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From the End of History to the End of Democracy

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When the Cold War was at a supposed end and the West was in a triumphant mood, the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama penned the book The End of History and the Last Man (1992). As such, a book carrying such an hyperbolic title should have been met with derision but was instead celebrated across the world. Fukuyama’s thesis was couched on “a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s final form of human government”, as articulated by the journalist Ishaan Tharoor.1 The book starts out as follows: “[t]he distant origins of the present volume lie in an article entitled ‘The End of History?’ which I wrote for the journal The National Interest in the summer of 1989. In it, I argued that a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism. More than that, however, I argued that liberal democracy may constitute the ‘end point of mankind’s ideological evolution’ and the ‘final form of human government,’ and as such constituted the ‘end of history.’ That is, while earlier forms of government were characterised by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions. This was not to say that today’s stable democracies, like the United States, France, or Switzerland, were not without injustice or serious social problems. But these problems were ones of incomplete implementation of the twin principles of liberty and equality on which modern democracy is founded, rather than of flaws in the principles themselves. While some present-day countries might fail to achieve stable liberal democracy, and others might lapse back into other, more primitive forms of rule like theocracy or military dictatorship, the ideal of liberal democracy could not be improved on”.2

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Fukuyama’s words are literally bathing in a pool of hybris and American Optimism and Exceptionalism . . . a philosophy book acting like a cheerleader for the ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’. The social scientist Selcen Öner wrote a critique of the book, analysing the thesis and its ramifications, starting off by stating that “[t]he victory of the West and Western idea is evident firstly with the collapse of systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. [Fukuyama] states that, in the past decade, there have been important changes in the intellectual climate of the world’s two largest communist countries (Russia, China) and reform movements have begun in both. Also it can be seen in the spread of consumerist Western culture. As a result of these indications, he reaches to his main idea: ‘What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War or the passing of a particular period of post-war history; that is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’ But as we see from the beginning, [Fukuyama] states his arguments without a strong basis [in fact-based reality] and with a lack of evidence. After expressing his main argument, he makes some references to Marx, Hegel and Kojeve. He says that his main concept ‘the end of history’, is not an original concept. This concept was firstly used by Hegel. According to Hegel, history is a dialectical process, with a beginning, a middle and an end. On the other hand, Marx, believes that, the direction of historical development was a purposeful one and would come to an end with the achievement of a communist Utopia that would finally resolve all prior contradiction”.3

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Öner concludes that Fukuyama “tried to make a long-term civilizational analysis, but with only analysing short-term indicators. So he [should have rather used] the term ‘civilizational transformation’, instead of ‘end of history’. The era which was tried to be analyzed and defined by Fukuyama was only one of the turning points in the world history. As we can see . . . history is within an ongoing transformation process which needs further analysis. Consequently we can say that, Fukuyama wanted to give a name to the situation after the collapse of [C]ommunism. He [coined] the [phrase] ‘the end of history’, with one-dimensional, ethno-centric perspective. He was too quick to claim such an assertive thesis. Probably he did this to legitimize and formulate the theoretical framework of the New World Order. Because to create a new world order, the old one must have an end. To legitimize US’s leader role, he uses Hegel. Because he also ends history with the victory of one state. To show US’s ever lasting victory, he had to create a very optimistic perspective. His main contribution is, after his article [and subsequent book]’s [publication] there has been an acceleration in critiques about the post cold war world”.4

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And now, the philosophical cheerleader of American Optimism and Exceptionalism has apparently had a brush with reality, as he told Ishaan Tharoor during a telephone interview that “[t]wenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” adding insightfully, “[a]nd I think they clearly can”.5 In the next instance, Fukuyama turns to the current U.S. President, Donald J. Trump (aka the Drumpf),6 stating apparently in a somewhat dejected voice: “I have honestly never encountered anyone in political life who[m] I thought had a less suitable personality to be president . . . Trump is so thin-skinned and insecure that he takes any kind of criticism or attack personally and then hits back“.7 Taking developments in Europe and beyond into consideration, Fukuyama muses philosophically that “We don’t know how it’s all going to play out“.8 It now seems that the the philosophical cheerleader of American Optimism and Exceptionalism has now become resigned that his earlier predictive utterings turned out to be fallacious . . . in fact, in his famous book published more than two decades ago now, Fukuyama did say that “this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again”.9

European Right-Wing Parties Hold Conference In Koblenz

1 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future” Washington Post (09 Feb 2017). https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/09/the-man-who-declared-the-end-of-history-fears-for-democracys-future/?utm_term=.dd78f5d1fa73.

