Archive for the ‘Western decline’ Category

TFF PressInfo # 405: Keep focus on Aleppo and global dimensions of Syria

By Jan Oberg

Three perspectives on the Syrian conflict formation

The Syrian conflict formation is hugely more complicated than we’ve been told by Western politicians (all mainstream in spite of democratic features) and mainstream/dependent media.

To some there are only internal aspects and it’s called a civil war only. That’s a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

The same goes for the only regional perspective focusing on e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran’s, Saudi-Arabia’s, Turkey’s roles and policies.

To others, everything can be explained from the point of view of Western interventionism/imperialism. That’s also a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

To understand anything of the Syrian conflict formation – and there are very many layers, dimensions and participants over the last 100 years – we need all three basic approaches.

But given that Westerners are likely to have been informed by Western media and politicians they are likely to grossly underestimate the third, the Western-global dimension.

And that narrative is likely to be politically correct, to underestimate the nasty sides of the West the last good 100 years in the region and present the West as basically good guys interested in peace, democracy and freedom.

This bias has been reinforced by what is probably the most massive marketing/public relation effort in any modern war – in the style of the fake news story about Saddam’s soldiers throwing out babies from their incubators in Kuwait City. In order words, pure invention/lies/planted stories/rumours and PSYOPs – psychological operations selling unverifiable stories to influence our hearts and mind in a single policy-promoting direction.

The US/CIA involvement in Syria over the last 68 years is well-documented and easy to access – but never pointed out by the intellectually lazy who think it is enough to just point out that everything is the fault of the “dictator” and his “regime”.

The US worked on deliberately de-stabilising Syria years before 2011 (as documented by WikiLeaks and others) when the peaceful demonstrations took place. The Western military support to RIOTs (Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition and Terrorists – most of the latter) was stepped up and while many point out that the US under Obama didn’t “do anything”, it can be argued that NATO countries acted in a variety of ways, too many and wrong-headed ways – none of them serving a politically negotiated solution, peace or democracy in Syria.

The agenda was foreign interference, promoted military foreign presence (aggression) in international law terms and regime change. One more regimes change, that is, after the earlier completely failed ones in Iraq and Libya.

A series of Western NGOs – no longer Non but NEAR-Governmental Organisations – were part and parcel of the policy, increasingly involved and funded by the Western/NATO/Turkish-Saudi-Gulf-Israeli strategy of de-stabilization – such as US-based Avaaz and French foreign ministry manufactured media outfits such as the Syrian Media Incubator Aleppo Media Centre, the SMART News Agency, the media work of the White Helmets which did humanitarian work only among RIOT fighters and relatives (and stole the name of Syrian Civilian Defence from Syria’s own organisation with that name from 1953).

They came in on the civilian media narrative-creating side. And there are others. Since the days of Yugoslavia, think tanks, human rights and humanitarian organisations have been drawn in – and accepted – to serve specific political interventionist agendas in spite of calling themselves independent, not-for-profit etc. This co-optations spells, potentially, the end of civil society as well as of the open and critical debate about governments’ policies.

All of this continued and was stepped up also after it had become clear that the legitimate, peaceful, democratic, anti-govenment opposition in Syria had been completely sidelined and/or overtaken by Syrian militants and foreigners with guns in their hands.

The West did not get cold feet, it stepped up it regime-change policies in all kinds of ways, regrettably also by massive NGO-investments in proxi- and other pro-war campaigns.

No one thought of the consequences for the huge majority of the innocent Syrian people who had never touched a gun, or thought of doing so.

From the Jibrin Reception Center, note the footwear © Jan Oberg 2016

And two more perspectives: Don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy only – it’s war-promoting

No one seems to even have asked the question Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 404: Unique Aleppo photos seen by over 100.000 people but not in mainstream media

By Jan Oberg

It’s probably unusual that a research organisation’s photos go viral – and do so in spite of the mainstream media’s manifest lack of interest in their story.

But the photos I took in Aleppo in Syria December 10-14, 2016 have been seen here by well over 100.000 people around the world, exclusively by organic, non-paid online sharing.

In addition they’ve been linked to and presented by media in the alternative press and social media in about 20 countries, sites such as Telesur, Heise/Telepolis and Pressenza literally reaching millions.

