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. 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
writer and myself know very well, and indeed also as Obama,
Kerry know very well. Item 4 is about the
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:
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
Then there is this, which I think is too negative:
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
"We" are asserted to do in the last five statements of the paragraph.
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
(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
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
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,
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
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
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.
And also, there is this (again):
If you despair,
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
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.
Why Justin Trudeau Makes Me Jealous of Canada
The second item today
is by Emily Schwartz Greco on Truthdig (and originally on OtherWords):
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
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
Isn't Nihilism: What Everyone
Gets Wrong About ISIS
The third item
is by Marty Kaplan on AlterNet:
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".
Isis is or pretends to be: It is an extremist Islamic
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
And this is his quite
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
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.
Maintains State of Emergency as European Crackdown Grows
The fourth item today
is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
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
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
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."
5. ISIL and the
West: A Clash of Savageries
The last item today
is by Lamis Andoni on Common Dreams:
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.
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
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
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.)
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.
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
Yes, indeed. The
article ends as follows:
If so, in the West the
present-day politicians are responsible.
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.