When they’re good they’re really good and when they’re bad they’re really bad

This week I intend to illuminate one of the Western political world’s most blatant double standards when it comes to geo-political issues. The issue in question is the relationships that Western nations have with theocratic governments around the world. When I say Theocracy of course, I assume that many readers who happen to live in “Western” nations, through ceaseless discussion in the media and in political spheres, have come to understand Iran as an encapsulating the notion of a theocracy, but how we view several other Middle Eastern nations with almost identical governments is a little more questionable. In the process of discussing how the current state of affairs came to be I will inevitably dip into the history of how theocracy in its current form came to be a popular movement in the world and will doubtless come to speculate on the dangers posed by all theocracies in the near future.

The history of theocracy as we understand it, certainly in the middle east, began during the earliest phases of the Cold War in Iran. The year was 1951 and the starting gun that sounded which began theocratic movements was the policy of the then Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, to nationalise Iranian oil production, in the process depriving British oil companies of funds they felt they were entitled to.

After Mossadegh’s movement towards nationalising the countries oil resources was initially ratified in the Hague as a legal action, a clandestine movement began to overthrow Mossadegh and re-instate the Shah (the traditional leader of the country) in a supreme position of power. The clandestine movement to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran was, you’ve guessed it, initiated by an organisation who’s raison d’être was seemingly the planning of hair-brained coups, the CIA. In a bizarre twist however to the usual story of CIA ineptitude, the coup was actually a success and in place of Mossadegh now sat the dictatorial Shah Reza Pahlavi. What followed was a prolonged attempt by a western backed secular dictator to modernise Iran along Western lines which proved highly unpopular with many aspects of Iranian society. Whether the reason for the unpopularity of the modernisation programme was the break neck pace at which the Shah’s reforms were due to take place or whether it was the repressive way in which the Shah dealt with any who dissented against his rule, from both left and right of the political spectrum, we will never know exactly and will simply have to remain content to know that generally speaking the regimes movements were highly unpopular. After 25 years on the throne, the damn finally burst and a massive wave of protest, headed to some degree by religious movements as one of the most repressed social group under the Shah’s secular rule, deposed the Shah and seized control of Iran. After the revolution had successfully disposed of the former government, a vote was held and Iran officially became an Islamic republic and the worlds first theocracy as we currently understand the term. It is important that I point out here that the action which started this whole chain of events was not some innate love on the part of Iranians or by further extension, Muslims for governments based on their religion of choice, it was the imperialistic actions of dying empire trying to ensure that it could first of all, continue to plunder mineral wealth from the developing world and secondly, to prevent a government that had its own peoples interests at heart “going over” to communism. It was these two rationales that informed the British and American decision to re-impose an unpopular leader on the Iranian people who eventually coalesced around religion in defiance of the Shah. Politicians here can offer endless platitudes about the “evil” that the Iranian clerics and Hezbollah represent all they want, but they must never be allowed to forget that it was the West’s meddling hands that directly created the environments in which such movements and peoples developed.

The story however did not end there. After the Iranian revolution had successfully purged itself of the last vestiges of the Shah’s regime, genuine fears were expressed throughout the west that much like the French revolution before it that the revolution would spread and overthrow more Western allies in the process. Adding to these concerns, in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of the Shah a crisis of sorts developed between the USA and Iran as armed groups stormed the American embassy in Tehran in search of documents which proved that the CIA had been directly involved in the overthrow of Mossadegh in the 1953 coup. It as this point in time that the seeds of mutual distrust and discord were sowed in both the USA and Iran and goes some way towards explaining how relationships between the two nations have remained so poor over the years. Further adding to the strained relationship between the West and Iran was a period, where during a protracted mutual antagonism between Iran and Iraq, many Western nations flooded neighbouring Iraq with weapons to prevent the spread of an Iranian style theocracy to another critical nation in the chain of oil supply.  This flow of weapons and support for Saddam Hussein likely lengthened the conflict much past the initial battles, to the point where in the end the war between Iran and Iraq lasted 8 long years with thousands butchered mindlessly for no major gain to either country. Alongside arming the neighbouring dictator, the Western world also engaged in a more subtle form of conflict with Iran in the form of economic blockades in an attempt to get Iran to play along with Western economic interests, economic blockades which have pretty much been a constant reality of life in Iran ever since with sanctions taking the place of the blockade in recent years. While the West intended through both of the above measures to subject Iran and principally the Iranian clerics to a position of economic and political inferiority, arguably both measures helped to cement the religio-nationalist movement in its position of power which it continues to hold unto this day.

During the same time period, events were afoot in neighbouring Afghanistan which eventually lead to the foundation of a theocratic government there. At this time, Afghanistan had recently undergone a revolution of its own, which unlike the Iranian one moved away from religion and towards a far more socialist approach to government. As the Saur revolution swept to power it became closely linked with the Soviet Union, who of course were happy to have another state on their Christmas card list, which only extended really to nations who cited Marx as a basis for their constitutions. Anyway, from the moment that a socialism-inclined government came to power and developed ties with Moscow, the loving care bear peace president of the United States Jimmy Carter signed directives to begin covert support for anti-government movements in Kabul. Eventually things came to a head when American and Pakistani backed Islamist militants, who were angry with government attempts to secularize the country, attempted to overthrow the Afghan government, which precipitated a greater period of instability throughout the country. Eventually the Soviet Union intervened in the conflict in an attempt to prop up the socialist government against a broad insurgency which among other elements had a strong religious backing. Anyone with a basic grounding in history knows what happened next now that the Soviet Union had become involved in the conflict, in the usual petty tit for tat that both superpowers waged throughout the Cold War, the USA started giving masses of military and financial aid to a plethora of insurgent groups which did eventually push the Soviet Union out of the country but in the process massively destabilised the country setting the stage for a hard-line religious government to capitalise on the anarchy that was widespread across the whole country at this point in time .

At this point in time I would take care to point out that in both the cases of Iran and Afghanistan prior to the coming to power of theocratic governments, what we can see is western political ideologies creating a vacuum which in both cases a reactionary religious movement has filled. In the case of Iran, to ensure the continuing supply of oil for the Western consumer markets, such market minded capitalism lead to a staged coup which ousted a democratically elected leader and replaced him with a widely hated monarch who however was willing to continue to perpetuate Iran’s economic subservience to Western nations. In Afghanistan we saw a European style socialist government attempt to modernise and secularize the country along the same lines as had been done by the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations which led to much popular resentment of the government among the people of the country and later, when the USA and USSR we saw later day imperialism ruin the country and create a lawless state where the rule of the strong would be the only thing capable of maintaining order. These facts demonstrate a clear line of causation between the actions of the West, that is both schools of Western thought – capitalism and communism, and the type of governments that later formed there. The racist rhetoric of the media who assume that somehow that there is an innate love of religious government amongst Muslims is nonsensical and we would do well to begin viewing the situation as it really is with religious governments simply being just one possible option that people who find themselves in desperate situations can turn towards to lead them.

While these two rather well known cases of theocracies were developing however, other nations in the world were also steadily moving towards a theocratic government of sorts under the radar and continue to do so. The countries in question are Israel and the Gulf Arab nations, with the main example being Saudi Arabia. It is true that neither of the two nations I have just named are true theocracies in the dictionary sense of the word defining a theocracy as a “system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.” The above being true though, does not change the fact that both of the nations I mentioned above are nations were God is taken as the ultimate source of the constitution and the laws by which citizens live their lives. Saudi Arabia’s monarchy rule over a nation which is a theocracy in all but name and has been since the day it was first formed from the remnant states left after the Ottoman retreat in the First World War 1. The kingdom is not only a theocracy, but it is a theocracy of the type that gives atheists and secularists nightmares, with many of its laws based upon the most literal translation of thousands of year old texts which advocate many things which of course upset modern sensibilities. The problem with this as a practice, in my opinion at least, is that the laws were never defined by a wide political consensus but based upon the interpretations of holy texts by Religious and Political elites who naturally are inclined towards only creating laws that maintain their elite positions within society. I’m sure for example a majority of Saudi’s would likely feel less offended by adultery or women driving, than the clerics who enforce such laws which have been used to effectively terrorise the people into a miserable state of submission to the state. Of course were the truth of the matter that a wide array of Saudi’s had agreed upon the inclusion of such laws in their constitution then while it would admittedly still gall me then at least democracy had been practised but the theocratic practices of the Saudi monarchy are enforced from the top down with religion not only being a means of finding spiritual peace, as intended, but also a means for the elite to utilise in controlling the people, surely never the intention of any prophet.

In the case of Israel , we have a state which on the surface is even less of a theocracy than any of the three nations I have mentioned above and yet there are many unresolved issues with the country, several of which revolve around the place of religion in society. Central amongst the issues for both religious Zionists and for Palestinian Muslims and Christians that live within the borders of Israel proper is that Israel does not have a written constitution. The problem with a presumptive constitution is that it will inevitably lead to calls for the drafting and creation of a written constitution in the name of simplicity, and it is this drive by many for a written constitution to codify the laws that would govern the state of Israel that is the problem as the question is pondered as to whether the state of Israel is the state of all those within its borders or whether it is Jewish state exclusively for it’s Jewish citizens. This perhaps seems less repugnant to many in the West for example by comparison to the mandatory wearing of a headscarf but when we really get down to pondering the implications of the Israeli state defining itself as a Jewish state then they are just as horrifying. Dying with cancer and in urgent need of treatment to prevent death ? Wait your a Palestinian of the Shia branch of Islam, Sorry no space for you. Nearest school for you children to attend is just a mile down the road ? Sorry, if your a Palestinian Christian then the nearest school for your kids is ten miles away in a run down area of town. Want to keep your business open all day Saturday ? Sorry, Saturday is a holy day that all must observe whether they are religious or not. All of the above scenarios might seem a little far fetched but Israel already has a pitiably poor record when it comes to minority rights and it is entirely possible that, if the state of Israel was officially codified in writing as a Jewish state for its Jewish citizens, it would take this definition of itself to its logical conclusion by depriving anyone not of Jewish ancestry of valuable services and facilities.

