November 23, 2015
Crisis: Terror, Trudeau, Jihadism NOT Nihilism, Brussels, Savageries
 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
  -- Benjamin Franklin
  "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone

  "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

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1. States of Terror
2. Why Justin Trudeau Makes Me Jealous of Canada
3. Jihadism Isn't Nihilism: What Everyone Gets Wrong About ISIS
4. Brussels Maintains State of Emergency as European Crackdown Grows
5. ISIL and the West: A Clash of Savageries


This is a Nederlog of Monday, November 23, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges: It turns out I am little more optimistic than he is; item 2 is a fairly rare event in the crisis series: An optimistic article, about Justin Trudeau; item 3 is about a rather strange propaganda gimmick Obama, Clinton and Kerry are indulging in: According to them Isis is a kind of "nihilism". It is not, as both the writer and myself know very well, and indeed also as Obama, Clinton and Kerry know very well. Item 4 is about the situation in Brussels (200 km south of where I am); and item 5 is about savagery, Isis and the West.

1. States of Terror

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
  • States of Terror
This starts as follows:
It is nearly certain that we will endure, sooner rather than later, another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil. The blundering of our military into the Middle East; the failed states that have risen out of the mismanagement and chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan; the millions of innocents we have driven from their homes, terrorized or slaughtered; the bankrupt puppet regimes we have equipped and trained that will not fight; the massive amounts of munitions and military hardware we have allowed to fall into the hands of jihadis—thousands of them carrying Western passports; and the myopic foreign policy whose single tenet is that more industrial violence will get us out of the morass created by our industrial violence in the first place means that we, like France, are in for it.
Put otherwise: "The West", considered as "led by the USA", mostly did wrong since 9/11/01, and thus created many more problems, and killed very many more people (men, women and children) than would have occurred if they had simply done nothing.

I quoted both "The West" and "led by the USA" because I think both are quite questionable concepts, but it also seems to me that the previous paragraph is mostly factually true, especially if "wrong" is connected to (i) promises (the Iraqi would embrace the US soldiers as liberators etc.) and (ii) outcomes (more than a million of men, women and children killed). (I know "wrong" is an evaluative term, but here the differences between the promises and the outcomes is enormous, and both are factual.)

Also, I think one should take a firm look at the deaths by terrorism if compared to the deaths in the USA by gunviolence (over a 1000 this year), by cops, and by car crashes.

I know most people do not, but in terms of persons killed, terrorism is still a very minor cause of deaths in the USA.

Then there is this:
All the major candidates for president, including Bernie Sanders, along with a media that is a shameless echo chamber for the elites, embrace endless war. Lost are the art of diplomacy, the ability to read the cultural, political, linguistic and religious landscape of those we dominate by force, the effort to dissect the roots of jihadi rage and violence, and the simple understanding that Muslims do not want to be occupied any more than we would want to be occupied.
This is at least a bit too strong. First, while I disagree with Sanders on his foreign policies, I like him a lot better than any other candidate that might win the presidential elections (which excludes the candidates of the Green Party etc.)

And while this might be true for Chris Hedges (I don't know, but I don't think he can seriously assert Sanders is as bad as are Trump, Carson, Cruz or indeed Clinton), I think the main reason for Hedges to reject Sanders is on socialism, which is in my opinion hardly relevant for presidential candidates in the USA (and I know Bernie Sanders also might disagree with me about this).

Then there is this, which I think is too negative:

Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war.
First note that all of this paragraph is conditional on "Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States", which is an event that thus far did not happen, which makes all of the paragraph speculative.

Second, while I agree the speculations are more or less sensible, I do not think they are fair or just for the intelligent minority. I know this is a minority, but many of these will not do as the "We" are asserted to do in the last five statements of the paragraph.
Violence generates counterviolence. The cycle does not stop until the killing stops. All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed in wartime as useless and weak. We revel in a demented hypermasculinity. We lose the capacity to feel and understand.
No, I don't think that is quite correct. There are enormous problems with "wartime", but it is not true that "All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed".

What is true (of most, not all) "in wartime" is that these feelings are almost totally limited to members of one's own groups. (Also see Orwell, below.) That is, "we" remain human, but this is restricted to far fewer persons that we regard as human as ourselves.

