Friday, 31 December 2010

The Coalition is not Greatly Different to New Labour.

Polly Toynbee claims that the Tories are destroying New Labour's achievements with regards the youth of Britain. With the claim in the Guardian,
Economically we face a neoliberal experiment threatening an era of low growth, no lessons learned from the 30s.

The only question is whether voters believe David Cameron's new year's message: "We're tackling the deficit because we have to – not out of some ideological zeal. This is a government led by people with a practical desire to sort out this country's problems, not by ideology. When we talk of building a bigger, stronger society, we mean it." Or will they believe Ed Miliband's view that the "irresponsible pace and scale" of the cuts is a "political choice by those in power, not necessity"?
Actually, we have faced the neoliberal experiment at an accelerated pace since 1997 when New Labour came to power and based "growth" on unsustainable debt fuelled consumerism. The coalition is using the highly predictable crash of 2008 to impose a yet more extreme doctrinaire version of the same dogmas.

New Labour and those such as Toynbee are simply reacting to a government whose fanaticism follows on from New Labour but having inherited a mess. Instead of reining in the banking system and making reforms of that and profligate borrowing, the idea is to return to the 1990s through shock therapy.

Nothing has been done to remedy the underlying weakness of Britain: the decimation of the industrial manufacturing base, the guff about a "Creative Economy", the over reliance on services and being a pure consumer economy that does nothing particularly useful other than service global economic activity.

There are whole swathes of Britain where no new job creation is going to be forthcoming. Toynbee, at least, did criticise the colossal speed and scale of immigration encouraged and permitted by New Labour. But she did not see it as an inherent part of the short termist nature of that regime.

Inflating and bigging up consumerism through cheap money provided from China whilst bigging up migration to keep labour costs low in those jobs servicing the British consumer economy from within was what "New " Labour stood for. This was the meaning of a "global economy" in Britain.

It was easier to import labour from other countries and maintain some welfare for those in the UK who did not want to take the jobs that no Briton supposedly wanted to do at that price than reform the education system. To create one where vocational subjects and training predominated.

Instead, New Labour was intent on simply getting more students to "university" in third rate ex-polytechnics than training people to do valuable things such as plumbing and all those jobs now done by Polish migrants because of the delusion that doing media studies or other mickey mouse degrees was better.

The bubblegum economy has gone snap in Britain harder than elsewhere because of the structural weaknesses and deficiencies of Britain's economy as well as the absurdly huge expenditure on the armed forces and trident. All that panders to the notion of Britain spreading its values across the globe whilst it cannot even remedy its own deficiencies within.

Diary,

New Years Eve 2010

I will be sober in seeing this one in. It's a good excuse for boozing but it has in recent years become more difficult and increasingly pointless to go out as pubs now rip off people by demanding tickets in advance. The fact is people's hearts are no longer really in celebrating but more the fear that someone somewhere else is "having a better time".

As the aim of consumer life is to cram in enough pleasure to stave off thoughts of death. Not make a celebration a spontaneous part of life or one determined by tradition. NYE has to be booked, planned and geared for extravaganza months in advance to make a profit and for people to think if they spend money on it, they are entitled to a certain happiness.

Those wishing to profit from that anxiety will do so. And in that sense NYE is no different from any other commodified experience that can be sold and marketed. It's best just to spend it at home with your family and friends. A New Year is just another year.

Those young enough might see it as full of future potential but many obsessed with being young simply fear it as a another year closer to death or getting older and less attractive. That sense of underlying panic accounts for why some simply have to go out and do something to distract themselves.

"The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."-Blaise Pascal.

"The Imperialism of Human Rights"

A problem with human rights seems to be that of them being cynically used as a politicised tool designed to ramp up a selective outrage over violations of human rights in a nation whose government the USA or UK does not want as opposed to doing nothing about other regimes that support their economic interests or need for resources.

Stephen Kinzer in The Guardian comments (End human rights imperialism now, 31 December 2010 ),
For those of us who used to consider ourselves part of the human rights movement but have lost the faith, the most intriguing piece of news in 2010 was the appointment of an eminent foreign policy mandarin, James Hoge, as board chairman of Human Rights Watch.

Hoge has a huge task, and not simply because human rights violations around the world are so pervasive and egregious. Just as great a challenge is remaking the human rights movement itself. Founded by idealists who wanted to make the world a better place, it has in recent years become the vanguard of a new form of imperialism.

Want to depose the government of a poor country with resources? Want to bash Muslims? Want to build support for American military interventions around the world? Want to undermine governments that are raising their people up from poverty because they don't conform to the tastes of upper west side intellectuals? Use human rights as your excuse!

This has become the unspoken mantra of a movement that has lost its way.

Human Rights Watch is hardly the only offender. There are a host of others, ranging from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard and the pitifully misled "anti-genocide" movement.

All promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call "universal". In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.

Yet, because of its global reach, now extended by an amazing gift of $100m from George Soros – which Hoge had a large part in arranging –Human Rights Watch sets a global standard.
The point of Human Rights Watch is that it collates evidence of violations but is not supposed to call for specific political action or regime change ( e.g Iraq ) or focus disproportionately on places that benefit its interests. But the problem is that human rights do not come in one standardised package that is absolute.

Those who reject that as simplistic, as did those who criticised the idea that human rights could be imposed by humanitarian intervention, are often accused of "moral relativism" .But this often conflates morality completely with a maximum human rights agenda that is unrealistic in the situation.

