The Ides of November: The Black Friday in Paris as the culmination of a Black Autumn of terrorism and war

Yesterday was a "Black Friday" for Paris, when some of the deadliest attacks ever in post-war Western Europe were committed, and all the media are focusing on them right now, as they happened in one of the centres of the Western hegemony, in "Fortress Europe".  It is terrible what happened. My prediction is that - as with Charlie Hebdo in January - this attack was not perpetrated by recent refugees, but by "homegrown" local young men.

This is what ghettoization and failure to integrate leads to. A few years ago, Sarkozy wanted to "clean" the banlieues in France and called the youngsters there "scum", he did not even try to reconcile them to French society, but estranged them more from it. But it has also been a black autumn elsewhere (on the "periphery") so far. Most terrorism is not happening, as the priorities of the media coverage suggests, "by Muslims against Westerns and in the West", but, not or scarcely covered by the same media, outside of the West and "Fortress Europe", by Islamists and others against (more secular) Muslims and others, or as state terror, such as the illegal U.S. drone strikes, condoned by Germany, or the bombing of Kurdish freedom fighters by Turkey. No one changed their profile picture to the Kenyan, Lebanese or Kurdish flag, though.

When refugee boats with 900 people aboard sank earlier this year, there was only a fraction of coverage of it, compared to the reports on Paris in the last 48 hours. The same was true for the attacks in Beirut just about 24 hours prior to Paris, the attacks in Istanbul last month and the Russian plane that was brought down by a bomb about two weeks ago, all of which had at least several dozens of victims.

To put Paris into a non-Western context, a short recap of just very recent attacks,i.e. of this autumn:

145 people were killed in Maiduguri in Nigeria in a suicide bombing on September 20th. Another 42 were killed on October 14th in the same town, as well as 11 there on October 23rd, and 27 on October 23rd in Yola, Nigeria...

57 people killed in 
BaghdadIraq, in three attacks on October 5th, 19 people killed in three attacks in Iraq on November 13th...

Seven people killed in 
SanaaYemen, in a suicide attack on October 7th...

102 people killed in 
Ankara on October 10th, the deadliest terrorist attack ever in Turkey...

The same day, 38 people were killed in 
NdjamenaChad, in a suicide bombing...

11 people died in a bombing of a bus in 
Quetta in Pakistan, on October 19th, another 22 in another Pakistani town, Jacobabad...

244 people were killed by a bomb blast aboard MetroJet flight 9268 from 
Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai to St Petersburg, on October 31st...

12 people killed in an attack in 
MogadishuSomalia, by a car bomb, on November 1st...

43 people were killed in 
Beirut on November 12th, the deadliest since 1990...

So far, 128 people killed in Paris on the night of November 13th/14th, the deadliest terrorist attack in France since 1961...

Yet, the perpetrators of those attacks (and in the case of Turkey it is the least clear who was behind them) should not be equated with the refugees. Anyone trying to draw political capital from these attacks, especially by trying to curb the freedoms and rights of any human being, regardless if native of migrant, and regardless of his or her ethnicity, nationality, political affiliation, or religion, should be confronted. To suggest or impose such limitations and to use a militaristic rhetoric, "war on terror" (Bush) or "total war " (Sarkozy today), instead of treating terrorism as a crime, is wrong. Terrorism will never go away, it will always be there as long as there are fascist, fundamentalist, or nationalist ideologies. 


The end of the "Lampedusa strategy"? Part 1: The people behind the numbers - the story of Ahmad

"Due to instructions by the authorities, the train service to Germany via Salzburg has been suspended" - these are the announcements at Vienna's train stations for the time being. This very formal rhetoric is masking the very informal way in which one of the seemingly matter-of-course "freedoms" of Europe - i.e. the freedom to travel across borders at will and without any control - has been shaken by "urgent contingencies".

Fortress Europe: the fence at the Schengen external border
 of Hungary (Magyarország) with Serbia, September 13, 2015

Introduction: as it happens

Central Europeans are currently faced with people, whose fate is - as far as their personal "lifeworld" is concerned - far removed from their own, (relatively) orderly circumstances of life, or at least far removed from abject poverty, existential plight or even fears for their own lives. They are, as opposed to the past years and months, not faced with their fate in the news anymore, but now in the flesh, in person.

