who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
| "All governments lie and
say should be believed."
tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Film Shows Chilling
Climate for Muslims in Post-Hebdo France
2. U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record of
Thwarting Large Terror
3. Lydia Wilson: What I
Discovered from Interviewing Imprisoned
Islamic State Fighters
4. From the Annals of U.S.
History: America’s Role in Creating
5. Bill Maher Takes Down GOP Over
6. The Perils of Circus
Snowden is 'Irrational' and Very Troubling,
This is a Nederlog
of Wednesday, November 18, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 7 items with 9 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald about
the climate for muslims in France plus a link and review to a movie by
Max Blumenthal and others; item 2 is about the fact
that in 14 years of mass surveillance, with far
stronger capacities to
spy on anyone than any secret service ever had, not
one large scale
terrorist plot has been found; item 3 is
about someone who interviewed
caught Isis members on their opinions and backgrounds; item
4 is about the
fact that it is mostly the USA that both created and financed
extremist groups it now describes as "terrorists"; item
5 is about a recent interview by Bill Maher, that gets wrongly
classified as "Islamophobia" by the reporter (in my opinion), and this
also contains a link to the interview; item 6 is
about an article by Robert Reich about the
clowns who may get elected as the next US president (I point out it
wasn't any better in 1968 when Nixon was elected); and item
7 is about
the blame Snowden (completely falsely) got for the events of Paris, and
about the ever-growing desire of the secret services to get as many
secrets as they can get, by any means.
1. Film Shows
Chilling Climate for Muslims in
The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Yesterday, the New
York Times published an
article that was deeply alarming from the headline to the last
line: “After Paris Attacks, a Darker Mood Toward Islam Emerges in
France.” It describes how the relationship between France and “its
Muslim community” is now “tipping toward outright distrust, even
hostility” in the aftermath of last
Friday’s violence. It highlights the fear experienced
by French Muslims as they endure government vows of radical
domestic crackdowns, a growing
far-right anti-Muslim party, and waves of violently bigoted
sentiments spreading on social media.
Yes, I can well believe it,
and the Front
National (<- Wikipedia) seems to me to be especially dangerous,
both because of its policies and its present size.
Then there is this:
But over the
summer, Max Blumenthal and James Kleinfeld traveled to Paris to
examine the post-Hebdo climate for French Muslims. They interviewed
numerous Paris residents whose voices are rarely heard in these debates
— French Muslims, immigrants, French Jewish leftists — as well as other
French citizens expressing the more conventional anti-Muslim views
(including Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice (one of France’s
largest cities) who warns of national television of a “Fifth
Column” composed of French Muslims and calls the battle against it
“the Third World War”).
Those interviews form the
backbone of a new documentary Blumenthal and Kleinfeld produced,
titled Je ne suis pas Charlie, which has been updated to
include a discussion of last Friday’s attack. With the permission
of its producers, you can watch the full 55-minute film
on the video player below. I highly encourage it: Especially now,
doing so is a very worthwhile use of your time.
And here is the link
(this is to Vimeo, which my Firefox shows effortlessly, but then this
is a recent Firefox, and I am on Linux):
Mass Surveillance Has No Record of
Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks
The second item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
Despite the intelligence
community’s attempts to blame NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for the
tragic attacks in Paris on Friday, the NSA’s mass surveillance programs
do not have a track record — before or after Snowden — of identifying
or thwarting actual large-scale terrorist plots.
CIA Director John Brennan
on Monday that “many of these terrorist operations are uncovered
and thwarted before they’re able to be carried out,” and lamented the
post-Snowden “handwringing” that has made that job more difficult.
But the reason there
haven’t been any large-scale terror attacks by ISIS in the U.S. is not
because they were averted by the intelligence community, but because —
with the possible exception of one that was foiled by local police —
none were actually planned.
And even before Snowden,
the NSA wasn’t able to provide a single substantiated example of its
surveillance dragnet preventing any domestic attack at all.
Well, for the more
intelligent, Mr Brennan is lying, as seems usual for him when talking
to the press: Clearly, Isis knows how to avoid the NSA, and indeed the
precursors of Isis knew this long before the emergence of
What is also rather
worrying is that the NSA had no success of identifying
terrorists before they committed their crimes in nearly 15 years of
spying and getting most of what there was to get.
This suggests two
possible explanations: (1) the NSA doesn't really want to find
terrorists (seeing that in nearly 15 years they hardly found any, while
having far better chances than any secret service has
hitherto to do so, or (2) the NSA simply cannot find them, and indeed
hardly has found them in nearly 15
I suspect myself a
bit of both is involved: Clearly, both the NSA, the USA government, and
the leading American weapons producers gain a lot by some
terrorism, for that "justifies" much of their activities, and also pays
for them from the taxes, while Isis and other radical groups may have
learned to avoid being tracked by the NSA.