A regime that is authoritarian regime can sometimes effectively preserve human rights better where the alternative is chaos and a descent into bloodshed. Chaos can be worse than tyranny, though some totalitarian regimes are worse than chaos.

Too many times human rights have been used as a tool of "moral blackmail": if you are not supportive of an idealistic crusade to export human rights through getting regime change, then that makes those opposed "objectively" supporters of authoritarianism and dictatorship. This is bad logic for many reasons,

Firstly, human rights cannot be imposed by military force and In Iraq the right to be free from Saddam Hussein has now meant that the USA and UK have implicated themselves in even worse human rights violations to get order and a government based on force, murder and ethnic cleansing.

In Afghanistan, human rights could have been conceived as tied to humanitarian military effort and development, despite the obvious fact that the main objective is to build the TAPI pipeline. Yet to assert enlightened self interest would depend on the meaning of "enlightened".

For, secondly, governments founded on respecting human rights cannot be made to order and that was clearly the case in Afghanistan which was fought for a number of strategic goals that contradicted one another. In that sense it was not particularly "enlightened" and now clearly based on geopolitical interests.

Thirdly, resentment of double standards is itself a factor preventing the spread of good governance as the human right to the opportunity to have work and food has been destroyed in places such as Russia through the implementation of neoliberal shock therapy by those now espousing human rights to discredit the government.

Shock therapy came in the 1990s as part of the human rights package and increased immiseration because it tried to revolutionise Russia on the basis of the free market model in conditions of chaos and did nothing to strengthen the ability of government to provide security-a basic human need.

This yoking together of human rights exclusively with current Euro-Atlanticist versions of liberal democracy is counter productive and go against the facts of history and what Isaiah Berlin termed 'value pluralism' in which human rights are not absolute can sometimes clash.

This was most obviously epitomised in the "Global War on Terror" in which human rights theorists such as Alan Dershowitz were trying to rationalise torture as a means of defending human rights on the basis that Islamist terrorists were intent on destroying all human rights so that some people were more human than others

Human rights cannot be reduced either to some scientific utilitarian based calculus or to cost-benefit analysis nor the propaganda of emotional blackmail. It depends very often in having an understanding of what is possible in certain parts of the world and attempting to pinpoint and avert the potential causes of conflict.

One obvious way would be to cut down on the use of fossil fuels by finding alternatives and trying to reduce the over dependence on oil that leads to the propping up of regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which has punishments such as beheading, stoning and limb amputations and no democracy,whilst trying to liberate Iraq through military force on the basis of human rights.

Human rights tend to be taken for granted in comfortable Western nations which make human rights applied to other countries become a product of guilt politics when the problem of is often one of unresolved need for the resources that uphold the consumerism of Western nations.

True, Great Powers such as China have fewer double standards than the West because they do not care about human rights at all but then the main consumer of Chinese goods are those nations keen to export human rights according to geopolitical strategies in the competition for oil and gas in Central Asia.

Kinzer's point ( made badly ) is that human rights are universal when applied to obvious freedoms such as freedom from torture, freedom not to be imprisoned arbitrarily. Yet these have existed throughout history in different places without explicit reference to "human rights"

Yet in practice where there are a choice of lesser evils and "agonistic dilemmas" there is not ready sliding scale of human rights that can be prioritised. The right not to live under Saddam Hussein is probably trumped by the right to actually not be killed by shock and awe and the crumbling of the state into anarchy.

That is an extreme example but in Kosovo the same dilemma was present. The Serb authorities violation of the human rights of Kosovans through brutal police actions was a fact but so too were the thuggish terrorism of the KLA who the USA backed in order to ramp up the conflict to justify NATO intervention.

What this clearly meant was supporting one set of human rights violators against another to be in the position to determine through military power the conclusive end to the Third Balkan Wars , as well as to fulfil certain geopolitical ambitions such as the construction of the AMBO pipeline.

The cost of defending human rights in Kosovo was an intensification of human rights violations in the form of an increase in ethnic based mass murder and the expulsion of 200,000 Serbs and Roma from their homeland, turning a brutal civil war into a bloodbath and empowering KLA gangsters.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Diary.

I haven't read any blithe rationalisations yet as to why the latest plotters arrested on 21st December 2010 tried to blow up targets in London.

The idiots who plotted the Christmas Terror attacks on London didn't seem to see any contradiction between their targeting of the London Eye and the Church of Scientology and finishing a reconnaissance mission with... a McDonald's meal. So they hate consumerism and "meaningless freedom" enough to pay cash for junk food whilst plotting to kill consumers.

Another terror plot was foiled in Copenhagen yesterday. I await the latest attempt to blame the attacks on foreign policy, as merely a desperate reaction against "our" injustices in "the Muslim world" being the cause of it. Yet I'm still waiting for the Serb terrorist attack on the UK in revenge for Kosovo...Though Jill Dando was cited at the time as a murder committed by Serbs without much evidence.

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The developed world is now dominated by the forces of money and those peddling delusions to too many people locked into a meaningless system of total consumerism, one brought through Chinese labour and capital and, in the UK, through servicing their supereconomy so as to fund the purchase of increasingly banal packaged pleasures that bring barely any additional happiness.

