— The Erimtan Angle —

the_end_of_history

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”.

25-jan-2011

Originally published on 25 January 2011

A Frontline in the New Cold War against Islamic Extremism or

Crucial Part of the oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard?

Last week, the new U.S. Congress convened for its first session. The newly-elected Republicans and Tea Party favourites started the new year with a stunt: reading the complete U.S. Constitution, that semi-sacrosanct document of yesteryear many swear by but few appear to know . . . On the sidelines, another somewhat overlooked speech took place as well. California Democrat Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey took the floor for a short address. Woolsey is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and gained notoriety as a result of her outspoken stance on the war in Iraq. She was one of the 133 members of the House who voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq on October 10, 2002. Since then Woolsey has taken an active role in urging U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Last week, however, Lynn Woolsey showed that she was beyond party politics in criticising America’s active military involvement in the Hindu Kush mountains and Afghanistan: “This war represents an epic failure, a national embarrassment, and a moral blight on our nation”.

In contrast to Woolsey’s words, the White House appears to view the war in Afghanistan in quite different terms. In the first half of December 2010, it released a new report on America’s war in the Hindu Kush mountains, publishing a 5-page summary for public consumption: Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review. The short document shows that the Obama administration remains beholden to the Bush rationale for the war saying that the “core goal of the U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan theater remains to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida in the region and to prevent its return to either country”. Repeating President Obama’s alliterative mantra, the White House presents the hostilities in Afghanistan as part of the War-on-Terror meant to safeguard the U.S. homeland as well as the rest of the Free World. Rather than taking account of the reality on the ground that sees U.S. and ISAF troops battling “insurgency” or rather resistance fighters known as Taliban, the White House document continues to portray the enemy as al-Qa’ida, a shadowy network of Islamist terrorists bent on destroying the Free World. But already in December 2009, a senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC News that there were only about 100 al-Qa’ida members left in Afghanistan, basing himself on the conclusions of American intelligence agencies and the U.S. Defense Department. In June 2010, CIA director Leon Panetta went a step further, telling ABC News: “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan”. As a result, the Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review now confidently talks of the “Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of al-Qa’ida”, thereby offering justification for the U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani territory. But the Pakistani army has for the past years been fighting the Pakistani Taliban (TTP or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan who, in response, have unleashed a campaign of terror throughout the whole country.

The Obama administration seems adamant to stay the course, having recently committed “1,400 more Marine combat forces to Afghanistan”, as reported by the Associated Press on 6 January. In a way, the War-on-Terror, renamed the Overseas Contingency Operations, is the 21st-century incarnation of the 20th-century Cold War that saw many proxy conflicts and an escalating nuclear arms’ build-up (the could only have led to MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction). As I have indicated in an earlier piece, the NATO establishment already predicted, or maybe rather presaged, such a development in the mid-1990s. Then-NATO secretary-general Willy Claes at the time said that “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security”.

In the absence of a Soviet threat, the Obama administration has now declared al-Qa’ida and its by now more than legendary and possibly defunct leader Osama bin Laden to be America’s main military adversary. While making sure not to declare an outright Crusade against Islam and Muslims worldwide, President Obama continues Cold War policies that ensure that the “military-industrial complex”, to use President Eisenhower’s famous 1961 phrase, is kept busy, happy, and well-fed. Quite some time ago, the independent journalist Pepe Escobar declared that “Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. ‘Al-Qa’ida’ remains a catch-all ghost entity”. In other words, his contention is that the name al-Qa’ida is used by the U.S. to suggest the presence of a threat that is then employed to justify military intervention. The flipside of that stance is now that terrorists and like-minded individuals opposing U.S. dominance and interventionism equally cite the name al-Qa’ida to gain credibility, notoriety, and media exposure.

