The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart – nothing is as it once was. When Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and started the bloody conflict in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, many considered him to be the major cause of global destabilisation. Nobody could have known that just a few years later the US President, of all people, would seriously challenge the current international order. Donald Trump questions free trade just like he questions the Western set of values or NATO. This has massive consequences – not just for us Europeans.
Politico (“Munich Insecurity Conference”), caught a comment on Turkey that seems to BackChannels positively surreal given the distance President Erdogan has created between the potential of a democratic Turkey and the reality of an Islamist sultanate:
“We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries,” he said, in an apparent reference to Turkey’s plan to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system. “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”
Pence may have been taking sideways aim at Nord Stream 2, a perhaps more delicate matter than the selling of Russian defense missiles to a “NATO alley” for the purpose, one might suppose, of defending itself from the seller.
Let’s start with “East v West”, i.e., “Moscow v Washington” -> “Feudal Absolutism (and Totalitarianism) v Modern Democratic Liberalism” -> and on this blog, “Medieval v Modern”:
As Venezuela’s political crisis is unfolding, the unwavering support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies for the embattled Nicolas Maduro has been a wide-discussed theme in international media. For some, by standing by Maduro against the “U.S.-backed coup ”, Turkey is only paying its respects to the Venezuelan president, who expressed solidarity with Erdoğan during the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Interestingly, Venezuela was among the first countries to back Turkey during the botched coup attempt in Turkey. Maduro’s immediate support to Erdoğan came at a time the Western allies of Ankara were slow to show their reaction over the coup attempt.
What in the hell is Turkey doing in NATO (FB Presence in Part)?
You tell me.
They know how to hang together.
For the time being, some Venezuelans have figured out that money has meaning, and they have gone to ground, literally, to dig up gold that they sell to the Venezuelan state (who else?) and the state sells on to . . . Turkey!
Facilitating the transport of gold is Turkish Airlines, it said, noting, ”On New Year’s Day, 2018, Venezuela’s central bank began shipping gold to Turkey with a $36 million air shipment of the metal to Istanbul. It came just weeks after a visit by Maduro to Turkey. Shipments last year reached $900 million, according to Turkish government data and trade reports.”
— appears to have decided to start over with the Treasure of the Sierra Madre — i.e., with some portion of the people digging up wealth — gold — from out of the ground.
Hey, it’s money.
Oh — it’s also capitalism.
From Business Live:
The scale of Venezuela’s current social, economic and political crisis is so severe it is difficult to comprehend. Hyper-inflation has decimated the national currency and crippled the economy. Oil production — which accounts for 95% of the country’s export revenues — has halved since Maduro took power in 2013 and the industry has been further weakened by the collapse of the price of oil in 2014.
In 2018, the economy contracted by 18% and by the end of the year inflation had soared to 1-million percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted inflation will increase to 10-million percent by the latter half of 2019. These are dizzying figures but they only reflect one part of the complex situation Venezuela is facing.
Yada yada yada — fodder for dozens to hundreds to thousands of articles avoiding reference to the Soviet / Post-Soviet disaster now 26 years past the dissolving of Russia’s Communist passion play — and the world’s tragedy.
Off the cuff —
Zimbabwe tells the story of a dictatorship that personally reintroduced cholera to its people — and Mugabe made it possibly by denying a rival funds for sanitation chemicals (you may look that one up yourself unless the editor here goes all OCD on you).
Syria — with the help of Moscow and Tehran, Bashar al-Assad has succeeded in barrel bombing half of his state (or more) into deeply depopulated oblivion. While one may thank Mother Nature — oh, and ourselves — for the global warming damaging Syria’s agricultural economy, the necessity, eventual of mass migration may have been met with kindness and international cooperation.
BC guesses not.
Where else would you like to go in the still medieval worlds of “political absolutism”?
BC imagines power quite intoxicating if it can do to innocents what is depicted in the above video.
MOSCOW/LONDON (Reuters) – Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro has sought OPEC support against U.S. sanctions imposed on his country’s oil industry, citing their impact on oil prices and potential risks for other members of the producer group.
The Organisation for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and top oil producer but non-member Russia will not create a formal combined body as originally planned, Reuters hasreported. In a draft document, the countries said they aim to set up an alliance rather than a formal organisation when they meet on April 17-18 in Vienna.
BC would add to the list of Moscow’s sphere-of-influence failures — well what is one to expect of criminal mercenaries and politicians!? — Crimea, Ukraine, which has been battle torn torn for five suffering years under Moscow’s false pretenses. From Michael MacKay via his Radio Lemberg:
Almost five years after the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in Crimea, Putin’s army is still on the attack. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are bombarding and assaulting Ukrainian defenders in Donbas, as they have been doing continuously since April 2014. Yesterday, February 10, was typical in that the Russians violated the Minsk Agreement ceasefire in every sector of the battlefront.
