Friday, September 23, 2016
“Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him — it is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”– Omarosa Manigault, speaking in “The Choice 2016,” a Frontline episode about the presidential candidates airing this coming Tuesday, September 27, at 9 PM Eastern
Monday, September 19, 2016
“Our NATO ally is bent on destroying the Kurds of Rojava, the Syrian force with the most democratic, pluralistic, and feminist vision.”
This is an outstanding article by Meredith Tax in The Nation: “Turkey Is Supporting the Syrian Jihadis Washington Says It Wants to Fight.” I’ve excerpted enough to convey the general argument, but I recommend reading the entire article to see the evidence Tax presents. As I suggested a year ago, what happens in the area around Jarabulus will play a large role in determining the fate of the world.
What political choices can the United States make in the Middle East? Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria and subsequent attacks on Rojava—the three autonomous cantons set up by Syrian Kurds—raise this question, but so far the answer has been framed only in terms of military alliances and realpolitik. But as many have said, the appeal of ISIS and Al Qaeda has to be countered ideologically, not just militarily. This cannot happen without a compelling alternative model. Rojava, with its vision of egalitarian democratic inclusivity, is trying to establish a new paradigm for the Middle East—but so far Washington has seen the Syrian Kurds only in military terms and is short-changing future possibilities because of a misplaced deference to zero-sum ethnic rivalries and the so-called “moderate Islamism” of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.* I haven’t included the numerous links in Tax’s article here, but this is the link to the report she describes.
On August 24, Turkey invaded Jarabulus, a Syrian border town held by ISIS, with great fanfare: several hundred Turkish soldiers, twenty tanks, and 1,500 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters from Islamist militias. In reality, the whole battle was a fake. ISIS had quietly left town several days before, and the difference between this and their usual behavior convinced some observers, particularly the Kurds, that their exit was coordinated with Ankara.
While the mainstream media saw that Erdogan’s real purpose was to go after the Kurds, and noted that it is problematic for the United States to be allied with two parties that are fighting each other, US coverage of Syria has overwhelmingly focused on either the war or state politics. It has thus failed to look hard at the Erdogan government’s support of jihadis, or to ask what they have in common—whether or not Turkey is a NATO member.
A lot of the mainstream media covered “Operation Euphrates Shield” as if Turkey were actually fighting ISIS. Echoing Turkish press releases, CNN said, “Turkey sends tanks into Syria against ISIS; rebels reportedly capture town.” The made-for-TV battle had been scripted down to camera angles (pool reporters were confined to one hill): bombs dropping, puffs of smoke in the distance, even footage of scouts peering into living rooms, searching for the enemy. Few seemed to notice that not a shot was fired. Operation Euphrates Shield was thus a startling contrast to earlier battles fought by the Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Kobane and Manbij, where combat went house to house, deadly and prolonged, and hundreds of lives were lost to ISIS snipers, booby traps, mines, incendiary bombs, and suicide attacks.
The BBC did say that the Turkish invaders met “little resistance,” but it was left to the Voice of America News to express surprise that ISIS had “essentially conceded one of its last strategic border towns,” quoting former intelligence officer Michael Pregent to the effect that the Turkish takeover had been too easy and would end up benefiting ISIS: “What Turkey has done is give ISIS the space to regroup. They basically halted the Kurdish forces from destroying ISIS.”
Meanwhile, from positions nearby, furious members of the Jarabulus Military Council of the SDF, who had wanted to capture Jarabulus themselves but had been put off by the United States, watched the charade….
While it is not possible to prove that Turkey let ISIS fighters slip back into Jarabulus in FSA uniforms, Turkey supports so many salafi-jihadi militias that ISIS members would not have stood out….
In fact, Erdogan’s support of salafi-jihadi groups is an open secret despite extreme government censorship….
Turkey’s relationship with ISIS has also been scrutinized, though little of the research has been picked up by the US media….
On June 29, Eren Erdem of the CHP made a speech in the Turkish Parliament detailing evidence contained in 400 pages of documents about the government’s dealings with ISIS. He said ISIS had sleeper cells in fourteen Turkish towns and that the man behind the 2015 Ankara bombing was known to MIT, which had tapped his phones and watched as he facilitated the entrance of nearly 2,000 jihadis into Syria without arresting him even once.
Two months after Erdem’s speech, Turkey marched into Jarabulus to replace ISIS with FSA jihadis, who immediately began to attack the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish government has already been at war with the Kurds in its own southeast since last year, killing civilians and leveling towns on such a scale that a war crimes lawsuit has been filed in Germany. Why would they want to open a second front in Syria?
