— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for September, 2015

Acronym TV: Bill Maher and Islamophobia

‘Bill Maher told his Real Time with Bill Maher audience recently that the homemade clock that got 14- year old Ahmed Mohamed handcuffed and arrested from his school actually “looked like a bomb” and because called for us to “have some perspective,” asserting that “for the last 30 years it has been one culture that has been blowing shit up” so Muslims should just get used to the rest of us “taking extra precautions.” Maher is turning into a version everyone’s least favorite Uncle. You know the one: The aging baby boomer ‘bro’ who begins every conversation with “not that I’m racist but …. Can’t we just round up all the Muslims and put them in a camp somewhere?” Truly: Bill Maher’s America is scary place; one that has zero capacity to take responsibility for its own actions let alone for self reflection, or humility, no: Bill Maher is transforming before our eyes into a nationalistic wing nut occupying the faux left wing of our myopic national discourse, waving the flag of American Exceptionalism while upping the ante on his already established Islamophobia. Published on Sep 24, 2015′.

Remembering Bush, Junior: White House Correspondents Dinner 2006

The WHCA’s annual dinner, begun in 1920, has become a Washington, D.C. tradition and is usually attended by the President and Vice President. Fifteen presidents have attended at least one WHCA dinner, beginning with Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The dinner is traditionally held on the evening of the last Saturday in April at the Washington Hilton. And now nearly a decade ago, then-fresh television sensation Stephen Colbert was invited to talk at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as the featured entertainer  . . . and give Bush, Jr. his due.

The then-senior editor for The New Republic Noam Scheiber subsequently wrote the following in 2006: “I’m a big Stephen Colbert fan, a huge Bush detractor, and I think the White House press corps has been out to lunch for much of the last five years”.[1]

[1] Jacques Steinberg, “After Press Dinner, the Blogosphere Is Alive With the Sound of Colbert Chatter” The New York Times (3 May 2006). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/03/arts/03colb.html?_r=0.

Noam Chomsky on Trump

‘Noam Chomsky weighed in on U.S. presidential politics in a speech Saturday at The New School in New York. In addressing a question about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Chomsky assessed the political landscape: “Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes … So what has happened is that they’ve mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time. … Trump may be comic relief, but it’s not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important.” Published on Sep 22, 2015’.

Tortured & Enslaved: Enter the World’s Biggest Prison // Empire_File003

‘The Empire holds by far the most prisoners than any other country on earth, in both absolute numbers and per capita. Abby Martin explores the dark reality of America’s prisons: their conditions, who is warehoused in them, and the roots of mass incarceration. Featuring interviews with Eddie Conway, former political prisoner unjustly incarcerated for 44 years, and Eugene Puryear, author of Shackled and Chained, Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America. Published on Sep 19, 2015′.

On The Line: Jake Hanrahan On His Detention In Turkey

‘In late August, VICE News reporters Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendelbury and Mohammed Rasool, were arrested outside their hotel in Diyarbakir, Turkey and charged with supporting a terrorist organization. Prior to their arrest, the trio had been reporting on the conflict between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). After 11 days in detention, Jake and Phil were released. Mohammed Rasool, however, remains wrongfully imprisoned, and the investigation into all three reporters is “ongoing.” VICE News maintains that the charges against Jake, Phil, and Mohammed are baseless and absurd. We call on the Turkish authorities to continue their positive course of action in freeing Jake and Philip, and release Rasool immediately. Published on Sep 21, 2015′.

The pro-AKP newspaper Daily Sabah reported that the “[t]wo British Vice News journalists who were arrested in Turkey on charges of having links to ISIS, have been released on Thursday [. 3 September 2015], while an Iraqi guide and translator is still under arrest. British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip John Pendlebury, along with their translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool, were detained on August 27 and arrested on September 1 in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The Diyarbakır Second Criminal Court’s earlier decision to arrest the journalists reflected police’s concerns about multiple contradictions in the defendants’ testimonies and the discovery of a military-grade encryption system on one of the suspect’s personal computer, whose contents he refused to decrypt for official review. According to cyber security experts, the encryption system is commonly used by ISIS members, the sources had said”.[1]