I felt ill when I looked at the sales yesterday. More and more junk. Endless circulations of junk....Junk culture, jobs flogging junk, all contributing the more to the junking the earth which is itself encircled in space by satellites beaming down messages to sell more....junk. Junk that nobody needs being shifted from one warehouse in a floodlit wasteland to another distribution depot and to large out of town retail centres. That look like depots.

It's impossible to know what can be done and yet more and more people know we cannot keep going on like this.

"The system" preys on people's every little set of weaknesses to turn them into profit for themselves. The job of PR reps, advertisers and so on is no longer just to make a set of goods attractive and to inform the public. Instead the aim is in creating new beings, kitschenmensh unable to see their lives beyond the fantasy world the ad men create for them.

Every facet of public life has become driven by profit targets and relentless marketing so that few feel secure any more and we know the true value of nothing beyond consumption. It is increasingly difficult to survive without comprimising personal integrity. The whore and the beast rule without control.

The most depressing thing is that this is an oppression colluded in by people who act only as consumers and no longer as citizens. Much of the tedious search for "identity" is about trying to find oneself in a world that externally means nothing, that is a deracinated legoland of supermarkets, brands, mini-roundabouts, boxy housing, motorways and "heritage".

Lonely people plugged into a virtual reality through the box whilst living in a box and driving bubbly cars or hulking SUV's to assert their being in the world.....

There seems to be no way this system could ever be changed from within. It's a period of total torpor induced by consumerism which is the only reality left and that is one based on a series of fictions. Including the idea the recent student protests over the privatisation of further education funding could actually achieve anything.

For a start nobody is actually that sure what the exact purpose of university is any longer other than offering three years where people "network", get drunk, "have sex", get depressed, sometimes care about their subjects. You then end up with a piece of paper that acts as a potential signal in the labour market in which the degree is valuable to prove generic skills of data analysis, communication etc in addition to psychometric tests, gap year experience etc etc.

It seems most of these protests were just pure kitsch, just a way for young people to express themselves "creatively" before the "real world" hits them and they drop it all. There were no constructive proposal, no noticeable leaders, few who had thought hard about the society they have lived in at all.

After all, it is kitsch. Protest and 'uni' life as a mere rite of passage into the eternal world of infantile consumerism when the slogans are ability to mint a phrase are use to coin in the money in PR jobs. And if so is Ballard right that the only way to escape this fix might be out and out psychopathological violence ?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

TAPI is a New Silk Road.

The Hindu Times carried an interesting and candid opinion piece today by M. K. Bhadrakumar,

TAPI is in actuality a Silk Road project connecting Central Asia to the West via Gwadar, which will make Pakistan the U.S.'s gateway to Central Asia.
The significance of the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (TAPI) on December 11 in Ashgabat cannot be overstated. It can only be captured if one says with a touch of swagger that TAPI has been the most significant happening in the geopolitics of the region in almost a decade since America invaded Afghanistan.

The heart of the matter is that TAPI is a Silk Road project, which holds the key to modulating many complicated issues in the region.
It signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding U.S. efforts to access the fabulous mineral wealth of the Caspian and the Central Asian region. Afghanistan forms a revolving door for TAPI and its stabilisation becomes the leitmotif of the project. TAPI can meet the energy needs of Pakistan and India. The U.S. says TAPI holds the potential to kindle Pakistan-India amity, which could be a terrific thing to happen. It is a milestone in the U.S.' “Greater Central Asia” strategy, which aims at consolidating American influence in the region.


Washington has been the patron saint of the TAPI concept since the early 1990s when the Taliban was conceived as its Afghan charioteer.
The concept became moribund when the Taliban was driven away from Kabul. Now the wheel has come full circle with the incremental resuscitation of the project since 2005 running parallel to the Taliban's fantastic return to the Afghan chessboard. The proposed commissioning of TAPI coincides with the 2014 timeline for ending the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's “combat mission” in Afghanistan. The U.S. “surge” is concentrating on the Helmand and Kandahar provinces, through which TAPI will eventually run. What stunning coincidences!


In sum, TAPI is the finished product of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Its primary drive is to consolidate the U.S. political, military and economic influence in the strategic high plateau that overlooks Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and China.
On the map, the TAPI pipeline deceptively shows India as its final destination. What is overlooked, however, is that it can easily be extended to the Pakistani port of Gwadar and connected with European markets, which is the core objective.

The geopolitics of TAPI is rather obvious.
Pipeline security is going to be a major regional concern. The onus is on each of the transit countries. Part of the Afghan stretch will be buried underground as a safeguard against attacks and local communities will be paid to guard it. But then, it goes without saying Kabul will expect the U.S. and NATO to provide security cover, which, in turn, necessitates a long-term western military presence in Afghanistan.

Without doubt, the project will lead to a strengthening of the U.S. politico-military influence in South Asia.
The U.S. brought heavy pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad to spurn the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. The Indian leadership buckled under American pressure while dissimulating freedom of choice. Pakistan did show some defiance for a while.

Anyhow, the U.S. expects that once Pakistanis and Indians begin to chew the TAPI bone, they will cast the IPI into the dustbin. Pakistan has strong reasons to pitch for TAPI as it can stave off an impending energy crisis.

TAPI is in actuality a Silk Road project connecting Central Asia to the West via Gwadar, which will make Pakistan the U.S. gateway to Central Asia. Pakistan rightly estimates that alongside this enhanced status in the U.S. regional strategy comes the American commitment to help its economy develop and buttress its security needs in the long-term.

