Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Blum’s List of Country In Which US Has Interfered with their Elections

February 18, 2017

A few days ago I posted up a list of the nations in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower where the US had interfered in its politics to block the election of a left-wing or liberal candidate, have them overthrown, or colluding and gave material assistance to a Fascist dictator and their death squads. As well as outright invasions, such as that of Grenada and Panama under Reagan and Bush in the 1980s, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under George Dubya.

Blum also has a list of countries, where the US has interfered with their domestic politics to pervert their elections. These include

The Philippines 1950s

Setting up by the CIA of a front organisation, the National Movement for Free Elections to promote its favoured politicians and policies, giving finance and other assistance to those candidates, disinformation, and drugging and plotting to assassinate their opponents.

Italy 1948-1970s

Long-running campaigns against the Communist party and to assist the conservative Christian Democrats.

Lebanon 1950s

CIA funding of President Camille Chamoun and other pro-American politicians; sabotaging of campaigns of politicos sceptical of American interference in their country.

Indonesia 1955

CIA donated a million dollars to Centrist Coalition to attack the electoral chances of President Sukarno and the Communist party.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64

Campaign to oust prime minister Cheddi Jagan, using general strikes, terrorism, disinformation and legal challenges by Britain.

Japan 1958-1970s

CIA funding of conservative Liberal Democratic Party against the Japanese Socialist Party, allowing the Liberal Democrats to stay in power continuously for 38 years.

Nepal 1959

CIA operation to help B.P. Koirala’s Nepali Congress Party to win the country’s first ever election.

Laos 1960

CIA arranged for massive fraudulent voting to ensure electoral victor of local dictator Phoumi Nosavan.

Brazil 1962

CIA and Agency for International Development funded politicos opposed to President Joao Goulart, as well as other dirty tricks against various other candidates.

Dominican Republic 1962

US ambassador John Bartlow Martin instructs the heads of the two major parties before general election that the loser would call on his supporters to support the winner, and that the winner would offer seats to the loser’s party. Also worked with the government to deport 125 people, including supporters of previous dictator Trujillo and Cuba.

Guatemala 1963

Overthrow of General Miguel Ydigoras, as they feared he was about to step down and call a general election, which would be won by previous reforming president and opponent of American foreign policy, Juan Jose Arevalo.

Bolivia 1966

Funding by CIA and Gulf Oil of campaign of president Rene Barrientos. The CIA also funded other rightwing parties.

Chile 1964-70

Interference in the 1964 and 1970s elections to prevent the election of Salvador Allende, democratic Marxist, to the presidency.

Portugal 1974-5

CIA funded moderates, including Mario Soares and the Socialist Party, and persuaded the other democratic socialist parties of Europe to fund them in order to block radical programme of generals, who had overthrown Fascist dictator Salazar.

Australia 1974-5

CIA funding of opposition parties and use of legal methods to arrange overthrow of prime minister Gough Whitlam because he opposed Vietnam War.

Jamaica 1976

Long CIA campaign, including economic destabilisation, industrial unrest, supplying armaments to his opponent and attempted assassination to prevent re-election of Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Panama 1984, 1989

CIA-funded campaigns first of all to support Noriega, and then against him in 1989, when the CIA also used secret radio and TV broadcasts.

Nicaragua 1984, 1990

1984: Attempt to discredit the Sandinista government by CIA. The opposition coalition was persuaded not to take part in the elections. Other opposition parties also encouraged to drop out; attempts to split Sandinistas once in power.

1990: Funding and partial organisation of opposition coalition, UNO, and its constituent groups by National Endowment for Democracy to prevent election of Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega; Nicaraguans also made aware that US intended to continue proxy war waged by Contras if they elected him.

Haiti 1987-88

CIA supported for selected candidates after end of Duvalier dictatorship. Country’s main trade union leader claimed US aid organisations were smearing left-wing candidates as Communists and trying to persuade rural people not to vote for them.

Bulgaria 1990-1, Albania 1991-2

Interference in both countries election to prevent re-election of Communists.

Russia 1996

Extensive backing and support to Yeltsin to defeat Communists.