I am proud of having helped bring out the story of these people unworthy, as it seems, of the attention of the West. Because they were the majority from Eastern Aleppo who were happy to be liberated and remained in what is now government-controlled areas.

Keep focus on Aleppo – #keepfocusonaleppo

Aleppo’s liberation was a local, national, regional and global event. Why?

Because of Aleppo’s history, beauty, architecture and industrial importance (50% of Syria’s industrial capacity within the huge Sheikh Najjar Industrial City).

Because, before the war, it had swelled from about 2 million to some 3 million people due to the environmental crisis that hit Syria.

Because its Eastern part was occupied in 2012 by what I call RIOTs – Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition, Terrorists – most of the latter – who over 4,5 years created a living hell for the innocent citizens in that part.

Because of the complete and systematic destruction of this cultural jewel, Aleppo, predominantly by street-to-street fighting (max 5-10% of it caused by bombardments from the air).

Because RIOTs were supported with money, weapons and ammunition by the US, France, Britain and Turkey in particular – i.e. most of NATO – plus Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States – and most media reports have come from that side of the war.

Because Aleppo’s liberation was a turning point in this six years’ long evil war that has created the largest humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world since 1945.

What happened didn’t fit the dominant, deceptive Western media narrative. The large majority of people in Eastern Aleppo went to the dictator’s (” “) government-controlled side while a minority – the RIOT fighters/occupiers and their families – went to Turkey, Idlib and other RIOT-controlled areas.

More about the importance of Aleppo in TFF PressInfo # 405.

But do see the pictures of the incomprehensible, surreal destruction and of the victims of Aleppo. The victims who were happy to have been liberated from 4,5 years of hell. About these victims you have heard almost nothing since mid-December last year.

The photos are unique since I was among the first twenty or so to get in there and talk with and photograph these people – freely. I was the only person from Scandinavia.

No leading Western mainstream media were present there and then. They sat in Beirut, Istanbul and Berlin telling you stories about the likely “new Srebrenica”, massacres and even ‘genocide’ that would follow when Syria’s dictator again controlled Aleppo.

It turned out to be just that. Fake news.

My photos were Real news. You won’t see them at CNN, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, AFP, AP and those who repeat them.

The destruction of Eastern Aleppo, Syria

Humans in liberated Aleppo

Aleppo’s evil humanitarians

Faces of Aleppo

School in an Aleppo factory

(Please respect the © provisions of these images)

And more photo stories to come from Syria.

Why Europe conquered the world

By Jonathan Power

February 21st 2017

Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.

By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?

If I walk round my university town and stop the first ten students I meet and ask them why this was so they would probably say because of the Industrial Revolution. But in 1800 when the Industrial Revolution was only just beginning Europeans already ruled 35% of the world and had armed ships on every ocean and colonies on every continent.

If they didn’t say that, they might say it was the way the Europeans spread their fatal diseases, smallpox and measles, to which they had gained a good deal of immunity, and this enabled them to lay low native peoples. But in fact all the major Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations had this same advantage. In Africa it was local diseases that attacked the Europeans more than vice versa.

Maybe one of the ten students would say it was because the Europeans were ahead in the development of gunpowder technology. After all the military revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution. But I doubt that, even though on the right track, this one student could explain why. Read the rest of this entry »

Evolving democracy

By Johan Galtung

February 13, 2017

What is the essence of democracy?

“Rule with the consent of the ruled” implies two classes of people, Rulers and Ruled; concretely State and People, Statism. “Free and Fair Elections” implies voting for a Parliament; Parliamentarism. Together, a three-tier power structure State-Parliament-People; with People controlling Parliament, and Parliament controlling State.

In 2016 some voting differed from what State-Parliament expected; leading to talk about elitist vs populist democracy – from statism and parliamentarism to peopleism. A crisis. And talk about post-democracy.

Another answer about democratic essence is “one-tier self-ruling units”; no rulers vs ruled, and decisions are made by general assemblies for all. This is often referred to as Anarchism, “no structure”. A misnomer: there is no State and no Parliament, but many assemblies. A concrete interpretation would be Localism, the units being local authorities – LAs, municipalities; the assemblies being their municipal councils.