The news agency AFP then reported that Hanrahan and Pendlebury’s “return to Britain coincided with the arrest of a Dutch journalist based in southeastern Turkey who covers chiefly Kurdish issues. Frederike Geerdink wrote on Twitter Sunday [6 September] that she had been arrested in the Yuksekova district of Hakkari province while reporting on the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Geerdink, who was arrested earlier this year on charges of spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’ but later acquitted of the charges, said she was with a group of ‘human shields’ at the time, and that the entire group had been taken into custody. Her case and that of the Vice News reporters have amplified concerns over press freedoms in Turkey, where the government is waging a relentless campaign against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. Vice News had condemned the charges against its journalists as ‘baseless’ and ‘alarmingly false’, and leading rights groups had called for their immediate release”.[2]

[1] “Two British Vice News journalists arrested in Turkey have been released ” Daily Sabah (03 September 2015). http://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2015/09/03/two-british-vice-news-journalists-arrested-in-turkey-have-been-released.

[2] “Vice News reporters held in Turkey return to Britain” AFP (06 September 2015). http://news.yahoo.com/vice-news-reporters-held-turkey-return-britain-132317328.html.

Inside Turkey’s media battleground – Listening Post

‘Raids, arrests, threats and deportation – journalism is becoming increasingly dangerous in Turkey as the government clamps down on the media covering stories it wants ignored. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of a heavy-handed approach with journalists after one of the country’s largest media houses – Dogan Media Group – was investigated for alleged “terrorism propaganda.” The probe came on the heels of the Nokta news magazine being raided and its latest edition being banned; and three journalists from the New York-based Vice News being arrested in Diyarbakir for quote “working for a terrorist organisation”. At a time when entire cities in the southeast – Diyarbakir and Cizre – have been placed under curfew, Erdogan’s latest crackdown has made a military offensive against Kurdish separatists increasingly difficult to cover. Discussing Turkey’s deteriorating state of press freedom are: Idil Engindeniz, a media scholar at Galatasaray University; Bekir Hazar, the host at TV show Yaz Boz; Cevheri Guven, Editor at Nokta magazine; and Murat Bayram, a reporter for Kurdistan 24. Other media stories on our radar this week: journalists keep getting arrested and detained in Thailand; Charlie Hebdo‘s controversial cartoon [supposedly] poking fun at the death of Aylan Kurdi; and the murder of a journalist in Colombia – that was caught on camera. Published on Sep 19, 2015’.

Going Underground: Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks Files

‘Afshin Rattansi goes underground with the world’s most wanted publisher – the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. He has just co-authored a book – The WikiLeaks Files, and it paints a picture of systemic US torture and killing as well as the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of billions of people right around the world. Published on Sep 9, 2015′.

Assange said that in the WikiLeaks trove of treasures there “is a cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck, who was stationed in Damascus, which apparently discusses a plan for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria”; expanding as follows, “[t]hat plan was to use a number of different factors to create paranoia within the Syrian government; to push it to overreact, to make it fear there’s a coup”.[1]  Assange details then that the plan was “to take rumors that are known to be false . . . or exaggerations and promote them – that Iran is trying to convert poor Sunnis, and to work with Saudi and Egypt to foster that perception in order to make it harder for Iran to have influence, and also harder for the government to have influence in the population”.[2]

On the WikiLeaks website, one can read that ‘s cable literally put it like this: “There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue”.[3]  The cable continues that “[w]e should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to allow Khaddam [‘(Abdul Halim) Khaddam and the National Salvation Front’, based in Belgium] access to their media outlets, providing him with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry.  We should anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors”.[4]  Earlier in the cable Roebuck says that “Bashar,s [sic] reaction to the prospect of Hariri tribunal and to publicity for Khaddam and the National Salvation Front borders on the irrational”.[5]

The good folks at Wikipedia then inform us that Abdul Halim Khaddam (born in 1932) ‘is a Syrian politician who was Vice President of Syria from 1984 to 2005. He was one of the few Sunni Muslims to make it to the top of the Alawite-dominated Syrian leadership. He was long known as a loyalist of Hafez Assad, and held a strong position within the Syrian government until he resigned his positions and fled the country in 2005 in protest against certain policies of Hafez’s son and successor, Bashar Assad’.[6]  In January 2006, the New York Times reported that a “former Syrian vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam, ratcheted up his allegations against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Thursday [, 6 January 2006] and said that Mr. Assad’s rule might not survive the political crisis caused by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon and the ensuing United Nations investigation. Last week, Mr. Khaddam caused an international furor when he told the satellite network Al Arabiya that Mr. Assad and other Syrian officials had threatened Mr. Hariri in the months before his death in a Beirut truck bombing in February 2005. In doing so, Mr. Khaddam became the most senior member of the Syrian inner circle to break ranks publicly “.[7]

