— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for April, 2011

Royal Wedding Woes

Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz, however, provides an interesting time to look at the monarchy, Britain’s domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the word affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! talked instead with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent ofLondon, who says that royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all (29 April 2011).


In spite of Hari’s arguments concerning hereditary monarchy, there are still quite a few people who look favourably upon living under a king or queen. And not just in the UK: a ‘branch of the International Monarchist League has existed in Los Angelessince 1993 when it was led by then-chairman Roy Green. Following Mr. Green’s death in 2005 the branch experienced a period of relative inactivity until a successful attempt at reorganisation was made in December 2010. Today, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Monarchist League is an officially registered Unincorporated Non-profit Association of the State of California. Both the names “International Monarchist League, Los Angeles Chapter” and “L.A. Monarchist League” are registered with the Countyof Los Angeles. Donations to the Chapter are not tax-deductible at this time’.[1] 


And these American Royalists see their ‘chief mission and purpose . . . [as] three-fold: To defend, educate, and advocate on behalf of Monarchy everywhere. Particularly important is our goal of educating the American public both as to the benefit of Monarchy overseas and the debt we ourselves owe the institution here at home. Certainly the anti-monarchical prejudice which has dominated our foreign policy since we have become an international “superpower” has led to untold losses of blood and treasure for ourselves and many others throughout the world. In the United Statesthere is little we value in terms of political, cultural, and religious institutions that do not owe their origins to the care and patronage of various foreign monarchs for their subjects in this country. This great patrimony, which is all but ignored today, is nevertheless as much a part of our everyday lives than the bloody inheritance of 1776. The Founding Fathers themselves could not have accomplished their work without the experience and education they initially acquired in the service of their rightful King’.[2] 

[1] “Who We Are” International Monarchist League. http://www.monarchistleaguela.org/about.html.

[2] “A Tradition of Pro-Monarchy Activism” International Monarchist League. http://www.monarchistleaguela.org/Pro-Monarchy-Activism.html.

Trouble in Syria: Day of Rage

In Today’s Zaman, one can read that ‘Turkey on Tuesday [, 26 April 2011] increased pressure on Syria to cease its brutal crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, a day after Syrian troops backed by tanks and snipers stormed a southern city, where the dead reportedly lay unclaimed in the streets. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan phoned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to urge “restraint,” the prime minister’s office said, while Turkey’s ambassador to Damascus met Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar to express Turkey’s “deep concern and sorrow over the loss of many lives.”  Erdoğan called Assad a day after he and US President Barack Obama voiced their concern in a telephone conversation over what the White House called “the Syrian government’s unacceptable use of violence against its own people.” The Syrian army launched a deadly raid on the southern Syrian city of Daraa before dawn Monday [, 25 April], killing at least 11 people. Gunfire echoed in Daraa, where the uprising in Syria started more than a month ago, on Tuesday as residents said the dead still lay in the streets. With Ankara’s concerned eyes closely following the unrest in neighboring Syria, its ambassador in Damascus will tomorrow brief the influential National Security Council (MGK), diplomatic sources told Today’s Zaman’.[1] 


The week of unrest culminated, as per usual, on Friday: ‘The banned Muslim Brotherhood urged Syrians to take to the streets on Friday [. 29 April 2011] as activists called for a “Day of Rage” against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has stepped up its deadly crackdown on protesters by unleashing the  army along with snipers and tanks. Al Jazeera‘s Rula Amin has the latest from the capital Damascus’. 

The website of The Voice of Russia reports: ‘Syrian army is redeploying tanks from the Golan Heights to the capital of Damascus to be ready to crush new peaceful protests against the autocratic rule, ITAR-TASS reported Thursday [, 28 April]. The opposition members plan to hold a new Day of Rage on Friday [, 29 April]. According to rights activist organizations, about 500 people have been recently killed in clashes with the police in Syria. The International community is extremely concerned with the situation in country’.[2]  In turn, AP reports that ‘Syria’s state-run television says “armed terrorists” have attacked a military post in the southern city of Daraa, killing four soldiers and capturing two. The report comes as thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country — including the capital of Damascus — in demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar Assad. The six-week uprising has posed the gravest threat to his rule. The government has blamed the unrest on armed gangs — not true reform-seekers. Daraa is where the revolt began. It has been under military siege since Monday [, 25 April]. Syrian security forces opened fire Friday on demonstrations in the capital and the coastal city of Latakia — the heartland of the ruling elite. At least five people were wounded, witnesses said’.[3]  

Will Bashar al-Assad be able to maintain his family’s grip on power in Syria???  On 30 March, he gave his first public speech since the outbreak of unrest in his country: “I am talking to you at an exceptional time. It is a test that happened to be repeated due to conspiracies against the country. God willing, we will overcome [this conspiracy]”, adding as an afterthought, “We want to speed [reforms] up, but not be [too] hasty”.[4] 


[1] “Turkey pressures Syria to stop crackdown” Today’s Zaman (27 April 2011). http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=242142.

[2] “Syrian army sends tanks into Damascus” The Voice of Russia (29 April 2011). http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/04/28/49591086.html.