Francis Fukuyama, “By Way of an Introduction” The End of History and the Last Man. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/fukuyama.htm.

3 Selcen Öner , “A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF FUKUYAMA’S THESIS “THE END OF HISTORY?” Istanbul Journal of Sociological Studies, 27 (2003). www.journals.istanbul.edu.tr/iusoskon/article/download/1023005867/1023005391.

4 Selcen Öner , “A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF FUKUYAMA’S THESIS “THE END OF HISTORY?” .

5 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

6 “Make Donald Drumpf Again, #2” The Erimtan Angle (08 March 2016). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/make-donald-drumpf-again-2/.

7 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

9 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

The Current Rise of Russian Orthodox Christianity: Putin’s Orthodox Gambit

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The Associated Press reports that “Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo attended a ceremony on Wednesday [19 October 2016] to inaugurate a Russian cultural center including an Orthodox cathedral next to the Eiffel Tower. Russian President Vladimir Putin had planned to attend the ceremony at the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in the heart of the French capital but postponed his visit to Paris following a spat with French leader Francois Hollande over the war in Syria. Putin rescheduled his visit after Hollande hinted Russia could face war crimes charges for bombarding Syria’s second city, Aleppo. The French president then said that Putin put off his trip after Hollande let him know he wouldn’t take part in the opening of the new center and was only interested in talks about Syria”.[1]

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This means that Putin’s soft power designs to spread the Russian take on the world westward has now been overtaken by power-politics and the West’s apparent desire to wage war on Moscow. The academic and writer Michael Klare some time ago declared in the Nation that “[f]or the first time in a quarter-century, the prospect of war—real war, war between the major powers—will be on the agenda of Western leaders when they meet at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8 and 9 [2016]. Dominating the agenda in Warsaw (aside, of course, from the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK) will be discussion of plans to reinforce NATO’s ‘eastern flank’—the arc of former Soviet partners stretching from the Baltic states to the Black Sea that are now allied with the West but fear military assault by Moscow. Until recently, the prospect of such an attack was given little credence in strategic circles, but now many in NATO believe a major war is possible and that robust defensive measures are required . . . As a further indication of US and NATO determination to prepare for a possible war with Russia, the alliance recently conducted the largest war games in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Known as Anakonda 2016, the exercise involved some 31,000 troops (about half of them Americans) and thousands of combat vehicles from 24 nations in simulated battle maneuvers across the breadth of Poland. A parallel naval exercise, BALTOPS 16, simulated ‘high-end maritime warfighting’ in the Baltic Sea, including in waters near Kaliningrad, a heavily defended Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania “.[2] In this way, the West has been vilifying Russia, turning Putin into a convenient bogeyman and easily recognizable global culprit.

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The journalist Antoine Blua posits that the newly inaugurated Russian cultural centre + Orthodox cathedral in Paris is nothing but “a grand expression of Moscow’s quest to project the image of a powerful, religious Russia, and assert itself as a champion of traditional values”.[3] Or, to use the concept coined in 1990 by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., it is Putin’s utilization of Russia’s resources to project the Kremlin’s soft power.[4] Blua continues that the “cathedral was reportedly first proposed in 2007 by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church at the time, the late Patriarch Aleksii II, during his historic visit to the French capital. It is part of a Russian campaign to gain control of churches and graves dating from tsarist times and reassert control over the Russian diaspora, including in France, where there are an estimated 200,000 followers of Russian Orthodoxy”.[5] The AP adds that the “complex, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, has been built on the site of the former headquarters of France’s national weather forecasting service, near the Seine River. The site, which also includes a school and a book shop, was sold to Russia under former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government amid criticism from rights groups about France’s outreach to Putin. The Russian president visited the site in 2010 and denied reports it would be used by Russian secret services. The church was designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and features five onion-shaped golden domes. The biggest one weighs eight tons and is 12 meters (40 feet) high”.[6]

