earlier time, during the 1940s, the Federal government not only spied on but actually illegally interned Japanese Buddhist priests.

So Mr. Trump is correct that “it has been done before.” The question is whether it ought to have been done before, whether it was constitutional when it was done before.

Trump’s proposals resemble those of other historical figures in other places. It should be remembered that after 1938 in Mussolini’s Italy, as C. Fonio writes,

“Following the racial laws, the Ovra specifically focused on spiritual matters. Surveillance through personal biographical files on Jews, but also on Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, became common practice and special inspectorates carried out ‘religious persecutions’ (Franzinelli 1999, 370). Pentecostals were considered anti–fascists and rebels and thus ‘subversives’ like the communists (1999, 366). The prefects solicited the Carabinieri to record all the Jews who either lived or passed through their provinces. In particular they collected detailed information on jobs, incomes, behaviors and attitudes towards the regime (Franzinelli 2001, 141). Institutional top–down surveillance was greatly facilitated by ordinary citizens who denounced Jews thanks also to a harsh campaign of propaganda in the press which, however, is not enough to explain why Italians informed the State about Jews who violated the law.”

Trump’s campaign has not only a lot of 1958 Alabama about it, it has a lot of Rome 1938 about it. It is a blot on the countenance of the American Republic.


Related video: “Watch Donald Trump speak at a rally in Birmingham”

Bernie Sanders: “Turning our backs on refugees destroys the idea of America”

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 - 2:36am

Gwen Ifill/ Bernie Sanders | (PBS News Hour Video) | – –

“Sanders: Turning away refugees destroys the idea of America
Blurb: How would Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders handle terror threats at home and abroad, in light of the Paris attacks and the shifting threat of the Islamic State? Sanders joins Gwen Ifill to discuss his views on combatting terrorism and the anti-refugee backlash in the U.S.”

PBS NewsHour: “Sanders: Turning our backs on refugees destroys the idea of America”

Paris Attackers: What radicalized one Brussels Neighborhood?

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 - 2:19am

By Martin Conway | (The Conversation) | – –

Just as during the German invasions of 1914 and 1940, war, it seems, is coming to France through Belgium. If one follows the logic of the statements of various French political leaders since the bloody attacks in Paris on November 13, Belgium has become the base from which Islamic State has brought the conflicts of the Middle East to the streets of Paris.

There is much about that logic that would not withstand serious analysis. France has grown many of its problems within its own suburbs. And groups committed to armed action, from the Resistance movements of World War II to the Basque nationalist groups of the 1980s and 1990s, have often found it expedient to use neighbouring territories as a base from which to launch their operations.

That said, the French authorities have a case. Molenbeek – an urban commune on the north-western edges of Brussels – is unlikely to feature any time soon on tourist-bus tours of historic Brussels.

Though it lies only a couple of kilometres from the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, and a mere taxi ride from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s office, Molenbeek is another world. This inner-city area, now on the front pages of newspapers across Europe, is deprived of funds, social cohesion and effective government.

Former residents have left for more prosperous suburbs on the outskirts of Brussels. In their place, a fractured community has emerged. Those who carried out the gun attacks in Paris allegedly found convenient anonymity there as well as access to weaponry and the support of like-minded radicalised Islamic militants.

It was not always so. Molenbeek was, only 20 years ago, a Socialist bastion of working-class Brussels. It is francophone for the most part, but composed predominantly of people who, a couple of generations earlier, had arrived as Dutch-speaking migrants from Flanders.

Times, however, have changed. Its former football team, FC Brussels, has slipped into the third division – and, in the last communal elections, the Socialists, who controlled the commune for decades under the leadership of leading Brussels political figure Philippe Moureaux, finally lost control amid a multitude of accusations of institutionalised corruption.

The present mayor, Françoise Schepmans, is an implausibly middle-class Liberal, who presides over a commune which is indisputably broke, but also broken.

The combined impact of urban decline, social exodus and the remorseless development of Brussels as a city that exists to service a rootless international elite has found its mirror in the transformation of Molenbeek into a commune composed in large part of short-term migrant workers, drawn from a vast array of cultural backgrounds, united only by their limited engagement with somewhere called Belgium.

All of this is a step beyond what Europeans have become accustomed to think of as multiculturalism. Brussels has long been a multicultural city, and especially so since the arrival of substantial communities of North African, Turkish and Central African migrants in the 1960s and 1970s. But Molenbeek, in common with some of the other inner-city districts of Brussels, has become a micro-world of multiple communities within which people construct their own sense of identity.

A world away from Brussels

Much of this is the product of the contemporary tides of globalisation. What is true of Molenbeek would be equally true of areas of London and Paris. But what is specifically Belgian about this story is the state of Belgium.

Belgium has many virtues as a political community. It has provided a model of how the decline of national loyalties need not be accompanied by mass mobilisation and political violence. But the radical devolution of central power that has occurred since the 1980s has emptied the Belgian federal institutions of much of their former power. Their responsibilities have gradually been devolved to a complex structure of regions and linguistic communities.

That is a contemporary story of the decline of centralising nationalism. But, as current events have served to reveal, that has also resulted in the erosion of public institutions.

Molenbeek lacks not only resources but also the support provided by an effective state authority. As one of 19 largely independent communes of the city of Brussels, its public officials, who are confronted by all of the problems of an inner-city suburb, lack the ability to provide effective schooling, social services or the public structures which might generate the ties of community. The consequence is a world where the more conventional role of the state has been supplanted by other less formal sources of provision, support and community.

It also, as we have discovered, lacks much by way of an effective police. That is not unique to Molenbeek. Ever since the horrific child kidnappings committed by Marc Dutroux and his accomplices in the 1990s, the manifold shortcomings of the Belgian police have hardly been a secret. Too much localism, too many overlapping authorities and too much politicisation of nominations have all diminished the capacity of Belgium’s multiple police forces to rise to more than the most mundane challenges.

This, as the events of the past few days have demonstrated, has left Molenbeek vulnerable to gangsterism and opportunistic terrorism. To fix such problems, Belgium, it seems, might have to reinvent itself as a state.

Martin Conway, Professor of Contemporary European History, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Mothers in Molenbeek appeal to the Belgian interior minister”

In Bipartisan display of Bigotry, 47 Democrats Join with House GOP to Refuse Syrian Refugees

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 - 2:03am

By Jon Queally, staff writer | ( | – –

“Not much is bipartisan these days, but apparently bigotry is something both sides of the aisle can come together on.”

“Speaker Ryan and this un-American bill’s supporters falsely claim it will simply pause U.S. resettlement of refugees,” said Karin Johanson of the ACLU. “In fact, it will bring resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to a grinding halt.” (Photo: Reuters)

Forty-seven House Democrats joined with a majority of Republicans to approve a bill that would effectively stop the ability for Syrian refugees attempting to flee their war-torn country to be resettled in the United States.