Then there is this, which I also think is too negative:
The situation is no better in Afghanistan. The Taliban controls more of Afghanistan than it did when we invaded 14 years ago. The puppet regime in Kabul we arm and support is hated, brutal, corrupt, involved in drug trafficking and crippled by cowardice. It is also heavily infiltrated by the Taliban. The Kabul regime will crumble the moment we depart. Trillions and trillions of dollars, along with hundreds of thousands of lives, have been squandered for nothing, even as climate change moves closer and closer to ensuring the extinction of the human species.
I agree mostly on Afghanistan, though I like to point out that it is not true that "trillions and trillions of dollars" "have been squandered for nothing": These trillions include - at the very least - very many billions in profits for the military-industrial complex of the USA.

But I like to say a few things about "
climate change" and "the extinction of the human species".

First, I have been concerned about ecology, poisoning of the atmosphere, the climate, finite resources, expanding human populations, the destruction of nature and related things since 1971 (before the Club of Rome report of 1972). That is nearly 45 years ago.

Second, the main problem is the ever expanding human population - that turned from less than 3 billion to over 7 billion in these 45 years. This means that almost nothing was achieved on limiting the human population.

Third, most of the activities I have seen related to the climate were by political types, and nearly all of these were nonsensical (for various reasons), and indeed hardly any of the plans that were proposed were effective or adopted.

Fourth, my own conclusion of 45 years of mostly nonsense by mostly politically influenced groups, without any firm results on the climate, the economy, or the populations (well... apart from heavily subsidized wind mills and solar panels), coupled with the truly enormous costs of doing something effective about rising sea levels or rising temperatures led me to the conclusion that "the climate" and "nature" are not problems that the present humanity with the present resources and the present values can solve.

Fifth and last, my own approach is to leave unsolvable problems alone: Mankind will or will not die because of climate change (and its attending consequences, such as utterly collapsed economies, and unmaintained atomic reactors), just as it will or will not die because of the next major meteor that will hit the earth. There is little or nothing "we" can do about it, at least not before we have succeeded in transforming the human economy in some fundamental ways (like changing its goals from making profits for the few rich, to making civilization for all).

Also, there is one important lesson from Edmund Burke:
If you despair, work on!
Here is the ending of Chris Hedges' article:
This will not end well. The massive violence we employ throughout the Middle East will never achieve its goals. State terror will not defeat individual acts of terror. More and more innocents will be sacrificed, here and abroad, in a furious and futile campaign. Rage and collective humiliation will mount.
Only when we are exhausted and depleted, when the numbers of dead and maimed overwhelm us, will this lust for blood end. By then the world around us will be unrecognizable and, I fear, irredeemable.
I think this is much too negative or too depressed. For one thing, we all must die. For another thing, these are all merely projected expectations of Chris Hedges. For a third thing, there are many choices to be made between now and the projected then.

And also, there is this (again):
If you despair, work on!
Incidentally, here is the reply of my father to my question (when I was 16, and had learned rather a lot about the concentration camps that my father had survived for 3 years, 9 months and 15 days) "How could you possibly want to survive in such a situation, and not run into the electrified wires?!".

His answer was "Because the SS would take out your death on others". I think
that is an admirable reply - and few were in a worse situation than my communist father was, locked up as a "political terrorist" in German concentration camps.

    2. Why Justin Trudeau Makes Me Jealous of Canada

    The second item today is by Emily Schwartz Greco on Truthdig (and originally on OtherWords):
    • Why Justin Trudeau Makes Me Jealous of Canada

    This starts as follows (and was selected because I much disliked Stephen Harper - Trudeau's predecessor - and because I thought it time for some good news in the crisis series):

    Asked why half the members of his cabinet are women, Justin Trudeau replied with three words that spoke volumes: “Because it’s 2015.”

    The nurturing father of three kids under 10 is a master of effortless statements that spread inclusiveness and tolerance. Four Sikhs will serve in the new cabinet that Trudeau boasts “looks like Canada.” And he calls himself a “proud feminist.”

    I say - and no, I didn't know about the Sikhs. Also, while I much like "inclusiveness and tolerance" I like them a lot better from Justin Trudeau than I like similar statements from Dutch politicians, and that mainly because he seems credible because of his father. (I know I may be mistaken.)

    There is also this:

    He’s quickly sweeping away ill will sowed by his predecessor — the arch-conservative Stephen Harper — both at home and abroad. Mindful of current events, Trudeau has beefed up Canada’s role in the global climate talks that will soon begin in Paris. He’s also taking the high road on Syria’s refugee crisis.

