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Archive for the tag “war and peace”

The war drums beat louder and louder

The media — print, broadcast and social — seem to be filled with war propaganda these days, so much so that other things seem to be getting crowded out.

And I see more and more of my friends being sucked in to it and by it.

In the US election campaign, there seems to be a “more Russophobic than thou” contest, and some have been saying, apparently in all seriousness, that one of the things against Donald Trump as a US presidential candidate is that he isn’t as Russophobic as Hillary Clinton. I can think of plenty of reasons why Donald Trump would not be a good person to be president of the USA, but not being Russophobic enough isn’t one of them. Yet a lot of people do seem to think that is a serious obstacle.

Hillary Clinton has herself declared that her Number One Priority is to remove President Bashir al Assad of Syria. That calls to mind the fulminations of Alfred Lord Milner against President Paul Kruger of the ZAR, at the height of Jingoism in the 1890s. Jingoism seemed to go out of fashion briefly in the 1950s and 1960s, and for a few decades thereafter took the surreptitious form of neocolonialism, but now it is out of the closet with a vengeance.

A few of my friends on social media have been urging me, in all seriousness, to sign petitions calling for “no-fly zones” in Syria. They are people whom I have always regarded as being not without a degree of common sense, but the war drums seem to have driven the common sense right out of their heads. A few years ago a “no-fly zone” was declared over Libya, and the last state of that country is worse than the first.

My question to my friends who think “no-fly zones” are the answer is: why do those calling for a “no-fly zone in Syria not also call for one in Yemen too?

And secondly, who should enforce such a “no-fly zone”? Preferably a neutral party that doesn’t have a dog in that fight, like Uruguay, say, or Botswana. Do you think Russia, or the USA, or France, or the UK, or ISIS or any of the other groups muscling in on the Syrian civil war and the Yemen civil war would pay the slightest attention to even the combined air forces of Uruguay and Botswana?

Bashir al-Assad is not my idea of an admirable ruler, but in the last 20 years or so we have had a lot of propaganda about the need to remove people like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and those attempts turned out pretty disastrously, because even if they were villains, those who replaced them were worse villains. And still people like Hillary Clinton are promising to apply the same quack remedy to yet another country. It seems to be the policy of “The West” in general to replace secular rulers in the Middle East with militant Islamist groups, one of whose aims is to drive out all Christians and those who don’t adhere to their own peculiar brand of Islam.

Syrian Civil War. Syria - Red. Countries that support Syrian Government, Bluue. Countries that support Syrian rebels - Green.

Syrian Civil War. Syria – Red. Countries that support Syrian Government, Bluue. Countries that support Syrian rebels – Green.

Russia for a while acted with some restraint in Syria, but is now bombing with as much abandon as the rest of the belligerents, so has come down from the high moral ground and entered pot-and-kettle territory.

Half the countries of Western Europe are bombing and shelling Syria (or supporting those who do), and yet get all uptight when Syrian refugees arrive at their borders trying to get away from their bombs.

And then, as if all this wasn’t enough, along comes this exceptionally nasty piece of war-mongering journalism Queen in row over Putin ally’s visit | News | The Times & The Sunday Times:

The Queen is to host an audience for one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies and a key supporter of Russia’s actions in Syria, prompting protests from MPs.

The royal reception is for Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox church, who arrives for his first UK visit next Saturday. MPs and a former senior government adviser have called it a “propaganda” trip from a churchman who has described Putin’s presidency as a “miracle of God”.

In July Kirill, 69, an alleged former KGB agent, also described Russia’s operations in Syria as “noble and honest”. Last month Britain’s UN representative accused…

Not that this is not one of those fake news sits. It’s not even The Sun. This is The Times, part of the “mainstream” media, one of the self-styled “quality” papers. And here they are trying to turn the church into a political football, wanting to treat the Patriarch of Moscow as badly, if not worse than President Zuma and the South African government treated the Dalai Lama.

What they don’t mention (but I learned from a priest who receuived an invitation to the event) is that the Patriarch was going to celebrate the anniversary of the Russian Church in London. The article seems calculated to stir up hatred against the church. I think there are laws in Britain against “hate speech”, and wonder if this kind or article is perhaps in breach of such laws. But whether or not that is the case, ity does seem that it is being used to beat the war drums louder.

My concern in all this is that people seem to be increasingly sucked into to war propaganda, and to swallow it quite uncritically. I’m not a fundi on Mioddle Eastern affairs, and I’ve never been to Syria, but in my no-doubt over simplifiend and even simplistic understanding, one thing stands out: the Western media, the Russian media and the Middle Eastern media all have vested interests in the conflict, and everything they say needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, and if possible verified independently.

But it seems to be that there are two main scenarios, and perhaps both are operating at the same time.

  1. There is a Sunni Shia conflict
  2. There is a conflict over gas and petroleum products.

President Bashir al Assad of Syria has the support of Shia groups in Syria, and those who support him, both locally and internationally, are either supporting Shia interests, or are perceived by otghers as doing so. These include such groups as Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The West, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf states support Sunni Islam, and and so the conflict can be described, simplistically, as a Sunni-Shia conflict, with the West o9n  the Sunni side and Russia on the Shia side, and if the conflict keeps escalating there is a danger that it could end up as World War 3.