The topic of the constant periphery-centre migration had already been in the focus of the broader newscast audience in most European countries for several times within the past decade or so - but only for brief periods of time, let's call them "Lampedusa moments" (most recently, when almost a thousand "boat people" drowned earlier this year). This has now changed, as unprecented numbers of people are now reaching "the centre", i.e. the prosperous countries of Western and Northern Europe, for the first time in more than a decade, i.e. since the wars in Yugoslavia in the mid and late 1990s. Ironically, it is now from the same area, the former Yugoslav countries and their respective the borders to Hungary and Romania, that many of the refugees have been trying to enter the more prosperous areas of Europe, namely Austria and Germany.

The current waves of migration are dubbed a "refugee crisis" in the mainstream discourse. However, these didn't come out of thin air - the "refugee problem" and the topic of asylum had and has not comprehensively been dealt with by the individual European (and other) governments, let alone on a transgovernmental level. On the contrary, oil has been put into the geopolitical fire several times ever since those late 1990s. Even more fundamentally, this is a systemic problem, i.e. the crisis of a global capitalist "world system" (Immanuel Wallerstein) based on inequality and accumulation. Since the ludicrous "Dublin Agreement", first signed in 1990, and in place virtually unchanged ever since, (it contradicts the Schengen Agreement of 1995), and the (restrictive, regressive) creation of Frontex in 2005, nothing fundamental has been done on a major policy level (Immanuel Wallerstein calls this inaction the "Lampedusa strategy of the neoliberals"). Makeshift "solutions" have ever since been offered by those governments, such as rescue missions to save (mostly unsuccessfully) the "boat people" in the Mediterranean (and most of these efforts have only been temporary and/or abortive), and financial support for the countries neighbouring the respective "crises areas" and war zones, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and, within the EU, Italy, Greece, and Hungary. Now, as a short-term "solution" of the momentary "refugee crisis", a quota for the distribution across the continent of the several million who have been and will be arriving has been imposed on the EU level; it is very unlikely, however, that many countries outside of Austria, Germany and Sweden, especially those in Central and Eastern Europe, and the UK, will commit to fulfilling this quota.

Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna Western Station) - top of the screen: Arrival of the Sonderzug (special train) from Nickelsdorf at the Austrian-Hungarian border, and of another (delayed) train from Budapest Keleti (Eastern Station). Bottom of the screen: all train services from and to Germany via Salzburg are suspended.

                            Refugees at Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna Western Station),
               having arrived on the special train from Nickelsdorf, September 20th

The people behind the numbers: the story of Ahmad 

Despite the increased "immediacy" and "proximity" of the refugees now having arrived in Central Europe, most of them remain mere numbers in the public discourse, where the main questions are about quotas and distribution, not about individual stories. With most of the asylum seekers being distributed across the countries (so far mainly Austria and Germany) into specific camps or other provisional housing, otherwise uninvolved locals going about their normal chores and daily lives are unlikely to meet them in a non-encamped situation. However, it occasionally does happen. I had seen them arriving in drones the day before at Vienna's train stations, but then I met eight of them in person, with Ahmad (pictured above) willing to progress into a conversation about more than how to go about washing the laundry in the laundromat in Vienna's 10th district. At first glance I wasn't sure of his background, as he looked very similar to many of the local young men of Arab, Persian or Turkish descent, who have been living for decades, or were even born, in that very district of the Austrian capital, Favoriten. But as our conversation started and then progressed, it turned out very quickly that he was a (now former) employee of the IOM (International Organization for Migration) in Latakia, Syria, until he and his colleagues there lost their jobs as their building was shelled by IS forces, on September 10th. So, he and his group fled Latakia, and made it to Vienna, through nine countries, in ten days. After a bus trip to Beirut, they boarded a plane to Izmir, where their northbound journey into the unknown began in earnest. On "a small boat carrying only 16 people" they made it across the sea to the Greek island of Leros.

Ahmad Moussa, from Latakia, Syria, who I met at a laundromat in Vienna's 10th district, on Monday evening. He told me he dreamed of studying music and becoming a professional musician, but at the insistence of his father, he studied international law instead and worked for the International Organization for Migration. Now, he is a refugee himself as his IOM/UN building was shelled by ISIS recently. His favourite composers are J. S. Bach and Franz Liszt and he likes to listen to "Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2", but as well as the violin and the cello, he likes to play his favourite "Western rock songs" on the e-guitar.

