Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, stands with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai
A view from Pakistan by Pervez Hoodbhoy:
Why Does Malala Yusufzai’s Nobel Bother So Many On The Left?
Take Arundhati Roy. For one who has championed people’s causes everywhere so wonderfully well, her shallow, patronizing remarks were disappointing…
Arundhati Roy’s charm and lucidity have iconized her in the world of left-wing politics. But, asked by Laura Flanders what she made of the 2014 Nobel Prize, she appeared to be swallowing a live frog:
“Well, look, it is a difficult thing to talk about because Malala is a brave girl and I think she has even recently started speaking out against the US invasions and bombings…but she’s only a kid you know and she cannot be faulted for what she did….the great game is going on…they pick out people [for the Nobel Prize].”
For one who has championed people’s causes everywhere so wonderfully well, these shallow, patronizing remarks were disappointing.
Farzana Versey, Mumbai based left-wing author and activist, was still less generous last year. Describing Malala as “a cocooned marionette” hoisted upon the well-meaning but unwary, Versey lashed out at her for, among other things, raising the problem of child labour at her speech at the United Nations: “it did not strike her that she is now even more a victim of it, albeit in the sanitized environs of an acceptable intellectual striptease.”
But hang on a bit! This “kid” and “cocooned marionette” did not achieve world-wide admiration for opposing US-led wars or child labour or for a thousand and one other such good-and-great things. The bullet that smashed through her skull came because she opposed the Pakistani Taliban’s edict that all education for girls must end forever in the Swat valley after 15 September 2009, and her vigorous campaign for every girl child’s right to education.
It is perfectly clear why Malala has had to be damned to eternity by her left-wing critics: she has been photographed in the company of men judged to be villains: Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Ban Ki Moon, Richard Holbrooke, and others. It is also obvious that she could not have won the Nobel peace prize—which is always an intensely political affair—but for support from the highest quarters in the western world. Consequently many on the left have easily dismissed her condemnation of drone strikes in Pakistan, as well as the $50,000 from her Nobel Prize money which she gave for rebuilding Gaza schools, as thin ploys aimed at image building.
Unsurprisingly leftist critiques of Malala’s Nobel have been eagerly seized upon by right-wingers in Pakistan, helping seal the narrative for many of my countrymen and women. For cultural and religious reasons, as much as for political ones, they have already come to loathe the West even more than arch-enemy India. In the weeks after she was shot, several students at my university told me they see Malala Yousafzai as Malala ‘Dramazai’, an ‘Illuminati Psy Op’, and a willing tool of the West who is out to badmouth Pakistan and make it appear unreasonably dangerous. Many doubted that she had been shot at all—the Taliban know how to kill.
Pakistan’s officialdom also harbours a hidden, but deep, hostility to her. Although the government officially acclaimed the Prize, a resolution to honour Malala was unsuccessfully moved last week by the opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly. Instead the KPK assembly passed another resolution to press the US government to free the “daughter of Pakistan”, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted Al-Qaida affiliate who is now serving out her 86-year sentence atFort Worth, Texas. Mainstream Urdu newspapers describe Malala as a poster girl of the West, and a Trojan horse for introducing secularism in Pakistan.
I have no expectations from the millions of my conspiracy obsessed fellow Pakistanis. But have Malala’s left-wing detractors—including those who I have long respected for their outspokenness in opposing multiple forms of oppression and imperialist wars—ever really bothered to know why she was shot?
In the following, I have translated and condensed a 9-page pamphlet entitled Aqeedon ka Tasadum explaining why Malala had to be killed. Written in Urdu and signed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, it was circulated shortly after the shooting:
Preamble: This is a war of two faiths, Islam versus kufr (unbelief). On the one side there is true education and modesty; on the other is nudity, music, dancing, and disgraceful gyrations. On the one side there is respect for the veil; on the other are those females who appear on TV and give interviews to men who are not relatives. In fact they dare to mock the Taliban and mujahideen who seek to prevent nudity, lewdness, and Westernization. So here is why this so-called Malala, a pawn of Western interests and secular forces, had to be brought to justice:
First, is Malala a child? No! She was born on 18 July 1998, which makes her 15 years and 4 months old. She had crossed puberty and shown the signs. Thus she had to be treated as an adult woman responsible for her deeds.