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President Putin has been pushing an Orthodox agenda at home ever since he came to power at the end of the year 1999. The following year, the Russian Orthodox Church presented its vision for a new social model known as “Holy Rus” [or in Russian, Svyataya Rus]. The professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island Nicolai N. Petro explains that the “Church’s immediate social agenda was laid out in 2000 in a document known as the Basics of the Social Conception of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to this seminal document the Church ‘does not give preference to any social system or to any of the existing political doctrines’. Secular states were established by God to give human beings the opportunity to order their social life according to their own free will. Political pluralism is an important part of this, so both clergy and laity are free to choose whatever political convictions they desire, though these should not contradict ‘the faith and moral norms of the Church’s Tradition’. But while the state’s secular ambitions make non-intervention in each other’s internal affairs desirable, complete separation is not the goal. The ideal relationship between Church and state is symphonia, a relationship that the Roman Emperor Justinian (482-565) described as producing ‘general harmony’ for the human race. According to the Orthodox Church, in modern times symphonia manifests itself through a formal partnership between the Church and the state. Within this partnership the Church has the obligation to promote peace and harmony, provide charity, and promote public morality through its spiritual guidance of public institutions such as the military, media, and schools. For businessmen the Church has elaborated ‘Ten Commandments for Businessmen’ highlighting their social obligations, which include paying taxes and providing fair wages. This partnership even extends to foreign policy where the Russian Orthodox Church seeks to heighten the role of religious diplomacy, and assist in the construction of a multipolar world that respects diverse cultural worldviews. In every nation of the globe, the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill says, the Church’s task is to make that particular nation ‘a carrier of Orthodox civilization’. In the absence of any coherent secular alternative, Russian political authorities seem to have embraced the partnership model offered by the Church. Yeltsin, Putin, and Medvedev, have all spoken poignantly about the historical and cultural importance of Russian Orthodoxy, and appealed for more Church involvement in social affairs. In the past decade specific Church priorities, such as outlawing abortion, promoting family values, and expanding religious education in schools, have received both national and local government support”. [7]

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The Russian Orthodox Church has made the above-mentioned document, Basics of the Social Conception of the Russian Orthodox Church, has been publicly accessible on the internet.[8] Under the heading ‘III. Church and State’, one can read that “[i]n church-state relations, the difference in their natures should be taken into account. The Church has been founded by God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, while the God-instituted nature of state power is revealed in historical process only indirectly. The goal of the Church is the eternal salvation of people, while the goal of state is their well-being on earth . . . Various models of relationships between the Orthodox Church and the state have developed in the course of history . . . Attempts to work out this form were undertaken in Byzantium, where the principles of church-state relations were expressed in the canons and the laws of the empire and were reflected in patristic writings. In their totality these principles were described as symphony between church and state. It is essentially co-operation, mutual support and mutual responsibility without one’s side intruding into the exclusive domain of the other. The bishop obeys the government as a subject, not his episcopal power comes from a government official. Similarly, a government official obeys his bishop as a member of the Church, who seeks salvation in it, not because his power comes from the power of the bishop. The state in such symphonic relationships with the Church seeks her spiritual support, prayer for itself and blessing upon its work to achieve the goal of its citizens’ welfare, while the Church enjoys support from the state in creating conditions favourable for preaching and for the spiritual care of her children who are at the same time citizens of the state”.[9]

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President Putin is fully aware of the essentially symbiotic relationship existing between church and state in the Russian Orthodox tradition, as he expressed in 2004 when he said that he and his administration are at pains to be “repaying the State’s historical debt to the church”.[10] In fact, the Russian President seems very aware of the mere idea of symphonia, as he described attempts made by the Moscow Patriarchate to reunite with the Russian Church abroad as constituting moves towards “restoring the lost unity of the whole Russian world, whose spiritual foundation has always been the Orthodox religion” (2007),[11] basically subjecting secular state policy to the religious demands of the Church. After all, Putin famously more than once employed the phrase “Near Abroad” to refer to the territories surrounding the Russian borders. But the Orthodox reunification also gave Putin direct access the USA. Namely, on Thursday, 17 May 2007, the “Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which claims more than 70 million adherents, and the U.S.-based Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR), which is believed to be 1.5 million strong” were formally linked once more through a Canonical Communion and Reunification, by means of a ceremony in the Russian capital, attended by “[t]housands of the Russian Orthodox faithful — including several hundred who flew in from New York”.[12] The TIME reporter Yuri Zarakhovich opines that “[n]ationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. [The 2007] rite [in Moscow] sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument,” adding that “Putin’s new unified Church will also further expand in the U.S. and Western Europe as it tries to use the ROCOR’s network and congregation to become as much an arm of Russian nationalist politics as well as Russian piety”.[13] A case in point seems to be the newly opened Holy Trinity Cathedral in Paris . . .

Patriarch Kirill, Vladimir Putin

[1] “Russia opens new cathedral in Paris amid diplomatic tensions” AP (19 Oct 2016). https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russia-opens-new-church-in-paris-amid-diplomatic-tensions/2016/10/19/531bd8fe-95ff-11e6-9cae-2a3574e296a6_story.html.