But does al-Qa’ida as a worldwide terrorist network aiming to deceive, disrupt and destroy the Free World really exist? Already in 2004, the British film-maker and writer Adam Curtis suggested in his documentary The Power of Nightmares that al-Qa’ida as an international terrorist network was basically an American invention to secure the prosecution and conviction of guilty parties and individuals in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As such, even the guilt of Osama bin Laden, as the true instigator of the “9/11” attacks, arguably also remains a somewhat open question. On 28 September 2001, Bin Laden was interviewed by the Urdu-language Pakistani daily Ummat: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle . . . Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed”. Was Osama bin Laden merely trying to deflect attention and building up an alibi against a possible U.S. attack? As for the famous video confession so conveniently stumbled upon in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in November 2001, the theologian-turned-9/11-debunker Prof. David Ray Griffin maintains that “bin Laden experts have called this later video a fake, and for good reasons. Many of the physical features of the man in this video are different from those of Osama bin Laden (as seen in undoubtedly authentic videos)”. The fact that the FBI last year used an image of the Spanish lawmaker Gaspar Llamazares to create an up-to-date picture of an aging Osama bin Laden proves that U.S. institutions do indeed dabble in creating fakes and make-believes. The incredible story of the digitally enhanced image of Bin Laden using Llamazares’ “hair and facial wrinkles” was broken by the Associated Press.

obama-contra-niebuhr

President Obama entered the world stage on an unprecedented wave of goodwill and optimism, relying on his message of “change we can believe in” to affect a serious alteration in the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy and treats other nations. Now that he has been in office for two years, disappointment and disillusion in his actual track record seem widespread. Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s championing of the TAPI pipeline project, that would Turkmenistan and India, and his seeming reliance upon Brzezinski’s legacy in pursuing the New Great Game on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard” have transformed him into a proponent of a New Cold War against Islamic Extremism, as personified by al-Qa’ida. Even though many Conservative and Tea Party Obama opponents have cast doubt upon the U.S. President’s religious and political affiliation, referring to him variously as a Nazi-Socialist-Communist-Muslim, his grounding in the Christian faith remains beyond doubt. In particular, Barack Obama is much attached to the work of the American Protestant exponent of “Christian realism,” Reinhold Niebuhr’ (1892-1971). Back in April 2007, then-Candidate Obama told the New York Times columnist David Brooks: “I take away [from Niebuhr’s work] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism”. And now in 2011, Obama is not wavering in the face of evil as personified by al-Qa’ida, present in the Af-Pak Theatre and providing the U.S. with a pertinent reason to stay the course.

During the Cold War, Niebuhr was a public intellectual, or rather theologian, who took an active part in the fight, as a virulent defender of the U.S. and an outspoken opponent of the Communist threat. He regarded Communism as a position claiming “to embody a social system in which [the] miracle [of achieving an ideal society] has actually taken place”, a society where a “’vanguard’ of ‘class-conscious’ workers, the members of the Communist Party, whose purposes were so identical with the very purposes of history that every weapon became morally permissible to them and every vicissitude of history was expected to contribute to the inevitability of their victory”. Niebuhr’s words appear easily applicable to the 21st century, one would only need to replace the words Communist Party and Communism with the terms al-Qa’ida and Muslim extremism. Politicians and newscasters alike continuously remind the public that al-Qa’ida wants to turn the world into an Islamic welfare state ruled by a new and all-encompassing Caliphate, “a social system in which [the] miracle [of Islamic providence or Shariah] has actually taken place”. Al-Qa’ida operatives are 21st-century versions of “members of the Communist Party”, who were bent on undermining and ultimately destroying the Capitalist world in the 20th century.