Second, is the killing of women allowed in Islam? Yes! After the conquest of Mecca, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had personally ordered several women to be killed, including by stoning to death. Hazrat Ali too had declared as correct and justified the strangling of a Jewish woman who had verbally abused the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Third, what does Pakhtun culture say? Although some media commentators claim that killing girls is against our culture, this is nonsense. If a boy and girl are even suspected of doing something together, it is common to kill both.
Fourth, was Malala guilty? Yes! This so-called innocent “child” actually wrote a diary under the false name of Gul Makai, and daily criticized us in it. She called Obama her ideal, and preferred the secular education of Lord Macaulay to Islamic education.
Fifth, was Malala unarmed? No! She was armed with the pen, a weapon sharper than the sword, with which she daily defamed Islam and Muslims. She portrayed the Taliban as beastly savages. This is why we rightly punished her.
Conclusion: By focusing on Malala this filthy (Pakistani) media shows it is prostituted to the Americans. It says no words of protest against the strip-searching and incarceration of the daughter of Islam (Dr Aafia Siddiqui). It makes a false hero out of one who deserved what she got.
A puzzle: why does such savage bestiality often find no, or only cursory, reference in today’s left-wing discourses? Boko Haram’s sex captives, ISIL’s beheadings, Taliban suicide attacks against civilians, and scores of atrocities by multiple Islamic groups should appal and disgust all those who believe in human equality, decency, and freedom. The Left is most certainly built upon these strong moral foundations, so why the near silence?
The explanation has two parts. First, a portion of the Left has a wholly negative view of western agendas, uncritically rejecting everything as self-serving and hypocritical. Second, many progressives today do not wish to leave a comfort zone where all global problems can be safely blamed on to the West. Having two baddies—America and Islamism—threatens to muddy up the waters. They would prefer to keep life simple.
But shouldn’t one be a little cleverer, more discerning? It is doubtlessly true that the pursuit by the United States of its strategic and economic interests fed and fuelled the rise of violent Islamism through its multiple wars and interventions, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US continues to be the principal protector and ally of Saudi Arabia—which has long funded jihadists across the globe. It stokes anger through its unconditional support for aggressive Israeli expansionism. In such situations it is right and proper to condemn the US and fight back.
At the same time, one must recognize that western culture and politics have changed in important ways. This is not because of the Obamas, Bushes, or Blairs but owes instead to a protracted, centuries-long struggle by the working class and activists. No longer can any western country afford to be seen as a merciless colonizer, or to freely militarily ravage and economically plunder as in past centuries. Constraints on their still callous corporate and political elites have steadily grown. Therefore western agendas and interests can sometimes be intelligently leveraged for furthering what is important for peoples everywhere: education, peace, female emancipation, freedom of thought and action, labour rights, and all that the Left holds important. Malala has played this game with the West well, giving us hope that in these bleak times there are still some among us who have their heads screwed on right.
A young Pakistani progressive, Ghausia Rashid Salam, departs from common opinion by paying her this tribute:
“We should be honoured that Malala emerged from our country, because we know better than any white man, better than any South Asian, what Pakistan is, and what life here is like. We know, better than anyone else in the world, how resilient you have to be to emerge from a life under the Taliban and not give up fighting for your rights, or the rights of others. We should be happy that the Western world can see for itself the brutal conditions we, and other parts of the world, live in, because the more fortunate parts of the world need to check their damned privilege and start making genuine efforts to bring change.”
It is surely time for one-track leftists to learn that we live in a multiple-tracked world, to recognize that there can be more than one baddie, and to resist from simplifying at the cost of accuracy. Else they do grievous wrong to all.
Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad. This article first appeared on telesur
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Sasha Ismail writes:
The Left Unity conference on Saturday is debating Kurdistan. There is a motion which describes ISIS as having “progressive potential” because it breaks down the imperialist-drawn boundaries of Middle Eastern states and literally – literally – calls for support for a caliphate in the region, describing this as representing “internationalism”, “protection of diversity and autonomy”, “accountability and representation” and “effective control of executive authority”. I honestly don’t think I’ve misrepresented it. Luckily there are a number of other decent motions supporting the Kurds and working-class and socialist forces, including one which highlights the nature of Western imperialism but argues for the Kurds’ right to get weapons and air support in their battle against ISIS (not proposed by Workers’ Liberty funnily enough).
NB: the motion, in pdf form, is p.41, amendement Ba2
By Daniel Cooper
Two motions debated at NUS NEC
The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/Palestine. I urge you to read the motions before continuing.