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has come under intense scrutiny for suspending his country’s Chief Justice just weeks before a general election, a move that critics have attacked as tyrannical and unconstitutional.
Buhari defended his decision on Twitter, saying corruption allegations against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen — who has been accused of failing to disclose bank accounts in foreign currencies — are “grievous.” But the move was labelled a “coup against democracy” by the President of the Nigerian Senate, and prompted an outcry from the country’s major opposition party, which halted its presidential election campaign temporarily in protest.
In addition to the latest imbroglio involving Nigeria’s chief justice, a matter not overlooked by the U.S. State Department, Buhari has been accused of permitting Fulani gang raids against Christian farming villages (whose firearms have been confiscated in advance by the state — in Nigeria, urban thugs may own arms illegally — who’s to know? — while farmers are made to provide easy targets for burn-and-shoot raiders armed with AK-47s and gasoline) and of packing his highest-level security offices with Muslims, and so in essence channeling power and wealth to the Muslim community while slowly displacing Christian power.
BackChannels asked its Nigerian source for suggestion as to who would make a better — more balanced, higher integrity — politician, now or in the future, for Nigeria’s leadership. The names returned were Fela Durotoye, Jimi Agbaje, Kingsley Moghalu, and Oby Ezekwasili. The Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka was mentioned as well, but BackChannels suggested he may well remain Nigeria’s soul in letters and perhaps the natoin’s most influential intellectual. With context, here is what Soyinka had to say (in the Daily Nation) about this month’s Nigerian Presidential Elections (February 16):
Mr Buhari, 76, came to power in 2015 and is seeking a second term in the February 16 vote. His main challenger is 72-year-old Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position quite clear because I don’t want any ambiguity; I, Wole Soyinka, will not be voting for either,” he was quoted in local media as saying on Thursday at a forum in Lagos.
Herewith some starting reference to good-for-Nigeria political personalities as mentioned by BackChannel’s source. The bolded names have been linked to their respective Wikipedia pages; tweets, news, and news headers remain recent; note: Oby Ezekwasili has dropped out of the Presidential race to help swing her fan base vote to a candidate better positioned, perhaps, to beat the incumbent President Buhari; Omoyele Sowore, not mentioned in casual conversation, has been added by BackChannels for showing up fast on this subject — Nigeria’s upcoming elections — on the web.
In a 2013 interview with The Punch Newspaper, Agbaje talked about how he began in politics: “It had to do with the Moshood Abiola/Bashir Tofa presidential election”, he said. “I saw the annulment as a personal insult and an assault on the Nigerian people. This led to my first entry into what I would call activism, working with other concerned professionals” such as Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr Ayo Ighodaro, Asue Ighodalo, Billy Lawson, Oby Ezekwesili, Tola Mobolurin and Hassan Odukale. Jimi was in one form of resistance group or the other which ultimately led him to join the socio-political organization, Afenifere where he served as national treasurer.
The campaign convoy was on its way out of the palace, when the hoodlums, numbering about 40, chased and threw stones at Agbaje’s vehicles.
There were minor injuries involving shattered vehicle window glass, and tear gas was used to disperse the mob according to the above piece published yesterday in Sahara Reporters. How the hoodlums were organized and by whom? That would be something to know and report. For the time being, the news tells of the tone of elections in a wealthy oil producing nation sadly rife with corruption.
BackChannels has referred here and there to corruption as the cancer of states. Where the Transnational Crime Organizations are strongest and bribes to the powerful would seem to be working, the money gets laundered and into the topside economy, which essentially may make the public unwittingly dependent on a growing criminal sector. Around the world, for better or worse because it’s just a fact of life at this point, public money that may be quietly, surreptitiously pried into private pockets would seem to be moved away from public community development and other services. The only way to get the brakes on nefarious processes — organized crime, embezzlement, and skimming — is to bring to power more modern politicians and their better associates in military and paramilitary services.
In one direction, the state sinks, and the end — or political hell — will look something like Venezuela at this hour, i.e., broken, starving, beneath common dignity and freedom; and in the better direction, the state grows a healthy economy, ordered and with funds available for all ordinary operations and the most helpful of public and social services. One may hope for Nigeria that the personalities who would be most ambitious and competent on the public’s behalf will rise to their occasions and prevail over the unerringly corrupt, nepotistic, and toadying of the breed.
Inspiration for the post: a conversation about women in combat roles and the relative physical advantage men have as regards the demands and energy required by related combat training programs and evaluations.
