Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Free-For-All


DDGD November 16, 2015

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Today’s Post is brought to you by… The Tomfoolery Club: we’re quite serious about making fools of ourselves, and of you. So you might as well join us. Yes, membership IS free; the ensuing havoc, on the other hand, is not.

The Delirica  

Islam is a religion, but Islamism is a political movement, or, to be more precise, a spectrum of political ideas based on particularistic interpretations of some of the founding principles of Islam. In other words, Daesh is more a political phenomenon than a religious one, and its ideology is a mixture of puritanical ahistorical, that is, decontextualized, interpretations of Islam and Islamic history, coupled with a rejection of the modern world. Why? Because it’s an alien world where the West is superior and dominant on all levels, and its radically different values have been imposed on the East through a string of colonialist ventures, coming as a shock to an old and stale system of thought. Most academics studying the development of political Islam have noted the major influence that anarchist and fascist writings by a variety of Western figures have had on its development, and on modern political culture in Muslim-majority countries in general. Daesh founders may not familiar with this, or they might have chosen to believe that such sources only influenced the development of secular political culture, but, in reality, you can substitute any fascist or anarchist ideology for Islam in the basic texts without having to engage in any intellectual gymnastics.

In short, Islamism or Political Islam, with its ongoing affiliation with a variety of terrorist groups, either through involvement in apologetics, or through more direct organizational outreach, is frankly speaking a fascist movement, no different than those that existed in Europe few decades, and which may rise again.

The Daily Delirynth

The Qalifate: Private sources on the ground in Syria and neighboring countries have reported seeing signs that IS/Daesh is currently undertaking a major internal restructuring effort that will impact its operations on the ground in Syria, Iraq and beyond. The move, they say, could result in a decreased presence in big cities, as focus shifts from governance to defense (as this report shows), and greater reliance on guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks both on a local and international level, as this video promises. Indeed, by now Daesh seems to have built the requisite international infrastructure to allow it to conduct a variety of dramatic attacks such as the one seen in Sinai, Beirut and Paris. This move goes far beyond the decentralization of the operational command structure discussed by the New York Times, as it prepares the ground for the possible eventuality of losing territory while still retaining strike capabilities in the region and developing such capacities on the global level. Transferring funds and the creation of new financial accounts and ghost financial entities must be part of this operation, and could prove its Achilles heel.

The move, if true, might indeed lend some justification to the assertions made by various American officials, including President Obama, that air-strikes have been effective in hurting Daesh, at least of late and specifically after the Sinai bombing which put the issue of aerial strikes under a spotlight, irrespective of who is conducting them. And, sure enough, it was America far more than Russia that moved to immediately intensify its strikes. And this time with greater efficacy, albeit, it's probably the Russia who will probably end up taking the credit for that, despite their earlier reluctance to strike IS targets. More importantly, and considering that recent air strikes seem to have hurt Daesh, the development does raise more questions than it answers, as the New York Times have pointed out:

Why, if there were confirmed Islamic State targets that could be hit without killing civilians, were they not hit more heavily long ago? And what, in fact, was being hit?

And what do we do with the claims by on-ground activists that recent French air strikes in Raqqa have only hit “empty areas or buildings, or parts of the territory of factory complexes or military bases used by the Islamic State?”

On the other hand, the move contradicts repeated assertions by experts that all that Daesh wants is to draw America into a prolonged ground battle. Despite its reliance on millenarian doctrine, Daesh has always been capable of modifying its ideological stands to suit changing military and geopolitical realities. In fact, it seems that Daesh leaders have long been preparing for the eventuality for restructuring their organization and altering their modus operandi long before the Sinai Attack in anticipation of how things will change afterwards. Indeed, forget about the rank-and-file, Daesh’s leadership is not made of up of “mindless terrorists.” The next few weeks should clarify the situation, and determine the accuracy of these reports and analysis.