The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).
The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.
(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)
Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?
The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.
The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.
The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.
The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.
These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.
The situation is desperate.
In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.
It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.
However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!
It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive critera – solidarity with the oppressed.
Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world.
Two interrelated issues struck me about this debate.
Firstly, there is a stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement. This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad. Of course this idea is not applied consistently (and could not possibly be) – eg the majority of the NEC has not accepted current and former Black Students’ Officers’ defence of Julian Assange or the SWP. But I think it was a factor here, perhaps because people see or claim to see debate on the Middle East as something that the BSO should somehow have veto power over, regardless of the issues and the arguments made.
Combined with this, there seems to be a low level of political education and even engagement and interest in the NEC. Some appear not to research issues, work out what they think, engage and take ideas forward. Instead, some are not very interested and vote on basis of who they want to ally with on NEC. In other words, many people who voted against didn’t seem to care about is happening in Iraq.
Another motion I believe deserves some discussion was on solidarity with an organisation, Workers’ Advice Centre/WAC-Ma’an, that organises Jewish and Arab workers in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This was voted down by both the Left and Right on NEC, for different reasons.
At the last NEC policy was passed favouring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy (BDS) – which I voted against. Policy was also passed favouring a two states settlement for the region, which I proposed.
For the Right on NEC (the “Right” on NEC are not Conservative party members but are certainly on the “Right” of debates on the NEC), the possibility of giving a tiny sum of our national union’s money to anyone – whether that is a student attacked by the police on a demonstration, or striking college workers, is unthinkable. We must challenge this! According to NUS estimates at national conference, there is a cumulative £4 million expenditure for 2014/15. Offering our resources to those that share our morals is important and potentially highly useful.
Unfortunately, this argument was also pursued by the Left-winger opposing the motion. Left-wingers: this is not something we should be in the business of doing. If left-wingers disagree with a motion, they should argue it on those grounds, not on the basis the right-wing argument that NUS “doesn’t have enough money”.
WAC Maan was established in the 1990s. It is one of the rays of hope in a bleak situation in Israel/Palestine. It’s an independent, grassroots trade union centre which organises in sectors and industries often neglected by the mainstream trade unions.
It shows that organisation and politics that unite Jewish and Arab workers on the basis of internationalism, anti-racism, opposition to the occupation, and basic class solidarity, are possible.
Currently WAC Maan are set to enforce the first collective agreement against bosses in the West Bank, in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, at the Zafarty Garage. This is precedent setting. It is also important as it is forcing the courts to look at how Israeli employers manipulate entry permits as a way of getting rid of militants.
If workers across the occupied territories were organised, they would be able to exert considerable influence over the Israeli government, and over the future of the occupied territories.
To conclude: there are clearly disagreements amongst the NEC, and political Left, about international politics. I hope we can continue to have those discussions openly and frankly. I would certainly encourage those on the NEC to write down their opinions on the subject, particularly if they disagree.
I will continue to write reports of NUS NEC activities, and can be contacted on: email@example.com
German, Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends
By Dale Street (at Workers Liberty)
Richard Brenner (a member of “Workers Power” and the “Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine” campaign) has issued a statement explaining his attendance at a conference about Ukraine held in Yalta (Crimea) in early July. (1)
That conference – entitled “The World Crisis and the Confrontation in Ukraine” – was subject to lengthy criticism in the pages of Solidarity.
We argued that the conference was an initiative by people who fall somewhere in the grey area between extremist nationalism and outright fascism, and that any left-wingers attending it were, at best, playing the role of useful idiots. (2)
Subsequent events confirmed the validity of this criticism.
The conference attended by Brenner had been ‘fronted’ by Boris Kagarlitsky, who enjoys a reputation, albeit an increasingly tarnished one (3), as a longstanding left activist. But its key organizer was Aleksei Anpilogov.
In late August Anpilogov organized a second conference about Ukraine in the same venue, with the slightly different title of “Russia, Ukraine, Novorossiya: Global Problems and Challenges”. Fascists from across Europe were invited to attend the event, and a number of them took up the invitation. (4)
In explaining his attendance at the Yalta conference held in July, Brenner could have issued a simple statement along the following lines:
“Acting in good faith, and responding to an invitation from Boris Kagarlitsky, I attended a conference in Yalta in early July. I do not speak or read Russian or Ukrainian, and interpreting at the conference was poor-quality.
