Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Khmer Rouge

The Islamic State as an ordinary insurgency

The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

The attention heaped on the Islamic State in Western media and public debate has centered primarily on two issues: its religion and its violence.

On both fronts, the group has left observers aghast with its extremism. Those analysts focusing on the religion try to make sense of the group’s distinctive brand of Islamic ideology as well as the “psychopaths” who choose to become its followers.

Those fixated on the group’s violence posit that its seemingly unlimited capacity to brutalize and terrorize has few parallels among violent organizations, so much so that “even al-Qaeda,” as is repeatedly pointed out, has disavowed the group.

Nevertheless, as Marc Lynch recently argued in the Monkey Cage, putting the Islamic State in a broader comparative perspective shows that the group is hardly unique among armed non-state organizations. This in turn points to ways scholars and observers might most productively study and write about the group.

Much of the media coverage and popular discussion of the Islamic State has focused on the group’s atrocious acts of violence. In their orchestrated murders and in the savvyness with which they broadcast them to the world’s horrified viewers, they are perhaps unmatched in the present age.

And yet, to portray the Islamic State as uniquely brutal or unrivaled in its savagery is to forget our unfortunate history – even recent history – that is filled with episodes of extreme violence against civilians committed in the name of some political goal.

One would be hard pressed to argue that the Islamic State’s actions are more unconscionable than those of the Khmer Rouge who created the killing fields of Cambodia, or Renamo of Mozambique whose fighters specialized in the kidnapping, rape and mutilation of women, men and children, or the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon in the Bosnian war; or that the group’s staged beheadings are any more appalling than the thousands of “forced disappearances” conducted behind the scenes in the Salvadoran conflict.

The only difference between cases such as these and the Islamic State when it comes to violence is that the latter operates in the age of social media and uses it to the fullest for shock-and-awe effects.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in mobilizing its own interpretation of theology as part of an ideological-political campaign.

The Darul Islam movement sought to found an Islamic state in Indonesia following independence from the Netherlands in 1948, and its fighters launched violent rebellions in various parts of the archipelago.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda and its predecessor, the Holy Spirit Movement, claimed as their goal the establishment of a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments; the LRA is now responsible for one of the longest running conflicts in Africa.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in its transnational vision to create an Islamic state that rejects existing borders: Darul Islam reemerged in the 1990s in the form of Jemaah Islamiyah, which proclaimed a mission to create an Islamic state spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand and the Philippines.

The Islamic State certainly is not unique among violent organizations in developing networks of traffickers, dealers, and middlemen to secure enormous wealth from natural resources like oil, and the group is typical among rebel and terrorist organizations to capitalize on the political and institutional weaknesses of host states to launch military operations and take over territory.

Neither does the Islamic State stand out for successfully creating its own civilian governance system in towns it secured.

In places like Raqqa, Syria, it may have collected taxes, built infrastructure, posted traffic police at intersections and kept bakeries running while enforcing strict social codes with threats of severe punishment, including public execution, for deviant behavior.

And so have many other militant non-state groups, as my ongoing research on rebel governance shows. In addition to creating sophisticated governance structures, the Naxalites of India ran their own banking system;

the Eritrean rebels ran a pharmaceutical plant while operating a humanitarian wing that worked with international NGOs;

their neighboring Tigrayan rebels conducted extensive land reform; and UNITA of Angola ran a mail system replete with its own internationally-recognized stamps, all in the midst of intense violent conflict against established states.

Like the Islamic State, many groups, including Uganda’s National Resistance Army and Nepal’s Maoist insurgents, had a code of conduct for their fighters and laid out punishments for violations that included execution for the worst offenders.

Critics may charge that the Islamic State, far from ordinary, is in fact extraordinarily unique in its vision to fundamentally reconfigure the international political order itself as part of its all-encompassing goal to create an Islamic caliphate.

There is no doubt this is a radical aspiration that surpasses other organizations in terms of its revolutionary zeal and global scale. It remains, however, just that – an aspiration – and again, the history of conflict has seen no shortage of aspirations that were deemed as threatening, revolutionary and fantastical in their own time.

Talk is talk, and it is interesting and, as I argue below, indeed important to examine what groups claim about themselves. But putting explanatory stock into the ideologies without considering the instrumentalism behind them can do more to mislead than to inform.

The point here is not to downplay the threat posed by the Islamic State or to “normalize” its behavior by highlighting the group’s ordinariness among violent political groups. It is simply to stress that comparatively speaking, the group is not as exceptional as observers and the media have often characterized it.

Putting the Islamic State into a broader theoretical and historical perspective – that is, beyond the frame of “Islamist terrorism” and beyond the post-9/11 period – is important because there are clear dangers in hyperbolizing the group’s own claims to exceptionalism.

