Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

By John Pilger
johnpilger.com
26 February 2015

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The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism. Continue reading “Why the rise of fascism is again the issue”

Not Just Another Brick In The Geopolitical Wall

By leveraging its ties with non-western powers, BRICS can check US hegemony

A different worldview?BRICS leaders profess a shared vision of inclusive global growth and the rapid socio-economic transformation of their own nations. Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR

Building blocks The BRICS bank will give priority to loans for developing countries to finance infrastructure projects and environmentally sustainable development. Photo: Media Club South Africa

Leaders of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held their sixth annual meeting on 15-16 July in Fortaleza, Brazil. The major deliverable from the summit was economic in form and content, but its significance is primarily geopolitical. From a turn of phrase by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001, a grouping was born in 2009. It is not the product of diplomatic negotiations based on shared political values or common economic interests. They make up 40 percent of world population, 20 percent of world GDP, 15 percent of world trade and account for two-thirds of world growth. They enjoy the competitive edge in different areas from abundant natural resources to strengths in manufacturing, it and biotechnology.

By 2025, the G-8 — the world’s eight biggest economies — is likely to be, in order, the US, China, India, Japan, Germany, UK, France and Russia. BRICS serves as the key tag of the major emerging markets whose economic growth will outstrip and anchor the rest of the world. But it has been viewed with scepticism because of the diversity and spread of continents, political systems, values and economic models.

The natives are getting restless
Last October, President Dilma Rousseff was to be the first Brazilian leader in two decades to attend a White House dinner. Instead, angered by revelations that her personal phone calls and emails had been intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA), she became the first leader to cancel a State dinner hosted by a US president, lambasting American surveillance as a violation of international law and a “totally unacceptable” infringement of Brazil’s sovereignty. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is routinely demonised these days by American political leaders and media commentators as the second coming of Hitler (the downed Malaysia Airlines plane won’t help). Narendra Modi was on the US visa denial list for nine years (2005-14). It takes a particular skill to position oneself offside with leaders of three of the most important emerging powers.

Russia is being subjected to sanctions for its annexation of Crimea — which was Russian for several centuries and was voluntarily “gifted” to the Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev — despite the very concrete threats to its Russian-speaking population and to Russia’s core vital national security interests, a referendum whose margins of results may be questioned but not the overall outcome, and not one fatality.

The countries censuring Russia and imposing sanctions on it were responsible for the 2003 Iraq War whose legal and security justification was far more tenuous, the theatre was geographically distant not contiguous, and whose humanitarian and geopolitical consequences were far more horrific and destabilising.

Last December, a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched over labour laws and wage disputes in a deliberate subordination of international conventions to domestic US law, when American diplomats posted abroad have been muscularly shielded from domestic laws even when they have killed host nationals. Chinese officials have been charged with cyber-espionage after the public revelations of the industrial-scale mass surveillance activities of the NSA. Beijing is told to solve its maritime disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas — to which Washington is not party.

The hubris and arrogance of the US-led West is so breathtaking as to be scarcely believable, as though they are blind or indifferent to how others see them.

BRICS-5 as a counterpoint to G-7
That same contempt for others’ voices, values and interests lies behind the creation, consolidation and evolution of the BRICS and their key decisions at the Fortaleza summit. The term was coined as a shorthand proxy to describe the shift in market power and geopolitical clout from the developed economies of the G-7 towards the large and populous emerging market economies. As last year’s Human Development Report put it, “The rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale.” Moreover: “For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies — Brazil, China and India — is about equal to the combined gdp of the long-standing industrial powers of the North — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States.”

BRICS is among the confetti of ‘G’ groups that dot the contemporary international political, security and economic landscape. In the constellation of G groups, the G-7 is the body that brings together the big rich economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US); BRICS brings together the big emerging powers; the G-77 is the international trade union equivalent of the poor developing countries; and the G-20 tries to ensure that the big countries from the global North and South work collaboratively rather than confrontationally to address common global challenges. In its logic, although not in practice, the G-20 is meant to be the forum of the countries of the world with global clout: all countries that have global clout and only those countries with clout.

