Saturday, March 26, 2016

BC Transit Aims to Remove Douglas Street Heritage Trees in Road Widening Scheme

Widening Douglas contrary to City goal to increase livability

by ViCAN

February 29, 2016

VICTORIA A resident of the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood is calling on Victoria Council to review BC Transit’s plan to widen Dougals Street between Hillside and Tolmie to create an express bus lane.

Community activist Stuart Hertzog today sent the following letter expressing his concerns:

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am extremely concerned about BC Transit’s plan to remove 26 mature trees plus the green sidewalk setback along the Hillside-Tolmie section of Douglas Street.

This proposal, for which apparently you have given the go-ahead, will reduce walkability on this vital section of Douglas Street, as well as adversely impacting present and future Topaz-Tolmie business development.

It also flies in the face of the City’s planning goal of promoting walking and liveability by increasing the separation of pedestrians and traffic with green buffer zones, exactly that which Transit wants to remove.

Above Transit’s own depot, pedestrians would be sandwiched on only a 1.8-metre sidewalk between fast- moving buses and a precipitous drop — a frightening and dangerous catwalk inimicable to pedestrian use.

To remove 26 valuable mature trees from our urban forest will turn this section of Douglas Street into a traffic wasteland, and suppress development of the emerging Urban Village envisaged during recent design charrettes.

Unfortunately, BC Transit has mislead yourselves and City Engineers about public support for this proposal.

Instead of using the results of a months-long public consultation process in which 61% of 939 online respondents indicated that preserving the existing width of Douglas was their first choice, Transit substituted the results of a last-minute, 15-day online poll with only 121 responses, which it claims shows 68% support (76 responses) for widening Douglas Street. I suggest that this was an underhanded and deceitful tactic by Transit executives.

I urge Mayor and Council to reconsider this decision, which will cost taxpayers $1.6million even as BC Transit raises bus fares and eliminates the two-way transfers that are so helpful to low income Transit users.

This proposal will reduce the quality of life in our Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood.

I ask that it be halted until majority public support can be proven.

Stuart Hertzog
Burnside-Gorge resident

For more information contact Stuart Hertzog

Batman V Superman: Hollywood Vapidity Versus Pertinence

The moment Ben Affleck realized that ‘Batman V Superman’ was a $400 million flop

Does Hollywood do anything other than comic book remakes any more? The latest over-budget chimera, Batman V Superman, cost around $410 million to make. You’d think they could squeeze a decent film out of that. You’d think.

“He hasn’t felt this low since Gigli“, said the Huff Post. Movie star Ben Affleck may have just beaten Chris Christie for this year’s most vacant stare. Watch
Our point here is this: Think of how many schools you could build with $410 million, and you will come to realize exactly what a vapid enterprise Hollywood has become.

Voices of Medical Profession Survivors of Bombing Attacks

Once More, Civilians Bear the Brunt of this War: A collection of quotes from attacked medical professionals in war zones

by Buddy Bell and Kathy Kelly - Voices for Creative Non-Violence

March 25, 2016

Last year on the early morning of October 3, a Doctors Without Borders trauma center hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombarded by planes flying overhead. Four days prior, hospital staff had shared its GPS coordinates of the trauma center buildings and facilities with U.S. authorities.

On that horrible day, it was a U.S. Air Force gunship which attacked the hospital. According to staff who frantically called U.S. and Afghan officials, the aerial bombing raids continued for half an hour more.

In the words of Doctors without Borders head of programs, Heman Nagarathnam:

"The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round. There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames. Those people that could had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds."

Shrapnel hit Khalid Ahmed, a young pharmacist, in his spine as he tried to run for safety. He survived and was beginning to walk again, with assistance, when he spoke to Afghan Peace Volunteers about his memory of that day.

"I was sleeping when the bombing began at about 2 a.m. I went to see what was happening, and to my horror, I saw that the ICU was on fire, the flames appearing to shoot 10 meters up into the night sky. Some patients were burning in their beds.

"I was petrified. It was so frightening. The bombing and firing continued, and following after the bombs were showers of ‘laser-like flashes’ which were flammable, catching and spreading the fire."

The screams of the dying filled Lajos Zoltan with dread: Speaking of the 14 staff members who were among the 42 killed that day, Lajoz, a nurse, said:

"These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people… and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable."

What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.

Surgeon Mohamed Safi Sadiqi:

"It was my team’s turn to do the operations— we had scheduled about 40, and when the first bomb struck, I believe we were operating on the 30th or maybe 32nd person.

"I was operating on a patient who’d been hit in the leg by a bullet. The injury was not an immediate threat to his life— he could have left the hospital if we had completed the operation. I was almost finished when the bombing started.

"The lights went out across the hospital. Suddenly a big wooden panel from the ceiling dropped on to the patient on the table, right on top of him. We all ran. I went through the closest door, into the sterilization room. Some people who chose other routes didn’t make it. There were just seconds to escape before more bombs dropped.

"It all happened in a very short time, so it was hard to tell what was going on. It was very panicky. It was a matter of life and death."

The airstrikes would eventually kill 14 staff members, 24 patients and four relatives of patients (New York Times, Dec. 13), prompting the international community to call for an independent investigation. On October 15, a U.S. tank broke its way into the grounds of the destroyed hospital.

Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear.

The impunity claimed by the U.S. in this incident may have emboldened other countries already conducting wars of their own. On January 11, 2016, Saudi Arabia’s air force bombed a Yemeni hospital, killing five people and injuring ten after buildings collapsed. Doctors without Borders said it was the third attack on one of its health facilities in Yemen in recent months. Raquel Ayora, Director of Operations:

"We strongly condemn this incident that confirms a worrying pattern of attacks to essential medical services and express our strongest outrage as this will leave a very fragile population without health care for weeks. Once more it is civilians that bear the brunt of this war."

On February 15, a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in northern Syria took a direct hit that pancaked its three stories into one, entombing and killing 25 people, including nine staff members. The hospital was in a location often attacked by Syrian and Russian jets.

A staff member of the destroyed hospital, Dr. Saoud:

"I don’t know how a pilot presses the button to bomb a hospital. It’s weird. How does he sleep? How does he eat? And then he comes back and bombs the people who are trying to help the victims. Wherever I went, there was bombing."

Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion incorporated laments sung by psalmists for hundreds of years. Why must innocents suffer? Why are we forsaken? The victims of hospital bombings must surely feel forsaken. Here is Khalid Ahmed’s simple plea:

"I want my story to be heard."

Kerry Keeping His MH-17 Shootdown Secrets

Kerry Balks at Supplying MH-17 Data

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

March 25, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry has rebuffed a request from the father of the only American citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for Kerry to disclose the radar and other data that he cited in 2014 in claiming to know the precise location of the missile launch that allegedly downed the airliner over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people.

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch
citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 on July 17, 2014.
(Photo from Facebook)

In a letter to Kerry dated Jan. 5, 2016, Thomas Schansman, the father of American-Dutch citizen Quinn Schansman, asked Kerry to turn over that data to aid the investigation seeking to identify who was responsible for shooting down the plane on July 17, 2014. In a letter dated March 7, 2016, but just delivered to Thomas Schansman on Thursday, Kerry expressed his condolences and repeated his claim to know where the missile launch originated, but did not provide new details.