Problem: there may be more required across the “combat” or war fighting spectrum than the agility and strength so tested in training — and at times demonstrated in the field — as well as admired for entertainment and, perhaps, general cultural inspiration.
Variable not mentioned in this lopsided patch of talk: the span of combat mission roles. Regarding the “grunt” – okay, that’s the old industrial steel-driving guy at war and in the mess in big numbers.
From the Awesome Conversation (FTAC)
This is for fun:
But this has been perhaps the changing face of war:
I hesitate on posting because I know (confession: from the armchair) that “field operations” have been complex as well as irrevocably changed by technologies, assets, and strategies (and politics) throughout. Is the drone’s remote jockey in front line combat? With relation to terrorist “actions”, where isn’t the front? For that matter, what isn’t combat in the age of “Hybrid Warfare” and “Information Warfare”?
The Kingdom had to have seen this greater day coming, “greater” for connecting the privileged of Saudi Arabia with the full breadth of the world’s English-speaking and other intelligentsia, i.e., the broad if thin international band of cosmopolitan, engaged, informed, and rapidly “chatyping” personalities. Nafjan has not only fit right in with the world’s intellectual class, she appears to be in trouble with the medieval kingdom for having been raised for the modernizing path and role taken.
What is it about feudal / medieval / tribal peacocks that so sustains contempt and fear in relation to women that the royal response to mild challenge, criticism, and practical reasoning comes to a still barbarous demand: “Lock her up!”
Most people in the West, naturally enough, get their ideas about Saudi life from the media. They learn that women here are forbidden to drive, that they must be almost completely covered up when they appear in public, that unmarried women and girls can’t appear in public unaccompanied by family members.
All of this is more or less true, but it omits the reality that, for the average middle class Saudi woman who comes from a healthy family background, life is pretty good.
When everything is in place, a Saudi woman can live a comfortable life. A respectable husband is arranged for her to marry; she typically has a driver, servants and an extended family ready to give her financial and emotional support. All that’s expected of her is to have babies and fulfill social obligations.
Official statements in state media accused Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Youssef of forming a “cell,” posing a threat to state security for their “contact with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric.” A related hashtag describing them as “Agents of Embassies”, along with a graphic showing the six activists’ faces, have also been circulating on social media and Saudi Arabian print and broadcast media. Amnesty International is concerned that if charged, the activists could face up to 20 years in prison. Now is the time to take action and defend these brave activists, who are some of the most prominent heroines of the human rights movement in Saudi Arabia.
As the world praises Saudi Arabia for recent “reforms” – including allowing women to drive – we must raise the alarm for these imprisoned defenders who have fought tirelessly for years for women’s rights in the Kingdom.
According to three separate testimonies obtained by the organization, the activists were repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly. In one reported instance, one of the activists was made to hang from the ceiling, and according to another testimony, one of the detained women was reportedly subjected to sexual harassment, by interrogators wearing face masks.
The Sudanese have only to look toward Syria to know how bad revolution before a tyrant may become. While the spectacle of the Syrian Tragedy may have been expected to quell enthusiasm for a similarly motivated revolution in Sudan, it appears to BackChannels at this hour that caught between starvation and a tyrant, the Sudanese motivation — and perhaps the motivation of the military as well — may grow the violence and the level of direct threat encountered by President(-for-Life) Omar al-Bashir.
Of particular and peculiar interest in that story may be the bonding expressed between dictatorships
In Ankara, deputy chairperson of the ruling Justice and Development party Cevdet Yilmaz also expressed support for Al-Bashir’s government after a meeting with the Sudanese ambassador on Wednesday
“We support the legitimate government of Sudan. Turkey has faced similar ploys many times,” Yilmaz said, adding that Turkey is confident that the government is sensitive to the demands of the Sudanese people and would avoid violence.
Although Erdogan’s Turkey exploits NATO for its military defense from Russian aggression in that dimension, it has effectively destroyed democracy in the state and bonded with Russia — or leveraged itself — with the “Turkish Stream” energy project. Basically for the Turks, liberal democracy and freedom have died in their homeland, and they have become part of an increasingly family-run business masquerading some as a sultanate.
“In most of Sudan’s almost 170 cities and big towns, someone has been shot. In some of them, more than 15 people have been shot. The shooting is happening through unofficial types of militia that the regime is using,” says Khansaa Al Kaarib, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist.
“For 30 years, this is what the Sudanese people have been getting from Bashir: Killing, killing, killing and more killing. People are simply fed up with this and they want to change this regime. They want to get out of the perception of a people lying under an ICC-wanted criminal, as soon as possible.”
The Sudanese story has had a similar start with a modest protest driven by hunger — i.e., economic protest with ecological variables in play — met by escalating means of repression, including live fire that taken or produced martyrs that in turn have become the focus of additional protests.
