Category Archives: Arab Spring / Middle East Conflicts

The State Department Turns Its Back on Syrian Christians and Other Non-Muslim Refugees

Over the past five years of Syria’s civil war, the United States has admitted a grand total of 53 Syrian Christian refugees, a lone Yazidi, and fewer than ten Druze, Bahá’ís, and Zoroastrians combined. That so few of the Syrian refugees coming here are non-Muslim minorities is due to American reliance on a United Nations refugee-resettlement program that disproportionately excludes them. Past absolute totals of Syrian refugees to the U.S. under this program were small, but as the Obama administration now ramps up refugee quotas by tens of thousands, it would be unconscionable to continue with a process that has consistently forsaken some of the most defenseless and egregiously persecuted of those fleeing Syria. The gross underrepresentation of the non-Muslim communities in the numbers of Syrian refugees into the U.S. is reflected year after year in the State Department’s public records. They show, for example, that while Syria’s largest non-Muslim group — Christians of the various Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions — constituted 10 percent of Syria’s population before the war, they are only 2.6 percent of the 2,003 Syrian refugees that the United States has accepted since then. Syria’s Christian population, which before the war numbered 2 million, has since 2011 been decimated in what Pope Francis described as religious “genocide.” Tens of thousands of Aleppo’s 160,000 Christians alone have fled, many to Lebanon, after 1,000 of their community, including two Orthodox bishops, were abducted and murdered, according to Melkite Catholic archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart.

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Run Away Underclasses


I’m reflecting on this column by my acquaintance, Mustafa Akyol:

The aristocracy of the Muslim world doesn’t not want confrontation. It’s obvious.

The elite, the educated, the *landed*, those with something to lose, those who find the best aspects of Islamic history in science, commerce, scholarship — they recognizing the absurdity of the open confrontation with the West being promoted by their own underclasses. All the West has to do is lose patience.

But the elites seem powerless to stop the pull of these mal-incentives. Islam as an ideology is too appealing to the underclasses. (Anyone gets redemption by becoming an enforcer of Islam — the stricter the interpretation, the nobler the violence.)

So there’s a fundamental incentive problem. It appeals to the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

Here’s a theory of recent history to test: the brain drain of Islamic aristocracy from the Middle East into the West left the inmates running the asylum. The best of Islamic society was not present to suppress stupid interpretations of their beliefs, and now they’ve coalesced from a religion to an ideology to a movement.

(An interesting aside: Early incarnations of Islam strictly reserved for the upper classes, and considered it absurd to share the revelations with the underclasses. In the words of Haille Mariam-Lemar​:

—-“ISIL/ISIS/IS are actually theoreticians of democracy. Within islamic theology they belong to a historical tradition called khajirites. The khajirites combined radical democracy with literalism. This is why the middle eastern tyrannies are so frightened of them. As anyone familiar with islamic history would tell you the early islamic caliphates viewed islam as a property of the arab aristocracy and opposed mass conversion. The aristocrats were opposed by the khajirites who argued that any man, even a black slave, can become a caliph so long as he has the requisite theological training and is elected.”—-)

The appeal to the underclasses, and specifically, the licensing of bad behavior among the underclasses gives Islam an irreparable incentive problem.

Communism is similarly broken (for this and MANY other reasons). The worst people have license to use excuse their personal failures and use violence against imagined enemies.

A third instance of this theme: It seems a similar incentive problem exists in the victim narrative adopted by parts of the black community in the US. Look at how Richard Sherman’s very gentle self-reflection of violence in his community is perceived as utter betrayal:

Look for what ideologies do to underclasses — to people who are not that good at life, and tend to cling to just a few actionable ideas in their heads as if they were liferafts — because in the confusing, dangerous worlds they perceive, boiled-down ideologies ARE liferafts.