[2] Michael T. Klare, “The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia” The Nation (07 July 2016). https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-and-nato-are-preparing-for-a-major-war-with-russia/.

[3] Antoine Blua, “Russia Set To Unveil Cultural, Orthodox Jewel On The Seine” Modern Diplomacy (17 Oct 2016). http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1820:russia-set-to-unveil-cultural-orthodox-jewel-on-the-seine&Itemid=480.

[4] Joseph S. Nye, Jr, “Soft Power” Foreign Policy, nr. 80 (Autumn 1990).

[5] Antoine Blua, “Russia Set To Unveil Cultural, Orthodox Jewel On The Seine”.

[6] “Russia opens new cathedral in Paris amid diplomatic tensions”.

[7] Nicolai N. Petro, “The Role of the Orthodox Church in a changing Russia” ISPI, nr. 21 (June 2012).

[8] “The Basis of the Social Concept” The Russian Orthodox Church. https://mospat.ru/en/documents/social-concepts/.

[9] “III. Church and state” The Basis of the Social Concept The Russian Orthodox Church. https://mospat.ru/en/documents/social-concepts/iii/.

[10] Quoted in Nicolai N. Petro, “The Role of the Orthodox Church in a changing Russia”.

[11] Quoted in Nicolai N. Petro, “The Role of the Orthodox Church in a changing Russia”.

[12] Yuri Zarakhovich, “Putin’s Reunited Russian Church” TIME (17 May 2007). http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1622544,00.html.

[13] Yuri Zarakhovich, “Putin’s Reunited Russian Church”.

Libya: Five Years On

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Five years ago, Libya’s one-time strongman Muammar Gaddafi was brutally murdered and mutilated by NATO and its Islamist allies on the ground.[1] Now, the writer and commentator John Wight argues that “Gaddafi’s crime in the eyes of the West was not that he was an authoritarian dictator – how could it be when their closest ally in the region is Saudi Arabia? His crime in their eyes, it was revealed in a tranche of classified Clinton emails, released by Wikileaks in January of [2016], was his intention of establishing a gold-backed currency to compete with the euro and the dollar as an international reserve currency in Africa. In this regard the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were key actors in pushing for NATO intervention. Libyan oil was also a factor”.[2]

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On April Fools’ Day 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, former aide to President Bill Clinton, long-time confidante to Hillary Clinton, (as well as being a sometime journalist) e-mailed the following missive to Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of State (21 January 2009 – 1 February 2013): “According to sensitive information available to . . . these individuals, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011 these stocks were moved to SABHA (south west in the direction of the Libyan border with Niger and Chad); taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli. This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French.franc (CFA)”. And then adding this important note: “(Source Comment: According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues: a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production, b.Increase French influence in North Africa, c. Improve his intemai political situation in France, d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world, e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa)”.[3]

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Blumenthal’s electronic missive purports that the driving force behind Gaddafi’s fall from grace and his subsequent bloody death was none other than the diminutive French President of Hungarian descent Nicolas Sarkozy, serving in the Élysée Palace between 16 May 2007 until 15 May 2012. As put by Wight, the “classified emails prove beyond any doubt that what took place in Libya was a monstrous crime for which those responsible have yet to be held accountable. On the contrary, Sarkozy is currently in the process of preparing a political return as French president, while Hillary Clinton is favorite to win the race for the White House against Republican nominee Donald Trump”, continuing that “[o]f the two, it is Clinton who was filmed clapping her hands and laughing at the news of Muammar Gaddafi’s murder in 2011. It is Clinton who pressed for the military intervention that ended in Libya’s destruction. And it is Hillary Clinton who has the gall to present herself as a moral giant in comparison to her rival for the US presidency”.[4]

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[1] “Whither Libya??? The Execution of Gadhafi, the NTC, and a New Prime Minister” The Erimtan Angle (02 Nov 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/whither-libya-the-execution-of-gadhafi-the-ntc-and-a-new-prime-minister/

[2] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi” CounterPunch (21 Oct 2016). http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-and-the-brutal-murder-of-qaddafi/.

[3] “H: FRANCE’S CLIENT & Q’S GOLD. SID” ‘Hillary Clinton Email Archive’ WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/6528.

[4] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi”.

Cubs of the Caliphate: ISIS and the EU

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‘More than 50 British children are among those being trained by Islamic State in Syria, according to a UK-based counter-extremism think-tank. And despite the ongoing fight against ISIS, the terror group says jihadi ideology is here to stay and that it’s going to spread across Europe. Published on Aug 2, 2016’.