President Obama proves to be a crafty proponent of ‘Niebuhrianism’, which Harry R. Davis and Robert C. Good define as a “constellation of perspectives, Biblically derived and validated by experience”. As a Christian Realist, the U.S. President is fighting the “good fight” in the Af-Pak Theatre, while keeping a close eye on China, the new superpower in the making. On Monday, 10 January, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Beijing to “begin regular strategic security talks” between the U.S. and China, a year after the latter cut military ties in protest to American arms sales to Taiwan. Gates stated that military relations between the world’s two biggest economies shouldn’t be “subject to shifting political winds”. Even while the U.S. is busy opposing China on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard”, pitching the TAPI natural gas pipeline project against the Kazakhstan–China oil pipeline connecting the Caspian shore to Xinjiang in Wild West China, President Obama is easing the climate for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned trip to Washington, D.C. later this month.

<> on January 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.

 

occupation

Originally published on 11 September 2010

It is all but an article of faith that the War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, was launched in response to the September 11 attacks. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush followed his predecessor’s lead and focused on the figure of Osama bin Laden as U.S. Public Enemy Nr. 1. In 1998, President Clinton had launched missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the African U.S. embassy attacks, apparently carried out by terrorists linked to the Saudi millionaire and erstwhile champion of the U.S.-led Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Following the Soviet withdrawal from the Hindu Kush, Bin Laden left Afghanistan and went to Sudan upon the invitation of Hassan al-Turabi, and spent five years there (1992-96). Then Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan to apparently continue his Jihad against the United States.

Following the attacks on New York and Washington, DC the population of the U.S. was in deep shock. On 11 September 2001, or “9/11”, the world changed forever, or that is what George W. Bush had us believe. That same evening, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office in the White House, Bush pronounced that “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger”. He then declared that “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong”.

But in reality, fear has pervaded American life ever since, and the Bush Administration has cunningly employed this fear to push through some far-reaching measures affecting the lives of millions of U.S. citizens and many more hapless people across the wider world. Domestically, the rapidly passed Patriot Act clearly limits the much-valued Constitutional Rights of U.S. citizens as well as “aliens” deemed threats to U.S. national security. Currently, the Obama Administration has not revoked this legal measure.

It is all but an article of faith that the War in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, was launched in response to the September 11 attacks. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush followed his predecessor’s lead and focused on the figure of Osama bin Laden as U.S. Public Enemy Nr. 1. In 1998, President Clinton had launched missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the African U.S. embassy attacks, apparently carried out by terrorists linked to the Saudi millionaire and erstwhile champion of the U.S.-led Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Following the Soviet withdrawal from the Hindu Kush, Bin Laden left Afghanistan and went to Sudan upon the invitation of Hassan al-Turabi, and spent five years there (1992-96). Then Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan to apparently continue his Jihad against the United States.

9-11-shock

Following the attacks on New York and Washington, DC the population of the U.S. was in deep shock. On 11 September 2001, or “9/11”, the world changed forever, or that is what George W. Bush had us believe. That same evening, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office in the White House, Bush pronounced that “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger”. He then declared that “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong”.

But in reality, fear has pervaded American life ever since, and the Bush Administration has cunningly employed this fear to push through some far-reaching measures affecting the lives of millions of U.S. citizens and many more hapless people across the wider world. Domestically, the rapidly passed Patriot Act clearly limits the much-valued Constitutional Rights of U.S. citizens as well as “aliens” deemed threats to U.S. national security. Currently, the Obama Administration has not revoked this legal measure.

On an international plane, less than a month after the terrorist strikes, the invasion of Afghanistan took off in earnest following covert CIA operations in the country. The progress of the American-led coalition was swift – in fact the invasion proceeded so quickly that the journalist Jon Simpson even claimed live on radio that the BBC had liberated Kabul on the morning of 13 November 2001. Following “9/11” and the swift and successful invasion of Afghanistan, Bush’s approval rating soared domestically to 86%. Back in 2001, the whole world followed the Bush lead into Afghanistan, everybody was keen to have the perfidious Taliban – oppressors of women and growers of beards – defeated and destroyed. The U.S. took the lead in a NATO mission named ISAF or International Security Assistance Force. This 40-nation mission was set up to pacify the country, support the Karzai government and keep the Taliban in check. But, is that really the whole story???  Why was everybody so eager to blame Osama bin Laden? And why was Bush suddenly so anxious to punish the Taliban? Did George H. W. Bush’s notoriously Texan and cowboy-like son even know where Afghanistan was located or who the Taliban were?