Kerry wrote,

“The assessment I provided to the media three days following the shoot down remains unchanged, and is corroborated by the findings of the Dutch Safety Board [DSB]. Flight 17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.”

But Kerry’s assertion is not entirely correct. Despite Kerry’s claim on July 20, 2014 – three days after the shoot-down – to know the location of the missile launch, the Dutch Safety Board reported last October that it could only place the likely launch site within a 320-square-kilometer area that included territory under both government and rebel control. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile.)

Why the U.S. government has dragged its heels about supplying the evidence that Kerry claimed to possess just days after the tragedy has become a secondary mystery to the allegations and counter-allegations about whodunit. That Kerry would not even elaborate on that information in response to the father of the lone American victim is even more striking.

In an email to me with Kerry’s letter attached, Thomas Schansman wrote, “the message is clear: no answer on my request to hand over satellite and/or radar data to DSB or public.”

Plus, Kerry’s credibility has come under a darkening cloud because of recent disclosures undermining his repeated claims on Aug. 30, 2013, that “we know” that Syrian government forces were responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus. Despite Kerry’s assertions of certainty in that case, he presented no verifiable evidence and it has since been confirmed that the U.S. intelligence community lacked “slam dunk” proof.

Nearly a year after his “we know” performance regarding the Syria-sarin case, Kerry staged a reprise expressing similar certainty about the MH-17 case – again dumping the blame on the target of an intensive U.S. propaganda campaign, this time Russia, which was backing the rebels in eastern Ukraine. Kerry again failed to supply supporting evidence (beyond some dubious references to “social media”).

Cracks in the Story

Also, some of Kerry’s MH-17 assertions have shown cracks as more information has become available. For instance, despite Kerry’s putting the blame on the ethnic Russian rebels and their supporters in Moscow, Western intelligence now says the only functioning Buk anti-aircraft missiles in the area were under the control of the Ukrainian military.

According to Dutch intelligence – and implicitly corroborated by U.S. intelligence – Ukraine’s Buk batteries were the only anti-aircraft missiles in the area capable of hitting a commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet. That information was contained in a little-noticed Dutch intelligence report last October citing information from the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD).

MIVD made its assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”

MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity, having only short-range anti-aircraft missiles and a few inoperable Buk missiles that had been captured from a Ukrainian military base. “During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational,” MIVD said. “Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.”

U.S. intelligence, which had eastern Ukraine under intensive overhead surveillance in summer 2014, implicitly corroborated MIVD’s conclusion in a U.S. “Government Assessment” released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014. It listed weapons systems that Russia had provided the rebels but made no mention of a Buk missile battery.

In other words, based on satellite imagery and other intelligence reviewed both before and after the shoot-down, U.S. and other Western intelligence services could find no proof that Russia had ever given a Buk system to the rebels or introduced one into the area. If Russia had provided a Buk battery – four 16-foot-long missiles hauled around by trucks – it would have been hard to miss.

There was also logic to support the notion that a Ukrainian team may have been responsible for the MH-17 shoot-down. At the time, the Ukrainian military was mounting an offensive against the rebels, who had resisted a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, which ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who had strong support among Ukraine’s ethnic Russian minority in the east.

As the Ukrainian offensive claimed territory that the rebels had held, the Ukrainian military moved several Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries toward the front, presumably out of concern that Russia might directly intervene to save the rebels from annihilation.

Plus, on July 16, 2014, a Ukrainian warplane was shot down apparently by an air-to-air missile believed fired by a Russian jet, giving reason for the Ukrainian anti-aircraft batteries to be on edge the next day, looking for Russian aircraft intruding into Ukraine’s airspace.

(Another possible scenario, reportedly examined by U.S. intelligence analysts, was that a rogue Ukrainian team working with a hardline oligarch hoped to shoot down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plane returning from a South American trip at about the same time and with similar markings as MH-17.)

But the evidence – that the only operational Buk batteries were under control of the Ukrainian military – did not fit the U.S. propaganda needs of blaming Russia and the rebels. Any indication that the post-coup Ukrainian government was responsible would instead put the U.S.-backed Kiev regime in a negative light.

So, it makes sense in a “strategic communications” kind of way for Kerry and other U.S. officials to leave the conventional wisdom – blaming Putin and Russia for the 298 deaths – in place for as long as possible. Kerry told Thomas Schansman that he and the other families of victims should expect a long wait before the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Expressing Condolences

In the letter to Thomas Schansman, Secretary Kerry wrote, “As a father myself, I can only begin to imagine the pain and loss you have endured with your son’s tragic passing. My heart goes out to you and your family.”

Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s RT network as a “propaganda bullhorn” during
remarks on April 24, 2014.

Kerry then added, “This investigative work is not easy, and bringing those responsible to justice will not be a quick process. However, Quinn, your family, and the families of all the others who died that day deserve such justice, and we will continue to do everything possible to achieve it.”

But the “everything” doesn’t apparently include releasing the data that Kerry claimed to have just days after the crash.

On July 20, 2014, Kerry appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and declared, “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

In the letter asking Kerry to release that data, Thomas Schansman noted Kerry’s similar comments to a news conference on Aug. 12, 2014, when the Secretary of State said about the Buk anti-aircraft missile suspected of downing the plane: “We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this aeroplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”

Yet where the missile launch occurred has remained a point of mystery to the Dutch-led investigation. Last October, the Dutch Safety Board put the missile launch in a 320-square-kilometer area. Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the DSB’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

Earlier this month, Fred Westerbeke, the head of the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team, told the families of the victims that the inquiry had yet to pin down the missile launch site, saying “In the second half of the year we expect exact results.” In other words, on the second anniversary of the shoot-down, the investigators looking into the MH-17 tragedy still might not know what Kerry claimed to know three days afterwards.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts”; “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case”; and “The Ever-Curiouser MH-17 Case.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Risking Cuba's Sustainable, Organic Agriculture

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw

by Miguel Altieri - The Conversation

March 25, 2016

President Obama’s trip to Cuba this week accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens.

But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead.
Organic farm, Alamar.
Melanie Lukesh Reed/Flickr,

For the past 35 years I have studied agroecology in most countries in Central and South America. Agroecology is an approach to farming that developed in the late 1970s in Latin America as a reaction against the top-down, technology-intensive and environmentally destructive strategy that characterizes modern industrial agriculture. It encourages local production by small-scale farmers, using sustainable strategies and combining Western knowledge with traditional expertise.

Cuba took this approach out of necessity when its economic partner, the Soviet bloc, dissolved in the early 1990s. As a result, Cuban farming has become a leading example of ecological agriculture.

But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved.
The shift to peasant agroecology

For several decades after Cuba’s 1959 revolution, socialist bloc countries accounted for nearly all of its foreign trade.

The government devoted 30 percent of agricultural land to sugarcane for export, while importing 57 percent of Cuba’s food supply. Farmers relied on tractors, massive amounts of pesticide and fertilizer inputs, all supplied by Soviet bloc countries. By the 1980s agricultural pests were increasing, soil quality was degrading and yields of some key crops like rice had begun to decline.

When Cuban trade with the Soviet bloc ended in the early 1990s, food production collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

But then farmers started adopting agroecological techniques, with support from Cuban scientists.