The BRICS comprise those emerging powers whose rapidly growing economies, substantial populations, military capabilities and expanding diplomatic reach translate into rising power profiles. They pose a challenge to the US-dominated global architecture comprising the United Nations, World Bank and IMF trinity. On the eve of the first summit in Russia in 2009, Brazil’s then president, Lula da Silva, wrote of “broken paradigms and failing multilateral institutions”. The deficiencies have eroded the legitimacy and credibility of the international institutions and fostered mistrust between the global North and South. However, can the BRICS morph from a countervailing economic grouping to a powerful political alternative? Or is BRICS a construct of the social media-driven marketplace of ideas — an attention-grabbing glib phrase in which speed is a substitute for and trumps quality and depth of analysis?

Lack of unity, coherence and focus
Similar stances on a few contentious international issues are not enough to offset the crisis of identity caused by differing and sometimes clashing national priorities. The BRICS-5 are far from homogeneous in interests, values and policy preferences that leaves them open to the dismissive comment that the BRICS lack the necessary cement to bind them together. On some issues they have common interests with one another, while on others they compete against one another and collaborate with selected western powers. For example, India might join the US in a hedging strategy against China’s rapidly growing military footprint and assertive behaviour across Asia-Pacific, but team up with China against Europe and the US on greenhouse gas emission targets. The G-7 spread of per capita incomes (purchasing power parity dollars for 2013, using World Bank data) ranges from a low of $34,303 for Italy to $53,143 for the US. By contrast, for the BRICS, the per capita annual income goes from a low of $5,410 for India to a high of $24,120 for Russia, with China, South Africa and Brazil in the $12,000-15,000 range.

The BRICS-5 are totally different countries with separate histories, contexts, political and economic systems, needs, opportunities and development trajectories. In all, domestic priorities and problems trump club solidarity. They are riven with rivalries over borders, resources and status. India and Russia have border problems with China. The anxiety of India and China about rising energy prices must be set against Russia being a beneficiary, while Brazil is both a cause and beneficiary of rising food prices. China’s highly competitive exports inflict material harm on Brazil. Two are authoritarian States. The three democracies have their own subset called IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), although they too have a tradition of reticence in global democracy-promotion efforts. Most are stuttering economically. All retain deep and specific ties with the pivotal northern countries and for all, bilateral relations with the US are more critical than with one another.

The most potent source of BRICS cohesion is geopolitical: the common interest in checking US/western power and imperialist impulses by leveraging collaboration with the other nonwestern powers. All have a strong vested interest in protecting strategic autonomy vis-à-vis the US in global affairs. But they are divided on reform of the UN Security Council, with China’s interest lying more in a bipolar than a genuinely multipolar global order, and on the global economic effects of China’s currency value. While strong enough to veto western action, they lack the political clout and economic muscle to remake the status quo. Nor do they always act as a concerted bloc within other institutional settings. Even after the 2012 summit, a European and an American were chosen as IMF and World Bank chiefs.

Unrepresentative, yet representatives of global South
On those issues where there is a shared view among them, the BRICS can exert more significant leverage in combination than separately. Their natural constituency is the global South. Many developing countries remain worried that the forces of globalisation impinge adversely on their economic sovereignty, cultural integrity and social stability. “Interdependence” among unequals can mean the dependence of some on international markets that function under the dominance of others in setting norms and enforcing rules. The BRICS are anything but representative of the typical developing country in terms of size, area, power, economic weight, interest, capacity and resources. Only India is typical of the levels of poverty, illiteracy, low life expectancy and health indicators, etc. But what the BRICS can do and have done is to reflect and represent the interests and priorities of most developing countries, and leverage their atypical attributes of market power and geopolitical clout to negotiate with the developed countries, on many global challenges. Few other developing countries can match the BRICS in their market size and power, or legal, scientific, research and technology base. In other words, it is precisely the attributes making them atypical — size of population, GDP, military power, diplomatic reach, intellectual infrastructure — that gives the BRICS the capacity to represent the views, interests and concerns of the typical developing countries in international forums and negotiations.