A ferry brought them to Athens, from there, they went on to Northern Greece, and crossed the border into Macedonia following the train tracks to Skopje. With the "help of the local police", they caught a train to "the last village in Macedonia" and then two more trains, a twelve-hour train to Belgrade and then another one to Subotica. It ended there due to the closure of the Hungarian border. When they walked the last bit towards the border, they witnessed "war between the refugees and the Hungarian police" due to the fence being closed about one and a half days earlier. After spending the night "sleeping in a car park", they were taken to the Croatian border the next day on buses. Along with 3000 people, they were stuck there for a couple of days before they managed to cross over into Croatia and then Hungary, where they were seized by the police. The police "accompanied them" to the Austrian border, where they stayed for a night before being taken to Vienna last Sunday.


On this day in 1945: In memoriam Georg Elser

At this time of day, 11 pm, seventy years ago, on April 9, 1945, Georg Elser was executed by the Nazis at the KZ (concentration camp) at Dachau near Munich.

His attempt to kill Adolf Hitler in the Bavarian capital about five and a half years earlier had failed. Elser had planted a bomb into a column at the Bürgerbräukeller (a beer cellar) where Hitler held a speech on the evening of November 8, 1939, on the occasion of the Nazis celebrating their botched putsch attempt ("national revolution", later dubbed "Beer Hall Putsch") of 1923. Unfortunately for Elser and in a fateful evil twist of world history, Hitler left the locality earlier than foreseen, and the bomb detonated thirteen minutes after his departure, without killing any of the Nazi leaders who had been present.

Georg Elser (born January 4, 1903 - died April 9, 1945)

Already on the same evening, Elser was caught at the Swiss border, arrested and held at KZ Dachau, where the Nazis planned he should remain until a show trial after the German "Endsieg" (final victory) in WWII would be held against him. But when faced with the Allied troops' advance onto German territory in early 1945, Hitler ordered Elser's execution on April 9th.

Until recently, the proletarian carpenter from the town of Königsbrunn, near Ulm, Württemberg, Southwest Germany, who wanted to kill Hitler to "improve the situation of the workers and to end the war" (quote Elser) was barely remembered and commemorated as a hero. To this day, he stands in the shadow of others in the official German narrative and practice of commemoration, such as those around the colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, i.e. much later and out of much more nationalistic motives than Elser. July 20th, 1944, is a date every German and many others associate with resistance to Hitler, whereas Elser's attempt on November 8, 1939, has remained unknown to most, even within Germany, so far. Hopefully, this will change in the future.


“Fuck Minsk II”? “Dr. Strange-(Breed)love” or: How Europe Learns to Start Worrying

"Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus" - the famous quote by Robert Kagan, the neocon who legitimated the post-9/11 military interventions, criticizing Europe for its allegedly “weak” and “appeasement” stance in the war on terror, is making a comeback. It dates from back in 2003/04, when the dispute over the US-led invasion of Iraq, that Germany and France had opposed, led to a prolonged period of cooling of the US-German relations (US-French relations had never been as amicable anyway, due to France's temporary refusal to participate in and greater skepticism towards the US and NATO). Now this German-American rift, that had only been patched up for a short period between Iraq and Bush jr.'s presidency and the NSA scandal(s) of the Obama era, is opening up again, as officials in Berlin are accusing the neocons of 'dangerous propaganda' in the confrontation with Russia. 

Victoria Nuland, self-declared "anti-European" (2013)

The 'Martians' are back, led by Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State. Along with their supporters and representatives in NATO, they are once again, pitted against those 'Venusians', who, led by Germany and France, have been undertaking diplomatic efforts to achieve a de-escalating peaceful solution of the Ukraine crisis. It had already gotten clear what the 'Martians' thought of a European initiative independent of US interests in Ukraine about a year ago, when Nuland uttered the now infamous expletive “fuck the EU” in a phone call to the US ambassador in Kiev.