The Huddle, Part Deux:  The Huddle to End All Huddles didn’t seem to have the desired effect. Once you set aside the various statements made by different officials for the benefit of their domestic audience, and look at the official declarations that came out of Antalya and Vienna, this becomes all too obvious. There will be more aerial strikes against IS/Daesh positions, but no ground troops will be deployed anytime soon. The current pro-Western alliance between Arab tribes and Kurdish fighters will receive some more weapons and some advice and it will be up to them to do the ground work. As for the transitional political process in Syria, despite John Kerry’s attempt at a positive spin, the reality is the fate of Assad, one of the thorniest issues involved, is still undetermined. So is the identity of the various opposition groups that could be allowed to take part in the process. In fact, Iran just came out insisting on Assad’s right to stay in power and to take part in any future presidential elections. Meanwhile, Russia’s identification of terrorist groups is bound to exclude the most effective units fighting for the opposition, while excluding regime troops from such consideration and legitimating all Shia militias working for it, including Hezbollah, even though all independently verifiable evidence point to their disproportionately greater involvement in perpetrating massacres, atrocities and war crimes. As such, the Economist choice of words here is quite appropriate: After Paris, Syria's peace process limps on:

For all the show of unity in Paris, the fighting will only stop when the various countries backing one side or other are satisfied that their interests are protected. Some have clear aims: Iran, for example, wants to keep open a route to ship weapons to Hizbullah, its proxy in Lebanon. What others want is more nebulous: as well as protecting its naval base at Tartus on the Mediterranean, Russia seeks to assert itself as a global power. The two countries’ leaders disapprove of regime change abroad, since both fear it at home. And Saudi Arabia is mostly guided by its distrust of Iran—a distrust that has deepened since America, the Saudis’ chief ally, struck a nuclear deal with Iran in July. Despite that deal, Iran remains deeply suspicious of America, the Great Satan. These cross-purposes and incompatible goals mean that Syria’s vicious fighting, and the presence of IS, are unlikely to be ended soon.

So, who came around to whose take on the Syria Conflict? The White House likes to believe that it’s Putin who did. Facts seem to argue that the Administration just made another major concession to the Russians. The Infamous Huddle was not an exercise of forceful diplomacy as much as it marked a condensed round of negotiations over the terms of another surrender.


"This is not a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory and as long as we keep our troops there we can hold it. But that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent, extremist groups," Obama said.


“One of the Paris attackers was supposedly found with a Syrian passport—leading Republican governors here in America to vow to block Syrian refugees from entering their states. But that passport was a fake, French officials told The Wall Street Journal, which means the governors’ freakout over refugees was likely based on a lie.”

So, we really don’t know if that young man was indeed Syrian. What we do know is that IS/Daesh has a vested interest in creating this impression: they wanted to create the very problem we are witnessing right now: a backlash against Syrian refugees, a development that could, as IS leaders hope, serve to radicalize them, and others and facilitate their ongoing recruitment effort so important for their next evolutionary step. And so many politicians took the bait. Some might even be quite appreciative of the opportunity now afforded them to push more forcefully their xenophobic programs.

Indeed, I do not expect Republicans to back down at this stage, despite this new revelation, because there seems to be something built into the very DNA of politicians that makes them, whenever they are caught with their pants down, double down. So, the tomfoolery is bound to continue. So, and while we’re enjoying the show, let’s meet some of the actors: Here’s the List of All the Governors Who Say They Don’t Want to Take In Syrian Refugees.


Luckily, this is one of the few issues on which Obama can be forceful:

President Obama says suggesting a religious test for fleeing refugees is "shameful" and "not American." http://cnn.it/1MN8e85

"The values that we are fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don't discriminate against people because of their faith," Obama says at the G-20 summit in Turkey. "We don't kill people because they're different than us. That's what separates us from them. And we don't feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war."

Still, the harm done by these hypocritical stands by GOP representatives cannot be so easily overridden, as it serves to mainstream anti-Muslim prejudice at a very crucial period in modern times, a period during which we are bound to witness more terrorist attacks perpetrated in the name of Islam and Muslims, but against their collective will, by a variety of hatemongering fringe groups.   

Meantime time, Islamophobia is on the rise:


“If your camp is the French camp, then why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” Vause asked.

Really? How is this supposed to be a reasonable question? See something say something works only when people actually see something. Radical young men usually know that their views are radical, and they usually choose to isolate themselves from the main stream community where they feel rejected and out-of-place. It’s at this point that they get approached by recruiters often experiences enough to know what, where and when to discuss certain issues, like joining Daesh, traveling to Syria and planning for an attack. Now your average French or American Muslims are divided into two groups: those who believe in their heart and mind and keep their faith there, refusing to observe any rituals, with individuals having different ways of justifying this attitude to themselves.