But the BRICS do have the ability and will to represent the interests of developing countries on those issues where the global North-South division is salient. They can help to shape a new, post-2015 global development agenda of poverty alleviation, sustainable development and inclusive growth. They can share and learn from one another’s more relevant development experience, from China’s successes in reducing poverty and developing infrastructure to Brazil’s in clean fuel generation. And they can act as a counterweight to the West’s excesses in the UN, WTO, World Bank and the IMF. They reject militarisation of disputes and conflicts, promote political resolutions through diplomatic talks, work to soften the West’s interventionist impulse in the internal affairs of States, and are strongly opposed to infringements of territorial integrity and sovereignty. They share concerns about the financial and geopolitical dominance of the US-led West and support a rebalancing of the current global trade and financial system to reflect developing-country concerns and interests. They can give voice to developing country concerns on new rules for healthcare, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property rights, etc. Most developing countries view environmental, labour and human rights standards as disguised non-tariff barriers to protect uncompetitive western agricultural and manufacturing sectors. On intellectual property, whether it be with respect to generic lifesaving drugs and seeds for agriculture or traditional medicine, they can team up to take on the lobbying power of Big Pharma (e.g. Pfizer) and global agribusiness (Monsanto) to robustly protect the rights of poor people to affordable medicines, of poor farmers to affordable seeds, and of indigenous peoples to retain ownership of their traditional knowledge.

Global economic governance
The BRICS are at the forefront of demanding changes to both the institutions and the rules regulating the global economic order, including greater voice and vote in writing the rules and designing and controlling the institutions. They profess a shared vision of inclusive global growth and the rapid socio-economic transformation of their own nations in which no village is left behind. They come to the global governance table with a mutually reinforcing sense of historical grievances and claims to represent the interests of all developing countries. They share a commitment to State sovereignty and non-intervention. They proclaim the need for a rules-based, stable and predictable world order that respects the diversity of political systems and stages of development.

The biggest common interest of the BRICS is in global economic governance. There is an unsustainable disconnect between the highly indebted but politically dominant industrialised economies and, following that, between the distribution of decision-making authority in the existing international financial institutions and the realignment of economic power equations in the real world. Or, to put it another way, in the emerging new global balance of power, the old global political imbalances need to be readjusted to the new global economic imbalances.

The BRICS called for more responsive, flexible and rapid financing to low-income countries to help them ward off the contagion effects of the global financial crisis and shore up their national developmental objectives. They also called for reforming the international monetary system, to consider diversifying beyond the dollar as the de facto global currency, to take gradual steps in expanding the role of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights as a supplemental global reserve asset option, and to give increased voice and vote on issues of global finance to developing countries. The G-20 had tried to redress the IMF’s democratic deficit by agreeing in 2009 to a 5 percent quota shift from developed to developing countries, which would have raised the latter’s share to 48 percent. The proposal has languished in the US Congress for five years and counting, effectively also sabotaging the planned further review and revisions of quotas that was to have begun in January 2013.

The New Development Bank
The system that privileges western powers and their biases is trapped in the old paradigm and out of sync with the new realities. Developing countries have noted how Europe was treated much differently during the Eurozone crisis from the harsh medicine meted out to Asia and Latin America in earlier crises. At the summit in New Delhi in 2012, BRICS advanced from being simply an expression of frustrated entitlement to sketching the outlines of an alternative configuration of global governance. The criticisms of the voting formula, funding priorities and executive directorship of the IMF and World Bank reflect both frustrations at how they are run, and growing self-confidence in their own roles as responsible stakeholder-managers of the system of global economic governance. They underlined the urgency of enhancing “the voice and representation of emerging market and developing countries” in the Bretton Woods institutions in order to “better reflect economic weights”. One critical test of whether BRICS can make the transition from a critic of the West-led system of global economic governance to a leader-cum-manager of an alternative system of, by and for developing countries, would be whether the idea of a BRICS bank floated for study in New Delhi bore fruit.