Thousands of oxen replaced tractors that could not function due to lack of petroleum and spare parts. Farmers substituted green manures for chemical fertilizers and artisanally produced biopesticides for insecticides. At the same time, Cuban policymakers adopted a range of agrarian reform and decentralization policies that encouraged forms of production where groups of farmers grow and market their produce collectively.


As Cuba reoriented its agriculture to depend less on imported chemical inputs and imported equipment, food production rebounded. From 1996 though 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2 percent yearly during a period when production was stagnant across Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the mid-2000s, the Ministry of Agriculture dismantled all “inefficient state companies” and government-owned farms, endorsed the creation of 2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and allowed farming on some three million hectares of unused state lands.

Urban gardens, which first sprang up during the economic crisis of the early 1990s, have developed into an important food source.

Today Cuba has 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square meter, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70 percent or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

The risks of opening up

Now Cuba’s agriculture system is under increasing pressure to deliver harvests for export and for Cuba’s burgeoning tourist markets. Part of the production is shifting away from feeding local and regional markets, and increasingly focusing on feeding tourists and producing organic tropical products for export.

President Obama hopes to open the door for U.S. businesses to sell goods to Cuba. In Havana last Monday during Obama’s visit, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed an agreement with his Cuban counterpart, Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, to promote sharing of ideas and research.

“U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba’s need for healthy, safe, nutritious food,” Vilsack said. The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, which was launched in 2014 to lobby for an end to the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo, includes more than 100 agricultural companies and trade groups. Analysts estimate that U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba could reach US$1.2 billion if remaining regulations are relaxed and trade barriers are lifted, a market that U.S. agribusiness wants to capture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Alabama Congresswoman 
Terri Sewell tour a Havana farmers' market, November 2015.  

When agribusinesses invest in developing countries, they seek economies of scale. This encourages concentration of land in the hands of a few corporations and standardization of small-scale production systems. In turn, these changes force small farmers off of their lands and lead to the abandonment of local crops and traditional farming ways. The expansion of transgenic crops and agrofuels in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia since the 1990s are examples of this process.

If U.S. industrial agriculture expands into Cuba, there is a risk that it could destroy the complex social network of agroecological small farms that more than 300,000 campesinos have built up over the past several decades through farmer-to-farmer horizontal exchanges of knowledge.

This would reduce the diversity of crops that Cuba produces and harm local economies and food security. If large businesses displace small-scale farmers, agriculture will move toward export crops, increasing the ranks of unemployed. There is nothing wrong with small farmers capturing a share of export markets, as long as it does not mean neglecting their roles as local food producers. The Cuban government thus will have to protect campesinos by not importing food products that peasants produce.

Cuba still imports some of its food, including U.S. products such as poultry and soybean meal. Since agricultural sales to Cuba were legalized in 2000, U.S. agricultural exports have totaled about $5 billion. However, yearly sales have fallen from a high of $658 million in 2008 to $300 million in 2014.

U.S. companies would like to regain some of the market share that they have lost to the European Union and Brazil.

There is broad debate over how heavily Cuba relies on imports to feed its population: the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that imports make up 60 to 80 percent of Cubans' caloric intake, but other assessments are much lower.

In fact, Cuba has the potential to produce enough food with agroecological methods to feed its 11 million inhabitants. Cuba has about six million hectares of fairly level land and another million gently sloping hectares that can be used for cropping. More than half of this land remains uncultivated, and the productivity of both land and labor, as well as the efficiency of resource use, in the rest of this farm area are still low.

We have calculated that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

President Raul Castro has stated that while opening relations with the U.S. has some benefits,

We will not renounce our ideals of independence and social justice, or surrender even a single one of our principles, or concede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty. We have won this sovereign right with great sacrifices and at the cost of great risks.

Cuba’s small farmers control only 25 percent of the nation’s agricultural land but produce over 65 percent of the country’s food, contributing significantly to the island’s sovereignity. Their agroecological achievements represent a true legacy of Cuba’s revolution.

Miguel Altieri  Professor of Agroecology, University of California, Berkeley
Disclosure statement

Miguel Altieri does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Impaired Vision: A Savage Ideology Killing the World

Zero-Sum: The Savage Vision Driving a Terror-Ridden World

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

March 22, 2016

The atrocities in Brussels -- and they are horrific, criminal atrocities -- are not occurring in a vacuum. They are not springing from some unfathomable abyss of motiveless malevolence. They are a response, in kind, to the atrocious violence being committed by Western powers on a regular basis in many countries around the world. And just as there is no justification for the acts of carnage in Brussels (and Paris and Turkey and elsewhere), there is likewise no justification for the much larger and more murderous acts of carnage being carried out by the most powerful and prosperous nations on earth, day after day, year after year.

The Western powers know this. For many years, their own intelligence agencies -- in study after study -- have confirmed that the leading cause of violent "radicalization" among a small number of Muslims is the violent Western intervention in Muslim lands. These interventions are carried out for the purpose of securing the economic and political domination of Western interests over lands rich with energy resources, as well as their strategic surroundings. That they have not even the slightest connection to "liberating" people from religious or political persecution, or making the world "safer," is glaringly transparent. They are about domination, pure and simple.

Indeed, this point is scarcely disputed, although champions of domination claim it is a good thing. For decades, one has heard the argument from American exceptionalists that "if we don't do it" -- that is, if we don't dominate the world militarily and economically -- "then somebody else will." The implication, of course, is that such a "somebody else" will be far worse than our own divinely blessed, goodhearted selves.

There is a fiercely primitive worldview underlying this philosophy (which is held almost universally across the American political spectrum, and in those countries who cling to the coattails of American dominance). It says that violent domination is the only reality in human affairs: one must dominate, or be dominated. One must eat or be eaten. One must kill or be killed. There is no alternative. If "we" don't dominate -- by force if necessary, doing "whatever it takes" -- then it is a given that some other power will do so. Domination and power are all that exists; the only question is how they are distributed, and who controls that distribution. And there is no price too high to pay in order to gain -- or maintain -- that control.

You can see how this primitive belief plays out in domestic politics too. More and more, politics across the Western democracies (and other nations as well) are revolving around the question of who should dominate in a society -- or more specifically, who feels their domination over society is being threatened. This dynamic is driving nationalist movements across the board. In the United States, it is expressed in the panic and dismay felt by an increasing number of white people -- especially but by no means exclusively white males -- that their "natural" domination of American society is slipping away. They want to "take our country back," or else they'll be overwhelmed -- dominated -- by a flood of unworthy others: African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, homosexuals, women, etc. This self-pitying fear has been rife in right-wing discourse for decades, and has now burst into the open, and into the mainstream, with the likely nomination of Donald Trump as presidential candidate of a major party.

Again, the dynamic of domination is key: since nothing exists outside this dynamic, since there is no other way, then one group MUST dominate the others. The idea of equal citizens working, living, and sharing together is a fantasy in this worldview. If blacks or immigrants or women or gays are perceived to have gained a small share in the national life, then that share must have been "taken" from the dominant group. And since, in this view, domination is the goal of all groups, since it is the organizing principle of human life, then those upstart groups are not just seeking a fair share of society's bounty and freedoms and opportunities; no, they are actually aiming to subjugate the dominant group. In this extremely limited worldview, life is always a zero-sum game. To give someone else more opportunity means less for yourself, and your kind. The freer someone else is, the less free you are. There is only so much to go around. You will find more sophisticated and empathetic worldviews on grade-school playgrounds, or in wolf packs.

