Monday, July 01, 2013

(LAND DESTROYER BLOG) Amnesty International is US State Department Propaganda
Amnesty run by US State Department representatives, funded by convicted financial criminals, and threatens real human rights advocacy worldwide.

by Tony Cartalucci

Image: From Amnesty International USA's website, "Free Pussy Riot." "Help Amnesty International send a truckload of balaclavas to Putin." This childish stunt smacks of US State Department-funded Gene Sharp antics - and meshes directly with the US State Department's goal of undermining the Russian government via its troupe of US-funded "opposition activists" including "Pussy Riot." That Amnesty is supporting the US State Department's agenda should be no surprise, it is run literally by the US State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, Suzanne Nossel.

August 22, 2012 - Mistakenly considered by many as the final word on human rights worldwide, it might surprise people to know that Amnesty International is in fact one of the greatest obstacles to real human rights advocacy on Earth. In its most recent 2012 annual report (page 4, .pdf), Amnesty reiterates one of the biggest lies it routinely tells:

"Amnesty International is funded mainly by its membership and public donations. No funds are sought or accepted from governments for investigating and campaigning against human rights abuses. Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion."

This is categorically false. Amnesty international is indeed funded and run by not only governments, but also immense corporate-financier interests, and is not only absolutely entwined with political ideology and economic interests, it is an essential tool used for perpetuating just such interests.

Amnesty International's Funding

Finding financial information on Amnesty International's website is made purposefully difficult - specifically to protect the myth that the organization is "independent." Like any organized criminal operation, Amnesty separates compromising financial ties through a series of legal maneuvers and shell organizations. Upon Amnesty's website it states:

"The work carried out through Amnesty International's International Secretariat is organised into two legal entities, in compliance with United Kingdom law. These are Amnesty International Limited ("AIL") and Amnesty International Charity Limited ("AICL"). Amnesty International Limited undertakes charitable activities on behalf of Amnesty International Charity Limited, a registered charity."

And it is there, at Amnesty International Limited, where ties to both governments and corporate-financier interests are kept. On page 11 of Amnesty International Limited's 2011 Report and Financial Statement (.pdf) it states (emphasis added):

"The Directors are pleased to acknowledge the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Open Society Georgia Foundation, the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Programme, Mauro Tunes and American Jewish World Service. The UK Department for International Development (Governance and Transparency Fund) continued to fund a four year human rights education project in Africa. The European Commission (EuropeAid) generously awarded a multi-year grant towards Amnesty International’s human rights education work in Europe."

Clearly then, Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros. In March, 2012, it was reported that a Bloomberg's report, "Soros Loses Case Against French Insider-Trading Conviction," indicated that an appeal based on a "human rights" violation against Wall Street speculator George Soros had been rejected by the "European Court of Human Rights."

Soros, whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other "human rights" advocates, literally attempted to use the West's human rights racket to defend himself against charges of financial fraud in perhaps the most transparent illustration of just how this racket operates.

Soros, who was convicted and fined for insider trading in 2002 regarding French bank Société Générale shares he bought in 1988, has built an empire out of obfuscating global criminal activity with the cause of "human rights." His support, as well as that of the British and European governments, of Amnesty International aims solely at expanding this obfuscating.

Amnesty International's Leadership

Amnesty's leadership is also telling of its true agenda. Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance was drawn directly from the US State Department - again, utterly contradicting Amnesty's claims of being "independent" of governments and corporate interests. Nossel continued promoting US foreign policy, but simply behind a podium with a new logo, Amnesty International's logo, attached to it. Amnesty International's website specifically mentions Nossel's role behind US State Department-backed UN resolutions regarding Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cote d'Ivoire.

Image: Same lies, different podium. Suzanne Nossel previously of the US State Department, is now executive director of Amnesty International USA. Her primary function of dressing up aspirations of corporate-financier global hegemony as "human rights advocacy" has not changed.

It has been documented at great length how these issues revolve around a decades long plan devised by corporate-financier interests to divide, destroy and despoil these nations who are seen as obstacles to US global hegemony. In the case of Syria specifically, it was revealed that the current "human rights" catastrophe stems back to a malicious 2007 conspiracy documented by "New Yorker" journalist Seymour Hersh, between the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia which sought to purposefully fund, arm, and deploy sectarian extremists to undermine and overthrow the Syrian government - this knowing full well the human tragedy that would unfold.

Nossel's "contributions" then are simply to dress up naked military aggression and the pursuit of global corporate-financier hegemony with the pretense of "human rights" advocacy.

A glance at reveals that each and every front the US State Department is currently working on and has prioritized is also coincidentally prioritized by Amnesty International. This includes rallies and campaigns to support US State Department-funded Russian opposition groups (currently fixated on "Pussy Riot"), undermining the Syrian government, toppling the government of Belarus, and supporting the Wall Street-London created Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (still called by its British Imperial nomenclature of "Burma" by Suu Kyi herself).

Amnesty International Betrays Real Human Rights Advocacy

Amnesty does indeed cover issues that are critical of US foreign policy, toward the bottom of their websites and at the back of their reports. Likewise, the corporate-media selectively reports issues that coincide with their interests while other issues are either under-reported or not reported at all. And it is precisely because Amnesty covers all issues, but selectively emphasizes those that are conducive to the interests of immense corporate-financiers that makes Amnesty one of the greatest impediments to genuine human rights advocacy on Earth.

Images: Manufacturing Dissent. "Free Pussy Riot" (above). Ironically, FIDH is directly funded by the US State Department via the Neo-Con lined US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as well as George Soros' Open Society. "Russia: Stop Arms Transfer to Syria!" (below). If the US State Department wants it, be sure that US State Department-run Amnesty International will stage a demonstration for it - and regardless of size or legitimacy of the demonstration, expect the corporate-media to make it headline news.

Ordinary people are given the false impression that "someone is watching out" for human rights abuses, when in reality, all Amnesty and other organizations like it are doing, is managing public perception selectively of global human rights abuses, fabricating and/or manipulating many cases specifically to suit the agenda of large corporate-financier interests. This can be seen when entire reports out of Amnesty or Human Rights Watch consist solely of "witness reports" compiled from accounts of US-backed opposition groups.

In the rare instance that a report includes references to actual photographic, video, or documented evidence, such as Human Rights Watch's 2011 "Descent into Chaos" (.pdf) report, deceptive language is intentionally included along with throwaway passages to enable selective reporting and spinning by not only the Western corporate media, but by a myriad of faux-NGOs funded and run by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch's sponsors and affiliates. The Descent into Chaos report, regarding Thailand, was promply and amply spun and manipulated by US State Department-funded faux-NGO and "rights advocate" Prachatai.

When people erroneously believe that credible organizations are handling "rights advocacy" they will not only become complacent, they will become negligent of their own responsibilities to objectively examine potential abuses and speak out against them. Wall Street and London's corporate-financier interests have filled a void - that should be occupied by their greatest opponents - instead with a large advocacy racket of their own creation. Not only are they given a free pass to abuse human rights globally, they've actually used their controlled opposition to attack their opponents.

It is clear that Amnesty International is by no means an "advocate" of human rights, but rather an affront to human rights advocacy. It goes without saying that it should be boycotted out of existence and at the very least, identified as illegitimate and fraudulent - from its funding to its compromised leadership.

Additionally, we the people must tackle real violations of each others rights at the grassroots - because it is absolute folly to believe that global spanning organizations, funded by corporate-financiers, echoing the agenda of governments driven by special interests has our best interests and rights in mind.

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(DISSIDENT VOICE) U.S. Cooption of the Human Rights Movement Continues
An Appeal to PEN: Exec. Director Suzanne Nossel Must Go
by John V. Walsh and Coleen Rowley / April 1st, 2013

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

When political people have finished with repression and violence PEN can indeed be forgotten. Until then, with all its flounderings and failings and mistaken acts, it is still, I think, a fellowship moved by the hope that one day the work it tries and often manages to do will no longer be necessary.

– Arthur Miller who once led PEN

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism… (which) should offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military — to advance a broad array of goals…

– Suzanne Nossel, new Executive Director of PEN American Center in Smart Power, Foreign Affairs (Emphases added)

Suzanne Nossel is a disturbing choice as the new executive director of PEN, American Center, an American branch of the worldwide association of writers and related professions devoted to free expression and “the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world.” The stark contrast between the statements of Arthur Miller and Suzanne Nossel above is enough to sound an alarm. But Nossel’s career path, the masters she has served, the stances she has taken and the activities she has sponsored demonstrate profound differences with PEN. PEN cannot remain true to the ideals articulated by Arthur Miller with Nossel at the helm. She is an embodiment of the ongoing, and all too successful, cooption of the Human Rights movement by the U.S. government.

Nossel’s AI Backs NATO Assault on Afghanistan: Bombing Women to Free Them

“Amesty’s Shilling for U.S. Wars”

Nossel came to PEN after a year’s stint as Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA (AI), in 2012. Before that she served in Hillary Clinton’s State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. Let’s consider her time at AI first.

Nossel assumed her post as Executive Director of AI, in January, 2012. Then in May when NATO held its “Summit Meeting” in Chicago, AI sponsored a “Shadow Summit” there. As part of this effort AI mounted a campaign which employed bus stop billboards supporting the NATO invasion in the words, “NATO, Keep the Progress Going. Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan.”1 “Bombing the women to save them” might well have been the slogan.

AI’s “Shadow Summit” featured a number of panels at a Chicago Hotel with the main speaker at the first panel former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who famously observed to Leslie Stahl that the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including an estimated 500,000 children, on her watch during the Clinton administration was a price “worth it” to weaken former U.S. ally, Saddam Hussein. What was such a person doing at an AI event? The same panel featured other female luminaries from the U.S. foreign policy establishment, including Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, who was also a main speaker with Albright; U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois; and Afifa Azim, General Director and Co-Founder, Afghan Women’s Network; along with Moderator Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Deputy Director of AI.