“Supporters of this bill want us to turn our backs on refugees who are seeking safe harbor from the very terrorism we all abhor. This is not leadership. We thank the House members who rejected this reactionary impulse and this discriminatory legislation.”
—Karin Johanson, ACLU

The passage of the bill, which was backed by newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed 289-137, was immediately slammed by progressive lawmakers who opposed the measure and rights groups who said the bill represents a gross and reactionary response to recent events in Paris, France.

Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the bill a direct assault on “a fundamental American value” which is to “provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Grijalva and Ellison said they were proud to oppose the bill which they characterized as a repetition of a past mistakes that have tarnished American history. “Syrian refugees are fleeing persecution and violence from the very same terrorists that attacked Paris last week,” they said. “We cannot allow fear-mongering to influence policy that could mean the difference between life and death for these desperate families.” We stand proudly against misguided attempts to repeat past mistakes that tarnish our nation’s history.

The bill, they said, “diverts resources from where they are really needed by creating an excessive review process that would add years to the resettlement process and prevent thousands of people from getting the protection they need. Our Syrian refugee vetting process is already the most comprehensive in the world, and these changes would stretch the federal government’s limited resources. Closing our doors to Syrian refugees fleeing violence and persecution isn’t just morally wrong; it threatens our national security by fueling the extremist narrative that the West is at war with Islam.”

Though many Democrats sided with President Obama, who has said he will veto the bill, the 47 Democrats who sided with their GOP colleagues exposed just how susceptible lawmakers remain when it comes to knee-jerk jingoism and the hysteria that follows attacks like the ones in Paris on Friday.

As Nick Cunningham, an independent journalist and writer, responded to the vote on Twitter: “Not much is bipartisan these days, but apparently bigotry is something both sides of the aisle can come together on.”

And the Huffington Post reports:

Obama has been heavily critical of efforts to limit refugee resettlement, although he and other administration officials said they are open to ideas to strengthen the screening process. He has said he remains committed to his previous plan to admit 10,000 Syrians in the 2016 fiscal year, as long as they go through the screening process.

He said the rhetoric coming from Republicans — and some Democrats — would only hurt the country’s security.

“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate,” Obama said Tuesday.

“Speaker Ryan and this un-American bill’s supporters falsely claim it will simply pause U.S. resettlement of refugees,” said Karin Johanson, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “In fact, it will bring resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to a grinding halt by adding layers of bureaucracy to an already rigorous process.”

What’s more, she continued, “[i]t also discriminates against refugees based on their national origin, nationality, and religion. Supporters of this bill want us to turn our backs on refugees who are seeking safe harbor from the very terrorism we all abhor. This is not leadership. We thank the House members who rejected this reactionary impulse and this discriminatory legislation.”

When asked about the bill’s prospects in the U.S. Senate by a reporter, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) responded: “Don’t worry, it won’t get passed.” Meanwhile, attempts from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to block or curtail benefits for Syrian refugees seeking to enter the U.S. failed in the Senate on Thursday.

Here are the 47 Democrats who voted for bigotry:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)

Brad Ashford (NE-02)

Ami Bera (CA-07)

Sanford Bishop (GA-02)

Julia Brownley (CA-26)

Cheri Bustos (IL-17)

John Carney (DE-AL)

Gerry Connolly (VA-11)

Jim Cooper (TN-05)

Jim Costa (CA-16)

Joe Courtney (CT-02)

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

John Delaney (MD-06)

Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)

Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

John Garamendi (CA-03)

Gwen Graham (FL-02)

Gene Green (TX-29)

Janice Hahn (CA-44)

Jim Himes (CT-04)

Steve Israel (NY-03)

Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)

Bill Keating (MA-09)

Ron Kind (WI-03)

Annie Kuster (NH-02)

Jim Langevin (RI-02)

Dan Lipinski (IL-03)

Dave Loebsack (IA-02)

Stephen Lynch (MA-08)

Sean Maloney (NY-18)

Patrick Murphy (FL-18)

Rick Nolan (MN-08)

Donald Norcross (NJ-01)

Scott Peters (CA-52)

Collin Peterson (MN-07)

Jared Polis (CO-02)

Kathleen Rice (NY-04)

Raul Ruiz (CA-36)

Tim Ryan (OH-13)

Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

David Scott (GA-13)

Terri Sewell (AL-07)

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Louise Slaughter (NY-25)

Marc Veasey (TX-33)

Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Tim Walz (MN-01)

Deirdre Fulton contributed reporting for this story.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Channel 4 News: “Syrian refugees: Congress votes to restrict entry to US”

US think tank says Israel has around 115 nuclear weapons

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 - 1:47am

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Washington-based think tank published a study Friday reporting Israel’s possession of around 115 nuclear weapons, despite the country’s ongoing policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear capacities.

According to the report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Israel has produced 660 Kg of plutonium in a nuclear reactor located in Dimona, near the city of Beersheba.

Israel began plutonium production in 1963 and had used it to make around 115 nuclear weapons by the end of 2014, the first of which was developed shortly before the 1967 Six Day War, the report said.

The major nuclear weapons production complex in Dimona contains several “secret nuclear facilities for the production of plutonium,” ISIS reported.

The complex is also site to a heavy water reactor, a fuel fabrication plant, and a plutonium separation plant which the think tank reported were all provided by France in the 1950s and early 1960s.

ISIS said that the Dimona complex may also contain facilities used for tritium extraction and purification, lithium production, and uranium enrichment.

While the ISIS report confirmed that Israel holds a variety of methods for delivering nuclear weapons, it said the exact numbers of Israeli nuclear weapons is a “closely guarded secret” of the Israeli government.

The think tank — which professes it aims for greater transparency of nuclear activities worldwide — referred in the report to Israel’s “ambiguous posture about its nuclear weapons.”

The report cited declassified US documents asserting the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons, as well as the 1986 disclosure of information on Israel’s nuclear program revealed by Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician turned peace activist.

Vanunu referred to the Dimona complex at the time as being site to the development of “more advanced nuclear weapons, in particular miniaturized warheads, boosted fission weapons, and thermonuclear weapons.”

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, other think tanks have predicted Israel holds between 80 and 200 nuclear weapons.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Via Ma’an News Agency


Related video added by Juan Cole:

“The BBC Film That Exposed Israel’s Secret Illegal Nuclear Weapons”

“For Paris” on Russian Missiles hitting Syria as ISIL Oil Facilities Targeted

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 - 3:36am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Coment) | – –

the Syrian observatory said that the Russian strikes on the eastern province of Deir al-Zor killed 36 on Friday. Meanwhile, Russia also bombed positions in Idlib and other provinces, including with a cruise missile, which, according to the Russian foreign minister, killed 600 fighters of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) and al-Qaeda (Nusra Front).

Despite these body counts, bombing alone will not win the war with Daesh. There has to be some force on the ground that can take advantage of air strikes on Daesh.

Moscow bombing raids are hurting the finances of Daesh. Russia says it has hit 500 gasoline trucks in recent days. Likewise, they have destroyed 15 petroleum storage facilities. Russia estimates that this war on Daesh oil is costing the organization $1.5 million daily, i.e. that is the amount it is not making because of Russian strikes.

