Posts Tagged ‘Erdogan’

50 + Tory Policies Are Uncosted, But Biased Media Will Not Ask Them About It

May 20, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political yesterday put up a piece showing exactly what voting for the Tories will mean – more poverty, more cuts, more privatisation, including that of the NHS. He also has a graphic that shows that, far from being the party of financial prudence and sound fiscal policy that they are always boasting they are, 50 plus of the policies in May’s manifesto have not been costed.

And the graphic lists them.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/this-is-what-voting-conservative-really-means/

But, as far as I’m aware, the Tories haven’t been asked about these. Nor about how they will finance schools, hospitals and other parts of the state infrastructure generally when they are making such savage – and unnecessary – cuts.

Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat, has written a couple of pieces attacking the media’s bland, uncritical, and unintelligent assumption that the economic orthodoxy expounded by the Tories makes any sense, and does not deserve the same interrogation and critique that Labour’s policies do. He points out that most of the journos in the media seem to believe that national finances and the economy are the same as household finances, and points to an article by the Angry Yorkshireman, who has also attacked this myth.

The Cat writes

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence. But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it. Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether. No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state. Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

He makes the point that the media’s double standards are shown by the different ways Diane Abbott and Theresa May were treated by the press and media when they appeared confused during interviews on particular questions. Abbott, you will recall, was pilloried by the press after she appeared unable to answer Nick Ferrari’s question about where the money would come from to fund more police officers when she appeared on his show on LBC.

But May was given a very different treatment when Andrew Marr asked her if it was right that nurses should have to go to food banks. Stumped for any kind of proper reply, she could only stammer out that there were ‘complex reasons’.

This is rubbish, and she knew it. But she could rely on the Tory lapdogs in the media not to press her on it, but instead to portray her as ‘strong and stable’. Which sounds to me exactly what various modish modern architects say about their ludicrous monstrosities, often way over cost and behind schedule, shortly before they unexpectedly fall down or have to be closed while major structural repairs have to be undertaken.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/how-much-will-it-cost/

The Cat’s article also describes how May went ‘full Erdogan’ with the press during her visit to Cornwall, and has a link to a feature about this on the Cornwall Live website. May turned up to support the six Tory MPs, who hold all the seats in the county.

Erdogan is the current president of Turkey, who is rapidly trying to undo the decades of secularisation began with the Turkish nationalist, Kemal Ataturk. Instead of being the head of a modern state, which values free speech, a free press and the other marks of democratic society, Erdogan acts like he would like to be a new Ottoman emperor. Anything that even smacks of disrespect to his fragile, Trump-like ego, is banned and the person who produced it arrested and prosecuted by the rozzers. A few months ago a doctor found himself arrested and prosecuted for insulting the president, simply because he had retweeted a joke about him on his mobile phone.

The ladies and gentlemen of the media in Kernow also found themselves in a similarly tightly controlled environment. According to Cornwall Live, they were locked in a room and forbidden to film. They did ask some questions, and there were some photographs, including one of the locked door. Briefly glancing through the article, I got the distinct impression that May’s answers to questions consisted mostly of the same guff about being ‘strong and stable’.

http://www.cornwalllive.com/prime-minister-theresa-may-visits-cornwall-ahead-of-general-election/story-30306323-detail/story.html#kMAvlh8iYr7EHHod.99

May’s management of the press in Cornwall isn’t unique. Whenever she goes anywhere, the event is very carefully stage managed. Rather than meeting the public, these events are private, and the public are kept very far away from meeting her and asking any awkward questions.

As for locking the press and broadcast media in a room, this seems a very strong metaphor for the repressive state of Tory Britain anyway. Blair, the Tories and the Lib Dems all brought in legislation providing for secret courts, where you could be arrested and tried without knowing the evidence against you, who your accuser was, and with the public and press excluded, if this was all deemed necessary for national security.

Exactly like the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and the Communist states of the former eastern bloc.

One of the underground poems written against the Communist dictatorship in Hungary describes the author looking down at his shoelaces. He still has them, so he can’t be in prison. It’s a succinct, poetic description of the lack of freedom the Hungarians endured in what was basically a Stalinist dictatorship following the quelling of their uprising in the 1950s.

Now have a look at your own feet. Well, we must be free, ’cause we’ve still got our shoelaces. But when May starts locking the press into a room, while her goons prevent her from being properly filmed, you wonder how long.

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Secular Talk: Clip of Maggie Thatcher Praising Mujahideen in 1981

September 14, 2016

This is another sharp reminder of how much of the present mess the world’s in can be directly traced back to the policies of Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Despite the fact that both are great, molten gods against whom no word must be spoken amongst Conservatives over here and Republicans in the US. Kyle Kulinski begins the segment by showing a clip of Maggie Thatcher praising the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1981, calling them freedom fighters, stating that they have the support of everyone who believes in freedom back in Britain, and promising another £2 million. In case viewers get confused, and believes that this is part of the kind of conspiracies Alex Jones regularly screams about on Infowars, that it’s all some kind of establishment plot with the Devil and UFO aliens to destroy and enslave the world, Kulinski supplies some context. This was a time when the USSR had invaded Afghanistan, and working on the assumption that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, America, Britain and the west started funding the militant Islamists to fight a proxy war.