The BRICS move to set up their own development bank was a reaction to the West’s doublespeak. In 2012, Lula da Silva bluntly said the global financial crisis “was created by white men with blue eyes”. At the 2013 Durban summit, South Africa’s then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, remarked that the “roots of the World Bank and the IMF still lie” in the post-1945 equations. The five could not agree on the amount of seed money to start the bank nor on its location. South Africa put in a strong bid based on physical and financial infrastructure strengths, including corporate governance, auditing and accounting.

At Fortaleza, the five leaders reached consensus on the objectives, functions, capital subscription size, distribution among the member countries, governance structure and operational mechanisms. Four issues were up for discussion about the proposed bank: name, location, presidency and shareholding. It will be called the New Development Bank. It will be headquartered in Shanghai (with an African Regional Centre to be based in Johannesburg). The inaugural president will come from India, which claims credit for having first floated the idea. And the five countries agreed to equal shareholding. The bank is to be capitalised initially at $50 billion (and subsequently at double that amount), with each country contributing $10 billion over the next 7-8 years. It will give priority to loans for developing countries to finance infrastructure projects, industrialisation and productive, inclusive and environmentally sustainable development.

In addition, there will be an emergency reserve pool, called the Contingency Reserve Arrangement, with a $100 billion capital, of which $41 billion will come from China, $18 billion each from Brazil, India and Russia, and $5 billion from South Africa. Its purpose will be to help developing countries avoid short-term liquidity pressure, strengthen the global financial safety net, complement existing international arrangements, and foster more cooperation among the BRICS. Developing countries will be able to draw on the reserve if they face balance of payments crises or if their currency is under pressure. Russia and Brazil get the chairmanships of the two supervising boards.

The New Development Bank is bound to create competition for the World Bank and similar regional funds like the Asian Development Bank. The World Bank’s numerous critics are quick to charge that the institution has failed to lift any country out of poverty and instead has generally deepened poverty and created dependency. Only foreign creditors have done well from its projects. The original core missions of the IMF and World Bank targeted financial stability, employment and development. As the Washington Consensus of deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation held sway after the 1980s, the conditionality attached to the “assistance” provided by the two Bretton Woods institutions inflicted significant economic cost and often grave political damage on many developing countries in trouble. Their operations and governance structures came to be seen as rigged against the voice, vote and interests of developing countries and skewed towards the industrialised bloc.

Jim O’Neill rightly commented that the establishment of the BRICS New Development Bank highlights the problems with the current system of global assistance and governance. Global governance just got a lot more interesting.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 31, Dated 2 August 2014)

2D Or Not 2D

My research for the curatorial presentation at the Angkor Wat festival led me to many interesting bodies of work. I had help from several areas. The photographers themselves, particularly Pedro Meyer, Frad Baldwin and Wendy Watriss of Fotofest, were many amongst them. Francoise Callier  helped by giving me unfettered freedom in choice and format. It was hard work, but I was enjoying it. As always, there was work I couldn’t include into a 90 minute presentation. I decided to continue the work. Here is some of the work that didn’t make it to the show. Not because the work wasn’t good enough, but because it didn’t quite fit. Enjoy:

Models’ Faces Turned Into Stunning Optical Illusions By Creative Russian Duo

Moscow-based photographer Alexander Khokhlov and makeup artist Valeriya Kutsan have created a bewitching series of portraits that play with the natural lines of their models’ faces and twist them into strange new forms.

Their newest series of stunning colored portraits, 2D Or Not 2D, is only the latest collaboration between the two artists. Khokhlov and Kutsan have also created portrait series with powerful black-and-white designs and a series parodying the popular Angry Birds game. The designs are amazing – some of them soften or break down the face’s lines, while others reinforce them or create unnaturally perfect patterns.

The idea behind their latest series was to make the faces look like 2d images. According to Khokhlov – “Valeriya used different techniques of face painting so you can see a lot of variations – from sketch and graphic arts to water-colour and oil-paintings. This is a combination of interesting make-ups, studio photography experiments and careful retouching.”