Again, these actions are hurting Daesh, but they will not destroy it, and entirely halting gasoline smuggling from 30,000 feet is impossible.

In addition, a Russian government spokesman said, “23 gunmen training bases have been destroyed, 19 plants producing armaments and explosives, as well as 47 ammunition depots and other facilities”.

Although Russian help since mid-October has allowed the Syrian Arab Army fighting for the regime of Bashar al-Assad to make advances in southern Aleppo, and to lift sieges on an airbase and on regime-held western Aleppo, in other areas the regime has lost ground. Hama and the M4 highway are in danger of being cut off. In November, there has been a stalemate in this area.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBSN: “Russian airstrikes target ISIS in Syria”

How to lose the war on terror: panic and feed ISIL’s narrative

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 - 2:03am

By Daniel Baldino | (The Conversation) | – –

Terrorism’s goal is principally psychological. So, in the wake of events like those in Paris, a good starting point is to refuse to take the bait and become victims to fear.

Such a mindset must break away from simplistic notions such as that another round of “tougher” laws will equate to greater security. The production of muscular, hard-line campaigns camouflage that there is no clear-cut legislative “fix” against terrorism.

Thinking we can destroy [the so-called] Islamic State [group] (IS) via the pressure of the perennial growth of a security state and an intensification of domestic surveillance, secrecy, interrogation and detention displays the machinations of a dog that is content to repetitively chase its own tail.

Terrorism as a tactic

Terrorist groups aim to incite both terror and power-projection. Such deadly tactics also hope to spark an over-reaction that will feed into their propaganda, divide societies, empower recruitment efforts and result in a mis-allocation of energies and resources by targeted governments.

Reports suggest that a Syrian passport found next to a suicide bomber in the Paris terror attacks might have been planted in an attempt to implicate refugees and make people feel unsafe. This points to terrorist movements being highly attuned to the kinds of enduring faultlines embedded throughout different societies and the utility of terror as a deliberate tactic to manipulate such uncertainties and produce disproportionate reactions.

We should also remain aware that a considerable majority of Muslims – in countries such as Jordan and Indonesia – unequivocally reject IS and its perverted Wahhabi theology.

The human factor

The human rejoinder to the Paris attacks is understandable. We feel shock, sadness, anger. The urge to inflict payback. The desire to drop a bomb on something.

This genuine outburst exists alongside the political necessity for leaders to appear strong, decisive and stoic. However, defiant words do not automatically translate to careful, shrewd actions.

The projection of “do something” mandates has tended to lend itself to executive over-reach and a search for quick-fix solutions, like calls for tougher laws to give governments even greater arbitrary powers. This is despite many initiatives having a track record since September 11 of being completely ineffective and counter-productive.

The Australian prime minster, Malcolm Turnbull, has in his public comments thus far resisted the lure of warrantless speculation and a fixation on a hasty redesign of legal and democratic boundaries.

The media magnifier

The rise of widespread public confusion is another of the Paris attacks’ clear side-effects.

Such instances of shared disorientation have been compounded by a media cycle that too often demands facts be made scary and instantaneous assessments of events take place before information and conditions have been pieced together.

It’s much less dull to hype the terrorist threat and boldly speculate about worst-case clichés such as looming “Australian deaths on our own soil” or indulge in xenophobic fantasies like “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”. These shrill appeals to casual bigotry are not only wrong-headed but unhelpful in that they serve to undermine both stability and security.

From a counter-terrorism perspective, gathering actionable intelligence will entail – in part – building trust and working with the general public and different communities to obtain information to disrupt future criminal plots and violent planning.

The dynamics of a prolonged proactive security approach also require additional measures, such as steady efforts to address disenfranchisement among troubled youth.

Bunker mentality

More broadly, inaccurate declarations of a “clash of civilisations” provide no public value – except to implore citizens who are already feeling shaken and powerless to remain alert and alarmed. Much of the gloomy crystal ball gazing is useless in guiding people’s movements and adding to informed decision-making.

The bigger picture is that terrorism remains a weapon of the weak.

This does not ignore that the world has always been a dangerous, unstable and violent place. Nationalist and sectarian groups – and not just those that are hijacking and defaming Islam – continue to engage in politically motivated violence all over the world. Troublingly, many other traditional state-based or state-driven threats remain a much more serious security headache.

But, we appear to be highly selective about when to collectively tune in or tune out to human suffering and respond to events like humanitarian tragedies abroad.

24/7 panic

Soundbites – Paris has been a “wake-up call”, for example – are simply crude political opportunism that helps to spread irrational fear. Instead, the problem is actually the opposite.

Much of IS’s warfare template is linked to deception. People in Australia should not be implored to remain in a perennial state of distress and vigilance.

The security sector does not have such a luxury. But, for the most part, we are talking about highly trained and skilled professionals who work largely behind the scenes and in a methodical and calculated manner. It is also impossible to guard every single conceivable soft target. It will always be about risk mitigation rather than risk elimination.

In a similar light, an unannounced attack by a handful of marginalised individuals on civilian targets is not the work of super-villain “masterminds”. While the suicide bombers might have been motivated by factors such as revenge, desperation, defiance or perceived injustice, they are small-fry, disposable cannon fodder.

Towards a clear-eyed strategy

IS is a group of nihilistic and misogynist gangsters. They have grand revolutionary goals, such as a caliphate that will reach Rome and govern the entire Muslim world. But such desires are based on pretentious make-believe rather than reality. IS military gains in Iraq might be conspicuous, but they are narrow and limited.

Critically, IS and other self-appointed foot soldiers do wish to undermine social cohesion and unity of purpose in lands beyond Iraq and Syria. They anticipate that terror attacks abroad can help to create the conditions to advance the alienation of particular segments of society, creating anger and disillusionment that might serve to enhance their authority, legitimacy and influence.

The hope is that this might translate to galvanising popular support, generating financial support and attracting recruits for future suicide missions.

The bottom line is that terrorism is designed to turbo-charge our emotional buttons. It is not only about violence but the threat of future violence. It can be highly effective as intimidation and propaganda. But we are only compounding problems by hyping threats, searching for extraneous scapegoats and indulging in fear-based decision-making.

Daniel Baldino, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

ISIS Threatening the U.S. | ABC News

The ISIS Trap – Will You Fall Into It?

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 - 1:46am

AJ+ | (Video Report) | – –

“ISIS has a pretty black-and-white view of the world. Either you’re with them, or you’re with people they consider infidels. But what about people in the middle? ISIS has a plan for them.”

AJ+: “The ISIS Trap – Will You Fall Into It?”

American Traitor who spied on US Navy for Israel Released; Netanyahu ‘longed for this day’

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 - 1:12am

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday addressed American Jonathan Pollard who was released on parole after serving 30 years in prison for spying and handing over top-secret classified information to Israel.

“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,” the PM said in a video statement.

“As someone who has raised his case among successive US presidents many times, I longed for this day,” Netanyahu continued.

