The Golden Platform

A FOCUS ON THE FORCES CHANGING OUR WORLD

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Putting Syria into some perspective

by William Blum

The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO, and the European Union — or an approved segment thereof, can usually get what they want. They wanted Saddam Hussein out, and soon he was swinging from a rope. They wanted the Taliban ousted from power, and, using overwhelming force, that was achieved rather quickly. They wanted Moammar Gaddafi’s rule to come to an end, and before very long he suffered a horrible death. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected, but this black man who didn’t know his place was sent into distant exile by the United States and France in 2004. Iraq and Libya were the two most modern, educated and secular states in the Middle East; now all four of these countries could qualify as failed states.

These are some of the examples from the past decade of how the Holy Triumvirate recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that they can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian intervention”. The 19th- and 20th-century colonialist-imperialist mentality is alive and well in the West.

Next on their agenda: the removal of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As with Gaddafi, the ground is being laid with continual news reports — from CNN to al Jazeera — of Assad’s alleged barbarity, presented as both uncompromising and unprovoked. After months of this media onslaught who can doubt that what’s happening in Syria is yet another of those cherished Arab Spring “popular uprisings” against a “brutal dictator” who must be overthrown? And that the Assad government is overwhelmingly the cause of the violence.

Assad actually appears to have a large measure of popularity, not only in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East. This includes not just fellow Alawites, but Syria’s two million Christians and no small number of Sunnis. Gaddafi had at least as much support in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The difference between the two cases, at least so far, is that the Holy Triumvirate bombed and machine-gunned Libya daily for seven months, unceasingly, crushing the pro-government forces, as well as Gaddafi himself, and effecting the Triumvirate’s treasured “regime change”. Now, rampant chaos, anarchy, looting and shooting, revenge murders, tribal war, militia war, religious war, civil war, the most awful racism against the black population, loss of their cherished welfare state, and possible dismemberment of the country into several mini-states are the new daily life for the Libyan people. The capital city of Tripoli is “wallowing in four months of uncollected garbage” because the landfill is controlled by a faction that doesn’t want the trash of another faction.1 Just imagine what has happened to the country’s infrastructure. This may be what Syria has to look forward to if the Triumvirate gets its way, although the Masters of the Universe undoubtedly believe that the people of Libya should be grateful to them for their “liberation”.

As to the current violence in Syria, we must consider the numerous reports of forces providing military support to the Syrian rebels — the UK, France, the US, Turkey, Israel, Qatar, the Gulf states, and everyone’s favorite champion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia; with Syria claiming to have captured some 14 French soldiers; plus individual jihadists and mercenaries from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, et al, joining the anti-government forces, their number including al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are likely behind the car bombs in an attempt to create chaos and destabilize the country. This may mark the third time the United States has been on the same side as al-Qaeda, adding to Afghanistan and Libya.

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Filed under News Commentary War Syria United States Afghanistan Libya London Suaid Arabia UK France Turkey Israel Qatar NATO European Union Cuba Obama CIA China Imperialism

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Peace activists in failed bid to swarm NATO HQ

SOURCE

Police arrest some of 500 peace activists from more than 10 European countries

Hundreds of peace activists on Sunday tried in vain to break into the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Brussels, with 483 of them arrested by police.

The demonstration, organised by the Belgian association Action for Peace two months before a NATO summit in Chicago, was called to protest the alliance’s intervention in Afghanistan and Libya, and nuclear arming.

"No demonstrator was able to enter NATO headquarters," spokesman for Brussels police, Christian De Coninck, told AFP. “We detained 483 people for questioning and all of them should be free in the evening.”

De Coninck said no one was hurt and no damage was reported.

Demonstrators crossed fields and sought to climb over fences leading to the NATO compound, but were stopped by a large police presence, some on horseback, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

"We neither want the anti-missile shield, nor intervention by NATO in Libya or Afghanistan, nor nuclear bombs that are illegal in our country," said Benoit Calvi, a spokesman for Action for Peace.

Demonstrators shouted “No more NATO”, “We want peace now” and “NATO Game Over”.

"A military alliance that intervenes all over the world and has nuclear weapons is a threat to world peace," said Action for Peace.

Some “500 to 600 policemen” were deployed to counter the demonstration, a policeman said.

Demonstrators, most of them in their twenties, were from Belgium but also arrived from Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.

Those stopped by the police were made to sit in lines with their hands tied behind their back.

In March 2008, about 1,000 peace activists had mounted a similar operation to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. At the time police detained 450 people.

A year later, another attempt to storm NATO headquarters on the 60th anniversary of the military alliance ended with the arrest of 442 people.

