26 March 2015

Follow the money: Zionist backlash and Islamophobia

Al Jazeera English

Back when former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin styled himself "Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular", many folks rightly saw it as kooky talk.

But as becomes more apparent with each passing day, the same dubious reaction should greet the US government's self-identification as a "democracy" - a meaningless euphemism that serves as a front for a blissfully plutocratic system.

And while most of us are presumably aware, on some level, of the relationship between obscene wealth and political power, it's always helpful to have the arrangement clearly spelled out. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

Lebanon’s maid trade is modified slavery

Al Jazeera America

When I checked in online recently for a Lufthansa flight to Beirut, a pop-up window prompted me to confirm my compliance with two important Lebanese entry regulations. The first was that “holders of passports containing any Israeli visa or stamp will be refused entry” — understandable, given Lebanon’s acute Israeli spy problem.
The second was that “maids must ensure that their passport includes a departure stamp issued by the country they departed from.” This regulation targeting maids (or, as we call them in polite conversation, domestic workers) highlights one of Lebanon’s many social afflictions: the relegation of a substantial portion of the population to an inferior tier of existence.
According to the International Labor Organization, there are more than 250,000 female immigrant domestic workers in Lebanon, a country that had a population of just 4 million before the recent influx of displaced Syrians. These refugees have now joined immigrant laborers, sanitation workers and others on the lowest rung of Lebanese society. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

18 March 2015

Iraq war anniversary: Remembering Blackwater


"My company's history is a proud tale of performance excellence and driven entrepreneurialism."
So writes Erik Prince, the founder and former CEO of history's most notorious private security contracting firm, in his book Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.
Twelve years after the launch of the war on Iraq, it's hard to find a better illustration of the business of war, sanitised for us here by Prince in entrepreneurial jargon.
What Prince would have us see in his company is a true American success story, thanks to hard work, innovation, and the wonders of the free market. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

09 March 2015

The occupier's guide to Cyprus

Al Jazeera

Whenever my septuagenarian Turkish acquaintance Mustafa imbibes a certain amount of raki, Turkey's national alcoholic beverage, he feels compelled to recount once again the story of his participation in the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish military.

In Mustafa's raki-fuelled version, the operation's swift success - which led to the deaths of thousands of Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, and Turkey's occupation of two-fifths of the island - was largely the result of his own military prowess, enabling the recuperation of a vital component of the Turkish empire.

The reality, of course, was a bit different - and the Turks' imperial interests weren't the only ones at stake. In a 2008 essay for the London Review of Books, British historian Perry Anderson writes that "political responsibility for the disaster [in Cyprus] lay with those who allowed or encouraged it". READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

05 March 2015

The Federal Bureau of Instigation

Middle East Eye

On 25 February, a press release appearing on the FBI’s website announced that three Brooklyn residents had been charged with “attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a foreign terrorist organisation”.
Never mind that the same charge - albeit at a much higher level - can be applied to the United States and a number of its allies, without whom ISIL would not currently be flourishing.
In the US view, of course, it’s better not to get bogged down in big-picture analysis and to focus instead on a constant succession of mini-apocalypses narrowly averted by FBI & Co.
The latest episode features three villains between the ages of 19 and 30, two of them immigrants from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan. Two are accused of plotting to join the jihad in Syria, the third of financially facilitating the plan. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

26 February 2015

New restrictions won’t solve Lebanon’s Syria problem

Al Jazeera America

While hitchhiking last summer in Lebanon, a friend and I were offered a free ride by a Syrian taxi driver — one of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who work in the country.
After verifying that we were in no way able to procure him a visa to Europe, he began reciting the travel itinerary he would soon undertake in order to get there, where he hoped to earn money to send to his family in Syria.
The impending trip involved a trek across part of Libya and then to Italy by boat, of the variety that regularly capsizes in the Mediterranean.
As if the obstacles to his freedom of movement in the world weren’t already bad enough, they have now been rendered even more complex by new restrictions on Syrian existence in Lebanon, a country that previously maintained an open-door policy with Syria. Far from being necessary, such steps taken by Lebanon’s ruling class provide a convenient scapegoat for its inability to govern. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

25 February 2015

UMass’s preemptive strike on Iranian education

Middle East Eye

It has by now become a common occurrence - you might even say a cliché - to mistake mainstream press items for content from the satirical outlet The Onion.
Yet another contender for such confusion surfaced earlier this month in the form of headlines regarding a certain policy shift at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Take NBC News’ version, which appeared on 18 February: “UMass Bans Iranian Nationals From Science Classes.”
The week before, New York-based political science professor and author Corey Robin broke the story of the ban, which had been announced as follows on the school’s website:
“Because we must ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, the University has determined that it will no longer admit Iranian national students to specific programs in the College of Engineering (i.e., Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) and in the College of Natural Sciences (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Polymer Science & Engineering) effective February 1, 2015.”
This would have been music to the ears of the late Italian Islamophobe Oriana Fallaci, who in the post-9/11 era lambasted American institutions of higher learning for allowing persons by the name of Mustafa and Mohamed to study chemistry and biology despite the threat of bacteriological warfare. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

22 February 2015

Saving gorillas and the DRC in one fell swoop

Al Jazeera

"The best solution, effective for everyone, is to recolonise these countries."
Such is the proposal of one Julien Lechenault, an ex-field operations supervisor for the British oil and gas company SOCO International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The "countries" in question are former European colonial possessions in Africa, among them the DRC, which was brutally administered by Belgium until its independence in 1960.
According to Lechenault, the Africans are "not able to manage themselves" and are instead "like children".
These and other endearing comments are featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary film "Virunga", which details the plight of the eponymous Congolese park - the oldest national park in Africa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to the bulk of the world's remaining mountain gorillas. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

14 February 2015

In Lebanon, political murderers elude justice

Al Jazeera America

Ten years ago on Valentine’s Day, Lebanon’s multibillionaire ex–Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed along with 21 others when a massive explosion intercepted his motorcade as it drove along the seaside promenade in Beirut.
Soon after, a billboard appeard at a city intersection, featuring Hariri’s picture and a digital counter that tracked the number of days that had elapsed since the assassination. As only befits a dysfunctional state with relentless electricity problems, the counter eventually stopped working, and the space remained dark until its resuscitation in January 2014 with a new purpose: counting the days since the kickoff of court proceedings at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the United Nations–backed entity created in The Hague to try suspects in the Hariri killing.
The creation of the court, officially launched in 2009, was preceded by a U.N. investigation set in motion by Security Council Resolution 1595. The expectation of justice for Lebanon is, however, complicated by the nature of the tribunal itself.
Political murders have long been a fixture of the Lebanese landscape, but since the 1970s, not a single one has been solved. The Hariri assassination is the only such crime to have merited a judicial spectacle of this sort. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

07 February 2015

Killing Fidel

Al Jazeera

The year 2015 has been another deadly one for Fidel Castor. In what has become an intermittent global pastime, rumours of the demise of Cuba's iconic leader - now 88 years old - began proliferating on social media and in careless news outlets in early January. Wikipedia briefly classified him as "a person who has recently died".
Part of the confusion apparently stemmed from the announcement on January 4 of the death of Fidel Castro Odinga, the son of a former Kenyan prime minister.
As usual, one of the epicentres of the rumour mill was Miami, home to a Cuban exile crowd that delights in the idea of a Castro-free world.
Long before he became the subject of what we might call Twitter assassination attempts, the Cuban comandante was, of course, on the receiving end of more hands-on efforts to dispel his earthly presence. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.