— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for November, 2010

WikiLeaks Revelations: Turkey

  

On Al Jazeera’s Website we can read that the ‘whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has released a massive trove of leaked US diplomatic cables detailing candid opinions of various world leaders, repeated calls for a US attack on Iran, and requests for US diplomats to spy on officials of other countries. WikiLeaks started publishing the 251,287 cables – 15,652 of which are classified “secret” – from 274 US missions around the world on Sunday, even after its website apparently came under a denial of service attack before the release. The cables, communications between diplomatic missions abroad and the US state department in Washington, were mostly sent between 2007 and last February and could embarrass both the US administration and foreign governments. Some of the diplomatic notes detailed how Arab leaders in the Gulf have been urging an attack on “evil” Iran, while others reveal serious fears in Washington over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. They also detail advice given to US diplomats on how to gather intelligence and pass information of interest over to the country’s spy agencies. According to documents, senior UN figures were the target of intelligence gathering by US diplomats . . . In an introduction to the documents on its website, WikiLeaks attacked “the contradictions between the US’ public persona and what it says behind closed doors”. “The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in ‘client states’; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.” The White House has described the leaks as “reckless and dangerous. To be clear – such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. But Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, denied that any of the documents placed individuals at risk’.[1] 

Inside Story, (28 November 2010)

 

The story continues: the ‘cache of documents contains allegations of corruption against foreign leaders, who are subjected to stinging criticism in the cables, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, referred to as an “alpha-dog.” Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, “avoids risk and is rarely creative”, and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is described as being “driven by paranoia”, in comments contained within diplomatic dispatches. Advisers to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish premier, also come in for criticism for having “little understanding of politics beyond Ankara”. US diplomats visited foreign ministries in the days before the release hoping to stave off anger over the cables, which are internal messages that often lack the niceties diplomats voice in public. Steve Clemons, a political strategist and director of the American Strategy Programme at New America Foundation, told Al Jazeera that the US reaction to this latest round of leaks has been stronger than in the past because of mainly diplomatic concerns. “Certainly I wouldn’t take it to the level of lives lost on the battlefield. This is essentially diplomatic brouhaha,” he said. “I think also that the content of these documents is a lot about the gossip and innuendo and the nuance … and there are going to be a lot of embarrassing things that come out of these documents. There are be political repercussions of the way foreign leaders are going to read these documents. And in that sense, you’re going to see people, ranging from [Asif Ali] Zardari in Pakistan, to, I understand, Nelson Mandela of South Africa has had some bad swipes taken at him in these cables.” WikiLeaks previously published 400,000 Iraq war documents in October, the biggest leak to date in US intelligence history, and 77,000 classified US files on the Afghan conflict in July [2010]’.[2] 

 

As for the specifically Turkish angle, in Today’s Zaman we read that the ‘US diplomats’ verdict on the NATO partner with the second biggest army in the alliance is devastating. The Turkish leadership is depicted as divided, and Erdoğan’s advisers, as well as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, are portrayed as having little understanding of politics beyond Ankara. The Americans are also worried about Davutoğlu’s alleged neo-Ottoman visions. A high-ranking government adviser warned in discussions, quoted by the US diplomats, that Davutoğlu would use his Islamist influence on Erdoğan, describing him as “exceptionally dangerous.” According to the US document, another adviser to the ruling AK Party remarked, probably ironically, that Turkey wanted “to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683.” The US diplomats write that many leading figures in the AK Party were members of a Muslim fraternity and that Erdoğan had appointed Islamist bankers to influential positions. He gets his information almost exclusively from newspapers with close links to Islamists, they reported. The prime minister, the cables continue, has surrounded himself with an “iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors” and presents himself as the “Tribune of Anatolia.” . . . UK’s The Guardian, in leaked documents published on late Sunday [, 28 November] said, in a tense conversation, a senior US envoy presses Turkish officials to support US-led action to convince the Iranian government that it is on the wrong course. The Turks insist their mediation efforts are the best way forward but are forced to concede that most countries in the region see Iran as a threat. According to the daily, the great Iranian-American struggle for control and influence in the Middle East is far from over – and may in fact be hotting up – and it was made plain again when US under-secretary William Burns held yet another meeting with the reluctant Turks in Ankara in February 2010. Burns insists Washington would prefer a negotiated settlement with Iran. Then, like Gates, he uses the spectre of an Israeli military attack to dramatise his arguments and unsettle the Turks’.[3] 

Given that the “Americans are also worried about Davutoğlu’s alleged neo-Ottoman visions”, it would seem to me that the time is now right for my piece on Davutoğlu and his new policy goals for Turkey to receive some more exposure: “A pseudo-Ottoman policy: Turkey’s new station in the world”, Today’s Zaman (04 November 2010). http://tiny.cc/6qkki . . . I do not think that the term Neo-Ottoman is applicable to Turkey’s current view of the world, instead I propose the term Pseudo-Ottoman to describe Davutoğlu’s new approach to Turkey’s foreign relations.