When we look at countries where religion does play such a fundamental part as the basis of the laws by which society lives it is notable that the West has a very chequered record on this issue with certain theocracies being bad yet others being critical allies. On reflection, I feel Iran was simply unlucky when it became the first true theocracy in the current era in that it came to represent a powerful new political idea that to some degree helped a faltering nation in regaining much pride in itself by standing up to those who would have seen it subjected to their own political and economic interests and priorities. The success and totality with which the Iranian revolution overturned the existing natural order in one of the Middle East’s largest and arguably at the time most powerful nations undoubtedly scared many in the West whose economic and industrial and even cultural strengths to some degree were based almost entirely on access to cheap oil by which to export their goods to world markets and import the raw materials. Oil that is, that primarily came from other Middle Eastern countries  were now the West was worried similar revolutions might sweep to power and give rise to more nations that were willing to stand up to the neo-imperialist economic subjugation of their countries.

And this, as almost no ever says, is were it all went wrong. In true Western style, the nations of the West fed on a diet of poor quality intelligence and their own racist paranoia decided to embrace several other countries who were equally theocratic in nature and turn a blind eye to their barbarity which certainly in the cases of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan was as bad if not worse that of Iran. In signing this compact with devil the West demonstrated its blatant double standards on moral issues when profits are concerned and must have further reduced its own standing as an entity in the eyes of those that found themselves in countries were their rights were now being abused by corrupt elites in the name of a fundamentalist interpretation of their religion.

If the reader was left unsure by arguments offered above then I simply would ask them to consider the case of Syria, were the West is openly engaged currently in verbally antagonising a secular regime, which has always strived to negate sectarian conflict in its ethnically diverse territotry, and materially supporting some seriously unsavoury characters in their war with the Syrian Army. The reason for this you ask ? Well, the Syrian government is supported by the main bad theocracy, Iran, which we want to replace with a group of extremists who will likely replicate the hell hole that was southern Afghanistan under the Taliban, and the reason we support these groups ? Simply because they represent the interests of and are supported by the good theocracies as exampled by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Let us not forget

In my efforts last week, I returned to a time honoured subject upon which I have often waxed lyrical as it is a subject close to my heart- the occupation of Palestine and the subsequent illegality of many actions committed by the Zionist entity which monopolized power in the state of Israel since its founding in 1948. In last weeks post I focussed in particular on how Zionism as a movement has been particularly effective in monopolizing support for itself in the media primarily through omission and distortion of facts and heavy-handed bully-boy tactics that might make even this man quiver…

The sole reason that anyone in the UK should willingly pay a licence fee.

The sole reason that anyone in the UK should willingly pay a licence fee.

After much deliberation this week I have decided to continue casting an inquisitive spotlight over the actions and beliefs of Zionism in an effort to make clear, for any readers who have not already made their mind up, the moral repugnance of Zionism as a philosophy. In particular this post will focus on the main means through which practitioners of this peculiarly vile philosophy have demonstrated their bankruptcy in terms of morals – the distortion of the history of the Holocaust. That anyone would distort a tragedy of such size as the holocaust to secure for themselves benefits of any kind speaks a great deal already, but when you take into account how Zionism as a movement has continually served to distort the holocaust to serve its own ends at the expense of many of the other victims of the Nazi’s exterminatory policies then I vehemently believe you really have come face to face with evil.

I hope that as I progress through this post, the problems this image poses will become increasingly clear

I hope that as I progress through this post, the problems this image poses will become increasingly clear

I recognise in proceeding along this road the likelihood that I may upset some people,  and it is perhaps with something of a heavy heart that I do proceed knowing that but to defend my decision I will bring the readers attention once more to a quote which I have utilised many times by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu which more articulately describes the situation than I could ever hope to – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Further to this I would like to make clear that my aim is not to diminish the suffering of the Jews who were killed during the holocaust but to illuminate the vast scale of slaughter that was equally committed against other minorities who today do not remain free of the common prejudices of many people across the world. With these caveats out of the way please feel free to read on at your own discretion to find the body of my argument.

The first problem in arguing for recognition of the other victims of the Holocaust is that the very definition itself is tied up in the political wrangling that surrounds how we record this event. Eminent historians, who have officially recognised that many groups alongside Jews were targeted, presumably due to the immense political pressures placed on anyone who specialises in the Holocaust academically have resorted to offering almost Orwellian definitions of the nature of the Holocaust. It pains me to repeat these capitulations (in my view) or whitewashes in one case by historians who otherwise command the utmost respect but below are a sample of statements on how leading historians define the events of the Holocaust:

  • Timothy Snyder states that “The term Holocaust is sometimes used in two other ways: to mean all German killing policies during the war, or to mean all oppression of Jews by the Nazi regime.”
  • Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia offer the opinion in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust that the term is commonly defined as the mass murder of more than five million European Jews. But alongside their definition presented there, they offer the platitude that “Not everyone finds this a fully satisfactory definition”.
  • Martin Gilbert in stating the number of victims of the Nazi Holocaust only cites the figure for Jewish deaths.

This might sound like semantics to those not particularly interested but the way we define the holocaust is of critical importance. It is demonstrably clear that in two out of three of the cases I have listed above that the author, while acknowledging the facts that there were other victims of Nazi exterminatory policy, is towing the official line in only recognising Jewish victims as the ‘official’ ones. There is no logical reason why the ‘other’ victims of the Holocaust are defined separately and so it logically follows that they should be recognised as victims of the holocaust and not victims of some separate yet less hideous atrocity. In defining the Holocaust for myself, I lean very closely to the first term described by Timothy Snyder above when he says that the Holocaust is taken ” to mean all German killing policies during the war”. In choosing this as the definition I believe to be the clearest representation of historical fact, I conducted an analysis of my own as to the intentions of Nazi extermination policies firstly, towards the Jews of Europe and the secondly, towards all other persecuted groups. In studying the intentions of Nazi policy in attempting to wipe out these groups it is eminently clear that the Nazi intentions were the same in both cases,  the intentions being namely:

  • To clear land otherwise occupied by undesirable groups to make way for its settlement by ethnic German populations and also in liquidating undesirables freeing up their property, homes, financial resources etc for use by German population. 
  • To maintain the fabled blood purity of the ‘Aryan’ race by destroying all potential ‘pollutants’ which could potentially pollute the blood of the vaunted German race.
  • To maintain the ideological purity of the Nazi vision for its empire by destroying all potential ‘pollutants’ who might challenge the ideologies valued in the public sphere of the vaunted German race.

Taking the above facts as truth, we can see that the policy of extermination of various groups all served the same ends and therefore it makes complete sense that the the attempts to exterminate undesirable groups should be classed together as a singular event in history. The current approach is incorrect in my opinion as it breaks up the attacks by the Nazis against the different undesirable groups into distinct atrocities as if separate and distinct motives informed the crimes when as I have demonstrated above the reality is that the exact same purposes were at work in every case. 

When wondering how to define the holocaust in a much more non-specific way then my definition would be that it is amongst a group of events in human history that are uniquely troubling in their vileness and also provide the perfect retort to every drivelling idiot who sees something that warms the heart and says something like this “faith in humanity restored.” I mean how can you ever hold any faith in humanity when members of the human race, albeit deranged fanatical fascist ones, enacted a deliberate policy to systematically slaughter whole parts of the human race, how dense does it make you that someone giving up their seat on the bus or the train makes you think humans aren’t irreversibly damaged on a philosophical level?  The critical reason that we must recognise the multitude of groups who were targeted alongside Jews is that if we fail to do so, we commit an act almost as hideously vile in denying the recognition to victims of such an atrocity. In the words of one notable holocaust survivor, when speaking about the victims of an altogether separate genocide, to deny the victims the recognition they deserve is to kill them a second time. By failing to acknowledge properly the ‘other victims’ of the Holocaust we effectively say that their suffering is less significant than that of the Europe’s Jews. This is an issue of critical important as ultimately since the Holocaust if only one positive end has been reached, it is that popular prejudice against Jews is no longer a commonly held value whereas those victims who have not received the proper recognition for their suffering still face much discrimination to this day which is justified in many of the same ways as the hatred of Jews was justified in Nazi Europe.

Now that I have made clear my opinion on how the Holocaust should, and hopefully one day will, be defined, and also made perfectly clear the reasons recognition of the other victims of the Holocaust is vitally important, I will begin to demonstrate the scale in which other minority groups were targeted by the Nazis, which should leave the reader in no doubt that we must recognise the fact that the Holocaust was much wider reaching in its scope than current definitions recognise.

  • The first group that I believe need to be included in the total cost of life’s that the Holocaust reaped as opposed to being listed as victims of some other arbitrary atrocity is the Poles. The decisions that carried the Nazi armies onto Polish soil in 1939 were exactly the same as those which informed the change of policy towards Europe’s Jews. The decisions that informed the ethnic cleansing of both groups from conquered territory revolved around clearing ‘Lebensraum’ for Germans and so it makes sense that the the killing of both groups falls under the same category of crime.
    The same practices that we instantly recongise as associated with the specifically "Jewish Holocaust" were used to equally ill effect to identify and massacre Poles throughout the Second World War.

    The same practices that we instantly recognise as associated with the specifically “Jewish Holocaust” were used to equally ill effect to identify and massacre Poles throughout the Second World War.