Then there are the moderate Muslims who represent a wide spectrum of individuals and groups from those who observe the Friday prayer and may fast for few days in Ramadan, to those who observe all daily prayers and all rituals and may attend religious functions and lectures beyond the Friday sermon. Finally, we have two diametrically opposed groups: those who completely abandoned the faith becoming agnostic or atheist, or by joining another faith, usually Christianity or Buddhism; and those who went into a more puritanical and atavistic mode of adherence, which marks the first real step towards the kind of radicalization that leads to terrorism.

Now these last two groups are often completely cutoff from the mainstream represented by average and moderate Muslims. Therefore, there is no way for the average and moderate Muslims to develop any serious insights into their activities, not unless they wanted to advertise it. Obviously plans for an upcoming terrorist attack don’t fit the bill of what should be advertised beforehand.
But there are women in Tunisia who wear the headscarf, and Muslim women in Egypt who don't.
I hope this clarifies the situation a little bit, and let’s not forget that I am speaking as a person who went through the process of radicalization at one point in early twenties, then de-radicalization in my mid-twenties, ending up where I am today, and have been since 1993: a person who only follows he dictates of his mind, his conscience and his intuition. 

As for the average Muslims living in the West, most of them were, in fact, born there, and have lived there for most of their lives. Most also belong to one or another of the existing mainstream political parties. In the U.S., they seem to be equally divided between the Republican and Democratic parties, with a significant constituency of independents. In the current elections, most will probably vote for the Democratic Party.  

And no, they don’t have to apologize for Daesh even when it does what it does in the name of Islam. So what? Anyone can do anything in the name of anything and claim that his doings represent the right interpretation of the thing. Who can prevent that? Who has the exclusive right to define the “thing” anyway? We’ve been fighting for millennia without ever coming to an agreement on that. The challenge is not to try to come to an agreement on what constitutes the right interpretation of the faith. Criminal acts are self-evident. Decent people should not be expected or urged to apologize for what criminals do. What they should be expected and urged to do, however, and what should be doing without urging, in fact, is to show solidarity and join the fight. After all, it’s our collective humanity that’s being attacked. So, when we hear about the “fearless father who threw himself on a suicide bomber, saving ‘hundreds’ of lives in Beirut,” the “hero security guard,” a Muslim, who prevented one of the suicide bombers from entering the stadium, and how Manbij, an ISIS-held town in northern Syria, was rocked by popular unrest, we should all have hope and should stop blaming Muslims for the worst elements in their midst are doing, be they fringe groups like Daesh, or their authoritarian regimes. Judging them by those “average” citizens in Syria who for months in 2011 faced regime tanks, unarmed and shouting “we are peaceful, we are peaceful,” only to be shot at by those allegedly secular troops sent by the Assad regime. Then let’s ask ourselves why we didn’t try to help them? Didn’t our failure to do so facilitate the turn to violence on their part, the rise of Daesh in their midst, and the current refugee crisis?

Perhaps if we stopped demonizing the average Muslims we can then find ways to help them help us help them help us, thus engaging in a different kind of cycle: not a cycle of hate and violence, but a cycle of compassion and empathy. 

We need fewer developments like these in our world:





Iran is using ISIS’ ascendance in the Middle East to consolidate its power. The country is now the key ally keeping Iraq’s Shiites and the Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime standing against well-armed and tenacious Sunni jihadists. In those battles, Tehran will likely do just enough to make sure the Sunnis don’t conquer the Shia portions of Iraq and Assad’s enclave in Syria, but no more. Meanwhile, in ISIS’ wake, Tehran will strengthen its own radical Shia militias. The result could be a permanent destabilization of the Arab heartland. That would be a major victory for the Islamic Republic, which has seen its fortunes rise as Egypt and Turkey have become mired in crises and as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s one remaining serious Sunni rival, has gotten bogged down in a war in Yemen.

Indeed, Iran is emerging as the greatest regional beneficiary of the various developments unleashed by the Arab Spring, so far. Barring a major backlash at home among its restive Kurdish population, its suppressed Sunni population, and its Arab population in the Ahwaz Province, Iran’s regional hegemony will be unchallenged for decades to come, and that could only lead to further regional destabilization and mayhem.

Milk & Honey with a spot of garlic: Israel bans Islamic Movement in Palestine.

“This [Islamic Movement] activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda,” said the statement, referring to violence that has killed 88 Palestinians and 13 Israelis since October.

Now we began similar activities by Israeli settlers operating in the same region we might end up having some much needed lull time.

Refugenics: Benjamin Wittes: In Defense of Refugees. A very timely take on this currently hot issue that reveals the practical and mora bankruptcy of the anti-refugee stances adopted by GOP politicians.

