Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for the ‘colonial wars’ Category

Watch it

Posted by Charles II on October 21, 2014

Kill the Messenger is worth watching. Aside from the story itself, which is moving, it points to a broader feature of modern American life: we can no longer handle the truth. We have lost that sense of honor that demands that when we have made a mistake, we should acknowledge it and correct it. We imagine that we can become the image of ourselves that we create, independent of reality. And so we crash into reality, and are injured by that collision much more deeply than we ever would be by embracing the truth.

Gary Webb, we miss you.

Posted in abuse of power, CIA, colonial wars, media, Media machine, War On Some Drugs | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Understanding Syria

Posted by Charles II on February 22, 2012

While understanding what is going on in Syria is probably all but impossible for those of us who do not live in the Middle East/North Africa, there are some good sources to begin with.

Syria is split into multiple factions. The dictator, Asad, is an Alawite, which (according to Robert Mackey of the NYT) is

“an esoteric Islamic sect, the Alawites, whose belief in the divinity of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, is just one of the reasons that they were oppressed as infidels for centuries by other Muslims.”

Mackey then quote Malise Ruthven in the NY Review of Books:

they evolved a highly secretive syncretistic theology containing an amalgam of Neoplatonic, Gnostic, Christian, Muslim, and Zoroastrian elements.

Nusayrism could be described as a folk religion that absorbed many of the spiritual and intellectual currents of late antiquity and early Islam, packaged into a body of teachings that placed its followers beyond the boundaries of orthodoxy.

Nusayris believe in metempsychosis or transmigration. The souls of the wicked pass into unclean animals such as dogs and pigs, while the souls of the righteous enter human bodies more perfect than their present ones.

According to the BBC, the Alawites are a minority (8-15%) whose power in Syria is a legacy of French colonial rule, which created an Alawite state yclept Latakia. Seventy five percent of Syrians are Sunnis. Ten-fifteen percent are Kurds, there is a significant (10%) Christian minority, 2-3% are Druze, 1% are Ismaili Shia, and presumably some are secular. (So, as you can see, there are 106% – 119-plus% Syrians, a genuinely remarkable achievement.)

The government involves Alawites operating in an alliance with some Sunnis, Kurds and Christians, as well as perhaps Druze. Still, government forces represent a small fraction of the population. Crosscutting this are perhaps more important tribal loyalties, generational conflicts, and regional loyalties. Hassan Hassan in the UAE’s The National (via perhaps the most important American source on Syria, Professor Joshua Landis);

The Egaidat is the largest tribal confederation in Al Jazira, with at least 1.5 million members, and links mainly to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Al Neim is the prominent tribal confederation in Deraa that includes the houses of Zoubi, Rifai and Hariri, and has a strong presence in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and also in the UAE, especially in the Northern Emirates. Al Eniza is another prominent Gulf tribal confederation with members in Al Jazira, Suwaida, Homs, Hama and Aleppo. Al Dhafir tribe has members in Al Jazira, Hama and a few in Deraa, as well as a presence in Saudi Arabia and less so in Kuwait. The Shammar confederation has at least one million members in Syria and is also one of the largest tribes in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Several leaders of the Syrian branches of the tribes continue regular visits to the Gulf states and often meet members of the royal families. A significant number have returned to the Gulf and become naturalised citizens mainly in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Many hold privileged positions in these countries and, as the bloody crackdown in Syria continues, tribal kinships have grown closer, with tribes in Deraa contacting their “cousins” in the Gulf asking for a firm diplomatic and economic position regarding Damascus.

So, in very crude terms, there are interest affiliations something like the chart above.

Posted in colonial wars, Conflict in the Middle East | 1 Comment »

Mao’s glorious march… to Boise/now with bonus link

Posted by Charles II on July 11, 2011

A century ago, following a long agony beginning in the 19th century China was dismembered by the imperial nations of the West. It has spent the interim first being further humiliated by the West and later invaded by Japan, then another half century reconstructing from war and the tyranny established under Mao. In the process, the march toward national sovereignty changed tactics and methods, but not direction. Now they want to own us. Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman:

A Chinese national company is interested in developing a 10,000- to 30,000-acre technology zone for industry, retail centers and homes south of the Boise Airport.

Officials of the China National Machinery Industry Corp. have broached the idea — based on a concept popular in China today — to city and state leaders.

Sinomach is not looking only at Idaho.

The company sent delegations to Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania this year to talk about setting up research and development bases and industrial parks. It has an interest in electric transmission projects and alternative energy as well.