In her view, Ukraine was already considered the newest Eastern European outpost of the American Empire as soon as the opportunity to install a pro-American government there became a realistic option in the beginning of 2014, and the US made sure that Arseni Yazenjuk (referred to by Nuland as “Yaz”, “our guy” in the same phone call) became Prime Minister in Kiev in the pro-Western government that was set up after pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in February 2014. Due to that, the complete veracity of the Western narrative of the Maidan or "EwroMaidan" as a purely “peaceful people's protest for the EU and against a corrupt government” began to be questioned. Nuland apparently told Yanukovich: “No violence against protesters, or you'll fall”. Is that a sign that Nuland and her entourage were calling shots in Kiev at the time? That's not entirely clear (as is, who the snipers were that immediately triggered the overthrow of Yanukovych as a reaction - government/pro-Russian or Maidan/(pro-)US agents?). What is pretty clear by now, though, is that (direct or indirect) Russian influence on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is countered by Academi (formerly "Blackwater") mercenaries, i.e. U.S. "private army" presence in the war zone, and that NATO is continuing to drum up the tone against Russia, in spite of the efforts by the leading European “allies” (?), France and Germany, that lead to a peace deal (or at least truce) being brokered at Minsk in February (the so-called “Minsk II” agreement).

Audio: V. Nuland's phone call to the US ambassador at Kiev, 02/2014 ("Fuck the EU")

Apparently, Nuland's 2014 motto is being amended in 2015. It is now “Fuck not only the EU, but Minsk II, too”. Last year, the expletive only met mild and still mostly veiled protest by the Europeans. Now, though, Germany apparently has had more than enough of it, and is finally calling a spade a spade. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, and several sources in the Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery of Angela Merkel) have accused the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Gen. Philipp Breedlove, of "dangerous propaganda". Steinmeier was referring to massively exaggerated or even completely fabricated NATO "reports" that were cited by Breedlove as factual information in relation to the Ukraine conflict. The general, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, claimed that “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” had been sent into Eastern Ukraine, contrary to the reports of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichten-dienst (BND), that were saying that the Minks II truce was largely holding and that the agreed withdrawal of heavy weaponry by both sides was continuing. Breedlove often referred to imaginary columns of Russian tanks and although not everything he has been purporting over the last few months has been complete bogus, his “numbers have been significantly higher than those in possession of America's NATO allies in Europe.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Philipp Breedlove, NATO's "Jack D. Ripper" (with US Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Kabul, September 2014) 

The main domestic counterpart of Nuland and her "General Jack D. Ripper" propagandist is Barack Obama. The president has ordered to put on hold a planned deployment of US army personnel into Western Ukraine to train members of the Ukrainian National Guard there (which would have been another step towards escalation), thus trying not to undermine the fulfilment of Minsk II agreement.


"DoubleThink" featured article: Chutzpah & Criticism. Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington in perspective

Today, we are featuring an article by Scott Stelle, author of our partner blog "DoubleThink", who looks at the historical and familial precedents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech at the United States Congress a few days ago, especially with regard to the its context in terms of the different branches of historical Zionism and the current political climate in Israel.

There are some uncanny parallels between 
between Israeli politician Menachem Begin’s first visit to the United States during December 1948 and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington [this] month [i.e. March 3, PB].

PM Netanyahu is a frequent visitor to Washington (this was at his address to a joint congressional session in 2011)
While Begin was greeted with a critical letter in the New York Times by such prominent Jews as Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook among others, Netanyahu’s upcomming trip, due to Bibi’s breach of White House protocol and conspicuous re-election campaigning, is provoking unusual harsh criticism from American Jewish leaders as well as the mainstream media across the ideological spectrum from Fox News to the New York Times.       
The specter of 1948 overshadowing Netanyahu’s visit calls attention to Israel’s own violent and criminal birth, still viciously at work, though now largely forgotten in mainstream public discourse. The Zionist ideology’s emphasis of “restoring” an ancient Hebrew national identity and the claim of “continuity” between the Jewish people and their biblical homeland in Palestine became official orthodoxy after the foundation of the state of Israel, whose formative years also coincided with the Jewish trauma of the Holocaust, which incidentally didn’t find expression in “collective memory” until the late 1950s, after the Israeli state had securely established sovereignty over its new territory. Most American Jews’ knowledge of Israel up until the 1980s was based more on symbolic narratives, like Leon Uris’ popular novel and film Exodus, than historical facts. Yet, in light of archival research and current events is America’s blind solidarity with Israel really warranted?

