“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Boris Nemtsov assassinated in Russia - Who was he?


A leading Russian opposition politician, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been shot dead in Moscow, Russian officials say.
An unidentified attacker in a car shot Mr Nemtsov four times in the back as he crossed a bridge in view of the Kremlin, police say.
He died hours after appealing for support for a march on Sunday in Moscow against the war in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the murder, the Kremlin says.

The spectacular failure of the War on Terror, which actually succeeded in creating a transnational army of Islamic terrorists - Destroying a country naturally empowers extremists

....the critical event that precipitated ISIS’s rise: the destruction of Iraq’s political order, which caused untold civilian suffering and left one-fifth of the population — the Sunni, with their ties to Saddam’s “security-obsessed totalitarian regime” — suddenly disempowered and vulnerable. This was a recipe for violent resistance.


As the U.S. prepares to re-engage more deeply in the Iraq War, including the likely deployment of ground troops to help retake Mosul from Islamic State, we are being asked to recommit to an ideological view of our military campaigns in the Muslim world. Roger Cohen fixates on “Islam and the West at War”, denouncing the “empty talk” of Western leaders who eschew his clash-of-civilizations framing. David Brooks proposes a poorly-defined “nationalist solution”, arguing that only “a more compelling heroic vision” can counter the glorious spiritual ardor of radical Islam. And a splashy cover story in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants”, offers an intellectual foundation for the reenergized War on Terror, presenting full recognition of ISIS’s “very Islamic” nature as a matter of urgent strategic significance.

This push to name the enemy of the West as Islam is in fact a defense of our own side’s troubled ideology. The guiding principle of post-World War II foreign policy — that the course of world events should be influenced, wherever possible, by force — is imperiled by the spectacular failure of the War on Terror, which actually succeeded in creating a transnational army of Islamic terrorists. That Islamic State rose in Iraq, then spread to Syria and Libya, threatens to give war a very bad name: it’s starting to look like destroying a country naturally empowers extremists.

One way to avoid confronting this reality — which might cause us to ask painful, demoralizing questions about who we are and what we believe — is to focus on the decontextualized ideology these newly empowered extremists profess so vehemently. This is The Atlantic approach. Author Graeme Wood gestures towards the importance of other factors in the rise of ISIS, with one eye-popping omission:
In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics — notably the late Edward Said — who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose — the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Without acknowledgement of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing it for religious reasons.

Missing from Wood’s list of “conditions” is the critical event that precipitated ISIS’s rise: the destruction of Iraq’s political order, which caused untold civilian suffering and left one-fifth of the population — the Sunni, with their ties to Saddam’s “security-obsessed totalitarian regime” — suddenly disempowered and vulnerable. This was a recipe for violent resistance.

Ignoring Iraq

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change,” observed Milton Friedman, who, whatever the merits of his economic theories, certainly understood practical politics. “When that occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” The U.S. occupation of Iraq, at once abusive and ineffectual, was an enormous crisis, especially from the perspective of the Sunni. And there happened to be a fighting ideology available to them, one that could draw from the strength of foreign fighters incensed by the spectacle of Muslim suffering at American hands: the Salafist jihadism of al Qaeda, which dreamed of a reconstituted caliphate but was in no position to make that happen as of 2003.

Although this ideology dates back decades, there was no jihadist movement in Iraq before the US invasion. Islam was not anathema to Saddam — after Gulf War I he launched a so-called Faith Campaign, to shore up support for his regime in the face of fundamentalist opposition and economic hardship — but religious extremism was his enemy. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi entered Iraq in 2002, he found safe haven not in Saddam country but in semiautonomous Kurdistan, under the no-fly zone. It was the next year — when the Americans smashed the regime, disbanded the army, enacted de-Baathification, and created a Shia-dominated Governing Council — that al Qaeda operatives found an opening among Iraq’s Sunni tribes. 

As Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan recount in their new history ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, “Disenfranchised Saddamists, who had melted back into their native cities and villages along the Euphrates River, were only too happy to accommodate the new arrivals, seeing them as agents for the Americans’ expulsion and their own restoration. The jihadists, however, had different ambitions for Iraq.”

