19 October 2016

Hillary Clinton: She May Be a Woman, but She’s Far From a Feminist

The Wire

Since the launch of her presidential campaign, breathless supporters would have us believe a Hillary Clinton victory would be the feminist movement’s equivalent of a moon landing.
Celebrities, media figures and self-identifying feminists have leapt onto the spaceship-bandwagon along with plenty of lesser-known volunteers such as Ariel Chesler, author of a recent dispatch on the popular US website The Daily Beast, titled “Father, Husband – and Proud, Pro-Hillary Feminist.”
After describing his experience being moved to tears by a female-empowering Star Wars scene, Chesler notes that “a similar rush of emotion occurred… when I began introducing my daughters to Hillary Clinton, showing them clips of her rallies and speeches.”
According to Chesler’s analysis, Clinton and certain “superheroines” of film and television “offer us everything we’ve been waiting for” in order to dismantle the “misogyny we carry within us.” He goes on to applaud Clinton’s statement that the US needs “more love and kindness.”
But as emotionally persuasive as some might find Chesler’s tribute and others like it, this sort of Hillary-phoria conveniently ignores the fact that her policies have not and will not empower or benefit the majority of women at home or abroad. Excised from the scene is her legacy of sustaining traditions of racism and classism – two institutions that are structurally tied up with the very patriarchal system she’s portrayed as defying – not to mention, you know, her predilection for bombing other countries, which arguably isn’t the best way to transmit love and kindness.
For those interested in an unwhitewashed version of Clinton’s track record, a good place to start is False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, edited by Liza Featherstone. I myself have a short segment in the compilation, in which I primarily discuss Clinton’s integral role as US secretary of state in ensuring the success of the 2009 right-wing coup d’état in Honduras. As American economist Mark Weisbrot has pointed out, the aftermath of the coup has been characterised by skyrocketing femicides, among other disasters.
So much for feminism.  READ MORE AT THE WIRE.

14 October 2016


The Washington Spectator

Back in 1996, shortly after the end of the war in Bosnia, New York Times foreign affairs “sage” Thomas Friedman posed this question in his column: “What does Bosnia need today if it is going to be stabilized?”
The answer, according to Friedman’s calculations: “Bosnia needs big tanks, big roads, and Big Macs.”
To be sure, the vision of tank-based corporate conquest is of a piece with the variety of neoliberal plunder that Friedman has devoted much of his career to championing. And while the Bosnians took their sweet time getting into the Big Mac game—it was not until 2011 that the country’s first McDonald’s opened in Sarajevo—the location of this particular McDonald’s on none other than Marshal Tito Street is certainly the stuff of Friedman’s wet dreams. Another spike in the coffin of Communism.
Following Ronald McDonald’s triumph over the iconic Yugoslav leader, then, did stability immediately begin to emanate along with the French fry grease?
As anyone not blinkered by neoliberal, capitalist doctrine might expect, the corporate globalization process in Bosnia has entailed a fair amount of human misery. And although the apologists for global capitalism will continue their efforts to silence naysayers with lofty illogic, the fact remains that it simply is not good for the average human being when the needs of foreign investors are made paramount and basic existence is rendered financially prohibitive.
On a flight to Sarajevo earlier this year, I was seated next to two Turkish businessmen who interrupted their high-decibel discussion of investment opportunities in Bosnia exactly once: when a glance out the window prior to landing evoked a comparison of a certain Turkish landscape to the verdant hills below.
Incidentally, “available natural resources and beauties” is listed on the website of the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FIPA) as one of the answers to the question “Why Bosnia and Herzegovina?” Among the nation’s numerous other offerings and perks are “strategic location,” “abundance of industrial zone [sic] . . . and available production facilities,” “favorable legal environment,” “low tax rates,” and “regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements.” READ MORE AT THE WASHINGTON SPECTATOR.