The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide.

By Gary Bass. The Economist

UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of India’s bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward.

The split into Pakistan and Bangladesh was perhaps inevitable. It began in late 1970, after Pakistan’s first national elections. To the shock of West Pakistanis, an easterner, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a sweeping victory, and was poised to lead the country. His Awami League wanted greater rights for Bengalis. But the army chiefs and politicians in Islamabad would not countenance his taking office. They arrested him and the army began repressing eastern protesters.

Bengalis flocked to join the rebel forces who were fighting for independence. West Pakistani soldiers stationed in the east, plus a few local supporters, began targeting students, writers, politicians; especially the Hindu minority. Soldiers massacred civilians, burned villages and sent millions fleeing to India. Eventually some 10m became refugees, mostly Hindus. At least 300,000 people were killed; some say the death toll was over 1m.

Seen from America, where Richard Nixon was president, the war was a domestic Pakistani affair. India’s leader, Indira Gandhi, claimed otherwise. She called the floods of refugees a humanitarian disaster that threatened regional stability. She wanted international action, demanding that America tell Pakistan’s leaders to stop the killing. Nixon, urged by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, refused.

In “The Blood Telegram” Gary Bass, a Princeton academic (who once wrote for The Economist), sets out to assess America’s handling of the war. He argues that the killings amounted to a genocide: Hindus, as a distinct minority, were chosen for annihilation and expulsion. He asks why Nixon continued actively to support the Pakistani leaders who were behind it.

At the behest of Mr Kissinger, Nixon sent military planes and other materiel to Pakistan, even though he knew this broke American law. He deployed an American naval task force to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India, which had begun helping rebels in East Pakistan. Most extreme, he secretly asked China to send troops to India’s borders. He did so accepting a risk of Soviet retaliation, even that nuclear bombs might be “lobbed” around in response.

Nixon and Mr Kissinger stood with Pakistan, even as they knew of the extent of the slaughter. Their own diplomats told them about it. The centrepiece of Mr Bass’s gripping and well-researched book is the story of how America’s most senior diplomat in East Pakistan, Archer Blood, the consul-general in Dhaka, sent regular, detailed and accurate reports of the bloodshed. Early on he stated that a “selective genocide” was under way.

Blood and his colleagues protested that America should not support Pakistan’s rulers. Then, 20 of them sent a dissenting telegram (the “Blood telegram” of the book’s title) condemning America’s policy. It was an extreme and idealistic step for a diplomat, whose career was soon cut short. Though the telegram did not change American policy, it rates as an historic document. Such open dissent is extremely rare.

Mr Bass does a good job of explaining Nixon’s wilful support of Pakistan. Using newly released recordings of White House conversations between the president and Mr Kissinger, he sets out with admirable clarity what else was at stake. In part it was personal. Nixon, a man of few friends, was notably fond of Pakistan’s military ruler, Yahya Khan, a gruff, dim-witted, whisky-drinking general. Nixon compared the Pakistani favourably to Abraham Lincoln. By contrast he despised India’s wheedling civilian politicians, reserving a particular dislike for Gandhi, whom in private he frequently called a “bitch” and “witch”.

More important, Pakistan was a loyal cold-war ally, whereas India was seen as leaning towards the Soviet Union. Crucially, Mr Kissinger early in 1971 was using Pakistan as an essential secret conduit to China. He flew via Islamabad to Beijing to arrange for Nixon to make his own trip to see Mao Zedong. Better relations with China would allow America to wind down the war in Vietnam.

Ultimately, Mr Kissinger did much to set America’s course. He argued that America should pay no heed to domestic horrors in Pakistan, saying “you can’t go to war over refugees”, and warned that India was a greater threat to international order. Indian “bastards”, he agreed with Nixon, needed a “mass famine” to cut them down to size.

Mr Bass depicts Mr Kissinger as increasingly erratic, perhaps overworked, as East Pakistan’s secession became inevitable. He is quoted calling the conflict “our Rhineland” (in reference to the start of the second world war) and warning that India would “rape Pakistan”.