One of us (C.R.) and Anne Wright, who resigned from the State Department in 2003 to protest the war on Iraq, along with a handful of fellow antiwar activists attempted to attend the panel but were refused entrance until some in the group pointed out that they were members of AI. AI then allowed the group to enter, but in an apparent lapse of concern for free speech, only if signs opposing NATO’s war on Afghanistan were left outside. Such is the forgetfulness that proximity to power breeds. In a written account of the panel entitled “Amnesty’s Shilling for U.S. Wars,” Rowley and Wright noted that the CIA’s, “Red Cell” in a report disclosed by Wikileaks, had recommended a strategy of using “women’s rights” to sell the war in Afghanistan. Rowley and Wright continued in their piece: “When we saw that audience participation was going to be limited to questions selected from the small note cards being collected, we departed. We noted, even in that short time, however, how easy it was for these U.S. government officials to use the “good and necessary cause” of women’s rights to get the audience into the palm of their collective hand — just as the CIA’s “strategic communication” expert predicted!” One has to ask what is afoot when a former State Dept. official takes over an organization like AI, which then neatly fits its approach into that of the U.S. government.

A few months after the appearance of the Rowley/Wright piece and complaints by other members and donors of AI, Nossel resigned unceremoniously. A call to AI’s national office unearthed the reply from a staff member that the “staff had been told” that Nossel had resigned “for personal reasons.” The promise of a return call by someone more knowledgeable did not materialize. Who was responsible, on or off the board, for hiring Nossel in the first place remains a mystery.

The Revolving Door: A Formula for Cooption

Nossel had previously worked at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. Nossel is often credited with coining the phrase “Smart Power,”2 which Clinton repeated interminably in her Senate confirmation hearings to characterize how she would run State and which Nossel defined in a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs as “assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military.” What was this smartly powered State Department like into which Nossel was hired? Perhaps Ralph Nader has taken the measure of it most perceptively, in a CounterPunch essay entitled, “Hillary’s Bloody Legacy: Militarizing the State Department”:

Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.

A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.

Because Defense Secretary Robert Gates was openly cool to the drum beats for war on Libya, Clinton took over and choreographed the NATO ouster of the dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, long after he had given up his mass destruction weaponry and was working to re-kindle relations with the U.S. government and global energy corporations. Libya is now in a disastrous warlord state-of-chaos. Many fleeing fighters have moved into Mali, making that vast country into another battlefield drawing U.S. involvement. Blowback!

Thus did Nossel’s strategy of “Smart Power” play out as she worked at the side of Clinton.

Before working at State, Nossel worked at Human Rights Watch, which has come under increasing criticism for its distorted accounts of the Chavez government in Venezuela and other official enemies of the US. And before that she worked at the UN under Richard Holbrooke as the Clintons masterminded the bombing of Yugoslavia and pushed NATO eastward in violation of assurances given by Reagan to Gorbachev.

Here we behold a revolving door between government and human rights NGOs, much like the one connecting the Pentagon and defense contractors or between regulatory agencies and the corporate entities they are to regulate. Nossel is clearly aware of the use that the U.S. government can make of organizations like PEN, writing in her 2004 “Smart Power” essay that “that the United States’ own hand is not always its best tool: U.S. interests are furthered by enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals.” In what sense can PEN claim to be a “non-governmental organization” with Nossel in charge? In what sense can PEN claim to protect writers from the state with someone in charge who has been a frequent and unapologetic presence in the corridors of power?

The Subversion of Human Rights Organizations

For many decades the rhetoric of human rights has been used by the West to justify its aggressive actions around the world. James Peck in his superb and much neglected work, Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights, painstakingly and meticulously documents such subversion over the past 50 years. But the subversion goes farther than the selective attention often paid to official enemies and the relative neglect of human rights violations by U.S. allies. He also points out that the concept of human rights that has prevailed in the West over this period is a shriveled one, basically confined to civil rights. Although the mainstream human rights movement in the West claims to take its inspiration from the UN Declaration of Human Rights, it rarely mentions Articles 25 and 26, among others, which affirm health care and education as rights. Thus the fact that Gaddafi’s Libya had the highest literacy rate or highest score in all of Africa on the UN’s Human Development Index counted for nothing in assessments of Gaddafi. Nor is faintest praise to be found for the many hundreds of millions lifted from poverty and made literate in New China.

Similarly, Jean Bricmont in his insightful, Humanitarian Imperialism, another book studiously avoided by “progressives” in the West, details the use of human rights rhetoric to gain the support of European intellectuals for the Clintons’ assault on the Balkans. This in fact marked a turning point in the view of intellectuals toward the wars of present day imperial powers on weaker nations, a view that set the stage for assaults on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and now Syria. It marked a sharp break with the opposition of intellectuals to the U.S. war on Vietnam. The important principle of sovereignty enshrined in international law to protect weak nations from falling prey to powerful ones was rudely tossed aside, with much talk of human rights as the justification.

PEN Shows No Concern for Julian Assange or Bradley Manning

The principle at work here is not new. Julien Benda raised it long ago in The Treason of the Intellectuals. As Benda said, “There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice.” In our time we may identify Noam Chomsky and the late Alexander Cockburn among those who follow in the tradition of Benda. They represent the best in the tradition of PEN.

The question is which way will PEN go – the way of Benda or continue along the way of Nossel. Today a search on the PEN, America, web site readily yields entries for Pussy Riot, Ai Weiwei, and Liu Xiaobo, but nothing is to be found for “Bradley Manning” or “Julian Assange”! That in itself speaks volumes about Nossel’s PEN. As Chomsky and others have often pointed out, the primary duty of intellectuals is to critique their own ruling elite. After all, we can most affect our own rulers and it is their actions we are most responsible for. And that is what requires genuine courage. Criticizing elites in countries that are America’s official enemies is an easy and secure career path.

PEN members should take action

For those who are appalled by what is happening at PEN, here are links to a list of current and newly elected officers and Trustees. They bear ultimate responsibility for the path that PEN is taking and for Suzanne Nossel’s employ. The issue can also be raised at the upcoming PEN World Voices events in NYC. It is clear that many speakers at these events, perhaps the overwhelming majority, hold views quite the opposite of Nossel’s, as well they should. Nossel should resign. Speaking out in cases like this is the only way to prevent the Empire from corrupting all it touches, including the human rights movement.

1. The poster can be seen here. [?]
2. Although Nossel is often credited with the term “Smart Power,” from the title of her article in Foreign Affairs in 2004, Joseph Nye, Dean emeritus of Harvard’s Kennedy School of government and another Pentagon and State Department functionary over the decades when not slaving in the fields of academe, published a book in 2003 with the title, Smart Power. [?]

John V. Walsh, lately become an associate member of PEN, is a biophysicist/neuroscientist living in the Boston and area and a contributor to,, and Coleen Rowley, now an antiwar activist in the Twin Cities area, is a former FBI special agent and legal counsel in the Minneapolis field office, who wrote a “whistleblower” memo in May 2002 and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. The authors can be reached at:"> We are interested in hearing from members of PEN and others who are interested in taking action. Read other articles by John V. Walsh and Coleen Rowley.

This article was posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 at 8:00am and is filed under Afghanistan, Human Rights, NGOs.


(NEWZIMBABWE, REUTERS) Rio Tinto halts exports over Renamo threats
26/06/2013 00:00:00
by Reuters

MINING company Rio Tinto has suspended coal shipments from northwest Mozambique after the opposition Renamo party, a former guerrilla group, threatened to disrupt the Sena railway "coal corridor" to the Indian Ocean.

Although no attacks have been reported on the line, which snakes through 600 km (375 miles) of jungle from the coal fields in Tete province to the port of Beira, gunmen killed at least two people in ambushes on main roads in the region this week.

The attacks started two days after a public declaration of hostilities by Renamo last week that raised fears of a return to civil war in the southern African nation, two decades after the end of a 16-year conflict in which one million people died.

"We have paused our operations on the rail line while we assess the current situation in Mozambique," Rio Tinto said in a statement to Reuters.

Production at the company's Benga mine was continuing, it added.

Brazilian rival Vale, which is investing $4 billion in coal mines near Tete and is the main user of the Sena line, said it was still using the track but had increased security.

"We are alert, observing the events, avoiding unnecessary exposure in zones of potential conflict and interacting with other companies looking to obtain the best information possible," Vale said in a statement.

Rio's decision is the first concrete sign of economic fallout from the campaign by Renamo, which says it has missed out on an economic boom in the last decade based on massive foreign investment in the coal sector and off-shore natural gas.

The former guerrilla movement, founded in the mid-1970s with the backing of white-ruled Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, is demanding political reforms, including a shake-up of the election commission, as a condition for halting its attacks.

For the last two months, Renamo and Frelimo, the formerly Marxist ruling party, have held talks about talks on political reform but made no headway.

Speaking on Tuesday, the 38th anniversary of independence from Portugal, President Armando Guebuza played down the seriousness of the violence, saying a few isolated incidents did not mean an end to peace.

"The government remains firm in its determination to find an answer to these questions through dialogue," he told reporters.

The army is already escorting convoys of vehicles on main roads in central Sofala province and foreign embassies have told tourists to avoid all but essential travel to the region, Renamo's wartime stronghold.

However, in a sign of a possible olive branch from the security forces, Army Chief of Staff General Paulino Jose Macaringue was replaced by General Graça Tomas Chongo, a general believed to have good relations with Renamo.

"He enjoys their support," said Mozambique expert Alex Vines at London's Chatham House think tank.

"The government is considering its options, while seeking further talks. The dangers for both sides of miscalculation are high."

Mozambican media said passenger services had also been reduced on the Sena line, which runs past Renamo's base in the remote Gorongosa mountains, from where guerrillas launched frequent attacks on the tracks during the war.

Analysts say a slide back into the all-out conflict that crippled Mozambique in its initial years of independence is unlikely, not least because Renamo lacks the capacity for a sustained fight.