The former intelligence analyst for the US government was arrested in 1985 and pleaded guilty in 1987 to charges in violation of the Espionage Act.

He was first and only American to serve a life sentence for leaking classified information to an ally.

Pollard’s sentence has remained a contentious issue between the US and the Israeli government, which made several efforts over the last three decades to release him.

Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 while in jail, and plans to move to Israel where he is expected to receive significant back-pay from the Israeli government, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The grounds of his parole, however, prevent him from leaving the US for at least five more years, despite reported lobbying by Netanyahu for his direct release to Israel.

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu requested Israeli politicians to subdue their public responses to Pollard’s release out of fears that doing so would prevent the US from potentially allowing his early release to Israel.

Via Ma’an News Agency

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: ” Israel spy Jonathan Pollard freed by US”

Lessons for the West on Immigrants & Exclusion from the Age of the ‘Bomb-throwing Anarchist’

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 - 12:56am

By Akil N. Awan | (The National Interest) | – –

The bearded young terrorist furtively slipped amongst the oblivious theatergoers. Glancing around to ensure he had not aroused suspicion, he looked out over the crowded throngs in the theater. Blissfully unaware of the carnage that awaited them, they laughed and reveled in their petty entertainments, he mused, while his own people suffered and died. They would all pay, he consoled himself, as he hurled the bombs into their midst. The unspeakable horror that ensued, of shattered lives and limbs, was quickly emblazoned on the front page of French newspapers. Elsewhere, a second terrorist walked into a small trendy café in Paris. Scanning the oblivious faces—ordinary French men and women—as they sat drinking and listening to music, he placed his bomb under a table. As he slipped away, he heard the bomb explode, followed by a deafening silence, only to be punctuated by the terrible wails and screams of the survivors. There are no innocents, and they all deserve to die, he rehearsed in his mind, drowning out the cries of the victims behind him.

Van Ham via Wikimedia Commons

These events did not occur in Paris last week. Eerily, they took place over 120 years ago in European capitals as the scourge of anarchist terrorism was sweeping the continent. Santiago Salvador had attacked the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona in 1893, during a packed performance of the opera William Tell, killing twenty-two people and injuring thirty-five. A few months later, Emile Henry had set off a bomb in the Café Terminus in Paris, killing one and wounding twenty, but had hoped for a far higher death toll. Images capturing the shocking events made the covers of the world’s largest daily newspapers of the time, Le Petit Journal and Le Petit Parisien. Both had a combined daily circulation of around seven million copies, depressingly illustrating how terrorism has long wielded the power to transform local tragedies to European catastrophes. In their subsequent trials, the anarchist terrorists showed no remorse for their terrible crimes, refusing to accept that ordinary bourgeois theatergoers or coffee drinkers could be considered innocent. Instead, they went to the guillotine, defiantly reeling off a litany of the crimes committed by the state and wider society.

These angry young radicals used bombs and guns to terrorize their own societies in furtherance of a foreign creed, in much the same way that jihadists recently did in Paris. The similarities are truly uncanny. If there is one salient difference, it is that the anarchists were actually far more successful in their campaign than the jihadists today. In a short period of time, they managed to assassinate an impressive list of world leaders, including two U.S. presidents, the Russian tsar, the German Kaiser, the French and Italian presidents, the Italian king, the Austria-Hungarian empress and two prime ministers of Spain, as well as a whole host of the European ruling classes. They also targeted the bourgeois masses indiscriminately, increasingly failing to distinguish between the state and wider society, attacking targets as disparate as the Paris Stock Exchange, religious processions in Barcelona, the London Underground and the Greenwich Observatory. The London Times newspaper wrote at the time of an “anarchist epidemic.”

The response to anarchist terror was unnervingly similar to our own experience too. The state clamped down in typically repressive fashion, instituting a range of iniquitous laws and meting out extrajudicial, and often collective, punishment to large swathes of society. The assassination of U.S. President William McKinley in 1901, for example, by an anarchist who also happened to be a second-generation Polish immigrant, led to the expedited introduction of anti-immigration legislation which required the exclusion and deportation of anyone suspected of anarchist sympathies. Anti-anarchist propaganda images from the period are disquietingly reminiscent of the increasingly hardened attitudes we are already witnessing towards Syrian refugees. One typical U.S. political cartoon shows a swarthy, bearded, foreign anarchist, armed with a knife and bomb, creeping up behind the statue of Liberty, who holds her beacon aloft and calls out naively, “come unto me, ye opprest!”

In the European mainland, wide-scale surveillance of meetings and publications was followed by arrests and torture, and used to draw forced confessions. Indeed, various Western governments used the ominous threat of anarchist terror to then subdue any form of dissent against the state.

All of this had little tangible effect on the anarchists themselves. In fact, the anarchists executed by the state were often transformed into martyrs. The apathetic masses, who up until this point had remained largely indifferent to the anarchists’ propaganda, were increasingly polarized by the state’s draconian response. Indeed, the harder the state clamped down, the more powerful the movement became. The fear and insecurity engendered within this environment also granted tremendous powers to the state, which it could then use and abuse, to the detriment of society at large.

Why should this concern us? Most people have probably never heard of the anarchist reign of terror at all. However, that in itself is an important observation to make. Despite the spectacular violent successes of anarchist terrorism at the time—far more so than those of the jihadists today—anarchism achieved very little in the sociopolitical sphere in the long run. Within four decades, the violent ideology had consumed itself and in the process alienated any potential support base, quickly being replaced by more popular movements. The anarchists were soon forgotten and ultimately consigned to the wastebin of history. However, the anarchists do offer us two crucial lessons for dealing with the jihadist threat today.

irst: do not overreact. Second: do not, through fear, hand over excessive power to the state.

As difficult as that might be in the wake of horrific tragedies like Paris, we must ensure we respond with proportionality in mind. We cannot overreact in knee-jerk fashion in our own societies. Islamic State will not only be hoping for such a response, but confidently expecting it.

In the February issue of its flagship magazine, Dabiq, Islamic State wrote of polarizing the world by destroying its greatest threat, the “grayzone.” That liminal space in which young Frenchmen could be both Muslims and good citizens of the Republic, without any inherent contradiction. IS anticipated that provocative terrorist attacks, like the one in Paris, would goad the French towards overreaction and “further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere.” Western Muslims would then be forced to make “one of two choices”: between apostasy or IS’ bastardized version of belief. The article even cited, rather approvingly, George W. Bush’s central dictum that underscored the Global War on Terror: “The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”

State counterterrorism responses that disproportionately target Muslim citizens, as they inevitably will, risk simply reinforcing the Manichaean black-and-white worldview of the fanatics themselves, playing directly into their hands.

There is no better way to push young French Muslims toward IS’ narrative of belonging than to introduce a host of security responses that make them feel even less a part of French society than they already do.

We also cannot allow the state to overreact, because naturally, it proves incredibly corrosive to our own freedoms and democracy. From the NSA’s unprecedented mass surveillance regime to the creation of legal black holes like Guantanamo, and from extrajudicial assassination by drones to the sanctioning of torture, we know precisely where the “threat of terror and tonic of security” can lead us. We all tacitly accepted these measures after the terrorist outrages on 9/11.