10 October 2016

'At least in Syria we are still seen as human beings': The real refugee crisis

Middle East Eye

As France proceeds with preparations to dismantle the Calais refugee camp, which currently houses more than 10,000 people, the Guardianreports that “incidents of self-harm and depression among children in the… camp are increasing as the mental health of unaccompanied minors deteriorates in advance of the site’s demolition”.
According to aid worker testimony cited in the article, a “psychological collapse” is being witnessed among many child refugees. Some unaccompanied minors had reportedly “talked about killing themselves, such was their despair over the camp’s future”.
It’s hardly surprising that, in situations in which humans feel completely and utterly helpless to control their environments, harming or even eliminating oneself is one way of exerting a semblance of control.
Such approaches also endow psychological pain with visible manifestations more readily perceptible to the outside world.
Of course, it doesn’t help when the outside world reacts with a psychological condition of its own - total insanity - in dealing with refugees. Forget empathy; there is no time for petty humanity when refugee hordes are threatening the sacrosanct boundaries of Fortress Europe and other entities, propelling local panties into a hysterical and xenophobic bunch. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Christopher Columbus: The myth that keeps on giving

Al Jazeera English

On October 12, 1492, a geographically misguided voyager by the name of Christopher Columbus happened upon the so-called New World. 
Five centuries later, famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano would refer to the day as the one on which "America discovered capitalism" as Columbus, "financed by the kings of Spain and the bankers of Genoa, brought this novelty to the Caribbean islands".
In his journal, Columbus enthusiastically "prophesied that ‘all Christendom will do business here'". Galeano remarks: "In that [prediction] at least he was right".
And a violent business it was, as meticulously demonstrated in the now-deceased Galeano's masterpiece Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.
Open the book to any page and you’ll find passages like this:
"The massacres of Indians that began with Columbus never stopped … The Yaqui Indians of the Mexican state of Sonora were drowned in blood so that their lands, fertile and rich in minerals, could be sold without any unpleasantness to various US capitalists."
Indeed, the European pastime of physical and economic decimation of the territory and its peoples was deftly inherited by the United States, which has also managed to develop such subtler forms of imperial devastation as drug wars and free trade agreements. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

05 October 2016

Headless Franco Versus Kim Jong Un in Spain

TeleSUR English

On Oct. 14, a temporary exhibition will be inaugurated at Barcelona’s Born Center for Culture and Memory, itself the centerpiece of a neighborhood prominently associated with Catalan nationalism. The exhibition is titled “Franco, Victory, Republic. Impunity and Urban Space.”
Among its features are two statues from the era of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ascended to power via the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and reigned until his death in 1975. One of the statues is of a horse-mounted Franco who happens to be lacking a head, having been inexplicably decapitated while in storage in 2013. The head was never found.
The statues will be displayed in the wide pedestrian area in front of the cultural center, apparently as a means of encouraging discussion about impunity and other legacies of the dictatorship as well as the uses of political artwork in public space.Among its features are two statues from the era of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ascended to power via the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and reigned until his death in 1975. One of the statues is of a horse-mounted Franco who happens to be lacking a head, having been inexplicably decapitated while in storage in 2013. The head was never found.
And there are plenty of things to discuss indeed. On top of the estimated half a million civil war dead, more than 100,000 persons were disappeared during the war and ensuing dictatorship, many of them executed by Francoist death squads and deposited in mass graves that have yet to be excavated.
The state’s top-notch foot-dragging on the exhumation front has to do with a variety of factors, among them the reality that Francoism itself is far from dead and buried. There are lingering ties to the dictatorship among certain members of the political class, and select sectors of the population continue to view Franco in a positive light. Acting right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP) has railed against the idea that “even a single euro” of public funds be used to promote historical memory and “recuperate the past.” 
The refusal to engage in a reckoning with history has also been aided considerably by a post-Franco amnesty law pardoning crimes of the previous era—hence, perhaps, the utility of discussions about impunity. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