Anyone who does not get the geopolitics of the war in Afghanistan and still thinks it is primarily about an invasion based on a "humanitarian intervention " for human rights, a GWOT ( global war on terror ) is now is indulging in a form of wishful thinking that ignores the reality.

Droning On in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As the futile war in Afghanistan has fanned across into Pakistan, Mehdi Hasan has emphasised the human cost of drone attacks in The Guardian ( US drone attacks are no laughing matter, Mr Obama, 28 December 2010 )
Speaking at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in May, Barack Obama spotted teen pop band the Jonas Brothers in the audience. "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don't get any ideas," deadpanned the president, referring to his daughters. "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming." The crowd laughed, Obama smiled, the dinner continued. Few questioned the wisdom of making such a tasteless joke; of the US commander-in-chief showing such casual disregard for the countless lives lost abroad through US drone attacks.

From the moment he stepped foot inside the White House, Obama set about expanding and escalating a covert CIA programme of "targeted killings" inside Pakistan, using Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles (who comes up with these names?) that had been started by the Bush administration in 2004....

.....According to the New America Foundation thinktank in Washington DC, the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan more than doubled in 2010, to 115. That is an astonishing rate of around one bombing every three days inside a country with which the US is not at war.
Hasan continues,
These attacks by unmanned aircraft may have succeeded in eliminating hundreds of dangerous militants, but the truth is that they also kill innocent civilians indiscriminately and in large numbers.
True, but the blood price is considered "worth it" as the main geopolitical aim of the Afghan War is to gain hegemony in Central Asia and to that end the construction of the TAPI pipeline is a central objective in defeating those who Taliban insurgents who threaten that plan in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The evident facts are seldom emphasised in the mainstream media. But TAPI is a fact.

The latest from Pakistan's Daily Times reports,
US welcomes TAPI gas pipeline agreement

WASHINGTON: The United States has welcomed an agreement by regional countries on building a $7.6 billion pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan for onward supply to major South Asian economies Pakistan and India.
“We are pleased with the initial agreements that have been signed on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) project,” the State Department said on Saturday.

Spokesman Philip J Crowley said in response to a taken question that it is important to remember that pipelines are “long-term projects with long-term horizons and that the immense effort involved could produce long-term benefits for Turkmenistan and the region.”

“TAPI’s route may serve as a stabilising corridor, linking neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity,” the spokesman added

The TAPI pipeline is essential to diversify control of gas which can be in LNG form southwards away from Russian control ( benefittng the EU ) and to rival China's already existing pipeline to Turkmenistan. That way it can drive a wedge between China and Iran, blocking the rival IPI pipeline.

Whilst all this looks like shoddy realpolitik, it is a fact few want to face: the energy intensive consumption of fossil fuels in the US and EU ( rising especially in Central European states such as Poland which are developing rapidly ) means the New Great Game is inevitable.

As are the deaths of people caught in the middle. The real unmentioned "big issue" is how Western nations are going to wean themselves off fossil fuels and reduce the geostrategic imperatives driving Western nations into being bogged down in quagmires such as Afghanistan.

Otherwise there will be much more in future of this, as reported by Hasan,

....figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities suggest US strikes killed 701 people between January 2006 and April 2009, of which 14 were al-Qaida militants and 687 were civilians. That produces a hit rate of just 2% – or 50 civilians dead for every militant killed.
Even more disturbing will be the radicalisation of Pakistanis with migrant links to Britain who will attempt to redress the balance of terror and repay the blood price by bringing terror home. Not least as they see how Pakistan's regime genuflects to the UK whose war for a pipeline is a known fact.
The majority of Pakistanis are against the use of drones in the tribal areas on the Afghan border. Their own government, however, despite public opposition to the bombings, has in private expressed support for America's drones. "I don't care if they do it as long as they get the right people," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is quoted as saying, in a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks. "We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."
The reason for that is because the Pakistani elites believe the construction of TAPI will bring great economic benefits. As Pakistan's International The News reports,
The TAPI gas pipeline deal is extremely essential for Pakistan’s energy needs as Sui gas reserves are estimated to reach their verge of exhaustion by the year 2016. Keeping this in mind, new possibilities and ventures ought to be tried and this deal could not have come at any better time than now. It aims to supply 1,325 million cubic feet per day to Pakistan alone. Considering the current power crisis with load-shedding becoming a regular feature of our energy-starved lives, if professionally handled, this pipeline will give a direct boost to the slow and staggering economy of Pakistan by injecting the required energy into the industry that suffers shutdowns and closures due to lack of gas and electricity supplies.
Intractable conflicts look increasingly likely to be looming ahead.

Students and "The Never Ending Party".

The recent "demos" over the decision of the coalition government to make tuition fees all privately funded has seen lots of hyperbole and the usual idiots trying to claim that its time for a real revolution.

In response to a piece of rad right on journalism by Laurie Penny about the student rebellion in London, Alex Callinicos has been getting cross that he and his Trotskyist acolytes are not getting a fair share of the coverage.

The potty prof, a leading figure in the "Socialist Workers Party" wrote,
....the first real social movement Britain has seen since the early 1990s exploded in the dying weeks of 2010. It took the student protests – largely organised outside any official structures – to expose the deep fractures in a Conservative-Liberal coalition that had previously carried all before it.....
The student protests do not represent a "social movement" irrespective of the rightness or not of their cause. There is no broad backing from most of society and unlike 1968 the trade unions have not posited a general strike or unions seriously considered strikes in solidarity with the students.