Mr Kissinger adopts a magisterial tone in the one chapter he devoted to the India-Pakistan crisis in his 1979 work, “The White House Years”. He refused to speak to Mr Bass for this book, and glosses over the Blood telegram in his memoirs, never explaining why he ignored the entreaties of the diplomats on the ground. That is a pity, because America’s response to the war has reverberated over the years.

The 1971 war poisoned regional affairs for decades. It ended when India’s army intervened, having supported East Pakistan’s rebels for months, and crushed the Pakistani forces within days. Pakistan was humiliated, yet no Pakistani soldier has been held to account for the mass slaughter that provoked the war. Pakistanis by and large prefer not to discuss it. The war did convince them that India might next try to break up the remaining western rump of their country, perhaps by supporting Baluchi separatists on the border with Afghanistan. A sharp mutual suspicion still lingers between the neighbours, helping ensure that Pakistan’s army dominates—and damages—the country still.

Nor did the war do much for India. Eventually the refugees went home, but relations with Bangladesh soon soured. At home Gandhi became suddenly more popular. But she then descended into authoritarianism, even suspending democracy. Inside Bangladesh the war remains a live political issue as alleged collaborators in the conflict (all opposition leaders) are being tried by a flawed, local war-crimes tribunal. This week, one defendant was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court.

Could things have been different if America, having listened to Blood, had pressed Pakistan not to slaughter its own people in 1971? Mr Bass does not speculate directly. Yet if a peaceful secession of Bangladesh had been possible, many lives would have been saved and a source of deep division in a troubled region would have been removed.

Does Obama know he’s fighting on al-Qa’ida’s side?

ROBERT FISK The Independent Tuesday 27 August 2013

‘All for one and one for all’ should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad’s Syrian regime. 

Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.

The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.

This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.

Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.

There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.

And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush  and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite  enough evidence to make it stick.

In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?

And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed.

Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.

Do as I say, not as I do

On Obama’s Cancellation of Summit with Putin and Extradition

The US frequently refuses extradition requests where, unlike with Snowden, it involves serious crimes and there is an extradition treaty
By Glenn Greenwald Information Clearing House

August 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House”– “The Guardian” – President Obama today canceled a long-scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in part because the US president is upset that Russia defied his personal directive to hand over Edward Snowden despite the lack of an extradition treaty between the two nations. That means that US media outlets will spend the next 24 hours or so channeling the government’s views (excuse the redundancy) by denouncing the Russian evil of refusing extradition. When doing so, very few, if any, establishment media accounts will mention any of these cases: Continue reading “Do as I say, not as I do”

Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6:

?Near Ground Zero and in Af-Pak Region, Two Labyrinths

Friday, 30 March 2012 10:17By Suzanne Bauman, Jim Burroughs,?Truthout?| News Analysis

Ground Zero
Ground Zero in New York City. (Photo:?Karen Blumberg / Flickr)The endless war on terror in South Asia – with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, the United States, Great Britain, Russia, India, France, Germany, Spain, all players -? must seem like a senseless maze to the people forced to live with daily random violence in this region. In the United States, too many Americans have emotional yet uninformed responses: either “Kill our enemies before they kill us,” or “Get out of Afghanistan now.” The history of this region is more important than ever to study, as daily headlines inflame both sides without leading to solutions. Continue reading “Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6:”