    It is true that the Poles as a general rule were persecuted as vigorously from the outset of the war meaning that they were less victims of the gas chambers and more victims of the gun but this does not diminish in any way the scale of the casualties suffered by Poland with approximately 14% of the polish population (5 million including Jews) lost at the hands of the German forces. It is also worthy taking into account that of the roughly 6 million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust as we currently recognise it that approximately half would have been Polish Jews so there is a definite argument to be heard in the notion that if we are to subdivide the Holocaust into separate atrocities that instead of subdividing it by group targeted that we should instead group the targeted populations and divide by theatre of the the holocaust. Instead then of dividing the Holocaust up into the genocide committed against Jews and that committed against Slavs, we should perhaps split the Holocaust up into the Holocaust as waged in Poland, that waged in the Ukraine, that waged in Belgium etc. Such an approach would arguably be preferable as it takes into account that within a country there was no real hierarchy of murder and that each group was targeted on an equal basis and it also would help to make clear that the Holocaust was waged very differently throughout Europe with Jews originating in France receiving much less brutal treatment than those from the Eastern Bloc and Soviet countries.

  • Another group which has arguably been white-washed  even further from the officially recognised victims of the Holocaust are Soviet POW’s. Unlike the Jews and Poles who formed a potential physical corruption of German blood in the mind of the Nazis, the Soviet POW’s who ended up in Nazi hands were persecuted and exterminated on account of the perceived ideological danger that they created for Germany as Communists had formed one of the many groups that the Nazis were persistently opposed to in Germany and this carried on into their occupation of Europe. Alongside the purposeful targeting of Soviets for ethnic cleansing along Ideological lines it is also true that the treatment of Soviet POW’s was also informed by one of the chief aims of the Holocaust which was to reduce the burden on limited resources and free these up for the German population – fair treatment of the multitudes of Soviet POW’s that were captured in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa would have entailed a massive logistical effort for the Germans which would have been extremely difficult to maintain in a war environment. This disregard for human life combined with the ideological hatred of Soviet prisoners ultimately saw between 2 and 3 million die in the early stages of the war. That the savagery unleashed was intentional and not purely an accident in the fog of war was probably to some extent proven by the fury that was unleashed against the Germans after the Soviets halted the German offensive and returned one of their own onto German Soil. Further proof that the treatment of Soviet POW’s was a genocidal behaviour on the part of the Nazis is provided by the disparity between the number of Western prisoners from Great Britain and the US who were killed after capture and the number of Soviets who were killed. From a total of 231,000 British and American prisoners captured 8300 died whereas in the case of the Soviets around half of the roughly 5 million prisoners died in German captivity.
Vast swathes of captured Soviets would have been an all too common sight on the Eastern Front.

Vast swathes of captured Soviets would have been an all too common sight on the Eastern Front.

  • Another group that I believe should be included and is often recognised but as I have already mentioned, only recognised in the context of their own separate ‘Holocaust’ called the Porajmos, is the Romani and Sinti people. In more common parlance (and racist for that matter) we know the Romani and Sinti as Gypsies. That they were targeted by the Nazis was not something that was well recognised before the 1980s but since then the record has begun to recognise that atrocities were committed against these people as they too were defined much in the same way as other groups who were targeted as ‘undesirable’ and ‘dirty’. One problem that complicates the recognition that these people deserve is that genocidal policy regarding them differed from country to country (in my opinion adding further weight to the need to subdivide the Holocaust not by groups targeted but by country. That the policy differed from country to country does not however change the fact that there was a reasonably large population of Romani in Europe at the time and where they were targeted they were exterminated on a large scale .
    A map of countries showing the number of Romani prior to WW2.

    A map of countries showing the number of Romani prior to WW2.

    In the debates that have raged since the end of the Second World War, the number of Romani/ Sinti victims of the Holocaust has been placed as low as 130,000 by Niewyk and Nicosia and on the other hand by a specialist in Roma studies, Ian Hancock the number has been placed as high as half a million possibly even one and half million. Hancock argues that whatever the figure that proportionately as many if not more Roma and Sinti were killed in the Holocaust than even the Jews and so it is markedly noticeable that their suffering receives so little attention in most accounts of the Holocaust.

  • One last group that I will identify as having suffered tremendously as a result of the Holocaust for the exact same reasons as all other groups, therefore qualifying them as victims of the Holocaust, is Homosexuals. Targeted from a very early period in Nazi history, a large number of Homosexuals were at some pointed targeted by discrimination by the Nazi authorities, although the proportion is difficult to ascertain as it is obviously easier to hide manifestations of sexuality than it is to hide race or membership of communities. Records show that around 50,000 homosexual men were targeted and of those around 15,000 ended up in concentration camps were they were subjected to an unusual level of torture and suffering relative to most other groups which speaks volumes about the level of hatred being just the same if not worse in some ways than that shown to other groups. A leading Scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60% and that would certainly on a surface level appear to sound correct when the camp guards ‘interests’ are taken into account. The recording of Homosexuals who were targeted was ultimately complicated by the fact that Homosexuality remained criminalised in post war Germany and so the the reality is we will probably never know the true extent to which the Holocaust exterminated Homosexuals.

I have decided for the sake of brevity to end my identification of other groups who should equally be recognised as victims of the Nazi Holocaust there. Given more time and space I would also identify Slavs, Peoples with disabilities (both mental and physical),  Religious minorities such as Jehovahs Witnesses, Non Europeans and enemy nationals as other groups equally worthy of identification as having been targeted for extermination in the Holocaust. The reason I plumped for three of the four groups was I discussed above  was quite purposeful on my part. The reason was to demonstrate that while as a result of the recognition of their suffering during the Holocaust, Jews have been able to put an end to popular prejudices against themselves as a race, in the case of Poles, Romani and Homosexuals who are not really recognised as a victims of the Holocaust despite the historical facts, common prejudices against them remain relatively widespread throughout Europe. There are two other reasons also why I believe it is critical that we acknowledge and recognise  the other victims of the Nazi Holocaust that I will now briefly explain. Firstly, by only acknowledging the Jewish suffering  that took place in the Holocaust, we have allowed Zionist elements within Judaism to claim the status as the sole victims of the worst atrocity in history which they have used as a smokescreen to commit ethnic cleansing of their own, and continuing to this day that status as sole victims is being used to avoid all criticism in all forums. By acknowledging that actually there were many other victims of the Holocaust we remove that status of sole victim, which has been used too often as an excuse by Israeli elites to commit morally reprehensible acts, whilst still recognising the massive suffering of the Jewish people that came about as a result of the Holocaust. The second reason that I believe it is important that we recognise the other victims of the Holocaust is that to not do so is to diminish the scale of the atrocity committed, especially when we take into account that when the other groups are counted amongst the victims the death toll of the Holocaust doubles, and therefore to prevent its proper recording in History which serves no-one.

Through continual manipulation of the historical facts, Zionists as a movement have exploited a tragedy which their people endured, and exploited it past all interpretations of good taste or even just plain taste. In doing so they have escaped culpability for many crimes against humanity and international law whilst diminishing the suffering of others who were equally persecuted in the darkest days of humanity. By reclaiming the Holocaust as an event which crossed ethnic divisions we remove this excuse. In removing this excuse we live in hope that by removing the Holocaust from the sole ownership of the Zionists who cradle it for all of its political worth that we remove its use as a political tool and instead allow it to become a solemn moment in history from which we learn a lot of lessons about why our common prejudices are and have always been wrong.

First they ignore you, then they silence you

Last week I read a highly interesting and thought-provoking essay on Al-Jazeera, albeit not the most interesting of stories I have ever shared with readers. I will elaborate a little further to make clear why my reading last week should be of interest to anyone on earth other than because, well I said so.  The article in question was a piece written by Joseph Massad for the Al Jazeera English service and was titled “The Last of the Semites”, in his article Massad discussed the racist nature of Zionism and demonstrated how as an ideology it is based on many of the  very same racist presumptions made by the most virulent anti-Semitists. This however, while explaining my own interesting in the article, is still not why this story is of interest to the reader. The reason I have discussed this story is that not long after the article was posted it was also pulled in a bizarre move by the senior editors to seemingly sate Israel’s baying hounds despite AJE’s reputation as being one of the few media sources which can be relied upon for a balanced discussion of Israel compared to many of the other leading sources of news outside of the region.

As one commentator, Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada highlighted in the wake of this event the decision seems even more bizarre considering that of the channels few red lines as far as the owner, the Emir of Qatar, is concerned – Massad has crossed all of these previously by previously publishing articles critical of both Qatari Foreign policy and the the Emir without once being censured. That the straw that broke the camels back in this case was pressure from Israel will come as no great surprise to anyone who has seen figureheads of world opinion operate against other dissenting voices on the countries policies in the past. Take for example Ali Abunimah, one of the editors in chief if not THE editor in chief at Electronic Intifada who is regularly slandered with every term that forms the varied spectrum of insults that Israel’s defenders will use to try through a policy of attrition to make something stick in the hope of rendering the victims opinions null and void. This policy is so school yard it is at times hard to believe that a country with perhaps the worlds most effective PR team (our of necessity rather than skill) is its chief user. If for example – I became engaged in an argument as to whether apples are better than oranges with my arch enemy and instead of offering evidence I simply shouted swear words at my enemy at the top of my voice until people in the audience began to agree with my shouted opinion – have I really won the argument ? or simply stopped myself from losing by being unable to present any relevant facts that backup my opinions. Much as this has been in the policy used against Abunimah and various other voices in the past, it was also the policy used by the attack dogs against Massad in the wake of this articles publication on the AJE website. Here are two choice examples in tweet form from just two of Israel’s most prominent public defenders:

“Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory”

and

“Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead’s salary!”

what we can see here is fairly typical of this approach in that there is no balance attempted (granted its twitter and characters are limited but the point stands as balance on twitter can appear in tweets that follow an original) and there’s an appeal to a third party rather than directly to Massad himself asking him to clarify what his post meant which I presume aims at raising hackles over criticism in the press in an attempt to get third parties to self censor so to speak.