When we are afraid, we will pretty much agree to anything.

And of course, many things that we do not agree to nevertheless end up on the roster too. This is the danger of the slippery slope, or function creep. Big data algorithms, used to decide who is placed on the drone strike kill list abroad in Yemen, might suddenly find their way into predicting civil unrest and dissent in places at home like Ferguson. We might not have approved of the latter, but by then it is too late—the genie’s out of the proverbial bottle.

If we want to tackle the growing menace of jihadist terrorism, but in the process not lose sight of who we fundamentally are as open, liberal, democratic societies, we would be wise to heed the experience of dealing with the anarchist scourge from over a century ago. History might not repeat itself, but it certainly shows a lack of originality sometimes.

Dr. Akil N. Awan is Associate Professor in Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism at Royal Holloway, University of London. Dr. Awan is regularly consulted by government bodies, think tanks, media and other organizations in his fields of expertise, and has served in an advisory capacity to the UK Home Office, the Foreign Office, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Military, the UNDP, Council of Europe and the OSCE among others. Most recently, he served as special advisor on Radicalization to the UK Parliament and as expert advisor on Youth Radicalization to the United Nations. He is Founder and Chair of the Political Science Association’s Specialist Group on Political Violence & Terrorism. Follow him on Twitter: @Akil_N_Awan

Republished by the author’s permission from The National Interest

Ben Carson compares Syrian Refugees to Rabid Dogs

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 4:29am

Don Dahler | CBSN | (Video News Report) | – –

“GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson stirred up controversy after he likened Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. CBSN’s Don Dahler has more.”

Ben Carson’s controversial comments on Syrian refugees

If Trump can track Muslims, close Mosques, what can he do to You?

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 4:04am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, having said earlier that he might seek to close down mosques if he were president, on Thursday went further and said he would implement a registration and tracking database for Muslim-Americans.

Rabbi Jack Moline of the Interfaith Alliance pointed out that the Nazis made Jews register. When a reporter asked Trump how his plan for Americans of Muslim heritage differed from the National Socialist policy of registering Jews, he replied “You tell me.”

Trump is gradually providing us with the material for a 21st-century version of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s post-war cautionary poem that would go like this:

First they came for the undocumented, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a undocumented.

Then they came for the Mexican-Americans, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Mexican-American.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Muslims.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Trump’s increasingly erratic pronouncements are part of a steady escalation of frightening rhetoric in the Republican presidential campaign.

The first thing that comes to the mind of Constitution-honoring Americans is that we don’t have to worry about Trump’s broadsides because even if by some weird fluke he became president, half the measures he proposes would be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

You can’t for instance, actually close a mosque by presidential executive order, since Americans have a first amendment right to worship as they please.

Making a particular religious minority register with the Federal government while not requiring it of members of other religions also violates the first amendment.

So we don’t have to worry, right?


Let’s say that Hillary Clinton self-destructed in some fashion next summer and that Trump wins the November 2016 presidential election.

And let’s say that in spring of 2017, a major terrorist attack takes place in a major American city.

Terrorism makes judges cautious. No one wants to be blamed for a ruling that that might allow the next attack. It also can make them bitter and vindictive.

And that is it, Since the GOP has the House, sewn up via state gerrymandering, probably for several election cycles to come, it will presumably legislate to please a GOP president.

If judges (or Supreme Court Justices) allow themselves to be bullied by the hysteria gripping the country, then game over. Muslims would be down at the post office registering.

We can also legitimately worry about the potentially sinister role of a Trump-appointed FISA court in the face of abrogation of civil liberties.

After all, the Feds were allowed to intern Japanese-Americans, which was also completely unconstitutional.

The second thing to say is that Trump has already gone after Mexican-Americans and Muslims, and is unlikely to stop there. Whatever syndrome his mind is suffering from involves both paranoia and narcissism. If he fixes on college teachers next, or journalists, or other groups, he’d already have the Muslim precedent and could just use an executive order to target those other groups. If the courts are sufficiently wimpish, then getting a court to strike down the Trump executive order will be difficult and time- and money- consuming. In the meantime, Trump could have his way unilaterally for a long time.

We already have the situation where Barack Obama allowed the National Security Agency to spy on all our metadata without a warrant. That metadata includes cellphone pings that show your location. It isn’t just the Muslims that the national security state wants to track.

Related video:

The Young Turks: ” Trump Wants Mandatory Badges On Muslim Americans”

Dear GOP: France is still Taking in Syria Refugees so who is the Coward?

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 2:31am

AJ+ | (Video report) | – –

“While U.S. governors say no to refugees in response to the Paris attacks, France says it will take in 30,000 Syrians.”

AJ+: “France Still Welcoming Syrian Refugees, Unlike Many U.S. Governors”

After Paris, it’s good detective work that will keep us safe, not mass surveillance

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 2:21am

By Pete Fussey | (The Conversation) | – –

Before the dust has even settled from the attacks on Paris, familiar calls for greater surveillance powers are surfacing. The desire for greater security is understandable, but that doesn’t mean we should suspend our judgement on the measures proposed to bring it about.

In the aftermath of the attack, prime minister David Cameron intimated a desire to accelerate the passage of the Investigatory Powers bill through parliament, while in the US, CIA chief John Brennan called for greater powers for the intelligence and security services. Such sentiments reflect a longstanding attitude championing the benefits of technological solutions.

The rush to legislate and grant sweeping powers has led to untried and untested provisions and incoherent laws that complicate security practice. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 the French government enacted new surveillance laws that introduced warrantless searches, the requirement for ISPs to collect communications metadata, and watered-down oversight regimes. In the UK, the response to the September 11 attacks included rushing through powers in the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, but it’s the more considered Terrorism Act 2000 and other laws already on the books that have proved more useful when it comes to convicting terrorists.

Politicians make claims about the number of threats and plots averted by the secret services’ use of surveillance data. But this rhetoric is rarely backed up with facts, and masks the practical and ethical problems that strong powers of mass surveillance bring.

A technocratic mirage

Those supporting mass surveillance of digital communications data have to conclusively demonstrate its usefulness. The history of technocratic approaches to security is littered with claims of effectiveness that are overstated, unproven or just wrong. Such claims must be treated with scepticism, not least because money spent here will divert scarce resources away from traditional intelligence and policing techniques that are tried and tested.

As a journalist and confident of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald said: “Every terrorist who’s capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the US and UK government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can.” Academic research has consistently shown terrorists are innovative in their use of technology in order to evade detection. A Flashpoint intelligence report in 2014 revealed that there had been no expansion of terrorists’ use of encryption technology following Snowden’s revelations, largely because those that could were already using it.

Following the Snowden revelations president Obama established a review into their use which concluded:

The information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 [of the PATRIOT Act] telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional … orders.