Politics may be informed by history, but it is always about the present and near future. Soul-searching efforts like Germany’s critical scrutiny of Nazism or America’s attempt at understanding its ambivalent “Manifest Destiny” and racist-genocidal roots are difficult but healthy enterprises. Events ranging from Wounded Knee, My Lai and Abu Ghraib to Ferguson will continue to haunt us until we recognize our rapacious “national character.” Long before Israel’s New Historians became as committed to truth as postwar German historiography, Einstein critically appraised the 1948 Arab-Israel War without glossing over misdeeds, like the ethnic cleansing of locals who had lived in Palestine for over a thousand years.If you replace the names Begin with Benjamin and the attacks of Arab villages with the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Einstein’s et al. letter here could have almost been written today:
“The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism through out the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.”
The letter "New Palestine Party. Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed", signed by Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and others to the "New York Times", published in the "Books" section (p. 12), Saturday, December 4, 1948  

Historically, the politics of the Zionist Movement has generally been more socialist than fascist, yet there has nonetheless been fascist elements within the movement since the 1920s. However, they have grown more powerful since the 1970s onwards, and especially after Christian-Right Zionists, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, started supporting Israel’s Likud party, the direct heirs of Revisionist Zionism. In 2014, Zeev Sternhell, Israel Prize laureate and renowned scholar of European fascism, was asked by Haaretz duringOperation Protective Edge if he had seen any signs of a budding fascism in Israel? He said most definitely, just consider the new “nationhood law” which would define Israel as the state of the Jewish people only, “the brutal and violent erosion of freedom of speech; and the various manifestations of a witch hunt here, when a journalist like [Haaretz’s] Gideon Levy needs a bodyguard.”


Abstracting and creating agitprop realities: a longue-durée view of political “storytelling” on two sides of the same post-Communist coin

Anyone who is - in a non-ideological way - trying to make sense of the major political stories of the most recent past and of the present “news” (or disinformation) content featured in the media, is having a hard time figuring what is really going on. The amount of information (mostly agitprop (=agitation and propaganda)) coming from the different corners of the boxing ring that is the arena of political ideologies is incoherent and contradictory, to put it mildly. That being said, we will still try to point out what in our view are the five most significant discrepancies of the last twenty-five years in the “political storytelling” between East and West, South and North, i.e. the periphery and core or centre of the global political order (or rather disorder) that has since been centered around the United States of America. It has, however, been an economic and political pecking order that has constantly been challenged and reshuffled ever since the end of the Cold War.

The Soviet flag being taken down on the Kremlin, Moscow, on December 26, 1991. This
marked the end of the existence of the Soviet Union sixty-nine years after its foundation (Source: YouTube)

In the first “long decade” (1988/89 to 2001) following the anti-Soviet reforms and/or protests that lead to revolutions, that started from Hungary (Miklos Németh/Gyula Horn) in November, 1988, and spread all across Central and Eastern Europe until even the Soviet Union itself was dissolved in late December, 1991, the US had its unchallegend “unipolar moment”. Washington's relations with both the now weakened Russia and the emerging China were mostly neutral or even amicable, they were seen as (second-rate) “partners”; post-Soviet Russia was in the U.S. view demoted to a regional power. The U.S.-led involvement in the war in the collapsing Yugoslavia (against a culturally Christian Orthodox, Russophile Serbia) and the first post-cold war NATO expansion into territories that just ten years earlier had been part of the Warsaw Pact, i.e. the Soviet military and political sphere of influence (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland), didn't meet any fierce resistance at the time - although Russia did support Serbia against the Western forces, but still had to tacitly accept the negative outcome for it (most significantly the breakup of Serbia with the foundation of Kosovo, and the independence of Montenegro that followed later).