For Sudanese now active in shutting down Bashir’s goverment and replacing with a government more modern, responsive, and responsible, here is the voice from that other protest against continued (and Russian) feudal political absolutism as once represented by the corrupt and thuggish Viktor Yanukovych:
BackChannels awaits the Sudanese version: “I am Sudanese, and we have tired of the war criminal in Khartoum . . . .
BackChannels believes that at the end of WWII, Stalin acquired some part of the middle east that Hitler and the Ottoman Empire had lost. There must have been Nazi agents waiting for arrest or work or both. There had been certainly Arab families or powers who had been aligned with Hitler through Amin al-Husseini, and with the big war over and a two-state offer for the Palestinians and Israel on the table, the same were presented with a choice: peace (and responsible governance) or war focused on the destruction of Israel.
Whether the Soviet Union believed its own rants about the Jews or just wanted to sell and increase its influence through the promotion of anti-Semitic invective pleasing to some Arab ears, BackChannels doesn’t know.
What BackChannels does know is that Soviet arms and diplomacy helped maneuver the Arab states into a disastrous war, after which it had to keep its hooks in the region. Pan-Arab Nationalism got its strong bump up (1950s) , and the dictatorships served to block the spread of democratic western liberalism into the region (as much advanced by Israel’s establishment). The KGB’s grooming of Arafat, the establishing of the PLO, and Arafat’s rise from within would follow in the 1960s as would the wholesale development of “state-sponsored terrorism” through the Andropov years.
Fly over all that history, and we’re here today with the same “gift” from Russia, the Soviet Era and once Soviet-engineered “Middle East Conflict” that has for remnant the wreckage of old middle east dictatorships — Iraq and Libya at least — and the horror of what has been left — Syria in flames and ruins, ALL of it at the hands of its own leader; Iran environmentally damaged (it did that itself) and economically crippled by way of its own aggression and medieval barbarism.
So this morning started with a comment about moderate and peace-seeking Israelis and Palestinians approaching these issues but with the politically repressive elements born in the Soviet Era or conveyed by it through time armed, entrenched, and powerfully intimidating. The conversational partner noted that for the many participating in the talk, ” . . . place and time are all wrong . . . .”
The morning’s first response:
One may recognize “too soon” but those with casualties may be more sensitive to “too late”.
So, forward in this conversation.
Given the so many Jews involved in middle east peace activities, the onlooking Palestinian Diaspora of the west, the truth about the Moscow business plainly spreading across the web (the story of Russian Influence through Disinformation is just moving across the web these days), you would think someone would figure out that “the west” was not quite the enemy as promoted in the imagination).
Three things make us feel better — basic income; close family — and if not the one in which we’re born, then the friends we make; and general and personal security. Perhaps the Israelis and Palestinians who understand that have mutual regard and a few old problems in common.
On Medieval Divisions and Modern Multicultural Democracies
Next: a rhetoric assertion to the effect that multiculturalism has died (in South Africa) and with the implication that the medieval divisions having to do with race and religion — and by extension clans, tribes, and states — were resurgent and, by inference, all that the world has to look forward to is the greater chaos and misery of war already too well known.
The “Rainbow Dream” that Mandela had has NOT died in South Africa!
White South Africa left a legacy of now archaic land ownership arrangements, and some are upset about the state’s update or reforms to allow the state to implement policies beneficial to all South Africans.
The state’s related economics — there are too many poor! — and extended state security resources have produced conditions for brigandage — theft and murder — at least, and the aggrieved cast that in racial terms.
To better manage its issues, the people of South Africa recently ejected another corrupt communist aristocrat — the kind that take money from their people and immensely aggrandize themselves in the manners known to dictators.
From The Guardian, here’s a glimpse into how Jacob Zuma “managed” South Africa:
Cheer up: South Africa may avoid the Zimbabwean meltdown at the hands of a nominally communist narcissist (Robert Mugabe, who has been deposed in the past year or so by his own military) and continue its independent development as a modern multi-racial, multi-tribal democracy.
Humankind may never see an end to war, but it may see it diminished. The drawing down would be a real gift to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
This coming December 25 will mark the 26th year out from the dissolving of the Soviet Union (1991) toward a feudal and perhaps Orwellian politics (i.e., continuous war between three nuclear-armed giants and proxies within their spheres of influence all the way down — or, alternatively, the day may be closer to the end of the end of a long argument between the medieval world habituated to “absolute power” — power unquestionable with its brutality — especially toward the innocent — exercised with impunity — and the modern one in which democratic power is so for being checked, subject to criticism, distributed and balanced structurally (Administrations; Courts, Legislatures) and popularly (via free and fair elections).