At the same time, Europol analysts and experts, drawing on contributions from EU Member States and external partners have compiled a disturbing report detailing the threats faced by Fortress Europe in the early 21st century: European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2016 and introduced with these words: ‘This new edition of the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), which Europol has produced on an annual basis since 2006, provides an overview of the failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks that took place in the EU during 2015, and of arrests, convictions and penalties issued’.[1] The Director of Europol Rob Wainwright writes that “[i]n 2015 the European Union (EU) experienced a massive number of casualties caused by terrorist attacks. By far the most affected Member State was France, which had to cope with losing 148 citizens and seeing more than 350 injured in attacks perpetrated in January [2015] and November [2015]. Murders and injuries in 2015 resulted from both unsophisticated lone actor terrorist attacks and well-coordinated, complex attacks by groups of militants. The carefully planned attacks demonstrated the elevated threat to the EU from a fanatic minority, operationally based in the Middle East, combined with a network of people born and raised in the EU, often radicalised within a short space of time, who have proven to be willing and able to act as facilitators and active accomplices in terrorism. The attacks have led to political reactions at all levels across the EU. On 29 January 2015 – three weeks after the attack on the editors of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris – the Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Council issued the “Riga Statement”. In the statement, the Council asserts that counter-terrorism efforts must be reinforced both at national and EU levels, and that terrorism, radicalisation, recruitment and terrorist financing are among the main threats to the internal security of the EU . . . The socalled Islamic State has demonstrated its ability to strike at will, at multiple times and at a diverse range of targets. It has shown its prominence within the “global jihad”, while the threat posed by other jihadist militant groups has not diminished. The overall threat is reinforced by the substantial numbers of returned foreign terrorist fighters that many Member States now have on their soil, perhaps as many as a third of those who had travelled to conflict zones, some of whom could be instrumental in terrorist attacks. Another worrying development is the significant rise in nationalist (xenophobic), racist and anti-Semitic sentiments across the EU, each resulting in acts of right-wing extremism.[2]

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The report itself goes on to say that the “Islamic State has, in the 18 months between its declaration that it re-established the caliphate in June 2014 and December 2015, conducted or inspired at least 50 attacks in 18 countries that have killed 1,100 people and injured more than 1,700. Most attacks – including some public executions of ‘spies’ or other enemies – were carried out in the Middle East and North Africa. The emergence of branches of IS and al-Qaeda in South-East Asia, and a number of terrorist incidents targeting westerners in Bangladesh, might lead to an increased future risk of attacks and kidnappings in those regions. Several European jihadists hold prominent positions in IS and are likely to maintain contact with terrorist networks in their home countries. The 13 November Paris attacks introduced IS’s tactics of using small arms in combination with person-borne improvised explosive devices (PBIED) in suicide vests, designed to cause mass casualties. The way these attacks were prepared and carried out – plotted by returnees, very likely receiving direction from IS leadership, and including the use of local recruits to carry out the attacks – lead us to the assessment that similar attacks could again be staged in the EU in the near future. IS has repeatedly threatened the Iberian Peninsula and EU members of the anti-IS coalition in their propaganda videos, making specific references to Belgium, France, Italy and the UK”. [3]

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[1] “European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2016” Europol (20 July 2016). https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/european-union-terrorism-situation-and-trend-report-te-sat-2016.

[2] Rob Wainwright, “Foreword” European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2016, p. 5.

[3] European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2016, p. 6.

#Brexit = #NoMoreUK =#FUK

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With regard to the recently held referendum in Great Britain, the highly respected and truly inimitable authority that is the roving reporter Pepe Escobar writes on his Facebook wall that “THE WRITING ON [the] FUK’s WALL . . . Those two-bit Game of Thrones/House of Cards Tory clowns STILL can’t see the writing on [the] FUK (Former United Kingdom)’s wall. Brussels hardball is here to stay. NO single market access without freedom of movement, respecting the competence of the European Court of Justice and a “contribution” to the EU budget almost equivalent to what the UK pays today. [The]FUK (Former United Kingdom) gets a status equivalent to Norway, Iceland and [Lichtenstein]. And a trade deal similar to what the EU has with Singapore, Japan and Canada. That’s it. Those Tory clowns simply had no clue Brussels would definitely use Brexit as an example to prevent a domino effect, showing to assorted Europhobes that leaving IS painful. The governor of the Bank of England apparently got the picture: ‘economic post-traumatic stress disorder’. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) says [the] FUK’s economy will contract 6% by 2020. Investment (China included) will decline 8%. Unemployment will RISE. And public debt will reach 100% of FUK’s output. Eastern and Northern Europe are trying hard to soften the ball for [the] FUK. But who gives a damn what Estonia’s president thinks about it all? Even [the] FUK supporters agree there should be no special favors – because that would be a Godsend to Frexisters and Nexiters. But as I said before, everyone is irretrievably pissed, pissed off, pissed beyond belief with the English – and not necessarily the Brits (everyone loves Scotland). Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister and not exactly the brightest bulb in the room, at least nailed it; England has collapsed ‘politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically’. He should add ‘footballistically’as well. Someone should propose Gareth Bale for PM”[1]