Now, seen through the eyes of American nationalism, this looks a lot like what the Japanese did in China (i.e., economic expansion and imperial control followed by invasion). Here’s a fairly tempered and plausible example of the American nationalist viewpoint (via Ritholtz):

Thanks to the trillions of dollars that the Chinese have made flooding our shores with cheap products, China is now in a position of tremendous economic power. So what is China going to do with all of that money? One thing that they have decided to do is to buy up pieces of the United States and set up “special economic zones” inside our country from which they can continue to extend their economic domination. One of these “special economic zones” would be just south of Boise, Idaho and the Idaho government is eager to give it to them. China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach for short) plans to construct a “technology zone” south of Boise Airport which would ultimately be up to 50 square miles in size. The Chinese Communist Party is the majority owner of Sinomach, so the 10,000 to 30,000 acre “self-sustaining city” that is being planned would essentially belong to the Chinese government.

I think the writer is accurate in calling these, in quotes, “special economic zones.” While The Statesman article does not talk about extraterritorial law that would prevail within this zone, it’s pretty clear that a 10,000 acre (15 square mile) facility is the size of a small town. Presumably Sinomach would use its rights and incorporate as a town, with a separate government, and since Sinomach is a government-owned entity, it would be susceptible not just to influence by the Chinese government, but to outright manipulation. [Added 7/15: I should note that it’s not clear from the Statesman article that it’s not clear that Sinomach would be the only company in the zone. The article, and probably the plans, are ambiguous.] In Idaho, with its weak state government, there wouldn’t be much interference with whatever happened in Sinomachville: the area would, in effect, be under foreign rule. If they wanted to establish a listening post to intercept satellite communications or a radar to track flights, there’s not much that could be done… unless the federal government does it.

This is the imperialism of Teddy Roosevelt come home.

And it exposes the utter folly of wrecking our national government. It was in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, after the destruction of the Qing dynasty, that the Western powers were able to dictate terms to China. Granted, the weak, corrupt central government of the Qing–dependent on local warlord/governors and businessmen–was no bargain.

There are some real parallels to America 2011. The only real difference is that the Boxers were honorable people, while the Tea Party is not.

Posted in China, colonial wars, Flying Monkey Right | 7 Comments »

Another IMF riot and Israel goes Dixie

Posted by Charles II on January 10, 2011

Emad Mekay, IPSNews:

Arabs across the Middle East Watched in awe as online video posts and sporadic coverage on Al-Jazeera TV station showed Tunisians, with a reputation of passivity, rise up in unprecedented street protests and sits-in against the police state of President Ben Ali.

The Ben Ali regime exemplifies the “moderate” pro-Western Arab regimes that boast strict control of their population while toeing the line of Western powers in the Middle East.

The spark of the unrest, now about to end its second week, came when a 26- year-old unemployed university graduate, Mohammed Buazizi, set himself ablaze in the central town Sidi Buzeid to protest the confiscation of his fruits and vegetables cart.

the police responded with overwhelming force. There were reports of use of live ammunition, house-to-house raids to chase activists, mass arrests and torture of prisoners.

The fear of similar spillover into Arab countries pushed at least one Arab ruler to rush to aid Ben Ali. Libya’s maverick leader Muammar Qaddaif said he was immediately dropping all restrictions on the entry of Tunisian labour into Libya. Tunisians were free to travel to his oil-rich country for work, he said.

Opposition says the unrest was prompted by high prices and unemployment but now has turned political with some demonstrators calling on President Ben Ali to step down.

Tunisia, like other non-oil producing Arab countries has implemented a Western-inspired privatization programme and gradual cut to state subsidies to staple goods without offering alternative sources of income.

Hoocoodanode that if you won’t let people eat, they might not feel they have much to lose?

Meanwhile in Israel (Mel Frykberg, IPSNews:

A number of recent incidents discriminating against Israel’s Palestinian minority has prompted Israeli Knesset (parliament) members to debate whether Israel is becoming increasingly racist.

Ronit Sela from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) has no doubts. “Israel’s democracy is under threat as an increasingly large racist element raises its collective head. A number of racist occurrences have taken place in a climate conducive to racism. This wouldn’t have happened prior to the current right-wing Israeli government,” Sela told IPS.

Recently an organisation called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam (a suburb near Tel Aviv) held a protest against “assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa.”

“It’s a local organisation of Bat Yam residents, because the public is tired of so many Arabs going out with Jewish girls,” explained one of the organisers, Bentzi Gufstein. “In addition to the protest, we will hand out pamphlets explaining the situation.”

Charming. We can expect anti-miscegenation laws are on the way.

And there are a number of other examples, including discriminatory housing laws, discrimination in stripping people of citizenship, and discrimination in funding education.

How far Israel has drifted from the ideals of its Founders.