Some (ideologically challenged, naïve, or unforesightful) elites in the U.S. felt that Francis Fukuyama's “end of history” had indeed come, with the main enemy of the previous five decades demoted and, in the short-term (i.e. normal U.S.) perspective at least, no one else on the radar (Europe or the EU, as more or less even until today, couldn't be taken seriously then, except as an economic power). The end of history” story was the first discrepancy between U.S. “storytelling” or “created reality” and factual challenges of that reality outside that bubble (mind you, the U.S. was dealing with such “important” issues as the sex life of their president during those years). The ideologues in the bubble of the 1990s had dismissed or underestimated what the involvement (by economic, military and/or political, covert intelligence operations) of their own country and its Western (and some non-Western) allies in the Middle East and South Asia had created as a backlash. Muslim-majority, but mostly secularist states had turned into new challengers of the American hegemony in their region, into extremist, Islamist fundamentalist states, committing or at least supporting acts of terrorism (Iran already since back in 1979, with Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, some factions in Palestine and Egypt following suit), with other states in danger of also turning fully Islamist due to the catastrophic economic circumstances, that make a totalitarian, fundamentalist religious extremism attractive to desperate young populations. Furthermore, inequivocal and uncritical US support of Israel (and all the illegal Israeli policies) in the Israeli-Palestine conflict play(ed) its part in the trouble that had (and still has) been brewing there for decades. Those “chickens came home to roost” in a big way in what has to date been the most visible and obvious attack on and challenge of the U.S. hegemony, on that sunny New York morning on September 11, 2001 (soon abbreviated simply as “9/11”). Ironically (if we follow what has generally been presented as the narrative), most (fifteen out of nineteen) of the terrorists were not from Iran or Afghanistan, but citizens of Saudi Arabia, which officially has been (and still is) a US ally, but at the same time, the House of Saud (which is amicably linked to the “House of Bush”) has, more or less openly, financed Islamist terrorism regionally and globally.

Then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld speaking at a press conference in the pentagon barely eight hours after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Also at the podium: Sec. of the Army White, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Shelton, Sen. Warner (Virginia) and Sen. Levin (Michigan) 

So, this is the
second discrepancy between created reality and, at least “historical”, i.e. geopolitical, “truth”. The centre, i.e. the U.S. government, with its “friends and allies” in tow, described “9-11” mainly as “an attack on our Western values of democracy and freedom”
which had to be answered by a “crusade”, a “war on terror” (George W. Bush), that is going on to this day; the periphery, where the retaliatory action happened, had to suffer from two long and protracted wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and their consequences. Many instances of war crimes, e.g. torture and human experimentation, have been committed by U.S. forces as part of the “war on terror”. The periphery side of the “storytelling” was done by channnels such as Al-Jazeera: founded in Doha, Qatar in 1996, it came into prominence in the West in the wake of “9/11”, with the most comprehensive coverage of what was happening as a reaction to those attacks, i.e. the war in Afghanistan. It presented the “collateral damage”, i.e. the civilian victims of the bombings or drone strikes, and aired views that were very critical of that war and of the U.S. policies in relation to it. In November of 2001, the Afghan offices of Al-Jazeera were destroyed in a U.S. bombing raid on Kabul; the following month, a reporter of the network was abducted and brought to Guantanamo. So, the views on this “war on terror” differed, just as the results did: while there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil anymore since “9/11”, U.S. allies have been hit in the years as a result of their participation in the controversial Iraq War (Madrid 2004, London 2005).


                     George W. Bush: "CIA people [i.e. torturers] are really good people,
                               and we're lucky to have them" (Source: Young Turks)

The war on terror, dubbed “operation Enduring Freedom”, actually didn't bring freedom to many, on the contrary, it has
curbed many freedoms, for both centre and periphery: the civil rights of both U.S. and non-U.S. populations were severely infringed upon by acts such as the Patriot Act, which legalized massive surveillance (e.g. collection of all internet and phone data), basically abolished the basic legal concept of habeas corpus, i.e. the right to protest against unlawful detention, and promoted a militarization of the police force, especially in the U.S. As for (more or less covert) paramilitary or proxy operations abroad, private mercenary armies, unaccountable and “off the record”, have been hired to do the “dirty work”. Anyone can be dubbed an “illegal combatant”, and captured anywhere around the world, be it in the actual war zone or from their home, e.g. in Germany (Khaled al-Masri), and held indefinitely at camps such as Bagram or Guantanamo, where they faced “enhanced interrogation” (torture). Politicians all across the globe (but especially those of the “Five Eyes”, i.e. U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand) have since used the “war on terror” to massively increase the surveillance of their citizens.