The only chance direct action would have is if a broad swathe of society were prepared to go beyond individual and material self interest and act on a large scale in strike action which looks very unlikely to happen. The students have thrown up no eloquent leaders. Agree with the protests or not, these are the facts.

More importantly, many in the adult world cannot see why students should not pay for their own education if it is they who will benefit from it. The way students have acted makes the carnival style atmosphere of the protests just look like what students enjoy doing. And cancels out any serious points they could have made. It looks like they just want attention-"look at us we're having a revolution".

And much of it is the Grand March of Kitsch, to use Kundera's attempt to explain why radical movements tended to either to be either dangerous, in a context of totalitarianism, or simply ineffectual in free societies.

Education ought to equip citizens for life, to promote what is referred to as civil society and the interests that go beyond mere consumerism. Yet the frustration with society students complain about looks like boredom with the unwillingness to pay for an education in a university sector itself greatly expanded.

The quality of that education has gone down with expansion and it was used by New Labour to get more young people into university where many will do little work of a truly academic or serious nature. Fewer people believe that many students are not just "going to uni" because its a good time.
Penny's polemic was uncharacteristically ungenerous, picking out "sour-faced sellers of the Socialist Worker" as symbols of "the traditional hierarchies of the left", and comparing them to cockroaches. In fact, Socialist Worker has simply been where it has always been, in the thick of the struggle – with the students in 2010, as it was with the dockers in 1972, the miners in 1984, the Genoa protestors in 2001, and the anti-war marchers in 2003.
This is drivel. The SWP has simply tried to hijack protests and direct it towards a neo-Leninist and Trotskyist agenda that has little relevance to Britain in 2010 and which led to totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. The SWP has never ignited protest but has sought to co-ordinate them into "building the party" ready for "the revolution".

Callinicos has just seen an opening to try and convert the young to this cargo cult form of "socialism",which "seriously" talks of a revolution on the Leninist model, and does not want to be left behind by the new anarchical styles of struggle created by students. But, of course, it will merely end up with rich university students going into corporate work and poorer ones not.

The reason is that the 'neoliberal capitalist order' is what it is and the university system is now about training the young for a world of material gratification instead of getting people to think intelligently about how the country or the world could be improved as individuals. Those who do think just join think tanks to advance power agenda with unquestioning conformism.

Not "The Party".

The kitsch of Laurie Penny is here,

"This isn't just a student protest. It's a children's crusade: Those too young to vote, yet with their futures at stake, have organically come together to be heard".

What hell does it mean to "come together organically" ? Perhaps, spontaneously through twitter and so on. But that makes a flash mob. Not some "organic unity" of those organised to say a great no to a future of corporate work and consumerism. And still seen as "counterculture". Which often means just 'no culture'.
"Outside Downing Street, in front of a line of riot police, I am sitting beside a makeshift campfire. It's cold, and the schoolchildren who have skipped classes gather around as a student with a three-string guitar strikes up the chords to Tracy Chapman's Talkin Bout a Revolution."

'The diversity of the protest is extraordinary: white, black and Asian, rich and poor. Uniformed state-school girls in too-short skirts pose by a plundered police van as their friends take pictures, while behind them a boy in a mask holds a placard reading "Burn Eton".'

Diary.

Pondering on terrorism this morning on Facebook.

The original just has to be read to understand why Henning Mankell represents those who rationalise terror attacks in order to overcome their terror of them as opposed to understanding that some people are, in fact, evil and crazy. The "western world" had not humiliated Muslim countries. How did Sweden do that ?

Perhaps that's not so generous. As a crime writer he is obliged to plunge into the darker recesses of the human psyche. But he did not distinguish between the idea that these are the thoughts that can be thought and "this is what I think".

With these sorts of issues it's necessary to be careful in the language you use. Yoking together Afghanistan with the reason why this "lone wolf" terrorist tried to blow himself up is unnecessary.

I don't like the Afghanistan War either but it's bad form to try and use the potential threat of terrorism to register opposition to the war, as if Swedish presence was the clear motivating factor, or a crucial one. In which case there would have to be an explanation as to why no Serb has tried to kill people after the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999
.


...........

The fact is that it should be possible to criticise the war in Afghanistan without being seen to be siding "objectively" with fanatics. A position made difficult by neoconservative rhetoric-"you're either for us or against us" .But that hardly applies to Sweden which is in Afghanistan to help with the humanitarian operations. In reality, the war is about a pipeline, regional reconstruction and geopolitical control in Eurasia.

It might be that 'some' Muslims perceive Afghanistan as a war against fellow Muslims in intention. If so then this shows an ideology and form of identity politics at work and a refusal to look at facts. But its one reason why "humanitarian wars" are pointless and in Afghanistan's case it was never going to be won quickly, in fact never.


The problem with this new form of terror might be that it is just the reflection of a society in the higher realms of boredom.

For those confronted with a society based on total consumerism, the loss of identity, felt hard by those from religious backgrounds and where there is still an affinity for the lost "Muslim World", then out and out violence is one way of punishing docile consumers and society that reduces people to mere 'economic animals'. Not least if that consumerism is based on the car economy that derives from oil, most of which comes from lands living under dictatorships or repressive regimes that are dysfunctional e.g Saudi Arabia. A way of making consumers pay a blood price in this deranged scheme of things?