It turns out that he knew both the country and its fundamentalist rulers quite well. As long ago as 1997, the Taliban had sent a delegation to Texas to talk about a possible lucrative pipeline passing through their territory. Then-Governor of Texas, George W. Bush, supported the Texan firm Unocal in its dealings with the Afghans. Subsequently, Unocal and its partners planned to build a 1,000 mile gas pipeline from resource-rich Turkmenistan to Multan in Pakistan, passing through the Taliban heartland of Kandahar. In the waning years of the 20th century, the BBC dutifully reported that this deal was part “of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea”. In other words, the Unocal deal with the Taliban was instrumental in the 21th-century development of what the Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid has termed the “New Great Game”, in reference to the 19th-century rivalry between the Russian and British Empires for supremacy in Central Asia.

The American bestselling author, and academic Michael T. Klare coined the term “Resource Wars” in 2001, indicating that in his opinion most wars of the future, like many of those of the past and present, will be caused by conflicts over access to natural resources, particularly oil, natural gas, and water. Is the war in Afghanistan such a conflict, and were the “9/11” attacks used a pretext to launch this military aggression? Is all the talk we hear of Al Qaeda and its allies really a ruse hiding a blatant economic imperative?

Already in 2007, then-Candidate Obama unequivocally stated that, when President his “first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. At the time, Barack Obama also hinted at the threat posed by an Al Qaeda presence in the so-called Af-Pak theatre. In the meantime, the above-mentioned pipeline project has been expanded to include a 400-mile extension to India, giving rise to the acronym TAPI indicative of the countries the project encompasses: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. In the first seven years of the 21st century, eleven high-level planning meetings have been held with the support of the Asia Development Bank. The next three years remained without much action on the TAPI front however, as the world was focusing on finishing the war in Iraq while the formerly business-friendly Taliban slowly regained ground in Afghanistan. But then, in late 2009, President Obama decided to pay heed to his then-man in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, and authorise the dispatch of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan: a total of 30,000 troops over a period of six months, bringing up the total of US and NATO troops to more than 100,000. In addition, numerous mercenaries or rather private security contractors (PSCs), working for the notorious outfit Blackwater (renamed Xe Services and the US Training Center) as well as other companies, are now also present in the Af-Pak theatre in sufficient numbers. These men and women number up to 104,000, effectively outnumbering the real military presence in the country.

The war in Afghanistan has been heating up lately, and the U.S. and its allies still concentrate on the southern part of the country, on the province of Kandahar to be precise. Consequently, the recent Taliban strike on Forward Operating Base Salerno and Camp Chapman in the eastern Khost province came as a surprise to most if not all. In the south, Kandahar is awaiting the completion of the TAPI pipeline, which will traverse the province on its way to Pakistan and India. In meetings, held in the Turkmen capitol of Ashgabat on 17-18 April, the go-ahead was given and work on the lucrative project started in May, with 2015 as the provisional completion date when Turkmenistan’s liquid gas will start flowing southward. The U.S. government is one of the strongest backers of this project.

How do these machinations surrounding the pipeline project relate to the current war in the Hindu Kush region? According to the former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik, approximately two months prior to “9/11”, the Bush administration had already decided to topple the Taliban regime and install a more amenable transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. In July 2001, a four-day meeting was held in Berlin under the portentous heading of “brainstorming on Afghanistan”. The TAPI project was undoubtedly high on the session’s agenda. Literally one week after the attacks, the BBC’s former Pakistan correspondent George Arney related that Naik had “no doubt that after the World Trade Center bombings this pre-existing US plan had been built upon and would be implemented within two or three weeks”. And Niaz Naik proved right. Was he therefore really a man who knew too much? In early August 2009, Naik was tortured and murdered in his residence in Sector F-7/3 of Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad.