Kulinski uses the clip to make the point that just as that error of judgement had disastrous consequences for decades after, so we’re making the same mistakes now. America and the west are still supporting hardline, intolerant Islam in the form of Saudi Arabia and Erdogan’s Turkey. Saudi Arabia is vehemently intolerant, and is responsible for the spread of the brutal Islamist ideology. And the US and the west are also supporting the Islamists, in the form of the al-Nusrah Front, which is another branch of al-Qaeda, in Syria. Why? Because Assad is allied with Iran, the West’s enemy, and also the Russians, who, despite the Fall of Communism, are still our enemy.

We haven’t learned anything. Kulinski points this out as a rejoinder for those right-wingers, who rant about the ‘regressive left’. No, it’s not the Left, who are making the same mistakes.

He also produces a few more embarrassing photos. One shows Ronald Reagan meeting members of the Mujahideen in the White House. The other is a newspaper article from 1983 praising Osama bin Laden as a religious warrior ‘on the road to peace’.

Kulinski responds to his critics, who have accused him of ignoring Islam as the source of this violence, by stating that he is very much aware that extremist, fundamentalist Islam is part of the problem. However, there are ways to counteract it, without bombing anyone. Like freezing the Islamists’ bank accounts, and not selling them arms. He illustrates this point with a newspaper headline about 90 per cent of people killed by drones being the wrong people.

Everything Kulinski says in this video is absolutely correct. But he could also have gone further. Reagan and the rest of his gang of New Cold War thugs at the time were told what would happen by the Russians. The Russian ambassador actually told one of Reagan’s team responsible for arming and funding the mujahideen that after they’d finished with the Russians, they’d come for the Americans. The Soviet ambassador was exactly right. This is precisely what happened with the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the White House on 9/11. The Reagan’s hagiographers cannot say the old butcher wasn’t told.

And as Kulinski says, nothing’s changed in the meantime. The Tories are still following this murderous, stupid policy. The I newspaper today has reminded everyone that David Cameron is responsible for the current mess in Libya. But he was also one of those backing further airstrikes in Syria, though Private Eye has pointed out that he tended to send the planes in only at times when someone else, usually the Americans, had complained that Britain wasn’t doing enough.

And as Mike has pointed out in his critique of today’s report on Cameron’s legacy in Syria, that’s only one disaster for which he’s responsible. His whole administration was responsible for other persecution and suffering in Britain, amongst the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the working class, who he has impoverished and exploited with welfare cuts and the imposition of highly exploitative working practices.

Which also follows a long Tory tradition, going all the way back to Maggie Thatcher and beyond.

It’s high time they were thrown out of power, and replaced with an administration genuinely determined to improve the lives of the unemployed, the sick and working people in Britain, and use peaceful means to stamp out the spread of murderous extremism abroad.

Secular Talk: Judge Has Journalist Arrested for Using Freedom of Information Act

July 10, 2016

It seems that freedom of the press is under attack all around the world. Erdogan, the wannabe Ottoman Sultan of Turkey, has made himself notorious for jailing anyone, journalist or not, who dares criticise him. John Kampfner, in his book, Freedom for Sale, describes the clampdown on press and media freedom across the world, in Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Dubai and Russia. And now America. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on a Vice Report about the arrest of a journalist in the US state of Georgia, Mark Thomason, and his lawyer, Russell Stookey, by the chief judge of Pickens County superior Court, Brenda Weaver. Thomason’s the publisher of a small, local newspaper, Fannin Focus. They were arrested on charges of identity fraud and making false statements. Thomason’s real crime was making official requests for public documents on illegally cashed cheques. He and Stookey also issued subpoenas to the court’s banks to get them to provide information on this issue. Weaver claims that Thomason made false statements when filing the official requests, and that he did not ask her permission, when issuing the subpoenas, and so was attempting to steal that information on the banking details. Weaver also stated that she resented Thomason’s weekly attacks on her character in his paper, saying, ‘I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned.’

Kulinski points out that this is indirect violation of the amendments in the Constitution guaranteeing the freedom of the press. He points out that she had the two arrested not for slander or libel, but simply because she didn’t like what he said about her. She is the criminal in this case, who for her attack on one of America’s fundamental freedoms should be jailed instead of the journo and his lawyer.

I know this is an American case, but I’m posting it because, along with the good and noble stuff we’ve had come across the Pond – MLK, Civil Rights, the Freedom of Information Act, and Elvis – our politicians seem determined also to pick up every wretched, degrading idea as well. Like workfare, which first emerged under the Republicans, and was being touted over here by the Conservatives under Thatcher. Mike and the other disability activists have been given the run-around by the DWP when they’ve tried to use in the British Freedom of Information Act to get the info on the number of disabled people, who’ve died after being wrongly declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos and its successor, Maximus. The DWP first of all declared that the requests were frivolous. Then, when this was overturned on appeal, they delayed releasing the information, and waited till almost the very last minute before appealing against the decision, and then, after they were told to release it, they cavilled against the terms of the request, and deliberately misinterpreted them so that they could issue the wrong information.

And then Ian Duncan Smith had the sheer audacity to pretend to break out in tears during an interview with Ian Hislop on Channel 4, to show he genuinely cared about the unemployed. This was after he and his boss, David Cameron, were shown having a jolly old guffaw in parliament when a Labour MP was reading out tales of the hardship the government sanctions had caused. They looked like the Chuckle Brothers, if those stalwarts of British children’s television had made the weird decision to make their characters grotesque old Etonian snobs.

And then the Tories a few months ago held an inquiry on making the terms of the Freedom of Information Act even narrower, so the public would not be able to get access to so much government information. They did so, because they didn’t like the power it gave citizens like Mike and so many other activists to challenge government decisions. Rather than being used for this purpose, the government issued a statement that the information provided under the Act should only be used to understand how a decision was made. In other words, shut up, you proles, and obey.