At first, al Qaeda was just one among many factions fighting the Americans, who gave Iraqis plenty of reasons to hate them. But the dynamics of the occupation, which played out like Osama bin Laden’s wildest fantasy, favored the jihadists. Zarqawi’s ruthlessness — he was a violent criminal before he discovered Salafism — gave his group a natural advantage, bequeathing to the world the revolting propaganda triumph of the beheading video. The resulting US emphasis on al Qaeda as the source of resistance in Iraq raised its profile further. And the prisons of the occupation, which housed countless young men caught up in the American dragnet, facilitated proselytizing and networking. Among those locked up was the previously unremarkable Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; according to an Islamic State commander who did time with the future self-proclaimed caliph at Camp Bucca, “If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

Putting the Blame on Islam

Almost none of this history appears in Wood’s essay, which purports to answer (among other key questions) where ISIS came from. Instead of attending closely to the circumstances of the group’s creation, which are still highly relevant to the state of play in Iraq, Wood spoke with people in the West who admire ISIS or claim to be experts. The picture that emerges seems at times close to fantasy:

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for the cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.”

If this characterization (by Princeton professor Bernard Haykel) sounds suspiciously sweeping and confident, there’s a reason: it does not match the reports of actual experts. Didier Fran├žois, a French journalist who spent 10 months in an ISIS prison, has said that among his captors,
“There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion. It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”

According to Weiss and Hassan, “Those who say they are adherents of ISIS as a strictly political project make up a weighty percentage of its lower cadres and support base.”

This isn’t to suggest there aren’t many intensely religious ISIS fighters, including Baghdadi, who has a doctorate in Islamic studies and reportedly used to preach. But beyond a tidbit or two — like the significance of Rome and Dabiq in ISIS propaganda — Wood has little of interest to say about the group’s religiosity. When he writes, “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic,” he means simply that ISIS is fundamentalist — committed to literal interpretation of sacred texts and harsh enforcement of doctrinal laws — which comes as news to no one. But since cover stories are about getting attention, that familiar term appears not once in 10,000 words, nor does the related but less precise “extremist”. Instead, in keeping with The Atlantic’s editorial commitment to Islamophobia, there is an implicit claim that ISIS represents a more authentic version of Islam than does your garden-variety, non-bloodthirsty Muslim. Quoting Haykel, Wood informs us that these mainstream types “who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically…‘embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion’ that neglects what their religion has historically and legally required.’ Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an ‘interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.’” This is New Atheist-style churlishness, affording higher religious status to fundamentalism and thereby reproducing the position of ISIS itself.

It’s also philosophically incoherent. Wood goes on to quote an exasperated Haykel complaining that “People want to absolve Islam. It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such as thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Neither Haykel nor Wood seems to recognize the blatant contradiction: if there is no such thing as “Islam”, no authoritative interpretation, then what is it that mainstream Muslims have “a cotton-candy view of”? What is it that “historically and legally requires” the atrocities of ISIS? If it’s true that Islam is “what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts,” then given that the vast majority of Muslims don’t participate in ISIS-style barbarity, Islamic State must be “deviant” (as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the mentor of Zarqawi, has dubbed it), or un-Islamic.
Of course it isn’t, necessarily, because the world’s religions are all heterogeneous, defined by a core of characteristic beliefs but encompassing numerous sects, denominations, practices and styles. It’s very unlikely that the president doesn’t understand this; Obama is obviously practicing rhetoric, with an eye toward the very real intra-Islam struggle, when he says that ISIS isn’t made up of true Muslims. But for Wood, Obama’s public pronouncements “reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.” This is Wood’s justification of his inquiry, the claim that what he has to impart about Islamic State’s theology could make the difference between our strengthening the group or facilitating its self-destruction. And yet, despite his criticisms of Obama’s misunderstanding, Wood winds up endorsing the strategy the president has pursued so far: “Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears to be the best of bad military options.”

Give War a Chance

The case for escalation against ISIS based on Wood’s argument is obvious (he toys with it himself), and has been taken up by the usual suspects — Max Boot, for instance, writing for Commentary: “Wood is compelling in analyzing the ISIS threat — less so in suggesting a solution. His work points to the imperative for the US to do more to deny ISIS territorial control. That is why I have suggested the new [sic] for more than 10,000 US personnel to be deployed…”

Only a neocon could embrace the argument that heedlessness of the enemy’s Islamist ideology helped pave the way for ISIS. What about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, architect of the US killing machine in Iraq, who brought his counterinsurgency strategy to ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan? According to an army officer who was McChrystal’s roommate at West Point, “He was someone who saw this global ‘Caliphate’ as a tremendous enemy, and kept beating the drum for that.” The officer continued: “Boykin and Cambone and McChrystal were fellow travelers in the great crusade against Islam,” naming two Pentagon intelligence bigwigs in addition to the general. “They ran what was for all practical purposes an assassination campaign.” (See Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars, pp. 109-10.) And what did we gain by stacking up the corpses of al Qaeda commanders in Iraq? In a word, ISIS:

“Zarqawi was very smart. He was the best strategist that the Islamic State has had. Abu Omar [al-Baghdadi] was ruthless,” Abu Ahmed said, referring to Zarqawi’s successor, who was killed in a US-led raid in April 2010. “And Abu Bakr is the most bloodthirsty of all.