“I had no idea who most of the contributors were, and even less idea of their politics. I subsequently learnt that the conference organizer was an ultra-nationalist who collaborates with fascists. A number of other attendees at the conference shared, to one degree or another, his politics.”
“I realise now that I was lured to the conference under false pretences.”
Instead, Brenner has put together a statement which seeks to defend his attendance at the conference. Despite the length of his statement – nearly 5,000 words – his ‘defence’ is no defence at all.
Brenner argues that there is no connection between the conference which he attended in early July and the conference staged in late August:
“The August conference was organised, as the AWL’s own report makes perfectly clear, on the initiative of the Russian government. The Russian government, by contrast, had nothing to do with the July conference, which was held on the initiative of Kagarlitsky’s NGO.
“Far from the August conference being a ‘second stage’ of the July conference, it was a completely different event, convened by the state to counter the influence that the left has tried to secure over the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
“… Far from the August conference showing that the left had been ‘dumped by our allies’, it was a counter-initiative by our enemies.”
This is nonsense from beginning to end.
Our article about the August conference did not say, suggest or even vaguely imply that the conference was organized at the initiative of the Russian government. And Brenner himself provides no evidence that the Russian government initiated the conference.
All publicity material for the August conference – such as the press releases issued before it took place (5) and the agenda issued to attendees (6) – described it as a “second international conference” which was being organized by “Novaya Rus’’. Subsequent reports of the event described it in the same terms. (7)
Anpilogov’s “Novaya Rus’” organisation (in fact, more of a website and loose network than a real organisation) had played the key role the first “international conference” (i.e. the July conference). Both conferences were therefore organized by the same person/network.
The organisational continuity of the two conference was further underlined in a lengthy report about the second conference written by Darya Mitina:
“On 29th/30th August in Yalta the second stage of the conference ‘Russia, Novorossiya, Ukraine: Global Problems and Challenges’ took place, organized by the ‘Centre of Co-ordination – Novaya Rus’’.
The first stage of the conference, which was notable for adopting the ‘Yalta Manifesto’, took place a month and a half ago. The left spectrum of the resistance was invited to it. This time the plan was to invite the right-conservative segment of the resistance.” (8)
Mitina is the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. She spoke at the second Yalta conference and has also taken part in round-table discussions organized by the Izborsky Club, a fascist ‘think tank’ set up by the well-known Russian fascist Alexander Prokhanov. (9)
Why would she describe the August conference as the second stage of the same conference (part one for the left; part two for the right) unless that was the case? Or does Brenner want to accuse her of being an agent of the Russian government engaged in a cover-up of its role in the second conference?
There was also an overlap in keynote speakers at the two conferences.
Vladimir Rogov (leader of the Ukrainian “Slavic Guards”), Pyotr Getsko (‘Prime Minister of the Republic of Transcarpathian Rus’’), Maxim Shevchenko (see below for more information about Shevchenko), and Anpilogov himself spoke at both conferences.
Why would these speakers turn up at one conference in order to help “the left to try to secure influence over the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics” and then turn up to another conference seven weeks later in order to help the Russian government “counter” what had supposedly been achieved at the first conference? Read the rest of this entry »
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From Howies’ Corner:
Cross-post from Why Evolution Is True
Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy
I meant to post this yesterday, but there is so little time. . . Still, it must be recorded so that the full horrors of ISIS’s behavior can be known. Both Thursday’s New York Times and Reliefweb (summarizing a condemnation by a UN envoy) report that an Iraqi lawyer, Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy, was taken from her home in Iraq by members of ISIS, tortured, and then executed by firing squad. Her crime? Apostasy.
From the NYT:
Ms. Nuaimy had posted comments on her Facebook page condemning the “barbaric” bombing and destroying of mosques and shrines in Mosul, a northern Iraqi city, by the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL. She was convicted of apostasy by a “so-called court,” Mr. Zeid said, adding that her family had been barred from giving her a funeral.
The killing follows the execution of a number of Iraqi women in areas under Islamic State control documented by United Nations monitors, including two candidates contesting Iraq’s general election in Nineveh Province, who were killed in July. A third female candidate was abducted by gunmen in eastern Mosul and has not been heard from since.
And, like Pol Pot and Mao before them, ISIS targets the group most likely to make trouble: educated and literate people, especially women, whose acts of criticizing Islamic society are especially odious to devout Muslims:
United Nations monitors in Iraq have received numerous reports of executions of women by Islamic State gunmen, some after perfunctory trials, the organization said. “Educated, professional women seem to be particularly at risk,” it added.