Because the Syrian Kurds were making too much progress.
On August 13, two weeks before the Turkish invasion, the SDF finally drove ISIS out of Manbij after a ferocious battle that lasted months. Residents of Manbij, mostly women and children, were ecstatic at being freed from ISIS, and soon pictures spread over the Internet of women burning their burqas and men cutting off their beards. The Rojava women’s liberation movement’s umbrella organization, Kongreya Star, collected stories of ISIS mistreatment and rushed to publish a report* calling for support from world feminists.
This was not the kind of liberation that Turkey and the FSA had in mind.
So on August 24, Turkey invaded Syria with its favorite FSA factions. The same day, at a joint press conference, Joe Biden ordered the Kurds to retreat from Manbij and stay out of Jarabulus or lose American military aid. No wonder they feel betrayed.
Under American pressure, the YPG-YPJ moved east of the Euphrates River just as Biden had told them to. General Votel said on August 30, “They have lived up to their commitment to us,” though that doesn’t mean the Kurds were happy about it. The YPG issued a statement saying that, having completed their mission of liberating Manbij, they had withdrawn their troops, leaving the city in the hands of the Manbij Military Council, which is largely Arab. This fact was confirmed by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Nevertheless, Erdogan continued to claim that the Kurds still held Manbij. With this excuse, Turkish-supported FSA forces attacked villages south of Jarabulus and, on August 31, Turkey began bombing YPG-YPJ headquarters in Afrin.
While many Western commentators see the conflict in ethnic or religious terms—Arab versus Kurd, Sunni versus secularist—clearly Erdogan sees no significant difference between the Rojava Kurds and any Arabs who support their paradigm of autonomy, pluralism, and feminism. Both are a threat to his dreams of regional Islamist hegemony. For this reason if no other, the Rojava revolution deserves the attention of anyone in the region looking for a way to move past wars, ethnic cleansing campaigns, theocracies, and dictatorships.
The Rojava revolution began in 2011, during the Syrian uprising, when 5,000 members of the People’s Democratic Union (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish party allied with Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), came home. They quickly consolidated a liberated area on the Syria-Turkey border consisting of three cantons: Cizire, Kobane, and Afrin. There they set up local councils and began to put into practice the feminist, democratic, and pluralist ideas advanced by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Founded in the 1970s as a classic Marxist national liberation movement with a strategy of people’s war, since the 1990s the PKK has transformed itself into a leading component of a Kurdish liberation movement able to combine self-defense with civil resistance, parliamentary work, and community organizing. It has also renounced its earlier goal of a separate Kurdish state, saying that it prefers regional autonomy in a democratic system. Its vision of social revolution is a powerfully democratic and pluralistic one in which women play a leading role, as they do in the Kurdish militias—every organization in Rojava must be at least 40 percent women, and all administration is led by co-chairs, one male and one female.
By , the Pentagon had decided the Kurds were their only hope of a reliable ally in Syria, and decided to enlist them in building a new army to fight ISIS: the Syrian Democratic Forces, which united the YPG-YPJ with Arab militias, principally the “Euphrates Volcano,” made up of fighters who had escaped Raqqa after it was seized by ISIS. When the SDF liberated Tal Abyad in June 2015, it became possible to connect the two eastern Kurdish cantons of Kobane and Cizire, but the smallest canton, Afrin, far to the west, is still cut off by a strip of land controlled by ISIS—a strip containing both Manbij and Jarabulus. And Afrin is now under attack not only by ISIS but also by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) and Turkey.
In addition, since the battle of Kobane, all three cantons have been starved of food, medical supplies, and building materials by a Turkish embargo on one border and an Iraqi Kurdish embargo by Massoud Barzani’s forces—which are Turkey’s allies and economic dependents—on the other. They have also been under constant attack by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other Islamist militias. And Turkey is now trying to build a wall to isolate them further.
Very little about any of this has appeared in US mainstream media. One reason is the complexity and unfamiliarity of the story and the difficulty of access in a war zone—particularly since the Iraqi Kurds won’t let freelance reporters through their border checkpoint into Syria. A larger problem is that most commentators see the story through the lens of great-power politics and do not focus on changes happening on the ground in Rojava—particularly changes in ethnic relations and the position of women—and what these could mean for the region.
The United States is now being pressed by Turkey to disavow its alliance with the Kurds, but as General Votel said in an August 30 press conference, Kurdish fighters are too valuable. They are the only ground troops who have been able to defeat ISIS. But even if the Pentagon is committed to a military alliance with the Syrian Kurds, military support is not enough. Rojava is caring for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees despite an embargo that prevents food and supplies from coming in. Its people deserve political, economic, and humanitarian support.