[1] “Secret US embassy cables revealed” Al Jazeera (29 November 2010). http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/11/20101128184116255899.html.

[2] “Secret US embassy cables revealed”.

[3] “Wikileaks unveils largest US diplomatic cables, Turkey makes up second biggest share” Today’s Zaman (29 November 2010). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-228225-wikileaks-unveils-largest-us-diplomatic-cables-turkey-makes-up-second-biggest-share.html.

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Reality is an Illusion???

 Reality is an Illusion???

 Some time ago I read Oliver Sachs’ An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), and I came away with many things. I was particularly impressed by the first essay in the book, even though the other ones are equally impressive, and have been thinking about its message for quite some time now: “’The Case of the Colorblind Painter’ is about a painter who, after a car accident (possibly preceded and/or caused by a stroke), develops cerebral achromatopsia – he loses the ability to perceive, remember or even imagine colours”.[i]  And the upshot is that colour vision is constructed in our brains, and does not reflect reality perceived. Reality seems to be an amalgam of greys, from really light to really dark. The reason I am now thinking about this is another book I am reading right now – Pain. The Science of Suffering (1999) – and its author Patrick Wall’s contention that “brain activity controls the input [of sensory data]. This does [however] not mean that the entire outside world is a hallucination, but it does mean that our senses include active participation of mind and body”. This phrase made me realise that colour vision is apparently a shared hallucination . . . In order to clarify my somewhat flippant statement, I would now like to refer to the work of David Eagleman. He ‘is a neuroscientist and a writer. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law at Baylor College of Medicine. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. At night he writes. His work of fiction, SUM, is an international bestseller published in 23 languages. His book on the internet and civilization, Why the Net Matters, debuts in December 2010. His book on the unconscious brain, Incognito: The Brains Behind the Mind, hits the shelves in April 2011’.[ii]  Now that I have give his books some exposure, let me turn to what is of interest to this blog post.

 TEDxAlamo – David Eagleman, PhD – 29 October 2009

Turns out that reality is really a “vast symphony of electrical and chemical signals” in our brains . . . The journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin Robert Jensen writes that ‘Eagleman’s small office at Baylor offers no indication of what’s going on in his head; it’s a rather bland space, with little on the walls or the bookshelves. The collective lab space, however, is more eccentric. The whiteboard walls (which are actually a light blue) sport a kind of scientific graffiti—ideas for projects, questions about projects, lists of things to be done on projects—that reflects the serious but anarchic spirit of the lab. It’s clear that Eagleman’s possibilian sensibility affects the spirit of the place. As he finishes up a task on the computer, he is calm and focused. But once Eagleman starts talking, things take off quickly. Swiveling 180 degrees in his chair, his foot pushing off the various pieces of office furniture to propel him around like a wind-up machine, his verbal velocity accelerates as he describes his ideas. Those range from the experiments he’s running to age-old philosophical questions about free will . . . In his thinking about religion, Eagleman takes seriously the old saying “the absence of proof isn’t the proof of absence.” Eagleman recognizes that people who don’t believe in God can never say with certainty that one doesn’t exist; he’s not trying to support or rule out any particular claim but simply suggesting that it’s healthy to imagine possibilities. Sum is a series of 40 what ifs: What if there is an afterlife where we relive all of our experiences, but shuffled into a new order? What if in the afterlife we confront all the possible versions of our self that could have been? What if we experience death in stages: when the body stops functioning, when we’re buried, and the moment when our name is spoken for the last time? The stories aren’t meant as serious proposals. They are merely vehicles for Eagleman’s ruminations on vexing philosophical questions. Eagleman’s most basic concern is the mind: Is there anything beyond the physical brain? If there is something beyond, is that what we should call the mind? What does all this mean for the concept of the soul? These are the questions Eagleman wants to answer. In the lab, Eagleman says that he and other neuroscientists work under the assumption that “you are nothing but your brain.” Many scientists and philosophers come close to suggesting that this is not an assumption but a fact. These scientists reduce the mental to the material. That could be the case, Eagleman says, but he’s not certain’.[iii]


[i] “An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks” Things Mean a Lot (13 April 2009). http://www.thingsmeanalot.com/2009/04/anthropologist-on-mars-by-oliver-sacks.html.

[iii] Robert Jensen, “The Soul Seeker. A neuroscientist’s search for the human essence” Texas Observer (03 June 2010). http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/the-soul-seeker.