If Brenda Weaver gets away with this in America, I can see it spreading to this country. You can read in Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column, week in, week out, reports of how local authorities up and down Britain have tried to imprison ordinary people for daring to criticise them on blogs, in the press and even for notices they’ve put on the windows of their own property. In one particularly hilarious incident down here in the West Country, a parish councillor in Compton Dando went berserk and was trying to have arrested the appalling felon, who stuck a picture of him as Adolf Hitler in the local public call box. The fiend! But I can see the big boys and girls further up the food chain – Cameron, IDS, Jeremy Hunt and now Theresa May, as being equally, if not more eager, to have journalists arrested for spreading the wrong message, if they could. The DWP’s constant delays and appeals under IDS certainly shows that it doesn’t want to co-operate in releasing embarrassing information. And I can see IDS ordering the arrest of journalists under trumped up charges for maligning him, if he could get away with it. This is the man, after all, who turns up in parliament with an armed guard, just in case he’s attacked by a squad of elite ninja disabled people and their careers. This is the man, after all, who has made up lie after lie about himself, having qualifications he does not possess and serving as a major in the army, when he was returned to unit. Probably. Just before he left the DWP he was whining about getting the blame for welfare-to-work, when it was Labour that invented it. Well, so they did, but he could have discontinued it. He didn’t, and so he deserves the condemnation he got. And the probable new leader of the Tories, Theresa May, is an authoritarian, who wants access to everyone’s internet and phone data. Just in case we’re all members of ISIS or paedos.

If this gang of would-be tyrants think they can get away with arresting people for using the Freedom of Information Act, they will.

Secular Talk on Donald Trump’s Attempt to Sue the Onion

May 18, 2016

This is yet more evidence how psychological incompetent Donald Trump is to serve his country as its head of state. And it’s hilarious!

In this piece from Secular Talk, the show’s host, Kyle Kulinski, talks about an article in Legal News discussing how The Donald tried to sue the Onion for libel three years ago in 2013. The Onion’s a satirical website. In 2013 it ran a piece under Donald Trump’s names, entitled, ‘When You’re Low, Just Think: In 15-20 Years I’ll Be Dead’, and then went on to discuss how unpopular the Coiffured Clown is. Trump and his frail ego went berserk, and his attorney sent of a letter to the Onion demanding that they pull the article and apologise, or else. In fact, as Kyle Kulinski says here, the letter probably wasn’t written by an attorney or spokesman, but by Trump himself. He’s known for spending his time combing the press and news for anything on him, and then getting irate when they say something he doesn’t like.

Secular Talk also had a piece about him a few days ago, in which they discussed another piece of Trump’s weird personal history. Apparently in the 1980s or thereabouts he used to ring newspapers up pretending to be his own publicist, a John Miller, and start praising himself to the rafters. One of the American newspapers, I think it may have been the Washington Post, did a piece about this, including a clip from one of these phone calls. Trump denied it was him, stating on a TV interview that it didn’t sound like him. Kulinski, however, made the point that it does sound like The Donald, and at various points in his long spiel about how wonderful he was, Trump would occasionally forget to talk in the third person, and say ‘I’ instead. He’d correct himself afterwards and carry on as before. Nevertheless, that slip confirmed that it was him all along.

He also got annoyed with someone else and threatened to sue them when they dared to mock his risible ‘Birther’ views. Trump, like many extreme Right-wing Republicans, doesn’t believe that Obama should be president, ’cause he doesn’t believe that he was actually born in America. Obama, however, pointed out that he was born in Hawaii. This produced the response from the Republicans that he should confirm this by showing his birth certificate. Trump was one of them. One of the media wags decided to spoof this by claiming that The Donald was not fully human, and his father was really an orang-utan. They put up a picture of Trump next to one of the apes to show that Trump’s hair colour was closer to the orang-utans’ than to everyone else’s. Trump, however, took the jibe way too seriously, and instead of seeing it as a rather daft joke, viewed it instead as a terrible slur on his ancestry. He therefore started waving his birth certificate around to show he had a human father, and started threatening the joker with a libel action.

He really, really doesn’t have any sense of perspective when it comes to these jibes and insults. I don’t know, but I think probably almost everybody in the West realises that humans and apes can’t breed, despite what the Nazis tried to say to the contrary about Blacks during the Third Reich. And it’s an old joke anyway. In the early 19th century there was a novel about a mysterious red-headed stranger, who arrives from the East Indies, called Mr Ouran Haut-Ton. Mr Haut-Ton thrives in business, becomes a successful MP, and eventual gains a peerage and joins the House of Lords. The whole joke is that the distinguished gentleman is an orang-utan. Try saying Ouran Haut-Ton as it would be pronounced in French. That should give you a clue. This shows you how long people in Britain have been joking that their leaders in business and politics are really just strategically shaved apes.

Moreover, satirists in Britain have been taking the mick out of politicians and celebrities by writing spoof articles under their names for a very long time. Craig Brown has been doing it for about twenty years or so in the pages of Private Eye. He did once get sued by one of the Tories. I’ve a feeling it might have been Alan Clarke, and that did end up going to court. But such spoof have been a staple of satire for so long that no-one takes them seriously as really being by the people they send up.