And so we come to the foreign policies of Western nations today. They are all, without exception, built on the goal of securing effective control (in whatever form) of economic and strategic resources for the benefit of their own power structures. Again, it is beyond dispute that these policies do not involve trying to make the world a better, safer place so that their own citizens might pursue their lives in peace. These policies manifestly do not involve trying to achieve "security" for their own people. Those who advance these policies knowingly and deliberately accept the fact that they will invariably cause destruction abroad and "blowback" at home. They know and accept that these policies will destabilize the world, that they will radicalize some of those who suffer from them, that they will lead to less security at home, that they will drain public treasuries and leave their own people to sink in broken communities with decaying infrastructure, mounting debt, shrinking opportunities, bleak futures and despairing lives.

They know all of this is true -- not only because they can see it happening with their own eyes, as we all can, but also because their own experts tell them, time and time again, that this is so. But they accept all this as the price that must be paid to advance and maintain their dominance. In the words of Madeline Albright, when she was confronted with the fact that the US/UK sanctions on Iraq had at that time killed at least 500,000 children, our leaders believe this price "is worth it."

In private, they no doubt tell themselves that it is the domination of their good and "special" nation, or the domination of the worthy "values" of "Western civilization" that they are trying to secure with their policies, by doing "whatever it takes." But in practice, of course, the chief beneficiaries of these policies are invariably the ruling classes of the nations involved. This has become much more brazenly evident in recent years, as the conditions and prospects of even the middle classes are so clearly deteriorating. There is little room left to pretend that the "rising tide" of militarized hyper-capitalism is "lifting all boats" when even those who once benefitted from expanding opportunity (in the post-war boom) are now sinking. (The poor, of course, have almost always been invisible.)

The people in Brussels -- like the people in Paris, and like the far greater multitude of victims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, etc -- are, yes, "reaping the whirlwind" of Western foreign policy. The criminals who carried out the most recent attacks have adopted the mindset of our Western elites, who teach the world, day after day, that the destruction of innocent lives is an acceptable price to pay in order to achieve your objectives. You can and must do "whatever it takes" -- even if whatever it takes is, say, the death of half a million innocent children. Or a war of aggression that leaves a million innocent people dead. Or drone-bombing a wedding party. Or sending missiles into a hospital. Or sitting in the Oval Office -- your Peace Prize gleaming on the mantelpiece -- while you tick off the names of victims on your weekly "Kill List."

We wonder how these terrorists can commit such barbarous atrocities as we see in Brussels -- even while most of us happily countenance, even celebrate, far more extensive and continuous atrocities committed by our leaders in pursuit of domination. Then we pretend that the former has no connection to the latter. Yet the targets of these foreign policies live through a hundred Brussels attacks, a dozen 9/11s every year. We teach violence to the world -- brutal destruction of individual lives, of societies and communities, of entire nations -- yet are shocked when the world responds in kind.

I will say it again: there is absolutely no justification for the murder of innocent people such as we saw in Brussels today. None. But crimes of equal horror -- killing innocent people, disrupting the lives of millions of others, and filling them with fear -- are being carried out, routinely, and on a much larger scale, by the leaders of our Western nations and their allies. This too is equally unjustifiable, and is worthy of the same level of rejection and outrage we rightly apply to the Brussels atrocity.

CBC Soft-Pedaling Turkish Human Rights Abuses

Turkish Ambassador Defends Human Rights Record

by The Current -

March 24, 2016 

AMT: Well, Ahmet Bayraktar, an accountant from Syria made landfall on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday. He had made the dangerous voyage there from Turkey. He hadn't yet heard the news: A major agreement between Turkey and the European Union came into effect the day before Sunday.

It means that migrants, such as he, could now be sent back to Turkey if their asylum applications fail.

Turkish Ambassador, Selcuk Unal

The deal was struck in an effort to end Europe's ongoing migrant crisis. And Turkey will receive up to six billion Euros for its part in that.

The plan is controversial with human rights campaigners and it's not the only controversy hanging over Turkey right now. From its fight against Kurdish separatists at home questions about freedom of the press and academic freedoms, and bombings in the cities of Istanbul and Ankara in the past couple of weeks and really the past couple of months, Turkey is the subject of much discussion and concern.

Turkey's ambassador to Canada Selçuk Ünal is with us from Ottawa to talk about it all. Hello and welcome.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Hello. Good morning.

AMT: You know, within the first 24 hours of Turkey's agreement with the EU an estimated 1,600 migrants arrived in Greece, twice as many as the day before. How effective will that agreement be in stemming the tide?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, we, of course, hope for the best for both the EU and Turkey, of course, because there's a tremendous flow from different countries to the EU and there's also an issue of sustainable support to those people in Turkey. As you know, we have been hosting almost three million Syrians and Iraqis from different groups without any international support and one part of the deal is actually to provide also economic support to the Syrians in Turkey, Syrians and Iraqis in Turkey. So we hope it will be a balanced approach for everybody.

AMT: Once the rejected asylum seekers arrive back in Turkey, what happens?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, the deal is to receive back everybody who passed from Turkey to Greece illegally, after the day of the signature, and when they come they will be, if they are not recorded, they will be recorded and we will try to continue to look after them. The EU will take the same amount of people within the limits of the court of 72,000 and, of course, the return conditions from Turkey to the EU of the Syrian refugees will be handled by the UNHCR rules and regulations and principles.

AMT: You know, critics have called this deal a PR stunt for Turkey. They say it won't work to stop the flow of immigrants. How serious is your country in this aim?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: I would totally disagree whether this is a PR stunt or not. I would ask the owners of those questions where were they in the last five years since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict while we have been handling so many people who are escaping from a certain death with our own budgets and own assets. We have spent so far ten billion US dollars to Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the last five years with only 455 million US dollars that we received from the international community. That's, I think, a shame. The UN funds are also underfunded, so from that perspective the Syrians and the Iraqis in Turkey are also in dire straits. So first of all, we have to, I think, acknowledged the fact that this is not a sustainable situation and in order to make the life of Syrians in Turkey in a better mood we have to prepare a framework. This is the framework that we get. The problem here is mainly political. We have to find a solution to the Syrian issue in Syria, otherwise people will continue to escape from Syria and Iraq.

AMT: Turkish citizens will soon be able to travel to the European Union without a visa as part of this agreement. There is a promise to renew talks by July about Turkey joining the EU. Do you feel that this is a win for Turkey?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Actually, I think the talks of Turkey with the EU to become a full member have never been stopped, at least from our side#, but have been sort of stalled by a few EU countries in the past for political reasons, especially regarding the Cyprus issue. But I think the EU now realizes the strategic importance of Turkey once again. Being a full member of the EU is still a strategic objective, foreign policy objective of Turkey. We wish to continue the talks with the EU. And visa facilitation for Turkish citizens is actually something in the Turkey-EU relationship, which has never been granted so far.