To unduly emphasize the Islamic State’s distinctiveness is to distort its threat, inadvertently boost its legitimacy, and worst of all, to directly play into its leaders’ hands.

Whatever the Islamic State has achieved so far, history has seen much of it before in other contexts. Knowledge of these other contexts can therefore inform both scholarship and policy on this pressing issue.

That the Islamic State’s behavior is so consistent with that of so many other militant organizations – and this, despite all its efforts to establish itself as the only true vanguard of an Islamic State in the making – strongly suggests there is a strategic logic underlying the common behavior. This insight in turn suggests some scholarly approaches to understanding the group may prove more productive than others.

First, the banality of the Islamic State among violent political organizations suggests scholars should first and foremost treat the group as a political actor and seek to identify its political goals, capabilities, incentives and strategic calculations. In other words, scholars ought to engage in actor-centric analysis.

Such an approach has reaped enormous benefits in conflict scholars’ collective efforts to understand phenomena such as insurgency, violence, rebel social service provision, war duration and termination, and foreign interventions in conflict.

It is familiarity with this body of work that makes me not at all surprised that the Islamic State reportedly provides health services, taxes local residents, has an elaborate organizational structure (which looks not so dissimilar from the organigrams of other insurgent groups), enforces strict discipline among fighters and is selective in whom it kills. These are classic behavior on the part of strategic armed non-state actors with some amount of military strength.

All of this means, second, that religion-centric analysis may be less useful, even as regards a group that bases its raison d’être on a religious ideology and whose leaders claim to do everything in its name.

The argument here is not that religion is unimportant – it clearly matters because it helps mobilize people around the group, attracts a stream of new recruits and threatens Islamophobic governments and people in the West in just the way the group might wish.

Careful analysis of its religious ideology is worthwhile in the same way analysis of other war-fighting instruments, from violence, social service provision and propaganda, to alliance formation and compliance with international law, has been highly illuminating in making sense of rebel group behavior.

But always, scholars examine these tools not as an end in and of themselves, but as part of a larger effort to understand how armed group pursue their wartime objectives, recognizing that battlefield fights are but one dimension of conflict.

Likewise, any analysis of the Islamic State’s ideology that does not ask why the group chooses to formulate and propagate its ideology the way it does risks becoming, in spite of itself, detached from politics, and potentially serving as an uncritical endorsement of the group’s own claims.

An actor-centric analysis would have us asking not simply what the Islamic State does and says, but also why, or for what ends.

It sees even extremist, seemingly fanatical leaderships like the one heading the Islamic State as rational and strategic, constantly making decisions based on an assessment of what course of action would best enable the group to achieve its objectives of increased military strength and control of territories, markets, ideas and people.

After all, the Islamic State, when expedient, readily put ideology aside and made alliances with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

Critically, an actor-centric analysis has the Islamic State leaders exercising full agency over religion, whereas a religion-centric analysis would have religion driving the Islamic State leaders and their rank-and-file as if they were all but blind adherents – as if their ideology were in fact God-given rather than meticulously and tactfully crafted and propagated by the the Islamic State leadership itself.

Finally, conflict scholarship suggests it would be prudent to avoid making unfounded assumptions about why the Islamic State fighters do what they do, and instead allow for diverse motivations.

Foot soldiers will all claim divine inspiration for their daily campaigns of killing and destruction – they can’t do otherwise if they wish to survive – but people may have joined the Islamic State for any number of reasons, including, certainly, religious conviction, but also adventurism, revenge, peer pressure, coercion, bribery and so on.

To conclude that the source of their behavior is their religious devotion is to vastly underestimate human agency and strategic faculties and to baselessly buy into their propaganda.

Not only so, attributing actors’ behavior to their religious or other identities is to revert unproductively to primordial thinking, which has long been abandoned by the bulk of scholars who specialize in identity politics – in fact, the rejection of primordialism is arguably one of the few ideas around which there is now something of a scholarly consensus in this area of inquiry.

People do not do what they do because they are Muslim or Christian or Serb or Hutu, or because Islam or Christianity or any ancient ethnic hatreds dictates them to; they do what they do because they think – note the agency – it helps them achieve specific objectives.

Again, religion-centric analysis would lead us down theological rabbit holes while ignoring the counterfactual question of whether or not actors would, under the same circumstances, behave any differently if they adhered to a different religion or ideology. The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

Scholars now know much about how violent non-state groups behave. They – and policymakers – should use that knowledge to understand groups like the Islamic State and not be sidetracked by its extremism or by those observers who fall right into its propaganda traps by lending credence to the group’s own claims of exceptionalism.