21 September 2016

Radicalised nation: Fear and hypocrisy in New York

Middle East Eye

Following the recent explosions in New York City and New Jersey - one of which injured 29 people and the other of which injured none - President Barack Obama offered a typical presidential message to the American people.
The CNN website quotes his analysis that “terrorists and violent extremists… want to inspire fear in all of us, and disrupt the way we live”. The upshot, according to Obama: “We all have a role to play as citizens in making sure that we don't succumb to that fear.”
Easier said than done, perhaps - particularly when the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had just decided to bombard mobile phone users with a mass alert from the Office of Emergency Management. The subject: the explosion suspect.
An article in The Atlantic describes the unprecedented use of the emergency system, which is usually reserved for things like apocalyptic weather patterns and abducted children:
“Just before 8 in the morning on Monday [19 September], cellphones chimed in unison across New York City. It wasn’t the sound of text messages: it was a dissonant siren, repeated six times, accompanied by a short note. ‘WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen’.”
In the business of “inspir[ing] fear in all of us”, then, state security forces seem to be giving “terrorists and violent extremists” a run for their money. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Israel and Paraguay: Two Peas in a Counterterror Pod?

TeleSUR English

While attending the 2009 General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Honduras, then-Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sounded the alarm: “We know that there are flights from Caracas via Damascus to Tehran.” 
Although flight routes by now have presumably been altered on account of the war in Syria, the possibility of air travel between Latin America and Iran continues to serve as one of the pillars of alleged evidence that the Islamic Republic has “penetrated” the Western Hemisphere with its usual aims of bringing destabilization and terror to the United States’ “doorstep.”
Other bits of “proof” of nefarious meddling include the fact that Iran happens to maintain various embassies and cultural centers in the region. Never mind that the Iranians are not the ones penetrating Organization of American States meetings — or that Ayalon himself proclaimed in regard to Israel’s diplomatic history: “(We) have had embassies in Latin America, more embassies here than we had in many other parts of the world, even though the distance is great.”Although flight routes by now have presumably been altered on account of the war in Syria, the possibility of air travel between Latin America and Iran continues to serve as one of the pillars of alleged evidence that the Islamic Republic has “penetrated” the Western Hemisphere with its usual aims of bringing destabilization and terror to the United States’ “doorstep.”
A few years back I paid a visit to the Iranian embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, portrayed in traditional propaganda as a terror command and control center guarded by the Quds Force, an elite division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. As of 2012, it consisted of a house with a yard and a female Bolivian receptionist. The Quds Force had managed to disguise itself as a solitary Bolivian policeman.
And while the Israelis and their backers in the U.S. insist on casting as potentially apocalyptic in nature each and every diplomatic and economic maneuver in the hemisphere by Iran and other Shia entities, Israel barges ahead with its own perfectly acceptable forms of hemispheric conquest. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