Military supporters of the Syrian Kurds should ask themselves, How much of their success is due to the fact that they do not lock women up or push them to the back? Rojava and PKK women not only have their own militias, some even lead units that include men. Since ISIS enslaves women, these units are highly motivated.
In the long term, wouldn’t it make sense for the United States, for once, to help a project that is actually progressive and democratic? Turkey is supporting the jihadis Washington says it wants to fight. So why should Washington keep bowing to Turkey’s hatred and fear of the Kurds? A strong and united Rojava could not only help defeat ISIS but could become an experimental model of pluralistic, democratic, and feminist policies for the entire Middle East.
That’s just what Turkey is afraid of.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Thursday, September 8, 2016
“I have to tell you about losers. I love losers because they make me feel so good about myself.”- Donald Trump, delivering a “motivational speech” to an audience in Colorado in 2005 (quoted in David Cay Johnston, The Making of Donald Trump, Chapter 3: “Personal Values”)
“Get even. If somebody screws you, you screw ‘em back ten times over. At least you can feel good about it. Boy, do I feel good.”
Mother Jones has a running feature called The Trump Files. Entries related to the quotes above include “Why Donald Called His 4-Year-Old Son a ‘Loser’,” “Donald Dumped Wine on an ‘Unattractive Reporter’,” and “When Donald Took Revenge by Cutting Off Health Coverage for a Sick Infant” (this episode is described in detail in Chapter 4 of Johnston’s book).
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
From the Citizen Therapists’ Manifesto against Trumpism:
As psychotherapists practicing in the United States, we are alarmed by the rise of the ideology of Trumpism, which we see as a threat to the well-being of the people we care for and to American democracy itself. We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism. We can leverage this time of crisis to deepen our commitment to American democracy.
We must speak out for the well-being of people we treat and care for in our work. Trumpism will undermine the emotional health of those seen as the “other” in America—both historically denigrated groups and those whose turn will come. And it will compromise the integrity of those who are seduced by the illusion that real Americans can only become winners if others become losers. The public rhetoric of Trumpism normalizes what therapists work against in our work: the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities and then battle these others instead of taking the healthier but more difficult path of self-awareness and self-responsibility. It also normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the examined life and healthy relationships that psychotherapy helps people achieve. Simply stated, Trumpism is inconsistent with emotionally healthy living—and we have to say so publicly.
We must speak out for the well-being of our democracy, which is both a way of living and acting together and a set of political institutions. Therapists have taken for granted how our work relies on a democratic tradition that gives people a sense of personal agency to create new narratives and take personal and collective responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities. Reliance on a Strong Man who will solve our problems and deal with internal and external enemies is a direct threat to the democratic basis of psychotherapy. Therapy only flourishes on democratic soil.
…[A]s citizen therapists we stand united against the dangerous ideology of Trumpism, and we encourage others to join us in a deepened commitment to a democratic way of life that engages the talents, yearnings, and capacities of all the people.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
From Kurdish Daily News:
BEHDINAN (ANF) – KCK Executive Council Co-Presidency released a statement about the coup attempt in Turkey.This article is also worth reading.
The statement said; “There has been a coup attempt by persons whose identity and purpose is yet not clear. It grabs attention that this attempt comes at a time when Tayyip Erdoğan will reportedly assign generals close to himself during the military council meeting set to take place soon. The fact that this coup attempt has been made in a process that witnesses discussions on the fascist AKP government’s foreign policy, is another dimension of this coup.”
COUP ATTEMPT IS PROOF OF LACK OF DEMOCRACY
The statement by KCK reads; “No matter within which internal and external political factors and focuses, and for what reasons a power struggle is waged, this case is not a matter of defending or not defending democracy. On the contrary, this situation is the proof of lack of democracy in Turkey. Such power struggles and attempts to seize the power once possible, are witnessed in undemocratic countries where an authoritarian power makes coup attempts to overthrow another authoritarian power when conditions are appropriate. This is what has happened in Turkey.
A COUP HAD BEEN STAGED ON JUNE 7 ELECTIONS
One year ago, Tayyip Erdoğan and the Palace Gladio staged a coup on the June 7 election results by taking along the MHP, all the fascists, the nationalist military powers figured as Ergenekon and a part of the army. This was a palace coup against the democratic will revealed by the people. The AKP fascism made an alliance with all fascist powers and a part of the army including the Chief of Defence in order to suppress the Kurdish Freedom Movement and democracy powers. The AKP fascism drove the army into Kurdish cities and towns, made them burn the cities to the ground and massacre hundreds of civilians. Furthermore, it enacted laws to disallow the trial of the military for the crimes they have committed.