Reyko Huang is an assistant professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Andrew Bossone  shared this link by Kareem Shaheen

The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.”

 

The many examples of the Islamic State’s banality suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.
washingtonpost.com

 ISIS: Just another insurgency movement? As so many in recent history?

The attention heaped on the Islamic State in Western media and public debate has centered primarily on two issues: its religion and its violence.

On both fronts, the group has left observers aghast with its extremism.

Those analysts focusing on the religion try to make sense of the group’s distinctive brand of Islamic ideology (Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia brand) as well as the “psychopaths” who choose to become its followers.

Those fixated on the group’s violence posit that its seemingly unlimited capacity to brutalize and terrorize has few parallels among violent organizations, so much so that “even al-Qaeda,” as is repeatedly pointed out, has disavowed the group.

May 14, 2015

Nevertheless, as Marc Lynch recently argued in the Monkey Cage, putting the Islamic State in a broader comparative perspective shows that the group is hardly unique among armed non-state organizations. This in turn points to ways scholars and observers might most productively study and write about the group.

Much of the media coverage and popular discussion of the Islamic State has focused on the group’s atrocious acts of violence.

In their orchestrated murders and in the savvyness with which they broadcast them to the world’s horrified viewers, they are perhaps unmatched in the present age (of worldwide communication fast facilities?).

And yet, to portray the Islamic State as uniquely brutal or unrivaled in its savagery is to forget our unfortunate history – even recent history – that is filled with episodes of extreme violence against civilians committed in the name of some political goal.

One would be hard pressed to argue that the Islamic State’s actions are more unconscionable than those of the Khmer Rouge who created the killing fields of Cambodia, or Renamo of Mozambique whose fighters specialized in the kidnapping, rape and mutilation of women, men and children, or the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon in the Bosnian war; or that the group’s staged beheadings are any more appalling than the thousands of “forced disappearances” conducted behind the scenes in the Salvadoran conflict.

The only difference between cases such as these and the Islamic State when it comes to violence is that the latter operates in the age of social media and uses it to the fullest for shock-and-awe effects.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in mobilizing its own interpretation of theology as part of an ideological-political campaign.

The Darul Islam movement sought to found an Islamic state in Indonesia following independence from the Netherlands in 1948, and its fighters launched violent rebellions in various parts of the archipelago.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda and its predecessor, the Holy Spirit Movement, claimed as their goal the establishment of a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments; the LRA is now responsible for one of the longest running conflicts in Africa.

Nor is the Islamic State unique in its transnational vision to create an Islamic state that rejects existing borders: Darul Islam reemerged in the 1990s in the form of Jemaah Islamiyah, which proclaimed a mission to create an Islamic state spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand and the Philippines.

The Islamic State certainly is not unique among violent organizations in developing networks of traffickers, dealers, and middlemen to secure enormous wealth from natural resources like oil, and the group is typical among rebel and terrorist organizations to capitalize on the political and institutional weaknesses of host states to launch military operations and take over territory.

Neither does the Islamic State stand out for successfully creating its own civilian governance system in towns it secured. In places like Raqqa, Syria, it may have collected taxes, built infrastructure, posted traffic police at intersections and kept bakeries running while enforcing strict social codes with threats of severe punishment, including public execution, for deviant behavior.

And so have many other militant non-state groups, as my ongoing research on rebel governance shows.

In addition to creating sophisticated governance structures, the Naxalites of India ran their own banking system; the Eritrean rebels ran a pharmaceutical plant while operating a humanitarian wing that worked with international NGOs; their neighboring Tigrayan rebels conducted extensive land reform

And UNITA of Angola ran a mail system replete with its own internationally-recognized stamps, all in the midst of intense violent conflict against established states.

Like the Islamic State, many groups, including Uganda’s National Resistance Army and Nepal’s Maoist insurgents, had a code of conduct for their fighters and laid out punishments for violations that included execution for the worst offenders.

Critics may charge that the Islamic State, far from ordinary, is in fact extraordinarily unique in its vision to fundamentally reconfigure the international political order itself as part of its all-encompassing goal to create an Islamic caliphate. There is no doubt this is a radical aspiration that surpasses other organizations in terms of its revolutionary zeal and global scale.

It remains, however, just that – an aspiration – and again, the history of conflict has seen no shortage of aspirations that were deemed as threatening, revolutionary and fantastical in their own time.

Talk is talk, and it is interesting and, as I argue below, indeed important to examine what groups claim about themselves. But putting explanatory stock into the ideologies without considering the instrumentalism behind them can do more to mislead than to inform.