AMT: The European Commission has said that Turkey needs to strengthen human rights and democracy before becoming an EU member. How will your country address those concerns?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, there are two sets of criteria in becoming an EU full member. First is the economic criteria, second is a political criteria. Nobody is disputing the fact that Turkey has fulfilled the economic criteria a decade ago and most of the political criteria have been fulfilled as well. There are, of course, issues which needs improvement, which needs further development, which we agree. And we will be working on them. For the most important point for us, for Turkey, and for the other countries concerned is whether EU will consider itself as a club or as a cultural club or the or a club acting on fair terms to everybody. We believe EU and Europe has a set of values, ideals that we subscribe ourselves to and we ready to do everything to fulfill that political criteria as well, including, of course, human rights.

AMT: What needs further fulfillment when you talk about issues?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, actually, most of the issues regarding human rights issues have been addressed. I understand their concerns regarding press freedom issue, which there are all the necessary checks and balances in the Turkish court and constitutional system. And I think that's the most important issue from the EU perspective.

AMT: Well, let's talk a little more about human rights in Turkey. Turkey's fight against the Kurdish Workers Party, the PK K, has involved 24-hour curfews on many towns. It has seen thousands -some say hundreds of thousands - displaced. There are towns in the country’s South-East that have been left in ruins, one in particular – and I'm probably going to mispronounce it – Cizre? How do I say town?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: “Chizruh.”

AMT: Cizre. How do you justify the treatment of citizens of Cizre?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Thank you very much for asking the question, but let me start by labeling issue. PKK is a terror organization and called as such by EU, Canada, United States, and all of our Western and NATO allies. We have to fix that first. Second, Kurdish origin of Turkish citizens in Turkey, they mostly do not support the PKK terrorism. What we are fighting with are the PKK militants in Cizre. There were two other towns which they have blocked all public facilities to go into the city itself, like ambulances, like other municipality issues—

AMT: The PKK has done that?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Yes. Yes. And like every other government, the government should restore the public authority first.

AMT: Okay, well, let me ask you—


AMT: Let me ask you, because—Fair enough that they blocked towns, but they are non-state players, labeled a terrorist organization, as you say, not only by your country but by other countries including Canada. But Amnesty International says that what you are doing as a state player is collective punishment. And that the UN has called on you to respect the fundamental rights of civilians.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: No, there’s no collective punishment, but we have to also recognize one thing. We have found in many places-- I mean, the Turkish law enforcement agencies found in many places, huge amounts of ammunition and explosives. In one single place, just to give an example, they found a quarter million bullets, and another one, one and a half tonnes of explosives, ofG-4. I wonder what those people refer to, I mean those agencies, have said anything about the rights of life to the normal Turkish citizens - Turkish or Kurdish origin - who had to be evacuated from Cizre and another small towns, Sur, because of this terroristic instance of blockage.

AMT: Okay. So you're saying that the PKK is doing that to citizens?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Exactly. I mean, we didn't wake up one morning and start attacking these towns. Why should we? It is actually from a broader perspective. The PKK, who broke the internal processes which have been going on in Turkey with them from the start of 2015 and especially you know. Put in a high place with so many terroristic activities after the elections in Turkey. So that's why we had to take measures to stop those high profile terrorist incidents, as you have seen from the--

AMT: But you're making the point that they're going after civilians. This is always the problem. Civilians get caught in the middle. Isn't it incumbent upon the government to protect civilians? Regardless, isn't it incumbent upon you to find a way to do that as opposed to leave them stuck in the middle like that?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: No, no. You're totally right. And I totally agree. That's what the law enforcement agencies have been trying to do in Cizre and Sur and there are so many instances when an ambulance was called in to pick up, for example, a sick lady. When they approached they were fired by the PKK. I can provide a long list of similar events, but that's the responsible of law enforcement agencies to, first of all, take out the civilians and then, of course, deal with the terroristic units or elements. But if you have followed the Turkish press there are so many Kurdish inhabitants of these towns who complained or escaped-- You gave a number, the exact number of 39,000 in total in a couple of provinces. They escaped from the PKK blockage and they’ve said this in the Turkish public and media as well.

AMT: Turkey has been hit with a series of deadly suicide bombings in the last six months, two in the last week or so. How serious is the security threat in your country?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, the first one is of course related PKK. As you referred to, they have started very high profile attacks to civilian targets. I think there is no doubt that we will continue to fight this scourge and increase and step up security in the [indecipherable] as well. The second one is common threats. As part of the coalition Turkey is also facing this ISIL/DAESH threat as a national secretary threat and there were a couple of very highly deadly attacks. That's exactly what the ISIL or DAESH istrying to do against Turkey because we are part of the coalition. We have been fighting against this international scourge.

AMT: You know, your critics say that you are less concerned with fighting ISIS or DAESH and more concerned with getting rid of Bashar al Assad. How do you respond to that?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, I would ask them to ask the question to the civilians killed by ISIL/DAESH in the last year in Turkey. We have never supported this terror organization. It’s absurd, especially taking into consideration the fact that they have been attacking Turkey, Turkish civilian targets or military targets at the border as well.

AMT: Well, there are those who say that you look the other way, though, that you have a very porous border, that trade goes on, that you're more interested in going after the PKK inside Syria and Northern Iraq than you are going after ISIS. Not that you are working with them but that you are in fact being passive.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: No, I don't think that reflects the reality. Just this morning we have caught ten people who are trying to pass the border from Syria to Turkey who are ISIL members. Now, the border is 911 kilometres. And we have stepped up our security precautions to the maximum as possible. So far, in the last five years, we have caught more than 2,500 people and returned them. I mean, I'm talking about foreign fighters by the way who joined this organization, returned them to other Western countries. We have put more than 15,000 people on our blacklist for not entering Turkey, but there's another issue of the foreign fighters joining this ISIL, or organizations, PKK, PYD, in Syria. On that we need more international cooperation from our Western partners.

AMT: Well, let me ask you about that, because we know that Canadians have gone through Turkey to join ISIS. They get through your airport. Are your border people at all suspicious when people land in Turkey, like, of a certain demographic and age group traveling alone or that you think they're going to cross that border?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Yes. Let me first say that Turkey is a country of 78 million and just last year we have received 80 million passengers traveling through or to Turkey. Secondly, we have stepped up in the last two years and established special units at the ports of entry to assess the incoming people. For International Cooperation, which is very important, we expect all countries to provide any suspicious element, person to us in advance so we can take the necessary precautions and prevent people joining terror organizations in Syria.

AMT: I just want to clarify something. You mentioned that Wednesday security forces captured ten men suspected of being linked to ISIS in Southern Turkey. So southern Turkey, that same area is the area of PKK activity, am I correct?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Yes, but they were apprehended while they were trying to enter from Syria to Turkey and it was immediately understood that they were ISIL or DAESH members.

AMT: Okay. The other thing I was going to raise with you is that you are trying to fight the PKK in Southern Turkey, you have ISIS coming in, you have a war next door where you have allies like Canada the US working with the Kurdish regional government, which is located right on the edge of PKK-controlled territory—It’s a real jumble. How do you navigate that as a country knowing that your allies expect a certain level of cooperation from you?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Yeah. Let me first correct you on something. We, also as Turkey, have good relations with the Iraqi Kurdish [indecipherable] in Northern Iraq.

AMT: You have no quarrel with them?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Not at the moment.