The conclusion of this second discrepancy or paradox is: The
“democratic freedoms” were “defended” by getting rid of fundamental elements of democracy, i.e. civil rights. Whistle-blowers like Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed these paradoxes, i.e. the war crimes and/or mass surveillance practices mentioned above in the “name of freedom”, have paid the price of completely or at least massively losing their freedom of movement for that, as they are either already under arrest or facing arrest once they would be within reach of U.S. authorities. Those responsible for the, if not illegal, yet despicable practices, are getting away with them, scot-free.


            Trailer for the documentary "Citizenfour" by Laura Poitras, with Glenn                                   Greenwald, on the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (December 2014)
                                                   (Source: YouTube)

Even if we leave the morals aside and look at the results, we have to conclude that, despite all the military and intelligence efforts, the goal of reducing global terrorism has utterly failed: there has been a fivefold increase interrorist fatalities since “9/11, groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaida have not been weakened significantly, at least in the regions where they originated (Afghanistan, Middle East); others, such as the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” IS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) terrorists, are a new Frankenstein's monster that sprung up as a result of the Iraq War and the civil war in Syria, armed with supreme weapons that had been supplied to the post-Saddam Iraqi Army and the Syrian Free Army/opposition to President Assad by Western countries. So, a new monster has been created, and the old ones haven't really gone away. Let's leave aside the debate on how beneficial it is to certain ideologues of illiberal “security measures”, in the West and elsewhere, to keep such monsters alive as welcome enemies and distractions from other urgent problems and issues.


"There is no alternative" to austerity and privatization? The Varoufakis papers of the Eurogroup meetings

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the personalized anti-"tina", is currently the main enemy of the German-led mainstream technocrats of the "Eurogroup" due to his resistance to continue the austerity policies of the "troika". Anyone who (like some German newspapers) claims that "he and the Greek government are brash and asking a lot, but have not provided any papers of propositions or alternatives to the austerity programme at the recent Eurogroup meetings" is now debunked by the documents by Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis that have been published by www.capital.gr (the English version can be found here (via Robert Misik, Viennese journalist)

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

The alternatives to be found in these papers can be summarized in four main points: 

a) a development bank instead of privatizations

"[W]e want to invest to reduce energy costs for medium and large scale industries, to support innovation, start-ups and to promote a shift towards sectors with comparative advantages and export potential such as pharmaceuticals, organic agriculture, light manufacturing, energy resources, with the emphasis naturally on renewables. (...)
Quick fire sales of public property, at a time when asset prices are deeply depressed, is not something that anyone would advocate.
Instead, the government will create a development bank which will incorporate state assets, enhance their equity value through reforming property rights and use them as collateral for the purposes of providing, in association with European investment institutions such as the European Investment Banks, funding to the Greek private sector"

b) investment instead of austerity with unrealistic growth goals

"We recognize the tremendous efforts made by your countries’ taxpayers to support Greece’s debt and maintain the integrity of the euro.
However, unrealistic, self-defeating fiscal targets have been imposed on our country and population and hence must be revised. A primary surplus target of 4.5% of GDP year-in-year-out has no historical precedent in any situation resembling that of Greece today. It will simply not be possible for our country to grow if we remain on the growth sapping austerity path imposed on our economy. It is also quite inconsistent with achieving a sustainably reduced debt-to-GDP ratio.
The new contract we propose to discuss with you should recognize this evidence."

c) fight against tax evasion and rent-seeking, stop policies undermining social cohesion

"The government undertakes to reduce tax evasion, tax immunity, smuggling, cartelsand rent-seeking. Reforms will improve the enforcement of income tax, VAT, and social contributions, and fight tax evasion with an emphasis on transfer pricing in large corporates active abroad. The government stands ready to discuss legislative proposals to reinforce the legal framework for an independent tax authority within the Ministry of Finance.
A full legislative package will improve the business climate and undermine rent-seekers, in particular in the oil sector, the financial sector, and the media. Public procurement procedures will be made more transparent and fair thanks to a more centralized system, efficient monitoring and e-procurement. Reforms will increase the overall efficiency of the public sector, with an objective to improve the quality of services delivered to every citizen. Policies undermining social cohesion have failed and will be dropped."


