Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Matryoshkaesque Insanity

Man charged for 'attempting to kill' Donald Trump: “Michael Sandford held for trying to grab a police officer's gun in alleged shooting attempt at a Las Vegas rally.” Assassinating Trump will be a gift to fascists everywhere. It would much better to put him in a zoo instead. 
DDGD June 23, 2016
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Index of Global Delirium
The Index reflects the state of delirium in a particular country using a 1 to 10 count, with 10 denoting the highest level of delirium. Levels of delirium change on the basis of current development in said country, such as instability, terrorism, elections, sports events and the like,  as well as relevant global developments such financial meltdowns, certain leaks, and stock market indices. Countries shown above are among those where fluctuation in the national and local indices have a greater global impact than is the case with other countries. Note: levels of violence and delirium do not always coincide. Indeed, a country can have a high delirium level even though it is relatively stable. 

The IDG may be holding steady 9.4, but one should not confuse steadiness with stability.

Featured Quotes

“A big share of the Syrian population is willing to go to the bitter end. We stopped counting the dead but they are still dying. The regime is executing people in jails. If the war ends, I think the death toll will be close to 1 million. This is a scandal. We’ve allowed the UN and humanitarians to be used by the regime and the Russians, for the sake of sovereignty, as if humanitarian aid is an end to itself. We’ve been a party to all this. We are toothless dogs.” –Unnamed western official interviewed by Thanassis Cambanis, Fellow – The Century Foundation

“With stark detail, UNHCR said that on average, 24 people had been displaced every minute of every day last year, or 34,000 people a day, up from six every minute in 2005.” --Aljazeerah

“It would be reasonable to conclude that Obama has reluctantly accepted mass murder in Syria as a cost of doing nuclear business with Iran. No doubt he hates it. No doubt he wants it to stop. But to push back against Assad — to take limited military steps to make his attempts at mass murder slightly more difficult — risks angering Tehran and perhaps causing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon the nuclear agreement.” --Ambassador Frederic C. Hoff

"Something bad did happen, and we're taking it serious. But it didn't involve Syrians, it didn't involve a knife and it didn't involve a gang rape." --Grant Loebs, Idaho’s Twin Falls County prosecutor

The Delirica

Change – Slow but Unstoppable: The Muslim World and the Challenge of Modernity. My latest contribution to the Lawfare Bog: “The issue of compatibility of Islam and modern liberal democratic values keeps on creeping into the public debate following each terrorist attack and each tragic development in the Middle East, and there have been plenty of them over the last few years to ensure that the debate never falls off radar. Indeed, ever since the breakout of what has popularly been named the Arab Spring and the assortment of dramatic developments affiliated with it—the implosion of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the rise of ISIS as a global terrorist threat, and the emergence of the global refugee crisis—popular media, think tanks and an ever growing circuit, if not circus, of pundits and experts have kept the debate going, often at the expense of its quality. Still, the question of the seeming incompatibility of Islam and modernity, the conclusion that many people seem to reach in this conversation, warrants attention.” (Read More)

Yazidi Kurdish women chant slogans during a protest against the Islamic State group's invasion on Sinjar

The Genocide within Genocide: UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria: ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidis. The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) is committing genocide against Yazidis, according to a report, “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”, issued today by the independent international Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. The report by the Commission of Inquiry also determined that ISIS’s abuse of Yazidis amounts to crimes against humanity and war crimes. “Genocide has occurred and is ongoing”, emphasised Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission. “ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities.” Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill Yazidi Woman Pleads With US to Hold IS Accountable.

In the Obama’s administration’s calculus meant at helping it avoid doing “stupid things,” something must have gone terribly and horribly wrong. How else can we explain dealing with a situation where genocidal ventures and civil wars are nested like a Russian Matryoshka doll? Yes, the U.S. did something about Sinjar, then, the cameras went away as the genocide resumed its slow-motion pace. Slow motion genocides are tolerable. The precedent in this regard has already been set in Syria.