  brexit_leave_7006194783_4ea0b7Is there anything else left to add, I wonder. And, as it turns out, the equally incomparable Nafeez Ahmed did, even before the ballots were cast and fully counted: “Nigel Farage has jumped off an economic cliff screaming ‘Independence Day!!!’, and he’s taking us all down with him. While Brexit will almost certainly usher in a new wave of austerity and impoverishment, it’s far from clear that Remain would avoid it. Wherever you stand on the outcome of Britain’s EU referendum, hard economic reality is going to bite – and it’s going to bite hard. The #VoteRemain camp made a point of highlighting the numerous warnings from economists that a UK exit from the EU would trigger an economic crisis. The #VoteLeave camp insisted that this was a doom-mongering lie. It wasn’t. Last night, over Twitter, I predicted that the Leave campaign would win by a narrow majority – but that the victory would grow hollow very quickly as its immediate economic impact kicked in [:] ‘So here’s a #brexit scenario: 1. #VoteLeave wins by slim majority 2. #VoteLeave victory create crisis in Cameron’s leadership. 11:26 PM – 23 Jun 2016’.[2]  Dr Ahmed then adds the following: “So far, my little forecast has turned out to be uncannily prescient. The pound is in free-fall, so far hitting a thirty-year low. Stocks have slumped, and look to decline further. Banks are shifting their money, and their jobs. David Cameron has resigned, virtually in tears, a fitting end perhaps to a shambolic premiership. But he also put off invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which would formally begin the EU exit process. I’ve said that by next week, escalating economic turbulence and the inadequacy of contingency measures to keep it in check will dramatically shift the euphoric mood to one of increasing foreboding about the economic slowdown”.[3]

The Canary

And finally, Dr Ahmed opines that’ll be “just the beginning folks. Over the next few weeks, we’ll watch as a pound in free-fall drives up inflation, and squeezes the spending power of the average consumer. Who’s that going to hit hardest? The lower middle and working classes, of course. The impact will hit the profits of businesses, big and small, and squeeze wages too. As the UK’s GDP growth – already tepid – freezes over, this will in turn have global impacts: the Eurozone, particularly the northern countries like Denmark and Finland, will be drawn into the downwards spiral; so will parts of southern Europe, already teetering on the precipice. And China, which is seeing its economy hit the brakes, will suffer when the European slowdown triggered by Brexit reduces demand for Chinese exports. It’s the global transmission of these shocks, and their capacity to mutually intensify, that will push the UK off the edge, taking large swathes of the global economy with it. The government will have little choice in this context except to try mitigating the deepening economic crisis – but this simply won’t be possible within the current model of neoliberal capitalism, without repairing the damage done to the UK-EU trade relationship. In the words of The Economist: ‘A lot depends on the kind of trade deal Britain can negotiate with the EU and how quickly. If Britain gets a quick deal with no big reductions in its access to the single market, the grimmer scenarios for the world economy may not come to pass. But markets do not seem to be counting on it.’ And that’s the crux of it. In coming weeks, the mess inside the government that is Cameron’s rather pathetic legacy will be grappling with how to keep the promise of exiting the EU, while staving off the protracted financial collapse that would inevitably follow”.[4]

great briitain leaves european union metaphor

united kingdom exit from europe relative image

 

 

[1] Pepe Escobat @Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377?fref=nf.

[2] Nafeez Ahmed, “Brexit is about to usher in Third World Britain” The Canary (24 June 2016). http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/24/brexit-usher-third-world-britain/.

[3] Nafeez Ahmed, “Brexit is about to usher in Third World Britain”.

[4] Nafeez Ahmed, “Brexit is about to usher in Third World Britain”.