(h/t Curt Doolittle​)

America’s Neo-Conservatives are Trotskyites

Here is a brief summary of the general understanding of what neocons believe:

1 They agree with Trotsky on permanent revolution, violent as well as intellectual.
2 They are for redrawing the map of the Middle East and are willing to use force to do so.
3 They believe in preemptive war to achieve desired ends.
4 They accept the notion that the ends justify the means – that hard-ball politics is a moral necessity.
5 They express no opposition to the welfare state.
6 They are not bashful about an American empire; instead they strongly endorse it.
7 They believe lying is necessary for the state to survive.
8 They believe a powerful federal government is a benefit.
9 They believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it.
10 They believe neutrality in foreign affairs is ill-advised.
11 They hold Leo Strauss in high esteem.
12 They believe imperialism, if progressive in nature, is appropriate.
13 Using American might to force American ideals on others is acceptable. Force should not be limited to the defense of our country.
14 9-11 resulted from the lack of foreign entanglements, not from too many.
15 They dislike and despise libertarians (therefore, the same applies to all strict constitutionalists).
16 They endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those found in the Patriot Act, as being necessary.
17 They unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party.

EU’s billion-euro influence to Egypt

The EU allows Europeans politicians to behave more like their US counterparts. From today’s Open Europe news summary:

The European Court of Auditors has concluded that the €1bn of EU aid to Egypt over the last seven years under the European Neighbourhood Policy has been “well-intentioned, but ineffective” in terms of improving human rights and democracy.
ECA press release Le Figaro FT

When U.S. drones kill civilians, Yemen’s government tries to conceal it

open quoteThe Yemeni government initially said that those killed were al-Qaeda militants and that its Soviet-era jets had carried out the Sept. 2 attack. But tribal leaders and Yemeni officials would later say that it was an American assault and that all the victims were civilians who lived in a village near Radda, in central Yemen. U.S. officials last week acknowledged for the first time that it was an American strike.

“Their bodies were burning,” recalled Sultan Ahmed Mohammed, 27, who was riding on the hood of the truck and flew headfirst into a sandy expanse. “How could this happen? None of us were al-Qaeda.”

More than three months later, the incident offers a window into the Yemeni government’s efforts to conceal Washington’s mistakes and the unintended consequences of civilian deaths in American air assaults. In this case, the deaths have bolstered the popularity of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s Yemen affiliate, which has tried to stage attacks on U.S. soil several times.

Furious tribesmen tried to take the bodies to the gates of the presidential residence, forcing the government into the rare position of withdrawing its assertion that militants had been killed.close quote (Read more)

Rachel Maddow, War Propagandist

open quote The Moment had arrived! I’m talking about that Benghazi Moment, when the axis of elite opinion turns and the Forces of Righteousness come to the rescue — Syria’s internet was down!

Rachel Maddow had one of those “Oh, This is Serious” looks on her face as she solemnly warned us that Something Was Up: that nasty old critter Bashar al-Assad was about to commit Hair-Raising Atrocities “in the dark”! Think of those poor jihadists “rebels” who would have to construct their suicide bombs without downloading the instructions — why, that could be dangerous!

Of course, Maddow knew who was behind this outage, because the US government told her what to believe, and she believed it. So in place of reporting, you know, actual news, she channeled US government officials accusing the Syrian government of this dastardly act.

. . . .

Two days later, our Rachel was “reporting” the imminence of yet another Benghazi Moment — the Syrians, she breathlessly recounted, have Weapons of Mass Destruction! Without referencing her previous false alarm, Maddow once again solemnly informed us the evil Syrian government was about to visit Death and Destruction “on its own people” — you know, just like Saddam Hussein, that other possessor of Weapons of Mass Destruction.close quote (Read more)

Neo-con behind Petraeus character assassination?

open quoteThere have been three major developments in this fast-moving story since my last column on this subject: 1) The stunning revelation by Broadwell in a speech given at the University of Denver that there were detainees in the Benghazi “consulate” — really a CIA station — and that the attack may have been an attempt to free them, and 2) the rising visibility of the “shirtless guy,” the Tampa FBI agent whose impatience with the progress of the investigation led him to go to the House GOP leadership, an act that sealed Petraeus’s fate — and, perhaps, Gen. Allen’s. Which brings us to 3) the ensnaring of Gen. Allen in the Broadwell-Petraeus net, which adds much fuel to an already raging fire.