However, Renamo is thought to have as many as 1,000 men under arms with the ability to wage a limited insurgency that could damage infrastructure and unnerve investors lining up to pour billions of dollars into the energy and mining sectors.

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(HERALD ZW) Saving the sacred land of our ancestors
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 22:36

THERE was a time when we did not talk about saving the environment, climate change, cutting down trees or the drought. In those days, the rivers, the land, the trees and the animals were all part of us. This whole area, from Save River, over to the mountains from Hwedza to Buhera and as far as Bimha and Gandachibvuva, belonged mostly to the various totems including the Vahera, Vanjanja, VaMbire and Nyati people.

There were stories behind the names of the rivers, valleys, mountains, cliffs, rocks, trees and big deep water holes with mermaids, madziva makuru ane njuzu. Stories about respecting the land and what it carried. Surrounding us were the names of mountains where our ancestors were buried. Some of their bones lie today in the caves of Shavandinzwe, Chishanga, Mudzimundiringe, Mhari, Nhangambwe, Mutiusinazita, Chinyamungororo and many others across Zimbabwe.

The land was intertwined to our relationship with the ancestors during a time when this land was not measured in monetary terms. We were taught that the land got angry when it was abused or treated badly. The elders gave names like Pasiratsamwa, the earth is upset or angry. Pasipanodya, the earth devours us. Pasipamire, the earth stands or has come to a halt.

We were related to animals and there were plenty of them too. I am of the Eland totem, my mother was the Buffalo and my maternal grandmother was the Monkey, Soko Mbire. You did not marry someone of the same totem nor did you eat the animal of your totem. It was taboo to kill a frog or a crab when we went fishing. As punishment, the ancestors made sure that we did not catch any fish.

The pangolin belonged to the king only. We did not eat the owl, the hyena, jackals and snakes because these were emissaries of the witches. Some animals were not to be eaten, like the lion, leopard, zebra, monkeys and baboons. Zvaiyera. That was taboo. There were so many taboos and we simply obeyed them without asking because that was just the way it was.

We did not cut fruit trees like muzhanje, mutsvanzva, mutunduru, mudzambiringa, mutohwe, mutsubvu, mushamba, mutamba, mukute and many others that we treated with care. We regarded the muchakata tree with respect. Not only did this tree give us fruit but it was the sacred tree where the elders gathered to do the rain-making ceremony, mukwerera.

Each season had its own food. The wild jungle belonged to everybody and it was treated with respect. Fruit trees were so plentiful that each season, we knew where to collect fruits. When you came across a fruit tree, you only ate what was enough and took some ripe ones home, leaving the rest for tomorrow and for someone else who might pass by.

We developed special skills to catch delicious seasonal insects like zvikundyu, ishwa, tsambarafuta, makurwe, masinini, madora, majuru and many others. The ancestors and Mwari, our God in the highest, were generous.

Occasionally, we were hungry, but not the kind of hunger we suffer now. We did not go begging other countries to feed us, like what some of us do now. Most times, we harvested more than we could eat. Our grandmothers shared seeds during the planting season. There was no fertiliser bought from shops and we used cow manure and collected mulch, murakwani, from the hills.

That was before genetically modified foods, GMO, arrived. We also made compost from the household biodegradable rubbish pit. We did not have rubbish like plastics, bottles or cans to throw away. Now we have plenty and we do not have enough knowledge or places to get rid of this Westernised new rubbish.

So, a couple of weeks ago, on the way to the village from Harare, my cousin Piri and I stopped at Mushandirapamwe Growth point, as we always do. I bought a couple of canned beers for her, Fanta and buns for myself. It’s just as well, Piri does not drive, because she would have struggled to stop drinking and driving. Two cold cans will last her till we get to Hwedza and we would restock the cooler box because there is no other bar for the next 100 kilometres along the road to our village.

Just after the Lushington farm turn-off, Piri threw the empty can of beer outside, burped and started drinking another one. I stopped the car. This was not the first time I had told her that she cannot litter like that. “Mamirirei? Handisati ndoda recess ini,” Piri said, telling me that I was stopping way too early before she required the use of the bush for a toilet.

I got out of the car and picked the can she had thrown away. I told her that it was unacceptable to throw away rubbish out of the windows like that. Last time she did that along the road from Mereki’s I could not stop and pick the can. And now she was doing it again despite my last lecture on these matters to do with our planet. If everyone throws rubbish outside cars, kombis and buses like that, what sort of country are we going to have? Piri gave a soft coughing laugh. I could sense the sarcasm or perhaps embarrassment in her voice.

She said: “Haa, sorry Sis to defile your beautiful country.” That was an apology. I took it in good faith, the way it came. She finished her second can and threw the can in the back seat and burped again.

We drove along quietly for a while because sometimes, it is just nice to enjoy the landscape. Zimbabwe is that beautiful, especially the different colours of the day. Right in the middle of winter like this, you can spot purple flowers gracing the valley or the remnants of the old poinsettia and frangipani on an old farm house, bearing the days of post-Second World War British settler tobacco farming around here. The English name signs like Lushington, Bristol and Surrey are still here.

In those old days, before independence, we used to go to Salisbury on the bus along this road. On the left side, there was Imire Game Park and sometimes we saw giraffes, rhinos and elephants. On the right side there were thick jungles, totally untouched virgin land. Past the trees, there used to be tobacco farms, maize, fat cattle grazing and a dam way beyond.

The bus did not stop here because there were no villages along this road. Nobody, other than the farmer and his workers lived around here. There were signs saying: “Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

I looked beyond the Hwedza mountains, along the Save River, all the way to Dorowa where we still find one of the most scenic places in this country. Totally untouched, pristine and serene. The hippos and crocodiles swim in the river alongside the big fishes, muramba. Hyenas, jackals, leopards, big snakes like black mamba, rovambira dwell here.

Late at night, they say, you can still hear the singing of the ancestors and drums being played around the sacred big water holes where njuzu, the mermaids, still dwell.
Today some people related to us still live down that Save River valley. This place is too far from any form of civilisation. The young people leave for the farms or the city and they do not come back. Last time I was down there looking for wild game meat and fresh fish, one 15-year-old girl said she longed to go to town, eat ice cream and smell petrol.

Kumbonhuhwidzawo peturu. As we drive along, I keep thinking about the young girl in that pristine valley and how long that wildlife along the Save River will stay like that.
Just before we stopped at an old farm they used to call Fair Adventure, corrupted to Vherevenja, Piri, who had been quiet all along, mumbled something along the lines of an unhealthy obsession with trees and the landscape.

“Chakatobaya chikatyokera,” she said. I said, “Ha?” She sat up and, composed like she was giving me a lecture, she said, “This business of copying white people’s habits all the time must have limits. Why do you want to keep empty cans in a car? When we get to the village, what do you do with the cans? Already, the rubbish pit is full of cans from five years ago.

Even plastics. They do not rot and make manure. Why bring them home?” Piri asked, with a genuine tone of exasperation.
So I went into this long explanation about the environment and climate change and how we should now adjust to these changes because the world is no longer what it used to be.

“You see, it does not rain as it used to do. Each time we drive along this road, I notice how much it’s becoming a desert. This cutting down of trees has to stop,” I said. I sounded like the way I used to talk when I worked for an NGO and we gave workshops to communities about sustainable ways to protect the environment. The people listened but I do not know whether they actually went home and stopped cutting down the trees for garden fences, firewood, cattle pens and big logs for new brick furnaces.

“So, when we are in town and there is no electricity, do you want us to sit there hungry, waiting for magetsi to come?” Piri asked. I gave her this meaningless academic look, thinking of an answer.

Sometimes I have seen Piri lighting the fire when we do not have electricity, back in Harare and I say, the village has come to town. How shall we return the village and its fires back to the village where it belongs? How shall we preserve the trees from coming to cities as firewood?

We have a conservation dilemma. Our indigenous knowledge systems used to promote harmony between the people and nature. But now, our traditional environment conservation strategies have been eroded and forgotten due to social and political and economic changes. The law and the police tell us not to cut down trees. Western donor agencies preach the same gospel telling us to save the forests.

Because there is a huge gap between our traditional knowledge systems with the Western scientific knowledge systems, Piri and others only hear the environment noises but cannot make sense of the messages unless they are given substitutes for survival. They need to know more.

The mountains and rivers, deeply rooted in the memory of our past history long before the white man came, invoked a spiritual sense of who we were and where we came from.

Many years later, we begin to see how much of what we took for granted is disappearing. We cannot go back to the time of our ancestors nor can some of us surround the muchakata tree to ask the ancestors for rain. The muchakata shrine is deserted. The tree has been cut. The fear that cutting the tree might stop the rain from coming is no longer there, because we have replaced our spiritual connection to the land with new ways of worship.

Rather than continue to despise the totemic use of taboos, zvinhu zvinoyera, our conservation practices should now integrate the spiritual reverence we had in the past with today’s scientific conservation practices. These zviera, the sacred, should help promote conformity and certain ways of behaviour. The starting point is very simple: to stop throwing away litter and killing the wildlife.

The challenge lies in how we approach issues to do with serving the environment while being sensitive to our past experiences. We still have plenty of land to protect so future generations can enjoy the mysteries of the Save, Limpopo and Zambezi rivers and all the ancient wildlife bestowed upon us, in saving this beautiful land we call Zimbabwe, our heritage. A dialogue between Western scientific forms of knowledge and our indigenous knowledge systems is overdue.

l Dr Sekai Nzenza is a writer and cultural critic. She holds a PhD in International Relations and works as a development consultant.


Strive Masiyiwa: Blessing that can become a curse
Sunday, 23 June 2013 00:00

“INNOVATE or die,” Mutambara retorted dismissively in response to bankers’ complaints against the EcoCash platform. While it indeed might be true that the banking industry is protesting merely out of capitalist envy, they may have inadvertently stumbled on a serious regulatory issue.