    After the Parisian terrorist attacks made these issues collide, Trudeau stood by his campaign promise to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by January 1. That’s more than 11 times the number of Syrian refugees the United States has admitted since the country sank into conflict four years ago.

    OK. And there is more in the article, that ends as follows:

    But given their lack of Trudeau’s sparkle and grace, it’s hard not to be jealous of Canada.

    3. Jihadism Isn't Nihilism: What Everyone Gets Wrong About ISIS

    The third item today is by Marty Kaplan on AlterNet:
    • Jihadism Isn't Nihilism: What Everyone Gets Wrong About ISIS

    This starts as follows:

    In the partisan battle over describing the Islamic State, Democrats have fastened on a philosophical term from 19th century European intellectual history. They’re being too clever by half.

    “Extremist nihilism” is what Barack Obama has called ISIS’s ideology. In the second Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton labeled it a “kind of barbarism and nihilism.” John Kerry dismissed it as “nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.”

    This shows three things in my opinion: (i) these three Democrats have decided on the same story (just as the Republicans decide on their stories, and then give publicity to the same points of view); (ii) all three lie and deceive knowingly, for (iii) all three are easily well-educated enough to know the meaning of "nihilism" (from the Shortened Oxford English Dictionary):

    Nihilism (..) 1817 [f. L. nihil nothing + -ISM (..)] 1. Negative doctrines in religion or morals; total rejection of current religious beliefs or moral principles. 2. Philos. A form of scepticism, involving the denial of all existence 1836. (...)

    For nihilsm means the rejection of all religion, all morals, and all philosophies, often conjuncted with the positive thesis that "therefore, anything goes".

    Clearly, whatever Isis is or pretends to be: It is an extremist Islamic faith, and does not reject religion, nor Allah, nor morals. On the contrary, it insists that it is the only right interpretation of Islam (which makes it disagree with many other interpretations of Islam).

    Marty Kaplan also knows the meaning of "nihilism", for he quite correctly said:

    With nihilism can come despair, a dark night of the soul that never turns to dawn. If there is no God, then life is pointless and absurd. Culture is just a desperate attempt to evade our mortality. Values are all arbitrary; truths are all political; epiphanies are just meaningless squirts of feel-good molecules. Nothing matters, and everything sucks.

    From here, there are two possible moves. One is decadence. If morality is a socially-constructed scam, then there is no sin in the deadly sins. Since the only god is Chance, you might as well make your one night in the casino a hedonic blowout. The other move is more sinister.  As Dostoevsky’s characters are prone to observe, If God is dead, then everything is permitted.

    And this is his quite correct conclusion:

    So nihilism is the wrong word for ISIS. Extremist jihadism is a consequence of faith, not a consequence of losing faith.

    Precisely. And to pretend that Obama, Kerry and Clinton did not know that is simply stupid: Of course they knew.

    Before turning to that, there is indeed also a fairly deep irony here (that also very well may have been seen by Obama, Clinton and Kerry):

    Ironically, in their minds, we’re the nihilists. The sensual pleasure we take in life, they view as a sign of our decadence. Our modernity is a threat to moral order. We are infidels. It is bad enough that we do not believe in the One True God whose name is Allah. Our pluralism – our democratic refusal to embrace the notion that any God is the One True God – is to them evidence of our evil, proof we believe in no God, reason for holy warriors to have us in their sights.

    Quite so. I think that Isis would be mistaken in these inferences (I am not a nihilist, nor is anyone I know, but then again none of those I know well are Islamists of any kind), but these inferences are more justified than the totally false claim of Obama, Clinton and Kerry that Isis is "nihilistic".

    The article ends like this (and is recommended):

    It’s discomfiting that ISIS’s evil is rooted in the Koran – the most apocalyptic, ultra-conservative, literalist reading imaginable, yet the Koran nevertheless. But it’s disingenuous of Democrats to root it in Nietzsche.

    Yes, they were disingenuous, in the - standard - sense of being insincere in a calculating way: They intentionally chose a false propaganda term to try to get
    the unenlightened on their side.

    And what this shows is that these leaders of the Democrats are lying and deceiving in similar ways as the Republicans do.

    4. Brussels Maintains State of Emergency as European Crackdown Grows

    The fourth item today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
    • Brussels Maintains State of Emergency as European Crackdown Grows
    This starts as follows:

    Brussels remained under lockdown for the second day on Sunday as authorities continued to search for the suspects behind this month's attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

    Belgian officials, who have repeatedly rejected criticisms of their security measures, are expected to meet later during the day to discuss whether to maintain the state of emergency amid fears of a similar attack.