RUSSIA, CHINA VETO. NATO/GCC plans to 'roll back' Syria thwarted

By rahnuma ahmed

The last two months plus flashed by as I burned the midnight oil, working on three manuscripts, intended for Boi Mela 2012. While it is true that I’ve accomplished a lot, there are still chunks left that need to be done, which means they will not make it to the book fair. But hey, no regrets. Viewing the book fair as a goal post helped spur my work, but the Mela is not a train one needs to catch, not at the cost of the quality of the product. Printing mistakes, atrocious ones in the case of Oitijjo’s publication of Rabindranath’s works this year, have created a heightened sense of awareness about the quality of the ?books published. I watched Shamsuzzaman Khan, director-general of Bangla Academy, and Sanjida Khatun, torch-bearer of Tagore, caution publishers on TV news to not reduce the national book fair into a mindless race of touching the February goal post.
No regrets about not making it to the book fair, true, but I missed writing my columns. Sorely. Out of touch with the world, one where western leaders and their Gulf monarchical collaborators attempt to implement their plans of a ‘New Middle-East’ map, instead of the older, ‘Greater Middle East’? (The Unfolding Crisis in Pakistan-III. “New Imperial Cartographies. Destroying and Re-creating National Boundaries,” New Age, May 18, 2009).
The term was introduced by the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in a Tel Aviv press conference in July 2006, ?[w]hat we?re seeing here [in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon], in a sense, is the growing?the ?birth pangs??of a ?New Middle East? and whatever we do we [meaning the United States] have to be certain that we?re pushing forward to the New Middle East [and] not going back to the old one.” (full citation, with the additions in square brackets, from Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ?New Middle East?, Global Research, November 18, 2006).
“Creative destruction”, in the words of neo-conservative philosopher and Bush adviser Michael Ledeen, is “an awesome revolutionary force.” And, as Nazemroaya elaborates, it “generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region” — extending from “Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan,” and, might I add, drone-attacked Pakistan — so that the United States, Britain and Israel can redraw the map of the Middle East, to further their “geo-strategic needs and objectives.”

Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. February 4, 2012.

Continue reading “RUSSIA, CHINA VETO. NATO/GCC plans to 'roll back' Syria thwarted”