WikiLeaks: Operation Sophia

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On the WikiLeaks website the following announcement can be read: “Today, [Wednesday, ] 17 February 2016, WikiLeaks is releasing the classified report about the first six month of Operation SOPHIA, the EU military intervention against ‘refugee boats’ in Libya and the Mediterranean”.[i] And next, explaining that “[t]he report, dated 29 January 2016, is written by the Operation Commander, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino of the Italian Navy, for the European Union Military Committee and the Political and Security Committee of the EU. It gives refugee flow statistics and outlines the performed and planned operation phases (1, 2A, 2B and 3), the corresponding activities of the joint EU forces operating in the Mediterranean and the future strategies for the operation. One of the main elements within the report is the planned, but still pending transition from Phase 2A (operating in High Seas) to Phase 2B (operating in Libyan Territorial Waters) due to the volatile government situation in Libya, where the building of a ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA) is still under way. The report presses the responsible EU bodies to help speed up the process of forming a ‘reliable’ government in Libya that in return is expected to ‘invite’ EU forces to operate within their Territorial Waters (Phase 2B) and later even give permission to extend the EU military operations onshore (phase 3). In the last month there have been half a dozen high level meetings between EU and US officials (including with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome) as it is claimed by the US military that up to 5,000 Islamic State fighters have taken control over parts of the Libyan coast. Serious pressure has been placed on Libya’s major power groupings to speed up the completion of the GNA and ‘invite’ Western forces. A GNA invitation was expected in January. Libyan press has reported that US, UK and French special forces have already arrived (there is no public admission by the Western countries). Within Europe, Italy and the UK have been the driving forces behind the military intervention”.[2]

poster 1

In the report, Admiral Credendino declares that “[i]rregular migration across the Mediterranean Sea is continuing at a significant rate, with over 929,000 migrants arriving in Europe this year. However, since September [2015] we have seen two significant changes in the flow. Firstly there has been a reduction in the proportion of migrants using the central Mediterranean route as opposed to the eastern route. Prior to the start of the operation there was an even split between the people using the central route and the eastern route, whereas now 16% migrants use the central route, with almost 83% of migrants using the eastern route. Secondly, since September, for the first time in 3 years, we have seen a 9% reduction in the migrant flow using the central route. This is an encouraging decrease in the flow and should continue to be driven down through EUNAVFOR MED’s continued efforts. In October [2015], we successfully transitioned to phase 2A (High Seas), therefore for the first time having an effect on the smuggler and traffickers’ business model. For the autumn surge I had 16 assets (ships and air assets) under my command which were used to successfully provide a higher degree of deterrence against the smuggler and traffickers’ activities in international waters. Since the start of the operation, our actions have contributed to the arrest of 46 suspected smugglers and the disposal of 67 boats. Due to the effectiveness of phase 2A (High Seas), smugglers can no longer operate with impunity in international waters. They have to stay within Libyan Territorial Waters, as they otherwise would be apprehended by EUNAVFOR Med operation SOPHIA assets. My outreach activities have successfully contributed to an improved understanding and acceptance of the operation within the International Community. Since the start of the mission, I have met with very senior representatives from 6 different countries, 9 different EU organisations, 14 different international organisations, including the United Nations, the International Organisation for Migration, the ICRC and both the African Union and Arab League. During this reporting period I have consolidated my relationships with key interlocutors and I have seen a demonstrable improvement in their view of the operation. Moving forward, from a military perspective, I am ready to move to phase 2B in Libyan Territorial Waters, but there are a number of political and legal challenges that must be addressed before I can recommend such a transition. These include the legal finish in terms of our powers to apprehend suspected smugglers in Territorial Waters and who will prosecute any suspected smugglers detained there. We will also need to cooperate with and deconflict our activities with those of any other international missions that might operate within Libya once a Government of National Accord has been established. Critical to our exit strategy is a capable and well-resourced Libyan Coastguard who can protect their own borders and therefore prevent irregular migration taking place from their shores. Indeed, through the capability and capacity building of the Libyan Navy and Coastguard we will be able to give the Libyan authorities something in exchange for their cooperation in tackling the irregular migration issue. This collaboration could represent one of the elements of the EU comprehensive approach to help secure their invitation to operate inside their territory during Phase 2 activities. Moreover, training together during phase 2 could also be a key enabler to build confidence and facilitate the conduct of Phase 3 operations jointly with the Libyan authorities. Also, to avoid coordination problems within the AOO and prevent the risk of incidents, it is highly desirable that one single mission should be assigned the training task of the Libyan Navy and Coast Guard. In my view, EUNAVFOR MED could have an important role to play in this domain. This would of course, should the Member States agree to it, imply an amendment to the OPLAN. In conclusion, while still much needs to be done to disrupt the smugglers’ business model, EUNAVFOR MED has nonetheless achieved significant results in its first 6 months of its life. In this respect the main message to the International Community is that the EU is capable of launching a military operation in record time, displaying a strong resolve and remarkable unity of intent, as demonstrated by the 22 Member States participating in the operation “.[3]

enrico_credendino

Rather than offering a lasting solution to the current migrant crisis, the EU’s reaction called Operation Sophia primarily appears to be an exercise in containment, aimed at the ruthless individuals and gangs who have built up a viable “business model” to exploit desperate people fleeing either war and/or economic deprivation and ruin. The EU is now apparently cooperating closely with the U.S. in order to stem the flow yet unwilling to put a stop to the basically imperialist military and economic policies at the very root of the problem.