Trump’s manifest lack of any sense of humour or perspective about this is funny, but there’s a very serious side to this. Kulinski makes the point that Trump says he wants to ‘beef up’ the libel laws so that he can sue people who publish material he doesn’t like, and get more money. This is censorship. Kulinski compares Trump to Erdogan, the wannabe-sultan of Turkey. Erdogan had a doctor charged, because he dared to retweet a picture showing the Turkish president alongside Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. He also had another man arrested after his wife wrote a snitch letter, saying he turned the TV off whenever Erdogan came on. And he demanded that Angela Merkel prosecute a pair of German satirists after they took the mick out of his litigiousness on a late night programme on German TV. He was disappointed, as Merkel stood up for free speech, and turned him down.

Free speech lives in Germany, but may not last much longer in America if Trump gets into power, as he’ll spend his time trying to censor people from saying anything critical about him whatsoever. If he gets into the White House, all you’re going to hear from the press for the next four years will be the sound of ‘Duce! Duce!’ and phone calls to their lawyers to protect them when The Donald sends his squadristi round to have a quiet word after they’ve written something he doesn’t like.

Dick Coughlan on the Six Greatest UKIP Excuses

April 30, 2016

This is another funny and informative video, courtesy of the internet. In it, Dick Coughlan takes apart UKIP’s six greatest excuses for their blunders and generally foul behaviour. He starts with a general point about the implausibility of Nigel Farrage’s statement about the party’s decline from its supposed massive rise last year being due to establishment opposition. This is clearly disproven by the fact that Farrage was given every opportunity to speak all over the television news, and was given columns in the Independent and Express. Coughlan states that the real reason must have been because Farrage was permanently drunk, as whenever he appeared, he had a pint in his hand.

And then Coughlan moves on to the other excuses UKIP have had to make. These include trying to explain away Kilroy-Silk’s racist rant against Arabs in the Express. His secretary tried telling everyone she had sent it by mistake. It was an earlier, unedited version of an already-published column. Kilroy hadn’t sent it, because he doesn’t know how to operate emails and electronic messaging.

Then there was the case of the Kipper, who took a photograph of himself in blackface with a funny clown nose, and the tried to explain it as a face mask for acne. Nigel Farrage, again, tried excuse himself arriving late for a meeting in Faversham in Kent by complaining that it was all due to immigrants clogging up the roads. Another Kipper, who was photographed making the Nazi salute, and tried to explain that away by telling the world that he was reaching for his phone, which was held by his girlfriend. He wanted to take it off her, ’cause he didn’t want to look like a pot plant. Right. Another Scots Kipper issued a long rant against gays and immigrants tried to explain his comments away as due to the effects of the medical drugs he was taking. A neuropharmacologist explained that was untrue, because sedative drugs merely make the patient more likely to tell the truth by removing inhibitions. It takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth, and so their real feelings are more likely to come out if people start taking sedative tablets. Coughlan draws the obvious conclusion from this is that Trump must be taking thousands of such drugs to come out with his racist bilge.

And finally, there’s the case of the Kipper, who had the horrendous statement that the three year old boy and his brother, whose bodies were washed up in Turkey after falling out of a migrant boat, were the victims of their families’ greed in trying to get to Europe from Turkey in search of a better life. In fairness to the Kipper, he does unfortunately have a point. The migrants had taken refuge in Turkey for safety, but had then the tried to move on to Europe. The Turks, unfortunately, do have their problems with Islamic radicalism. There have been terrorist attacks there, just like those in Paris, London and Brussels, and Erdogan has been giving covert aid to the jihadis. But it’s much safer than Syria. Nevertheless, the children’s death is horrific, and the Kipper’s use of them to make a general point about economic migration appears cynical and tasteless.

I don’t agree with Coughlan’s atheism, but I’ve decided to reblog this as according to Hope Not Hate, there are over 1,500 extreme Right wing candidates standing at the election on Thursday. Most of them are for UKIP. Hope Not Hate makes the point that they’re not as bad as the hard Right, like the NF, BNP, National Action and the other Nazis. Nevertheless, they are promoting racism. This last point has been reinforced by Farrage appearing in the news yesterday whining that the Brexit campaign didn’t include enough about the threat of immigration. I also oppose them as Farrage and the leading lights of the party are Neo-Libs, who want to get rid of the welfare state and privatise the NHS. That alone should be enough to make people want to keep them out of government.

Secular Talk: Saudi Arabia Seeking to Get Nuclear Weapons

January 17, 2016

This video from the atheist news site, Secular Talk, comes from 20th May 2015. And it’s really scary. It’s about a report in the Sunday Times that the Saudis are so upset about the deal between America and Iran, allowing the Iranians to develop nuclear power, that they are approaching Pakistan to acquire nukes themselves. Saudi Arabia also bankrolled much of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb programme. The fear is that this will start an arms race in the Middle East, with Turkey and Egypt also racing to acquire the wretched things. And America looks the other way, because Saudi Arabia is ‘our oil buttbuddies’.