Posted in colonial wars, Conflict in the Middle East, israel, racism | 25 Comments »

365AM: A Story About the War You Were Never Meant to See

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 13, 2010

Especially if you’re an American:

The backstory:

In the winter of 2008, two days after Christmas, Israel launched one of its deadliest and most controversial wars. Whilst preventing the people of Gaza from fleeing the territory, it proceeded to rain missiles down on them using some of the most sophisticated weaponry available. Trapped with them, were the only two foreign reporters inside Gaza at the time. They found themselves locked inside a war zone as the only voices able to reach the English-speaking world. This is their incredible, and as yet untold, story.

Ayman Mohyeldin, a 30-year old American citizen and Sherine Tadros, a 29-year old British national lived through the war – for three weeks reporting for Al Jazeera English amidst an international media blackout.

Now, they want to tell others what they witnessed – raw and uncut. 365 AM will stimulate audiences with exclusive footage and images captured in different formats from professional cameras to mobile phones. The film draws on powerful images from over 100 hours of footage, mostly from Al Jazeera English, and never-before-seen personal video of Ayman and Sherine during the war.

Go here to learn more.

Posted in colonial wars, Gaza | 1 Comment »

His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2009

The man himself:

Arlo’s commemorative:

Joao da Silva, Common Dreams:

Among the thousands of political dissidents detained and executed in Chile during the days following the Military coup of 1973 which overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende (also known as the Unidad Popular), Victor Jara’s brutal death is probably one of the most emblematic. …

Victor Jara was a popular Chilean folk singer/songwriter, educator, theatre director, poet, and political activist. He was involved in the development of the “Nueva Canción Chilena” (New Chilean Song Movement) which gained considerable popularity during the Unidad Popular government which he actively supported. On the morning of September 12 1973, Jara was detained, along with thousands of Chileans, and then held prisoner at the Estadio Chile (renamed “Estadio Víctor Jara” in September 2003) where he was repeatedly beaten and tortured, resulting in the breaking of bones in his hands and upper torso. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors, as he lay on the ground after the beating, mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them. Defiantly, he sang part of a hymn supporting the Unidad Popular.

He was murdered on September 15 after further beatings were followed by being machine-gunned (34 bullet wounds were found on his body) and left dead on a road on the outskirts of Santiago.

This is the world that the right wing has to offer us, one in which singing is a crime punishable by death.

Will there be justice?

Posted in colonial wars, Latin America, torture, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

America’s forgotten war

Posted by Charles II on January 26, 2009

Book Cover of Barbara Tuchman's Stillwell and the American Experience in China

(Image from Amazon)

Almost entirely forgotten in histories of World War II are the British and Americans who fought in the China-Burma-India theater. That fighting tied down the Japanese army while the American Navy and Airforce leapfrogged across the islands of the Pacific. Here’s a precis of an article by Andrew Buncombe, London Independent:

Japan made its first major assault on Burma, then a British colony, in 1942, aiming to defend its flank as it advanced through Malaya (modern Malaysia) and Singapore, and claiming its incursion as a liberating move. As British troops retreated, Rangoon fell in March. At first, the counter attack was confined to guerrilla attacks against Japanese troops in the jungle. Karen fighters made a critical contribution, but the homeland they were promised in return did not materialise. In 1943, after withstanding a siege at the crucial Indian border supply town of Imphal – in large part thanks to the Gurkhas – Japanese forces were repelled. Britain won thanks to its advantage in manpower and in the air; by 1944, Japanese forces were in full retreat. The Gurkhas marched into Mandalay alongside their British counterparts in March 1945, before taking Rangoon two months later.

And so what happened to the indigenous Karen fighters who fought so bravely against vastly better-armed Japanese troops? Again, from Buncombe:

Now, 60 years later, Sein Aye and his comrades feel that they, too, have been forgotten. Lethally persecuted by the Burmese junta and forced into refugee camps, these old soldiers – who were never eligible for any sort of official military pension – have been struggling to survive on rice and beans provided by aid groups. For several years a British charity provided a tiny amount of money that allowed for extras such as the occasional cup of tea or coffee, but those payments have now been stopped. Dignified but impoverished, these veterans feel they have been betrayed. …

Around 150,000 Karen have escaped into Thailand, most of whom are confined to refugee camps of bamboo huts and barbed wire that one regular visitor refers to as “green prisons”. Designed to be temporary and yet seemingly fixed, these camps are weighed down by a quiet sadness.

Our CBI veterans didn’t fare too well, either.

Burma has suffered too much. It’s time for these injustices to be set right.

Posted in China, colonial wars, doing the right thing | Comments Off on America’s forgotten war

The Attack On Gaza

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 27, 2008

Bare hours after lifting the food and media blackout just long enough to get some nice pictures of 90-some trucks of token food supplies rolling into Gaza — a mere drop in the bucket for the area’s needs — the Israeli government has now launched a brutal attack on, and invasion of, Gaza:

Well, so much for peace. Looks like Siun was right, and the deliveries yesterday were just a pathetic public relations ploy. Israel managed to assassinate the police chief, governor, and security chief. A first strike bombing like this can do a fair bit of damage, as it did, but Hamas will now disperse its people and assets, and future bombings will be less effective. Hamas missile counterattacks killed, oh, one person.