Since writing these paragraphs AJE have made a rather humiliating about face on the Massad article and restored it to its rightful place on the website. While this makes some of the statements above mildly irrelevant the overall theme of this post has remained unchanged and so I will continue without drastically altering the piece itself.

However unique this story is in many ways, it is also fairly atypical of the media’s relations with Israel as a whole which is problematic only in the sense that the representations that the lions share of the media present of Israel are utterly false in their one-sidedness. Take for example the discussion of any forces that are involved in the conflict as a clear demonstration of the media’s cognitive and seemingly inherent bias in Israel’s favour. It is true as the media should report that there is armed conflict between the Israeli army and Palestinians. Notice what words didn’t follow Palestinians then, here are a few that spring to mind as notable for their lack of an appearance “Army, Units, Regiments, Squads, Forces”. The media chooses, seemingly through omission, to neglect to inform the audience of the massive disparity in the forces involved in the conflict with “battles often consisting of whole armed brigades of the IDF on one side facing off against one or two Palestinians who may or may not be militants. When the Media chooses to neglect these details in its reportage of conflict between the two parties it presumably does so for two reasons:

  1. To actually reveal troop numbers to audiences around the world might finally put the final nail in the coffin of the deluded fantasy that the Israeli Defence Force is anything of the sort.
  2. Again, to reveal troop numbers to audiences around the world might also put paid to the Zionist myths that Israel is surrounded by hordes of rabid enemies, just waiting to pounce on the innocent jews, that has helped them to achieve so much support and recognition in the wider world.

What we can see in these justifications above are just two possible examples that the Western media might have for self-censoring their content in favour of Israel, although I am not saying that these are the concrete reasons behind every bizarre editorial decision that is made that seems to support Israel. No, I won’t suggest that as I know there is an equally pressing force which defines a worrying amount of what is and isn’t reported in the worlds media and that is… money.

The whole money aspect was something I was going to touch on anyway as it does define a lot of what is covered or not covered in the case of Israel but, after the Massad article was reposted on AJE, as if to prove my point Electronic Intifada did some digging and found financial reasons to be behind the original censorship of the article. According to research conducted by EI, the manager of the new US branch of Al Jazeera was concerned about the impact that such an article would have in US markets which are extremely sensitive to criticisms of the Zionist state. While these concerns perhaps warrant some thought they certainly do not in any way validate the decision to remove the article as to do simply demonstrates that the US market for information (amongst many others) is dictated by Zionists and that truly no source is free of the immense stifling effect Israeli power has on free speech. As a parting thought I would simply ask the reader to think about the veracity of any information they have ever received from the mass media about Israel when it has proven powerful enough to censor the one network that has prided itself in the past on providing a counter argument to the usual points made in the countries defence.

The tortured rhetoric of escalation.

Ninety-nine years ago a war began in Europe which did more to define the borders of the Middle East than any other event in history. That war was World War 1, and in a round about way it defined the borders of roughly 8 countries out of a conservative estimate of 16 in the wider region. In defining these borders, it must surely rank as one of histories greatest follies that no inhabitants of any of these countries were involved and that such arrangements were  ultimately made with only the view points of one Englishman and a Frenchman take into account. Imagine China and Japan dictating the borders of European countries ? Are we to assume they would create borders with the other countries’ interests at heart or we would fall down on the side of the most probable response and assume that if one country was asked to define another countries borders that it would do so only in its own interest. History teaches us many things and perhaps an overarching theme to what we can learn by studying the past is that benignity in politics is as good as non-existent. I highlight this particular viewpoint of mine to make clear from the outset for the reader my views on the disastrous effect the purely self-interested policies of the French and British empires had on the middle east and further, continue to have as we can see in the rapidly escalating crisis in Syria. In defining borders in the Middle East, the gentlemen Sykes and Picot had two ingredients with which they worked, land and people. Land is easy from the point of view of a someone tasked with making a nation, it does not protest to the arbitrary lines scribbled across it by the cartographer and without the intervention of people those lines might well last an eternity in quiet peace. Humans are a little different, they do protest the arbitrary lines that cut them off from friends and family and surround them with different ethnic groups and religions and often the results of humans doing so is an incredibly bloody affair. Anyway back the matter in hand, when Sykes and Picot made their borders they operated on a policy of divide and rule with regards the people by empowering minority ethnic groups to hold disproportionate amounts of power at the expense of the majority. when discussing the middle east many often bemoan the fact that seemingly the region is cursed with what seems an inherent taste of violent conflict with both internal and external enemies and depending on the commentator themselves, they will offer any number of potential reasons for this supposed quality. What these arguments about the violent nature of the middle east miss out is that for comparison we always think of our own countries in the west which as a result of events in the past are generally ethnically and culturally homogeneous whereas the middle east in a word is far more heterogeneous in all ways. this heterogeneity is a direct result of the Sykes-Picot agreement and World War 1 and we are seemingly seeing its side effects emerge more and more on a daily basis in Syria, but the the trouble does not end there as the destabilizing effect of the conflict seems to be escalating previously small civil conflict in almost all neighbouring countries, primarily Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey so that we are on the verge of watching another region burned over as a result of the follies of the west. I will now discuss a briefly the emerging situation in each of these countries and highlight the points of concern.

Turkey:

Turkey flag

While I have included Turkey here in my analysis, it is true that of the three countries I mentioned Turkey as it stands has remained relatively free from conflict but none the less there are worrying signs present in the political landscape and further Turkey has many of the ingredients necessary for a civil conflict of it its own. The first point of concern I believe that we should pay attention to is the way in which turkey has involved itself in the Syrian conflict. Turkey has from a very early point in the conflict declared its support for the rebel factions in Syria and has allowed the setting up of a Syrian government in exile amongst its own borders, all of this on top of Turkey having been the primary safe haven for refugees fleeing the conflict. This of course is the official state of affairs but if the rumours many have heard on the grapevine are to be believed then attacks by rebels against the Syrian government forces have been launched from Turkish soil. Further to this another rumour circulating is that after stray mortar shells landed in Turkey that the armed forces used this a pretext for launching raids across the border aimed at their perennial enemies, the Kurds. From all of this evidence we can see that Turkey has become embroiled in the Syrian civil war much like the Gulf Arab states, although unlike the countries of the Gulf, turkey shares a border with Syria that could quite easily facilitate the spread of conflict from one country to the other.  In recent weeks we perhaps had a inkling of this process of the conflict spreading beginning when 2 suicide bombs were detonated in a town on the Turkish border with Syria that killed 43 people. The official story, which I believe should be taken with a pinch of salt bearing in mind the number of stories that haver turned out to be false such as the Syrian governments supposed use of chemical weapons, was that the bombings were carried out by groups linked with the Syrian intelligence service. I feel the Syrian rebels a more likely culprit as they stand to gain much more from the conflict escalating in terms of other governments committing military forces to the conflict or failing this at least an increase in the amount of financial and/or technical support that they will receive from the coalition of countries allied against the Syrian regime. Either way, whoever you believe to be responsible for the bombing the fact remains that the conflict appears to be being waged by neighbouring proxies which does not bode well for peace in Turkey itself. While part of the problems then of turkey stem from the conflict in neighbouring Syria, there are aspects of the Turkish political landscape that may well lend themselves to the fomentation of civil conflict independent of anything going on in neighbouring Syria and it is my concern that a combination of Turkish problems alongside the overspill from the syrian civil war may see the country burn. The main troubling ingredient present in the Turkish landscape is the sizeable Kurdish population whose relations with Ankara have never been particularly jovial as a result of the long history of persecution of the Kurds by the Turkish government and in recent weeks a peace deal of sorts has been signed between the two parties. All it would take is for this deal to break down, which history has shown us in the form of previous truce agreements is likely, and combined with the severely militarised climate of south eastern turkey I would not like to hazard a guess as to what the consequences might be other than to guess that whatever they are they will not be pretty. Ultimately of all the countries I discuss in this article, Turkey is the least likely to suffer but this is very much dependent on how long the conflict rages on for in Syria. If the Syrian civil war ends relatively soon then it is easy enough to see Turkey avoiding any crisis but if the war continues indefinitely then Turkeys level of involvement will only increase commensurate with the age of the conflict.

Lebanon:

Lebannon flag

Of three countries I discuss in this post none are more closely interconnected with Syria than Lebanon is. The history of the relationship between the two countries has seen the countries at each others throats on more than one occasion and it has also seen them being the closet of allies. Lebanon has all of the essential ingredients to precipitate the spreading of the conflict into another country. Firstly there is a large bastion of support for Bashar present in Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah who are a formidable fighting force and are in all likelihood loathed by the Islamist rebels in Syria as it is a Shia Muslim group. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon could easily escalate any emerging crisis especially if they are targeted by rebel groups laying low in Lebanon itself which is a significant possibility being as suicide bombings have been conducted in Lebanon since the start of the conflict in Syria with many citing rebel groups as the party responsible. Another factor that makes Lebanon a likely candidate for an overspill of the conflict emerging is the polarisation along sectarian lines of much of Lebanese society. For fifteen years the world saw Lebanon torn apart by brutal sectarian conflict which again like much of the conflict in the middle east was a result of the borders arbitrarily drawn in the carve up of the middle east after world war 1 which placed minority’s in all of the positions of power in many countries. The Lebanese civil war was a particularly bloody affair as it moved away from any meaningful conflict with clear aims towards a conflict of retaliation and reprisal massacres and were the Syrian civil war to spread across its neighbours border then there is no reason to believe that the same would not be true again. Much like Turkey however, the ultimate deciding factor is how much longer the conflict in Syria continues for but unlike Turkey the likelihood that the Syrian civil war  will escalate to the point where its neighbour becomes involved is significantly greater. Another element present in the case of Lebanon is that it has become something of a hub for gulf money making its way into the hands of Syrian rebels and naturally this presents us with the likelihood that alongside this money coming into the country that a far more destabilising import is also entering Lebanese territory in the form of gulf Salafists and other fundamentalists which does not bode well for stability in a country that has never had a particularly strong track record for peace.