COUP ATTEMPT OF A MILITARY FACTION AGAINST ANOTHER MILITARY FACTION
There already existed a military tutelage before the coup attempt made yesterday; which makes the current case an attempt of coup by a military faction against the existing military faction. This is the reason why those wanting the army to stage a coup so far have accepted the existing military tutelage and taken sides with Tayyip Erdoğan.
The fact that MHP and chauvinistic nationalist circles took sides with the Palace Gladio and its fascist allies reveals quite clearly that this is not an incident of struggle between those siding with democracy and those standing against it.
PORTRAYING ERDOĞAN AS DEMOCRATIC AFTER THE COUP ATTEMPT IS A DANGEROUS APPROACH
Portraying Tayyip Erdoğan and the fascist AKP dictator as if they were democratic after this coup attempt is an approach even more dangerous than the coup attempt itself. Portraying the fight for power among authoritarian, despotic and anti-democratic forces as a fight between the supporters and enemies of democracy would only serve to legitimize the existing fascist and despotic government.
DEMOCRACY FORCES DO NOT SIDE WITH EITHER CAMP
Turkey does not have a civilian group in power, or a struggle of democracy forces against coup plotters. The current fight is on who should lead the current political system, which is the enemy of democracy and Kurdish people. Therefore, democracy forces do not side with either camp during these clashes.
IF THERE IS A COUP AGAINST DEMOCRACY, IT IS THE ONE CARRIED OUT BY THE FASCIST AKP
If there is a coup against democracy, it is the one carried out by the fascist AKP government. Political power’s control over the judiciary, the implementation of fascist laws and policies through a parliamentarian majority, the removal of parliamentarians’ immunities, the arrest of co-mayors, the removal of co-mayors from their positions, and the imprisonment of thousands of politicians from the HDP and DBP constitute more of an actual coup. Kurdish people are under unprecedented genocidal, fascist, and colonialist attacks in Kurdistan.
AKP GOVERNMENT DRAGS TURKEY INTO SUCH CLASHES
What has brought Turkey to this stage is the AKP government, which has transformed into a government of war against Kurdish people and the forces of democracy. With its monistic, hegemonic and anti-democratic character, it has kept Turkey in chaos and conflict. With its war against Kurdish people and the forces of democracy, it has kept Turkey in a state of civil war. The latest coup attempt shows that Turkey needs to get rid of the fascist AKP government and have a democratic government. The recent developments make it urgent for Turkey to democratize and get rid of its monist, hegemonic and fascist government.
Within this framework, forces of democracy should stand up against the legitimization of the fascist AKP government’s policies under the disguise of democracy, and create a democratic alliance that would democratize Turkey. This coup attempt makes it necessary for us to not slow down the struggle against AKP fascism but to enhance it so that chaos and clashes in Turkey come to an end and a new and democratic Turkey emerges.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Resist, My People, Resist ThemThis is an English translation of the work by Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour for which she was arrested by the Israeli government for alleged “incitement to violence,” jailed, and then placed under house arrest with no internet access. Her next hearing is on Monday. She faces a five-year prison sentence.
Resist, my people, resist them.
In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows
And carried the soul in my palm
For an Arab Palestine.
I will not succumb to the “peaceful solution,”
Never lower my flags
Until I evict them from my land.
I cast them aside for a coming time.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the settler’s robbery
And follow the caravan of martyrs.
Shred the disgraceful constitution
Which imposed degradation and humiliation
And deterred us from restoring justice.
They burned blameless children;
As for Hadil, they sniped her in public,
Killed her in broad daylight.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist the colonialist’s onslaught.
Pay no mind to his agents among us
Who chain us with the peaceful illusion.
Do not fear doubtful tongues;
The truth in your heart is stronger,
As long as you resist in a land
That has lived through raids and victory.
So Ali called from his grave:
Resist, my rebellious people.
Write me as prose on the agarwood;
My remains have you as a response.
Resist, my people, resist them.
Resist, my people, resist them.
A petition to free Tatour organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY has been signed by numerous Pulitzer and Guggenheim recipients.
In the US, the rightists in the Democratic Party are doing their best to support and conceal the crimes of the Israeli government.
True to form, though, the Republicans have managed to be worse.