Mongolia 1996

National Endowment for Democracy funded and helped form the opposition National Democratic Union, and drafted its platform, a Contract with the Mongolian Voter, based Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. The goal here was to accelerate the regime’s privatisation programme and create government favourable to the establishment of American corporations and intelligence agencies in the country.

Bosnia 1998

US turns country into ‘American protectorate’ by appointing Carlos Westendorp as high representative in 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. Before 1998 elections Westendorp removed 14 Bosnian Croatian candidates, claiming reporting by Croatian television biased. After election removes president of Bosnia Serb republic on grounds that he was causing instability.

In 2001 and 2005 high representative also removed one of the three joint presidents of the country. In 2005 high representative Paddy Ashdown, who sacked Dragan Covic.

Nicaragua 2001

US smears against Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, accused of human rights violations and terrorism. US ambassador openly campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolanos. US also pressurised Conservative party to withdraw from the elections so as not to split right-wing vote. There were also adds in the papers signed by Jeb Bush, claiming that Dubya supported Bolanos. Bolanos himself also stated that the Americans had told him that if Ortega won, they would cease all aid to the country.

Bolivia 2002

Extensive campaign against socialist candidate Evo Morales because he was against neoliberalism and big business, as well as the attempts to eradicate the coca plant, the source of cocaine.

US ambassador smeared him with accusations of connections to drug cartels and terrorism. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere also said America could cut off aid if Morales elected. Meetings between US ambassador and officials and leading figures in rival parties to support Morales’ rival, Sanchez de Lozada.

Slovakia 2002

Warnings by US ambassador to the country and the US ambassador to NATO that if they elected Vladimir Meciar, former president running on anti-globalisation campaign, this would damage chances of their country entering EU and NATO. Also interference by National Endowment for Democracy against Meciar.

El Salvador 2004

Campaigning by US ambassador and three US Republican members of congress, including Thomas Tancredo of California, threatening cessations of aid and work permits for the countries’ people to work in America, in order to prevent election of FMLN candidate Schafik Handal and win victory of Tony Saca of the Arena party. FMLN former guerilla group. Handal stated he would withdraw Salvadorean troops from Iraq, re-examination privatisations and renew diplomatic contacts with Cuba. Arena extreme rightwing party, pro-US, free market, responsible for death squads and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Afghanistan 2004

Pressure placed by US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, on political candidates to withdraw in favour of Washington’s preferred candidate, Hamid Karzai.

Palestine 2005-6

Massive pressure by the Americans to prevent the election of Hamas, including funding of the Palestinian Authority by the National Endowment for Democracy.

This last country is my own suggestion, not Blum’s.

Great Britain?

Go and read various articles in Lobster, which describe the way the US and its various front organisations collaborated with the right-wing of the Labour party to stop possible Communist influence. In the 1980s Reagan also created the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, alias BAP, to cultivate rising politicians of both the left and the right, and make them more favourable towards America and the Atlantic alliance. These included Tony Blair and Ed Balls, but you won’t read about it in the Times, because it’s editor was also a BAP alumnus.

Colonel Gaddafi Predicted He Would Be Killed For His Opposition to Capitalism

February 11, 2017

William Blum in his book American’s Deadliest Export: Democracy has a very interesting little extract from Colonel Gaddafi’s Recollections of My Life. In the entry for April 8th, 2011, the former Mad Dog of the Middle East predicted that he would be killed because he was attempting to defend his nation, and the Developing World, from capitalist domination by the multinationals. He wrote

Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama, wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called ‘capitalism’, but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer, so, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following his path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work here with us … I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are my children, the so be it… In the West, some have called me ‘mad’, ‘crazy’. They know the truth but continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip. (p. 169).

Gaddafi was no saint. His regime did sponsor terrorism. He gave aid to the IRA in Britain, and sent Islamist terrorists against competing African and Arab leaders. But domestically he was fiercely opposed to Islamism, and he did make a deal with Blair’s administration.

Under Gaddafi, the oil companies had to pay a fair price for the oil they extracted. Education and healthcare was free, and the country had one of, if not the lowest infant mortality rate in Africa. I’ve been told that Gaddafi’s Green Book is a peculiar mixture of Arab Socialism, Communism and Islam. Regardless of this, it was a secular state with considerable freedom given to women.