If Econet is not reined in, it will soon present a significant national security threat. Yes, a national security threat.

Mutambara, despite his impressive technical background, has allowed the Econet PR machine to blur the facts of what is actually happening.
This is not a question of innovation; there is ample innovation within the mobile money sphere.

The point of contention is the USSD protocol and how Econet is trying to frustrate financial institutions that want to take advantage of USSD to create their own applications.
The USSD protocol cannot and should not be monopolised by a mobile operator.

Econet has managed to get away with their anti-competitive mischief by obfuscating the argument into one of integration with EcoCash.
This has absolutely nothing to do with EcoCash integration.

When questioned about these issues Econet misleads journalists by pointing to banks that have integrated with EcoCash.
USSD has nothing to do with EcoCash.

Financial institutions are interested in implementing their own solutions via USSD and Econet is frustrating their efforts.
A simple way to understand USSD is to think of it as an SMS service that can send commands and data to a computer. The computer then responds with information or a request for additional information.

The difference is that USSD creates what are known as sessions whereas SMS does not.
In an SMS you send a text to another phone while USSD involves a user interacting with computer software.

This is a crude abstraction but should be enough to give the technically uninitiated some insight into what is actually happening.
It would be outrageous if Econet refused to allow a competitor offering a rival product unfettered access to SMS.

This seems obvious to most of us as we use SMS daily and it seems intuitive that the service should be open to as many as can afford to pay the associated charges.

The same way subscribers feel about having unfettered access to SMS to conduct their daily business is precisely how software developers feel about USSD.
ZimSwitch has implemented its own mobile banking product that rivals EcoCash but Econet refuses to cooperate to allow its network to be used for unrestricted USSD operations outside of EcoCash. This is scandalous.

Telecel and NetOne have fully opened up their networks and ZimSwitch Mobile has already deployed on Telecel but the growth of their product is threatened because the largest network provider is being anti-competitive and is frustrating their efforts.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking about mobile-to-mobile payments on bank platforms as well as Zipit to mobile payments. Econet is the only operator in Zimbabwe that is refusing to allow these types of USSD transactions to operate on their network. When questioned, they offer slanderous and shamelessly dishonest excuses such as allegations that their customers will be spammed. This is nonsense.

It’s our spectrum not yours

It is important to realise that the spectrum that Econet is using belongs to the people of Zimbabwe.

There is a limited amount of spectrum and those who are given the privilege of being allocated usage of that spectrum must understand that they are leasing a resource that belongs to all Zimbabweans.

It is our spectrum; it does not belong to Econet.
It is because of this fact (the limited nature of spectrum) that network operators are obliged to allow access to the networks they develop.

This is the price they must pay for enjoying the privilege of having allocated space.

They cannot monopolise their networks through uncompetitive practices as Econet is currently doing.

The capital to set up the network might belong to Econet, but the right to use the limited spectrum is a privilege with carries with it a number of responsibilities.

Those responsibilities include providing access to other operators at reasonable cost. Econet is refusing outright to do this.

Regulating the Econet beast

This brings us to the wider issue of regulation.
While we applaud the growth of Econet and the many jobs it has created, we must also have the foresight to realise that this growth presents a number of regulatory challenges.

If we extrapolate the growth of Econet from the past five years into 2020, it is clear that it will soon completely dominate the market.
This is dangerous.

While Econet might seem very much benign with their cheerful ads on social responsibility, there are already some troubling indications that it is abusing its dominant market position.

The USSD battle with financial institutions is a clear example of this.
The authorities need to do more to create very vigorous regulatory framework to govern the operations of companies that gain a dominant market position like Econet.

This is not to suggest that they should be frustrated in their operations, far from it.
We simply need to ensure that they play by the rules of fairness and equity.

NetOne-MTN merger

It is quite unlikely that the management at NetOne (political as it is) will entertain a merger with MTN or another powerful player given that means they will likely lose their jobs.

Apart from political resistance, our indigenisation laws also present a number of complexities that would stand in the way of such a merger.
This is unfortunate.

A NetOne-MTN merger would rebalance Econet’s dominant position and ensure that a well-equipped rival keeps it in check. It would also offer mobile phone users more choice.
I am not in the know as to why the regulators are unwilling to allow a fourth player into the industry but I could bet a tidy sum that it has more to do with protecting incompetence and mediocrity than protecting the interests of ordinary people.

National Security

These past few weeks we have all watched in disbelief as Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, detailed how PRISM, a covert spying operation by the Americans, is collecting mobile phone metadata and Internet communications and storing it in vast data centres. This has been facilitated through Internet companies and mobile phone network providers such a Verizon.

To put it in simple language, the United States has all the information that Walter Mzembi, Saviour Kasukuwere, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki or any other public official has ever exchanged via services such as Yahoo, Gmail and other large internet companies.

We know that Verizon has been named as a co-conspirator as regards mobile phone metadata but cannot be sure that it is the only company that has co-operated with the Americans.

This brings us back to the issue of having a single dominant player who controls such a large amount of mobile communication data.
Given Masiyiwa’s cosy relations with the Americans one can be forgiven for being concerned.

The solution is not a direct assault on a particular operator.
Instead, what we need are broad regulations that impress upon all operators, encouraging open network as well as, perhaps even more importantly, robust competition.

Without that we risk entrusting one company with 80 percent of our national data.

Not entirely apropos

Talking about national security, I heard someone propose a communications interception centre of some sort.
Such a facility would chew up to US$22million

To me that would be a waste of funds.
We have plenty of office space at Mukwati Building.

What we need are competent computer scientists, software engineers and mathematicians.
Spending those millions on tempting back whiz kids like Tendekai Muchenje and other sharp minds who have been lured by Microsoft would be a far better use of funds.

The problem with information systems is the dynamic nature of the industry.
Hardware is not the issue.

You need to keep up with the leading technologies. Knowledge is the problem, not hardware. Many of the viruses wreaking havoc on the Internet are built in bedrooms and basements.

Many of the most prolific hackers do not even have offices.
It would be much more beneficial to invest those funds in human resources.

These talented minds will not subject themselves to poor salaries when they know full well what they are worth.
This is why GCHQ is now paying industry level salaries.
We need more brains and less bricks.

This is my own estimation; I hope time will prove me wrong.
Still deviating off topic, I remain puzzled by Strive’s self-imposed exile.

Unless he has done something particularly sinister that we do not know about I cannot see why the authorities would wish him ill.
Nigel Chanakira, who actually suffered scrapes with the law, lives peacefully in this country.

Geoff Nyarota, who did Strive’s Daily News dirty work, equally lives in peace to the point of actually seeking public office (an ambition sadly put to rest in the recent MDC-T primaries).

His political proxy, Tsvangirai, has cosied up to Mugabe and would have more reason to fear harm from an STI than fate at the hands of the security services.

He (Strive) has not been charged with any crime, nor has any public official made utterances that could be read as hostile.
Job Sikhala routinely calls Mugabe a murderer, but is allowed to carry on unmolested by the security services.
So what exactly is Strive afraid of?

Ndatenda, ndini muchembere wenyu Amai Jukwa

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(ALLAFRICA, THE HERALD ZW) Zimbabwe: EU Dumps Tsvangirai
By Caesar Zvayi, 26 June 2013

THE European Union should not pre-occupy itself with who is in power in Zimbabwe, but concentrate on improving the country's political culture and institutions as support for the MDC-T has waned over the years. The revelations, a virtual vote of no confidence in MDC-T's electoral chances, are contained in an EU Parliament policy document titled "Quick Policy Insight Zimbabwe's 2013 General Elections" that was published on May 28 ahead of the Constitutional Court ruling ordering elections by July 31.

"Government turnover does not guarantee democratic change in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF lacks democratic roots; but the MDC has, for its part, done little to prove its trustworthiness. Rather than asking who is in power, international analysts might want to put a stronger focus on how to actually improve Zimbabwe's political culture and institutions," reads the document in part.

The EU's Damascene moment, that tallied with several recent surveys pointing to a Zanu-PF victory in the elections, dovetailed with recent statements by senior MDC-T officials who admitted that the majority of Zimbabweans had lost faith in MDC-T because of the party's failure to live up to its rhetoric.

Ex-journalist and MDC-T founding member Grace Kwinjeh laid into the party on her Facebook Wall after being elbowed out of the Makoni Central constituency primary elections which she claimed to have won before being dumped for one Patrick Sagandira.

"The bulk of Zimbabweans who have lost faith in us as a party have because of this kind of behaviour (failing to walk the talk), they judge us not by what we say, but we do. I hope you can bring this to the attention of the party leadership . . . for the record I am not accepting the charade that took place in Makoni Central," she charged.

In a telephone interview from her base in Belgium last night, Kwinjeh confirmed writing to the MDC-T leadership complaining over lack of intra-party democracy.

"I have presented my petition and I'm told the party is sitting and discussing this issue," she said. "So, I am waiting for the party's response."

MDC-T Manicaland provincial chairman Mr Julius Magaramombe, who won the party's primaries in Buhera North, also posted on his Facebook Wall his fear for his life after warning the MDC-T leadership not to be surprised if supporters voted for Zanu-PF.

"A Democratic Party without democracy will pay the ultimate price at the hands of the people . . . folks, I've just discovered that speaking the truth can get you killed, literally. And you know what? I'm ready to die!" he said.

MDC-T, the EU said, had tried to capitalise on public discontent, presenting itself as an alternative to an aged and corrupt Zanu-PF elite culminating in Mr Tsvangirai's lead in the first round of the presidential elections in 2008, but the party had since lost any goodwill it had as public opinion favours Zanu-PF.

"The MDC enjoys backing from many foreign actors in the region and from overseas. Yet the party also faces numerous problems.

"First, its reputation has suffered critical blows from a range of personal lapses by its leader: numerous sexual adventures of 61 year-old Tsvangirai, including the pregnancy of a 23-year old woman and his denial of paternity; reports of growing corruption and financial mismanagement within the MDC headquarters; and Tsvangirai's refusal to accept criticism of his increasingly centralised leadership style," reads the EU report.