In spite of the very real TAPI project and the American backing for the pipeline in the U.S. pursuit of a fossil fuel policy, President Obama is keen to continue the Bush rhetoric as well as policy. In his address to the nation from the Oval Office on 31 August to mark the end of the combat mission in Iraq, he made the following remarks: “And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda . . . Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11 . . . As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists”.

Is President Obama being simply disingenuous by keeping quiet about his administration’s support for the TAPI project and continuing to sell War on Terror, renamed Overseas Contingency Operations, to the American public and the world at large? Is he being merely circuitous continuously talking about al Qaeda and its allies while ordering his troops to fight the Taliban and pacify Kandahar province?

tapi

 

oped-2

Originally published on 18 September 2010

This year, on the momentous date of 11 September, the English-language section of the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera aired a report on foreign fighters joining the Jihad against U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. The report showed exclusive footage of a Taliban group in northern Afghanistan where foreign fighters, whom Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton called al-Qaeda, are bolstering the local forces. Turton interviewed the ISAF Spokesperson, Brigadier-General Chris Whitecross. Upon being queried about the identity of the outsiders strengthening the Taliban in Afghanistan’s north – a clear tactical counter-weight to ISAF’s presence in the south – Whitecross spoke without hesitation: “That means al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”.

Given that the current war in the Hindu Kush was supposedly caused by “9/11” and that allied action in Afghanistan still aims to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda”, to use President Obama’s alliterative war mantra, it is interesting to note the ease with which foreigners joining the Taliban Jihad against the ISAF occupation are termed “al-Qaeda”. As such, this recent development, arguably scooped by Al Jazeera, shows the way in which the war effort in Afghanistan has come full circle in the space of 30 years.

On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces officially entered Afghanistan in an effort to support the Communist regime led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The Communists had seized power in April 1978, during the so-called Saur Revolution when Afghanistan’s first President Mohammed Daud Khan, who had himself seized power in a bloodless coup in 1973, was killed. The Communist government in Kabul was highly unpopular in the conservative countryside, and prone to fall prey to yet another coup or even an armed insurrection.

As a result, the Soviets deployed their troops to support a friendly regime in its southern neighbour. The Director of Studies at the Center on International Cooperation Barnett Rubin argues in his book “The Fragmentation of Afghanistan” (1989) that the Soviets had primarily entered Afghanistan with the aim of establishing a key position in Asia, one with trade possibilities and access to Gulf oil. But, once the Soviets had installed themselves in the country, they “imposed military and social reforms that began to make enemies within different sectors of the indigenous population”, as related by the Reuters Multimedia journalist Sehrish Shaban. Afghanistan as a land-locked country in the Hindu Kush mountains is home to a whole host of different ethnic groups professing adherence to Islam. Islam thus really functions as the single unifying factor in Afghanistan, and as a benchmark of Afghan identity.

The type of Islam practiced in the Afghan mountainside tends to be rather conservative and grounded in local tribal traditions and attitudes. As a result, the Soviets’ proposed “military and social reforms” could not but engender hostility among “different sectors of the indigenous population”. This resentment grew and grew into a fully-fledged call for a jihad against the unbelievers – the Soviets being notoriously atheist.

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Nowadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a “mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time”. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards. In Afghanistan during the 1980s, the protection of the land from Soviet occupation warranted the execution of a jihad by locals and other sympathetic believers willing to participate in a meritorious act proving one’s commitment in the way of Allah (al-jihād al- asghar).