The show’s presenter, Kyle Kulinski, states very clearly why Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is a monumentally bad idea. As an atheist, he is mostly concerned about their religious fanaticism. Iran is another fundamentalist Muslim country, but they’re actually far more liberal than the Saudis. And many of them are secular. This is true. The shahs during their modernisation programme did try to create something like a Western-style civil society away from the religious establishment, while trying to retain their religious sanction as ‘the Shadow of God on Earth’. And the ubiquity of religion under the Islamic Regime has instead put many Iranians off. A few years ago, Private Eye published a piece from Iran in their ‘Letter from …’ foreign affairs column. This piece, by an anonymous Iranian, reported the widespread dissatisfaction with the mullahs’ corruption, and that only one per cent of the population actually bothered to go to the mosque. This is in contrast with the highly religious Saudi state, whose government includes people actively funding Islamist terrorism in the form of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Kulinski believes the Saudis are far more unstable than the former Soviet Union, which was an atheist state and so didn’t believe in an afterlife. And because of this, he considers that the Soviets were much less likely to start a nuclear war. And even if the Saudis don’t start one now, we can’t be sure of what their leaders would be like in the future. Not all of the secular leaders in the Middle East were entirely sane, like Colonel Gaddafy. And apart from the Saudis, there’s President Erdogan of Turkey, who is also an Islamist and unpredictable.

Kulinski makes it clear that he thinks even America having nukes is a bad idea. But it’s even worse for a country as unpredictable as Saudi Arabia to join the nuclear club. What if their government gets overthrown, he wonders, and we’re called in to combat the new regime? In the meantime, this story has not been reported anywhere else, which is also frightening as no-one’s doing anything about it. The Republicans are worried about Iran having nukes, while Obama’s deal has actually prevented them from getting them. The real danger, if this story is to be believed is Saudi Arabia.

I actually wonder how credible the story is. Lobster accused the Sunset Times under Andrew Neill of running propaganda for MI5 and British intelligence, though gave no examples. So it might be true. Or it could simply be a secret service scare story, for whatever reason. I hope it was the latter.

Vox Political on Muted Tory Criticism of Saudi Arabia

January 7, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted up this piece yesterday, reporting David Cameron’s failure to express only muted criticism about Saudi Arabia’s disgusting human rights record, after the beheading of 47 people earlier this week: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/06/minister-defends-uks-approach-to-saudi-human-rights-record/

When pressed on the reasons the Tories hadn’t made stronger criticisms, the Tory foreign minister, Tobias Ellwood, said: “Founded just under 100 years ago, Saudi Arabia is a relatively young country and we recognise change cannot happen overnight. The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia reflects widely held conservative social values and as such needs to move at a pace that is acceptable to its society.”

This is risible nonsense. Nearly all of the countries in the Middle East, including modern Turkey, are young countries less than 100 or so years old. Turkey as it is now is the creation of Kemal Ataturk and The Young Turks, who strove to modernise the country following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. Yet Turkey, until Erdogan took power, strove to be a secular democracy. The country also has severe problems. It’s been under military rule several times, and political prisoners, especially Kurdish separatists, have been imprisoned. And there is a concerted campaign to stamp out Kurdish culture. Nevertheless, the country’s relative religious tolerance was show on Sunday, when ITV screened a new series in which Adrian Chiles, the former presenter of the One Show, travels round the Mediterranean looking for what Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and what unites, rather than divides them. Chiles is a Roman Catholic. He’s a convert to Christianity, whose turn to the Church of Rome surprised his atheist parents. On Sunday’s programme, he talked to his Croatian mother, who told him why she became an atheist, before travelling to Turkey. There he had perfectly amicable discussions about religion with two very modern young women, a fisherman, and a Jewish bloke with a shop in Istanbul’s bazaar. Among the man’s wares was a chess set, where the two sides, white and black, had been made instead into Crusaders and Turkish warriors. I’ve no doubt that in some parts of the Middle East, this would provoke a riot, if not anything worse. But in Istanbul, no-one seemed remotely concerned or even much interested.

Syria also is a new country. It, Iraq and many of the countries Middle Eastern nations were previously Ottoman provinces. They were formed into independent states by the European imperial powers, Britain and France. Syria, while not remotely a democracy, was a secular regime, which included Christians as well as Muslims amongst its founders. Lebanon suffered a terrible civil war in the 1970s and 80s, driven by religious rivalry between Christians and Muslims. But it has a kind of democratic constitution, in which various governmental posts are held by members of particular sects and faiths, in order to secure a fair balance of power that will cancel out or at least partially counteract ethnic or religious tensions. It was also one of the leading centres of the modern Arabic rival, and many of the founders of modern Arabic letters were Christians.
As for Iraq, this was also a secular country, though Islam was still the dominant religion under the law. It was able to maintain a relatively secular constitution even though it contains several of the holiest sites in Shi’a Islam. A country’s youth or age is no excuse for it having an appalling human rights’ record.

And in fact, in terms of practices now seen as barbaric, the West and Islam weren’t so very different even as late as the 19th century. I can remember reading a history of the Balkans by an American historian over a decade ago, which pointed out that the taking of heads by soldiers in Ottoman Turkey was almost exactly the same as the practice of taking the heads of criminals by lawmen and bounty hunters on the American frontier. Until the invention of photography, and its adoption by the forces of law and order, the only way to prove a violent criminal had been killed was to bring his head into the local sheriff’s office, and display it to the authorities. And so they did. Now the American dispossession and genocide of the Indians was a great evil, but this didn’t stop America striving to become more liberal, more just and humane towards its citizens.

Saudi Arabia, by contrast, is still extraordinarily conservative. It was founded in the 1920s when the founders of the current ruling Ibn Sa’ud dynasty took power with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the revolution, the new king had his opponents beheaded and their heads displayed on his palace walls. And change has been extremely slow. Ismail Pasha, the Sultan of Egypt, was genuinely trying to stamp out slavery in his country in the 19th century. The Saudis only got round to banning it in 1965. Some of this conservatism might be due to Saudi Arabia’s possession of two of the very holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, the cities in which Mohammed lived and taught. But even this probably wouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle to the growth of human rights in that country.