A key dimension then becomes the level of state control of LAs. In Spain, with an anarchist ideological tradition, the LAs are strong.

A different, not institutional – more philosophical, intellectual in general – answer would pick up words like transparency and dialogue.

Democracy is a context with everything in the open, no closed doors, available to everlasting people dialogue: by way of the word, logos. Fine for people who are good with words.

How about those who are not, Read the rest of this entry »

Comments on Merkel – refugees and NATO armament (and on hateful comments)

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg’s comment on Chancellor Merkel’s speech at the Munich security conference where she mentioned the duty Europe has to receive refugees and also reiterated that Germany will do its best to increase its military budget to 2% of its GDP.

Apart from this one can only get very sad and pessimistic when reading the comments underneath this sequence: Boundless hate against Merkel herself, racism, anti-Islam, anti-Semitism – and not one (of the first 70+ comments) on the issue of NATO, the risk of war or on what I brought up about the need for new, less militarist policies, less interventionism and better ways of handling the refugees.

Anger and hatred just under the surface, brought out mostly anonymously. No reasoning, just smear.

We still have a long long way to go in terms of public education…

Here the short video comment on PressTV where you can also see those comments.

TFF PressInfo # 403: Discussing NATO with a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence

By Jan Oberg

On the occasion of NATO’s defence minister meeting on February 15-16 discussing NATO, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the eternal threat images which are fake – with former Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States, Mr. Lawrence J. Korb.

I’m afraid he got some stuff wrong such as the establishment of NATO and whether or not Kosovo is part of the Balkans.

He also believed that NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia-Kosovo had a UN Security Council mandate.

Enjoy those small moment and the rest where I am trying to present some more general thourght on why the whole NATO philosophy is outdated – the only point where I agree with President Trump…

Media experience and policy

Lots of people in the debate seem to believe there is something strange about being in the “propaganda” media of “enemies of the West” – read the global Iran’s PressTV and Russia’s Russia Today.

What they don’t seem to have acknowledged is that tons of Westerners are being interviewed and do commenting (like myself for years) at these media. Here is Mr. Korb with me at Iran’s international TV channel.

What they also don’t know is something I am sorry to report: I’ve met attempts at manipulation and “editing” and censorship with a series of Western mainstream media, not the least in my native Denmark, but I have not experience any of that even once with Russia Today and PressTV. Very decent professionals!

So much for the free press and for the propaganda channels. My personal problems is, which is which?

About my policy vis-a-vis the media.

Is Nato obsolete?

By Jonathan Power

February 7th. 2017

So what does President Donald Trump think about Nato? Twice during his campaign he rubbished it publically, saying it was “obsolete”. Yet earlier this month when he met the UK’s prime minister, Therese May, it was all hunky dory. He told her he supported Nato 100%.

There are some – a few – influential people who have argued that Nato is indeed obsolete. One of these was William Pfaff, the late, much esteemed, columnist for the International Herald Tribune. Another is Paul Hockenos who set out his views in a seminal article in World Policy Journal. Their words fell on deaf ears.

President George H.W. Bush saw it differently and wanted to see the Soviet Union more involved in Nato’s day to day work. President Bill Clinton had another agenda – and one that turned out to be a dangerous one, triggering over time Russia’s present day hostility towards the West – to expand Nato, incorporating one by one Russia’s former east European allies.

His successors continued that approach with Barack Obama at one time raising a red rag to a bull by calling for the entry into Nato of Ukraine and Georgia. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trump Presidency: The first week

By Johan Galtung

Attacking the Affordable Care Act; the “global gag rule” against abortion; the federal regulation and hiring freeze; canceling the TPP; restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline; limiting entry with the Mexican Wall; the 90-day travel ban on seven countries; more undocumented people prioritized for deportation; no federal funding for cities refusing to cooperate; communications blackout from federal agencies; Guantánamo torture continued:

What does it add up to?

A very strong white state centered on a president with absolute power and control over life (birth) and death (care) of the citizens. Not regulating police racism. So far, no order on the military.

Fascism? Too early to say; but in that direction. It opens for questions about the inner workings of Donald J. Trump. Who is he?

