19 April 2015

The Kardashian factor and the G-word

Al Jazeera English

Business Insider recently offered a selection of "13 pictures that prove Amal Clooney is a complete boss". According to the website, George Clooney's lawyer wife merits this distinction "whether she's outshining her husband on the red carpet or representing Armenia in a human rights court over the Armenian genocide".
As Sarah Carr commented on Facebook: "I'm racking my brain … trying to remember an instance where a business publication did a slideshow to tell us that a male can be both intelligent and competent and look nice. Could it be that I missed that article, or is the media [expletive phrase]".
Clooney's court duty on behalf of Armenia took place in January at the European Court of Human Rights, where she went up against Turkish politician Dogu Perincek, previously convicted in Switzerland for denying the Armenian "genocide".
As the Associated Press puts it: "Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide."

The Turkish narrative, on the other hand, relegates the G-word to quotation marks, insisting instead that the killing was mutual and that the Armenian casualty count has been inflated for malicious and politically motivated reasons.
At least 20 countries and 43 US states have recognised the mass killings as "genocide", but, 100 years after the fact, the PR battle rages on - and, as is the norm in advertising, sex sells. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

17 April 2015

The pseudoscience of countering violent extremism

Al Jazeera America

During a visit to the United States several years ago, I was drawn to a billboard on a New Jersey Transit platform that depicted a train bombing, helpfully labeled “train bombing.” The sign warned that “we’re all on the front lines” and encouraged viewers to report suspicious activity to the New Jersey Transit police via phone call or text message.
Closer inspection of the billboard revealed that the front lines in question in fact belonged to Madrid’s Atocha railway station, site of a 2004 terrorist attack. But hey, it’s a globalized world.
Today, we’re deeper in the trenches than ever before — and there’s more to the paranoia than meets the eye. The mutually reinforcing relationship between hyper-militarization abroad and over-policing at home means now we’re really determined to explore every option, no matter how baseless, in the ostensible pursuit of security. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

14 April 2015

Hillary for the world?

Al Jazeera English

When Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, many inhabitants of the globe hoped that with the transition would come a more sympathetic US foreign policy. After all, a member of a historically persecuted cohort in the United States couldn't help but feel for the oppressed international masses, right?
Needless to say, such hopes were dashed to smithereens when Obama promptly gave George W Bush a run for his money in terms of general disregard for human life.
Besides failing to kick the old US habit of slaughtering civilians, Obama also worked hard to maintain the national image as a backer of right-wing coups and other meddlesome, profit-driven behaviour. Not long after assuming office, Obama had his first chance to remind Latin America who was boss by supporting the 2009 overthrow of the ever-so-slightly-leftward-leaning Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Enter Hillary
Although the US repeatedly denied involvement in the affair, Obama's then-secretary of state belatedly let the cat out of the bag - acknowledging in her memoir last year that she had strategised to prevent Zelaya's (lawful) return to office. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

12 April 2015

Outlawing public opinion in Spain

Al Jazeera English

When Spain first started making noises about an impending "Citizens' Security Law" that would criminalise various forms of popular protest, optimists may have assumed the flirtation with overt fascism couldn't last. At the very least - they might have reasoned - the government would have to retreat to semi-fascist mode.
Not so.
Approved on March 26, and expected to come into force on July 1, the law might be mistaken for something out of the Franco playbook. Dubbed the "gag law", it prescribes fines of up to 600 euros ($635) for disrespecting police officers, up to 30,000 euros ($32,000) for disseminating images of state security forces that might endanger them or their operations, and up to 600,000 euros ($635,000) for unauthorised street protests. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

06 April 2015

Guantanamo's 10-second makeover

Al Jazeera English

It's multiple-choice time.
Which of the following do you least associate with the word "victim"?
A. Someone held without charge in an illegal prison.
B. Someone held without charge in an illegal prison despite being cleared for release.
C. Someone tortured and held without charge in an illegal prison despite being cleared for release.
D. The prison guard.
If you chose "D", the United States Southern Command (Southcom) has a bone to pick with you. Take a look at its 2015 posture statement, which includes a short section on everyone's favourite American penal colony: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

04 April 2015

No, Iran still hasn’t conquered the Americas

Al Jazeera America

On March 12, Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of the United States Southern Command, alerted the Senate Armed Services committee to the growing threat posed by Iran. According to his statement, the Islamic Republic has “established more than 80 ‘cultural centers’” in Central and South America and the Caribbean — “a region with an extremely small Muslim population.” The scare quotes signal that Kelly has seen right through the cultural façade to Iran’s real project: terrorism sponsorship.
To close observers, Kelly’s conspiracy theory will have a familiar ring. Conservatives have been warning us about the Iranian subversion of Latin America for years.
At a 2009 Congressional hearing, Norman A. Bailey — a veteran of Ronald Reagan’s national security affairs — painted a grim picture of Iran’s “penetration into the Western Hemisphere through Venezuela.” Not only had the Iranians commandeered Venezuelan tractor and bicycle factories to store drugs, weapons “and other items useful to them and their terrorist clients,” they had even “opened a ‘maintenance’ facility in Honduras for the ‘tractors’ produced in Venezuela.”
As if this weren’t enough, they had also established embassies in a smattering of Latin American nations. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

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.