Tjhere are also economic interests involved, especially as they relate to gas pipelines between the Middle East and Europe, which pass, or are planned to pass, through Syria. Those opposed to Bashir al Assad may have mixed motives, but among them could be that he leans towards Shia and he may oppose their favourite pipeline project. And those who prop him up may have motives that include his support for their pipeline project, and oppiosition to rival projects that may threaten theirs. For more on this, see here: Syrian war explainer: Is it all about a gas pipeline?. And no, I din’t believe it’s all about the pipelines, but I do believe that some of it may be. Take this article with just as big a pinch of salt as any other.

And as a reminder, here’s a kind of timeline of the conflict: Syria: The story of the conflict – BBC News:

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State.

And it too needs to be filtered for bias.

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Geopolitics in a nutshell

I think this graphic is one of the best and most succinct summaries of current world politics that I’ve ever seen.

Stupid

Of course this is nothing new. As Billy Joel sings:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world was turning

But stupid is as stupid does.

22 Britannia Road (book review)

22 Britannia Road22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Polish couple is separated at the beginning of the Second World War, and reunited in Britain after the war is over. In the six years that they have been apart their different experiences have made them different people. Then there is the child Aurek, who has only known the life of a fugitive, hiding in the forest. He has to adapt to living in a suburban house in a society where the language, is strange.

The story alternates between the present and the past, starting with their reunion, and going back to their former life, leading up to the present.

I picked this book up on a remainder sale, after reading the blurb I thought it looked interesting for the same reason that I found the The long road home the aftermath of the Second World War interesting (my review here). I’m interested in transitions, in between times, changes from war to peace, migrants, refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers. How do such people make a transition from one life to another?

And so I bought it and brought it home to read it, and was surprised at how good it was. When I read historical novels, I tend to look out for anachronisms, well, not actually to look for them, but when I spot them I find them jarring, and so I tend to be reading in nervous expectation. In this book I didn’t spot any, or at least none that were jarring. It seemed remarkably authentic and true to life — not that I’ve ever been to Poland, so I might not know anyway, but it didn’t seem much different from novels by Polish novelists that I’ve read.

The characters and their reactions are believable, yet not predictable, and this unpredictability is what makes the novel seem so authentic. It is like the unpredictability of real life, when you never know what will happen next or how people will respond to it.

View all my reviews

War and peace

h, and if you like the message, you can click in those little squares below to propagate it on Twitter I think this cartoon applies to a lot more places than Israel and Iran.

An American president (I think one of the Roosevelts) once said that the secrecy of diplomacy was to “talk softly and carry a big stick.” Now the politicians seem to shout loudly while brandishing their sticks.

Oh, and if you like the message you can click on those little squares below to propagate it on Twitter or “like” it of Facebook. Or you could put it on your blog too. Pass it on.

The Speech President Obama Should Give about the Iraq War (But Won’t) | Informed Comment

The Speech President Obama Should Give about the Iraq War (But Won’t) | Informed Comment: “Fellow Americans, and Iraqis who are watching this speech, I have come here this evening not to declare a victory or to mourn a defeat on the battlefield, but to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a series of illegal actions and grossly incompetent policies pursued by the government of the United States of America, in defiance of domestic US law, international treaty obligations, and both American and Iraqi public opinion.”

Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy by Sheldon Richman

Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy by Sheldon Richman:

It is not al-Qaeda that inspires affiliates and radicalizes homegrown terrorists. It is America’s violent policies in the Muslim world. Other government officials have acknowledged that Muslim radicals seek revenge for those policies in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, but Napolitano perpetuates the myth that anti-American activity is unprovoked. The American people deserve to hear the truth.

Napolitano referred to recent unsuccessful attacks in the United States: “Other al-Qaeda affiliates have actually attempted to attack the homeland in recent months. These include Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) [Pakistan] and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) [Yemen] — which, until their respective claims of responsibility for the attempted Times Square and Christmas Day terrorist attacks, had only conducted attacks in their regions.”

What she left out was that the U.S. government regularly fires missiles into Pakistan and Yemen from aerial drones, killing innocent people. The desire for revenge is a natural consequence.

Hat-tip to The Western Confucian: None Dare Call It Blowback

I’m reminded of Madeleine Albright’s famous “We think the price is worth it” comment — the price in question being the lives of half a million Iraqi children who died to maintain American hegemony in the Middle East. Weigh that against the under 3000 killed on 9/11, and somehow the word “disproportionate” springs to mind.

Those killed on 9/11 just about balance the number killed in the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia, which was every bit as “terroristic” as 9/11, and was cowardly to boot, because, unlike 9/11, the bombers did not risk their own lives. But, brave or cowardly, terrorism is still terrorism, and the notion of terrorists waging a “war on terror” should lead to severe cognitive dissonance, but it somehow doesn’t, at least not for those who support the terrorist “war on terror.”