But let’s not count on the administration owning up to its mistakes, no matter how much internal and external pressure it comes under. One can only own up to the fuckups which he is willing to admit. On Syria, as we all well know by now, President Obama is “proud” of his performance. Proud. Proud that he didn’t do anything to prevent or stop this Matryoshkaesque grind of human lives and sense of decency, because, and we are seriously meant to believe that, that would have been a stupid thing.

The refugees during the 2015 crisis. Source: Ibtimes

The Age of Displacement: From Syria to Somalia, tales of displacementWar and persecution forced more than 65 million people from their homes by the end of last year, UNHCR reports.” Although Not all displacement is related to Syria of course, when it comes to Syrians, no displaced is spared: even the internally displaced are going through their own private hell: Internally displaced Syrians facing new challengesMany internally displaced people within Syria are being prevented from fleeing conflict zones due to fears over sleeper cells.” And although the age of the displaced is actually in its infancy and slamming the doors shut in their face is not a solution.

Syrians line-up waiting to receive meals distributed by the "Syria charity" NGO to impoverished families during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on June 11, 2016 in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city Aleppo. (AFP/Thaer Mohammed)

The Dying of the Light: R.I.P., Jo Cox. May Britain Remember Your Wisdom. “Jo was a leader who fought for genocide victims in Darfur, for survivors of human trafficking, for women’s health, for Syrian refugees, and, yes, for remaining in the European Union. She was also a proud mom of two small children: When she was pregnant, she used to sign her emails “Jo (and very large bump).”

The Daily Delirynth

A Blatant Lie of Omission: Inside Obama’s Syria Choices (A Guide for Dissenting Diplomats). “It is worth asking whether the costs of incrementalism have been worth it, and whether by acting in these relatively modest ways—starting the Syrian training a few months earlier, maintaining some presence in Iraq after 2011, initiating airstrikes sooner and, once the bombing began, being a little more creative with targets—the U.S. could have avoided or better mitigated the massive Syrian refugee crisis or wield more influence over Russia not to escalate as it did in 2015. None of these steps would have been the kind of game-changer many critics suggest, but even a modest improvement would be good enough. And in retrospect, I think they were achievable without undermining the president’s larger goals.

Even while endorsing the President’s overall approach to the Middle East, Derek Chollet cannot avoid but being mildly critical of his Syria policy. But, the blatant lie of omission to which even Chollet is committed is the failure to address the Administration’s inaction during the early months of 2011 when the situation in Syria could not in any way be classified as a civil war, not even a nascent one, and was by Obama’s own admission, marked mostly by nonviolent protests in the face of bloody crackdown. The failure to act when the moral case for action was clear still looks for an explanation. During this period, the President praised the protesters, yet did nothing to help them, and called on Assad to step down, yet did nothing to stop him. Why? We still don’t know.

But the question will not disappear just because it remains ignored. In fact, this is the question on the mind of every Styria who supported the Revolution and looked to America for help, especially considering that the logic used by President Obama to justify intervention in Libya was all too applicable in Syria. Considering the nature of the Assad regime, Syria was bound to have a conflict, the nature and scale of it, however, were variables that the U.S. had it in its power to control. This required a forceful message to be sent. At a time when the U.S. was buy demonstration its determination prevent mass slaughter in Libya, the mere threat of force might have sufficed to convince Assad to reconsider its methods, including the deployment to tanks, artillery, naval power (in Lattakia’s Al-Ramel Al-Janoubi) and air force in targeting civilian population.

But the idea that the threat of force would not have worked, or that a massive military commitment was required in order to create a no-fly zone is the biggest lie of them all. No such commitment was ever needed, especially in those early days. If necessary, a few targeted strikes on certain military-security complexes, military airstrips, artillery positions or tank convoys using Tomahawk missiles would have sufficed to restrict Assad’s deployment of military force against protesters, and the handful of small and poorly armed rebel groups that were established by army defectors in late 2011. Such steps would have restricted the situation to a low-intensity conflict and would have created chances for political dialogue much earlier.