Iraq:

Iraq flag

Iraq is very much the odd one here as it is recent history is unfortunately full of conflict so it perhaps seems a bit confusing for me to include it in a list of possible countries that the Syrian civil war may spread to but something serious is in motion in Iraq which seems to very clearly linked to the conflict in Syria. The case of Iraq would always be a problematic one for suggesting it as a place where an Arab Spring type revolution or conflict might take place as its history in the lead up to the region wide event was so fundamentally different with the invasion in 2003 and then many years of sectarian conflict and near enough outright civil war. All of the above being true alongside the Arab Spring that we heard about in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia was an identical movement of protest against the current corrupt regime in Iraq which I can only assume was neglected from the media because they didn’t accept stories coming from Iraq that didn’t involve people being murdered aimlessly by suicide bombers. While a peaceful protest movement aimed to some degree at the liberalisation of the Iraqi political sphere was a great positive for the political landscape there, from very early on the movement become somewhat bogged down in Sectarian divisions with much of the protesting being carried out by the Sunni minority who felt (legitimately) that they had been marginalised by the Shia-Kurdish alliance in government. The main area in which these protests took part was also the predominantly Sunni areas west of Baghdad (Sunni Triangle for those who feel the need to use US army terms at all times) and so what I feel that we can observe in the case of Iraq is a genuine movement for political reform like in all of the other Arab Spring protests which was subverted by sectarian causes much the same as in Syria. Of course that being said one thing that Syria had in its favour before the start of its respective uprising was that it had enjoyed peace within its own borders since the Hama uprising in 1982 whereas Iraq has pretty much literally been torn apart by the sectarian divisions created after the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Iraq like the other two countries I have already discussed has been closely connected with Syria in a number of ways since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 such as hosting a large number of refugees who in a bizarre twist of fate decided that they were indeed safer in Iraq were they had fled from in 2003 than they were in Syria in 2011. Another way in which the countries were closely interlinked was that it was reported that amongst the more hard line Islamist elements fighting in Syria were many of the same who had terrorized large swathes of the Iraqi population previously.  Alongside the training that Iraq had provided them with into how to effectively terrorize civilian populations it is also probable that it provided them with a lot of military equipment and perhaps most importantly of all it provided them with a safe haven in the form of the Syrian-Iraqi Desert, a rather inhospitable area which due to the climate is policed A) ineffectively or B) not at all (you choose). This border region will be one of the key factors that could drag Iraq into civil conflict as it has been used once before as a base of resupply for insurgency movements desperate to avoid being traced and it is likely that if its not already being used by Rebels in Syria then it will be soon enough. A further reason I believe that Iraq is standing atop a dangerous precipice at this moment in time with it looking increasingly likely to follow Syria’s example is that much like in the case of Syria in 2011,  prolonged peaceful protests have unfortunately not resulted in any massive changes to the system in Iraq and so violence will come to look more and more like the only solution to the problem. There has been a spike in the last month or so in the number of suicide bombings throughout the country and according to an article published in The Indepedent written by their Iraq specialist Patrick Cockburn some Iraqis believe their civil war has already started. whether that is true or not, the likely scenario is that the porous border between the  current sectarian hell-hole that is Syria and the  recovering sectarian hell-hole that is Iraq will only lead to more blood being spilt. Iraq is probably level with Lebanon in terms of the likelihood that it will become a theatre of the Syrian civil conflict but because of its past experiences you have been warned that what you can expect will be a hell of a lot uglier than the worst of Syria’s fight so far.

The enemy of my enemy…

Last week, a most unsurprising development in the Syrian civil war was announced in the news which then was presumably followed by much agonised chin scratching in western political circles who’s narrative regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria prior to said announcement had been relatively simple considering the convoluted nature of the crisis. The announcement that I make reference to is that of the Al-Nusra Front declaring themselves for Al-Qaeda which was surely news to no-one yet hit with devastating force none the less as people perhaps began to wake up and see that again foreign policy is all to often dictated by the proverb that I have used as the title for this post and that once again in Syria we are in bed with a group we barely understand. In years to come I genuinely fear that this saying will only gain in poignancy as we reflect on the legacy of the Arab Spring which despite holding such dreamy promises in its early days seems to have mutated into something bearing a greater resemblance to a nightmare. While many forces have been at work throughout the ongoing Arab Spring, this mutation of the idealistic revolution into something resembling more on a daily basis the revolutions of France and Russia is in all likelihood due in no small part to the part that has been played by Western actors who have armed factions with whom they shared all too convenient hatreds. In this post I intend to discuss notable times where the sentiments of this proverb have been applied and will demonstrate that each time it has been used that the results are always as spectacularly disastrous for innocent lives and show further that the Arab Spring is seemingly no different.

Perhaps the most notable case in relatively recent history of the use of this maxim to broker alliances between nations that were ultimately hostile to each other in the name of overriding interests would be the Second World War. Two alliances of convenience were formed during the six years in which this conflict raged, both involving the USSR as a regional power. First off the bat, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a mutual non-aggression pact known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact after the foreign ministers responsible for signing it. This pact on the part of Nazi Germany guaranteed that the Soviet Union would stay uninvolved in any emerging European war leaving Germany able to focus its energies on subjugation of Poland and other Western European nations. This is a prime example of an alliance of convenience as the Nazi party ultimately clawed hold of power in Germany through stoking the fires of suspicion against Communists working to subvert the Reichstag and democracy yet in a moment of need came to an agreement with a supposedly newly found friend. It is also a prime example this type of alliance as it ultimately collapsed once the supply of mutual enemies between the once antagonistic nations came to an end with Great Britain seemingly at the point of collapse and the USA yet to enter the war. In one of history’s most disastrous back-stabbings, Hitler then suddenly re-remembered that he despised communism and that his rant in book form Mein Kampf called for the annexation of much Soviet territory to satisfy the Nazi hunger for land.

Molotov signs the Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact. Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin.

Molotov signs the Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact. Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin.

Another reason that the Second World War is a prime example of this proverb in action is that in the aftermath of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, another alliance of convenience was formed this time between Great Britain (and later the USA) and the Soviet Union who if anything despised each other more than the Nazis and the Soviets had done. After all, the political movement which Stalin was a figurehead of at the time had in the minds of the British at least deserted them in their hour of need during the First World War and also the central ideology of the Soviet Union was deeply antagonistic to the ways of life of the British Empire and the United States. The feelings of dislike were very much mutual with Stalin reportedly saying that Churchill was “the worst of the capitalists” but ultimately the common interest of beating back Nazism prevailed momentarily at least. Of course, the ultimate legacy of this alliance was that while it did put an end to the threat of Nazism it evolved into a cold-war between the two diametrically opposed ideologies with almost fifty years of tension that could have at any moment ended the human race ensuing. Besides the irony of an alliance between enemies breaking down into a conflict which greatly outlasted the original war it sought to end, history will look back on this and likely say the strangest thing of all was the Britain and the USA in an effort to stop one tyrant bedded another far worse one in Stalin who is often blamed for upwards of 50 million deaths throughout his reign.

Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the Tehran conference - Papa Joe, king of the political wheeler-dealers and (probably) world mass murderers.

Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the Tehran conference – Papa Joe, king of the political wheeler-dealers and (probably) world mass murderers.

As has already been alluded to in the above section on the series of alliances of convenience that were struck in World War 2 the Nazi party, inflammatory rhetoric put to one side, wasn’t afraid to make alliances with nations that it despised in order to get ahead of more direct threats. Another example of the Nazi’s propensity for such types of alliances is the friendship that developed between Nazi agents and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and one of the most divisive Palestinians to ever enter the political stage. Again, this relationship on the surface makes little sense as according to the racial hierarchy that much of the Nazi empire was classified by, the Palestinian Arabs who al-Husseini represented, were not many steps higher than the Jews and consequently would likely have experienced the same treatment had the Nazis every really made headways in the Middle East. The decision  by al-Husseini to ally with the most vocally anti-Semitic power in the world was seemingly based around a mutual dislike for the British who ruled much of the Middle East at the time through League of Nation Mandates and also around the concern of Jewish immigration into Palestine as European Jews escaped the persecutions of the Nazis. And we can assume that all the Nazis saw in an alliance with the Arabs was simply a convenient ally who could support in the fight against the more militarily powerful British. Whatever the reasons for the alliance, time passed and eventually it broke down and back fired on the Palestinians. By allying himself with Hitler, al-Husseini arguably seriously discredited the Palestinian cause for a long time by making his antipathy to the foundation of a Jewish state appear to be related to anti-Semitism rather than simply being a result of his support of Arab nationalism. In appearing to be close to Hitler, whatever the ultimate reality of their relationship, al-Husseini gave the most ardent Zionists a conveniently unapologetic figurehead of supposed Arab anti-Semitism who to this day is used to justify the position of strength Israel feels the need to maintain.

Not the type of image you want surfacing later in life when fronting advocacy campaigns of any sort.

Not the type of image you want surfacing later in life when fronting advocacy campaigns of any sort.