Violence and values

All yesterday Sky News was still full of the Cumbria shootings. They seem obsessed with them, to the exclusion of all other news. Now they are interviewing survivors and witnesses. A fellow taxi driver who was shot, a little boy who witnessed the man on a bicycle being shot. They tell their stories calmly and matter-of-factly, in contrast to the breathless hype of the interviewers, going on about how terrible it is for such events to take place in a small and close-knit community in a beautiful part of England.

And then there are the expert counsellors, talking about the lasting trauma of those who witnessed these things, and how long it will take the community to get over it, and it is all so over-the-top. British soldiers have been doing such things as Derrick Bird did every week for the last few years in Iraq and Afghanistan, but nobody talks about the trauma they have caused in the small closs-knit communities there. Nothing about the trauma of the people on the ships taking aid to Gaza, hijacked on the high seas by Israeli pirates. There is something hugely disproportionate about it somehow.

I suppose it is understandable that Israel wants to impose a blockade on Gaza. Bombs are expensive, and running an air force to deliver them is expensive. So when you use bombs to break things you want them to stay broken. When you bomb people out of house and home you want them to stay homeless. If people bring aid to help people to rebuild their homes, then you are going to have to go to all the effort and expense of bombing them again to make them homeless again. It’s cheaper to stop them from rebuilding their homes.

When I was a child at school we used to amuse ourselves by kicking holes in anthills, and watching the termites scurrying around to repair the damage. And when they had just about repaired it we would kick holes in it again, easier the second time, because the mud was still damp and hadn’t hardened yet.

And it seems that grown-ups are no different, and just as cruel. It’s just that they can afford bigger bombs, and attack their own species. And no, I’m not overlooking Hamas as some have accused me of doing. Hamas and Likud are both terrorist organisations, playing a zero-sum game[1]. As my former blogging friend Facebook | Simon Hewitt says, “in spite of being utterly opposed to the attack on the Flotilla, will not be demonstrating tomorrow. Reason? : I’m just sick of marching alongside Hamas supporters and people chanting ‘we are all Hezbollah’. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend. My enemy’s enemy is an authoritarian, misogynistic, murdering bastard.” And they continue playing zero-sum games because it suits the more influential spectators for them to go on doing so.

So when it happens in Cumbria, Shock! Shock! Horror! Horror! from the Brit media. But when British soldiers do it elsewhere, they are heroes. Perhaps they should take Derrick Bird’s coffin in procession through Wootton Bassett.

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[1] terrorist n. one who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or of coercing government or community (from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English, Fifth Edition).

The spirit of Mothers Day

Today is the American Mothers Day (the British one is in the middle of Lent). It is worth remembering the spirit in which it was started. Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe – Mother’s Day History:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:

‘We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’

Peace prize, anyone?

I don’t have much to say right now, and what little I do have to say has been said for me by Notes from a Common-place Book: That is what I am saying:

Recognizing Kosovo was madness, and Georgia paid the price for it. Trashing international law and ignoring state sovereignty when it suited us paved the way for other major powers to do the same to their weaker neighbors. The aggressive and confrontational foreign policy of at least the last ten years, including both Clinton and Bush administrations, brought about this state of affairs, and it will probably take decades to undo the damage that “humanitarian” and “well-intentioned” hawks have done to the international order.

Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war

A year after the war in South Ossetia the politicians are still bickering, while church leaders are trying to promote peace (Hat-tip to ROCOR UNITED: Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war.

Independent report blames Georgia for South Ossetia war | Deutsche Welle:

A new report commissioned by the EU said that Georgia started the South Ossetia conflict last summer, but also found Russia’s response illegal. Both Georgia and Russia have claimed the report supports their version.

According to the report, carried out by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and presented to the European Union on Wednesday, there is no evidence to support Georgia’s claim that Russia had already sent troops to annex South Ossetia before Georgia began its attack on the region’s capital Tskhinvali on the night of August 7/8 2008.

‘There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation,’ the report said. ‘There is the question of whether the use of force by Georgia in South Ossetia … was justifiable under international law. It was not.’

And while the politicians are still trying to score points off each other, church leaders have been trying to bring peace. Directions to Orthodoxy – Russian, Georgian patriarchs plea for peace year after Ossetia war:

Orthodox church leaders from Russia and Georgia called for peace while their political counterparts lobbed charges of aggression in marking the one year anniversary of the South Ossetia war.

The Russian and Georgian patriarchs also commemorated the victims of the short, brutal war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church stressed the common spiritual heritage of the warring sides, continuing the line taken last year by Ilia and the late Patriarch Aleksei II of the Russian Orthodox Church, who had sought reconciliation as the conflict raged.

At a panikhida, or memorial service, at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 8 August, a year after Georgia is said to have begun shelling the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, Patriarch Kirill said that the war, which he called the result of ‘aggression set off by evil political will’, was ‘a tragedy of three fraternal Orthodox peoples’.

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