The real cause of the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia is the extreme intolerance of Wahhabi Islam, and the Saudis dominance of the oil industry. They showed just how powerful they were economically with the oil crisis in the 1970s. And as they are still a major market for British goods, like guns and armaments, Cameron and co are very reluctant to risk offending them. And so the Conservatives don’t dare to voice anything but the mildest criticism, even when the Saudis are killing political prisoners and funding terrorism. Far from it. They’re even held up as our most valued allies.

William Blum’s Awkward Questions for Obama on Foreign Policy

December 20, 2015

William Blum is a writer and campaigner against America’s barbarous and brutal foreign policy. As well as writing a series of books, he also produces the Anti-Empire Report on the web. In the latest issue, 141, he puts a series of awkward questions that should be asked of Obama regarding his foreign policy in the Middle East, but which won’t. Several of these are about the way America is determined to punish Syria, but does nothing about Saudi Arabia, which has done far more to support Islamist terrorism. He also points out just how much aid Turkey gives to the Islamists.

Which is most important to you – destroying ISIS, overthrowing Syrian president Assad, or scoring points against Russia?

Do you think that if you pointed out to the American people that Assad has done much more to aid and rescue Christians in the Middle East conflicts than any other area leader that this would lessen the hostility the United States public and media feel toward him? Or do you share the view of the State Department spokesperson who declared in September that “The Assad regime frankly is the root of all evil”?

Why does the United States maintain crippling financial sanctions and a ban on military aid to Syria, Cuba, Iran and other countries but not to Saudi Arabia?

What does Saudi Arabia have to do to lose its strong American support? Increase its torture, beheadings, amputations, whippings, stonings, punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, or forced marriages and other oppression of women and girls? Increase its financial support for ISIS and other jihadist groups? Confess to its role in 9-11? Attack Israel?

What bothers you more: The Saudi bombing of the people of Yemen or the Syrian bombing of the people of Syria?

Does the fact that ISIS never attacks Israel raise any question in your mind?

Does it concern you that Turkey appears to be more intent upon attacking the Kurds and the Russians than attacking ISIS? And provides medical care to wounded ISIS soldiers? Or that ISIS deals its oil on Turkish territory? Or that NATO-member Turkey has been a safe haven for terrorists from Libya, Chechnya, Qatar, and elsewhere? Or that last year Vice President Biden stated that Turkish president Erdogan’s regime was backing ISIS with “hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons”?

In the previous issue, 140, Blum points out how much aid the Western nations, as well as the Gulf states, have given ISIS, al-Qaeda and the other Islamist terrorists, and how they have used them against secular regimes. Like Gaddafi’s in Libya. He also suggests that the real reason for the attack on Syria is partly over control of another strategic oil pipeline.

The mainstream media almost never mentions the proposed Qatar natural-gas pipelines – whose path to Europe Syria has stood in the way of for years – as a reason for much of the hostility toward Syria. The pipelines could dethrone Russia as Europe’s dominant source of energy.

He also states that the real reason for the US’ hostility to Assad isn’t because he’s a vicious dictator, but because he’s independent and does not do what Washington tells him.

The United States, I suggest, is hostile to the Syrian government for the same reason it has been hostile to Cuba for more than half a century; and hostile to Venezuela for the past 15 years; and earlier to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; and to Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Chile; and so on continuing through the world atlas and history books.

What these governments have had in common can be summarized in a single word – independence … independence from American foreign policy; the refusal to be a client state of Washington; the refusal to be continuously hostile to Washington’s Officially Designated Enemies; insufficient respect and zeal for the capitalist way of life.

They’re at http://williamblum.org/aer/read/140

Go and read what’s really behind America’s and the Tories’ Middle Eastern policy; and http://williamblum.org/aer/read/141

ISIS Is the Saudis’ Private Army for Control of the Oil Fields

December 9, 2015

I looked up this article in the New Eastern Outlook thanks to Harry, one of the commenter’s on Mike’s blog. Mike reported that Britain has bombed a Syrian army base, apparently in response to a criticism about us by Assad. See the article ‘Cameron Orders Attack on Syrian Army, Retaliation for Assad Statements | Veterans Today‘ at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/08/cameron-orders-attack-on-syrian-army-retaliation-for-assad-statements-veterans-today/.

Harry wrote

On the NEO site (New Eastern Outlook) today is a very good analysis by William Engdahl. He concludes that ISIS, once the “religious cover” is stripped away, functions as the Saudi Army. This is a self evident truth, but there is more. The United States of America has only managed to fund its grotesque list of wars and 700+ bases encircling Russia, China, and Iran by enjoying the privilage of the Petrodollar (that unique arrangement between the USA and KSA). The US’s determination to bring Russia back to heel following the western looting post Yeltsin, has forced Russia to turn to China. Now the BRICS, Eurasion Union, SCO, New silk Road etc are reducing drastically the need to hold dollars for trade by instituting a parallell banking system using Yuan (renminbi) and The Ruble as well as other BRICS currencies. If the Saudis were to be successful in grabbing Iraq and Syrias oil then the new qatari pipeline connecting to the Nabuccoi would isolate Russia and reinforce the Petrodollar and US hegemony. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Which is why WW4 is entirely possible and perhaps likely unless the peoples of the west act to stop this lunacy.