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By Gita L. Vygodskaya

Translated from the Russian language by Ilya Gindis

Published in School Psychology International, Vol.16

Nobody in our family studied or took up religion. I only knew from the nanny, who took care of us, that there was a God, whom she, according to her words, feared and respected. On several occasions, unknown to my parents, she even took me to a church. When my father found out, he, to much to nanny’s surprise, did not get angry. Upon finding from me that I liked church, and from the nanny that I did not disturb anyone there, he decided that in the future we could go to church whenever we wanted. I remember well how proud I was when we walked openly to church, wearing our best bonnets.
Later the nanny told me that every girl should know a prayer, and I learned one from her by ear, without understanding a single word. To all my questions she always answered: “I am illiterate, when you get educated you will understand everything”. But I did not want to wait until I grew up and was educated, and so I went to my father to clear things up. He seemed to be surprised when I recited the prayer from memory, and asked where I learned it. He did not express any feelings towards the whole matter, but simply explained that the prayer thanked the Virgin Mary for giving birth to the Lord Jesus Christ. This however did not yet mean anything to me, and I went about my business as before. One day Leonid, my older cousin, who lived with us, did something that was strictly forbidden. The nanny then warned him to never do it again or “God will punish you”. To this the boy quickly replied: “God does not exist”. The nanny was horrified, and began to tell him how you can’t say things like that. Leonid was unimpressed and stubbornly stuck by his comment.
Meanwhile I was completely confused by the whole matter and had no idea where the truth lay. I began to get upset and to get a straight answer I went to my father, as I always did in difficult situations. I remember well how he was sitting at the table working. I could not hold back the worrying question, and so I came up close, so he would notice me, a favorite tactic of mine. He put down the pen, turned and hugged me by the shoulders, asking what happened. “Dad, is there a God?” – I burst out. “Why do you ask me?” – he replied. I told him of the “discussion” between the nanny and Leonid. He suddenly become very serious. “You see,” – he said, “some people, like our nanny, believe that God exists while others reject the idea. Everyone must decide this for themselves, when you grow up you too will decide”.
He never forced his opinions on us, unless of course we were doing something really wrong. In most cases he preferred for us to work things out on our own. Often when we asked a question, he did not give a complete answer but rather drew us into discussions that resulted in a commonly agreed on answer or decision.
A few years before his death, my father began to smoke. No one was really bothered by this as he did not smoke often, and it seemed to make him happy. I liked to watch him as he smoked, he had a special sort of smile at these times. One day Leonid told me how unfair he thought it was that we weren’t allowed to smoke. He said he tried it himself but only succeeded in burning his eyebrow, therefore we should do it together. He even found a perfect place: between bookshelves, and suggested we go and try it immediately. But I was not used to doing things secretly, and I was always sure of my father’s understanding and support in this. I asked Leonid to wait until the night, when he came home. Leonid agreed, but only until the night. I impatiently waited my father came home and, barely letting him take his coat off, came up to him under pretense of injustice: “You smoke, but don’t let us!” He paused for a moment and asked: “Have you tried already?” I said no, but that Leonid had. Father said: “You are right, we’ll smoke together tonight, just wait until I finish dinner”. He went to eat in my grandmother’s room, where by now the whole family gathered, and I ran with the shocking news to Leonid. When the two of us burst into the room, my father was drinking tea, while everyone else was sitting by the table or stove, discussing, as usual, the days events. Me and Leonid sat down on either side of Lev Semenovich, and began to wait. He soon finished his tea, and took out the cigarettes giving one to me and one to Leonid. Suddenly everyone in the room went quiet and began to watch us intensely.
He was in no hurry, packing the cigarettes, all the while showing how its done and why its necessary. He then demonstrated how to hold the cigarette in the hand and in the mouth. Finally he lit his, took a drag and brought the lighter to ours. Everyone around us was watching his actions, but not interfere with what was going on. “And now, take a deep breath” – said father. I don’t remember much of what happened then, as I almost passed out and got sick. I think Leonid experienced the same reaction. I guess I should add that I never tried smoking again, and Leonid did not try again until he was over 18.
There is one more thing that happened that I will recount. It’s still unpleasant to talk about it, but it happened and it taught me a lesson for life. By now I was in school. I remember it was late May. In class we had an important final coming up. I had a very serious attitude toward it, and was rather anxious. It so happened that I did well on the exam and got a high mark. I returned home in high spirit and was doubly over joyed: my father was home! When he asked me what was new in school, I proudly told him of my success, and added with ill-concealed pleasure that the girl sitting next to me could not copy from me as I had turned the page of the notebook, and because of this got a poorer grade than me. I was beaming and expecting praise, looked at father. I was surprised at the expression on his face: he looked very disappointed. I could not understand what was wrong. May be he did not realize I passed? After a short silence he began to speak, slowly and deliberately so I would remember everything he said. He told me that it was not nice to be happy of others misfortunes, that only selfish people enjoyed it. He went on saying that I should always try to help those who need it, and its only for those who help others that the life is rewarding and brings true joy. I remember I was very upset from his words and asked what I should do now. As always in these situations he offered me a solution: he did not want me to feel like once I did something wrong I was now incapable of doing good. He suggested to me that I go and ask my classmate about what she didn’t understand, and try to patiently explain it to her, and if I couldn’t do it so she would understand perfectly, then he would be glad to help me. “But here is the most important thing”, he added, “you must do all this so your friend be sure you really want to help her, and really mean her well, and so it would not be unpleasant for her to accept your help”. More than 60 years have passed since this incident and I still remember all of his words and try to follow them as best I can in life.
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I don’t believe that “after death there is nothing else”. After his death, the person continues his life in memories of those who loved him and in his works. And so Lev S. Vygotsky lives in the memories of those few, still alive, who know him, and most of all, in his writings that, thanks God, are finally available to everyone. As far as his students go…, well, many of them became famous scientists. Luckily, many were granted a long life. But despite their graying heads and elevated scientific status each has reached, they all still consider the 37 year old researcher their teacher. This was something they never got tired of talking about, and always with great love. Now many are gone, but their students, and now even their students’ students go on. And so science develops. Even though so many years have passed, Vygotsky’s thoughts, ideas, and works not only belong to history, but they still interest people. In one of his articles, A. Leontiev wrote of Vygotsky as a man decades ahead of his time. Probably that is why that he is for us not a historic figure but a living contemporary.
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