After the coup sponsored by Killery, all that has gone. Free education and medicine has ended, women’s status and freedoms have been curtailed, and the country is under Sharia law, and Black workers from Africa subjected to racism and persecution.

Gaddafi’s sponsorship of terrorism wasn’t the issue. After all, the IRA also received some funding from Irish Americans through Noraid. And America itself has always been prepared to fund and equip terrorists itself in its campaign against those foreign leaders it wants to oust. At present America is giving funding, arms and training to al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria to get rid of Assad.

Gaddafi’s country was bombed and the Islamist butchers who rose against him supported, because he dared to stand up to the West and America, and give his people free healthcare and education, against the dictates of American imperialism and the oil companies.

Yoav Litvin on How Jews Must Fight Against Anti-Semitism and Zionism

February 11, 2017

Yoav Litvin, one of the long time contributors to Counterpunch, has written an excellent article, ‘To Oppose Trump, Jews Must Join the Fight Against Fascism and Zionism’. Litvin notes the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents under Trump, and the presence of anti-Semites and Nazis like Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer amongst Trump’s supporters and his cabinet. He also shows how, despite this, Israel is doing little or nothing to criticise Trump, because Trump is a very vocal supporter of Israel.

He notes the similarity between the White racism of Trump and his Fascist supporters in the Alt-Right, and the ethno-nationalism behind Zionism. He also comments on the way Zionists and the Israel lobby, particularly Alan Dershowitz, have particularly smeared as anti-Semites liberal Jews, with traditional cosmopolitan values who oppose Zionism as another form of racism. As for Trump, he and his allies hide behind the specious argument that because they have Jewish friends, they can’t be anti-Semites. Mr Litvin writes

One would logically expect the American Jewish community to unite around vocal opposition and resistance as a response to the new Republican administration’s fascist tendencies and ties to White nationalists and neo-Nazis. Though some rabbis have come out in protest over Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the American Jewish community’s response to the new administration has been weak and split, with one main reason – Israel. Trump and his gang have capitalized on the inherent contradiction between liberal cosmopolitan Jewish values and an ethical emphasis on human rights, and the unjust nationalist policies of Israel towards indigenous Palestinians.

This contradiction was highlighted in a recent debate between Rabbi Matt Rosenberg and Richard Spencer, in which the latter justified the creation of a white “ethno-state” by using the example of the exclusionary Zionist ideology and practices of the state of Israel. The rabbi was left speechless. Accordingly, the term “white Zionism” has been used to describe “alt-right” ideology.

In line with widespread support for Trump in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been very favorable, even jovial at the prospects of the new Republican administration. With Donald Trump as their champion, the Tea Party represents tribal, misogynist and nationalistic attitudes that are championed by Jewish right-wing Zionists like Netanyahu. In fact, the very idea for the “alt-right” Breitbart news website was conceived in Israel and it has faithfully served as an outlet for the Tea Party, anti-Semitic and Zionist agendas. On a personal level, Trump and Netanyahu are mirror images of each other in their corruption, extravagance and talent in manipulating the press.

But this is nothing new. Zionists and anti-Semites have historically shared mutual interests. While anti-Semites have wanted to get rid of Jews, Zionists have concentrated their efforts on attracting them to Israel’s shores, i.e. Judaizing Israel as a means to fight the “demographic threat” posed by native Palestinians.

Litvin states that there are positive aspects to Israel and Zionism. The country has served as a model for nation-building, revived Hebrew as a living language and created a new, confident Jewish people, who fight for their rights, work the land and have pride in themselves. But these achievements are offset by the terrible suffering and persecution inflicted on indigenous Palestinians:

However, as with all settler-colonialist and exclusivist projects, the indigenous population has paid the price. As a result of political Zionism and Israeli policies, Palestinians have undergone a process of ethnic cleansing and genocide to make room for non-native Jewish settlers.

As the blooming relationship between the Trump administration and Israeli politicians and apologists shows, the ethno-centric character of Israel shares many attributes with- and has been a source of inspiration for- American White nationalism, now embodied in Trump’s administration.