Traditional methods have, even during the internet era, consistently prevented and disrupted terrorist attacks. For every anecdote supporting the usefulness of online surveillance, others exist to underline the role of more mundane interventions and police detective work. Shoe-bomber Richard Reid’s attempt to bring down an airliner, the attempt to bomb Times Square in 2010, and this year’s Thalys train attack at Pas-de-Calais were all averted by the actions of observant and brave members of the public.

The best intelligence is human

It’s widely accepted that intelligence work is the most effective form of counter-terrorism, and that the best intelligence comes from community engagement, not coercion. The arrest in 2008 of Andrew Ibrahim for intent to commit terrorism followed tip-offs from Bristol’s Muslim community, for example. Detective work plays the key role in identifying terrorists after attacks – despite the oft-shown surveillance camera footage of the 7/7 bombers at Luton station, it was forensic examination of corpses and intelligence from the missing persons helpline that identified them.

The London bombers caught on CCTV, but it was detective work that identified them.

What public evidence there is on anti-terrorist investigations demonstrates the overwhelming importance of community tip-offs and informants. One of the most robust studies concluded that information from these sources initiate 76% of anti-terrorist investigations. This analysis of 225 individuals recruited or inspired by al-Qaeda revealed that “the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programmes to these cases was minimal”, playing an identifiable role – with the most generous interpretation of the results – in just 1.8% of cases. The vital importance of traditional investigative and intelligence methods is undeniable.

Getting priorities right

A recurring problem is prioritising and analysing the information already collected. It’s no longer remarkable to discover that terrorists are already known to police and intelligence agencies. This was the case with 7/7 bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer in London, and some of those thought responsible for the Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam, Omar Ismail Mostefai and Samy Amimour.

Questions are rightly asked about lost opportunities to apprehend them before they could kill, but this does at least indicate that intelligence-gathering is effective. What it also shows is the problem of prioritising information, and acting on it, particularly when there is an enormous amount of information to process.

Surveillance scholar David Lyon in his analysis of the Snowden revelations suggests that 1.2m Americans are under surveillance and considered a potential terrorist threat. Notwithstanding debates over proportionality and the reach of such activities, such an enormous number suggests there’s already sufficient surveillance capacity among the surveillance agencies. It’s the ability to properly scrutinise what they learn and make use of it that’s needed – not powers that would allow them to collect even more.

As contemporary philosophers of science have consistently argued, the physical and online realms are intrinsically yoked together. It makes no sense to suggest that surveillance of digital communications and internet use is something de-personalised that doesn’t infringe an individual’s privacy. These are claims made to soften the vocabulary of surveillance and excuse the lack of consent or proportionality.

So we must be wary of the evangelism of those pushing technological solutions to security problems, and the political clamour for mass surveillance. There are practical and cost considerations alongside the debate around the ethics of mass surveillance and its effects on privacy, consent, data protection, the wrongful characterisation of innocents as suspects, and the potential chilling effects on free expression. As mechanisms for collecting data become more opaque it becomes increasingly difficult to hold the agencies responsible to account and assess whether the social costs are worth it.

Pete Fussey, Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Democracy Now!: “Glenn Greenwald: “Shameless” U.S. Officials Exploit Paris Attacks to Defend Spying & Attack Snowden”

Can European Union, Russia & US team up to defeat ISIL?

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 2:02am

By Georgi Gotev & Aline Robert | ( | – –

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has teamed up with French President François Hollande in seeking a ‘rapprochement’ with Russia to fight [the so-called] Islamic State [group], described by both as the biggest threat to the EU.

Jean-Claude Juncker [European Commission]

Juncker spoke on Wednesday (18 November) at a public debate in the Bozar concert hall in Brussels, organised by the French weekly l’OBS, and the Belgian dailies De Standaart and Le Soir. Answering questions by the audience, and by the editors of the three periodicals, Juncker made no secret of his personal views.

“Like François Hollande, who is European, I consider Islamic State Europe’s enemy number one. Therefore we should use all means to put an end to this galloping barbarity,” Juncker said.

A more open-minded policy

Juncker stated that he had often thought of the last days of French President Charles De Gaulle, who wrote in his memoirs “I flew with simple ideas to the complicated East.”

“The East has remained complicated, and our ideas have stayed simple. We should abstain from making hasty judgements,” the Commission President said, making the case for a more open-minded Western policy in the Syrian conflict, and more broadly in the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

Asked if he implied that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was someone with whom the West should negotiate, he said that “the big nations, the USA, Russia and Europe, should work together when it comes to fight the scourge of Islamic State”.

“We should put aside all the problems we may have between us, to be able to concentrate together on this major problem, which if we don’t master, would bring Europe to the brink of the abyss,” he said.

Asked what future should be given to Assad, Juncker noted that it would be equally wrong to believe that there could be a solution with Assad, and that there could be a solution without Assad.

‘A coalition of a new type’

The Commission President said he welcomed Hollande’s visit to the US, and Russia, to try to create “a coalition of a new type”.

Asked if this meant that President Vladimir Putin had again become an ally of the EU, he said: “Putin is the President of Russia. And there is no security architecture in Europe without an enhanced participation of Russia.”

As he spoke, the Russian television released footage in which Putin instructed his generals to work with the French forces in Syria “as allies”.

Asked if it was possible that the EU sanctioned Russia on the Ukraine issue and become Russia’s ally on the Syrian question, Juncker said that the Union had responded to the Ukraine crisis by sanctions, because there had been no other solution.

“This should not prevent us to cooperate on other issues with Russia,” he said.

Juncker was quizzed on the need for a European intelligence service, an idea developed by the previous speaker at this conference, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt.

He said that he was personally in favour of such an agency, but added that what impedes it is the member countries’ own ideas about statehood and the “lack of a certain concept about Europe”.

The former Prime Minister of Luxembourg recalled that when the 9/11 attacks took place in 2001, EU leaders stated, on the occasion of several summits, that their countries should step up the cooperation between their intelligence agencies.

Not without irony, he added: “We are told today that there is a need that intelligence services should cooperate better than before”.

Asked if Belgium was the weak link in European security, in view of the many Brussels connections in recent terrorist attacks, he said that Belgium was “one of them”.

Asked if Europe was at war, Juncker stressed: “We should not give simple answers to complex questions”. “There have been war acts on European territory,” he said repeatedly as the question was asked to him again and again.

Asked what he meant by “abyss” when he spoke of the consequences if Europe fails vis-à-vis Islamic State, he said that this would be “the end”.

Major support for France

Juncker took a very soft stance when he was asked whether the Commission should give France financial leeway for security. He said that “budget issues was a question which was not even secondary” after last terror attacks.

Hollande has announced he would hire 8.500 civil servants to reinforce police and army and argued that extra funds were needed to fight terror, and that those should not be considered as ordinary expenses, but as extraordinary ones.

The French President’s team has tried to argue, since it took power, that military expenses spent by France on fighting against terror, in Mali, the Central African Republic or now Syria, should not be taken into account when the European Commission evaluates France’s budget deficit.

Juncker now seems to endorse a very close position, just as French Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on the previous day.