But I simply do not
know, although I still think (and since
2005 at the latest) that
terrorism was and is mostly a pretext to justify spying on
everyone - which indeed is supported by the NSA not finding
terrorists, in spite of having by far the best chances ever to
In fact, the
following is the case:
In fact, there’s no
evidence that the NSA’s extraordinary surveillance dragnet, as revealed
by Snowden, has disrupted any major attack within the U.S. ever.
The U.S. government
initially responded to Snowden’s disclosures in 2013 by suggesting that
he had irreparably damaged valuable, life-saving capabilities. Two
weeks after the media first reported on Snowden’s leaks, President
Barack Obama said
that the NSA “averted … at least 50 threats … because of this
information,” gathered through communications collection in the United
States and abroad.
Members of Congress and
the administration alike subsequently repeated that claim, upping the
total to 54 attacks thwarted.
But only 13 of the 54
cases “had some nexus to the U.S.,” Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said
in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in October 2013. And they were
not all terror “plots”; a majority involved providing “material
support,” like money, to foreign terror organizations.
There is considerably
more in the article, and its title is well supported: The NSA has been
of no help whatsoever since 9/11/01 in locating any
large scale terrorist attacks.
3. Lydia Wilson: What I Discovered from
Interviewing Imprisoned Islamic State Fighters
The third item today
is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as
follows, and also shows an interesting idea:
Oxford researcher Lydia
Wilson discusses interviewing members of ISIS held prisoner at a police station of
Kirkuk, Iraq. "They are children of the occupation, many with missing
fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or
fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their
own government," Wilson wrote in a recent piece for The Nation. "They
are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders;
is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated
and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe."
The interesting idea - of
course - is that members of Isis may have interesting stories about
what moved them to become members of Isis.
Lydia Wilson did just that,
indeed interviewing members that had been arrested, and found this:
That is: These members of
Isis (at least) were poor, badly educated, often with missing fathers,
from large families, felt offended in their religious feelings, had a
lot of anger, especially but not only against America, and were paid by
Isis for soldiering for Isis.
And when I gave them a
chance to talk and to ask more open-ended questions, it became very
clear that they were fueled by a lot of anger, anger primarily against
the Americans, but also against their government, that they perceived
as Shia, sectarian, and anti-Sunni. They perceived that everybody was
against them, that they weren’t given a chance in their own country.
And many of them were poor. They were very low education rates—one was
illiterate entirely—and big families and often unemployed. So, ISIS was not only offering them a chance to fight
for their Sunni identity, but they were offering them money. They were
being paid to be foot soldiers.
It does sound all quite likely to me.
4. From the Annals of U.S. History: America’s
Role in Creating Islamic Extremism
The fourth item today
is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This is a fairly brief
piece that quotes a longer piece (which is here),
from which I quote
this, from an article by Ben Norton on Salon, because it seems correct:
Throughout the 1980s, the
U.S. government supported and armed bin Laden and his mujahedin in
Afghanistan, in their fight against the Soviet Union. President Ronald
Reagan famously met with the mujahedin in the Oval Office in 1983. “To
watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals
with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love
freedom,” Reagan declared.
Those “freedom fighters”
are the forefathers of ISIS and al-Qaida. When the last Soviet troops
were withdrawn in 1989, the mujahedin did not simply leave; a civil war
of sorts followed, with various Islamist militant groups fighting for
control in the power vacuum. The Taliban came out on top, and
established a medieval theocratic regime to replace the former
“godless” socialist government.
Yes, indeed. In fact,
it seems the following happened (which was a rather fundamental change):
That is, while until
1989 the resistance of the Middle East was mostly done by "secular socialist groups" after 1989 the resistance was mostly done by
extremist groups inspired by Islamic religion.
This Cold War strategy
ended up being successful: After the fall of the USSR, the secular
socialist groups that dominated the resistance movements of the Middle
East were replaced by Islamic extremists ones that had previously been
supported by the West.
Maher Takes Down GOP Over Paris Response
fifth item today
is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Bill Maher went on
"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and was as Bill Maher as
ever. That means he did a great job of refuting the ridiculous rhetoric
coming from the GOP in response to the Paris attacks, then got it all
wrong by accusing a good portion of the Muslim world of being
extremists, then took a few good-natured jabs at Colbert over religion.
Well... yes and no. Here is
what Bill Maher did according to Kali Holloway:
Maher began by taking on
conservatives like Ted Cruz — whom Maher referred to as “a chickenhawk
with a law degree" — who claim that we should essentially bomb the
Middle East back to the Stone Age to take ISIS out.
“That’s crazy. And, I
mean, just the idea that you can wipe them out, this is the old Vietnam
model. Body counts. Remember Vietnam? ... You can’t wipe people out,
off the map. That’s not gonna happen. What you have to do is wipe out
So far so good, right?
But then Maher veered into well-trodden Islamaphobia territory.
I don't think you can
"wipe out the idea" (I take it: Of Isis and other Muslim
terrorists) either, simply because there are always religious fanatics,
and there has been a lot of violence from the Americans.
The best you can hope for is to lessen the fanaticism by lessening the
violence - but indeed there is little hope of lessening the American
violence with the present military and with most American poliicians.
