The Right of Self-Defense

In the past week alone, countless acts of terror have taken place against Muslims. In Quebec, a white terrorist opened fire on worshipers and murdered six people. In Victoria, Texas, the mosque was destroyed in a clear act of arson, where the Jews of Victoria have offered their synagogue to the Muslim community in an act of generosity. And on Sunday, one of the U$ assassination squads (SEAL team 6) slaughtered multiple children in Yemen (including an 8-year-old American girl, if you happen to care about Americans more than people from Yemen).

Needless to say, we are facing an emboldened and renewed campaign of terrorism against Muslims around the world. And, of course, the encouraged (actually, insisted) response by general society is that we should not defend ourselves. Of course, I agree with Malcolm on this point. If we say that people of color, women, trans/queer people, and Muslims should defend themselves, there is an uproar that we’re “calling for violence”. I have yet to hear anyone call for violence – we’re calling for self-defense.

If we’re living in a society where Nazis can walk right into mosques and start shooting at people in prayer, then we ought to have the right to defend ourselves. As Malcolm put it: “I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self-defense; I call it intelligence.”

This applies globally as well. Saudi Arabia (along with the U$ and England) has launched one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of the century by invading and destroying one of the poorest countries in the world – Yemen. Bombs rain from the skies over Sanaa, but any attempt to arm the people of Yemen is rejected. Why? Because apparently everyone in Yemen is an agent of Iran (and, therefore, worthy of death).

This justifies assassination of all the men, women, and children of the country.

Who is to blame? Well, the obvious answer would be the bloated clown running the U$ (voted in by 62,985,105 Amerikkkans). But it isn’t that easy, of course, because we know that Obama was the one who started the assault on Yemen. While he was feeding everyone bullshit about the Arab Spring, he saw fit to murder innocent people in Yemen the “most extraordinary global terrorism campaign in history” for doing nothing more than being apart of the Arab Spring. The line can be drawn pretty clearly back to European colonialism.

In all times and places, the violence is supposed to flow down the hierarchy. The enormous empires try to dominate tiny countries in order to maintain hegemony. Anyone who tries to resist is exterminated and anyone who silently goes along with the program is kept in treachery, unless bribery is the only way to extract resources.

The Saudis go along with the program and are handsomely rewarded, whereas when Iran tried to stand up and reclaim its dignity, the West responded with terror and destruction. All the while, the media is the West has adeptly avoided talking about the invasion of Yemen. Coverage of the war might lead to pesky questions, such as the obvious: why shouldn’t the Houthis have arms?

Back in the West, terror continues mostly in the shadows.

The terrorism that takes place against Muslims is often ignored, because it doesn’t play into xenophobic, racist portrayals of groups at risk in Western society.

The first mosque I ever visited was in 2011. Almost immediately when I went downstairs I noticed black marks on the walls under the windows. When I asked people what had happened, they responded (very calmly) that someone had thrown two Molotov cocktails through the windows. This is the reality that Muslims are living with in the U$.

And the expectation is that we’re supposed to allow this reality to continue?

This is where we ought to make it clear that we will defend ourselves. There are those who call for full gun control and want to make it impossible for anyone to own guns (except the government, of course). This seems like an odd way of confronting the world as it is. Guns exist already and people have access to them already. No matter your position on gun control, it would be insanity for vulnerable people to remain unarmed as Nazis and fascists are arming themselves to the teeth.

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There is a Youtube channel run by a Sikh man named Gursant Singh. He is an American convert to Sikhism and often talks about the conditions faced by Sikhs in the U$. Let’s not forget the massacre five years ago at a gurdwara in Wisconsin, when a Alt-Right Nazi walked into the Sikh Temple and shot ten people, killing six.

Obama never even visited, despite being sure to visit other sites of mass shootings.

Gursant Singh called for all Sikhs to arm themselves and be prepared at all times. He pointed out, correctly, that Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims (due to their turbans and beards) and that they were, therefore, walking targets. This demonstrates the successful demonization of Muslims and the general ignorance of Amerikans.

Si vis pacem, para bellum. – “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

This is an old Latin adage that I endorse wholeheartedly.

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The Crisis in Aleppo

What are we going to do about Aleppo?”

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This question seems to be thrown around a lot at the moment now that the Syrian government is reclaiming control of the city. There are, however, a number of problems with this question.

The first glaring problem is the use of the pronoun “we”. If, by “we”, you mean the Syrian people, then perhaps you have some ground to stand on. If, by “we”, you mean the governments of the West, then “we”, instead of “doing” something, need rather to think about the consequences of “our” actions.