But what about the Soviets’ main rival, the United States? Were they but passive observers of these weird scenes in the mountains? A few years ago, Hollywood reminded the world of the activities of U.S. Congressman Charles Wilson, whom the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Mary Anne Weaver called “one of he most enthusiastic supporters of the jihad on Capitol Hill”. The Hollywood movie detailed Wilson’s role in organising and financing the Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviets throughout the 1980s.The Reagan administration, in conjunction with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the ISI (the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency), actively supported the Mujahedeen fighting the Evil Empire. In 1985, U.S. President Ronald Reagan even entertained the notorious Gulbudin Hikmatyar as well as other Mujahedeen in the White House, calling them “valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters”. At the moment, still leading the Hezb-i-Islami, Hikmatyar continues to fight – this time, his enemies are U.S. and ISAF forces, however. Back in the 80s, in struggling for their country’s freedom, not just Afghans volunteered freely, but also militants from nearly thirty counties participated in this jihad, these foreigners were collectively known as “Afghan Arabs”. And now apparently, the unending war in Afghanistan has come full circle. Today’s Mujahedeen, known as Taliban, again seem to enjoy the support and fighting power of non-Afghan militants. The Taliban and these non-Afghan militants, whom ISAF refers to as “al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”, are once again engaged in a jihad to drive an occupying force of unbelievers from Afghan soil – but this time, these unbelievers are Americans and their allies.

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The whole world at present is experiencing a shift towards authoritarianism, with Donald Trump’s formal inauguration as the 45th U.S. President arguably acting as an ominous portent of things to come. Trump, or the Drumpf, as I like to call him in reference to his “grandfather Friedrich Drumpf [who] came to the United States in 1885”,has a clear counterpart in the figure of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s first popularly elected President, whom I like to refer to as the Prez.Since about the year 2010, Erdoğan has been arguing that Turkey’s parliamentary system should be replaced by a presidential one and the day following the Drumpf’s inauguration, on Saturday, 21 January 2017, he seems to have overcome yet another hurdle blocking the way: Turkey’s “parliament voted 339-142 to make the president the head of the executive and abolish the job of prime minister, triggering a referendum on the proposal and putting Erdogan one step away from building a power center unrivaled since the days of parliamentary founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In Turkey’s system, amendments to the constitution need to be approved by 367 of 550 members to become law. Proposals that receive between 330 and 367 votes can be referred to a plebescite”.3

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In the wake of this momentous parliamentary vote, Tayyip Erdoğan gave another televised speech: “It’s still early to call a referendum date, we will share it when we pick up some momentum . . . We see that our people favour a constitutional referendum and a president with party ties. We wouldn’t attempt this otherwise”.Ever since he emerged on Turkey’s political scene in the early 1990s, it has been Erdoğan‘s fervent desire to stifle and eventually obliterate the seeming secularization of society and the personality cult surrounding the figure of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. And his favoured line of reasoning in this respect has always been referencing the fact that the Turkish population-at-large had been largely left untouched by Atatürk‘s reforms that had transformed the religion of Islam into the state’s obedient handmaiden via the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or Diyanet, in Turkish) and propagated a lenient and permissive attititude towards the Prophet’s many rules, regulations and restrictions. As I wrote in 2014, “Tayyip Erdogan is . . . determined to re-introduce an overt Islamic discourse into the country’s public and political life . . . Turkey’s original 1924 Constitution also contained the phrase that that Islam constitutes the religion of the state’ (Article 2), which was subsequently removed four years later and might very well be set to return now that the AKP is ruling the land” and Tayyip Erdogan is set to become the nation’s first Absolute President. After all, “Erdogan also appears determined to fashion his own personality cult”.His ultimate goal thus appears to be replacing the figure of Atatürk in the hearts and minds of the Turkish citizenry.