“After Zarqawi was killed, the people who liked killing even more than him became very important in the organisation. Their understanding of sharia and of humanity was very cheap. They don’t understand the Tawheed (the Qur’anic concept of God’s oneness) the way it was meant to be understood. The Tawheed should not have been forced by war.”

This account, given by an ISIS commander who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed to The Guardian’s Martin Chulav, encapsulates a lesson the U.S. refuses to learn: in a conflict like the so-called War on Terror, our violence is counterproductive. Smash al Qaeda, and you get something worse. Smash Islamic State, and God knows what will happen. Wood may resist the conclusion, but it follows from his argument — ISIS is an implacable, apocalyptically-minded enemy — that there is no remedy for our latest predicament except more killing. Follow this reasoning, and we can expect the situation to deteriorate further (hard as that is to imagine now).

Abu Ahmed’s story also demonstrates the folly of presenting the phenomenon of ISIS as essentially Islamic. His complaint about declining religious standards among the leadership is echoed in Weiss and Hassan’s account of “the internal story” told by “two disgruntled al-Qaeda members”, several years after Baghdadi occupied the top spot in 2010:

The reason they were disgruntled was that their perception of the rise of al-Baghdadi, whatever his level of education, represented the takeover of the Salafist-Jihadist movement within ISI of people without strong Salafist-Jihadist credentials — Baathists.

That’s another word you won’t hear from Wood, though it’s critical to understanding ISIS’s takeover of so much territory. Islamic State went from an urban guerrilla group to a full-fledged army not because of Western recruits without military experience, but because of a rapprochement with the Baathists, including Saddam’s former officers. These were not jihadis, though some of them took up Islam in the wake of the U.S. wrecking ball. “It was never clear that he would turn out like that,” the governor of Anbar province said of one such officer, a former student of his who joined al Qaeda and spent time in U.S. detention. “He was from a simple family, with high morals, but all his brothers went in that direction… all those guys got religious after 2003.” Weird coincidence. Another commander, formerly a major general in an elite unit, tried to rejoin the Iraqi Army but was turned down because of de-Baathification. After ISIS sacked Mosul, he telephoned the official who rejected him: “We will reach you soon, and I will chop you into pieces.” Not exactly a religious scholar with esoteric motivations.

We should dismiss the fanciful notion that countering ISIS is primarily a matter of understanding Islam. Wood quotes “confidential comments” by the U.S. special ops commander in the Middle East, “admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal: ‘We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.’” As though the military would be capable of changing the personal convictions of foreigners, if only we could figure out out what those are. In fact, the appeal of ISIS is obvious enough (though no U.S. commander could admit this and continue to do his job): the grievances of Sunni in Iraq and Syria, and of their sympathizers worldwide, are not mysterious, and jihad is the recourse available to them. Even if every fighter were purely motivated by Islamic extremism, an ideology can’t be destroyed. Wood mentions Hitler and the appeal of fascism; decades after one of the most resounding political failures in world history, driven by crushing military defeat and incurring unparalleled disapprobation, there are still people who identify with Nazism. What we can do — or ought to be able to do, at least — is avoid creating or contributing to the crises that empower dangerous ideologues.
At present the U.S. seems poised to do the opposite. In Syria, bombing both ISIS and its wayward offshoot, Jabhat al-Nusra, seems like a policy designed to draw the two back together. In Iraq, pushing Baghdad to retake Mosul in a matter of months could well herald a return to the worst days of sectarian slaughter, given the record of the Shia militias. With characteristic grandiloquence, Wood mentions the prospect that ISIS will “self-immolate in its own excessive zeal,” but we seem determined to keep on fanning the flames in which extremist movements are hardened.