Aleppo is in a crisis, unquestionably. The fact is that Aleppo has been in a crisis for five years. So let’s rewind to 2011 in order to understand how we got here.

When the Arab Spring protests began and spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, they were supported almost universally (including by myself) as displaying the political potential of people who had previously been deemed as “anti-democratic” or at least “undemocratic”. The rhetoric in the West has often centered around this virulent strain of Euro-centric “enlightened” thought.

For years (especially after the invasion of Iraq), pundits in the West got away with absurdly racist statements like:

The problem with Iraq was that the Arabs needed a dictator to keep them in line. They don’t understand liberal democracy. They have a violent religion. These people have been fighting each other for thousands of years.

In 2011, this presumption was decisively shattered as it became clear that real political representation was what the Arabs were dreaming about.

That also means that Iraq wasn’t thrown into a civil war because Arabs need a dictator, but rather because a brutal invasion and occupation by an imperial power fractured an already unstable society in a nation-state that was constructed to fail from the beginning.

There are a couple of lessons that we should have learned from Iraq.

You can’t terrorize a population into democracy.

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So in 2011, the initially peaceful protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria were seen as opportunities to develop liberal democracies in dictatorships, the space opened for a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy (successful only in Tunisia).

In Egypt, many were under the illusion that after two weeks, when Hosni Mubarak stepped down, that the peaceful protests in Egypt had achieved their goals and that peaceful transition had been accomplished. As Egypt sunk back into dictatorship, the world saw the evidence that the Egyptian military had never really let go of power.

However, there were two countries where events seemed to be somewhat analogous: Libya and Syria. So let’s take a look at the The Tale of Two Countries.

The sparsely-populated protests in Libya were not anywhere near as successful as the protests in Egypt. Whereas the protests in Egypt in 2011 had remained peaceful, the anti-government protests in Libya turned violent by mid-February of 2011.

When the protesters in Libya picked up guns, the police and military responded comparatively tepidly. However, journalists in the West were decrying “massacres” and warning that Gaddafi was about to slaughter every man, woman, and child in Libya. They said this daily, despite absolutely no evidence of such massacres (not totally dissimilar to today in Syria).

Those who had picked up guns began lying in order to coax the West into “helping”.

It was apparently the West’s job to bomb Libya into oblivion in order to save Libya. Was nothing learned from Iraq?

The West went to the UN and got a security council mandate to institute a “No Fly Zone”. This was, apparently, to keep the Libyan air force from dropping bombs on civilians. It should be noted that the Libyan air force was doing no such thing, as we now know. That mandate was reinterpreted by NATO to mean that they could start destroying Libya from the skies. The US began bombing key military points, destroyed the Libyan air force, and pumped money and arms into the hands of the “rebels”.

Now is the point where you should be asking yourself: “What if Libya had done that to the US?”

Imagine that in 2009, Libya had started funding the Tea Party protests. The protesters felt like the government wasn’t listening and they started receiving money and arms from Libya, who also promised to protect them. Thereafter, the Tea Party-ers began shooting at all the police and anyone who wasn’t joining the movement.

What would happen here?

Almost overnight in Libya, the spark of revolt ignited the wildfire of civil war. Thousands of people were killed on all sides, escalating the death toll (not reducing it, as Obama had assured us all). Massacres did occur, because of the invasion. Libya’s civil society was torn to shreds through the bullets and the bombs supplied by the West. And where did that get us?

Gaddafi was tortured and assassinated, his supporters were slaughtered in reprisal killings, the Libyan economy completely collapsed, all governmental institutions broke down (today, there are two competing governments), the (previously increasing) GDP went into free fall, terrorism spread (including people allying themselves with ISIS), and tribal warfare persists to this day.

So what was the result of NATO intervention to “protect” the Libyan people?

Libya today is a nightmare.

So why did NATO intervene in the first place?

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What could it be?

And no one seems to be addressing the lies that went along with that invasion (just as the lies that lead to all imperial invasions, be it in Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Somalia, or Iraq). Somehow people forget what they were told to justify each and every war.

Obama said that there were massacres happening and that more were inevitable. Obama said that the invasion would save lives (he even invoked a new international paradigm: The Right to Protect). Obama said that NATO would bring peace and stability (along with democracy) to Libya and to the region. He presented the roving bands of men with guns as the architects of a future, democratic Libya. And he argued that by bombing Libya, the US would bring about the end to a war.

Not a single one of his claims turned out to be true. This is what happens when people in the West ask the question: “What are we going to do?”