Now we get to what Kali Holloway styles
as Islamophobia (which is one of those propaganda-terms
“It would be one thing if
the terrorists did not share ideas with lots of mainstream people who
follow the Islamic religion ... If only ISIS believed that anyone who
leaves the religion should be killed, well, maybe then we can finally
kill all of ISIS. But what if that’s twenty, thirty, forty percent of
all Muslim people in the world? You’re not going to kill all of them,
Maher added, “We have to
change those ideas. Women as second-class citizens. Gay people don’t
deserve to be alive. These are mainstream ideas, unfortunately. And
liberals have to say, No quarter. No quarter for those kind of ideas."
No - I don't think
that is "Islamophobia". It may be prejudice, for
I don't think there is any good and reliable evidence of what
think (and there are certainly going to be a lot of differences between
various Muslim groups) but then Bill Maher even gets reported
as saying "what if".
I myself have no
idea, except that it seems to me as if most Muslims who live in
European countries will not take this Muslim bit of faith very
seriously. That also may be a prejudice of
mine (there is no good
evidence) but I have talked with quite a few Muslims in Amsterdam, and
while they and I disagree about a lot I have not met much fanaticism.
Then again, I agree
with Maher that the Muslim faith does not have my or his liberal ideas,
and discriminates women and gays.
But I do not know how
much difference my or his dissent from the Muslim faith would
make to Muslims, and I tend to think that in most cases it
takes something like three generations (at least) for an
immigrant to look like and talk like the populations
they immigrated to - and that is apart from whatever remains
from their religions.
Anyway, here is a
link to the whole interview that I liked:
6. The Perils of Circus Politics
The sixth item today
is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
The next president of the
States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of
climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.
We’re going to need an
wise and able leader.
Yet our process for
person is a circus, and several leading candidates are
How have we come to this?
I agree. Here are
Robert Reich's answers, minus text (for which you have to click
the last dotted link):
First, anyone with enough
ego and money can now run for
Second, candidates can
now get away
with saying just about anything about their qualifications or personal
even if it’s a boldface lie.
Third and finally, candidates can now
use hatred and bigotry to gain support.
I agree, but I think I
should add that it didn't look much better when Richard Nixon got
elected as president in 1968 (which I can still recall).
Here is the end of Reich's
So now it’s just the
candidates and the
public, without anything in between.
Which means electoral
success depends mainly on showmanship and self-promotion.
Telling the truth and
policies are less important than trending on social media.
Being reasonable is less
argument is less advantageous
than racking up ratings.
Such circus politics may
fun to watch, but it’s profoundly dangerous for America and the
We might, after all,
elect one of
I agree with all of that -
but (1) I think (perhaps optimistically) that it is still quite
unlikely that Trump or Carson or Cruz will get to be president, and
this happens (which I strongly hope will not) it is
mostly due to the stupidity of the masses, and that neither Reich nor I
has any chance of curing.
7. Scapegoating Snowden is 'Irrational' and
Very Troubling, Advocates Warn
last item today is
by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
starts as follows:
As politicians and
security officials rush to shift the blame—with the mainstream media
following suit —for Friday's Paris attacks onto NSA whistleblower
Edward Snowden, a chorus of voices is warning that, in addition to
being "unbelievably irrational," these claims are also very, very
dangerous for civil liberties.
I agree, but - "unbelievably irrational" as these attacks
are - I think they also are the staple diet that is served and will
be served whenever these "politicians
and security officials" get a
chance of talking to the mainstream media: They want all the
data they can get, on any excuse, true or false.
There is this from Glenn Greenwald:
that those shifting the blame to Snowden are the same people who
"receive billions and billions of dollars every year in American
taxpayer money and have been vested with enormous radical authorities
... and they have only one mission, and their mission is to find terror
I disagree with the last
bit: The mission of the NSA and the GCHQ is - I think since 2005 -
first and foremost to get as many data as they can get, and only
secondly (if that) "to
find terror plots". And
indeed, they were enormously
successful in getting as many data as they could, and enormously
unsuccessful in using that knowledge to unfoil terrorist plots. (But I
know this is no proof.)
And there is this:
I agree with this, but
then this is definitely not what Hollande and Cameron and
Plasterk want: They want all the data they can get, by any
means, including the forced breaking of encryption.
reporter Trevor Timm on Tuesday also highlighted
how security officials are "seizing on the tragedy to gain more power."
The fact that officials
are so eager to push for extraordinary new powers in the wake of this
attack is not surprising. It was just a couple of months ago that the Washington
Post published leaked emails from the general counsel for the
director of national intelligence, Bob Litt, in
which he said that although the legislative environment is very
hostile today “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or
criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered
law enforcement” and that there’s value in “keeping our options open
for such a situation”.
"Now we are faced with
that situation," Timm adds. "We are all appalled by the shocking events
in Paris, but let’s not use them as an excuse to change our way of life
and strip so many law-abiding citizens of their rights."