AMT: Okay. Keep going.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: And that’s not very well known. We also support Iraqi central authorities in training their units. So we are taking the training issue in Iraq also seriously with our allies and the partners in the coalition. On the Syrian side, we believe the PYD, YPG, whatever you call it, is a sister organization of PKK and we warn everybody, of course, that support given to them should be very carefully assessed in the fight against DAESH because being a terror organization fighting another terror organization – which I mean DAESH - doesn't change your status actually. On that second note, of concern to us, of course, the arms and ammunition given to them should not be passed to any terror organization in the region. That's crucially important for all neighbours of Syria, I believe.

AMT: I want to pick up on something you mentioned earlier and that is how you are working on freedom of the press. The Turkish government has taken control of newspapers, a news agency, a television station. We spoke with Abdullah Ayasun, a journalist and editor with Today’s Zaman, shortly after that newspaper was taken over by government trustees. Listen to this.


Zaman played an important role for anybody who cannot give its voice to the nation because of the government monopoly over media outlets. And considering its wide reach in society, it was of crucial importance for presenting independent and different voices.

AMT: Ambassador Ünal, why is the government doing that?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, let me also start by a correction. The government is not entitled to take over any media outlet anyway. What has been done was an implementation of a court order which believed that this paper and two affiliate organizations from the same media group has been involved in efforts to infiltrate the police and judiciary as well as change to government with different ways than a vote. So that's done by a court decision and we'll have to wait for the court processes—

AMT: Well, with all respect, sir, we've seen other countries where suddenly a journalist writing in a newspaper becomes a criminal because of the law. And even English PEN, just on Wednesday, published a report saying press freedom in Turkey has suffered an immense and systematic assault under President Erdoğan. It says journalists and media outlets are subjected to imprisonment, intimidation, harassment, and assault. How do you respond to that?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: No, I heard you, but what I'm trying to say is something different. When there's a court order there are also checks and balances. There was another case, and in that the court decided that two journalists who published a story regarding a spying case and so on and so forth should be kept in jail. But these two journalists, by using their individual rights of petition to the constitutional court the constitutional court decided that they should be released. And the court should continue without keeping them in jail. So the necessary checks and balances are present and available to all at every step of the judicial process. That's what I can say.

AMT: Well, you know, it is precisely the nature of your courts that have people concerned because people are still going on trial on issues that are questionable. The Turkish government has also been under fire for jailing three academics who signed a petition calling for peace talks between the government and the PKK. And last week we spoke to an academic who signed that petition. She spoke to us - she wouldn't allow us to use her name because she's afraid that even using it in Canada could hurt her safety. Listen how she describes that petition.


We still believe that has to do with freedom of expression. And that is not a crime. That should not be a crime. And the petition was actually calling for peace. So we were surprised, in that sense, that three academics can be detained because they expressed an opinion.

AMT: How do you respond to the concern that the government is jailing academics for expressing opinions?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Well, of course, I can't respond to the lady since I don’t want to ask her name. But there were two public statements made by certain academics. The first one was not giving any kind of reference to terroristic activities of the PKK and even not mentioning the nature of the organization. And it was, of course, by that nature, I think, very [indecipherable] There was a second one which defended more on the freedom of expression, that there is a difference between the petitions of the academics and There are so many people who signed up to that and only, I think, three have been on the court process. And, as I said, it's the court's decision that will decide the story behind.

AMT: You know, there have also been reports that there are something like 1,800 cases opened against Turkish citizens for insulting the president since he took on his role in August of 2014. So it becomes a question of the expression of political opinions. There is a difference, is there not, between terrorist activity and speech that makes a government uncomfortable?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: No, but insulting an authority – which means, like, a president or parliament or a prime minister – in different countries have different obligations in penal codes. For example, it's starts with five years of jail in France or some other countries have different implementations. I don't know the exact number of cases in that sphere, but I can just say that just yesterday there were two different separate cases that the courts, they declined and they have dropped the cases. So the court process in Turkey is in order and then taking the necessary steps according to the present legislation.

AMT: Just a clarification: That is no longer a criminal offense in France.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: That's good.

AMT: Yeah. Turkey has arguably been paying the biggest price outside of Syria for the war in Syria. What do you believe the world needs to know to understand about what it will take to end that war?

SELÇUK ÜNAL: I think we have to find a negotiated political statement, solution within the framework of UN. That's why we are supportive of and hopeful of Geneva talks. But from a realistic point of view, we also believe that foreign elements, countries who are involved in bombarding the civilians or [indecipherable] should also take into consideration while we are talking about peace. What I mean is we have to find a solution in Syria to prevent the exodus of the Syrian people, first of all, and secondly, we have to find a negotiated settlement in Syria. Otherwise the exodus of the Syrian people will continue and the instability created by the regime itself as well as other terror organizations in Syria will not stop. And that will have ripple effects in, not only for the neighbouring countries, but the whole world as well.

AMT: Ambassador Ünal, thank you for sharing your perspective today.

SELÇUK ÜNAL: Thank you.

AMT: Selçuk Ünal is Turkey's ambassador to Canada. He joined us from Ottawa. If you want to share your thoughts as you listen to him and let us know what you're thinking. You can reach us online. We're at and click on the Contact link. You can also download the podcast, if you’re joining us partway through. Or listen right there, Tweet us. We are on Twitter, @thecurrentCBC. Find us on Facebook. I’m Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current on CBC Radio One, Sirius XM, and online at

Jokers' Rule in Turkey Press Crackdown

Joker Rules: the Crackdown on Press Freedom in Turkey

by Tariq Ali - CounterPunch

March 25, 2016

Onur Erem the journalist interviewing Tariq Ali has already been charged in court with insulting the leaders of the state, but the Judge ruled that the reference to Erdogan as a ‘tinpot dictator’ by Tariq Ali was within the limits of political debate.

However, referring to the Prime Minister Davutoglu as a ‘joker’ was ruled unacceptable. Erem could face 14 months in prison, but he has appealed and is awaiting a final ruling. Meanwhile, newspapers are being banned by the regime and journalists harassed and imprisoned.

Turkey is a member of NATO and currently being paid billions by the European Union to keep the Syrian refugees and not let them travel to EU countries. This helps to explain the lack of outrage against the targeting of Kurdish towns and villages and the assaults on all critics of the decaying Erdogan regime. — The Editors. 

Onur Erem: Prime Minister Davutoglu keeps saying that press freedom is their highest priority while we’re getting these absurd court cases. His declarations are nothing but a joke, but we’re not allowed to call him a joker. Jokers were important figures in palaces, as Davutoglu is, in Erdogan’s palace. Can you explain why you call him a joker and comment on his relationship with Erdogan’s palace?

TARIQ ALI: I think the judge who decided that Davutgolu can not be referred to as a joker must secretly be on our side. Otherwise, the judgement makes no sense at all. It exposes the country to ridicule.

I referred to him as a “joker” because he does not strike me as a serious politician, but a placeman who does what he’s told and does it badly. But don’t make the mistake of comparing him to the court jesters in the courts of medieval Europe and Asia. The court jester was distinguished for speaking truth to the ruler, albeit in a humorous fashion. The jester could say what the courtiers could not and, in fact, many depended on him to be courageous. It would have been so much better if Davotgulu had behaved like a medieval jester, but no such luck for poor Turkey. Its Prime Minister is not taken seriously by too many people.