About Eamon MurphyEamon Murphy is a journalist in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @epmurph.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Only the US Congress could take this Ass Clown seriously

Leak: Netanyahu’s 2012 Iran Bomb Warning refuted by Israeli Intel

Cenk Uygur | (The Young Turks) –
“Benjamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.
It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times.
Brandishing a cartoon of a bomb with a red line to illustrate his point, the Israeli prime minister warned the UN in New York that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons the following year and called for action to halt the process.
But in a secret report shared with South Africa a few weeks later, Israel’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.”
Posted in Iran,Israel,Nuclear Energy | 3 Responses | Print |

“In Sarajevo and in Syria, these are societies — in Bosnia, in Serbia, in Kosovo, in Syria — where ethnicities live side by side and intermarry for long periods of time until it becomes valuable to exploit the division. And yes, the division's there because you can always revert back to history, you can always inflame it, but it is manipulated for political ends.” -Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation

Islamic State 'abducts dozens of Christians in Syria'

Map showing Tal Tamr and Hassakeh province in Syria
Islamic State (IS) has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in north-eastern Syria, activists say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.
Some Assyrians managed to escape and made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of Hassakeh.
It comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance into IS-held territory.
Hassakeh province is strategically important in the fight against IS because it borders both Turkey and areas controlled by the group in Iraq.
'Searching for news'
Activists reported that IS fighters swept through a string of villages along the banks of the Khabur river around dawn on Monday.
Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighter sits on an armoured vehicle in Hassakeh, Syria (3 February 2014)There has been heavy fighting between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Hassakeh province
Supporters of Islamic State at a rally in Mosul (16 June 2014)IS has forced Christians living in its territory to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the four-year conflict in Syria, said at least 90 Assyrians had been taken captive, most of them from the village of Tal Shamran, about 45km (28 miles) from Hassakeh.
The head of the group A Demand For Action, which focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East, said between 70 and 100 were seized.
Nuri Kino told the Associated Press that about 3,000 managed to escape and had sought refuge in Hassakeh and Qamishli, to the north-east.
He said his group had spoken to several villagers and their relatives.

Start Quote

I feel so helpless... I cannot do anything for them but pray”
Assyrian woman from Tal Shamran
An Assyrian woman from Tal Shamran who lives in Beirut told AP that she had been unable to make contact with members of her family.
"Landlines have been cut, their mobiles are closed," she said. "Have they been slaughtered? Are they still alive? We're searching for any news.
"My family visited me last month and returned to Syria. There were clashes but it was normal, nothing exceptional. 
"I feel so helpless. I cannot do anything for them but pray."
The Syrian Observatory also said Tal Tamr had seen heavy clashes between IS and the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia.
On Monday, the group and Kurdish officials said IS militants had been forced back to within 5km (3 miles) of the town of Tal Hamis, to the east.
Ancient community
Christians are believed to have constituted about 10% of Syria's 22 million people before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began almost four years ago.
Assyrians, of whom there were about 40,000 in Syria, are Nestorian Christians and speak Syriac, a form of Aramaic, the language of Christ.
Assyrian Christians from Iraq, Lebanon and Syria attend a Christmas Mass in Beirut (25 December 2014)Hundreds of thousands of Christians, many of them Assyrians, have fled Syria to escape the violence
The largest concentration of Assyrians in Syria is in Hassakeh province, but there are also smaller communities in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. 
The Assyrian villages along the Khabur river were established by the French authorities during the mandate era for Assyrians who fled persecution in Iraq in 1933.
Many Assyrians are believed to have fled Syria not only to escape the conflict in the country but also violent attacks by extremist groups like IS, which has forced Christians living in the territory it controls to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death.
It was not clear what IS intended to do with its Assyrian captives. 
Earlier this month, militants in Libya affiliated to the group released a video showing them beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. 

1-3 Billion Dollar Terrorism Case Against the PA and the PLO in the United States

Meanwhile the Israelis can’t help themselves from making people miserable and creating another generation of those that hate them 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Who would you rather have three shots and a beer with?

1. Barack Obama  or Bibi Netanyahu?

2. Jeb Bush or Ron Paul?

3. Ted Cruz or absolutely anyone else?

4. Doug or Bob?

5. WIO  or DR?

6. Ash or Quirk?

7. Nobody in their right mind would want to have a drink with Rufus  :)

Israel’s state policy of moving its citizens into occupied territory — a position that violates international law - supported by US taxpayers through tax deductions claimed by billionaire American Zionists

Can I Take a Tax-Deduction on My Donation to Israeli Settlements in Palestine?


Eric Goldstein