In fact, as Alan Kuperman demonstrated in his article in Foreign Affairs, the war in Libya escalated and continued directly due to the Western intervention.

On top of this, he argues that it was the invasion of Libya that encouraged some Syrian protesters in the summer of 2011 to pick up guns in the hopes that NATO would also support them against Bashar al-Assad and start raining bombs over Damascus. Indeed, it wasn’t until the summer (when the Libyan “rebels” were winning) that Syrian “rebels” began their “armed struggle”.

That means, we can reasonably assume that without the West’s invasion of Libya, there might have been no war in Syria in the first place.

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Those “rebels” in Syria 2012 successfully drove out government forces (police, military, government supporters) from most of the city of Aleppo through the use of suicide car bombs and house-to-house fighting. In eastern Aleppo, the different factions (the Free Syrian Army, Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, and countless others) set up their little statelets and declared themselves “liberated”. Aleppo was the epicenter of the civil war.

Last year, the government set up a full siege of the city, trying to encourage people to leave. Recently, the government (along with Russia) established humanitarian corridors available to everyone, including rebels. The rebels responded by shelling civilians and burning the buses for the sick and the elderly.

Today in Aleppo, we’re told that the Syrian government (along with Russia) is murdering civilians on the scale of Srebrenica or Rwanda.

After all, Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government have a lot to gain from massacring the Syrian people, right?

Do you remember the obvious lie that Assad’s forces were the ones using chemical weapons against civilians? Do you remember how everyone repeated that lie even after journalists like Seymour Hersch proved that those claims were false? Do we have any reason to trust “reports” about Syria anymore?

Never mind the fact that these “reports” are coming with the caveat that “no one really knows” or the blatant and indiscriminate use of “unverified sources” telling us that Russia and Syria are using precision missiles repeatedly on hospitals, executing women and children, and carrying out war crimes of the highest caliber, all based on little evidence.

Where are these “reports” coming from?

From exactly the same people who were telling us of the “massacres” in Libya and the impending massacres yet to come back in 2011. We’re told that this information is reliable, just as we were told in 2011. What possible reason could we have for trusting them this time?

It’s the same people who said that the rebels in Libya wanted Western-style democracy (which is, of course, always worth killing for). Today, we can see that those who armed themselves in Libya were not acting in the interests of building a liberal democracy. They were no “humanitarians” picking up guns. They wanted power.

Of course the rebels in Libya were going to tell Americans and Europeans that Gaddafi was committing atrocities. It helped them. In that same way, the rebels in Syria are obviously going to tell Americans and Europeans that Assad is committing atrocities, regardless of the veracity of those claims.

So, given the high probability that “we” caused (directly and indirectly) the war in Syria, let’s ask the most important question.

What must be done to end the war?

It seems like the most obvious question, yet the one that’s never asked.

For the past five years, this war could have been ended at almost any point. From the beginning, the government seemed poised to make reforms. Once the war broke out, the UN got involved immediately in order to try to quell the violence.

Kofi Annan had a six-point peace plan that was accepted by the government to find a peaceful, political solution.

Who rejected it? The roving bands of men with guns.

And after Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi and then Staffan de Mistura brought forward another peace plan. Again, the government accepted.

Who rejected it? The rebels.

Another peace plan. Another acceptance from the government. And yet another rejection.

At what point do we stop calling them “the men with guns” and “rebels” and start labeling them as terrorists, opportunists, and sectarian murderers. After every ceasefire attempt, both sides accuse each other of breaking the ceasefire and the war resumes.

Again, what would be the response of the United States government if groups of angry Americans picked up guns and started shooting police and military personnel?

The myth that these people are looking to build some sort of Western liberal democracy has long been debunked. Aside from those in Rojava and an admittedly few members of the remnants of the Free Syrian Army, not a soul has been talking about democracy from among the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS, or the countless other groups that spring up and then separate after a few weeks.

Just as in Libya, those in Syria picking up arms against the government are interesting in one thing: power.

And who has supported them in this goal? The West.

Since the beginning of the war, the so-called rebels in Syria have been trained, encouraged, and bankrolled by the West.

And why is the West so interested in destabilizing Syria?

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It’s clear that the West has a lot to gain from a war in Syria. Iran and Hezbollah are weakened. Russia is stuck putting resources into defending an ally. Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s influence is extended in the region.

Far from ending the war, this policy has had only one consequence: prolonging it. And prolonging has been great business for the West, because they’ve managed to expand their position geopolitically. That’s a hard fact for those who are sympathetic with the fantasy of overthrowing the last Arab nationalist government.