The point here is not to downplay the threat posed by the Islamic State or to “normalize” its behavior by highlighting the group’s ordinariness among violent political groups.

It is simply to stress that comparatively speaking, the group is not as exceptional as observers and the media have often characterized it. Putting the Islamic State into a broader theoretical and historical perspective – that is, beyond the frame of “Islamist terrorism” and beyond the post-9/11 period – is important because there are clear dangers in hyperbolizing the group’s own claims to exceptionalism.

To unduly emphasize the Islamic State’s distinctiveness is to distort its threat, inadvertently boost its legitimacy, and worst of all, to directly play into its leaders’ hands. Whatever the Islamic State has achieved so far, history has seen much of it before in other contexts.

Knowledge of these other contexts can therefore inform both scholarship and policy on this pressing issue.

That the Islamic State’s behavior is so consistent with that of so many other militant organizations – and this, despite all its efforts to establish itself as the only true vanguard of an Islamic State in the making – strongly suggests there is a strategic logic underlying the common behavior. This insight in turn suggests some scholarly approaches to understanding the group may prove more productive than others.

First, the banality of the Islamic State among violent political organizations suggests scholars should first and foremost treat the group as a political actor and seek to identify its political goals, capabilities, incentives and strategic calculations.

In other words, scholars ought to engage in actor-centric analysis. Such an approach has reaped enormous benefits in conflict scholars’ collective efforts to understand phenomena such as insurgency, violence, rebel social service provision, war duration and termination, and foreign interventions in conflict.

It is familiarity with this body of work that makes me not at all surprised that the Islamic State reportedly provides health services, taxes local residents, has an elaborate organizational structure (which looks not so dissimilar from the organigrams of other insurgent groups), enforces strict discipline among fighters and is selective in whom it kills. These are classic behavior on the part of strategic armed non-state actors with some amount of military

Second, that religion-centric analysis may be less useful, even as regards a group that bases its raison d’être on a religious ideology and whose leaders claim to do everything in its name. The argument here is not that religion is unimportant – it clearly matters because it helps mobilize people around the group, attracts a stream of new recruits and threatens Islamophobic governments and people in the West in just the way the group might wish.

Careful analysis of its religious ideology is worthwhile in the same way analysis of other war-fighting instruments, from violence, social service provision and propaganda, to alliance formation and compliance with international law, has been highly illuminating in making sense of rebel group behavior.

But always, scholars examine these tools not as an end in and of themselves, but as part of a larger effort to understand how armed group pursue their wartime objectives, recognizing that battlefield fights are but one dimension of conflict.

Likewise, any analysis of the Islamic State’s ideology that does not ask why the group chooses to formulate and propagate its ideology the way it does risks becoming, in spite of itself, detached from politics, and potentially serving as an uncritical endorsement of the group’s own claims.

An actor-centric analysis would have us asking not simply what the Islamic State does and says, but also why, or for what ends.

It sees even extremist, seemingly fanatical leaderships like the one heading the Islamic State as rational and strategic, constantly making decisions based on an assessment of what course of action would best enable the group to achieve its objectives of increased military strength and control of territories, markets, ideas and people.

After all, the Islamic State, when expedient, readily put ideology aside and made alliances with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. (Mind you that Saddam and Hafez Assad of Syria were the staunchest enemies of al Qaeda fighting in Afghanistan)

Critically, an actor-centric analysis has the Islamic State leaders exercising full agency over religion, whereas a religion-centric analysis would have religion driving the Islamic State leaders and their rank-and-file as if they were all but blind adherents – as if their ideology were in fact God-given rather than meticulously and tactfully crafted and propagated by the the Islamic State leadership itself.

Finally, conflict scholarship suggests it would be prudent to avoid making unfounded assumptions about why the Islamic State fighters do what they do, and instead allow for diverse motivations. Foot soldiers will all claim divine inspiration for their daily campaigns of killing and destruction – they can’t do otherwise if they wish to survive – but people may have joined the Islamic State for any number of reasons, including, certainly, religious conviction, but also adventurism, revenge, peer pressure, coercion, bribery and so on.

To conclude that the source of their behavior is their religious devotion is to vastly underestimate human agency and strategic faculties and to baselessly buy into their propaganda.

Not only so, attributing actors’ behavior to their religious or other identities is to revert unproductively to primordialist thinking, which has long been abandoned by the bulk of scholars who specialize in identity politics – in fact, the rejection of primordialism is arguably one of the few ideas around which there is now something of a scholarly consensus in this area of inquiry.

People do not do what they do because they are Muslim or Christian or Serb or Hutu, or because Islam or Christianity or any ancient ethnic hatreds dictates them to; they do what they do because they think – note the agency – it helps them achieve specific objectives.