In order to effectively fight this new administration and protect community members against the growing tide of anti-Semitism, American Jews need to recognize these parallels, come to terms with the failure of political Zionism and renounce collaborators such as Alan Dershowitz and David Friedman.

To counter Trump it is essential that American Jews fight against all ethno-centric, exclusivist forces, including fascism, White supremacy and Zionism. The long history of trauma and persecution must guide Jews in a quest to vanquish these forces alike toward a vision of justice, freedom and equality for all.

Read the whole article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/10/to-oppose-trump-jews-must-join-the-fight-against-fascism-and-zionism/

Litvin’s precisely right, and this is the crime for which left-wing Labour members like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Naz Shah were smeared as anti-Semites by the Israel lobby: they did treat Zionism as another form of racism. None of them were anti-Semites. Livingstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour denounced anti-Semitism as another form of racism, along with anti-Black racism and hatred of the Irish. He also specifically discusses in the book the way Nazis responsible for horrific crimes against the Jewish people and humanity generally were recruited by the Allies after the War as part of the global campaign against Communism.

But he was smeared because he dared to make the historically accurate point that the Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis over immigration to Israel. It’s the same point Litvin makes in his article.

And many members of the anti-Zionist movement are Torah-observant Jews and people of Jewish heritage. Jackie Walker’s father was a Russian Jew, her partner’s Jewish, and her daughter goes to a Jewish school. Both she and her parents were and are very active campaigners against racism, including anti-Semitism. But this made no difference. She had placed the Holocaust, as terrible as it was, in context as one genocide amongst the others that have disgraced human history down the aeons, including Black slavery. She also stood up for the rights of the Palestinian people, and discussed how Jewish merchants had also been involved in the slave trade, even though the overall responsibility lay with the Christian empires in which they lived and whose monarchs they served. This was a perfectly reasonable point, which is discussed by Jewish historians.

But the Zionists saw it as a terrible threat to their own interests, and so they smeared her.

I think Litvin’s right in that Israel and Zionist lobby’s silence over the genuine anti-Semites behind Trump should lead to more Jews becoming aware of the racism at the heart of modern Zionism, as well as discrediting Zionism amongst decent Americans generally.

After all, Trump’s friendly relationship with Israel and Netanyahu, despite, or because of the Nazis in his cabinet, blatantly and flagrantly bear out what Walker, Livingstone and the others are saying about Zionism as another form of Fascism.

Sam Seder on Bercow’s Propose Ban on Trump in Parliament

February 10, 2017

Sam Seder, the host of the American internet news show, Majority Report, yesterday covered John Bercow’s proposed ban on Trump speaking to the House of Commons. Seder and his colleagues discuss a report on one of the other news shows, that Trump was planning to meet the Queen on a visit to this Sceptred Isle. According to Seder, the show had a Brit on to talk about the visit. The Brit stated that Her Maj had met a wide variety of ‘really horrible people’ including ‘serial killers’, and so she would have no trouble in meeting Trump. Comparisons are then made with John Wayne Gacy, who killed nearly a twenty men and boys.

He then shows the clip of Bercow’s speech, in which Bercow makes the point that addressing the House is an earned honour, not a right; that there are plenty of precedents for a head of state not being allowed to address parliament on a state or diplomatic visit; that the three keyholders to parliament – the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Lord Chamberlain, were usually united, but on this occasion he would break with the others. Bercow stated that even before Trump’s ban on Muslim travel to the US, he would have been opposed to Trump’s visit. He was even more opposed now.

Seder and his team then finish with impressions of Trump demanding to sit on the throne.

It’s very clear that Seder and the rest of his crew find British parliamentary attitudes to Trump, in lumping him in with mass murderers and Bercow’s proposal to ban him hugely amusing. But as I’ve said in my last post, Bercow is right about everything he’s said. He also made it clear that parliament should not allow Trump to speak, if it took seriously its aim of combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality.