20 September 2016


Current Affairs

“Because missiles can fly through windows, the courtroom is windowless.” So reports Ronen Bergman in “The Hezbollah Connection,” an epic 8,000-word dispatch from The New York Times Magazine last year. The courtroom in question belongs to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), a United Nations-backed entity in The Hague, Netherlands. The STL is tasked with trying in absentia five Hezbollah members accused of orchestrating the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 others in a massive blast in Beirut. More than a decade later, as the tribunal fumbles its way toward ostensible justice from the depths of its windowless chambers, one can’t help but begin to question how any disgruntled party in Lebanon would go about firing missiles at a Netherlands courtroom 2,000 miles away.
Earlier this year in Beirut, I spoke with members of several STL defense teams who were in town interviewing “witnesses” for the tribunal. These particular witnesses were officials from Lebanese mobile phone companies, as the prosecutors’ case is in large part based on the analysis of enormous quantities of mobile phone logs, which are said to point to the five Hezbollah men. Much of the STL’s work thus consists of the endless examination of telecom information using unproven methods of co-location and link analysis. Indeed, as lawyer Philippe Larochelle—who has since resigned from his position as co-counsel for defendant Hussein Hassan Oneissi—put it to me: it’s essentially the case that “the accused are phones.”
The trial of the phones kicked off in The Hague in January 2014, following all manner of delays and detours. In one rather lengthy detour, from 2005-2009, four Lebanese generals were imprisoned without charge thanks to a recommendation by initial UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who was operating on a defective theory that the generals had conspired with the Syrian government to assassinate Hariri. Once a sufficient international stink had been made over the wrongful imprisonment and the generals had finally been freed, the STL fixed its attention solely on Hezbollah.
As the New York Times sees it, the STL is “necessary simply because of Hezbollah’s unique role in Lebanon and the world: Although the group is classified by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, it is also a popular political party in Lebanon, and therefore it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for Lebanon or any other single nation to provide an appropriate venue for its prosecution.”
But “necessary” is an odd way of describing the STL to begin with. The tribunal’s singular nature makes it an unusual international priority. For one thing, it’s expensive; some half a billion dollars had already been spent as of February 2015—with Lebanon in charge of 49 percent of the bill. This is hardly small change in a country plagued by widespread poverty and a dearth of government services. During my most recent visit to Tyre, Lebanon’s fourth-largest city (located twenty minutes from the border with Israel), the area was receiving as little as two hours of government-supplied electricity per day. A November 2014 article in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper noted that the country had just managed to fork over $36 million “in dues” to the STL despite “financial troubles, as the [Lebanese] economy reels from the impact of a massive refugee influx from Syria and ongoing security problems.” The previous December, meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued a press statement applauding “Lebanon’s decision to fulfill its 2013 funding obligations” to the STL and emphasizing that the United States, too, had “provided strong financial support to the Tribunal since its inception, and we will continue to do so.” READ MORE AT CURRENT AFFAIRS.

15 September 2016

Pulling the wool over our eyes: An Israeli right of return for... sheep?

Middle East Eye

Shortly after the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land, the Israeli Knesset passed a “Law of Return” entitling any Jew anywhere in the world to settle in the new entity.
Over the decades, this handy piece of legislation has enabled an influx of ethnically chosen ones as the spaces available to Palestinians continue to shrivel.
Anyone paying attention to actual facts on the ground rather than invented histories will of course have noticed a criminal defiance of logic.
Under the Law of Return, even people with no connection whatsoever to the territory in question are granted an inalienable right of “homecoming” to a home that isn’t theirs, while Palestinians physically born on the land - and descendants of those born there - are barred from a literal return, often condemned to a life in exile with few if any rights.Anyone paying attention to actual facts on the ground rather than invented histories will of course have noticed a criminal defiance of logic.
A new layer of absurdity has recently been added to the mix via a project dreamt up by Canadian residents Gil and Jenna Lewinsky, thanks to whom a flock of more than 100 Canadian sheep is now in the process of staging its own so-called “return” to the holy land. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

07 September 2016

Sexualising occupation: The uses and abuses of Israel’s female soldiers

Middle East Eye

One major anti-highlight of the August issue of VICE magazine is a “story” titled “The Defiant Femininity of Israel’s Female Soldiers”, which consists of a series of photographs by Israeli-born Mayan Toledano, herself a veteran of Israel’s universal draft.
In the introductory paragraph, we learn that because Toledano felt “stripped of all vestiges of femininity” and individuality during her military service, she created this photo series depicting “soldiers whose girlishness and teenage boredom act as a subtle but undeniable form of protest”.
The quality and composition of the images are hardly impressive and some could even be mistaken for advertisements for facial cleanser. The girls’ “subtle” activities include buttoning their shirts, looking at their cell phones, and lying in bed.
This is the second time in less than six months that Toledano’s Israeli woman soldier pictures have appeared at VICE. Their first appearance in March included a slightly longer intro by Maayan Goldman, who gushed about how “the young subjects fail, beautifully, to conform [and] are softly glowing in their singularity”.
Goldman again contends that, “in a way, it's their girly, teenage boredom that reflects a passive, sleepy protest against violence” - but fails to explain how complicity in an advanced killing machine might amount to a protest against violence and conformity.
To be sure, the thousands of Palestinians obliterated by the Israeli army over the past few years alone would presumably find intra-army “glowing” less than newsworthy. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.