The mistake being made is that Al Qaida style violence is not organised by some hierarchy or chain of command. It is carried out by those who willingly buy into the psychopathology or accept the one I've outlined here. There are too many rationalisations of this violence by those trying to make partisan political points about aspects of "the system" they dislike. Mankell is somewhat like Sartre in this sense who used the terrorist protests of the Baader Meinhof to make points about the alienation under capitalism. Because he did not like capitalism and the USA's global power.

As for Mankell, his ability to "understand" the motives of the suicide bomber was not made clear because he linked it to Afghanistan. As a crime writer he was trying to probe the psychopathology of those who commit such acts.

The danger comes with rationalising terror in order to express one's own political viewpoints. Understanding criminal minds is one thing, using that to express a dislike of foreign policy ignores the fact that a new hyper identity has been created throughout Europe is about a power game. "We" are here and "we" will make you change this foreign policy.

Only the problem is that the foreign policy is based on easy supplies of cheap oil which are procured only through collusion with repressive regimes. With Western nations seen as complicit in that, only bringing terror into the belly of the beast is seen to provide the will force some change.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Notes on Islamism.

It has often been claimed that radical Islamists in Europe are petty fringe groups most not even anywhere near as popular nor as organised in Europe as Le Pen, BNP, Northern League, and the far right who win votes and are household names supported by hundreds of thousands of white Europeans.

The BNP have not had one MP. Respect had one MP called George Galloway and that was a part made up from and supported by those in the Muslim Association of Britain, those such as Anas Altikriti and Soumaya Ghannoushi who offered ideological rationalisations for Islamist revolutionary violence.

The mass mobilisation of Muslims based on agitation and propaganda has been far more effective than the BNP as it was backed by useful idiots on the so-called "anti-war" left who claimed to oppose "state terrorism" only to then go on to call those in Iraq murdering others as "resistance".

The fact that the US government along with the UK in Iraq ordered their forces to collude with Shia groups in killing other sectarian insurgents is the promotion of a dirty war and terror as well hardly justifies trying to rationalise bringing home that violence to the West.

There has as yet been no anti-war movement capable of making a case against these bad wars that has not been hijacked by ideological fanatics. Ghannoushi's shrill, sinister and militant position made it quite clear that Islamism entailed that Islam was a hyper identity that transcended borders.

Ghannoushi wrote in the Guardian ( Driving the world to insanity, Friday 11 August 2006 )
In this globalised age dominated by the power of the image, the notion of geography has almost been stripped of content. Tragedies in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and other faraway lands enter our homes and settle into the fabric of our daily lives. They can no longer be kept away, to rage in distant lands and devour obscure nations. They inevitably spill over our shores, cities and villages, lay bare our vulnerability and put an end to our sense of immunity.
There is is nothing ' inevitable' about the terrorism or carnage in the Middle East being visited upon the West unless one is prepared to ascribe all forms of Islamist militancy and terrorism as a reflex action to "racism" and "imperialism" within Europe, with Muslims posited as some new 'wretched of the earth'.

The more fringe radical Islamist sects of Hizb ut Tahrir have been less important in that sense than those Islamo-Bolsheviks who attempted to penetrate the mainstream and who have continued to try and gain political influence through presuming to speak up for the ummah as a politic-religious entity.

Movements such as the MAB and Respect used the language of the Western anti-imperial left to regenerate militancy and play on the spectre of a revolt of Muslims against imperialism to force a change in foreign policy and make strident demands upon the basis of group rights in a dangerously divisive way.

Respect was never simply a coalition of "reactionary" Islamists, though many were just that. Those like Salma Yaqoob were progressives and turned to Islamism as it offered a way of making sense of the world. The 7/7 bombings were thus "reprisal attacks" for the invasion of Iraq.

What was important was to mobilise Muslims as a political force by explaining away terror attacks as merely a reaction to imperialism that just would not have happened had "the West" not oppressed the "Muslim World" as it had since the decline of the Ottoman Empire from the eighteenth century.

By using the veiled threat of further violence which was never justified but always by some lofty metaphysical process merely "explained" or "understandable" , that could be used to ratchet up tensions in such a way as to advance Islamist agendas and "community" spokesmen to power.

This remained the problem. Having agitated for Muslims to identify with the global ummah, grievances can be universally transferred from the Muslim World to the West and from nation to nation within a Western Europe that had rejected and trashed its own enduring cultural inheritance and civilisation.

Exposing and dissecting the psychopathology behind Islamo-Bolshevism is both what is needed in the battle of ideas no less than to prevent terrorism through finding alternatives to oil and gas, the backing of despotic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, foolish interventionist policies and curtailing mass immigration.

All of these factors are interrelated but never discussed as such as its too painful to admit the real and potentially intractable nature of conflicts that have grown up primarily due to the West being dangerously dependent upon the oil that fuels consumer growth at the expense of those living in the "Muslim World".

Reflections on the Stockholm Suicide Bombing.

Following the botched suicide bomb attack in Stockholm on 11 December 2010, when two bombs exploded killing the bomber and injuring two people, there have been the usual efforts at "damage limitation" by those offering spurious explanations as to the reason for such attacks.
This is the first suicide bomber in Scandinavia and I am surprised that so many are – surprised. It reminds me of when the passenger jets crashed into the towers in New York. I never understood the surprise that followed. Wasn't this exactly what we had expected?