Onur Erem: For a comparison of freedom of expression in two countries, what would happen to you in UK, if you had called Cameron a joker?

Tariq Ali: Nothing. I’ve called him worse things than that….and a former Prime Minister Tony Blair is widely referred to as a war criminal.

Onur Erem: Although there are decisions of the European Court of Human Rights which says that journalists can’t be put on trial because of what their interviewees say, Turkish courts are sentencing journalists because of their interviews. As you are also a journalist, can you evaluate the effect on the media of this kind of court practice, from a journalist’s perspective?

Tariq Ali: The obvious result will be to stop interviewing people who have something to say. Journalists will become more careful, though one solution is not to publish names of journalists doing the interview. The Times of London never published names of its staff in the old days and The Economist still doesn’t. Only the Editor knows. That might be one response as long as you have a tough editor prepared to resist government bullying and intimidation.

Onur Erem: The government is expecting journalists to censor the criticisms of the interviewees – or they’ll get hit with a court case. What does this mean for freedom of expression? Would you give an interview to a journalist that you knew will censor your expressions and criticisms?

Tariq Ali: No, I woudn’t. It would be a waste of time. Here again one could think of ways to defeat the censor. I could put up the answers on my Facebook page or website or Counterpunch. Your paper could publish the questions and refer readers to the CounterPunch website or something like that. In today’s world it’s not easy to suppress information. Technology has helped us a great deal.

Onur Erem: Five months have passed since our interview about Ankara massacre which killed 107, in the meantime the war in Kurdish regions have became more intense and there have been 3 other bombings in Ankara and Istanbul, done by TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons) and ISIS, killing dozens. Today people are afraid of walking in the streets and horror scenarios ranging from countrywide civil war to a coup d’etat are at are circulating. When you analyse the current situation in Turkey what do you foresee for the country?

Tariq Ali: Terror breeds terror. I am completely opposed to both state terror and those who respond in a similar way. The TAK is discrediting the Kurdish struggle for autonomy and socialism. There is NO justification for any group that associates itself with the Left to kill innocents and encourage suicide bombings. As for ISIS, we know where they come from. We know who has used them in the past. We know their sectarianism leads to killings. Here the Turkish state, like its NATO bosses, has helped to create a monster that it now claims to oppose. The situation in Turkey today is extremely troubling. A panic-stricken regime, desperate to divide the Kurdish population from non-Kurds because it feared the rise of the HDP, has helped to create a huge crisis in the country. Can it be ended while Erdogan remains in power? I don’t think so.

Onur Erem: Erdogan spoke after the last bombing in Ankara and said “If you’re not supporting us, then you’re supporting terror”. He ordered the government to pass a new “anti-terror” bill which targets journalists and academics that criticize him as “terrorists without guns” . He also recently cited Hitler’s Germany as a good example of an effective unitary presidential regime. When you compare the regime that he’s trying to build with the fascist regimes in history, what are the similarities and differences that you find?

Tariq Ali: Erdogan may not be a “joker,” but he is definitely a political plagiarist. His remark on terror that you quote comes straight from the mouth of George W. Bush after 9/11. But Erdogan wants to go beyond Bush by making critical journalism and critics in the academy illegal. What will be the difference between him and a military government? Very little. I read his remarks on the effectiveness of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. Well, yes. But then the AKP would have to ban all other political parties, close down all critical newspapers, burn the books critical of the regime and gas the Kurds to death…the final solution of the Kurdish ‘problem.’ Somehow I don’t think he is about to do that. NATO would ask its Turkish component [the armed forces of Turkey] to take power long before that happened. What we are seeing in Turkey is a non-uniformed authoritarian regime led by a politician who has allowed power to go to his head and is behaving more and more like a despot. Sooner or later this will provoke political uprisings throughout the country as happened after Gezi.

Onur Erem: Are the any other comments that you’d like to make regarding Turkey, Erdogan, his relationship with EU or his Middle East policies?

Tariq Ali: The West (the US/EU bloc) and its media have barely covered the recent wave of repression in Turkey. The reason is simple. They are paying billions to Ankara to control and take back the refugees of the Syrian war. They are fearful that if they offend Erdogan he will use the refugees as a political weapon. So they keep quiet. Once again Western double standards are on full display.

This interview was published in the Istanbul daily BirGun, on 25 March 2016.
Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).
More articles by:Tariq Ali

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hurricane Hillary: Trump's Perfect Storm

Trump is Positioned to Win the Presidency

by Ted Rall - CounterPunch

March 24, 2016

My secret is contrarianism. Since the conventional wise men of the corporate mainstream media are almost always wrong, you’ll almost always be right if you bet against them.

The MSM take on Donald Trump is a rare exception to the rule. They’re scared and so am I. They’re right to be frightened. He’s an unconscious fascist, less like Hitler the careful schemer, more like Adolf’s mentor Mussolini, who cobbled together a little bit from the socialist left and a lot from the nationalist right, winged it as he noted which lines got the most applause, and repeated those.

The trouble with Trump isn’t his policies. He hardly has any. Those he has are so vague as to be laughable (see: the Mexican-financed border wall, mass deportations, etc.)

His temperament is the threat. Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a war she didn’t like, but it’s easy to imagine Trump starting one — maybe a big one — accidentally. Trump has so much contempt for the system, the job he’s running for, and the American people, that he hasn’t bothered to study up on the issues. If he took real estate this seriously, he would have gone bankrupt even more often.

Here’s some irony: America finally elects the magic businessman as president — which we’ve been told for years would be awesome — and securities markets tank in reaction to the uncertainty he creates.

Trump, used to getting his way all the time, is a bully. A president convinces. An authoritarian orders you. Do what he says, or else. This November, nothing less than the American political system is at stake.

So it’s time to get real.

The establishment types are still in denial. Wake up, idiots!

At this writing, Trump is my odds-on favorite to win in November. Things could change. But that’s where we’ve been for months and where we are now.

Because they didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, the party’s efforts to stop him have come way too little, way too late. Mitt Romney 2.0? Paul Ryan? Seriously?

Looking back, pressuring Trump and the other candidates promise to support the eventual nominee and forswear a third-party/independent candidacy rates as one of the stupidest political maneuvers of all time. Now the Republicans are stuck with the dude.

Not that the Democrats are blameless. Barring a miraculous EmailGate-related indictment or the eruption of some new scandal-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee. Thank you, DNC! And she’ll be a disaster. Head-to-head match-ups have consistently shown that she’s weaker against Trump than Bernie Sanders.

Trump is hardwired to find the weak spots in his opponents. He’ll have a field day demolishing Clinton’s candidacy, which is constructed on a pair of fantasies: that her long resume equals a list of impressive accomplishments, and that her record of supporting right-wing wars and trade agreements means she’s secretly a progressive longing to race out of the gate to keep “fighting for us.” Remember what he did to Little Marco Rubio.

Trump will blow up Hillary’s BS over and over and over. And there’s a lot of BS to blow up.

Hillary’s support is wide but shallow. Sure, some Bernie voters will dutifully Feel the Hill. But many Democrats, the ones who got into the Bern because they couldn’t abide Clinton, will not. DINO Hillary is to Trump’s right on war and trade and probably on Israel too. The #BernieorBust movement could leave enough progressives sitting home on election day or casting their votes for the Green Party’s Jill Stein to put Trump into the White House.