    The city's terror warning jumped to maximum level on Saturday over threats that "go beyond just one person," according to Interior Minister Jan Jambon, who spoke to broadcaster VRT over the weekend. "We're assuming larger actions are underway."

    But since no one even seems to have inquired into his reasons and his evidence, no one has any chance to weigh his words rationally.

    Also, as Nadia Prupis says:

    Yet it remains unclear what impact these sweeping measures would have on counter-terrorism efforts. As Reuters reported on Sunday, authorities missed many "red flags" that could have allowed them to catch the suspects before the Paris attacks took place.

    And the restrictions Belgians now face may have even more far-reaching impacts. As New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny explained in an analysis published last week, extremist groups may in fact be "looking forward" to knee-jerk reductions of civil liberties.

    Of course they are looking forward "to knee-jerk reductions of civil liberties", and as Laurie Penny also wrote:

    ISIS and similar organizations "aren’t worried about the prospect of more air strikes, more civilian casualties, more callousness on the borders of Europe, more security clampdowns at its heart," Penny wrote. "They are looking forward to all of that."

    "They’re probably rubbing their hands at the xenophobic attacks taking place right now across the continent, at the conservative calls for crackdowns on Muslims, at the imminent passing of further surveillance legislation that has proved dubiously effective in catching terrorists but extremely efficient in curbing the individual freedoms of ordinary civilians," she continued. "What ISIS wants is a holy war between two violently homogeneous civilizations, and the only way it will get that is if the West starts to behave like one."

    Yes, indeed.

    5. ISIL and the West: A Clash of Savageries

    The last item today is by Lamis Andoni on Common Dreams:
    • ISIL and the West: A Clash of Savageries
    This starts as follows:

    It is all deja vu; a repeat of the post-9/11 scenario that led to the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both interventions wreaked havoc and destruction and unleashed gross violations of human rights in the name of a "war on terror".

    Once again, most Western governments are making use of the heart-wrenching scenes of loss and sorrow to serve this misguided war, which benefits only its military contracts and industries.

    Most observers lament the devaluation of Arab and Muslim lives, or the life of "the other". What I see is a total devaluation of all human lives, including the bloodshed of innocents in Paris, to serve the purposes of Western governments.

    Yes, but the last paragraph is ill expressed: I do believe that the lives of the innocents who died in Paris are being abused by Western politicians to further their own goals, but it is also true that the loss of their lives counts as very much more serious than - for example - the lives of the women and children who died in a terrorist attack in Beirut, simply because the lives of the latter were not "ours". (I don't agree, but this is how it works, for most.)

    One root problem is the following:

    The problem is that Western governments, especially the US, do not acknowledge that the perpetual process of destruction that they unleashed through bombing Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq did not stem al-Qaeda-inspired terror but, rather, widened its scope and recruitment.

    I agree, although the US may not acknowledge that their actions made the problems out of propaganda reasons rather than that they do not see this. (I don't know.)

    As to savagery, there is this:

    In the West and according to Israeli political lingo, savagery is a trait confined to other nations who fall outside "shared values of democracy and freedom", a propaganda concept that is used to camouflage - even whitewash - all Israeli and Western government crimes.

    The best way to explain that this is pure propaganda is to quote George Orwell:

    "Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945. ))

    That recipe holds for the USA as it does hold for Isis: "Our" actions always are Good (and Moral and Noble), because they are Ours; "Their" actions always are Evil (and Immoral and Cruel), because they are Theirs.

    The above continues thus:

    Make no mistake; ISIL does not only commit savagery per se but it is part of its publicised doctrine. In fact, what experts view as the main guideline for ISIL is an online book aptly named “management of savagery”.  

    The book, written by a person who calls himself Abu Bakr Naji, stresses the need to commit savagery and plant fear to ensure victory, as "softness" would be interpreted as weakness and hesitation by others.

    It is horrifying to even imagine the evil mind behind the manuscript. But I really don't see much difference between such a crime manual and the US-led "war on terror" and the "shock and awe" doctrine.

    They are all based on the notion of planting fear in the hearts of the wider population, partly to strip them of the ability to think clearly and push them into total submission.

    Yes, indeed. The article ends as follows:

    Thus the clash of savagery and war continues, ushering an apocalyptic era of lost freedoms in the West and East alike, the trampling of human rights, and a rain of death and destruction.

    If so, in the West the present-day politicians are responsible.


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