[3] Bassem Mroue, “Syria: 4 soldiers killed in attack on army post” AP (29 April 2011). http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Syria-4-soldiers-killed-in-attack-on-army-post-1358028.php.

[4] Nicholas Blanford,, “President Assad’s defiant speech stuns Syrians who call for more protests” The Christian Science Monitor (30 March 2011). http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0330/President-Assad-s-defiant-speech-stuns-Syrians-who-call-for-more-protests.

Bradley Manning Update

 Alyona Minkovski talks about a subject dear to her heart: the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, the alleged Wiki-Leaker. Manning has been moved to his new facility inFort Leavenworth, Kansas. After denying access to his prison conditions while at Quantico to a UN official and Representative Denis Kucinich among others, the army is opening their arms and inviting media outlets to take a tour of his new home at Fort Leavenworth, in efforts to prove that Manning is being treated well. But do you really think that moving  Manning will make people forget how you treated him? (29 April 2011).


General Petraeus Moves to the CIA

 If the rumours are true, General David Petraeus is being seriously considered to be the next CIA director. And Leon Panetta will take over for Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. But does a rumoured Presidential run for Petraeus has anything to do with it? Kevin Zeese, director of ComeHomeAmerica.us explains how this move would make the CIA more active in the military (05 April 2011).


And now, towards the end of April, rumours have come true and Petraeus will be heading the CIA. The news agency Reuters notes that ‘President Barack Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles’, given that it is an ‘agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight’.[1] 


[1] “Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?” Reuters (22 April 2011). http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/2011/04/28/could-petraeus-be-too-shiny-for-the-cia/.

Monument to Humanity: Wanton Iconoclasm or a Sample of Nationalist Rhetoric?

As a geographic location, the territories now occupied by the Republic of Turkey are no stranger to bouts of iconoclasm and wanton destruction of works of art. In the days before Turks ever tread on the soil of Anatolia and Islam had become the law of the land, the Byzantine Empire (to use that time-worn 19th-century coinage) went through a number of turbulent phases in its religious life. Phases in experiencing religiosity that were connected to the use and/or abuse of images, when believers were either iconodules or iconoclasts, loving or loathing icons or depictions of the deity and other holy figures. As such, in Byzantine history two bouts of image-breaking fervour occurred: the “First Iconoclasm”, lasting from approximately 730 till the year 787 and the “Second Iconoclasm”, between 814 and 842. The then-hotly debated issue was whether the worship of the deity through icons constituted idolatry or was a legitimate means of approaching the godhead. Of more recent memory and enjoying large international exposure is of course the Taliban demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in the course of March 2001, an act of gratuitous iconoclasm based on a strict interpretation of Islamic precepts practised by the Taliban and their Wahhabi sponsors. In fact, the Saudis themselves have also committed their share of wilful destruction of cultural heritage. Early in 2002, they destroyed an 18th-century Ottoman-era fortress, al-Ajyad, overlooking a mosque in Mecca for the sake of progress, in order to erect 11 high-rise towers, consisting of apartments, a twin-tower five-star hotel, restaurants and a sacrosanct shopping mall in the holy city (at a cost of $533m), the latter ensuring that pilgrims and local contribute to the city’s economy by means of worshipping consumerism. At the time, the Turkish government  “lodged a complaint with UNESCO, arguing that the Saudi move was a crime against humanity’s shared heritage and no different from the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of two massive Buddhist statues inAfghanistan”, as worded by the travel writer Michael Wise. Then-Turkish parliament speaker Murat Sökmenoğlu (member of the Turco-Islamist MHP), declared that a “Muslim country’s destruction of another Muslim country’s historic heritage on holy soil is a sinful behaviour in breach of the moral values of Islam, religious brotherhood and common sense”.

Now that Turkey is living in the grip of the AKP, one of the successors of the recently deceased Necmettin Erbakan’s Refah Partisi (RP), one would think that such Muslim sentiment reigns supreme. Currently, a symbolically-charged statue is being demolished as a result of Recep Tayyib Erdoğan’s statement in January 2011 that a “freak”  had been erected in the vicinity of the tomb of Hasan al-Haraqani (963-1033). The Prime Minister was referring to the gigantic and as yet incomplete ‘Monument to Humanity’ (İnsanlık Anıtı), set up in 2008 by the sculptor Mehmet Aksoy. At the time of Erdoğan’s effusion, the Wall Street Journal’s Marc Champion opined that these words signaled “the depth of a freeze in efforts to reopen the border and improve relations between the two neighbors” of Armenia and Turkey. And now, following another round of 24-April trepidations, destruction work has commenced at full force, with the hope that work will be finished in ten days.

But what did Mehmet Aksoy’s gigantic sculpture attempt to do?  It is a really huge human figure that is torn in two, with an equally enormous hand reaching out into the distance. The message seems rather obvious: Turks, or should we say Muslims?, and Armenians once lived side by side on these lands. They used to be one body. As a result of a brutal exercise of ethnic cleansing that once-unified social structure became ruptured. Yet, now as neighbour – the sovereign states of Turkey and Armenia– attempts should be made to overcome the legacy of the Great War (1914-18), hence the reaching out of an empty hand looking for friendship. But now, on account of government-sponsored iconoclasm, such feelings of solidarity and attempts at coming to term with one’s past no longer have a physical reminder in a region o f  Turkey once heavily populated by Armenians.