Quite apart from the fact that, even if Trump himself is not, many of his close supporters, like Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, are anti-Semites and White Supremacists. The prospect of Trump addressing parliament is very much like the home-grown British Fascist, Oswald Mosley, and his attempts to get elected in the 1930s. As well as his party’s thuggery and brutality to Jews and left-wingers.

Yes, comparing Trump to some of the mass murderers, who’ve met the Queen is funny. It’s less of a joke when you consider that the murderers the Brit was talking about were probably heads of state responsible for horrific crimes against their own people. And allowing Trump to address parliament in reality would be a very grim joke, with very few laughing.

Tory MP Wants to Unseat John Bercow for Attacking Trump

February 10, 2017

Kudos and respect this week to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. The honourable gentleman spoke this week about banning Trump from addressing parliament if he ever came to this country on a state visit. He stated, quite correctly, that addressing parliament is not a right – it is a reward that has to be earned. He also stated that he would have wanted to have Trump prevented from addressing the lower house even without his ban on Muslims travelling to the US. Millions of ordinary Brits share Bercow’s opinions.

Trump has shown himself repeatedly to be a vulgar egomaniac with a despicable attitude to sexual assault and ethnic minority communities, such as Latinos, Blacks and Muslims. While he may have tried to distance himself from them somewhat, his most vocal supporters and some of his closest advisors are anti-Semites, White Supremacists and just plain neo-Nazis. Richard Spencer and his followers screaming ‘Hail Victory! Hail Trump! Hail our race!’ while raising their right hands in the Fascist salute was a clear demonstration of their real vile political views, despite Spencer’s later attempts to claim that he was ‘being ironic’.

For many millions of people, Trump and his supporters represent a horrible return of some of the Fascism and racist persecution of the 1920s and ’30s. To Brits, Trump and his supporters recall the 1930s when Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists goose-stepped up and down Britain and marched into the East End of London in an attempt to bully and beat Jews, Communists, trade unionists and members of the Labour party.

There is such a thing as the ‘dignity of parliament’, regardless of the less than sterling character or views of individual MPs. Bercow was right to want to have Trump stopped from addressing it.

Unfortunately, many Tories do not share Mr Bercow’s views. Earlier this week Mike posted a piece reporting that, despite earning the praise and support of long term Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, members of Bercow’s own party, the Tories, sat in stony silence.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/07/the-house-of-commons-should-be-proud-of-its-speaker-some-conservatives-seem-to-disagree/

Now one of the Tory MPs, James Duddridge, has tabled a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the Speaker. Yesterday he wrote to Theresa May asking her not to impose the whip on her top team if the commons did hold a vote of ‘no confidence’. Now he claims that an increasing number of MPs share his anger, and that Bercow could be deposed before parliament resumes the Monday after next.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/10/tory-mp-tables-vote-of-no-confidence-in-john-bercow-after-donald-trump-attack/

This is disgusting, but it doesn’t surprise in the least. The Tories have for a very long time hated Bercow with a passion. They didn’t want him becoming Speaker, as they moaned that he was biased against them. Which probably means that he was trying to be fair and do his job impartially. It also wouldn’t help that he is literally sleeping with the enemy. His wife, Sally, is a Labour MP.

Bercow in his speech denouncing Trump stated that Trump should be prevented from speaking, if the House was serious about combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality. This proposal by Duddridge shows precisely what he, and many other Tories, really think about these issues. Despite Cameron’s attempt to rebrand the party as non-racist, embracing ethnic minorities, gays and promoting women, there is still a large number of Conservatives who clearly don’t share these views. The Daily Mail has consistently attacked immigration, gay rights and feminism, despite the fact that it was originally founded to appeal to a largely female readership. The same kind of attitudes permeate the Express, the Scum and the other Tory rags to a greater or lesser degree. And there have repeatedly been instances where Tory MPs have been caught making extremely derogatory remarks about Blacks, Asians or women.

Parliament is under pressure to reform itself so that it does become more representative of Britain’s diverse society, with more Black and Asian MPs and more women. It is therefore contradictory, at the very least, to give the privilege of addressing it to someone like Trump, with his racist and misogynist views.