Even if one has good intentions filled with hope about a free, united, democratic Syria, then it must at least be admitted that the tactics were flawed from the beginning of the “armed struggle”. In the past 100 years, violent insurgencies have been successful 25% of the time, whereas non-violent insurgencies have been successful 50% of the time.

The weapons from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, and the West fueled the war from day one. We can easily see why Syria is in shambles. The indiscriminate use of violence by these countries has also been widespread and has gone unreported.

Why is no one talking about Turkey’s invasion of Syria and separation of the Rojava cantons?

And those who thought that the government and its supporters were going to sit back and let themselves be violently displaced were clearly looking at the situation though some sort of kaleidoscope.

Assad is a member of the Alawi religious minority in Syria, “Syria’s most-hated ethnic group. The majority of the rebels trying to overthrow the government are Sunnis who are not exactly happy with the fact that a Shi’a religious minority seems to have control of the state. So let’s look at it from the perspective of the Alawi community. If Assad gives up power to violent rebels (even the so-called “moderate” ones), the Alawis will most likely be the victims of the most brutal genocide of the 21st century.

Despite all those who want to talk about “impending massacres”, it seems that no one talks about that one.

It should’ve been apparent from the beginning that this was an unacceptable option for those in power. Assad was never going to relinquish power when that threat looming. Look at what ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra are capable of.

Look at the rebels who have filmed themselves desecrating and even eating the corpses of their victims.

Why was the US (who cares oh-so-much about “protecting people”) so quiet about ISIS before ISIS starting spreading into Iraq (specifically Erbil, where US Oil Firms are located)?

Because, in spite of all the rhetoric that Assad’s government is the acme of Machiavellian politicking, we know who the true Machiavellians are – the Gulf kingdoms (Western-backed dictatorships), President Erdogan, and, of course, the US government (and its European lackeys), who have been all too willing to make alliances with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in order to destroy Syria from within.

So what are “we” going to do about Aleppo?

We” have already done so much to Aleppo. Aleppo is one of the primary victims of imperialist meddling. What the West should do about Aleppo is what the West should’ve done from the beginning: stay out.

For it is only by staying out of Syria that we all can hope that one day soon, the war in Syria will be over.

What are the Arabs Dreaming About?

Today, January 16th, marks the referendum in Egypt on the new constitution and, unsurprisingly, that new constitution received roughly 97% approval vote of the 38% of Egyptians who voted. Let’s pretend for a moment that these results aren’t totally fraudulent (which they totally are). What does this mean? It means that Egypt will now go forward with presedential and parliamentary elections for a new government in the coming weeks and months, with the army back at the helm.

One step forward, two steps back, right? Or is it two steps forward, one step back?

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably also noticed some interesting things happening in Libya. Particularly, what I was calling “intentional destabilization” on the part of those who really benefited from the Arab Spring. Who exactly? Why don’t you ask this 32 year old who is currently “sitting on billions of dollars of oil” and who has “declared independence” for his area? And Syria? Was this the plan all along? But those protests in Iraq, didn’t they lead to something better?

I guess if you consider Fallujah under siege from al-Qaeda to be something better!

In fact, the only place that seems to be any better is the place where it all started: Tunisia. And even there, the successes of the Arab Spring are notably minimal and tenuous.

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I know that this is an unpopular position.

Plenty have suggested to me that I’m too cynical. Some of my dearest friends have pleaded with me to be patient. “The French Revolution and Russian Revolution took years! Give the Arabs some time!” I don’t find this a compelling argument at all, but especially because I don’t think the Arab Spring could aptly be described as a “revolution.” Indeed, I think Asef Bayat was right to characterize them as “refolutions“. They’re rather non-ideological, deformed mimicries of revolutions.

The Arab Spring is what happens when passive political ignorance becomes active political ignorance.

When the initial teemings of demonstrations were forming in Tunisia and Egypt, I too was excited and enthralled by the images, hoping for a new chapter in the Arab world. I imagined Arabs claiming what was rightfully theirs in huge masses. Popular justice and self-determination would replace the rampant imperialism of the American Empire. The Egyptians would throw out Hosni Mubarak and ally themselves with the Palestinians rather than continuing the support of Israeli Apartheid.

But it became increasingly evident that the U.S., England, and France wasn’t going to let this pass by so easily. As quickly as it came, it was recuperated by the Western powers and immediately started to serve their interests.

The Arab Spring wasn’t going to help the Arabs, it was just going to restructure the mechanisms of oppression.