The article is ‘What Stinks in Saudi Ain’t the Camel Dung‘. It’s at http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/08/what-stinks-in-saudi-aint-the-camel-dung/

The article traces the emergence of modern Islamist terrorism, from the CIA’s arrangement for the transferral of the banned Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in order to create a powerful right-wing Islamic movement that could be used against Soviet attempts to gain power in the region. It also describes how the current Saudi King, Salman, and the intelligence minister, Prince Turki al-Faisal, as well as the Muslim World League, financed and set up Osama bin Laden and what became al-Qaeda in the 1970s through a network of conservative Islamic charities. The Saudis were also responsible for funding and aiding al-Qaeda fighters in the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s.

The article also alleges that the shooting down of the Russian plane by Erdogan’s regime in Turkey was due to a deal Erdogan had made with the Saudis to allow al-Qaeda/ ISIS training camps in Turkey. The article concludes that ISIS is now effectively a religious disguise for a Saudi military campaign to control the area’s oilfields.

What stinks in Saudi Arabia ain’t the camel dung. It’s the monarchy of King Salman and his hot-headed son, Prince Salman. For decades they have financed terrorism under a fake religious disguise, to advance their private plutocratic agenda. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with money and oil. A look at the ISIS map from Iraq to Syria shows that they precisely targeted the oil riches of those two sovereign states. Saudi control of that oil wealth via their ISIS agents, along with her clear plan to take out the US shale oil competition, or so Riyadh reckons, would make the Saudi monarchy a vastly richer state, one, perhaps because of that money, finally respected by white western rich men and their society. That is clearly bovine thinking.

Don’t bet on that Salman.

This all sounds exactly right to me. I’ve read papers published from one of the American anti-terrorism think tanks that made it clear that Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi intelligence minister, was indeed behind al-Qaeda operations in Syria and Iraq. Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, also reveals that one of the reasons for the allied invasion of Iraq was the Saudi desire to get their mitts on the Iraqi oil reserves, which are the largest after those of Saudi Arabia itself. And there’s a very interesting article in Lobster that states that al-Qaeda’s massacre of the Shi’a in Iraq was on behalf of the Saudis. It was not ordered by Osama bin Laden.

This raises some very awkward questions about the type of war Cameron wants to drag us into. We are entering a hall of mirrors here, where the truth is the exact opposite of what we’re being told. Cameron, and before him Bliar and Bush have told us we’re fighting a ‘war on terror’, but so far we seem to be fighting to benefit the chief financiers of that terror, Saudi Arabia. I think this is one area where the Islamaphobes might actually be right. There was a comment by a former serviceman on one of the anti-Islam sites that said that the Saudis boast about having the Americans wrapped round their little finger, and that they’ll go and fight anyone the Saudis send them against. Unfortunately, I can see this as being true. It does not, however, mean that anything else the Islamophobes say is.

In which case, it’s time to break this poisonous relationship. We are not the Saudis’ army, and we will not help them murder the other peoples of the Middle East, Muslim and non-Muslim, for their own profit. The Islamic modernist, Mohammed Abduh, was impressed with what he believed was the democratic nature of early Islam. He lauded the British Empire as the greatest force for Islam, because it was bringing democracy to the world. The Saudis are the complete opposite – a repressive, absolute monarchy. It’s time to revive and stress that democracy against their lies and terror.

Commemorating Christian Martyrdom: The Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015

Armenian Gospels

Armenian Gospel Book from the Monastery of Gladjor, c. 1321

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This was a series of massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. The Armenians had risen up, like the other, majority Christians subject nations in the Balkans across the Black Sea to gain their freedom from the decaying Turkish empire. To counter this, the last Turkish sultan, Talat Pasha issued a firman ordering that the Armenians should be rounded up and slaughtered. 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children were butchered.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this week when he marked the massacres, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. I’m not sure if this is quite true, as I think about ten years or so previously the German colonial authorities in East Africa had also organised a genocide of the indigenous Herrero people. The occasion has a wider, European significance than just its attempt to exterminate the Armenians. Hitler noted the way the other European powers remained silent and did not act to stop it. This convinced him that they also wouldn’t act to save the Jews when the Nazi state began to persecute and murder them in turn. As he said ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’

Denial of Genocide by Turkish Authorities

Unfortunately, the genocide is still controversial. Robert Fisk in his article in Monday’s Independent discussed the Turkish government’s refusal to recognise the massacres as a genocide. Pope Francis’ comments sparked outrage amongst the Turkish authorities, and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet the prime minister. Fisk himself recalled the abuse he had received from Turks outraged by his discussion of the genocide. He stated he began receiving mail about the issue when he personally dug the bones of some of the Armenians out of the sands of the Syrian desert in 1992. He stated that some of the letters were supportive. Most were, in his words, ‘little short of pernicious’.

In Turkey any discussion or depiction of the Armenian genocide as genocide was brutally suppressed. A few years ago, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was killed for writing about them. Liberal Turks, who wish their nation face up to this dark episode of their history, have been imprisoned. The great Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, was sent to jail a few years ago. His writing on the genocide was judged to be ‘insulting to Turkish nationhood’, a criminal offence.

Fatih Arkin, Turkish Director, on Movie about Genocide

Dink’s assassination has, however, acted to promote a greater discussion and awareness of the genocide, and a large number of both Armenians and Turks are now pressing for the Turkish government to recognise it as such. Indeed, the Turkish-German film director, Fatih Arkin, made a film about the genocide, The Cut which premiered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in January.