Bercow’s principled statement of his intention of blocking Trump from speaking has shown the real nature of the Conservative party as it has brought out their support for Trump, and by implication the grotesque policies and attitudes he represents.

Bercow is to be applauded. Duddridge and his supporters are a disgrace to the dignity of House in which they sit, and their views are an insult to anyone worried about the growth of Fascism and the extreme right.

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.

Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

February 6, 2017

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

Trump to Criminalise and Take Benefits from Legal Immigrants

February 5, 2017

This is yet more anti-immigrant legislation from the orange Nazi. And this time, it’s not just about criminalising and deporting illegal immigrants, it’s about taking benefits and criminalising those, who have come to America perfectly legally and built lives and businesses there.

In this video from TYT Nation, Jeff Waldorf discusses Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from seven, Muslim majority countries. But he points out that one of the Muslim countries not on the list is Saudi Arabia, which is a major exporter of Islamist terrorism. 14 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 were Saudis. But Saudis aren’t banned, because America has extensive trade links with that country. He’s also horrified that 49 per cent of Americans actually agree with the ban on Muslim immigration.

Trump is also amending current covering the various state benefits, which may be taken into account in determining whether an immigrant should be allowed to stay in the country. At the moment, the Department of Homeland Security may have an immigrant deported if they are considered to be likely to rely on welfare for their main subsistence. At the moment, the only benefits that can be taken into account are those involving money payments. They do not include food stamps or medicare. But Trump wants to change the law so that those are taken into account too.

Trump also wants to have legal immigrants holding valid visas deported if they use benefits beyond a certain level. And as well as the immigrant being deported, the person responsible for sponsoring them would be required to pay back the benefits paid to the deported immigrant. Legal immigrants would also be prevented from claiming child tax credit, even if the child was an American citizens. Waldorf calls this exactly what it is: birthright citizenship.

He also wants to begin compiling and publishing statistics on how much is spent on welfare benefits to immigrants, and compare this with what could be spent on America’s poor in the inner cities. As Waldorf makes very clear, this is disgusting. It’s pitting one group of poor against another in the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.

Trump is also planning an executive order designed to curb the ‘jobs magnet’ to America. This piece of legislation will allow the deportation of any foreign-born visa holder and cancel the workplace provisions if they are found to be against the national interest. Trump is also considering compiling statistics of naturalised Americans, who are doing jobs that could otherwise be done by ‘native’ American citizens. Waldorf states that this means that even if you have immigrated to America perfectly legally, you are still counted as someone, who has taken the job of a ‘real’ American.

He is particularly angry as this affects his family. His wife’s grandfather is a naturalised American. He’s actually Dutch. The man is very Conservative, and watched Fox News. Yet nevertheless, according to this new piece of legislation, he is not a real American. Waldorf also reminds his viewers how many immigrants have actually built and created jobs in the Middle East, like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, whose father was Syrian.

Waldorf states that this is how Fascism starts. It has, in his view, the fingerprints of Steve Bannon, the White supremacist CEO of Breitbart and one of the Trump’s closest advisors, all over it. This Trump’s racist attitude to immigration. Only those ‘real’ Americans born in the country and White should have jobs, benefits and citizenship. No-one else. And Waldorf also states that the people causing poverty and sucking up the wealth are the top 1 per cent, the super-rich. However, they want to distract Americans from this by hating the people just below them.

I realise that many of you will probably be getting heartily sick of all this coverage of Trump and his vile maladministration. But this stuff doesn’t just affect Americans. Mike’s carried stories about how the Tories and the Kippers over here want to pass legislation preventing immigrants from claiming benefits or using the NHS. If Trump passes this in the US, it will encourage them to do so the same over here. Quite apart from rags like the Daily Heil regularly running headlines about immigrants overrunning the welfare state, when in fact the benefits system and NHS is in crisis because of deliberate Tory funding cuts and privatisation.

A few days ago I put up a piece about the Economist Intelligence Unit reporting that Trump combined with far right European politicians could be a real menace to democracy. This is absolutely right. It’s shown by the strong parallels between this proposed legislation, and that of the Tories and Kippers. If Trump succeeds, he will empower racists and racist movements throughout the West. He must be stopped.