Filed under News Chicago NATO Summit Arrests Protest Activism Occupy Police State Free Speech War Arrest Belgium Britain Finland France Germany Spain Sweden Turkey OTAN

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Neoliberals, not Islamists, are the real threat to Tunisia

With Tunisia’s economy in crisis, the Islamist party Ennahda should look beyond US and Bretton Woods principles to save it

by Matt Kennard

Supporters of the Islamist Ennahda movement celebrate outside Ennahda's headquarters in Tunis

I meet Mustafa and Kamal on Avenue Bourguiba, where they protested in January 2011 to get rid of the dictator who ruled their country with an iron-fist for 23 years. Tunisia has changed a lot since then – and celebrated its 56th independence day last week as a free nation. Both men said they will be out again to consolidate the gains of the revolution. “We couldn’t have [talked like this] before, no way,” says Mustafa, a 25-year-old originally from Tabarka in the north of Tunisia. “The only thing I could have told you is how great Ben Ali is, what a good man he is.”

But how independent is free Tunisia from the grips of its former colonial master and its allies? A demonstration last week by a group of fringe fundamentalists calling for sharia law has got some secular Tunisians in a funk again, as well as worrying the French, who are opposed to Ennahda. An opposition politician told me there are even rumours of a French-supported coup. It is clear that the next stage of western connivance in the subjugation of the Tunisian people is the widespread media and political fear over the democratically elected Ennahda party, which is Islamist. But despite constant derision by the western media, Ennahda revealed on Monday that they would not make sharia, or Islamic law, the main source of legislation for the new constitution. Wouldn’t it be better to judge them on their actions rather than conspiracies about their intentions? “We realise we have a historic responsibility to get this right, we are genuinely inclusive,” Said Ferjani, who sits on the Ennahda politburo, told me.

The course from actively arming a kleptocratic dictator to pushing for the Tunisians to support “western values” is familiar. As Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth: “As soon as the native begins to pull on his moorings, and to cause anxiety to the settler, he is handed over to well-meaning souls who … point out to him the specificity and wealth of western values.”

Initially, when people were getting shot by snipers on the streets of Tunis, Hillary Clinton, said the US “didn’t want to take sides” and was worried about the “unrest and instability”. Sarkozy’s administration even offered to send police advisers to Ben Ali to quell the uprising. In the end, over 200 perished. Since the revolution has won out, Clinton and Sarkozy have moved on to praising “progress” in the country while also expressing apparent concern that Ennahda don’t impose Iranian-style dictatorship on the Tunisian people (the US or French didn’t care when it was Pinochet-style dictatorship).

But the fear of Ennahda is misplaced, and based on western desires to remain in firm control. There are plenty of clear differences in Tunisia to 1979 when the Iranian revolution overthrew another western-backed torturing tyrant, the Shah. First, Ennahda have assembled a coalition including secular socialists and social democrats to form their government. The president Moncef Marzouki is a secular human-rights activist who spent decades in the wilderness fighting the US-backed atrocities being committed against dissidents in Tunisia.

The second point is that Tunisian civil society is engaged with the process and will only grow. One of the retrograde patterns you see in a Middle East speckled with US-backed dictatorships is that Islamism is often the only avenue to express dislike of the current state of affairs. The space for secular left movements has been completely crushed since the pan-Arabism of Nasser in Egypt worried the US enough to extinguish the left across the region. Clearly what scares the west more than any Islamist, then, is a secular revolutionary left opposed to the neoliberal order we set up over the past 40 years. That would really hurt the bottom line.

Islamists themselves have often been quite welcoming to the model of the Bretton Woods institutions and with the neoliberal order trying to impose itself on Tunisia, it will be near-impossible for the ruling parties to try something else (even if they want to). Ennahda at the moment has no discernible economic programme, and talked to me mainly about how much it wanted to attract foreign investment, rather than launching on the massive public works initiative that the country really needs. So far, Tunisia has followed US and Bretton Woods dictates to the book, privatising many of its state-owned assets and eviscerating public institutions and subsidies for fuel and food. Many actually compare Ennahda to the Justice and Development party (AKP) in Turkey, and it is no secret that the AKP has been a dream for business and international capital.

In its time in power, the AKP privatised a raft of public assets including Tekel, the state-owned tobacco and alcohol company, which it agreed to sell off as part of the “structural adjustments” attached to a $16bn loan agreement with the IMF. Before Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, started acting like the new sultan, the business press was in raptures about the AKP. This is why I worry for Tunisia – not because of Islamists, but because of neoliberals. With the period of dictatorship over, the economy in Tunisia is now the big issue – with high unemployment everyone here talks jobs. Bretton Woods dictates have proven a disaster around the world as a development model. Ennahda should look elsewhere, for its own survival.

Filed under commentary islam neoliberal tunisia geopolitics Frantz Fanon turkey

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