The Commission President seemed to support every element of the speech by Hollande on 16 November during a joint session of both houses of parliament in Versailles in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

The only exception appears to be on the issue of civil liberties. Referring to Hollande’s proposal to revise the country’s constitution, Juncker said “After 9/11, Washington took unreasonable immediate actions. But we shall oppose strength and reason to terrorism. Public liberties are part of our way of life, and terrorists have no right to change that.”

But he did not direct this advice directly to the French President. “Hollande has not exaggerated, he is not threatening public liberties, he is not that kind of person,” he said.

EurActiv asked Juncker to comment the statement by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico who said that all Muslims in his country would be under surveillance.

Juncker said that those who organised the barbaric acts in Paris are exactly the same people who the refugees are fleeing.

“I refuse this amalgam between the refugees, the unfortunate asylum seekers, and the terrorists. There is nothing in common between the two and one should not engage in simplistic rhetoric, and we should not make out of the religious beliefs once again a ground for division. Religions should be a factor of unity. And I recuse the statements of all those who point the finger at those who don’t have the same faith as the majority of Europeans.”

Brexit will not happen

Asked about a possible Brexit, that is, the UK leaving the EU following the 2017 referendum, Juncker repeated three times “Brexit will not happen.”

Juncker took courageously all the questions but looked tired. At the end, the Chief Editor of Le Soir Béatrice Delvaux asked him if he could withstand physically.

“Yes, I will withstand, because Europe is the big love of my life,” Juncker said in what turned out to be a very emotional moment. The audience responded with massive applause.


Why the National Security State Relishes our being Trolled by Muslim Radicals

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 1:42am

By Tom Engelhardt | | – –

Honestly, I don’t know whether to rant or weep, neither of which are usual impulses for me.  In the wake of the slaughter in Paris, I have the urge to write one of two sentences here: Paris changed everything; Paris changes nothing.  Each is, in its own way, undoubtedly true.  And here’s a third sentence I know to be true: This can’t end well.

Other than my hometown, New York, Paris is perhaps the city where I’ve felt most at ease.  I’ve never been to Baghdad (where Paris-style Islamic State terror events are relatively commonplace); or Beirut, where they just began; or Syria’s ravaged Aleppo (thank you, Bashar al-Assad of barrel-bomb terror fame); or Mumbai (which experienced an early version of such a terror attack); or Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, now partly destroyed by the U.S.-backed Saudi air force; or Kabul, where Taliban attacks on restaurants have become the norm; or Turkey’s capital, Ankara, where Islamic State suicide bombers recently killed 97 demonstrators at a peace rally.  But I have spent time in Paris.  And so, as with my own burning, acrid city on September 11, 2001, I find myself particularly repulsed by the barbaric acts of civilian slaughter carried out by three well-trained, well-organized, well-armed suicide teams evidently organized as a first strike force from the hell of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

The Paris attacks should not, however, be seen primarily as acts of revenge from a distinctly twisted crew, even though one of the murderers reportedly shouted, “You killed our brothers in Syria and now we are here.”  Instead, they were clearly acts of calculated provocation meant to reshape our world in grim ways.  Worse yet, their effectiveness was pre-guaranteed because, as has been true since 9/11, the leaders of such terror groups, starting with Osama bin Laden, have grasped the dynamics of our world, of what makes us tick and especially what provokes us into our own barbarous acts, so much better than our leaders, our militaries, or our national security states have understood them (or, for that matter, themselves).

Here in a nutshell is what bin Laden grasped before 9/11: with modest millions of dollars and a relatively small number of followers, he and his movement couldn’t hope to create the world of their fervid dreams.  If, however, he could lure the planet’s “sole superpower” into stepping into his universe, military first, it would change everything and so do his work for him.  And indeed (see: invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq), an operation mounted for an estimated $400,000 to $500,000, using 19 dedicated (mostly Saudi) followers armed only with paper cutters, did just that.

And it’s never stopped since because, just as bin Laden dreamed, Washington helped loose al-Qaeda and its successor outfits from the constraints of a more organized, controlled world.  In these last 14 years of failed wars and conflicts of every sort, American military power, aided and abetted by the Saudis, the British, the French, and other countries on a case-by-case basis, essentially fractured the Greater Middle East.  It helped create five failed states (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen), worlds in which terror groups could thrive and in the chaos of which they could attract ever more recruits.

Wiping Out the Gray Zones

Think of the Islamic State and various al-Qaeda crews as having developed (to steal a term from commentator John Feffer) “splinterlands” strategies.  To continue to grow, they need the U.S. and its allies to lend them an eternally destructive hand to further smash the worlds around them.  So in response to the Paris attacks, French President Francois Hollande’s statement that “we will lead a war which will be pitiless” was just what the terror doctor ordered, as was the growing pressure in Washington for a “big military response” to Paris.  The first French reprisal air strikes against IS’s Syrian “capital,” Raqqa, were indeed launched within two days. 

All of this is like manna from heaven for the Islamic State, the more “pitiless” the better.  After all, that group’s goal, as they write in their magazine and online, is “the extinction of the gray zone” in our world.  In other words, they seek the sharpening of distinctions everywhere, which means the opening of abysses where complexity and interaction once existed.  Their dream is to live in a black-and-white world of utter religious and political clarity (and calamity), while engaging in what American pundits like to term a “clash of civilizations.”  And — what a joy for the Islamic State! — Republican presidential candidates are already responding to the Paris attacks, as Marco Rubio did, by calling for just such “a civilizational conflict with radical Islam.” As he put it, “This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations… And either they win, or we win.”  Jeb Bush similarly responded: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization and we need to lead in this regard.”  The answer, of course, is “war.”  Various Republican candidates are also now calling for only accepting Syrian Christians as refugees here.  You can’t be more black and white than that. 

In the European context and with the destruction of those “gray zones” in mind, the Paris attacks should also be considered the Islamic State’s first foray into the politics of the 2017 French presidential campaign.  Think of those mass killings as a wholehearted endorsement of the extremist candidate Marine le Pen, whose poll numbers were already on the rise even before the attacks, and her anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant National Front Party.  She is now, in effect, IS’s chosen candidate, the one most likely to go after gray zones.  In the process, of course, pressure on France’s large, increasingly isolated Muslim population will only increase.

Such attacks are guaranteed to put wind in the already billowing sails of far right-wing parties all across Europe.  It should, for instance, have come as no surprise that, in the wake of the Paris attacks, Konrad Szymanski, the European affairs minister for Poland’s new far-right government, almost instantly declared his country unlikely to abide by recently negotiated European Union (EU) quotas on accepting refugees from the Greater Middle East.  And we’re only going to see more of this in the post-Paris world.  With the assistance of IS and other jihadist groups, the elimination of such gray areas in Europe could, in the end, help crack the EU open, while pushing France’s Muslims into an even worse situation, which would, of course, mean more potential recruits for groups like the Islamic State.