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Bloomberg’s Hacaoglu and Kozok explain that “even before Saturday’s vote, Erdogan had already arrogated to himself powers unusual for his ceremonial post [of President of the Republic]. He’s led sessions of the policy-making cabinet, and forced out the previous prime minister, [his erstwhile advisor and mentor] Ahmet Davutoglu, after he tried to assert his authority as head of the executive branch. While the AK Party [or AKP] lacks enough seats to carry parliament alone, the package was approved with backing from the nationalist opposition MHP. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Jan. 17 that his party was making the changes together with the nationalist MHP . . . If the legislative package is approved in a referendum, Erdogan’s ties to the ruling AK Party will be immediately restored while most of the measures, including powers granted to Erdogan to call elections or declare a state of emergency, will go into effect when the presidential and parliamentary elections are held Nov. 3, 2019. The legislative package, meanwhile, limits the parliament’s oversight over the executive branch and allows the president’s office to issue decrees with the force of law . . . Bulent Turan, a [parliamentary] whip from the Islamist-rooted [AKP], which Erdogan co-founded, rejected opposition claims that the amendments would create an elected dictatorship, saying they sought to allow for greater government oversight and to speed up decision making”.Turan also told the Anadolu Ajansı that parliament has fulfilled its task. Now it’s the people’s turn. Whatever decision our people take, we will all accept that decision“.7

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In contrast, the scholar of constitutional law Prof. Dr. İbrahim Özden Kaboğlu opines matter-of-factly that the proposed amendment effectively “phases out the parliament and takes power away from the hands of the government. The president moves to the center of executive power, reshaping the country’s regime around one man”.8

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

2 C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under ‘President’ Erdogan” RT Op-Edge (04 June 2014). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/163620-turkey-future-gezi-anniversary/.

3 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System” Bloomberg (21 Jan 2017). https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-21/turkey-parliament-triggers-referendum-on-presidential-system-iy6kd8n6.

4 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

5 C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under ‘President’ Erdogan” .

6 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

7 Hatice Özdemir, “AK Parti Grup Başkanvekili Turan: Milletimiz ne karar verirse hepimiz o karara razı olacağız”AA (21 Jan 2017). http://aa.com.tr/tr/politika/ak-parti-grup-baskanvekili-turan-milletimiz-ne-karar-verirse-hepimiz-o-karara-razi-olacagiz/732157.

8  Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

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Turkey has now been ruled by Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (or AKP) for many many years. The AKP has effectively ushered in the nation’s post-Kemalist era, with the AKP-led governments doing their urmost to undermine the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and an end to the so-called Kemalist experiment commonly referred to as “Turkish Secularism“.1 And since 2014, Erdoğan has been acting as the first popularly elected President of the Republic (hence, I like to refer to him now as the Prez).Traditionally, the post of the president was primarily symbolic in nature, with the incumbent acting as the figurehead of the state while the nation was governed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet in Parliament (or TBMM). But Tayyip Erdoğan’s has always set his sights higher and wider, and as I wrote in 2014, Erdoğan’s main goal was always “to re-introduce an overt Islamic discourse into the country’s public and political life, a situation which is all but normal in a country like Egypt, even if ruled by somebody like [General-now-President] Sisi. Turkey’s original 1924 Constitution also contained the phrase that that ‘Islam’ constitutes the ‘religion of the state’ (Article 2), which was subsequently removed four years later and might very well be set to return now that the AKP is ruling the land” for the foreseeable future.2 On a more personal level though, since 2010, rumours have been going round the nation that the ruling party then still headed by Erdoğan himself intended to alter Turkey’s political order from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, similar to the situation in neighbouring Russia or in the faraway United States. And now, at the outset of the calendar year 2017, the TBMM is in the process of accepting a series of constitiutional amendments paving the way for a popular referedum that would rubber-stamp a presidential system and turn the erstwhile denizen of the impoverished neighbourhood of Kasımpaşa into the nation’s all-powerful strongman, holding all the reins of power and wielding absolute authority. Or, as I wrote in the summer of 2014: “In the end, it is my contention that Erdogan wants to become another Atatürk for the Turkish nation. Whereas the first President (1923-38) ushered his fellow-Turks into the modern world, arguably shedding any excessive traits of their Islamic persuasion in the process, Erdogan wants to be the President of the Republic starting 2014 to complete this task by means of reviving the Turks’ ties to their Muslim creed and uniting all the ethnic groups and sub-groups living on Anatolian soil under the banner of Islam”.3