Moreover, they would not have imperiled talks with Iran, as they would not have posed an existential threat to the regime. The regime would have been declawed but not made unable to defend itself. Diplomacy would have had a much better chance at charting a much less costly transition, in both material and humanitarian terms. Yes, opposition groups would have still pushed for regime change, that’s their job and is unsurprising demand considering the nature of the Assad regime, but Obama’s line on not deciding the outcomes of other peoples’ civil wars would have made some sense then (albeit one would have to consider the very precedent Obama had set in Libya as an aberration, or a personal learning experience).   

Be that as it may, we will never know what would have happened. But the question still need to be answered, and Obama should be pushed to provide an answer even after he leaves office. He may never admit it, but he fucked up on Syria, and he need to be reminded of that, and pushed to explain his reasoning on very step that led to this tragedy.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends at the Oslo Forum, on June 15, 2016, in Oslo, Norway. / AFP PHOTO / NTB Scanpix / Lise Aserud / Norway OUTLISE ASERUD/AFP/Getty Images PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Other Rebellion: Obama Admin Battling Internal War Over Giving Iran Access to U.S. Dollars“Tensions have been brewing between the State and Treasury Departments over contradictory statements about U.S. efforts to boost Iran’s economy and give it unprecedented access to U.S. dollars, according to conversations with sources who described a deepening internal divide over the issue. While top administration officials had promised Congress that such access would never be granted under last summer’s nuclear agreement, some in the administration have changed their tune.” It seems that the Obama administration’s definition of the “blob” was not restricted to Congress and the Washingtonian punditry; in fact, it included diplomats and the bureaucracy working in various state institutions, and even many of its own political appointees. The decision-makers in the administration consisted of one man: Obama, who accepted advice only from some of the few people who shared the West Wing with him. The Clique’s communication strategy with the world beyond was intentionally vague and relied, occasionally at least, on circulating rumors and false reports in order to get its way. Pushbacks were bound to happen.

A right-wing nationalist protestor walks with a Polish flag during a far-right annual march that coincides with Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw on 11th November 2014. ©Jane Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

The Contraction before the Storm: Illiberalism: The Worldwide CrisisAs an ideology and as a governing philosophy, liberalism is fast losing ground. “Liberalism” here is understood not as the American shorthand for those who vote Democratic in the United States, but as the philosophy of individual rights and (relatively) free markets that in theory is shared by the U.S. Republican Party and Scandinavian social democrats alike. As it fades, populism and identitarian politics of all kinds are gaining adherents nearly everywhere. Today’s illiberals are less likely to be organized around systematic philosophies like Fascism and Communism than was the case in the years between the two world wars—the last time liberalism appeared this vulnerable. In our time, illiberal forces are disparate, instinctual, inchoate, more likely to be local in focus, and internally divided. Often various illiberalisms are locked in combat against one another.” The forces of illiberalism are merely filling the void left by liberal democracies still struggling to accept the ethical duties that come with power.

Pax Cynica: A Pax Sinica in the Middle East. “China’s economic vision for the Eurasian continent is a long-range affair and still rather abstract. More pressing are Chinese concerns about the spread of Islamist terrorism into Asia. As Christina Lin reported in Asia Times June 15, the Syrian civil war has become a magnet for South and Southeast Asian Muslims, many of them already radicalized by Saudi-financed religious schools in their region. China already has its hands full with Uyghur terrorists in its Muslim-majority Western province of Xinjiang. A “southern route” through Thailand and Myanmar channels Uyghur terrorists in Southeast Asia. If the Uyghurs were to link up with home-grown jihadists in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, Chinese security officials fear, the security problem might metastasize.” An illiberal pax is  cynical pax.

"Insert investments here" (cartoon by Sergey Elkin)

Pax Putin: Putin's War On Europe. “Seeking to undermine European unity is business as usual for the Kremlin. It predated the Ukraine crisis and Moscow's current standoff with the West -- and it is not going to stop no matter what Brussels does now… Vladimir Putin regime's problem isn't with what Europe is doing -- but with what Europe is.” You can have a détente between democracies and autocracies, but you can never have peace. 