The next case of a country following the mantra “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is perhaps one of the most famous instances of this idea in practice, the USA’s collusion and financial backing of Pakistani and Arab forces in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union’s invasion of 1979. Much has been done throughout the Cold War, the USA backed paramilitary forces that often were unlikely to reclaim power from the communist forces in whichever country but militarily were adept enough to be a serious thorn in the side of the supposed “international communist conspiracy”. The financial and logistical support which the foreign Mujahideen received enabled them to hold off the military juggernaut of the Soviet Union for over 9 years until Gorbachev decided that Soviet forces would withdraw in 1989 and arguably this defeat was critical in ensuring the eventual downfall of the one time superpower. If the record ended there then this alliance might have be the most successful alliance of convenience in the history of man but unfortunately for all parties involved the story does not end there. Slowly but surely after the Soviet armed forces withdrew, the Mujahideen warlords who, during the 9 years for which the conflict had raged, had amassed massive political and military power in Afghanistan dragged the country into a vicious civil war which ended tens of thousands of lives and destroyed more of the country than the Soviet Union ever managed. This period of Chaos did eventually end when the Taliban, a politico-religious force which sought to the end the period of instability  managed to gain control of the country. This in itself might have been enough proof that alliances of convenience are often very dangerous agreements but again history added some more spice to the dish when the Taliban allowed Al-Qaeda, architects of global terrorism, to take refuge in their Islamic fundamentalist state.

The direct result of Cold War politics

The direct result of Cold War politics.

Now that I have considered some historical examples of the use of the proverb “the enemy of my enemy …” I will now discuss the Arab Spring and show how true to form, alliances that were formed with groups purely on the basis of a common shared enemy seem to be doomed to failure. Either these alliances have already broken down in a remarkably short time scale, in the cases of Libya and Syria or seem consistently on the verge of breaking down as is the case in Egypt and to a questionable degree also Tunisia. For a movement that sprung from boundless optimism with the lofty intentions of killing off the corrupt old guard regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa we have come a long way to the point at which we are at now with the only thing that seems to have changed being the dictator who happens to sit on the throne. I’ll now briefly look at each case in hand:

  • Tunisia – The first country to overthrow its leader and the birthplace of the Arab Spring. When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire little did he know where his actions would end. The Arab Spring in Tunisia resulted in a massive democratisation of Tunisia with Ben Ali, head of state for 24 years overthrown, the dissolution of the political police and elections to a constituent assembly later that year. The newly democratised country of Tunisia is perhaps the most safe of all the countries who managed to overthrow their governments being as relatively speaking it was the most peaceful upheaval and did not rely on paramilitary groups or major violence to end the regime unlike the other three countries in question. However this is not to say that that the Tunisian “Jasmine revolution” isn’t endangered by foolish alliances of convenience like in neighbouring Libya. The calls to revolt which sounded in later 2010 appealed to a broad social consensus ranging from liberal human rights based groups through to hard-line Salafist groups and ultimately the success of the revolution was based on the involvement of every group that participated. In the time that has passed since Ben Ali was overthrown concern has been voiced that hard-line religious elements have begun to co-opt the democratic process for their own ends. In the case of Tunisia then the alliance that was formed between a variety of groups has yet to result in any major backlash as the result of hastily formed alliances and so there is still hope that Tunisia will buck the trend of one time allies either usurping the democratic process or forces supported by the west turning out to be a bigger threat than the government overthrown.
  • Egypt – The second country to successfully overthrow its government during the Arab Spring and a significantly more important regional player. Much the same as in the case of Tunisia the overthrow was ultimately achieved through the power of the Egyptian people themselves and not through the force of Western arms. Similar to the case of Tunisia, the threat to the Egyptian revolution is not one posed by alliances with external powers but created instead by alliances between liberally minded groups and radical elements such as the Muslim Brotherhood who were a critical component of the Egyptian revolution. Since the Election of Mohamed Morsi to the presidency and with the Islamist Bloc forming the second largest group in the Egyptian house of representatives, many Egyptians feel disillusioned and believe that their alliance with such elements was not worth it as increasingly Morsi rolls back the democratisation that took place in the absence of Mubarak and brings Egypt more in line with the Gulf Arab states.
  • Libya – The third country to overthrow its government and head of state, but the first to utilise Western military aid and financial support in doing so. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt where protests were widespread and the majority of society seemed to support the overthrowing of the regime in Libya the protests were very much localised and relied on specific groups within society to achieve its aims. When Qadaffi’s armed forced seemed on the verge of crushing this regional rebellion. NATO intervened and through the use of air support helped the rebels slowly capture more and more of Libya until it fell to them. The alliance in question here is more at risk and this probably due to the fact that instead of being an alliance between different elements of society as a whole who had all suffered equally, it was an alliance between internal rebels and external powers with the only shared interest being the overthrow of a somewhat unpopular leader. From the beginning of the the Libyan revolution right through to today we have been aware of highly dangerous elements active in Libya and the end result is that while Qadaffi is no longer in power Libya does not seem much safer than when Rebels and the Libyan army were fighting throughout the country. The alliance struck between the West and forces in Libya is a perfect example of an alliance based on the proverb and like many such alliances has already broken down with Westerners and other traditional victims of fundamentalist Islamic groups being murdered and chased out of the country and this is still the early days with the new government seemingly unable to control the militias that fought in the uprising.
  • Syria – This last country is a slight aberration when compared to the rest I have discussed as unlike the others the revolutionary movement has not overthrown its government and is seemingly unlikely to do so. However as in Libya, Western politicians who have never been fond of the al-Assad family and its close ties to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have decided to aid the rebel movement, helping them in this are the Gulf Arab states who are wary of a Shia dominated Arab nation with close ties to Iran. As a result of these regional rivalries what started as a genuine revolution for reform and perhaps even the overthrow of the government has increasingly mutated into a sectarian civil war with militias financed by external powers aiming to establish again a nation far closer in style to Saudi Arabia than the enlightened democracies of Scandinavia for example. While support for the rebels in Syria has repeatedly been vocalised and Bashar al-Assad demonised, the actual military support that we saw given to Libyan rebels is yet to materialise and we can hope that this remains the case or in all probability what will happen is that we will see one dictatorial regime overthrown and a far greater threat replace it in the form of allies we have armed whose stated aim is the establishing of a worldwide fundamentalist Salafist state. Whether the support will dry up by itself as a result of the Al-Nusra fronts declaration of support for Al – Qaeda remains to be unseen but I would not hold out too much hope as I’m sure the people in charge knew the elements that were present in Libya before Qaddafi fell.

Of course one difference in this region is that the identity of who is friend and foe is generally speaking continually and rapidly changing and the Arab Spring only seems to have exacerbated this tendency. Perhaps in years to come, unlike the instances of such alliances I offered earlier in this post which have been critically assessed, politicians will escape the blame for  some of the foolish decisions that have already been made and in all likelihood will continue to be made by using this as an excuse and failing to learn the lessons of making alliances based purely on mutual enemies. It is not too much to hope that international politics moves away from rash alliances of convenience and towards building relationships based on much broader and more substantial criteria. An ideology based on hatred – of anything, what so ever, is a curse on all our houses.

The hydra reborn

I will wager that is not often that bloggers of any stripe who focus on contemporary issues feel the need or desire to resort to using ancient Greek mythology to make points about the topics they discuss. But today I will attempt that very behaviour using the analogy of the Lernaean Hyrda to argue that as things stand Europe stands on a cross roads at which it would do well to heed the lessons of history. While I’m sure any who have read to this point, digesting what some may feel is my most tortured introduction to a post yet, will already know the story  I will begin by briefly summarising the story of Heracles and the Hydra.

An ancient depiction of Heracles fighting the Hydra of Greek myth.

An ancient depiction of Heracles fighting the Hydra of Greek myth.

According to an epic poem of Greek mythology, Heracles in an act of atonement for the murder of his sons was instructed by an oracle that he should serve the king Eurystheus for twelve years and perform any task which the king set him. If he was successful in this task then he would finally be rewarded with immortality, allowing him his place alongside the Greek gods of Mount Olympus. During his tenure serving the King Eurystheus Heracles was given in all twelve tasks to perform, the second of which was to slay the Lernaean Hydra. The Hydra as recorded in ancient myths was a many-headed serpentine beast whose defining trait was a form of regeneration where for every one of its heads that was cut off, it would grow two in place of the original. The beasts one weakness was that it only remained invulnerable as long as it retained one central head. To combat the Hydra, Heracles aided by his cousin Lolaus cauterized each neck stump as he beheaded the beast so as to prevent their regrowth and eventually used a sword given to him by the god Athena to decapitate the last and central head. Commentators in more modern times have studied this story and described the idea of the Hydra as a personification of the feeling of hopelessness being as the beast would seemingly endlessly recover from the most grave of wounds its suffered meaning that only a hero with steely determination could ever hope to vanquish such a monster. Further to this in assessing the story of Heracles fight with the Hydra for hidden meanings people have often suggested that the myth is a parable for dealing with a problem completely and not leaving loose ends that will later come back to haunt us.

Now that I have summarised this particular part of Heraclean myth in as much detail as any reader should have to tolerate considering they have likely come here for political discussion I will now progress with the task at hand. I intend, using the analogy of the Hydra, to suggest that the ideology of Fascism and other far-right political movements is very much alive in Europe at this point in time as a result of the established political orders inability to deal with central problems that give rise to such movements. This inability or even lack of desire to address the issues that give rise to such discontent is critical as we have already once witnessed the monstrous ideology of Nazism bring Europe to its knees and only a fool would dismiss out of hand the worrying parallels that can be drawn between the crises of Europe in the 193os and the those of Europe now.