Again, religion-centric analysis would lead us down theological rabbit holes while ignoring the counterfactual question of whether or not actors would, under the same circumstances, behave any differently if they adhered to a different religion or ideology. The many examples of the banality of the Islamic State suggest that for all the religious talk, the group’s behavior is familiar and even predictable.

Scholars now know much about how violent non-state groups behave. They – and policymakers – should use that knowledge to understand groups like the Islamic State and not be sidetracked by its extremism or by those observers who fall right into its propaganda traps by lending credence to the group’s own claims of exceptionalism.

Reyko Huang is an assistant professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Blood Begins to Dry As War Criminals In Our Midst are put on trial…

In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves“.

As Barack Obama ignites his 7th war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

By John Pilger / johnpilger.com

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.

A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect.

They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders“. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu“, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of 5 Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air.

The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”.

What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present.

By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism.

The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common.

Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits.

Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed.

“Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.

A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity.

Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein.

It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever.

Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction“.

The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water.

“Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of 5.

An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.”

When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame.

The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”.

In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”.

Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce.

Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now.

There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried.

They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates,  and written in 1957:

In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes.

Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS.

Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq.

With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order“. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”.

Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”.

Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

Fashion Industry, clothing industry…Who is being sacrificed? Part 1.

I heard in a documentary that China was the main producer of cloth in the last two decades, and that it is being displaced gradually by Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and India where labor is becoming far cheaper, of about a single dollar per hour.

Anne Elizabeth Moore published an extensive report in Truthout on April 4 “The Fashion Industry’s Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers“.

I decided to split the article into four posts: Background of the mass fainting, Domino Effect (eye-witness accounts), causes, and culprit and resolution.

Background

“About a year ago, record numbers of garment laborers in factories across Cambodia were reported to be suddenly and mysteriously falling to the ground, unconscious. Hundreds at a time.

Workers at many scenes reported foul smells, difficulty breathing. Halting investigations took place at select plants by various parties involved: government officials; labor unions; human rights groups; business associations; monitoring organizations; and, weirdly, the international big-name brands that sell the clothes being made.

A consortium of factors was considered:

1. hypoglycemia (the direct result of workers not eating enough);

2. minor factory infractions that managers promised to address immediately;

3. common cold outbreak emanating from Canada;

4. overwork; mass hysteria; workers partying too hard over the weekend; and spiritual possession.

In the end, no single cause was named for the nationwide epidemic.  A 5$ “health bonus” for qualifying workers took care for not conducting a sweeping policy changes that would keep the incidents from continuing.

Sina Phin, a garment worker, right, ironing shirts at the New Island factory in outlying Phnom Penh, Cambodia in April 2005. (Photo: Michael Nagle / The New York Times)Sina Phin, a garment worker, right, ironing shirts at the New Island factory in outlying Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in April 2005. (Photo: Michael Nagle / The New York Times)

It seemed to be just more bad luck for Cambodia, a nation still coming to terms with five decades spent surviving a record tonnage of American bombs, the Khmer Rouge “sweeping and drastic revolution that wiped out over one million), a generation of civil war, a legacy of corruption and endemic poverty.

But bad luck doesn’t account for around 3,000 workers reportedly losing consciousness in 17 separate mass-fainting incidents at 12 of the country’s 300 registered garment factories.

The real bad luck for Cambodia – and ethical apparel consumers, particularly in the US, where 70 percent of the goods produced are sold – is that thousands of workers falling ill on the job isn’t enough to catch the fashion industry’s attention.

Life in the Cambodian garment factories is not what anyone would call easy, even under ideal conditions. The minimum wage was increased to $61 per month at the beginning of 2011, still significantly less than the $93 per month living wage.

Garment workers don’t just cover their own costs – about a fifth of the country’s 14 million people rely on their paychecks to support rice farms in the provinces. (That’s right, the developing country’s third-largest income generator, garment work, supports the country’s second,which is agriculture.)

Many workers labor seven days per week and take on as much overtime as possible, to earn enough to send $50 or $60 home every month. A tiny rental near the factories costs around $25 per month – you can get something bigger to split among more workers, although rents of less than $15 per month are rare – and utilities run between $5 and $10 per month.

Drinking and cooking water costs have to be covered, too. And transportation, if needed. Even with the wage increase, funds are tight.

Everyone skimps on health care, which under the Pol Pot regime (Khmer Rouge, Red), thirty-five years ago meant untrained cadre inventing balms and pills with accessible materials like leaves, mud and dung, since doctors were purged alongside intellectuals and previous government officials. The country is still rebuilding, and while health facilities are supposed to be provided in factories, they’re often insufficient.