The Roebuck cable also indicates that “[t]he [Assad] regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at [sic] Asad [,Bashar al-Assad’s uncle] as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime,s [sic] paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction”.[8]

[1] Kit O’Connell, “Julian Assange: US & Israel Planned To Overthrow Assad In 2006” MintPress News (14 Sep 2015). http://www.mintpressnews.com/julian-assange-us-israel-planned-to-overthrow-assad-in-2006/209493/.

[2] Kit O’Connell, “Julian Assange: US & Israel Planned To Overthrow Assad In 2006”.

[3] “INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006” WikiLeaks (2006 December 13, 16:03). https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html.



[6] “Abdul Halim Khaddam” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Halim_Khaddam.

[7] Hassan M. Fattah, “A Critic, in Exile, Aims More Barbs at the President of Syria” The New York Times (06 January 2006). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/06/international/middleeast/06syria.html?_r=0.


Assad’s full interview with RT and Russian journalists in Damascus

‘Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad gave an interview with RT’s Lizzie Phelan and Sargon Hadaya and other Russian journalists in Damascus, on Tuesday. Published on Sep 15, 2015’.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday [, 15 September] called for a special EU refugee summit, urging unity after an angry reaction to a suggestion by one of her ministers that states that did not take in their share of asylum seekers could face financial penalties. The proposal by interior minister Thomas de Maiziere was forcefully rejected by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are among eastern European states that have resisted European Union plans to share out refugees. Merkel later took a more conciliatory tone, calling for Europe to come together on the refugee issue . . . Facing opposition from ex-Communist states, EU ministers failed on Monday [, 14 September] to break a deadlock over sharing responsibility for accepting some of the hundreds of thousands who have sought asylum in Europe. De Maiziere said the EU was still some way from agreeing long-term quotas for refugees. “So I think we must talk about ways of exerting pressure,” he told ZDF television, adding that some of the countries that opposed quotas were the beneficiaries of structural funds — EU money allocated to help poorer regions catch up with wealthier areas. A senior Czech official said threats to cut such funding had no basis in law. “German threats that central Europe will be punished by cutting cohesion funds are empty but very damaging to all,” Tomas Prouza, the Czech State Secretary for the EU, said’.[1]

Barbara Tasch and Mike Nudelman write that “m]ore than 150,000 refugees entered the European Union in August [2015], increasing the total to more than half a million for the year, the European Union border agency announced. Though the number of refugees entering Europe had steadily increased over the past 10 months, European leaders were slow to respond, leading to what the EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos called the worst refugee crisis facing Europe since World War II . . . The distribution of refugees among the members of the 28-member EU has been far from equal. Most refugees are trying to reach rich countries with generous immigration policies like Sweden and Germany, and many Eastern European countries are refusing to take in any refugees. Most try to reach the Schengen area, 26 countries that have abolished border control and allowed free movement of people and goods”.[2]

[1] “Merkel Calls for European Unity, Summit on Refugee Crisis” Reuters (16 Sep 2015). http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-border-crisis/merkel-calls-european-unity-summit-refugee-crisis-n427986.

[2] Barbara Tasch and Mike Nudelman, “This map shows the routes of Europe’s refugee nightmare — and how it’s getting worse” Business Insider (15 Sep 2015). http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-europe-refugee-crisis-2015-9.

Blair’s Bane: Jeremy Corbyn FTW

‘Jeremy Corbyn, has been elected Labour party leader in the UK. Corbyn won 59.5 percent of the ballots cast, or 251,417 votes, in the leadership election, winning in the first round. “Can I start by thanking everyone who took part in this democratic election,” Corbyn said in a victory speech, calling the election a “huge democratic exercise” for millions of people. Published on Sep 12, 2015’.

9/11 and the Belligerent Empire // Empire_File002

‘In September 11th’s episode of The Empire Files on TeleSUR, Abby Martin examines the two major wars launched under the “Global War on Terror”–their historical development and their aftermath. Featuring former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, this episode digs into the tragedy of a region shaped by Empire. Published on Sep 12, 2015′.