Trump Replaces Military Chiefs with Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon on National Security Council

February 5, 2017

This is another stupid move by Trump, in which ideology is shown to weigh more in his mind than military experience and expertise. In this clip from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and his team discuss Trump’s reorganisation of the National Security Council. This is the top government organ for discussing issues of national security and foreign policy. Trump has just made Steve Bannon, the White supremacist head of the right-wing news agency, Breitbart, a permanent member. By contrast, the head of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence will only attend when issues directly relevant to them are being discussed.

Pakman and his team point out that Bannon doesn’t have any experience in national security. He was a naval officer, before becoming a documentary film-maker and then head of Breitbart. They also question how Trump has the authority to make these changes, as the legislation governing the composition of the council states that the president appoints its personnel with the advice and consent of the senate.

They also point out that this is part of Trump’s war on intelligence, which the orange buffoon insists doesn’t exist. Trump claims that the story that he is at odds with the espionage agencies is a falsehood created by the press. In fact, he is just against certain leaders, but values the work of the junior staff. Pakman and his team point out that Trump’s apparent downgrading of senior members of the Council – the head of the joint chiefs and national intelligence director, would send a signal to the junior members of those organisations that Trump definitely does not value them.

This looks like pretty much the same stupid manoeuvre George Dubya made with his selection of the top senior officers commanding the ‘war on terror’. One of the Conservative critics of Bush and the Neocons, a senior female officer connected to the Pentagon, was a fierce critic of Shrub’s maladministration of the wars in the Middle East. Shrub and the Neocons valued adherence to the ideological ‘party line’ far more than practical military experience, tactical knowledge and knowledge of the region. The upper ranks of the organisation handling the invasion of Iraq was overwhelmingly staffed by Bush’s fellow Neocons at the expense of experienced, knowledgeable military officers. Bush selected for membership of the commanding organisations personnel, who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. And he wanted to hear that the war would be over very quickly, and that the liar and fantasist, Ahmed Chalebi, would be welcomed back to Iraq as a national hero by a people grateful to the Americans for their liberation from Saddam Hussein.

Those officers, who told Bush the opposite were sacked. Shrub dismissed General Zilli, one of the senior officers in the section of the Pentagon dealing with the Middle East, because Zilli told him – rightly – that any invasion of Iraq would result in years of more war. This didn’t fit the Neocon view of the Middle East, and so Zilli lost his job. Despite being 100 per cent right.

Now Trump is doing exactly the same. He’s shown he values ideological adherence over military and foreign policy experience and knowledge. This is made worse by Bannon’s own White supremacist views. Well, contrary to whatever stupid, racist nonsense Trump and Bannon believe, the peoples of the Middle East are not stupid or less intelligent than Americans or Westerners. Nor can the resistance to the western occupation be put down simply to some kind of innate evil within the Middle Eastern psychology, or to their supposed envy of the political and personal freedoms enjoyed by the peoples of the West.

For many of the peoples of Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, opposition to America and her allies doesn’t necessarily come from Islam. It comes from the fact that we’ve invaded their countries, and are killing their compatriots and coreligionists, and members of their families – through bombings and drone strikes. Yes, ISIS and its backers in the Saudi government are responsible for much of the terrorism and resistance to the West in the region. But other causes are simply the natural urge of ordinary people the world over to hate and resist invaders. But this vital point is going to be missed with Trump’s appointment of Bannon to this important position. If, of course, Trump ever seriously considered it at all.

I’m afraid that the result of this will be more senseless war, just as Shrub’s valuing of Neocon political views over genuine military and cultural understanding has meant that the allied occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has lasted over a decade. It will lead to more needless civilian deaths, and even more of our servicemen and -women losing their lives, for no good reason. These wars haven’t been launched to build democracy in the Middle East. Bush launched them in order steal Iraq’s oil and its state industries after they were privatised. Syria is being bombed for much the same reason – to ensure the passage of an oil pipeline for the profit of the oil companies and countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, which Assad does not want passing through his country.

Bannon’s appointment as a permanent member of the National Security Council will make this debacle worse, and prolong further a war that has already gone on for far too long.

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.