These killings, together with abductions and the enslavement of women and children, illustrate the “utterly poisonous nature” of the extremist group, Mr. Zeid said, drawing attention to the plight of hundreds of women and girls of the Yazidi religious minority and other ethnic and religious groups sold into slavery, raped or forced into marriage after the group overran large areas of northern Iraq.
The thought that someone would be tortured for five days before being shot boggles my mind. It’s a return to medieval barbarism. And Karen Armstrong tells us this has nothing to do with religion: it’s due to enforced secularism (what??). Now tell me how execution for “apostasy” could exist without religion. And every country where that’s a crime is Islamic. From Wikipedia:
In 2011, 20 countries across the globe prohibited its citizens from apostasy; in these countries, it is a criminal offense to abandon one’s faith to become atheist, or convert to another religion. All 20 of these countries were majority Islamic nations, of which 11 were in the Middle East.
Here’s the map, with the penalties in each of the countries. Can one seriously make a case that in every one of those countries the laws against apostasy stem from colonialism, or from religion that, coopted by a malicious state, was once benign and is now odious? After all, both the Qur’an and the hadith specify punishment for leaving the faith, and in thehadith that punishment is death. Punishment for apostasy was part of the faith from the beginning.
We already know that ISIS is poisonous, and somehow—I don’t know how—it must be destroyed. Although other Muslims have condemned the group as “un-Islamic,” it’s a charge I find ludicrous, for this killing, rape, and abduction of women is merely an extension of the more moderate Islamic doctrine of marginalizing and oppressing women. Though you can face charges of “Islamophobia” for saying so, we must incessantly condemn the “moderate” Muslim practice of not allowing women to achieve their full potential. A large proportion of these “moderates” may not engage in beheadings, rapes, and tortures, but they still treat half of their population as second-class citizens—if you can even call them “citizens.” “Breeder cattle” is more like it.
From Informed Comment:
By Lars Berger
The decision by President Obama to launch missile and air strikes against Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaeda affiliate “Khorasan” in Syria draws the United States ever closer to yet another prolonged military confrontation in the region.
But there’s a difference this time: the participation of a coalition of Arab states, variously offering diplomatic, intelligence and military support. So far, the partner states have been named as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Jordan.
From Washington’s perspective, the importance of Arab participation is obvious: a synchronised display of high-level multinational cooperation is clearly meant to head off the usual criticism of the often unilateral nature of US foreign policies.
This is of particular importance for President Obama, who has invested considerable capital over the years in distancing himself from the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.
As he put it in his brief statement announcing the strikes: “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”
The White House clearly hopes that the participation of Arab partners will undermine that radical Islamist narrative of “the West versus Islam”, and instead reframe the conflict as another chapter in the decades-old struggle between the vast moderate Muslim majority and a tiny minority of radicals.
But aside from these explicit American goals, Obama’s new Arab partners have interests of their own.
Regional rivals: Saudi and Qatar
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia can hope to shift attention away from the criticism for their attitude to Islamist extremism. Over the years, they have been charged not only with supporting radical Islamists in Syria, but also with allowing their religious elites to propagate a version of Islam that is open to easy manipulation at the hands of radical jihadist recruiters.
Both countries will also hope that weakening the radical Islamists of IS will help moderate elements of the Syrian opposition regain the initiative against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Some among the elites of Riyadh and Doha might even be hoping Washington will realise the threat of IS will never be extinguished while Bashar al-Assad’s regime remains in place – and that Obama will see the job is finished.
Finally, Saudi Arabia in particular clearly has to be concerned with preventing the success of an organisation which aims to establish the perfect “Islamic state”.
IS’s claim to ultimate leadership of the world’s Muslim community as put forward by its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is a direct challenge to the Saudi claim for global religious leadership based on King Abdullah’s role as “custodian of the two holy places” in Mecca and Medina.
Saudi authorities are fully aware that al-Baghdadi’s radical Islamist fringe project has attracted followers from Saudi Arabia, with recent estimates putting the number at up to one thousand.
As Nawaf Obaid and Saud al-Sarhan have pointed out, Saudi Arabia is the ultimate target for any “serious” radical Islamist organisation, whether IS now or al-Qaeda in years past.