It cannot be denied that at this juncture in time that the economies of many European countries face an acute crisis as things stand. The stability of the Eurozone has suffered massively as a result of the lack of confidence in several European countries to repay or refinance their debts without the help of outside parties. As a result of these sovereign debt crises, the countries whose economies have been so embattled, namely Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and now Cyprus too have reached out to the European Union in their hours of need for financial help presumably to stop an otherwise inevitable mass exodus from the European Union. The help that was sought in bailing out these struggling economies was ultimately given although the nature of such help probably left much to be desired in these countries as in all cases the loans that were given depended on the ability and willingness of the country in question to completely restructure its economy to suit the tastes of the German dominated European Central Bank. The restructuring of economies to suit the requirements of the ECB included approaches such as swingeing austerity cuts and in the most recent case of Cyprus, savings levies and capital controls to prevent any runs on banks. Such methods to satisfy the requirements of the ECB are ultimately ill advised as they are based far more on the financial models of strong economies such as that of Germany which in all likelihood could survive these methods – whereas an already struggling economy of a financially speaking weak Southern European country such as Greece is unlikely to be able to cope with such methods which have even been criticised by economists such as Paul Krugman who have argued that the effect of such austerity will be to further prolong any recession.

Beware sovereign debt crises or face this ones steely gaze

Beware sovereign debt crises or face this one’s steely gaze.

The other issue thrown up by such vigorous restructuring of economies is that it has resulted in many cases in large scale unemployment which is where the real political problem that concerns me arguably begins. With such a massive increase in unemployment and the overall decrease of financial stability in these countries, large groups of disaffected disproportionately young people being as these often form the cohort of the unskilled workers, find themselves branching out in the hope of finding radical solutions to their problems. In the past the radical solution that the unemployed might have turned to could have equally been radical left wing, communist or socialist movements but times have changed and such movements have fallen out of favour all over the world. In the mean time, with increasing political liberalisation throughout much of Europe since the end of the Cold War and the large scale assimilation and adoption of neoliberalist political policy in many countries, the far more common form of contemporary popular opposition to governments has mutated into a more right leaning approach with tendencies for this to stretch all the way towards militant xenophobia and virulent anti-Islamic groups.

Such groups can and do emerge in times that are remarkable for their lack of crisis and I make no attempt to deny their emergence during such times. The relationship between such groups and times of political crisis is that during said crises these groups suddenly become much more appealing to the population as they preach radical solutions to problems which the already established political order have failed to resolve. For an example of such a case we need look no further than Germany prior to the Nazis. The country had a history of extreme right wing movements that pre-dated any major economic crisis and instead focussed its rhetoric instead on the threat of communism inspired by the recent Russian revolution. This extreme right movement known as the Freikorps and its paramilitary groups controlled swathes of Germany during the early Weimar republic and would go on to form an early vanguard of the Nazis. Despite the considerable power which such a movement maintained they were never particularly popular as the threat of communism was hardly the most credible threat that face post WW1 Germany. However given the great depression of the 1930s and the mass withdrawal  of American investment from Germany and the economic crisis that followed, the Nazi party, in part made of former Freikorp elements, managed to use this event as a catalyst and gain much more support from the German populace.

This is what right wing paramilitaries were getting up to in Germany BEFORE the Nazis

This is what right wing paramilitaries were getting up to in Germany BEFORE the Nazis.

Central amongst the issues that the Nazi party, as the most successful of extreme right wing movements in Germany, attempted to resolve was the unemployment crisis caused by the Great Depression. Before the crash a relatively healthy amount of unemployment was evident in Germany with the figure cited at or around 1.25 million people. By the end of 1930, so only roughly three months in to the Great Depression the rate of unemployment was 15.3% meaning that nearly 4 million people were out of work. Two years into the Depression, German unemployment over 30% of the German workforce was unemployed and it was famously in this same year that the Nazi party and also the extremist communist party both started to gain ground in national elections. Similarly in nearby Spain, the prime minister at the time Jose Primo de Rivera resigned in 1930, followed by the ousting of King Alfonso XIII in the following year. A fragile democracy was eventually established although it was compromised by economic problems and social discontent which culminated in the divisive election of 1936 and the subsequent Spanish Civil War which is famously were much of the Nazi air force and elements of the SS gained their first active combat training.

please don't ask me how it represents it, but this Picasso work memorialises the bombing of Guernica by the Luftwaffe.

please don’t ask me how it represents it, but this Picasso work memorialises the bombing of Guernica by the Luftwaffe.

The reason I have just highlighted the unemployment statistics of Germany and the role economic crises also played in the Spanish civil war is that right now in the wake of the current economic crisis currently battering the defences of Europe, mass unemployment is a common feature in almost all the cases of countries that have been bailed out by the ECB. For an article discussing this in greater detail click here , but for summary I will now quote the most important (read worrying) figures. The figures for both Spain and Germany in December or 2012 are over a record 26% of the workforce unemployed and the overall unemployment rate for the Eurozone countries was 12% which again is frighteningly high.

Much as was the case in pre-Nazi Germany, the existence of far right movements throughout Europe predates this economic crisis. For example the BNP, the EDL are both shining examples of movements here in the UK that existed regardless of any economic crisis and instead based their movements more around a broadly supported cultural opposition to the supposed “Islamification” of Europe. Similarly the Greek movement Golden Dawn also had existed for many years before the current crisis began and simply lingered in the peripheries since its inception until things started to look less than rosy for the Greek economy. Both of these movements exhibit the fact that despite the tortured legacy of extreme right wing movements in Europe that they still garner support to this day. Why movements so reminiscent of the Nazi party continue to gain any support what so ever has to be one of the greatest mysteries of contemporary politics.

Hardly strikes you as a the radical reinvention I think it  pretends it is.

Hardly strikes you as a the radical reinvention I think it pretends it is.

If pressed on the matter, I would suggest that the origin of support for such movements stems from their two pronged approach towards politics in firstly, offering radical solutions to the key issues of the day and secondly, blaming those issues on overly convenient scapegoats that are already the victims of fairly widespread political prejudice. To highlight what I mean, in the case of Nazism as the most infamous example of a successful right wing movement, the promises made revolved around ending the economic and subsequent employment crisis of the 1930s which in their view and the view of their supporters had in some part been caused by the dreaded World Jewry. It is perhaps central that for such groups to succeed that they meet both the criteria of offering radical but plausible solutions to contemporary issues and also offering convenient scapegoats for said issues to be blamed on. I highlight this as it is notable that the EDL in the UK only fulfil one of these criteria in having convenient bogeymen to blame the countries problems on and have relatively speaking floundered compared to Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-fascist movement which has gone from strength to strength in the wake of the crisis which they have offered solutions for whilst being able to blame the crisis on a corrupt and inefficient political class for the whole series of events.

Ultimately, whatever the origin of support for such movements that there is support at all is the main problem of Europe as things stand. The Hydra that is extreme right wing politics is one often preceded by economic crisis and despite the lessons of history we still haven’t dealt with the main head of this particular monster and so are damned to keep seeing its reappearance and fighting against it. To combat this Hydra effectively rather than weapons of combat what is needed is an evaluation of and perhaps movement away from the economic practices of extreme capitalism which when it fails  destroys the livelihoods of millions and drives recruits into the arms of extreme movements. Another weapon in the struggle against this Hydra which we need to utilise is the effective combating of stereotypes and scape-goating that is used to create causes for the economic crises that blight us. It is currently far to easy for extremist elements for example in Greece and Cyprus as seen here and here to blame or attack migrant workers and leftists for the crisis when the reality is that if there is a true enemy of the people in both these cases that the difference between the victim and victimiser is not race but class. The lesson of this post in its totality is that until we deal with the roots of the problem of extreme right wing politics that we currently face then we will in all likelihood see its constant recurrence  just as we are currently witnessing with all the horrors that this entails.

“We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name…”

In a now famous speech that he delivered in 1998 in the city of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, William Jefferson Clinton uttered the words that I have chosen to use as the title for this week’s post. He used these words in a section of a speech where he apologised to the Rwandan people for the failings of the world political system to prevent the most intensive killing of human beings to take place within the 20th century. The 20th century no less that saw the building of Auschwitz, and therefore barring events that history had no way to accurately record the Rwandan genocide was the most intensive slaughter of human life ever to take place.

Before he did not have sexual intercourse with that woman, Bill Clinton went to Rwanda to apologise for never sending aid in the countries moment of need

Before he did not have sexual intercourse with that woman, Bill Clinton went to Rwanda to apologise for not sending aid in the countries moment of need.

The reason that I have decided to highlight these choice words from that speech and to discuss that speech at all is that I, and many other commentators besides me are concerned that we are seeing a pattern of disregard for human suffering emerge, in both the discourse of governments and the media, which is almost identical in nature to that which preceded the crisis in East Africa. The crisis I refer to in this case is that of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who are currently the victims of what can only be termed ethnic cleansing and it is my lasting concern that without a greater deal of awareness in the wider world that they will in time face the same fate as the Armenians, Jews, Romani and Tutsis who survived the early attempts at persecuting them only to die in the more systematic slaughters visited upon their houses. I will start by discussing the Rwandan genocide and the reasons that I believe it was widely ignored at the time despite the scale of the loss of life. I will then compare this to situation that is currently emerging in Myanmar and in all likelihood show that for many of the same reasons this story is being consistently under-reported in the media and left unspoken in political debate despite attempts to increase awareness of these massacres by online movement, Anonymous.

It really does come to something when a hacktivist group is doing more for human rights than the entire UN.

It really does come to something when a hacktivist group is doing more for human rights than the entire UN.

The year is 1994, the world is in the throes of post cold war uncertainty and it is in the climate that the travesty that was the worlds response to the genocide in Rwanda takes place. In light of the worlds hideous failure to respond, many politicians who might have been implicated as having in some way and in some cases knowingly abetted the crime of mass murder rushed to offer justifications for their governments lack of involvement. I will now list some of the common ideas (I have taken my initial cues for some of these from Black Star Journal who can be found here) that were bandied about in the aftermath as justification for sitting on the side lines watching mass murder take place, and then I will separately argue that every justification offers is based upon false premises and therefore demonstrates the clear responsibility of the international community in failing to prevent the genocide:

  •  The war that preceded the genocide and the genocide itself were based on “ancient ethnic rivalries” meaning that intervention was pointless as the violence would only flare up again in the future.
  • The genocide was spontaneous so that even if we had intervened nothing could have been done to prevent the killings.
  • The US administration at the time did not know fully what was going on in Rwanda.
  • Atrocities were committed by both sides in the conflict.
  • The UN was present and failed to prevent events from taking place.