" What is more, the MDC's participation in government for more than four years -- although in a weak position -- renders it increasingly difficult to argue that it could bring about a radical turn for the better. Disenchanted with the party's inability to trigger decisive change, many young urbanites -- previously the MDC's most devoted supporters -- have stopped attending the party's once-overcrowded rallies and have sought other arenas to voice their discontent. Pentecostal churches have seen their popularity skyrocket, and new political alternatives have emerged, including the recently revived Zimbabwe African People's Union."

Several recent surveys from the likes of Mass Public Opinion Institute, Freedom House and Afro barometer have pointed to a Zanu-PF victory in the harmonised elections with the latest opinion coming from the leading US think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations that described the prospect of a Zanu-PF loss at the polls as highly unlikely.

The EU report acknowledges this saying; "recent surveys suggest that Zanu-PF by now attracts more public support than the MDC, a total turnaround from 2008/2009. The MDC may yet regain control by forming a coalition with a third party. Yet Tsvangirai's chances of finding a suitable partner appear meagre, since he broke ties with a smaller MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube, and other promising parties are lacking."

The MDC-T attempt to form a grand coalition against Zanu-PF ahead of the elections recently hit a snag with several key allies; among them the NCA, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, MDC99, ZCTU Concerned Affiliates and MDC, distancing themselves from the party accusing it of losing direction.

Voting patterns in the Constitutional referendum held mid-March revealed that Zanu-PF strongholds drove the Yes Vote, a development affirmed by statistics released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that showed high voter registration in Zanu-PF strongholds coupled with low figures in urban and peri-urban areas from where the MDC-T drew support over the years.

The MDC-T acknowledged the voter apathy in its election strategy document titled 'Priority Activities ahead of 2013 Election'.

The EU document also lays into the MDC-T's campaign of violence which it said was costing the party support.

"Evidence that MDC youth groups have engaged in violent campaigns has further undermined the party's credibility. The political outlook, as a result, has changed drastically".

The MDC-T has unleashed a wave of intra- and inter-party political violence in a bid to not only trash the political environment to abet its call for poll postponement, but to also provide fodder for its Western allies to discredit the poll. Harmonised elections are scheduled for July 31, with nomination courts for contesting candidates sitting on Friday.

The terror campaign began last year, but was intensified from January, with over 45 cases being recorded countrywide since the beginning of the year.

In all the recorded cases, MDC-T supporters were at the forefront of attacking their colleagues or those from other political parties, especially Zanu-PF.

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(TALKZIMBABWE) EU Parliament critical of Tsvangirai
This article was written by Our reporter on 26 June, at 05 : 26 AM

The following are extracts from a policy document by the European Union Parliament’s Directorate-General for External Policies. The bloc is very critical of the MDC party led by Morgan Tsvangirai and says that it is willing to work with any government that wins the forthcoming elections.

“The MDC … has tried to capitalise on public discontent, presenting itself as the energetic alternative to … ZANU-PF elite. This has led Tsvangirai to emerge victorious from the first round of elections in 2008, although the subsequent crisis eventually forced him to withdraw his candidacy. The MDC enjoys backing from many foreign actors in the region and from overseas.

“Yet the party also faces numerous problems. First, its reputation has suffered critical blows from a range of personal lapses by its leader: numerous sexual adventures of 61 year-old Tsvangirai, including the pregnancy of a 23-year old woman and his denial of paternity; reports of growing corruption and financial mismanagement within the MDC headquarters; and Tsvangirai’s refusal to accept criticism of his increasingly centralised leadership style.

“What is more, the MDC’s participation in government for more than four years — although in a weak position — renders it increasingly difficult to argue that it could bring about a radical turn for the better. Disenchanted with the party’s inability to trigger decisive change, many young urbanites — previously the MDC’s most devoted supporters — have stopped attending the party’s once-overcrowded rallies and have sought other arenas to voice their discontent.

“Evidence that MDC youth groups have engaged in violent campaigns has further undermined the party’s credibility.

“The political outlook, as a result, has changed drastically. Recent surveys suggest that ZANU-PF by now attracts more public support than the MDC, a total turnaround from 2008/2009. The MDC may yet regain control by forming a coalition with a third party. Yet Tsvangirai’s chances of finding a suitable partner appear meagre, since he broke ties with a smaller MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube, and other promising parties are lacking.

International stakeholders: Proceeding with caution and altering political goals?

“… foreign actors need to be aware of the high degree of suspicion prevalent in Zimbabwe. The international community should act with great care to avoid unintentionally causing a counterproductive backlash.
Incoming search terms:

* European Union Parliament’s Directorate-General for External Policies zimbabwe

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(WHAT'S LEFT) Syria, The View From The Other Side
Posted in Syria by what's left on June 22, 2013
By Stephen Gowans

His security forces used live ammunition to mow down peaceful pro-democracy protesters, forcing them to take up arms to try to topple his brutal dictatorship. He has killed tens of thousands of his own people, using tanks, heavy artillery and even chemical weapons. He’s a blood-thirsty tyrant whose rule has lost its legitimacy and must step down to make way for a peaceful democratic transition.

That’s the view of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, cultivated by Western politicians and their media stenographers. If there’s another side to the story, you’re unlikely to hear it. Western mass media are not keen on presenting the world from the point of view of governments that find themselves the target of Western regime change operations. On the contrary, their concern is to present the point of view of the big business interests that own them and the Western imperialism that defends and promotes big business interests. They accept as beyond dispute all pronouncements by Western leaders on matters of foreign affairs, and accept without qualification that the official enemies of US imperialism are as nasty as the US president and secretary of state say they are.

What follows is the largely hidden story from the other side, based on two interviews with Assad, the first conducted by Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency on May 19, 2013, and the second carried out on June 17, 2013 by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both were translated into English by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Peaceful protests?

Ba’athist Syria is no stranger to civil unrest, having experienced wave after wave of uprisings by Sunni religious fanatics embittered by their country being ruled by a secular state whose highest offices are occupied by Alawite ‘heretics’. [1] The latest round of uprisings, the opening salvos in another chapter of what Glen E. Robinson calls “Syria’s Long Civil War,” began in March, 2011. The first press reports were of a few small protests, dwarfed by the far more numerous and substantial protests that erupt every day in the United States, Britain and France. A March 16, 2011 New York Times report noted that “In Syria, demonstrations are few and brief.” These early demonstrations—a few quixotic young men declaring that “the revolution has started!”, relatives of prisoners protesting outside the Interior Ministry—seem disconnected from the radical Islamist rebellion that would soon develop.

Within days, larger demonstrations were underway in Dara, where citizens were said to have been “outraged by the arrest of more than a dozen schoolchildren.” Contrary to a myth that has since taken hold, these demonstrations were hardly peaceful. Protesters set fire to the local Ba’ath Party headquarters, as well as to the town’s main courthouse and a branch of SyriaTel. Some protesters shot at the police, who returned fire. [2] One can imagine the reaction of the New York City Police to protesters in Manhattan setting fire to the federal court building, firebombing the Verizon building and opening fire on police. A foreign broadcaster with an agenda to depict the United States in the worst possible light might describe the protest as peaceful, and the police response as brutal, but it’s doubtful anyone in the United States would see it that way.

From “the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed, so how could such protests have been peaceful?” asks Assad. “How could those who claim that the protests were peaceful explain the death of these policemen in the first week?” Assad doesn’t deny that most protesters demonstrated peacefully, but notes that “there were armed militants infiltrating protesters and shooting at the police.”

Was the reaction of Syrian security forces to the unrest heavy-handed? Syria has a long history of Islamist uprisings against its secular state. With anti-government revolts erupting in surrounding countries, there was an acute danger that Syria’s Muslim Brothers—long at war with the Syrian state—would be inspired to return to jihad. What’s more, Syria is technically at war with Israel. As other countries in similar circumstances, Syria had an emergency law in place, restricting certain civil liberties in the interest of defending national security. Among the restrictions was a ban on unauthorized public assembly. The demonstrations were a flagrant challenge to the law, at a time of growing instability and danger to the survival of the Syrian secular project. Moreover, to expect Syrian authorities to react with restraint to gunfire from protesters is to hold Syria to a higher standard than any other country.

Meanwhile, as protesters in Syria were shooting at police and setting fire to buildings, Bahrain’s royal dictatorship was crushing a popular uprising with the assistance of Saudi tanks and US equipment. New York Times’ columnist Nicholas D. Kristof lamented that “America’s ally, Bahrain” was using “American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement” as Washington remained “mostly silent.” [3] Kristof said he had “seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters.” He didn’t explain why the United States would have a dictator as an ally, much less one who crushed a pro-democracy movement. All he could offer was the weak excuse that the United States was “in a vice—caught between its allies and its values,” as if Washington didn’t chose its allies, and that they were a force of nature, like an earthquake or a hurricane, that you had to live with and endure. The United States was indeed in a vice—though not of the sort Kristof described. It was caught between Washington’s empty rhetoric on democracy and the profit-making interests of the country’s weighty citizens, the true engine of US foreign policy. The dilemma was readily resolved. Profits prevailed, as they always do.

Bahrain’s accommodating attitude to US imperialism—it is home to the US Fifth Fleet—and its emphasis on indulging owners and investors at the expense of wage- and salary-earners, are unimpeachably friendly to US corporate and financial interests. Practically the entire stable of US allies in the Middle East is comprised of royal dictators whose attitude to democracy is unremittingly hostile, but whose attitude to helping US oil companies and titans of finance rake in fabulous profits is tremendously accommodating. And so the United States is on good terms with them, despite their violent allergic reaction to democracy. Aware of whose interests really matter in US foreign policy, Kristof wrote of Bahrain, “We’re not going to pull out our naval base.” Democracy is one thing, but a military base half way around the world (i.e., imperialism) is quite another.