eunavfor_med_logo-mdpi

In fact, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union constituted by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg released a press statement last year, which explained the rationale behind the whole operation: “[t]he EU naval operation against human smugglers in the Mediterranean will be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking on the high seas, in line with international law. The Political and Security Committee also agreed that EU NAVFOR Med should be renamed “Sophia” after the name given to the baby born on the ship of the operation which rescued her mother on 22 August 2015 off the coast of Libya. The new name of the operation will be formally adopted by the Council at the earliest opportunity. The decision by the Political and Security Committee to launch the first step of phase 2 of the operation follows an assessment by the Council on 14 September that the conditions to move to this stage have been met. The Operation Commander Rear Admiral Credendino has judged the transition possible as member states provided the assets needed for this more active phase in the force generation conference of 16 September 2015 . . . The operation is aimed at disrupting the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean and to prevent the further loss of life at sea. It is part of a wider EU comprehensive approach to migration, tackling both the symptoms and root causes such as conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution”.[4]

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[1] “EUNAVFOR MED – Operation SOPHIA” – Six Monthly Report: June, 22nd to December, 31st 2015″ WikiLeaks (17 Feb 2016). https://wikileaks.org/eu-military-refugees/.

[2] EUNAVFOR MED – Operation SOPHIA” – Six Monthly Report: June, 22nd to December, 31st 2015″.

[3] “Executive Summary. EUNAVFOR MED – Operation SOPHIA Six Monthly Report: June, 22nd to December, 31st 2015” WikiLeaks release: (17 Feb 2016), pp. 3-4. https://wikileaks.org/eu-military-refugees/EEAS/EEAS-2016-126.pdf.

[4] “EUNAVFOR Med – EU agrees to start the active phase of the operation against human smugglers and to rename it ‘Operation Sophia'” Presidency of the Council of the European Union (28 September 2015). http://www.eu2015lu.eu/en/actualites/communiques/2015/09/29-eunavfor-med/index.html..

Al Qaeda in Yemen, Charlie Hebdo & Boko Haram

Sami Aboudi and Yara Bayoumy report that “Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying it was ordered by the Islamist militant group’s leadership for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, according to a video posted on YouTube. “As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organisation of al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God,” said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in the recording. Gunmen killed a total of 17 people in three days of violence that began when they opened fire at Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its past publication of satirical images of the Prophet. Ansi, the main ideologue for AQAP, said the “one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization”, without naming an individual. He added without elaborating that the strike was carried out in “implementation” of the order of overall al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has called for strikes by Muslims in the West using any means they can find. AQAP itself is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who is also Zawahri’s number two in the network’s global hierarchy”.[1]

While these French citizens were killed, in Nigeria, the terror groups Boko Haram slaughtered about 2,000 Nigerians on the Black Continent . . . as Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman explains, “[a]s the world focused on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, a massive atrocity was unfolding in Nigeria. On January 3, the Islamist militant group Boko Haram attacked the northern town of Baga and surrounding areas. Over the next several days, hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians were killed. Fleeing residents were chased into the bush and shot dead, others reportedly drowning in Lake Chad as they tried to swim away. Scores of homes were burned to the ground, and bodies were strewn in the streets. Estimates of the death toll range from around 500 to up to 2,000. Some 30,000 people were also displaced. Amnesty International says the assault on Baga could be the deadliest of the Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency. The group has waged relentless violence in a bid to establish an Islamist state in northern Nigeria”.[2]

[1] Sami Aboudi and Yara Bayoumy, “Al Qaeda in Yemen claims responsibility for Paris attack” Reuters (14 Jan 2015). http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/14/us-france-shooting-aqap-idUSKBN0KN0VO20150114.

[2]” Massacre in Nigeria: Up to 2,000 Feared Dead in Boko Haram’s Worst Attack to Date” Democracy Now! (13 Jan 2015). http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/13/massacre_in_nigeria_up_to_2.