Al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (which consists not just of Yemeni Islamists, but also Saudi Islamists), driven out by Saudi counterterrorism measures over the last decade, is now beginning to mutter words of approval and support toward IS, and Riyadh will be deeply concerned about the spectre of being engulfed in an arc of Islamist instability to its south and north. Read the rest of this entry »
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By Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty):
“Don’t mention the war!” — that well-known line from an episode of the 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers” — should have been the header for the emergency motion entitled “Situation in Ukraine” passed by last week’s TUC congress. (1)
The motion ignored Russia’s ongoing political and military attack on Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It misrepresented the (real but limited) influence exerted by fascist organisations in Ukraine. And its concluding demands sounded left-wing but were in fact politically incoherent.
The motion noted comments by the NATO General Secretary that its recent summit in Wales had been held “in a dramatically changed security environment”. It further noted that this statement came only a day after a Pentagon announcement that 200 US troops were being sent to Ukraine for “training exercises”.
But there is a deliberate triple omission here. The “dramatically changed security environment” is the fact that for the first time since the Second World War the territory of a European country has been seized by that of a neighbouring big power.
In March Russia annexed Crimea. This was followed by Russia supplying separatist forces in south-east Ukraine with weapons, munitions, “volunteer” fighters, military instructors, and political leadership.
In August, with the separatists staring eventual defeat in the face, Russia launched an invasion of south-east Ukraine. It still has troops there. All of this has been omitted from the motion.
The second omission is that the “training exercises” now underway are indeed “training exercises”, and were planned long before Russia launched its campaign of military aggression against Ukraine.
The final omission is that while the motion condemns the presence of 200 US troops in Ukraine it fails to mention the tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks periodically concentrated by Russia at the border with Ukraine.
After briefly expressing concerns about the human suffering caused by the conflict, the motion expressed further concerns about “attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that city’s trade union centre burned to the ground.”
The fact that the Odessa trade union centre was not “burned to the ground” is a side issue. More issue is the misrepresentation. Trade unionists should indeed oppose attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups. And there are organised Ukrainian-fascist groups in Ukraine, even if they currently enjoy only very limited support: in last May’s presidential elections their candidates each secured only around 1% of the vote.
But there are also pro-Russian and ethnic-Russian fascist organisations in Ukraine. These organisations figure prominently in the separatist leadership, which includes members of the fascist “think tank” Izborsky Club. Russian and French fascists have also been identified in the ranks of the separatist armed forces. (2)
The motion concluded with three demands.
The General Council should consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in “the Ukraine”.
But this would mean support for Ukrainian trade unions, whose leaders have repeatedly condemned the separatist movement and Russia’s attacks on their country. In fact, given the role played by fascists amongst the separatists, it amounts to a call for support for the Ukrainian military!
There should be an immediate permanent ceasefire and a peaceful negotiated settlement.
But this would require willingness on both sides. As the TUC adopted this motion separatist leaders declared that they were not bound by the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk (3) and that their goal was to sieze the bulk of Ukrainian territory in order to create “Novorossiya”. (4)
And the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict should be opposed.
Given that there are no proposals to use British troops in the “Ukrainian conflict”, the purpose of such a clause is – at first sight — unclear.
In fact, the clause fits into the overall politics of the motion.
A few Dave-Spart left-wing truisms (support for trade unionists, anti-fascism, opposition to NATO) grafted onto a Basil-Fawlty attitude of “don’t mention the war” (no mention of Russian troops, Russian weaponry, Russian fascists, or Russian invasions).
Trade unionists should argue for their unions to adopt policy based on events in the real world: Russia, Hands Off Ukraine!; Ukrainian-Russian workers unity against oligarchs and neo-liberalism in both countries; Against fascism — both Ukrainian and Russian!
NB: Eric Lee adds
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Here’s quite an informative article on the Russian far right and their links to the pro Russian separatists in Ukraine:
The current crisis in Ukraine has, among other things, highlighted the issue of nationalism in the former soviet republics, and in particular extreme right nationalism. The politics of the Euromaidan movement, which toppled President Yanukovich are overwhelmingly those of Ukrainian nationalism in various forms, and far right organisations such as the Right Sector and the Svoboda Party played significant roles in the movement and in the subsequent interim government, as well as currently in volunteer battalions fighting in the Donbas region. The current government in Kiev is supported by the EU and USA. Many on the left internationally, including some on the left in Ukraine, consequently consider the Kiev government to be a “fascist junta”, beholden to if not directly controlled by western imperialism. Meanwhile, the separatist movement in the south east of Ukraine, which grew out of the pro-Yanukovich anti-maidan movement, is essentially a mirror image, dominated by Russian nationalism, and with Russian far right organizations and individuals involved in various ways, and is supported, certainly diplomatically and politically, if not militarily, by the Russian government.