That Bahrain’s version of the Arab Spring failed to grow into a civil war has much to do with US tanks, guns and tear gas, foreign mercenaries, and the silence of the US government. The Bahraini authorities used the repressive apparatus of the state more vigorously than Syrian authorities did, and yet virtually escaped the negative attention of responsibility-to-protect advocates, the US State Department, “serious” political commentators, and anarchists and many (though not all) Trots who, in line with their savaging of Gadhafi, preferred to vent their spleen on another official enemy of Western imperialism, rather than waste their bile execrating a US ally. What’s more, the ‘international community’ did much to fan the flames of the Syrian rebellion, linking up once again with their old friends Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers to destabilize yet another left nationalist secular regime, whose devotion to sovereignty and self-management was an affront to Wall Street. [4] Without naming him specifically, Assad says Khalifa is among the leaders who stand in relation to the United States, France and Britain as “puppets and dummies [who] do their bidding and serve their interests without question.”


If Khalifa is the model of the Arab dictator Washington embraces, Assad fits the matrix of the Arab leader whose insistence on independence rubs the US State Department the wrong way. “The primary aim of the West,” Assad says, “is to ensure that they have ‘loyal’ governments at their disposal…which facilitate the exploitation and consumption of a country’s national resources.” Khalifa comes to mind.

In contrast, Assad insists that a “country like Syria is not by any means a satellite state to the West.” It hasn’t turned over its territory to US military bases, nor made over its economy to accommodate Western investors, banks and corporations. “Syria,” he says, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”

It’s not his attitude to multi-party democracy or the actions of Syria’s security forces that have aroused Western enmity, asserts Assad, but his insistence on steering an independent course for Syria. “It is only normal that they would not want us to play a role (in managing our own affairs), preferring instead a puppet government serving their interests and creating projects that would benefit their peoples and economies.” Normal or not, the Syrian president says, “We have consistently rejected this. We will always be independent and free,” adding that the United States and its satellites are using the conflict in Syria “to get rid of Syria—this insubordinate state, and replace the president with a ‘yes’ man.”

Foreign agenda

Assad challenges the characterization of the conflict as a civil war. The rebel side, he points out, is overwhelmingly dominated by foreign jihadists and foreign-based opposition elements (heavily dominated by the Muslim Brothers) backed by hostile imperialist powers. Some of Assad’s opponents, he observes, “are far from autonomous independent decision makers,” receiving money, weapons, logistical support and intelligence from foreign powers. “Their decisions,” he says, “are not self-governing.”

The conflict is more aptly characterized as a predatory war on Syrian sovereignty carried out by Western powers and their reactionary Arab satellite states using radical Islamists to topple Assad’s government (but who will not be allowed to take power) “to impose a puppet government loyal to them which (will) ardently implement their policies.” These policies would almost certainly involve Damascus endorsing the Zionist conquest of Palestine as legitimate (i.e., recognizing Israel), as well as opening the country to the US military and turning over Syrian markets, labor and resources to exploitation by Western investors, banks and corporations on terms favourable to Western capital and unfavourable to Syrians.

Russia and Iran

Criticism of the intervention of a number of reactionary Arab states in the conflict, and the participation of Western imperialist powers, is often countered by pointing to Russia’s and Iran’s role in furnishing Syria with weapons. Assad argues that intervention of the side of the jihadists (‘terrorists’ in his vocabulary) is unlawful and illegitimate. By furnishing rebels with arms, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States “meddle in Syria’s internal affairs” Assad says, “which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty.” On the other hand, Russia and Iran, which have supplied Syria with arms, have engaged in lawful trade with Syria, and have not infringed its independence.


According to Assad, Hezbollah has been active in towns on the border with Lebanon, but its involvement in the Syrian conflict has, otherwise, been limited. “There are no brigades (of Hezbollah fighters in Syria.) They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated with terrorists.”

Assad points out that if Hezbollah’s assistance was needed, he would have asked for deployment of the resistance organization’s fighters to Damascus and Aleppo which are “more important than al-Quseir,” the border town that was cleared of rebel fighters with Hezbollah’s help.

Stories about Hezbollah fighters pouring over the border to prop up the Syrian government are a “frenzy…to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force” in order “to provoke Western and international public opinion,” Assad says. The aim, he continues, is to create “this notion that Hezbollah and Iran are also fighting in Syria as a counterweight” to the “presence of foreign jihadists” in Syria.


The Assad government has implemented a number of reforms in response to the uprising.

First, it cancelled the long-standing abridgment of civil liberties that had been authorized by the emergency law. This law, invoked because Syria is in a technical state of war with Israel, gave Damascus powers it needed to safeguard the security of the state in wartime. Many Syrians, however, chaffed at the law, and regarded it as unduly restrictive. Bowing to popular pressure, the security measures were suspended.

Second, the government proposed a new constitution to accommodate protesters’ demands to strip the Ba’ath Party of its lead role in Syrian society. The constitution was put to a referendum and ratified. Additionally, the presidency would be open to anyone meeting basic residency, age and citizenship requirements. Presidential elections would be held by secret vote every seven years under a system of universal suffrage, with the next election scheduled for 2014. “I don’t know if (US secretary of state) Kerry or others like him have a mandate from the Syrian people to speak on their behalf as to who stays and who leaves,” Assad observes, noting that Syrians themselves can decide whether he stays or leaves when they go to the polls next year.

Despite Assad’s lifting the emergency law and amending the constitution to accommodate demands for a multi-party electoral democracy, the conflict continues. Instead of accepting these changes, the rebels summarily rejected them. Washington, London and Paris also dismissed Assad’s concessions, denigrating them as “meaningless,” without explanation. [5] Given the immediate and total rejection of the reforms, Assad can hardly be blamed for concluding that “democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.”

Elaborating, he notes:

It was seemingly apparent at the beginning that demands were for reforms. It was utilized to appear as if the crisis was a matter of political reform. Indeed, we pursued a policy of wide scale reforms from changing the constitution to many of the legislations and laws, including lifting the state of emergency law, and embarking on a national dialogue with all political opposition groups. It was striking that with every step we took in the reform process, the level of terrorism escalated.

The reality that the armed rebellion is dominated by Islamists [6] also militates against the conclusion that thirst for democracy lies at its core. Many radical Islamists reject democracy because they see it as a system for creating man-made laws and, as a corollary, for rejecting God’s law. Reportedly hundreds of jihadists [7]—members of a sort of Islamist International—have travelled from abroad to fight for a Levantine society in which God’s law, and not that of men and women, rules. Assad asks, “What interest does an internationally listed terrorist from Chechnya or Afghanistan have with the internal political reform process in Syria?” Or in democracy?

Good terrorists and bad terrorists

Syria’s jihadists have resorted to terrorist tactics, and appear to have little fear that they will ever be held to account for these or other war crimes. They are not mistaken. Their summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, terrorist car bombings, rapes, torture, hostage taking and pillage—documented by the UN human rights commission [8]—will very likely be swept into a dark, murky corner, to be forgotten and never acted upon, while imperialist powers use their sway over international courts to shine a bright line upon war crimes committed by Syrian forces. While their ranks include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front, the jihadists have been depicted as heroes by Western governments and their media stenographers, a “good Al-Qaeda,” says Assad. Cat’s paws of the West, radical Islamists are good terrorists when they fight to bring down independent governments, like the leftist pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, and the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria, but are bad terrorists when they attack the US homeland and threaten to take power in Mali.

Chemical weapons

Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor, announced that Syrian forces have “used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year” killing “100 to 150 people.” [9]

Assad says the White House’s claim doesn’t add up. The point of using nerve gas, a weapon of mass destruction, is to kill “thousands of people at one given time.” The 150 people Washington says Syrian forces took 365 days to kill with chemical weapons could have been easily killed in one day using conventional weapons.

Why, then, wonders Assad, would the Syrian army use a weapon of mass destruction sub-optimally to kill a limited number of rebels when in a year it could kill hundreds of times more with rifles, tanks and artillery? “It is counterintuitive,” says the Syrian president, “to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons.”

There is some evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the rebels. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria—a body created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights law in Syria—says that the commission has “concrete suspicions” of the use of sarin gas by the rebels” but no evidence government forces have used them. [10]

Assad says he asked the United Nations to launch a formal investigation into suspected use of chemical weapons by rebel forces in Aleppo, but that the UN demanded unconditional access to the country. If Assad acceded to the demand, the inspection regime could be used as a cover to gather military intelligence for use against Syrian forces. “We are a sovereign state; we have an army and all matters considered classified will never be accessible neither to the UN, nor Britain, nor France,” says Assad. If he rejected the demand, it could be said—as it indeed it was by the White House [11]—that the ‘international community’ had been prevented by Damascus from undertaking a comprehensive investigation, thereby releasing the UN from any obligation to investigate the use of chemical weapons by the jihadists. At the same time, by rejecting the UN’s demand, the Syrian government would create the impression it had something to hide. This could be countered by Damascus explaining its reasons for turning down the UN conditions, but the Western media give little time to the Syrian perspective, preferring saturation coverage of the pronouncements of Western officials. In terms of Western public opinion, whatever US officials say about Syria is decisive. Whatever Syrian officials say is drowned out, if presented at all.

It should be noted that no permanent member of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain—indeed, no country of any standing—would willingly grant an outside organization or country unrestricted access to its military and government facilities. The reasons for denying UN inspectors untrammelled access to Syria are all the stronger in Syria’s case, given that major players on the Security Council are overtly backing the rebels, and could be expected to try to use UN inspectors—as indeed the US did in Iraq—to gather military intelligence to be used against the host country.

It would also do well to remember that the United States evinced no interest in investigating the use of chemical weapons by the rebels, immediately dismissing the allegations as unfounded. Following up on the allegations wasn’t an option.