Kucinich on Afghanistan

Kucinich on Afghanistan

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made the following remarks following the bizarre Mullah Mansour episode in Afghanistan:  “The war in Afghanistan is taking place in a netherworld where facts and common sense have no place. Elections are fake. Our deadline to withdraw is a fake. Now, we learn that a fake Taliban leader has been leading us to believe that NATO was facilitating high-level talks between Taliban leadership and the corrupt Afghan central government we’re propping up. The only real thing about this war is the dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, the wasted tax dollars and the mounting evidence telling us to get out”.  He went to say that “[t]he War in Afghanistan is longer than any other war America has ever fought. It has cost U.S. taxpayers more than a trillion dollars. More than 1300 Americans have died, thousands more wounded. Countless innocent Afghan civilians have died”.[i] 


[i] Eric W. Dolan, “Rep. Kucinich slams fake Afghan elections, fake withdrawal, fake Taliban” The Raw Story (24 November 2010). http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/11/rep-kucinich-slams-fake-afghan-elections-fake-withdrawal-fake-taliban/.

Music: Sonic Reducer

Sonic Reducer

For the past days and weeks this song has been buzzing, or should I say screeching, through my head. So that, in the end, I listened to it and decided that I should post it in my blog to be able to repeat the experience whenever necessary.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8dC9M6OCkE

The BMV relates that ‘The Dead Boys were one of the first punk bands to escalate the level of violence, nihilism, and pure ugliness of punk rock to extreme new levels. Although considered part of New York’s mid-’70s CBGB’s scene, all of its bandmembers originally hailed from Cleveland, OH. The group’s roots lay in the early-’70s Cleveland cult band Rocket from the Tombs, which included future Dead Boys Cheetah Chrome (aka Gene O’Connor) on guitar, and Johnny Blitz (aka John Madansky) on drums, along with future Pere Ubu members David Thomas and Peter Laughner. The group’s sound was a bit too comparable to art rock for Chrome and Blitz’s tastes (whose influences included the Stooges, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls), and by 1975, Rocket from the Tombs had split up’.

 

Fox News: Turkey, Iraq and Al Qaeda

25 November 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-61CNPoc-uM

Billboard News

This item was broadcast on 24 November 2010 on Fox NY.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URA7z699QhA

Mullah Mansour

 Which Mullah Mansour are We Talking About???

 

“This recent file photo provided to CBS News by a purported spokesman shows Taliban commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah at an undisclosed location. Mansoor Dadullah reportedly died of injuries after being captured by Pakistani forces in southwest Pakistan, Feb. 11, 2008”.

 Max Fischer writes that a ‘top-level Taliban commander who spent months in peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments turns out to have been an impostor. The man, who claimed to be Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, had reportedly been given large amounts of money and had a personal meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as part of the effort to win peace. In other words, the months of Taliban peace talks have been, as some skeptics initially warned, largely a farce. Here’s what people are saying about this disappointing setback, including some “laughing to keep back the tears” commentary’.[i]  Way back in February 2008, CBS News reported that ‘Pakistani security forces critically wounded a top figure in the Taliban militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, among six militants captured after a firefight near the border Monday, the army said. Earlier, a senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said Mullah Mansoor Dadullah died of his wounds while being flown to a hospital with the other injured men. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, brother of the Taliban’s slain military commander Mullah Dadullah, and the five others were challenged by security forces as they crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan. They refused to stop and opened fire, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas’.[ii]  Yet, the Mansoor imposter easily fooled the Americans, the Afghans, and everybody else, even getting to meet President Hamid Karzai and getting a lot of money in the process. It seems totally unbelievable, if one takes account of the fact that in December 2007, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujaheed said in the statement obtained by AFP that “Mullah Mansoor Dadullah has been dismissed as the Taliban commander because he disobeyed the orders of the Islamic Emirate”.[iii] 

 

Channel 4, July 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJVQym0320w

In the New York Times, on 22 November 2010, Dexter Filkins and Carlotta Gall write that ‘now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little’.[iv]  I never knew that United States and Afghan officials were such masters of understatement: “achieved little” meaning nothing at all, and then some. Here is the Young Turks‘ take on this affair. As usual, Cenk Uygur is in top form lambasting this really rather preposterous story.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87LF_A6PDFs


[i] Max Fischer, “Hard Lessons of the Taliban Imposter” The Atantic Wire (23 November 2010). http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Hard-Lessons-of-the-Taliban-Imposter-5923.

[ii] “Senior Taliban Commander Captured” CBS News (11 February 2008). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/02/11/terror/main3814983.shtml.

[iii] “Senior Taliban Commander Captured”.

[iv] Dexter Filkins and Carlotta Gall, “Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor” The New York Times (22 November 2010). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/world/asia/23kabul.html.