A situation where the extreme, the desperate and the furious attacked the western world that for so long had humiliated Muslim countries. An attack that would be understandable but nevertheless wrong and worthy of condemnation.
For a start the Al Qaida terrorists that attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11 were those like Mohammed Atta who was a privileged architecture student who was from a relatively well to do family in Egypt who has spent much time in Europe after studying at Hamburg University. He was not the 'wretched of the earth'.

The absurdity of Henning Mankell's position, in The Guardian todayis in his contorted attempts to "understand" why the Stockholm Bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab, could have wanted to murder so many people when it would be far better to concentrate on the 'how' and call for better police methods to stop such lunatics.
The Swedish artist Lars Vilks, for example, has ridiculed Islam and the Prophet in some of his work. It was well known that some people wanted to kill him, but no one really believed that the threat would mean something even more serious.

However, many people in Sweden seem unable to grasp that by having troops in Afghanistan we are now the enemies of the extremists. Our troops should never have been sent there. I am not saying that I am afraid of extremists. But I do not want Swedish soldiers to fight a war that is not ours, but that of the United States'.
The bomber's motives remain that of a man with a "transferable grievance" . In a deracinated and atomised society in the West, the Iraqi-born Islamist could have found any number of pretexts to blow himself up. Mankell is simply trying to rationalise terrorism here to assuage the sense of fear.

This is what Christopher Caldwell referred to in his Reflections on the Revolution in Europe as 'fear masquerading as tolerance'. For Swedish liberals it is simply incomprehensible that ideological fanatics might well want to murder Swedish citizens as Sweden has been so nice the developing world.

As a result he believes that Swedish troops should not be in Afghanistan as it is not "their war" and effectively makes Sweden a target no less than the USA was on 9/11. But obviously the bomber explicitly mentioned Lars Vilks as a reason to kill those who "insult Islam" before throwing in Afghanistan for good measure.

Mentioning Afghanistan was necessary as part of "the propaganda of the deed", to give mass murder in Stockholm more credence amongst other Muslims in Sweden, stimulate a disproportionate response, ramp up hatred and entrench fault lines between Swedish Muslims and the rest of the population.
If Abdulwahab's deed could have achieved that, it is partly due to the immigration policies of the Swedish government in encouraging it throughout the 1990s on such a huge scale without thought for how such numbers could be assimilated to do the jobs a cosseted populace no longer wanted to do at the going rate of payment.

In Sweden the policy of mass migration was followed by the ghettoisation of poorer Muslims on estates in ugly concrete blocks in Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg throughout that decade, at a time when the Swedish economy was losing jobs in manufacturing and shipbuilding, was hardly a wise policy.

In 2008 there were riots in the Rosengard district of Malmo, which led sociologist Aje Carlbom to warn that such "enclavisation" provided fertile ground for Islamists and that "Swedish society doesn't understand what's going on because of the climate of tolerance". Tolerance meaning fear, indifference or distance from reality.

As regards Afghanistan, it is true that this struggle necessarily involves NATO states contributing to a war that kills Muslims which can potentially radicalise those for whom migration is a form of compensation for the Muslim world whose harmony has been destroyed by greedy energy intensive Western states.

The contours of the new psychopathological conflicts that seem set to lead to intractable problems in the 21st century are emerging. Afghanistan is part of a struggle to get the TAPI pipeline built, part of a geopolitical strategy to integrate the economies of the region and ensure diversity of gas supplies.

In that sense, Sweden has as much interest in supporting the War in Afghanistan as any other state in the West increasingly dependent upon diminishing supplies to shore up economies reliant on fossil fuels to keep the consumer hyper-economy going. Islamists have been prepared to make the connections that secular progressives have not.

No matter what good intentions Sweden had in joining the effort by the West to ensure development in Afghanistan, it is sure to be resented by those who rationalise their loss of identity and hatred for the consumerist decadence of the West that is all around with pornography and 'sexual freedom' into violence.

Yet Swedish presence in Afghanistan is merely but one pretext in a wider collection of grievances, so calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan simply to appease Islamist violence is imprudent. Withdrawal could be justified simply because the war is futile, cannot be won and adds to anti-Western feeling. But it does not cause it.

The mixture of greed and guilt that drives much of what states such as Sweden and other European liberal states is assisting in the potential for conflict. Permitting thousands of immigrants from Iraq and "the Muslim World" to settle is not necessarily any guarantee that Sweden will be loved for such gestures after its ally smashed Iraq in the first place.

With 'liberal' immigration policies connected with granting asylum to refugees from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Eastern Turkey ( Kurdistan ) and Bosnia and Kosovo, Sweden had a Muslim population between 20,000 and 400,000 by 2000 before the additional influx due to the US invasion of Iraq.

In itself that is no reason to assume "clash of civilisations" is inevitable. Yet the way that Muslims in Sweden are classified as "ethnic Muslims", in such a way as to conflate race with religion and contribute towards the construction on of Islam as a hyper-identity that goes beyond mere religious affiliation and practice.