Finally, Assad points out that the chemical weapons charges call to mind the ‘sexed up’ WMD evidence used by the United States and Britain as a pretext to invade and conquer Iraq: “It is common knowledge” he says, “that Western administrations lie continuously and manufacture stories as a pretext for war.”


The purpose of the foregoing is to offer a glimpse into the conflict in Syria from the other side, a side which the Western media are institutionally incapable of presenting, except in passing, and only if overwhelmed by the competing imperialist narrative.

Assad’s analysis and values are very much in the anti-imperialist vein. He speaks of Western powers seeking “dummies” and “yes men” who will pursue policies that are favourable to the West. The United States does indeed maintain a collection of “yes men” in the Middle East. Khalifa, the royal dictator of Bahrain, who used US tanks, guns, tear gas and Saudi mercenaries to crush a popular rebellion, is a model Arab “yes man” and a dictator, as many of Washington’s “yes men” are, and have always been.

Assad, in contrast, has none of Khalifa’s readiness to kowtow to an imperialist master. Instead, his government’s insistence on working for the interests of Syrians, rather than making Syrians work for the interests of the West, has provoked the hostility of the United States, France and Britain, and their determination to overthrow his government. That Assad’s commitment to local interests goes beyond rhetoric is clear in the character of Syria’s economic policy. It features the state-owned enterprises, tariffs, subsidies to domestic firms, and restrictions on foreign investment that Wall Street and its State Department handmaiden vehemently oppose for restricting the profit-making opportunities of wealthy US investors, bankers and corporations [12]. On foreign policy, Syria has steered a course sensitive to local interests, refusing to abandon the Arab national project, whose success would threaten US domination of the Middle East, while allying with Iran and Hezbollah in a resistance (to US imperialism) front.

For his refusal to become their “puppet,” the United States and its imperialist allies intend to topple Assad through accustomed means: an opportunistic alliance with radical Islamists who hate Assad as much as Washington does, though for reasons of religion rather than economics and imperialism.

1. Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists,” according to the US Library of Congress Country Study of Syria.
2. “Officers fire on crowd as Syria protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011.
3. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bahrain pulls a Qaddafi”, The New York Times, March 16, 2011.
4. For the West’s opportunistic alliances with political Islam see Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, Serpent’s Tail, 2011.
5. David M. Herszenhorn, “For Syria, Reliant on Russia for weapons and food, old bonds run deep”, The New York Times, February 18, 2012.
6. Adam Entous, “White House readies new aid for Syrian rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2013; Anne Barnard, “Syria campaigns to persuade U.S. to change sides”, The New York Times, April 24, 2013; 3. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks holding back Obama on Syria”, The Wall Street journal, May 6, 2013.
7. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin “at least 600 Russians and Europeans are fighting alongside the opposition.” “Putin: President al-Assad confronts foreign gunmen, not Syrian people,” Syrian Arab News Agency, June 22, 2013.
8. Damien Mcelroy, “Syrian rebels face war crime accusation”, The Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2012; Sam Dagher and Nour Malas, “Lebanon militia kidnaps Syrians”, The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2012; Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Civilian attacks rise in Syria, U.N. says”, The New York Times, September 17, 2012; Stacy Meichtry, “Sarin detected in samples from Syria, France says”, The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2013; Sam Dagher, “Violence spirals as Assad gains”, The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013.
9. Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons. The Guardian (UK), June 13, 2013.
10. “UN: ‘Strong suspicions’ that Syrian rebels have used sarin nerve gas,” Euronews, May 6, 2013; “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’”, BBC News, May 6, 2013.
11. Rhodes.
12. For Syria’s economic policies and the US ruling class reaction to them see the Syria sections of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom and the CIA Factbook .

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(GLOBALRESEARCH) The Tale of a Turkish Summer: Is there a Link between “Occupy Gezi” and the IMF?
By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, June 24, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s fall from grace has manifested itself in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Taksim Square now resembles Egypt’s Tahrir Square. What is interesting to note is that the timing of the massive protests comes a month after Turkey paid its debts off to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Taksim Gezi Park (or simply Gezi Park) was once part of Istanbul’s Armenian cemetery. Today, it is essentially the last green space inside Istanbul. The park is situated within Taksim Square, which itself is considered the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s business centre and largest, most populous city.

As a gathering place, Taksim is the equivalent of London’s Trafalgar Square, the Place de la Bastille in Paris, Kiev’s Nezalezhnosti (Independence) Square, Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, and Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It serves a similar function as London’s Hyde Park and New York City’s Central Park for the residents of Istanbul. Aside from its ecological value and aesthetics, it has historically been an important and indispensable spot for political and social rallies and protests of all stripes and colours. Traditionally, Turkey’s largest May Day rallies take place in Taksim and it is an important gathering place for Turkish trade unionists and activists.

There should be little wonder as to why the plans to cut all the trees down in Gezi Park and build a brand new shopping mall for tourists—complete with an Ottoman theme—in its place have been bitterly opposed by many of the inhabitants of Istanbul. One of the last open spaces for public assembly and demonstrations in the city would be taken away with the destruction of Gezi Park. Angry residents of the city have actually been protesting the commercial gentrification and re-development of Istanbul for some time before the protests in Gezi Park erupted. One large protest was against the demolition of the Emek Cinema, a cultural heritage landmark with a mixed baroque and rococo design.

The cinema was finally destroyed in 2013 to build another shopping mall. Other protests have been against the destruction of the city’s disappearing green spaces. These events have led to the development of an eclectic urbanite movement united under what can be conceptualized and described as the banner of Henri Lefebvre’s “the right to the city.” Istanbul’s Right to the City Movement is actually part of a global phenomenon where urban dwellers are demanding the right to democratically and collectively control the development and resources in their cities. Yet, there is much more to the protests in Taksim. The demonstrations are no longer about the trees and development contracts, but about Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP.

Re-development plans have ignored the opinions of local residents in favour of the business interests that the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) protects. Over the years there have been many evictions of people in poor and working areas. The residents of the working class and lower income neighbourhoods of Istanbul have actually been increasingly marginalized and put under pressure by urban projects.

It should come as no surprise that this type of development is increasingly a site of political contestation in Turkey and around the world. It is worth digressing to refer to the work of the Urban Studies Research Cluster at the University of California in Santa Cruz to put this into context. The Urban Studies Research Cluster points out that “social divisions are experienced increasingly in spatial terms—through gentrified housing markets and polarized job markets; unequal access to green space and unequal exposure to environmental risk; new modes of segregation and policing public space.”

“Saving Gezi Park” turns into “Saving Turkey from Erdogan”

Occupy Gezi, the protest in Gezi Park, is the spark that ignited a fire across Istanbul and Turkey that has exposed Turkish society’s internal divisions and the growing discontent with Prime Minister Erdogan and his AKP government. It all started with the activists that began camping in Gezi Park to prevent its destruction. The Turkish police tried to use heavy handed methods to disperse the activists. Tear gas canisters were used to disperse the crowd and the situation began to escalate. The methods of the Turkish police, fully supported by Erdogan and Turkey’s AKP government, backfired and unleashed a political tremor.

More people began arriving to Gezi Park. Two Turkish Members of Parliament (MPs) also joined the ranks of the activists: S?rr? Süreyya Önder from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party and Gülseren Onanç from the Republican People’s Party. The Turkish Communist Party and other groups would throw their weight behind Occupy Gezi. Even though Erdogan’s AKP government enforced a media blackout and tried to prevent journalist from going to Gezi Park, word about the police siege against the activists began to spread as residents became increasingly upset by the liberal use of tear gas. The police would even resort to burning the tents of the protesters and attacking the activists with tear gas while they were sleeping. Water cannons would later be brought to Gezi Park and other protest sites in Turkey, including Ankara. Ahmet S?k, a Turkish journalist and author, would be hurt and rushed to the hospital with injuries.

As the police became more brutal, the protest attracted more and more people and began to take on a new set of meanings. This transformed Occupy Gezi into a demonstration against Erdogan’s arrogance, authoritarianism, and abuse of Turkish democracy in favour of crony capitalism. Soon more than a dozen other Turkish cities, from Ankara and Adana to Iskenderun (Alexandretta) and Trabzon, were ablaze with protests against the AKP government.

Occupy Wall Street activists would stage a rally in New York City in support of Occupy Gezi and demonstrations would appear in front of Turkish embassies across the world. The Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), one of Turkey’s four major unions, would put its support behind the protests. Another major Turkish union, the Confederation of Public Workers Unions (KESK) would follow suit with strikes. Eventually DISK, KESK, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), and the Turkish Dentists Union (TDHB) would all hold strikes.

The Turkish police have systematically fired tear gas canisters at the heads of demonstrators. This has led to many injuries including fractured skulls and the loss of eyes. The Turkish Medical Association TTB), which has condemned Prime Minister Erdogan for the violence, has said that thousands of Turkish citizens have been injured by the police. The president of the TTB, Dr. Ozbemir Aktan, has also complained that five doctors and three nurses had gone missing because they treated injured protesters.

Two young Turks, Mehmet Ayval?tas, and Abdullah Cömert, would be killed in the early days of the protest. Ayval?tas,, a member of the Socialist Solidarity Platform (SODAP), was run down by a car while he was demonstrating in Istanbul. The group Redhack has implied that his death was the “intentional work of a fascist” supporting the AKP government. In Antakya, which is located near the Syrian border, Abdullah Cömert would die next. Most of the Turkish media reported that Cömert died of injuries sustained after being shot by “unidentified” gunmen, though many protesters used social media to deny the claim by blaming the police for his death. An autopsy of Cömert, a member of the youth branch of the opposition Republican People’s Party, revealed that he died when a police tear gas canister hit him. By the start of the summer at least four demonstrators were killed and thousands of more people injured across Turkey. The Turkish police would eventually use rubber bullets at different protest sites and even begin to run out of pepper spray.