In other words, from IS’s point of view, the Paris attacks and other acts like them represent a potential horn of plenty.  Sadly, it’s not the only organization that will reap such benefits — and I’m not just referring to other jihadist outfits either.  Such acts are, after a fashion, similarly useful in the Western world.  Think of it as a kind of unspoken bargain between two “civilizations” from hell.

Take the United States, a place where, in the years since 9/11, the danger of being attacked by an Islamic terrorist could be slotted in somewhere between being “shot” by your dog and being shot by a toddler who has found a loaded, unlocked gun in your house, purse, or car.  Among the many perils of American life from car crashes to suicide, E. coli illnesses to floods, injuries from crumbling infrastructure to mass killings by non-Islamic lone wolves, Islamic terrorism remains at the bottom of the barrel in the company of other frightening but rare events like shark attacks. Yet the American national security state has essentially been built and funded to protect you from that danger alone.

Put another way, the officials of that security state have bet the farm on the preeminence of the terrorist “threat,” which has, not so surprisingly, left them eerily reliant on the Islamic State and other such organizations for the perpetuation of their way of life, their career opportunities, their growing powers, and their relative freedom to infringe on basic rights, as well as for that comfortably all-embracing blanket of secrecy that envelops their activities.  Note that, as with so many developments in our world which have caught them by surprise, the officials who run our vast surveillance network and its staggering ranks of intelligence operatives and analysts seemingly hadn’t a clue about the IS plot against Paris (even though intelligence officials in at least one other country evidently did).  Nonetheless, whether they see actual threats coming or not, they need Paris-style alarms and nightmares, just as they need local “plots,” even ones semi-engineered by FBI informers or created online by lone idiots, not lone wolves. Otherwise, why would the media keep prattling on about terrorism or presidential candidates keep humming the terror tune, and how, then, would public panic levels remain reasonably high on the subject when so many other dangers are more pressing in American life?

The relationship between that ever-more powerful shadow government in Washington and the Islamic terrorists of our planet is both mutually reinforcing and unnervingly incestuous.  Both, of course, emerge as winners when the gray zones begin to disappear.  When Paris is hit, after all, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. instantly increase their “alert levels”; the CIA director pushes back hard against “hand-wringing over intrusive government spying” and the minimalist restrictions on electronic surveillance put in place in recent years; the FBI heightens “its surveillance of Americans under investigation for apparent ties to the Islamic State”; and, among other things, more police patrols are sent out in major cities, while local law enforcement “vigilance” rises even in places like Niagara Falls, New York.  In Los Angeles, post-Paris, extra patrols were typically sent “to ‘critical sites’ and [the city’s police department was] monitoring the ongoing situation, even though it said there were no known threats.”

The lack of obvious threats is, of course, beside the point when American “safety” is at stake!  In the meantime, the road toward a more locked-down, secretive, governmentally intrusive, less democratic world is being well paved.

A Dance of Death

Think of this as a kind of global danse macabre in which ISIS attacks — eight committed guys, some possibly trained in combat in Syria or Iraq, with AK-47s, suicide vests, and rental cars — spread death, chaos, panic, and alarm in our world at next to no cost at all.  In response, Washington and its allies engage in a big-budget version of the same, including intensified air campaigns which will, of course, end up taking out civilian targets and infrastructure.

Think of what the U.S. military does when it heads out to destroy those gray zones as the Kobane or Sinjar Strategy.  Kobane was a largely Kurdish town on the Turkish border that IS militants besieged and partially took in 2014.  They were driven back early this year by the same combination of forces that recently retook the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq: Kurdish fighters and American warplanes.  By the time both were retaken, American bombs and Islamic State IEDs and booby-trapped houses had insured that those towns would be largely uninhabitable wrecks, littered with corpses and the skeletons of buildings.

Similarly, plans by the U.S. to intensify the bombing of those Syrian oilfields under the control of the Islamic state (to cut into its supply of funds) reflect a strategy that, whatever its immediate successes, is guaranteed to further wreck the infrastructure of the region.  This will help ensure that, no matter what happens to the Islamic State, “Syria” or any state structure like it will be no more.  Such acts of destruction, largely from the air, have been taking place across the Greater Middle East since 2001.  From Libya to Syria, Iraq to Yemen, the Sinjar Strategy has demonstrably done little to bring success to the U.S. and its allies in their various wars.  It has, however, helped create a zone of failed and increasingly fragile states.  It has left uprooted populations leading skeletal lives in haunted lands that are also hunting grounds for extremists of every sort. Consider this the dream world of Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as well as the perfect breeding ground for yet more extreme nightmares of our age. A dance of death indeed.

As it happens, I’ve barely ranted and not yet wept.  If anything, on reaching the end of this piece, I find myself depressed.  The future shouldn’t be so easy to see or so repetitively predictable.  And it’s a terrible thing to know that, as the gray zones of our planet continue to disappear and wrecked worlds spread, the tempo of that dance of mutual death and destruction stands every chance of speeding up as the “music” only grows louder.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt



Related video added by Juan Cole:

AJ+: “Will You Fall Into The ISIS Trap?”

Did Daesh/ ISIL’s Paris attacks bolster al-Assad? Spain calls him ‘lesser of evils’

Thu, 19 Nov 2015 - 3:42am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García Margallo said Wednesday in the course of a television interview:

“At the end of the day, the thesis has begun to clarify that it is the lesser evil to make an agreement with Bashar al-Assad and to thereby achieve a cease-fire that will allow the delivery of aid to the displaced, the halting or controlling of the flow of refugees, putting in place a political transition, and, above all, attacking the common enemy, i.e. Daesh [ISIS, ISIL].”

Margallo has been pushing this line for the past few months, but the Paris attacks made his suggestion more plausible.

Then Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right National Party in France, was asked on the radio about the barbarity of Bashar al-Assad. She dismissed the term as meaningless. “However controversial, the state headed by Bashar al-Assad is a state, and as such it protects from the barbarity of the Islamic State.”

In spring of 2011 when youth and labor protests broke out against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, President Obama called on him to step down. The US and Western Europe generally sympathized with the Syrian rebels, organized as the Syrian National Council with a paramilitary arm, the Free Syrian Army. But then from 2012 forward the Free Syrian Army fell apart and many of its members joined hard line Sunni fundamentalist militias. Many of them allied with Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, the Support Front. Some of the fighters and some whole units joined the al-Qaeda offshoot, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

No country was more insistent that al-Assad must go than France. But now, as Daesh looms large as enemy number one, Europe is reconsidering al-Assad’s fate. In some ways they are treading the same path as Vladimir Putin, who clearly decided in late summer that al-Assad must not be allowed to fall, lest hard core al-Qaeda types sweep into Damascus and take over a Syria that is only a 24-hour drive through Turkey from Russian territory.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker just said “It must not be imagined that there is a solution with al-Assad. But it must not be imagined that there is a solution without al-Assad.” (The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union).

President Obama is still correctly demanding that al-Assad step down (he has loads of blood on his hands), but it may be that his view is losing support in Europe, and the Realpolitic view of Vladimir Putin is coming up in the world.