And what would the dead saint, ostensibly at the centre of this affair, Hasan al-Haraqani, have said about all these things? After all, his final resting place seems to have provided the pretext for the current bout of iconoclasm in the geographic location of the Republic of  Turkey. This saintly figure’s presence in Anatolia predated the Battle of Manazgirt (1077), which ushered in the Turkification and Islamification of Anatolia. Born in Khorasan, he left his home and came to Anatolia following the death of his Mürşid (spiritual teacher) Bâyazid Bistamî. Haraqani was known as a man who cared for the downtrodden and rejoiced in his love for God and mankind. His advice for reaching God was to practice generosity, and to be compassionate and contented. All in all, Hasan al-Haraqani would apparently not have approved of the wanton destruction of a symbol meant to bring people together and bring an end to a century of enmity. In fact, Turkey’s current favourite saint, Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumî, better knowns as just Rumi in the rest of  the world, also wrote favourably about him. As a mystic who saw himself as a conduit to God for ordinary people, Haraqani’s life and teachings could serve as a cautionary tale for today’s policy-makers and business-leaders in Turkey trying to come to grips with the annually recurring 24-April crisis and the growing Islamophobia in this post-9/11 world of ours.

What lies behind the present destruction of the ‘Monument to Humanity’? Why did Erdoğan use the word “freak” (‘ucube’) in connection with Mehmet Aksoy’s sculpture?  The Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu added that the modernist (or is it post-modernist?) sculpture clashes with the Seljuk and Ottoman heritage of  the city of Kars, that it clashes with the architectural aesthetic present in the city. On the other hand, the upcoming elections should not be discounted either. Located on a spot that affords a view of the Republic of Armenia, removing the sculpture might send a message of Turkish determination in the face of Armenian desperation to have the G-word finally officially engraved on the history of 20th-century Turkey, from its Unionist beginnings, over its Kemalist heyday, and into its current post-Kemalist and pro-Islamic phase. Is the Prime Minister merely trying to have the AKP replace the MHP in the hearts and minds of  Turkish nationalists by means of removing a symbolic gesture towards Armenia and its on-going struggle to come to terms with the past?


İnsanlık Anıtı or ‘Monument to Humanity’ Demolished

The sculptor Mehmet Aksoy’s gigantic work, İnsanlık Anıtı or ‘Monument to Humanity’, is now being destroyed in a sample of officially authorised iconoclasm: ‘Workers began the demolition of Kars’ Monument to Humanity on Tuesday [, 26 April 2011], removing the 19-ton head of one of the figures following some technical difficulties. There will be no reversal of the contentious demolition, Özlem Öztürk, a press consultant for Kars Municipality, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, adding that the work should be completed within 10 days’.[1]  


[1] “Demolition begins on Monument to Humanity in eastern Turkey” Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review (26 April 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=monument-to-humanity-dismantled-piece-by-piece-2011-04-26.

Deep Future: Climate Change and the Untimely End of the Coming Ice Age

On RT America, Thom Hartmann is having a most interesting guest: ‘In Conversation with Great Minds, Thom Hartmann is joined by a renowned ecologist and paleoclimatolgist whose work is featured in dozens of scientific journals and periodicals including National Geographic with an interesting new perspective on climate change and the future of our planet. Climate Whiplash – Global warming to Global cooling’???? 

 Dr Curt Stager’s book looks like a good albeit unsettling read: Most debate over global warming looks only as far ahead as 2100 AD, but what happens after that? As Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: the next 100,000 years of life on Earth, argues, our fossil fuel emissions will interfere with climates for much longer than most of us, scientists included, yet realize. Even in the best-case scenario, the world won’t fully recover for tens of thousands of years, and possibly much longer. What will life in that shockingly deep future be like? Some will win and some will lose. On the bright side, we’ve already prevented the next nation-crushing ice age. But as the Earth finally starts to cool down again, “climate whiplash” will force people, animals, and plants to reverse their adaptive strategies. Losers may then become winners – but exactly how the future plays out is ultimately up to us as we search for a sane, sustainable path forward in this new geologic epoch, the “Age of Humans” . . . We live at a critical time in human history, when our choice of lifestyles will set the course of the Earth’s climatic future for tens of thousands of years. If we switch soon to non-fossil fuels, we’ll head off the most severe climatic changes; but what if we don’t make that switch in time? We don’t have to rely on pure speculation to answer that question, because such a super-greenhouse has actually happened before, long before humans came into the picture. Curt Stager describes that world and how we know what it was like. Imagine a planet with lush polar forests, sea levels 200 feet higher than today, and acidic oceans that last for thousands of years and then slowly revert back to today’s conditions. These are just some of the things that may await our descendants in that deep future.[1]  


[1] “Science journalist and author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth” BrightSightGroup. http://brightsightgroup.com/topics.asp?speaker=296.