Many skimp on food. It’s hard to eat in Cambodia for less than $1.25 per day. A 2009 Cambodian Institute of Development Study found that workers are often left with between $4 and $9 per month for meals. Workers who faint from hunger or the stifling heat on the factory floor, a very common occurrence,  may find themselves without a job when they awake.

Unions have a robust life and that would seem, from a distance, to help. There are 650 registered unions in Cambodia, operating in the 300 registered factories. But company yellow unions backed organizations, which push through management decisions, are as common as are competitive unions within one factory.

Occasionally, two different unions that are members of the same federation will operate competing branches. With an average of six unions per factory, there’s a lot of in-fighting and little in the way of actual organizing. On top of which, the all-male union leadership tends to act with little regard for female workforce concerns.

One shining example of union impotency was a series of strikes from September 13 through 16, 2010. Of the 300,000-strong workforce at the time, between one and two-thirds had walked off jobs to demand a raise to the minimum wage, then only $55 per month.

Management reaction was swift and strange: 26 labor leaders were “banned” from jobs. Not fired – that would violate laws protecting workers’ rights to organize – just not allowed to enter buildings where they worked.

Cohesive demands for more money splintered into protests against what amounted to illegally fired workers. These were met with more illegal firings, which led to more protests and increasing violence on all sides. The number of laborers effectively out of work over what was originally a demand for a wage increase quickly grew – some estimate into the thousands. Even after things calmed down in January 2011, some 300 illegally fired workers remained out of work at 20 factories around the country.

The back story to the mass fainting incidents is this: During the last months of 2010, up to two-thirds of the entire Cambodian garment industry had cohesively come together to make demands as a unified voice, in a democratic nation, with legal protection for workers’ rights to organize. Yet somehow, one organizer told me, “Nothing happened.” She looked crushed.

Religion resurrects: It must die first

State Ideologies usurping religions: (June 18, 2009) 

            The 20th century was characteristic in serious attempts of replacing State religion by State Ideology.  This was feasible simply because most religions have developed into structured ideologies in concepts and in organization.  Soviet Russia was successful for over 70 years in that endeavor because it emulated communism into religious replica in all premises and criteria.  Soviet communism stated what happens after death, it described what is go and what is evil, it structured its hierarchy on the basis of church, excommunicated the “refusnik”, and it created a God, a semi abstract God with a personified representative on earth.  The Gang of Four in China, after the death of Mao Tse Tong, carried that religion a step forward: all ancient manuscripts of Chinese civilizations were meant to be burned.  The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia went several notches further: every educated person was to be burned; the new generation was to start with a blank brain.

            The trend of State ideologies usurping religions is going on even stronger with a reversed strategy.  State ideologies are basing their premises on a religion; they claim that the concepts of their ideology are consistent to the fundamentals of the original religion.  Those extremist State ideologies are found in all religions: Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddha-based religion.  State ideologies are in Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Burma, and in the USA during the George W. Bush two Administrations.

           

            Religions, monolithic or not (it is primarily a mental distinction and never real), did not mushroom spontaneously in specific regions.  Religion is the same and was translated and interpreted into different languages and cultures. Religions were imported/exported along with the material baggage of trade and commerce; they were built upon and modified to correspond to customs and traditions. Religions developed to extreme abstractions in urban centers or reduced to basic common denominators in remote rural areas; they were the primary cultural communication among people based on trust, confidence, and belief that there is always someone more powerful and more knowledgeable than the lot.  

            It is because people need to create a God that religion was the main communicator among nations; religion transcended peculiar customs and traditions and reached straight to the deep fear and apprehension of man.  Fear of the unknown is shared by everyone and all men are similar in that one characteristic.

            There have always been all kinds of civilizations; that the archeologists failed to uncover relics and artifacts is irrelevant to that fact. Every civilization prospered on slavery; whatever names slaves were given.  Slaves had their own God; at day they shared the God of the usurpers of their freedom and by night they unveiled their “True God” and worshiped him genuinely as only desperate souls know how to pay tribute. A few slave “tribes” revolted and confirmed their nightly God at day break and paid retributions.  Most of these “slave tribes” succumbed to the power to be and its social structure (constructed around a religious hierarchy); a few preferred to be chased out and suffer another kind of life hardship.  No, there was no dignity in the daily life of the forsaken slaves who wandered in the wilderness; even their nights were different: they had to reinvent a God compatible to their wretched new life, an altered the God of the One they used to worship at night before the Diaspora.