Each one of these attempts to cover the tracks of those who neglected to involve themselves is a flawed reason which does not hold up to any great degree of scrutiny and I will now demonstrate statement by statement where the flaws in reasoning lie.

The first statement that was also the primary excuse offered for non-intervention during this crisis is seemingly a go-to statement for western nations to dismiss crises in the third world that were not directly related to their strategic interests. There are several inherent flaws with the argument that what we saw in Rwanda was the culmination of centuries of ethnic hatred. Perhaps most troubling is that this excuse had already been used to try and justify the lack of western intervention in the Balkans crisis that also saw ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed, but in time the pro-intervention camp gained some traction and UN forces intervened in an attempt to prevent wider scale genocide from taking place in spite of the “ancient” nature of the hatred that was being acted upon. In this case that the charge can be ignored in a European case but is the main reason for not intervening in Africa which speaks volumes about the the racist double standards of western geopolitics.  Another issue with this contention is also that it is patently false. While it is true that during the genocide Rwanda was polarised along ethnic lines, the notion that such divisions in the country were centuries old carries about as much weight in educated circles as the notion that the Turin Shroud is anything other than a hoax. The divisions between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi were much more issues of class than they ever were issues of race or ethnicity. This idea however was bound to be hidden in plain sight amongst coverage as the truth would have revealed that the root cause of this division of Rwanda along ethnic lines was actually Belgian colonists who had used this idea as a tactic of divide and rule 100 years previously.

The second statement that the genocide was a spontaneous act and that nothing could’ve been done to prevent the killings is a weak attempt at covering ones tracks at best as there is actually a wealth of evidence that demonstrates the level of premeditation that was involved in these genocidal massacres. Take for example the fact that certain state owned newspapers were openly advocating the killing of Tutsis for years prior the events of 1994. In fact the merchants of such anti-Tutsi propaganda were so well prepared that they even had time to switch their messages of hatred for the Tutsi to the radio in an attempt to negate the illiteracy in the country. Further evidence of the premeditated nature of the massacres would include the handing out of ID cards to identify who was a Hutu and who was a Tutsi, the importation from China of over 500,000 machetes  (the main weapon of mobs during the genocide) after a peace deal had been signed in 1993 and perhaps mostly clearly of all the open discussion by members of the Rwandan cabinet government of an idea to get rid of all Tutsis in an attempt to rid Rwanda of its problems.

Rwandan victim of machete attack. From an order placed by a military general for over 500,000 such implements. The scale of such an order hardly spells out impulse buy.

Rwandan victim of machete attack. The weapons used likely from an order placed by a Rwandan general for over 500,000 such implements. The scale of such an order hardly spells out impulse buy.

The next statement that was offered as an excuse for the lack of western intervention was that the US administration (as the worlds lasting superpower at the time) did not know what was going on in Rwanda at the time which is to infer that therefore the administration can hardly be blamed for not intervening as it did not know such events were taking place. Were this actually the case then we would have to begrudgingly accept this excuse. Its not the case though, there is documented evidence that was reported by elements within the media that the US administration WAS in possession of clear evidence of the events taking place in Rwanda and simply chose to do nothing. As Brian at the Black Star Journal points out one Australian newspaper has shown that elements within the US government knew enough to use the G word within 16 days of the start of the crisis in Rwanda and also evidence exists that all members of Clinton’s administration were briefed on the situation daily so the charge that they did not know what was going on in the country is absolutely farcical.

The penultimate reason that I want to discuss that was genuinely offered for the lack of intervention in the Rwandan crisis was that both sides had committed atrocities. Also true, but then so what ? Am I genuinely supposed to believe that if I kill one person and my neighbour kills one hundred people that because we both committed the crime of murder that we both are unworthy of prosecution as we are as bad as each other? I wouldn’t expect leniency if I was to ever find myself in such a situation but I would expect a far greater effort to be expending in stopping the greater criminal than the lesser one. What is true in instances of petty crime arguably also holds true in the case of genocide when the scale of the atrocities is comparable to the hypothetical I just presented the reader with. This same type of moral equivalence had been used to try and justify inaction in the Balkans but rightfully had been ignored so why should such a pathetic excuse be acceptable the second time round when again there was clear evidence that one party was disproportionately responsible for atrocities. unless of course those advocating for action felt that the lives of Europeans held a greater intrinsic value

Listed last but by no means any less important than the other justifications is the idea that because the UN had failed so would anyone else have failed to protect Rwandans in their place. The key flaw with such a concept is the assumption that the UN forces were in a place, politically or militarily to prevent the genocide when the peace keeping force in the country had been reduced drastically despite the request of  their commander Romeo Dallaire to double the existing force. The truth of the matter is that the UN forces were in a position to do something but due to the machinations of the Security Council were prevented from their duties which puts the lie to the notion that if the UN were unable then no-one could have prevented the genocide when the truth of the matter is that it is precisely because of its international character that the UN could not intervene and that a somewhat disinterested party such as the US was much better suited for the same job.

We can see then at this juncture then that every justification that was offered for the shameful indifference of both western governments and western media was based on falsehoods and arguably mask far more sinister truths. That the governments of the west, primarily the US but also France and the UK chose to not do anything to help is a troubling fact. The fact that these powers chose not to help in an African conflict which ultimately claimed far more lives but deployed forces to prevent smaller scale massacres in Europe as I have already suggested demonstrates a callous disregard for the lives of non-Europeans which I believe cuts to the heart of why the world sat by and watched Rwanda burn. Another worrying connection between both Rwanda and the Balkans and also an earlier US intervention in Somalia which many cite as part of the reason that Clinton decided to not involve the US in Rwanda was that the public’s sympathies for the people of Rwanda had been exhausted by the crisis in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia and so the impetus to intervene in Rwanda was sufficiently drained.

The current situation in Myanmar bears a striking similarity to that which emerged in Rwanda all those years ago for the two reasons I have highlighted above. Firstly I believe an aspect that has caused a significant lack of interest in and the under-reporting of the Rohingya crisis is the ongoing crisis in the wider Middle East region. the media and governments are locked into discussing the crisis which has slowly unfolded over the course of the last two years and it is because of this I feel that, willingly or unwillingly I am not sure, there is a subsequent lack of interest in regaling famously fickle TV audiences with yet another story of an impending humanitarian disaster. In saying this, I am not for one single moment suggesting that the lives of Syrians, Libyans and Egyptians dying on daily basis are any less worthy that those of the Rohingya Muslims being slaughtered on a daily basis in Myanmar. All I intend in highlighting this is to draw attention to another atrocity taking place, as if Rwanda has taught me anything it is what governments can get up to in the shadows when the glare of the media and the world is trained elsewhere.

The other way in which there is a noticeable similarity between the cases of Rwanda in 1994 and Myanmar in 2013 is that as I have already pointed out above is that I believe there is a greater urge on the part of governments and the media to intervene in humanitarian crises when the victims are fortunate enough in this case to have been born with an ideal amount of melanin in their skin, finding them similar in looks to westerners. In the case of Rwanda in sub-Saharan Africa the lack of ethnic similarity between audiences for the potential messages of intervention and the the black African victims was striking and I believe that this same dynamic is part of the reason why, some might say morally compromised, audiences are more receptive now to images of suffering Syrian children than they are to identical images of Rohingya children whose facial features are decidedly more Asiatic than they are Caucasoid. While this bias may prove to be a deeply held unconscious view it is still worth highlighting as it does clearly affect the way in which we view the world.

Also problematic is that anyone of the excuses that were offered for the lack of intervention in Rwanda 19 years ago could quite conceivably be used again in the case of Myanmar to cover the backs of those who have a responsibility as our elected leaders to deal with issues we as constituents feel matter and yet are declining to discuss said issues. If the world continues to ignore the slowly unfolding crisis in Myanmar, which as things stand it is perfectly equipped to do, it would cause no surprise for me to find out that events similar to Rwanda are taking place in the current day and age.

In highlighting the striking similarities between the cases of Rwandan Tutsis and Myanmar’s Rohingya I hope if nothing else that I along with Anonymous have helped to illuminate that the situation is critical right now and that every effort to raise awareness and provoke action is important as otherwise there is a serious risk of this crisis escalating while the media and governments fiddle and say that they didn’t know what was going on in the country or that intervening in pointless as the conflict is the result of ancient hatreds and means that the conflict is inevitable. I hope that we will not see such a day ever happen but it is our responsibility to do all in power to prevent it if we are able, as Desmond Tutu once said when discussing such matters If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. It is the awareness and actions of concerned citizens that will help us to fulfil the promise of never again that is often uttered when discussing genocide.

Disclaimer – Throughout this article I have chosen to use the name Myanmar (pronounced ‘mee-an-ma’) for the country that many others have chosen to call Burma in their respective discussions of this topic. My reason for choosing to continue using the name Myanmar instead is firstly that the name Burma itself is a troubling relic of the colonial history of the country. Secondly the reason many have chosen to continue using the name Burma is that Aung San Suu Kyi, a famous Burmese politician who has long opposed the military dictatorship that rules the country does not recognise the legitimacy of those who changed the countries name to Myanmar, however I am unwilling to hold Suu Kyi’s opinions as the legitimate source on the issue when she has consistently weaselled around the issue of the continuing slaughter of Muslim minority groups in the country now that she has been removed from house arrest. Hardly the doyenne of South-East Asian political reform that see is often portrayed as in the same media that sees no moral issues in promoting for military intervention in Syria or Libya to save lives but is unwilling when it comes to somewhere where the people look more Asiatic or African.