Engage, Invest and Normalize: Beyond Amin Maalouf and the BDSFreedom of Expression is Freedom of Communication.” After 70+ years of boycott and resistance, perhaps, it’s time we gave real engagement a chance, especially because, even in the best of circumstances, a solution to the Palestinian Cause calls for a hybrid approach, for none of the current alternatives (one-state, two-state, three-state) is viable by itself. And the prospects of another Nakba cannot be staved off through boycott. I believe, it’s about time we tried an Engage, Invest and Normalize approach. The BDS movement doesn’t just produce pyrrhic victories but illusory ones that sidetrack us from the real struggle – the struggle to improve the quality of Palestinian lives. BDS is not designed for that, it is simply designed to provide catharsis for some through an ongoing attempt at punishing Israel. Seeking peace and seeking punishment are not the same.

Bahraini demonstrators at a rally opposing the revocation of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship in Diraz, west of Manama, on Monday. CreditMohammed Al-Shaikh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The New Front: Iranian General, Denouncing Move by Bahrain, Threatens ‘Bloody Intifada’ In a statement, the commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the high-profile leader of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, denounced the “mistreatment” of the cleric and threatened Bahrain with “a bloody intifada.” Bahrain’s leaders have accused the Quds Force of sending weapons to local insurgents, which Iran denies. But General Soleimani’s explosive remarks suggested that Tehran was losing patience. Caught in-between the Iranian rock and hard place that is continued repression of the majority population by the Sunni Sultan and his Saudi allies, are the prodemocracy activists who are quite wary of Iran’s leaders but cannot stand silent in the face of oppression. 

Assad’s government has killed almost seven hundred medical personnel. ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN STAUFFER

The race to do some good: The Shadow Doctors “The underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it.” For every life saved as a result of these efforts, the argument of too little too late makes little sense. Lives are worth it. 

Meanwhile there is a silent killer out there called depression that is preying on Syrian refugees everywhere, driving many to suicides. The most recent is a Syrian dancer who, along with his troupe, won the Arabs Got Talen award in 2014. On June 22, 2016, Rabih (also half-Palestinian) flung himself from the balcony of his Beirut apartment. He died on impact. Few days earlier, Rabih wrote on his Facebook page about his growing frustration with the war in Syria, the regime’s monstrous behavior, Israel, the Islamic State, and the plight of being a refugee. Like many young Syrians of his generation, Rabih had a history of drug addiction and alcoholism that date back to pre-revolution time.

A screen-grab from a news segment aired by RT, which showed two canister-like attachments under the wing of a Russian jet that have been identified by independent activists as cluster munitions.

Oops! Russia's State TV Airs Evidence Of Russian Cluster Bombs In Syria. “A news segment aired by RT on June 18 showed two canister-like attachments under the wing of a Russian jet that bear codes identified by independent activists as those of Russian cluster munitions.An old trick known to thugs: If you get caught doing something criminal, turn it into an act of defiance. Another take here is even more devastatingly clear: The al-Tanf Bombing: How Russia Assisted ISIS by Attacking an American Backed FSA Group with Cluster Bombs. Meanwhile, Fontanka Finds Links Between Prigozhin’s ‘Kremlin Troll Factory,’ Wagner Military Contractor, and Attacks on Journalists.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, June 15, 2016.  (photo by REUTERS/Axel Schmidt)

A very generous interpretation: Iran shifts on Syria. "What [Zarif] seemed to be signaling was that he has more authority on the Syria file than he has had until now," a US nongovernmental source who met with Zarif on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor. "He seemed to suggest that Iran is prepared to show more flexibility on how fast that question [of Assad] is dealt with and how." I am not really sure how having “more authority” signals any kind of a shift. This is more like a hint as to a possible shift, provided certain unspecified conditions are met.

But let’s be clear here, if there is any shift at this stage, it’s probably the result of Iran and Russia’s getting tired of logging the pig that is Assad on their shoulders and putting up with him unceremoniously shitting all over them – because, hey, that’s what pigs do, isn’t it? – and they are beginning to realize that the next administration, especially if led by Hillary, which seems to be the most likely case at this stage, will be closer in its thinking to the dissenters at the State Department. For as Frederic C. Hoff argues:

"Even if Obama is content to bequeath to his successor a humanitarian abomination and geopolitical catastrophe, these officials have placed before the world the proposition that the United States can and ultimately will do its duty."