While those on the left who consider Kiev to have a fascist government depict the separatist movement as an “antifascist” resistance, there are others who consequently believe that in fact the separatists themselves constitute a fascist, pro-Russian imperialist movement. It is my belief that both positions are extremely simplistic, and merely play into the great game being played by rival Western and Russian imperialisms in Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine is much more complicated, and neither side can be unequivocally characterized as being entirely “fascist”, “anti-fascist”, “imperialist” or whatever. The purpose of this particular article is however not to analyze the separatist movement as a whole, but to attempt to examine the Russian far right and the extent of its involvement in the civil war currently raging in south eastern Ukraine. Much of the information here is from the Sova Centre, a Moscow-based think tank, which monitors extreme right activity in Russia. Where links are not provided, information can be found in English as well as Russian on this site.
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Discarded: German, Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends
Less than two months ago Richard Brenner (Workers Power) and Alan Freeman (Socialist Action) were feted in the Hotel Yalta-Intourist by assorted Russian fascists and ultra-nationalists at a conference about Ukraine. The same initiative, meeting again this weekend, was apparently without them.
The first conference produced a “Declaration” (full of worthy anti-fascist and anti-war verbiage, designed for a European/US left-liberal audience) and a “Manifesto” (which amounted to a programme to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth, or at least to reduce it to the borders of pre-World-War-One Galicia).
Brenner defended his attendance at the conference on the grounds that “some of the people in the resistance are nationalists and socially reactionary on some (not all) questions.” As for the “Manifesto”, according to Brenner, “there is nothing reactionary in its practical proposals.”
(An astonishing conclusion, bearing in mind that the title of the Manifesto – “Manifesto of the Popular Front for the National Liberation of Ukraine, Novorossiya and Transcarpathian Rus’” – was itself a “practical proposal” for the dismemberment of Ukraine.)
This weekend’s conference in the same hotel was entitled “Russia, Ukraine, Novorossiya: Global Problems and Challenges”, and will launch what it calls the “Anti-Fascist (Anti-Maidan) Council of the Russian Federation”. (1)
The conference was organised by the “Co-ordination Centre for Novaya Rus’” – one of the organisations headed by Aleksei Anpilogov which ran the earlier conference attended by Brenner and Freeman.
Three of the conference’s listed speakers attended the earlier conference: Anpilogov, Vladimir Rogov and Pyotr Getsko. (Anpilogov can fairly be described as a nationalist-cum-fascist; the latter two are more ultra-nationalist/fascist-fellow-travellers.)
But this time they were not meeting with a couple of (possibly) useful idiots from the British left.
Keynote speakers at the conference included Igor Strelkov-Girkin and Alexander Borodai (respectively, former Defence Minister and former Prime Minister of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’). Both are members of the Izborsky Club, a Russian fascist ‘think tank’ headed up by Alexander Prokhanov and Alexander Dugin.
Sergei Glazyev (presidential aide to Putin, and a member of the Izborsky Club) also addressed the conference, as did Mikhail Delyagin (Russian academic and a member of the Izborsky Club).
Other speakers included Mikhail Sheremet (former head of the ‘Crimean Self-Defence’ which worked with the Russian military in the annexation of the Crimea, subsequently appointed Crimean Deputy Prime Minister) and Mateusz Piskorski:
“Piskorski is an open proponent of Nazism, a holocaust denier, and the author of articles in the portals “White World” and “I, A Russian”. He was the leading light of the Polish skinhead paper ‘Odala’, where he praised the Aryan race and Adolf Hitler.” (2)
Publicity for the conference states that it would be attended by “members of the Izborsky and Zinoviev Clubs”.
The latter Club is named after the late Soviet philosopher Alexander Zinoviev: an admirer of Stalin, a supporter of Milosevic, and an opponent of Western values. The Club is concerned with the restoration of “traditional Russian values”.
Also attending the conference was “parliamentary and government delegations from twelve European countries.” So far, only one of them has been named: Marton Dyondyoshi, a leading figure in the Hungarian far-right and particularly anti-semitic party Jobbik.