This was something I could see happening in front of my eyes and yet I had no power to change it. It is impossible to take delight in predicting these disasters. The countless deaths and tragedies that resulted have been nothing less of catastrophic. Was the pre-Arab Spring world desirable? Not at all. However, the scale is tipped between the two awful choices of bad and worse.

ImageAlmost exactly one year ago, Army General David Rodriguez claimed that the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) needed to step up its engagements in Africa in order to fight al-Qaeda. I wrote a response that I think is still applicable:

“Ultimately, the United States did a wonderful job of destabilizing Libya and is now using this instability as grounds for “greater engagements” throughout Africa. Predictable? Of course. The conflict in Mali is a direct result of the collapse of the Libyan state and provides the West with wonderful positions to reassert control over North Africa, which will inevitably lead to a reified hegemony over the Middle East. Why is this important?

This is important for putting the Arab Spring into context. Some people hailed the Arab Spring unconditionally without pausing to to see how U.S. involvement was going to shape the upheavals throughout the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt, rather than challenging Western imperialism, the new governments have embraced free trade agreements and bought into neo-colonialist “development”. Libya has become a vacuum for Western oil and military interests to finally be fully realized after years of wrestling with Gaddafi.

This also has affects events slightly East of North Africa. Bahrain receives little-to-no media attention, most of all because the government there is directly under U.S. control and the population is considered to be sympathetic with Iranian politics. Meanwhile, rising Sunni protests against the dominant government go unreported in Iraq – and God forbid we in the West actually pretend to care about Iraq now that we’ve secured our oil interests. Israel responded to any Palestinian uprising with swift and merciless bombing campaigns. Syria has spiraled into perpetual civil war with almost 80,000 reported deaths – let’s not forget that the U.S. previously insisted that Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer” before shifting the party line to require his death in order for any peace deals to be achieved.

This is why it’s important: because no one cares. Why does no one care? I have no clue. Apparently, as long as things aren’t widely reported, no one bothers to look into them on their own time. Maybe you could tell me. The United States government continues to act in its own interest, regardless of the rest of the world and American citizens seem to think that it’s just dandy. “Arab Spring” and “Revolution” both became little buzz-words in the media and everyone hailed shifts in politics without question.

There’s one hard fact here, though: people are dying…needlessly. That means that while you’re sitting here reading this, innocent people are dying in the Middle East for nothing other than failed states and botched revolutions. There’s one more hard fact: Americans don’t seem to care. If Americans do care, they obviously don’t care enough to force our government to do anything productive. And don’t think for a second that pressuring our government is enough – because they’re still going to act in the interests of “the American people”, which loosely translated means: “rich, white assholes who control this economy.”

At the end of this, I have support for no one. I don’t support these governments (Gaddafi, Assad, Maliki) and I don’t support these rebels (FSA, LNC, Muslim Brotherhood). I don’t support the United States and I don’t support NATO. None of these groups represent the interest of real people, they instead represent the interests of people in power. As long as this is the situation, those who care will be forced to continue to shout at the deaf and wave at the blind.”

A friend asked me if I had any hope for the region and I responded with fierce cynicism. I still hold that cynicism.

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Unfortunately, the game has only just begun.

The Arab world has no chance of recovering as long as it remains in this paradigm of post-colonial nation-states that serve the Imperial Powers of the United States, England, France, and Germany. The Arab Spring has only proven itself to be nothing short of a catastrophe.

In 1978, Michel Foucault wrote a piece for Le Nouvel Observateur called “What are the Iranians Dreaming About?” It began with the paragraph:

“They will never let go of us of their own will. No more than they did in Vietnam.” I wanted to respond that they are even less ready to let go of you than Vietnam because of oil, because of the Middle East. Today they seem ready, after Camp David, to concede Lebanon to Syrian domination and therefore to Soviet influence, but would the United States be ready to deprive itself of a position that, according to circumstance, would allow them to intervene from the East or to monitor the peace?”

This is still the world in which we are living. The Soviet influence is gone, but the oil remains. As long as the oil remains, so shall the United States. That is, at least, until the Arabs stand up against imperialism, not just dictatorships.

The Syrian people, the Iraqi people, the Palestinian people, the Lebanese People, the Bahraini people, the Saudi people, the Egyptian people, the Libyan people, the Tunisian people, the Algerian people, and the Moroccan people will never get anywhere as long as they remain divided and subservient to their historical conquerors. This is not my call for ardent nationalism, but strident internationalism against external domination.

Until that day, the Arabs will continue to drown in their own blood while the Americans continue to swim in their oil.