In Erdogan’s own words, “there are two Turkeys.” As the police became more brutal in their treatment of protesters, Turkey’s entire political spectrum, from left to right and from liberal to conservative, have condemned Erdogan and the AKP. Turkey’s second largest political party and main opposition party by way of parliamentary standing, the Republican People’s Party, has used the opportunity to denounce the AKP, rally its supporters, and to capitalize politically. The Republican People’s Party has used Occupy Gezi to portray the protests as a clash of cultural values, and its supporters have linked the protests to the issue of secularism and the AKP’s fresh restrictions on alcohol sales—which foreign media have picked up on—but this is not the real basis for the divisions in Turkey. The Nationalist Movement Party, Turkey’s third largest political party, has condemned the AKP government. The National Movement’s leader would go as far to say that the AKP was using such large quantities of tear gas—courtesy of the same American crowd-control industry that has been helping dictators around the world—that the AKP had “established gas chambers similar to the Nazis.” The Peace and Democracy Party, Turkish Labour Party, Turkish Communist Party, and Felicity Party all also denounced Erdogan for his reckless policies and autocratic behaviour.

Initially, Prime Minister Erdogan spoke in conspiratorial terms and called the protesters unruly extremists working to create sedition in Turkey. He promised that the project to build the shopping mall would not halt for “some old trees” and even tried to glorify the project by saying it was a tribute to Turkey’s imperial past during the Ottoman era. In thuggish language, the AKP mayor of Ankara on the other hand threatened that the AKP could crush demonstrators. The AKP and Prime Minister Erdogan, however, were forced to back down as the many misgivings of Turkey’s people undeniably surfaced. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was forced to make an apology for the violent police treatment of the protesters and the AKP government began backpedalling while Erdogan went on a tour of North Africa. The Turkish protesters have rejected the AKP government’s apology for using brute force as another insincere gesture by a dishonest government. Moreover, they have refused the appeal by Erdogan’s government to end the demonstrations.

Prime Minister Erdogan is now being equated with a fascist by the demonstrators. Referring to the deaths of two young protesters, one of the main Turkish unions turned Erdogan’s own words—which he used against Bashar Al-Assad—against the Turkish leader, asking him to resign: “A leader who kills his own people has lost his legitimacy.” In Istanbul angry crowds of five thousand people surrounded Erdgoan’s Istanbul office and hurled stones at it. The crowds have demanded that he promptly resign, chanting “Tayyip resign” and “shoulder to shoulder against fascism.” In Taksim Square over 100,000 people have gathered to demand Erdogan resign. A showdown between the demonstrators and Turkish security forces began, after Erdogan returned from North Africa. He began to call the demonstrators “terrorists” and in a threatening tone promised that they would all be individually targeted as police began to make house arrests throughout Turkey.

A Turkish Democratic Model for the Arabs?!

The tables have turned on Prime Minister Erdogan. The irony of the situation is that he is acting like an autocrat, which is exactly what he portrayed himself as opposing during the Arab Spring. Erdogan himself now resembles President Husni Mubarak, Egypt’s former dictator. He has even insisted that the protests are part of a foreign agenda and include foreign “mercenaries.” None of this has been lost on the Syrians either who have taken the opportunity to give Erdogan a taste of his own medicine. The Syrian government has issued several statements about the domestic situation in Turkey and the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi has demanded that Erdogan resign, accusing him of “terrorizing” the Turkish people.

The Iraqi government has also taken the opportunity to make statements about the volatile situation in Turkey. Erdogan and the Turkish government have been officially accused by Baghdad of interfering in Iraqi internal affairs and seeking the division of Iraq, ethnically between Arabs and Kurds, and denominationally between Muslims. Under Erdogan the AKP has been busy trying to carve a sphere of influence in Iraqi Kurdistan and has even played with the internal legal status of Iraq’s Kirkuk by lobbying the local Turkoman population in the disputed city not to oppose the Kurdistan Regional Government’s jurisdiction claims. Refusing to recognize the Iraqi federal government’s sovereignty in Iraqi Kurdistan when it comes to foreign trade agreements and diplomatic relations, Erdogan even made a secretive deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government on oil and gas exports. It is in this context that the Iraqi government has taken the opportunity to tell Erdogan to show restraint against his own citizens. In reality, this is diplomatic tit for tat or payback for Erdogan’s confrontational public cries that have undermined the authority of the Iraqi government and essentially encouraged its toppling.

The flawed state of democracy that exists in Turkey has now come into view too. There have been attempts to enforce a media blackout in Turkey and the internet has been cut off in certain places. The Turkish mainstream media, which is tied to large business interests that support the AKP, has been embarrassingly caught collaborating with the AKP government in this regard. House arrests are being made and thousands of activists have been rounded up. Several people in the city of Izmir, a political stronghold of the Republican People’s Party, were arrested by Turkish police for the tweets they wrote on Twitter about the protests. In his anger Erdogan has condemned Twitter and all social media in general, stating: “To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

The violations of civil liberties and media freedoms in Turkey have actually been ongoing. Turkish anti-war protesters that have been opposing Erdogan’s belligerent Syrian policy and Turkish involvement with NATO’s projects have been harassed and detained in large numbers. In 2012, the AKP moved forward with legislation restricting media freedoms. Turkey is actually the country with the most journalists imprisoned in the world according to the Committee to Protect Journalist. Journalists that have questioned official government narratives have been accused of treason and arrested. Artists that have created political art critical of Turkish officials have been arrested and charged with “insulting the dignity of a state official.” This was the “democratic model” that was being pushed on Arab societies after the so-called Arab Spring began.

Like their phony public gestures of support for the Palestinians, Erdogan and the AKP have never been interested in Arab democracy. They merely supported the toppling of Arab dictators to promote Turkish strategic and economic interests—essentially to fill their own pockets under the system of crony capitalism that dominates Turkey. It is precisely on the basis of these business interests that Erdogan and the AKP have kept silent about the democracy movements and protests against the Saudi and Bahraini regimes, which are close Turkish allies and partners.

An Economic Conspiracy Against Turkey?

Internationally, it ominously seems that a lot of Erdogan’s traditional supporters are turning their back on him, just as they did with Mubarak. The European Union and the US government have criticized Erdogan. The mainstream media in the US and Western Europe have not been reporting in favour of the AKP. Erdogan has slammed the foreign media of showing a distorted picture of Turkey and criticized the governments of some of Turkey’s allies for having double standards when it comes to Turkey.

The protests started after Turkey made its last loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May 2013. There could be a link between the Turkish protests. Some may even accuse speculators of getting ready to siphon Turkey’s wealth, while others may suggest that soft regime change is being attempted with the intention of replacing the AKP possibly with a government by the equally corrupt Republican People’s Party. The Turkish government itself has mentioned that international banks are involved and Erdogan himself has said that the protests were tied to the planning of foreign circles that served the “interest rate lobby.”

Despite the fact that Erdogan has been praised for turning Turkey into an “economic miracle” and bringing the purchasing power of the average consumer up in Turkey, many families in Turkish society are heavily indebted. Under him crony profiteering has thrived with neoliberal economic policies that have supported corporations. Despite the fact that Turkey no longer has IMF debts, it has extremely high private sector debt, which is headed in an unsustainable direction if things do not change. Critics have accused Erdogan of hiding Turkey’s national debt by transferring it onto the shoulders of the average Turkish citizen. After the US economy, the Turkish one has one of the largest current account deficits. This says a lot, because a current account deficit happens when a country’s total imports of goods, services, and transfers is greater than its total export of goods, services, and transfers. This situation makes Turkey a net debtor.

The above factors and the anti-government protests in Turkey could have disastrous consequences for the Turkish economy. Already the demonstrations have now paralyzed large areas of Istanbul, Ankara, and other major Turkish cities. Erdogan has threatened to bring out the military. Tourism has been crippled and the Turkish economy has taken a dive. Turkish stocks and bonds have depreciated in value. In addition, the exchange rate of the Turkish Lira has dropped.

The country’s economy had already been starting to stagger before the protests due to the economic crisis in the European Union and the crisis in Syria that Erdogan has helped fuel with the US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The Turkish-supported NATO war in Libya also hurt Turkish trade with Libya. Aside from the bad relations with Armenia, Prime Minister Erdogan has managed to alienate Turkey and hurt trade with its three most important neighbours. Trade and ties with Syria, Iraq, and Iran have been affected negatively by his neo-Ottomanism.

The Turkish People Reject AKP Crony Capitalism and Neo-Ottomanism

The recent events in Turkey epitomize everything that Prime Minister Erdogan stands for. The battle over the future of Gezi Park exposes Erdogan’s championing of commercial interests and crony capitalism, which has always come at the expense of the interests of Turkish society. Even Turkey’s “Zero Problems with Neighbours” foreign policy was about supporting crony capitalism by promoting Turkish business and trade regionally.

The fact that a replica Ottoman barrack was going to be incorporated with the shopping mall project in Taksim Square represents the failed neo-Ottoman policy of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Erdogan would ridiculously scold the Turkish protesters and say that they knew nothing about the history of the Ottoman Empire; otherwise the demonstrators would support the destruction of Gezi Park and the construction of the shopping mall. The protests in Taksim Square represents a rejection of Erdogan’s stillborn neo-Ottoman regional policy—which at its core serves the crony business interests that Erdogan and the AKP represent—by the Turkish people.

The anti-government demonstrations have yet again shown how much of a hypocrite Prime Minister Erdogan is in his deeds. He has been exposed acting in the same fashion that he took the personal opportunity to blast and vilify Arab leaders with during the Arab Spring. The Turkish leader now faces an Arab Spring of his own—actually a “Turkish Summer.” Yet, the world will still have to wait and see what direction the protest movement in Turkey takes and what its outcome(s) will be and if Erdogan is right about a foreign conspiracy involving the “interest rate lobby.” Whatever happens, the Middle East is need of a healthy and interactive Turkey that will have good relations with all its neighbours.

Global Research Associate Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya was in Istanbul in mid-June 2013 and is currently reporting out of Lebanon.

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