Indeed, we are already being told that Hillary Clinton’s Likely Defense Secretary Wants More US Troops Fighting ISIS and Assad. To be more specific “Michele Flournoy, formerly the third-ranking civilian in the Pentagon under President Barack Obama, called for ‘limited military coercion’ to help remove Assad from power in Syria, including a ‘no bombing’ zone over parts of Syria held by U.S.-backed rebels.

As such, the clock seems to be ticking on how long Iran and Russia’s leaders can get away with their usual bullshit. Factor into these calculations as well, the following observation by David Gardner writing for the Financial Times:

The working hypothesis that the prohibitive costs for Russia and Iran of open-ended support for the Assad regime would eventually persuade them to dump him has, well, not least so far. Yet as the stark numbers and demography become clearer, alongside who is actually doing the fighting and dying for the Assads, political solutions may start to look more compelling for their patrons.
A very convenient interpretation: The Obama Legal Team and the Lawfulness of Attacking Assad. This may represent a useful guide to the legalistic thinking of some in the administration. But, let’s bear in mind that, whenever he was asked to justify his thinking about Syria, President Obama never said: I believe my hands are tied from an aspirational legal perspective. No. He never said that, because basing his decision on a legal argument could tie his hands in the future, which means that law was never the thing that was on his mind and prevented him from acting. His was not a pro-law decision, neither in the factual nor aspirational sense. It’s clear that people in the Obama Camp, following the lead of the President himself, like to wrap themselves in the righteousness stemming from ethical and legal arguments, but their motives have always been as mundane as any. The aspirational element involved in the nuclear talks with Iran counted more than the reality of Syrian suffering.

Most famous for his rendition of the traditional Sufi song “Bhar do Jholi Meri 
Death of a Heretic: Amjad Sabri, famed Sufi singer, gunned down in Pakistan. Amjad Sabri belonged to the renowned Sabri family, members of the Chishti Sufi order and the most famous Qawwali group in the country. They had performed internationally and were known for their renditions of mystical Islamic poetry. Qawwali is a form of passionate, devotional Sufi music, specifically from South Asia. A faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, citing the type of music Sabri performs as "blasphemous." As the war on heresy keeps claiming the most talented there lies the fall of nations. 

Mohamed Khairullah drives through his town, which is not much larger than one square kilometer. (Photo: R. Taylor / VOA)

Proud Mayor: An American Mayor Who Happens to Be Muslim. Muhammad, the Mayor of Prospect Park New jersey, also happened to be pro-Revolution, anti-Assad and has visited Syria many times since the Revolution to support the refugee and the various ongoing medical efforts in the country. 

Prostrating Ambassador: Believe it or not but according to a pro-Assad Facebook page, the picture above shows the Ambassador to India during his recent visit to the tomb of the late Hafiz Al-Assad in his hometown of Qardahah. He is the one assuming the I-am-here-to-humiliate-my-country-and-people position prostrating.
Deserted: A bar in central Damascus, one of many that has seen a reduction in male customers because of the fighting and migration
Lesbians Unbound: 'I want a husband who can satisfy me in bed': Syrian war has left cities full of single women... but given lesbians freedom to have relationships. The trend was detectable long before the war as well on account of societal conservatism. That it has become more widespread now is not a major surprise. Wars change social mores.

The Exotic Observations & Propositions of Delirian Mundi
Known to those of his followers seeking his canonization and entry into the Valtheon of Deliriology, as Agnus Mundi, and to his detractors as Ranae Dei and even Capra Satanae, Delirian Mundi’s writings, mixing satire and philosophical reflections, continue to be polarizing, inspiring both adulation and ridicule. Bearing this in mind, we, the editors at DDGD, continue to publish these previously unknown series of “exotic observations and propositions,” as Delirian himself referred to them, as part of our continuing commitment to instigate debate over sensitive issues.

* We do better not to confuse steadiness for stability, calm for peace, or rationality for wisdom.  

* No one wants to do stupid things, but when has there ever been a consensus as to what constitutes stupid?

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