…why do we grant visas—and we grant many of them—to people from that part of the world at all? Why do we let students come here from the Persian Gulf? Why do we let tourists come here from just about anywhere? And, more to the point, why have we let refugees come here from all sorts of nasty places in the world? Each refugee community brings with it a certain number of bad apples. But I wouldn't give back the Mariel boatlift, though it involved a fair number of Cuban criminals…
… there is risk associated with saying loudly and unapologetically that we don't care what happens to hundreds of thousands of innocent people—or that we care if they're Christian but not if they're Muslim, or that we care but we'll keep them out anyway if there's even a fraction of a percent chance they are not what they claim to be. They hear us when we say these things. And they will see what we do. And those things too have security consequences…





These are really important point that warrants serious consideration by all those interested in the current debate on refugees. Indeed, there is more risk involved in admitting students, entrepreneurs and tourists from all different parts of the world than the one associated it with admitting refugees. After all, the background checks carried out before granting someone a visa are far less rigorous than those require deployed in case of refugees who often have to wait two years before they are admitted, and most get rejected. Moreover, organized crime, a phenomenon historically affiliated with migrant communities, rightly or wrongly, has historically killed more people and created more serious problems in the United States than any terrorist threat or attack, and Arab and Muslim involvement in organized crime has always been marginal. Perhaps the organized crime brand or field for some Arabs and Muslims is terrorism, but, considering the numbers involved, that still makes them the least threatening criminals by far on the American scene. So, even when we adopt such obviously insulting take on the situation, the facts still don’t add up. The point: this whole situation is more a product of racism, ignorance and political opportunism than any remotely resembling the truth.

As a growth industry, terrorism is bound to stay with us for decades to come, and probably even longer. It’s fast becoming just a new category of criminal behavior, and it will soon attract, again, an even greater following from other religious and national communities, most of whom will have nothing to do with Islam and Islamism, or their respective adherents.

For this reason, we need to start developing the necessary tools for how to handle this challenge, the nature of which will dictate a hybrid approach that mixes regular police work, with occasional military action and a strong diplomacy meant to prevent mass atrocities and to end current conflicts, as these remain the major production facilities for terrorists.

Back to the issue at hand, whatever challenges involved in handling and screening Syrian refugees, it’s far better from moral and strategic perspectives to tackle them with an open mind and a spirit of acceptance. Openness with vigilance, that’s what’s needed.

The World Wide Web Wars: In this leaked document, Wikipedia highlights statements made by Assad’s security chief Ali Mamluke, dating back to early 2010. The point the Editors of Wikileaks wanted to highlight is quite clear, because they made it so when they linked back to the document in this recent tweet of theirs:
So, the Editors of Wikileaks would like us to believe that the offer made by Mr. Mamluke was so genuine it represented a missing opportunity in the fight against IS/Daesh, many months before the onset of the Syrian Revolution. What these erudite editors don’t say, however, is how the Assad regime was actively responsible for creating the menace in the first place – a little fact that American officials could not ignore as it was amply documented by the CIA, military intelligence, and international journalists working in the region. This was not an offer for cooperation, this was blackmail, and the U.S. will alter conceded to being blackmailed by both Iran and Russia, but to accept so from someone like Assad and his minions must have seemed a bit too much.

But while Wikileaks remain on the side of evil in this fight, the famous hacktivist group, Anonymous, opted to join the good, and just declared war on Daesh

“To defend our values and our freedom, we’re tracking down members of the terrorist group responsible for these attacks, we will not give up, we will not forgive, and we’ll do all that is necessary to end their actions,” the person in the widely circulated video stated. “Expect a total mobilization on our part. This violence should not weaken us. It has to give us the strength to come together and fight tyranny and obscurantism together.”

The group immediately went on to take hundreds of social media accounts belong to Daesh and its sympathizers offline. But Daesh techies are quite creative, and just like they used “the online chat facility in the Sony Playstation 4 to plot the Paris attacks,” they are likely to find other creative ways to respond to this latest challenge. This war is just beginning, and it’s bound to be a long one as well.

The No-Fly Zone: Yes, the Daily Mail has every right to publish such an offensive cartoon reproduced below, and we have every right to call the editors and cartoonists responsible for it racist fucking assholes worthy of our undying contempt.
Quote of the Day

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” –Henry David Thoreau

Tweets of the Day
Video(s) of the Day



Cartoons

Note: This is a commentary on the terrorists, not the city.



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