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As I posted some time ago: “On 10 January 2017 the Turkish press reported that Turkey’s parliament [or TBMM] . . . formally launch[ed] debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament. The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP‘“.And now the first round of negotiations about the [constitutional] changes including the presidential system passed at Turkish Parliament and protests against these changes immediately started. People who say “We stand up against dictatorship were taking the action to stand up at 4:00 pm in their homes, offices, schools, cafes, streets across Turkey . . . [The] We stand up against dictatorship action was performed with the participation of hundreds of people from offices to cafes, houses to streets. The action, spread from social media to Street, will continue for 3 days”.5

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These protest actions are an obvious reference to the Gezi protests of the summer months of 2013: “Erdem Gunduz is a legend. And all he had to do to earn this status was to stand completely still. Gunduz, a performance artist and left-Kemalist, began to stand still in Taksim Square on Monday [, 17 June 2013] at 6pm local time. He stood, facing the Ataturk cultural centre, until 2am. It was a silent, stubborn and dignified protest against the brutality of the police response to demonstrators, which had culminated in a sinister weekend assault whose targets included medics and staff who treated the wounded. Indeed, the ministry of health went so far as to threaten to withdraw the licences of medical personnel who treated protesters injured by police”.6

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The protests taking place now have been announced as follows: On January 17 at 5:00 pm, on January 18 at 6:00 pm, thousands of people will take theaction to stand up against the presidential system . . . In Ankara, hundreds of people including CHP deputies took the stance to stand up at 4:00 pm. Deputies sitting in cafes on Kızılay Konur Street invited everyone to stand up. After the stand up action carried out by the applause, they walked through Konur Sokak. Deputies invited everyone to participate in the action to take for 3 days. Action to stand up took place in several points of Ankara, the road was closed to traffic“.7

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1. C. Erimtan, “Secularism, beer and bikinis” Hürriyet Daily News (03 Oct 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=secularism-beer-and-bikinis-2011-03-09.

2 C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under President Erdogan” RT Op-Edge (04 June 2014). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/163620-turkey-future-gezi-anniversary/.

C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under President Erdogan”

4 “Turkey’s New Constitution: Forging an Absolute Presidency”The Erimtan Angle (13 Jan 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/turkeys-new-constitution-forging-an-absolute-presidency/.

5 “New Protests Launched in Turkey, called: ‘No to dictatorship’ standing at home, at work, on streets” Washington Hatti (16 Jan 2017). http://washingtonhatti.com/2017/01/16/new-protests-launched-in-turkey-called-no-to-dictatorship-standing-at-home-at-work-on-streets/.

Richard Seymour, “Turkey’s ‘standing man’ shows how passive resistance can shake a state”The Guardian (18 June 2013). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/18/turkey-standing-man.

7 “New Protests Launched in Turkey, called: ‘No to dictatorship’ standing at home, at work, on streets”.

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On 10 January 2017 the Turkish press reported that “Turkey’s parliament [or TBMM] will formally launch debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament. The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP. After lengthy and tense arguments inside and outside parliament, 338 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 134 voted against. Two lawmakers abstained and five cast blank votes in a secret ballot. Some 480 lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament were present for the vote. During the vote, Health Minister Recep Akdağ voted in the open in violation of parliamentary bylaws. ‘I’m committing a crime; what’s it to you? Am I going to ask you?’ he is heard saying on a video taken by an opposition MP. During the discussions, PM Binali Yıldırım said the regulations outlined in the offer would solve the problems that Turkey will face in the future . . . Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Deniz Baykal criticized the entire bill, saying the content of the charter was not known well by the public and that the charter gave the impression that it was being prepared in a haste”.[1]

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[1] “AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency” Hürriyet Daily News (10 Jan 2017). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-parliament-approves-launching-of-constitution-talks-by-338-votes.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108344&NewsCatID=338. .