A Johns Hopkins psychologist sees Trump suffering from “malignant narcissism“. A Norwegian historian, Öystein Morten, in a detailed analysis of Norwegian king crusader Sigurd Jorsalafare (1103-1130) – clearly crazy – has a Norwegian psychiatrist diagnose him as suffering from “bipolar depression”, manic-depressive. Is Trump only manic?

This column early on saw Trump as suffering from “autism”, living in his own bubble, speaking his babble with no sense of reciprocity, the reaction of the other side. The column stands by that.

However, this column drew a line between his words and deeds; denouncing his rhetoric as grossly insulting and prejudicial, but pinning some hope on his deeds. Wrong, and sorry about that. After one week, Trump clearly means every word he says, and enacts them from Day 1; even what he once retracted in a New York Times interview. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 400: Moscow & Washington – Last chance to get it right?

By Jonathan Power

January 24th 2017.

The great flaw in ex-president Barack Obama’s record was his policy towards Russia. Going against everything he had said and written about before he became president, one action after another antagonised the Russians – his early proclamation that he wanted Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, his de facto coalition of convenience for a crucial couple of days with the anti-democratic, anti-Russian, neo-fascist, demonstrators in Ukraine, the further expansion of NATO, despite an earlier promise not to, made by President H.W. Bush, to the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his inability to cooperate with the Russians and Iranians over Syria.

No wonder the Russians are reported to be delirious that Donald Trump is now president, a man who has said nice things about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

If the two meet sometime soon maybe there will be an end to this unnecessary hostility. The Moscow-Washington relationship is the most important political issue in the world and this may well be the last chance to get it right.

Russia and the US have never fought each other in the 200 years of their relationship. Russia aided the North during the Civil War and sent warships to prevent England and France supporting the confederacy. During the World Wars the two were close allies.

However, they came near to catastrophic war during the Cold War when Russia armed Cuba with nuclear weapons. This will never happen again. It chilled the blood down to zero on both sides. But one can imagine limited armed clashes on the Estonian-Russian border, nuclear sabre rattling, a more intimate alliance between China and Russia, an urge to sabotage, as was done during the Cold War, any diplomacy or interventions made by the other and a continuation of both countries keeping their long-range nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

Under H.W. Bush post-Cold War relations got off to a good start. Nevertheless, the US treated Russia as a defeated nation that could be taken advantage of. Read the rest of this entry »

Are we heading toward global autocracy, ecological collapse and political malaise?

By Richard Falk

What follows are preliminary reactions to both the BREXIT vote and the world according to Trump, but also a commentary on the related alienation of large segments of the public that are being badly served by both the established elites and their demagogic adversaries.

The failures of neoliberalism, the successes of digitization, the scourge of random violence, and more broadly, the dilemmas posed by late modernity are among the root causes of this global crisis of legitimate governance, which is deepened while being mishandled by unprecedented ecological challenges, extremely irresponsible geopolitical leadership, and a variety of ultra-nationalist backlashes against the encroachments of economic globalization.

Imagining the World After the Cold War

After the end of the Cold War there were various projections that tried to anticipate the likely future of the world in broad interpretative strokes. Three of the most influential conjectures by three prominent American authors received attention in the public sphere: those of Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan.

Fukuyama challenged conventional political imagination with his provocative claim that with the collapse of the Soviet version of state socialism and the triumph of capitalist liberalism the world had reached ‘the end of history.’ It was also somewhat dubious that Fukuyama validated his views by reference to the Hegelian contention that history is made by the march and interplay of ideas rather than through the agency of material forces.

In this respect history came to a supposedly glorious end because there was no grander possible political vision than that of market-based constitutionalism, epitomized by the American political system. Even the most casual observer of the global scene must have noticed the befogged Western optic through which Fukuyama saw the world.

Huntington, no less provocative or biased, although less comforting for the West, anticipated a ‘the clash of civilizations’ as the sequel to the Cold War, especially stressing the confrontation between the liberal West and the non-West or simply ‘the rest.’ His suggestive emphasis was on blood-soaked fault lines between states, civilizations, and peoples associated with Islam and the Western polities descending from the Enlightenment tradition as it unfolded in Europe, taking root in North America and elsewhere.

Kaplan, also punctured the Fukuyama triumphalist tone of geopolitical serenity, by writing Read the rest of this entry »

 

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