"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"? Sanctions and “twisting arms” or: On being on the right or wrong side in the “world of rules”

According to our business and political elites, we in Europe and North America (and, ideally, in all of “global society”) are living in a “world of rules”. According to our business and political elites, we in Europa and North America are living in a free and democratic society. According to our business and political elites, some countries have “left this world of rules” and thus have to be punished.

This "world of rules" (and Russia's "leaving it") was what Radoslaw Sikorski, former foreign minister of Poland, mainly spoke about at a talk on the Ukraine crisis at Harvard University in November of 2014. Yet, time and again, it is becoming increasingly clear, that these “rules” are just political tools – as President Obama put it recently, we occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn't do what we need them to do.“ Since 2004, a "Presidential proclamation allows the US government to ban foreign nationals whose corrupt conduct hurts US interests, without providing proof of the charges."

Radoslaw Sikorski (left) elaborating on and defining who is on the good and the bad side of the "world of rules", at Harvard University, Cambridge, Ma.,  November 20th, 2014

So it is up to Washington and New York, but also their transatlanticist (neo-)“liberal“ allies in Londo
n, Frankfurt and elsewhere (e.g. Warsaw) and some of their lackeys in the media, to define what is treated as corruption and what is not – i.e. there is “good“ corruption, white-collar crime and fraud, as long as it happens on Wall Street, K Street, in the City of London, at Frankfurt high-rises, at Brussels institutions, or in Ukraine, and “bad“ corruption or white-collar crime, in Greece, Russia, Hungaryor Venezuela etc. You can not only be on the right or wrong side of history, but also of corruption, geopolitics or the war on terror, as above countries and countless civilians in embattled conflict regions elsewhere have learned the hard way (by having their “arms twisted“ or as “collateral damage“ of austerity or "democracy promotion").
Many countries/regimes or armies/groups haved turned from Paulus to Saulus in recent decades, because they started challenging US domination or hegemony: the Mujaheddin, anti-Soviet allies in the 1980s, became the “Taliban“ and enemies in the 1990s, with a war against them starting in 2001; Iraq, an ally against Iran in the 1980s, turned enemy in the 1990s, with a war toppling the regime in 2003; Libya, a business partner until well into the 2000s, turned enemy at the beginning of the next decade, with the regime toppled in 2011; the Syrian opposition fighters, supported with arms, then turned enemies (ISIS/ISIL); Russia, a “friend and partner“ in the 1990s and in the “war on terror“ of the early 2000s, increasingly was seen as an enemy from the late 2000s, with NATO expansion into the Baltics and the war in Georgia, and now the current, even bigger conflict over Ukraine. Others, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, have always held US support despite the former's illegal settlement policy and war crimes in Palestine, and the latter's funding of Islamist terrorism (not to mention the human rights violations). They have always been exempt from “the rules“, and “more equal than others“.

The discord between the U.S. and Europe over their different approaches became increasingly visible ahead of Minsk II in early February

President Obama recently admitted that the US was more than just an benevolent bystander and its politicians more than purely coincidental visitors to Kiev (V. Nuland/J. McCain) in the "Maidan" conflict between pro-Western protesters and the government in Ukraine. These protests, that had started in late 2013, escalated in late January/early February of 2014 and led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich almost exactly a year ago, on February 22nd/23rd. A treaty signed by all parties to the conflict, that would have set up a transitional government, was breached by the radical wing of the protesters, who toppled Yanukovich anyway - but as they were on the right side of the Western “world of rules“, they didn't have to stick to them. Subsequently, as a backlash of this coup and thus the expansion into what Russia perceives as its sphere of influence, the Kremlin annexed Crimea (important due to its Russian naval port Sevastopol), and an “anti-Maidan“, pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbass Region, in Eastern Ukraine, ensued. The US/NATO is allowed to expand its sphere of influence, Russia is not. On the other hand, the Kremlin hasn't acted in the most conciliatory manner either within the last few years; but diplomatic failures have also been committed by the EU/Brussels in its dealings with Russia over the envisaged EU membership of Ukraine. Most recently, though, for the first time since the run-up to George W. Bush's Iraq War in 2003, remarkable cracks in the transatlantic foreign policy axis are highly visible again.