The list of speakers shows the hollowness of the expression “anti-fascist” in the context of this conference and its goal of setting up an “Anti-Fascist Council”.
(It is no less hollow in the context of: “Campaign in Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine”, to which Workers Power, Socialist Action and other more explicit brands of Stalinism are affiliated.)
There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of the Izborsky Club members. There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of Dyondyoshi. There is nothing “anti-fascist” about the politics of the French National Front (regularly praised on separatist websites).
“Anti-fascist”, in this context, is no more than a verbal fig-leaf to cover up for straightforward Russian-imperialist aggression against Ukraine.
And the fact that the organisers of the first Yalta conference have now organized this weekend’s event, inviting along sundry fascists, Hitler-admirers and anti-semites, tells you a lot about their own politics as well.
But for the likes of Worker’s Power, perhaps Jobbik should now also be classed as no more than “nationalists (who are) socially reactionary on some (not all) questions”?
Dale Street adds:
Above: SW says it’s combatting a media campaign to whip up anti-Muslim panic
There’s a fascinating debate going on at Facebook, sparked by this evasive and historically ignorant Socialist Worker article, and Comrade Coatesy’s reaction (republished in full below). Dave Osler initiated the discussion, thus:
‘Parallels have been drawn between young British Muslims who volunteer for ISIS and socialist/communist young men who joined the International Brigades that fought in Spain in the 1930s. Is the analogy valid?’
Later, Dave (a non-aligned socialist not prone to hyperbole) posted the following comment:
: ‘Actually, Andrew Coates puts his finger on what is wrong with that Socialist Worker article. It doesn’t just ‘blur the distinction’ between ISIS and the International Brigades, it effectively equates them. This ranks it among the most odious pieces I have come across in over 30 years of reading the far left press. Disgusting is the only word for it.‘
Tendance Coatesy’s coverage:
The UN has just made this announcement,
The Syrian government and Islamic State insurgents are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their war against each other, U.N. investigators said on Wednesday.
Islamic State forces in northern Syria are waging a campaign to instill fear, including amputations, public executions and whippings, they said.
This follows a story in the Guardian on Monday,
Isis accused of ethnic cleansing as story of Shia prison massacre emerges
As many as 670 prisoners thought killed in Mosul with other abuses reported in Iraq amounting to ‘crimes against humanity’
A few days ago, in what can only be called one of the vilest exercises in whataboutery Socialist Worker published this week this apology for the racist genociders of ISIS/Islamic State:
There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute.
Mahamdallie begins by making a string of unsavoury comparisons.
The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?
Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too?
One atrocity was carried out by a murderer who calls himself Muslim. The second was sanctioned by a head of state who calls himself Christian. And the last was executed by an entity that defines itself as an exclusively Jewish state.
That is to ignore the widespread revulsion at the religious and ethnic cleansing by the genociders of ISIS/Islamic State.
That is, the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, Kurds and Turkomans massacred, tortured and driven from their homes in Iraq. The same gang is carrying out these actions in Syria.
One might imagine a few words on this topic.
But the eminently self-righteous Mahamdallie remains fixed to the Foley murder.
He comments that,
Yet only one triggered convulsions of outrage, with calls from the establishment in Britain and the US to take action. Madness descended yet again.
Continuing in this vein he comments on the condemnation of the Foley decapitation (though he is too polite to use this word) made by former Labour foreign minister Kim Howells and makes this observation that he should look into his own past and see how people are motivated to fight in wars. That is, one fight in particular, the defence of the Spanish Republic against the Franco-Led armies.
In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army.
He then takes time, a long long time, to pass smug comments ridiculing British Muslims who have denounced the genociders – for a variety of reasons. Apparently Muslims should not be asked their opinion on Muslim groups and Muslim religious authorities should not have to speak about those who declare themselves the only true Muslims.
The (present/former?) Senior Officer, Diversity, Arts Council England concludes that he prefers this response from the leader of the Lewisham Mosque,
The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.
He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”.
Not a word of condemnation for the religious and ethnic cleansing.
But instead this, “It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.”
No doubt Socialist Worker will applaud a “spark of resistance” to the “frenzy” of the UN announcement.
Update: Amongst Comments on Facebook about the Socialist Worker article,
“It doesn’t just ‘blur the distinction’ between ISIS and the International Brigades, it effectively equates them. This ranks it among the most odious pieces I have come across in over 30 years of reading the far left press. Disgusting is the only word for it” – David Osler.
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