            Nomadic tribes didn’t need religious clerics to convince them of a “God”: as they sat around by night they could watch the vault of the sky reaching down and they felt they could touch the stars.  There is overwhelming majesty during the peaceful nights in desert like regions, a sky sparkling with millions of beautiful stars twinkling overhead (a few moving, many fixed) that offered reprieve, courage, and hope for another day of desolation, loneliness, and harsh nature.  Nomads appreciate the varieties of Silence: they can feel the God of Silence before major cataclysms and desert storms.

            It is because nomads needed to believe more in a God than other settled people to ward off the persistent and real fears of the days for survival that their God was more powerful and more compassionate than other Gods; the God of the nomads was personified in the one seeking refuge for the night; the visitor was lavished with the respect due to the wandering God paying visit to the tribe members and he was fed with whatever meager substances the clan had saved.  The God of the nomads knew their traditions and customs and refrained from interfering or crossing the lines; otherwise, the visitor was punished for false representation.

           

            There are various God. There is the God of the nomads, the “Night God” of the enslaved, the God of the urban and settled people, and the God of wandering homeless people, rootless, and abandoned because their God refuses to be set free.  My article concerns the God of the stragglers.  This God was created a brute, ruthless, and blood thirsty; an avenger out of ignorance, an insulated, merciless, and uncompromising hatemongering God.  This is the God of Thunder, War, Lightening, Storm, Sword, and Skull.  This is the God who rebuffs any tender offer to mingle with other civilized Gods, to soften His manner, to come to maturity, to associate, to adjust, and to keep pledges.

            This is the God who obeyed his creators; as He started to appreciate modern and civilized habits He was reminded by his creators, called prophets, that He lost his way and the reason why He was created.  This the God who was resurrected countless time from his compassionate leaning and collaboration with other worthy Gods to lead newer generations, whose hearts and minds were burned alive from birth, to take on a chimerical revenge on real people because chimerical stories and myths are truer than reality.

            The Jewish religion is dead.  It was replaced by a State ideology called Zionism. Jehovah (Yahweh) was again called upon to mete out his benediction to countless genocide against the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, and Egyptians. The ancient “prophets” were rejuvenated into modern-day prophets, very much as archaic as Ben Gurion, Menahem Begin, Ishak Shamir, Sharon, Ehud Barak, and all the lot who want their “promised land” that they usurped by the sword, lies, and blasphemy. 

              The Jewish religion is dead as Israel was recognized in 1948.  It is not what the Books say; it is how it is practiced.  It is how Zionism behaved in Gaza, Sabra and Chatila Palestinian camps, the camps in Jenine, Jabalya, the massacres in the villages of Dar Yassine, Kfar Kassem, Yafa, the shelling of the town of Qana, of the UN compounds in Qana, Gaza, and the West Bank, the execution of over 6,000 Egyptian soldiers prisoners in the war of 1967; the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure 8 times, the destruction of the infrastructures in Gaza and the West Bank, the demolition of schools and hospitals, the routine assassinations of leaders, the apartheid Wall of Shame, the refusal of abiding by UN resolution 194 for the return of the Palestinian refugees, the insistence of refusing to share Jerusalem Capital to the Palestine State, the transfer methods of the Christians from Jerusalem, and claiming that Israel should be accepted as State for Jews before any peaceful negotiation.

            The Jewish religion is dead.  It was replaced by a State ideology called Zionism, founded by the Eastern Europe Ashkenazi.

 

Note: The UN described Zionism in mild terms as “a form of racism”.  As the USA pressured the UN to desist of this mild description then Zionist ideology was no longer restricted to Jews; it transformed to an umbrella for the fascist, Nazi, Stalinists, Gang of Four, Khmer Rouge, Neo-Conservative, apartheid, and isolationist ideologies; it had contacts with Taliban, Ben Laden, Qaeda, and a variety of religious extremists of Moslems, Hindus, and the Christians of the Sirilanka Tamul terrorists.

Jewish religion is dead: replaced by Zionist State ideology (June 18, 2009)

 

            Religions, monolithic or not (it is primarily a mental distinction and never real), did not mushroom spontaneously in specific regions.  Religion is the same and was translated and interpreted into different languages and cultures. Religions were imported/exported along with the material baggage of trade and commerce; they were built upon and modified to correspond to customs and traditions. Religions developed to extreme abstractions in urban centers or reduced to basic common denominators in remote rural areas; they were the primary cultural communication among people based on trust, confidence, and belief that there is always someone more powerful and more knowledgeable than the lot.  

            It is because people need to create a God that religion was the main communicator among nations; religion transcended peculiar customs and traditions and reached straight to the deep fear and apprehension of man.  Fear of the unknown is shared by everyone and all men are similar in that one characteristic.