At the same time unless the West weans itself off oil and gas from dangerous lands in the Middle East and finds alternatives it is going to be dragged into intractable conflicts that will get worse as competition for ever scarcer fossil fuels leads to more meddling in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Muslim organisations need to put together a plan of action for how to work in schools and in study circles to be able to deal with the growing Islamophobia that we face in Sweden and many other western countries. And for this they should have the full support of the Swedish government.
Reflexive waffle about "Islamophobia" without even understanding the reason why the West is hated so viscerally in the first place has led only to more assertions of Western guilt, whilst the continuing call for harmonious multicultural togetherness in a rootless consumer society fuelled by oil from Muslim lands looks increasingly a recipe for division and strife.

Those like Mankell ought to avoid rationalisations for terrorism, not least with regards what seems at this moment to be a "lone wolf attack", that provide windy "explanations" for why Sweden might have been a target because of it being in Afghanistan. The driving forces of Islamist terrorism are more complicated and more disturbing.

For nothing is more reassuring than the believe that only if "we" in the West did more to prevent war and conflict or did the right thing, then it would cease to be a target. Avoiding being bogged down in conflicts in Muslim lands is only one part of staving off domestic discontent but Islamism in the West has its own history and development.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why are 100,000 US Troops Fighting in Afghanistan ? It's All In the Pipeline.

The reason Obama will not explain why US troops are coming home in coffins and so much blood and treasure has been sunk in Afghanistan is obvious: the Afghanistan War is being fought to build the TAPI pipeline and this is not seen as the correct narrative to market as "public diplomacy"

Simon Tisdall writing for The Guardian today merely confirms the fact that the task of those in the media is to frame the debate in accordance with the narrow confines set by the powerful which never encompasses the real reasons why Afghanistan has now dragged on for almost a decade since Bush's invasion in late 2001
Veteran foreign policy analyst Leslie Gelb, writing in the Daily Beast, said Obama can no longer persuasively answer the basic question: why are 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, at an annual cost of $113bn?".

Afghanistan is no longer a vital interest of the United States but continuing the war there tears at our own nation's very vitals," Gelb said, arguing that international terrorism now has many bases, including Stockholm and London, and is no longer centred in the Hindu Kush...

Given the war has not been about the Global War on Terror ( GWOT ) for some time, the remaining reason for "staying the course" is to defeat the Taliban in Helmland through which the TAPI pipeline will run through. When British troops were coming home in body bags, no attempt was made to tell the truth about this.

In previous months the governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have been negotiating the finalised pipeline deal. The BBC reported on December 11 2010 ( Turkmen natural gas pipeline Tapi to cross Afghanistan )
A deal has been struck on building a 1,700km (1,050m) pipeline to carry Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The Tapi project aims to feed energy-deprived South Asian markets and transit fees may benefit Afghanistan.
The transit fees are intended to benefit Afghanistan and transform it into an energy bridge. This has been obvious for long.

Less obvious is why the media has been so unwilling to discuss the pipeline which was a key objective from the outset of the war after Hamid Karzai, a former advisor to Unocal whose minister for reconstruction, Amin Farhang was candid about the West's backing for the pipeline.

Lutz Kleveman's The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, written back in 2003, reported that Farhang said,
"the pipeline project is a done deal. Some big oil companies want to get into business with us. ...Finally, after years of waiting Afghanistan will become an important transit country in Central Asia"
TAPI was posited back then as a means of generating 12,000 jobs and up to $300m in transit fees per year. As transport routes through the south Caucasus remained risky and Iran was considered an implacable opponent, the pipeline offered what was believed to be a viable alternative.

This was as true under Bill Clinton as under George Bush, whose Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad as Kleveman emphasised "had previously worked for Unocal on a an elaborate risk analysis for the Afghan pipeline".

The continuities in US foreign policy since the 1990s to 2010 are more striking than any real change which has lain more in the nature of the tactics. Despite what pipeline deniers argue, the USA could not have done a deal with the Taliban as it did harbour Al Qaida.

Yet the Taliban and Al Qaida were never the same. When Unocal placed its plans on hold, right wing think tanks such as the Rand Corporation condemned the Taliban. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave the necessary pretext to destroy Al Qaida and get the pipeline built.

Shortly before 9/11 a US Department of Energy Report cited "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from central Asia to the Arabian Sea"

These vital energy interests were never going to be rejected by Obama. An important foreign policy advisor has been Zbigniew Brzezinski who played an instrumental part in energy politics and who has always seen the geostrategic imperative of US foreign policy to be dominating Central Asia.

The need to secure this route explains why NATO troops are still there. As EurasiaNet reported,
Gran Hewad, a political researcher with the Afghan Analysts Network, said the security challenge would be significant, but added that Kabul might have the political will and a powerful economic incentive to keep the Taliban away from TAPI.

“The route through Herat and Kandahar is not so difficulty for the Afghan National Security Forces to control,” Hewad claimed. “US military progress will likely improve along the route, it's a very strategic interest, and support from the local population population can also increase.”
On December 18 2010 the US formally came out in support of the TAPI deal, as reported in Business Journal ( US says pleased with TAPI agreement )
The US has said it is pleased with a recent agreement on an ambitious four-nation gas pipeline involving India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, hoping that the multi-billion-dollar project would change the face of the economic condition of the region.

"We are pleased with the initial agreements that have been signed on the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) project," the State Department said.

"It is important to remember that pipelines are long-term projects with long-term horizons, and that the immense effort involved could produce long-term benefits for Turkmenistan and the region," it said.

TAPI's route may serve as a stabilising corridor, linking neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity, it said.

"The road ahead is long for this project, but the benefits could be tremendous," the State Department said in response to a question.