The Benghazi angle may help bring the “why” of this whole imbroglio into sharper focus. First, let’s set the context: Fox News and the Republicans had been making a full-bore effort to turn the Benghazi attack into a “scandal” that would bring down the Obama administration, an “October surprise” that would make short work of the anti-colonialist Kenyan. They spun a narrative that had the President of the United States — and his CIA Director — ordering a rescue team to “stand down” while Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three others, were murdered by Islamists. Broadwell’s “by the way there were detainees in there” remark, uttered almost offhand, was pushback, no doubt encouraged by Petraeus.

The “shirtless guy,” who earned this description because he reportedly sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley — the recipient of Broadwell’s “harassing” emails — enters the picture as the key catalyst who set the anti-Petraeus coup in motion. We are told he is a friend of someone with a connection to Rep. Reichert (R-WA), who brought the matter to Rep. Cantor’s office. But hold on, wait a minute here …

Since when does the FBI investigate “harassing” emails sent to an ordinary American citizen? Sure, Kelley had a friend in the FBI — the Shirtless Guy — but the question is why did the FBI’s cybercrimes section agree to launch a lengthy and costly investigation into emails that, by some accounts, weren’t that big a deal? The Shirtless Guy, who is said to have become so obsessed with the case that he was taken off it, must have developed some suspicion of who was behind the emails, and the nature of Broadwell’s connection to Petraeus. Whose instrument was he?

I gave my own view of the answer to this question in my last column, and the attempt to take down Gen. Allen seems to confirm my analysis. Who, you ask, would want Allen’s scalp? Well, consider the General’s comments after the latest blue-green attack in Afghanistan:

“ISAF commander General John Allen told US 60 Minutes program in an interview recorded before the latest incident, and scheduled to be aired today, that insider attacks were unacceptable.

“’I’m mad as hell about them, to be honest with you,’ he said. ‘We’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign, but we’re not willing to be murdered for it.’

“Gen. Allen said that just as homemade bombs had become the signature weapon of the Iraq war, he believed that in Afghanistan, “the signature attack that we’re beginning to see is going to be the insider attack.”

Insider attacks make up the great majority of US casualties in Afghanistan, these days, and with the Obama administration about to undergo a general review of our troop levels in that country, Allen’s open hostility to the mission would not sit well with the more hawkish faction in the national security apparatus, i.e. the neocons and their fellow travelers. So, he had to go, too — and it’s a “nice” touch that they managed to get him in the course of the same investigation, without having to bother cooking up another scandal. Good work, boys!

One aspect of the Great Pentagon Purge that has gone almost completely unnoticed is this offhand little tidbit in a Washington Post story about the scandal,

“Prominent members of conservative, Washington-based defense think tanks were given permanent office space at [Petraeus’s] headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.

“Some of Petraeus’s staff officers said he and the American mission in Afghanistan benefited from the broader array of viewpoints, but others complained that the outsiders were a distraction, the price of his growing fame.”

So the neocons were right there looking over Petraeus’s shoulder, and his successor’s shoulder, giving “advice” that went against orders from the top, i.e. they were undermining the mission as conceived by the Pentagon, and no doubt actively subverting the planned withdrawal. Did Gen. Allen throw them out? That he’s been caught in the honey trap along with Petraeus should come as no surprise.

The military is quite a distinct entity from the War Party, and this should be obvious to anyone who has been alert to the internal debates in the national security bureaucracy over the course of the past decade or so.close quote (Read more)