In the interview below, Mr Arkin talks about he was moved to make the film following Dink’s assassination, and the number of Turks, who also join with the Armenians in demanding their government officially recognise the atrocity. Among those is the grandson of one of the leading perpetrators. What is interesting is that the film received a wide release in Turkey with no opposition or move to ban it.

Fisk on Turks Who Saved Armenians

This seems to show a new openness amongst the Turkish people as a whole about the genocide. And Fisk in his article notes that there many courageous and humane Turks, who refused to comply with Sultan’s orders, and saved Armenians. He stated in his article that these included at least one provincial governor, as well as lesser Turkish soldiers and policemen. Fisk felt that the Armenians should compile a list of these heroes, not least because it would make it harder for politicians like Erdogan, the country’s prime minister, not to sign a book of condolences, which included their names.

And these men were courageous: they risked their lives to save others from the carnage. There is absolutely no reason why they should not also be commemorated. In Judaism, I understand that righteous gentiles, who save Jews from persecution, are commemorated and believed to have a part in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. There is a section of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, which displays the names of such righteous gentiles, who saved Jews during the Third Reich.

Syriac Evangelistary

The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from a Syriac Evangelistary

Massacre of Syriac Christians as Part of Wider Pattern of Massacres

The massacre of the Empire’s Christian minorities was not confined to the Armenians, although they are the best known victims. Other Christian peoples, including the Syriac-speaking churches in what is now Iraq and Syria, were also attacked and massacred, in what has become known as ‘the Day of the Sword’. The massacres also spread into Iran, where the Christian communities there also suffered massacres. They too deserve commemoration.

Peaceful Relations between Christians and Muslims Normal in Ottoman Empire

Historians of the Turkish Empire have pointed out that the Armenian genocide, and similar massacres committed by the Ottoman forces in the Balkans during the nationalist wars of the 19th century, were largely the exception. For most of the time Christian and Muslim lived peacefully side by side. Quite often Muslims and Christians shared the same cemeteries. And in one part of Bosnia, at least, the local Roman Catholic church stood bang right next to the local mosque. There were even a small group of worshippers, who seem not to have differentiated between Christianity and Islam.

There’s a story that one orthodox priest, while officiating mass at his church, noticed a group of people at the back wearing Muslim dress. He went and asked them why they were attending a Christian church, if they were Muslims. The people replied that they didn’t really make much difference between the two faiths. On Friday, they prayed at the mosque, and on Sunday they went to church.

Historical Bias and Nationalist Violence by Christians in 19th century Balkans

Historians of the Balkans have also pointed out the dangers of religious bias when discussing the various nationalist wars in the 19th century. In the 1870s the Ottoman Turks committed a series of atrocities suppressing a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria. This outraged public opinion in England, and provoked the Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, to demand that the Turks be ‘thrown out of Europe, bag and baggage’. Other British and American observers noted that atrocities were hardly one sided. Christians also committed them, but these were ignored by the West. One author of a book on the Balkans I read back in the 1990s argued that the various atrocities committed in this period were caused not so much by religious differences, but from nationalism, and so were no different from other atrocities committed by other countries across the world, and in western Europe today as part of ethnic and nationalist conflicts, such as Northern Ireland.

British Empire and Atrocities in Kenya

Other decaying empires have also committed horrific atrocities, and attempted to cover them up. It was only after a very long legal campaign, for example, that the British government admitted the existence and complicity in the regimes of mass murder, torture, mutilation and internment in Kenya to suppress the Mao Mao rebellion. See the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags, for a complete history of this.

ISIS and the Massacre of Christians

The commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians, and by extension the other Christian subject peoples of the Ottoman and Persian Empires at the time, has become pressing relevant because the persecution today of Christians in the region by the resurgent Islamist movements, like ISIS, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Yet these groups differ in their attitude to the massacre of non-Muslim civilians from that of the Turkish government. The official Turkish attitude has been silence and an attempt to suppress or rebut the genocide’s existence. This points to an attitude of shame towards them. ISIS, which last Monday murdered 30 Ethiopian Coptic Christians, shows absolutely no shame whatsoever. Far from it: they actually boast about their murder and enslavement of innocent civilians.

Conversion of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians by Force, and Murder of Civilians Contrary to Muslim Law

I was taught at College that their actions contravene sharia law. Islamic law also has a set of regulations for the conduct of warfare, which rule out the conversion of the ‘Peoples of the Book’ – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – by force. Nor may women, children and non-combatants be harmed. And this has been invoked by the ulema in the past to protect Christian and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century one of the Turkish sultans decided he was going to use military force to make the Christians in the Balkans convert to Islam. He sought approval for his course of action from the majlis, the governing assembly of leading Muslim clerics, who issued legal opinions on questions of Muslim law and practice. They refused, on the grounds that it was un-Islamic. The sultan backed down, and his planned campaigns against his Christian subjects were abandoned.

ISIS Also Butcher Muslims and Yezidis

Nor do ISIS, and similar Islamist movements limit themselves to attacking Christians. We’ve also seen them butcher and enslave the Yezidis, as well as other Muslims, simply for being the ‘wrong’ type of Muslim. For ISIS, they, and only they, represent true Islam. The rest are part of the ‘juhailiyya’, the world of darkness and ignorance, who must be fought and conquered.

Need to Commemorate All Victims of Atrocities

The Armenian genocide and its victims should rightly be remembered, as should so many other holocausts since then. Not only is this owed to the victims and history itself, but also to stop similar massacres occurring. And we need to remember that the capacity for such evil is not confined to particular nations, but can be found throughout history and humanity.