Should/can Trump be stopped? Yes, but not by the Republican Party. The GOP’s Stop Trump stampede — the anguished editorials, the cable-news rants, the pompous insider scolds, tens of millions of dollars in SuperPAC-funded attack ads that even smear his wife as a slut — is counterproductive, playing into the framing of a guy who sells himself as an establishment pissing-off outsider.

The Stop Trump movement within the GOP is undemocratic to the point of making me want to retch. Trump has a commanding lead against rival Ted Cruz (680 delegates to 424, 37% of the popular vote to 27%). Considering that Trump began the race against 18 other candidates, the establishmentarian talking point that he can’t get 50% of the vote is absurd. 37% is a commanding lead, and talk of pulling out some nothing guy who didn’t even run (Ryan, Romney) in second-round voting at the Republican convention is an insult to those who voted for Trump and to democracy itself.

The raison d’être for GOP anti-Trumpism is insane: he’s not a “real conservative” — this proto-fascist, they say, is too far left for their party.

If Republicans are serious about stopping Trump, they should pledge to support the Democratic nominee for president — with their votes, their PR machines, their SuperPACs and campaigning in person.

If the Democrats are serious about stopping Trump, they should Stop Hillary

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.
More articles by:Ted Rall

Israel's Corpses: History Catching Up on Nakba Denial

Decades on, Israel tries to bury its darkest times

by Jonathan Cook - The National

22 March 2016

One might expect that only historians would care to revisit the 1948 war that created Israel. And yet the debate about what constitutes truth and myth from that period still provokes raw emotions.

Much rests on how those events are reconstructed, not least because the shock waves have yet to subside. Israelis fear, and Palestinians crave, a clearer picture of the past because it would powerfully illuminate the present. It might also influence the international community’s proposed solutions for the conflict.

That is why the unearthing of an Israeli soldier’s letter from 1948 detailing what was probably the war’s worst massacre – one long buried by Israel – is of more than historical significance.

It comes as Moshe Yaalon, the defence minister, this week accused Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation that exposes military abuses, of “treason” for collecting evidence from the army’s current whistle-blowers.

Western understandings of the 1948 war – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or catastrophe – are dominated by an enduring Israeli narrative. Israel’s army, it is said, abided by a strict moral code. Palestinians left not because of Israel’s actions but on the orders of Arab leaders.

In this rendering, the Palestinians’ mass dispossession was the fault of the Arab world – and a solution for the millions of today’s refugees lies with their host countries.

For decades Israel’s chief concession to the truth was an admission that a massacre took place just outside Jerusalem, at Deir Yassin.

Israel claimed the atrocity was the exception that proved the rule: a rogue militia killed more than 100 villagers, violating Israel’s ethical codes in the chaotic weeks before statehood was declared.

Palestinians have always known of dozens of other large massacres of civilians from 1948 carried out by the Israeli army. The barbarity, they say, was intended to terrorise the native population into flight. This account puts responsibility on Israel for taking the refugees back.

But history is written by the victor.

In recent decades a few brave Israeli scholars have chipped away at the official facade. In the late 1990s a Haifa University student collected testimonies from former soldiers confirming that over 200 Palestinians had been massacred at Tantura, south of Haifa. After the findings were made public, he was pilloried and stripped of his degree.

A decade ago, the historian Ilan Pappe wrote a groundbreaking book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, arguing that massacres like the one at Tantura were exploited to drive out Palestinians. He and others noted the suggestive titles of military operations such as “Broom” and soldiers’ orders to “clean” areas.

Pappe now lives in academic exile in the UK.

The biggest obstacle to shifting Israeli and western perceptions of 1948 has been the lack of a clear paper trail connecting the political leadership to the massacres. Israel locked away bundles of documentation precisely not to jeopardise the official narrative.

But things are changing slowly.

Last year a key deception was punctured: that Israel urged many of the war’s 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return. In a letter to Haifa’s leaders shortly after the city’s Palestinians were expelled, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, demanded that any return be barred.

Now another letter, located by Israeli historian Yair Auron and published last week for the first time in English by the Haaretz newspaper, trashes the idea of an ethical Israel army.

Written by Shabtai Kaplan, a soldier and journalist, the letter confirms long-held suspicions of a massacre – one that dwarfs Deir Yassin – at Dawaymeh, near Hebron. Soldiers executed hundreds of men, women and children who offered no resistance.

The massacre, near the end of the war, was carried out by elite troops under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh. He developed the Israeli army’s famous doctrine of “purity of arms”.

Kaplan argues that the Dawaymeh massacre was part of “a system of expulsion and destruction”, with a clear goal: “The fewer Arabs who remain, the better.”

Kaplan’s letter was consigned to the vaults, as were so many other documents from 1948 that officials considered too damaging.

Nearly seven decades later, in an age of 24-hour news and social media, Israel is still desperately trying to conceal its darkest episodes by bullying the army’s current whistle-blowers.

Last week Benjamin Netanyahu’s government launched an investigation into Breaking the Silence. On Sunday Mr Netanyau called the collection of soldiers’ testimonies “intolerable”, indicating that he may try to ban the group.

It is hard not to see parallels between the cover-ups of 1948 and those of today. Breaking the Silence’s disclosures, especially those relating to Israel’s series of attacks on Gaza, each of which has left hundreds of civilians dead, similarly give the lie to the army’s continuing claims of ethical behaviour.

In his 1948 letter, Kaplan observed of the failure by the political leadership to hold anyone to account for the massacres: “Inaction is in itself encouragement.”

Israel’s politicians hoped then that the Palestinians could be quickly terrorised from their lands. Decades later, the atrocities continue – and to the same end. But Israel must face facts: the days when such systematic brutality could be kept under wraps are now over.

Gladio's Hidden Hand and the Latest Europian Bombings

Belgium Redux? A History of European Bombings

by 21st Century Wire

March 24, 2016

In the wake of the recent Brussels Attacks this week, readers should be aware of Europe’s very real and sordid history of NATO intelligence carrying out terror attacks on European soil – against its own citizens.

This is historically referred to as Operation GLADIO.

It’s crucial that we understand what happened, in order to consider what might also be happening today…

Brasscheck TV

Before the complete lockdown of the Anglo-American news media, occasionally some good stuff made it to air.

Then it was made to disappear. That’s the case with this video. But someone recorded it off the TV (thank you VCRs!) and uploaded it to YouTube. How long this important document will last is anyone’s guess, but this is the mother lode. It shows how the CIA organized an army of terrorists from among right wingers and organized crime (often the same people) to stage false flag terror events through Europe (and the world) to undermine regimes it didn’t like.

Note: “Staged” violence does not mean that people don’t die. It means that the source of the violence is deliberately obscured. Hundreds of entirely innocent people were killed in these operations.

Anyone who thinks modern America is immune from this kind of sick double-dealing is living in a dream world.

The last time there was a wave of bombings in Europe, they were conducted not by “terrorists” but by European governments
and fascist allies of the US.

Operation Gladio… Belgium figured significantly in these operations.

Note: The video starts with a little bit of French and Italian, but there are subtitles. Stick with it. This is a very important film.

GLADIO (1992, BBC)
Director: Allan Francovich

READ MORE BRUSSELS ATTACKS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Brussels Attacks