            There have always been all kinds of civilizations; that the archeologists failed to uncover relics and artifacts is irrelevant to that fact. Every civilization prospered on slavery; whatever names slaves were given.  Slaves had their own God; at day they shared the God of the usurpers of their freedom and by night they unveiled their “True God” and worshiped him genuinely as only desperate souls know how to pay tribute. A few slave “tribes” revolted and confirmed their nightly God at day break and paid retributions.  Most of these “slave tribes” succumbed to the power to be and its social structure (constructed around a religious hierarchy); a few preferred to be chased out and suffer another kind of life hardship.  No, there was no dignity in the daily life of the forsaken slaves who wandered in the wilderness; even their nights were different: they had to reinvent a God compatible to their wretched new life, an altered the God of the One they used to worship at night before the Diaspora.

            Nomadic tribes didn’t need religious clerics to convince them of a “God”: as they sat around by night they could watch the vault of the sky reaching down and they felt they could touch the stars.  There is overwhelming majesty during the peaceful nights in desert like regions, a sky sparkling with millions of beautiful stars twinkling overhead (a few moving, many fixed) that offered reprieve, courage, and hope for another day of desolation, loneliness, and harsh nature.  Nomads appreciate the varieties of Silence: they can feel the God of Silence before major cataclysms and desert storms.

            It is because nomads needed to believe more in a God than other settled people to ward off the persistent and real fears of the days for survival that their God was more powerful and more compassionate than other Gods; the God of the nomads was personified in the one seeking refuge for the night; the visitor was lavished with the respect due to the wandering God paying visit to the tribe members and he was fed with whatever meager substances the clan had saved.  The God of the nomads knew their traditions and customs and refrained from interfering or crossing the lines; otherwise, the visitor was punished for false representation.

           

            There are various God. There is the God of the nomads, the “Night God” of the enslaved, the God of the urban and settled people, and the God of wandering homeless people, rootless, and abandoned because their God refuses to be set free.  My article concerns the God of the stragglers.  This God was created a brute, ruthless, and blood thirsty; an avenger out of ignorance, an insulated, merciless, and uncompromising hatemongering God.  This is the God of Thunder, War, Lightening, Storm, Sword, and Skull.  This is the God who rebuffs any tender offer to mingle with other civilized Gods, to soften His manner, to come to maturity, to associate, to adjust, and to keep pledges.

            This is the God who obeyed his creators; as He started to appreciate modern and civilized habits He was reminded by his creators, called prophets, that He lost his way and the reason why He was created.  This the God who was resurrected countless time from his compassionate leaning and collaboration with other worthy Gods to lead newer generations, whose hearts and minds were burned alive from birth, to take on a chimerical revenge on real people because chimerical stories and myths are truer than reality.

            The Jewish religion is dead.  It was replaced by a State ideology called Zionism. Jehovah (Yahweh) was again called upon to mete out his benediction to countless genocide against the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, and Egyptians. The ancient “prophets” were rejuvenated into modern-day prophets, very much as archaic as Ben Gurion, Menahem Begin, Ishak Shamir, Sharon, Ehud Barak, and all the lot who want their “promised land” that they usurped by the sword, lies, and blasphemy. 

              The Jewish religion is dead as Israel was recognized in 1948.  It is not what the Books say; it is how it is practiced.  It is how Zionism behaved in Gaza, Sabra and Chatila Palestinian camps, the camps in Jenine, Jabalya, the massacres in the villages of Dar Yassine, Kfar Kassem, Yafa, the shelling of the town of Qana, of the UN compounds in Qana, Gaza, and the West Bank, the execution of over 6,000 Egyptian soldiers prisoners in the war of 1967; the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure 8 times, the destruction of the infrastructures in Gaza and the West Bank, the demolition of schools and hospitals, the routine assassinations of leaders, the apartheid Wall of Shame, the refusal of abiding by UN resolution 194 for the return of the Palestinian refugees, the insistence of refusing to share Jerusalem Capital to the Palestine State, the transfer methods of the Christians from Jerusalem, and claiming that Israel should be accepted as State for Jews before any peaceful negotiation.

            The Jewish religion is dead.  It was replaced by a State ideology called Zionism, founded by the Eastern Europe Ashkenazi.

 

Note: The UN described Zionism in mild terms as “a form of racism”.  As the USA pressured the UN to desist of this mild description then Zionist ideology was no longer restricted to Jews; it transformed to an umbrella for the fascist, Nazi, Stalinists, Gang of Four, Khmer Rouge, Neo-Conservative, apartheid, and isolationist ideologies; it had contacts with Taliban, Ben Laden, Qaeda, and a variety of religious extremists of Moslems, Hindus, and the Christians of the Sirilanka Tamul terrorists.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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