Air power, in the end, doesn’t do squat in a war like this. The leaders killed will be replaced, and not by moderates. The missile attacks (which are scary but essentially ineffective) will continue. Gazans will hate Israelis even more. To get anything “meaningful” accomplished Israel has to invade on foot—they have to search for the missiles and the missile production centers.

When they do, they put themselves at risk. Hamas has destroyed Israeli tanks in the past, and has spent the last couple years building up a small military force modeled on Hezbollah. If they can adopt Hezbollah’s open terrain tactics to city fighting they could inflict some reasonable damage. Because of the small size of Gaza, it’s unlikely that they can win tactically, but politically, the goal is just to show Israel that they can’t take Hamas out using military force and that they can’t slap Hamas around without taking enough casualties to notice.

This is the lesson Israel was taught by Hezbollah during their invasion—that their issues with Hezbollah cannot be solved with military force (which is why, in the end, the Israelis made the prisoner exchange they said they fought the war to avoid.)

But of course this is what opinion polls — of opinions driven by the hard-right Likud/Kadima neocons running the Jerusalem Post and other papers — show the Israelis want.   They apparently think that their main mistake last time around was simply not butchering enough people.  Just like a lot of our right-wingers think our main mistake in Vietnam was in not using nukes.

Charles adds: Fisk on the Gaza campaign. In eight years, 20 Israelis have been killed by Hamas’s rockets:

Yes, let’s remember Hamas’s cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel’s need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching – come to heel or we will crush you – is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians – and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.

Posted in colonial wars, Gaza, israel | 14 Comments »

Our free press leaps to warn us…

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2008

Why in %$#^ am I learning about this from Al Jazeera (via ICH), rather than from ABC or Newsweek or The San Diego Union-Tribune?

Oh. That’s right. The American free press barely exists. So this comes from the Qatari free press.

US economic and political power is set to decline over the next two decades and the world will grow more dangerous as the battle for scarce resources intensifies, a report by US intelligence agencies has predicted.

The current global financial crisis is the beginning of a weakening of the US dollar to the point where it becomes “first among equals”, said the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) Global Trends 2025 report published on Thursday.

One of the main conclusions of the report is that “the unipolar world is over, [or] certainly will be by 2025”, said Thomas Fingar, the NIC’s deputy director, at a press conference in Washington DC.

China and India were likely to join the US at the top of a multipolar world and compete for influence, the report added.

Russia’s future was less certain, but Iran, Turkey and Indonesia were also seen by the report as gaining power.

“The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” said the report.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, colonial wars, getting a clue, Media machine, mediawhores | Comments Off on Our free press leaps to warn us…

No Clean Hands

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 17, 2008

As Charles has ably pointed out, there are few if any clean hands in the Russia-Georgia-Ossetia affair. I was reminded of this today when Glenn Greenwald took Obama to task for failing to attack McCain’s stance on this whole mess, and stated that the Washington Post endorsement of Obama somehow proves that the WaPo’s schizoid editorial board just wuuuuuvs him to bits.

I doubt that Mr. G. will see what I posted over in Salon’s letters threads, so I’ll put an expanded version of it here, complete with the active links that Salon doesn’t allow:

RE: the WaPo endorsement: Meh. The WP and NYT always play this little game with Democratic candidates: Bash bash bash right up to the last minute, then endorse. Hell, they both endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992 (see the WT’s here and the NYT’s here) and 1996 (WP and NYT), Al Gore in 2000 despite their War on Gore (NYT and WP), even though Howell Raines, Jeff Gerth, and Steno Sue Schmidt were eager conduits for every smear Ken Starr and his people could dream up. The pro-forma endorsements were more than outweighed in impact by to their near-constant drumbeat of attacks against the Clintons all throughout the 1990s and beyond. (More interestingly, they both also refused to call for Bill Clinton’s resignation during the heat of the bogus CoupGate that they played such a big role in stirring up.)

As for Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia: There are bloody hands all around. Russia’s been catering to Ossetia in various ways, from shoveling Russian passports into it to assisting it in its genocidal war against Ingushetia (,; see also the Helsinki Human Rights Watch publication Russia: The Ingush-Ossetian Conflict in the Prigorodnyi Region which is available at Google Books). They succeeded in getting North Ossetia to break away before Georgia could mobilize to counter Russia’s efforts. They’re also spending the equivalent of $1500 per South Ossetian per year to persuade them to join up with Russia:

Posted in 2008, Barack Obama, colonial wars, John McCain, Russia | 1 Comment »

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