1. As Twin Attacks Kill
At Least 34 in Brussels, How Should
Belgium and Europe Respond?
2. At Least 31 Dead, 187 Wounded as Blasts Rock Brussels
Airport and Subway
4. Fascism, American Style
5. Terror in Brussels: A Wounded City Searches for
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 23,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links. Since today is the
day after the attacks in Belgium, I have to pay some attention to
these, and indeed I do: Item 1 is about the
Brussels attack on Democracy Now! and seems more or less reasonable; item 2 is also about the Brussels attack and is as the
ordinary media report it: mostly as propaganda from heads of state; item 3 is about a good article on the U.S.'s military;
item 4 is about a bad article about
American fascism (which is undefined or falsely defined); and item 5 is again about Brussels, and says what is
known about it: Very little indeed, so far.
1. As Twin Attacks Kill At Least 34
in Brussels, How Should Belgium and Europe Respond?
Also, as an aside: I forgot it yesterday, although I had
of it on March 21: March 22 was the day the student protests in France
of 1968 effectively started (which led to something close to a
revolution in early May of the same year). I wonder how many realized
the same. I suppose not very many. I did pay attention to France in
1968 in 2008, when it was 40 years ago (and I was in Paris in 1968, in May and in June) but this is in Dutch. I suppose
in 2018 the 50 years will also be remembered, but then it probably will
be the last time.
Anyway, this really was an aside. Back to today (and yesterday):
first item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
In the Belgian capital of Brussels,
explosions have hit the international airport and a city metro station,
reportedly killing more than two dozen people and wounding scores.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor said the two blasts at the airport were
carried out by a suicide bomber. There were also reports of shots fired
before the explosions at the airport, which occurred at about 8 a.m.
this morning. About an hour later, another explosion hit the Maelbeek
metro station. "These really are two very central targets," says Peter
Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch and a native of
Belgium. "The Schuman and Maelbeek stations are where most of the
European bureaucrats get out of the metro to go to work, and these
attacks took place just after 9:00, just as people were getting to the
office, including my own colleagues at Human Rights Watch. They left
the metro just minutes before these explosions took place. It certainly
has shook Belgium to the core."
This is from yesterday, March 22. Today,
in the morning of March 23, it still is uncertain how many were killed:
Between 31 and 36 it seems, with 230 or more people injured, in various
degrees, some quite seriously.
Also, there is this by Peter Bouckaert,
who - as the previous quotation states - is Belgian and the emergencies
director for Human Rights Watch:
BOUCKAERT: Well, I think
we need to understand that there’s actually two crises taking place in
Europe. One is the crisis of many young radicalized men and women
heading from Europe to fight in Syria and now returning to carry out
some of these attacks. And then there’s the refugee crisis of hundreds
of thousands of people who are fleeing from the exact same terror that
these radicalized youth are bringing to Europe now. And it’s
unfortunate that in many European minds and minds across the world, the
two crises have become conflated, and refugees themselves have become
to be seen as a security threat.
Hm. I do not know, for this
involves at least three claims: (1) there are two crises
namely (i) young European muslims heading towards Syria to help Isis,
and (ii) many hundreds of thousands of Syrians and others who flee
Syria (and other places) to Europe; and (2) these two crisis have
gotten mixed up "in many European minds" - and I disagree with two out
of three of these claims. Here are my reasons:
First I agree with (ii). But I disagree
with the claim that the many hundreds of thousands who flee from
war, and the possibly thousands (but no more) of European
muslims who try to go to Syria or Iraq and who wish to support
Isis, are a crisis in the same or an approximately same sense:
The sizes of the people affected differ a lot, as do their motives.
(And I take the motives of the refugees seriously, but don't take the
motives of young Europeans who want to fight for Isis very
seriously since, for one thing, most did not experience war,
and for another, most are quite young.)
Second, if these two crisis are falsely
entwined "in many European minds" (which I doubt to start with, but
suppose so) then that is the problem of these extremely easily
confused "European minds": Syrian refugees towards Europe are not
at all the same (in great majority) as young
European supporters of Isis who want to go to Syria (etc.)
But OK - these are the early days
after an attack, and the above was a more or less reasonable reaction.
Here is a less reasonable one:
At Least 31 Dead, 187 Wounded as Blasts Rock Brussels Airport and Subway
is by Agence France Presse on AlterNet:
This is also from
yesterday, which explains the fewer deaths, and contains the following:
I say - and I make a distinction: If
a member from your family has been killed or seriously hurt, I will accept a
certain amount of hysteria or irrationalism from you; if none
of your family has been killed or seriously hurt, and especially if you
are a political leader with a large police and military force
protecting you, I will not accept it.
“A lot of people lost limbs. One man had
lost both legs and there was a policeman with a totally mangled leg.”
The explosions triggered a transport
shutdown in the city that is home to the headquarters of both the EU
and NATO. Flights were halted with metro, tram and bus services all
The bloodshed comes days after the dramatic
arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in
the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group — after
four months on the run.
European leaders reacted with shock and
solidarity, urging cooperation in the fight against terrorism on a
continent that has been on high alert for months.
“The whole of Europe has been hit,” said
French President Francois Hollande, whose country is still reeling from
jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November.
And the - in my eyes anyway utterly incompetent - French
president is wildly and hysterically exaggerating.
The same, albeit in different degrees, holds for the following heads of
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven
branded the blasts an “attack against democratic Europe”.
British premier David Cameron tweeted
that his country would do “everything we can to help,” and announced
that Britain’s COBRA security committee would meet Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said
the blasts “show once more that terrorism knows no borders and
threatens people all over the world”, according to a Kremlin statement.
I am sorry, but all of these were more propaganda
statements than sane and rational reactions, although none was as
exteme as Hollande's.
3. America's Post-Democratic
The third item is by
Wlliam Astore on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
In the decades since the draft ended in
1973, a strange new military has emerged in the United States. Think of
it, if you will, as a post-democratic force that prides itself on its warrior ethos
rather than the old-fashioned citizen-soldier
ideal. As such, it’s a military increasingly divorced from the people,
with a way of life ever more foreign
to most Americans (adulatoryas
they may feel toward its troops). Abroad, it’s now regularly put
to purposes foreign to any traditional idea of national defense.
In Washington, it has become a force unto itself,
following its own priorities, pursuing its own agendas, increasingly
unaccountable to either the president or Congress.
Yes, indeed. And the basic differences are
that (i) until 1973 the U.S. army was based on drafted
citizen-soldiers (which meant that anyone of the appropriate age
could be drafted), and from 1973 onwards the U.S. army was based on professional
soldiers who volunteered;
that (ii) since 9/11 the U.S. army takes over 50% of the disposable
taxes (which suggests the U.S. exists to pay its armies, rather than
that its armies exist to protect the nation); and that (iii) since 9/11
the U.S.A. has been in continuous war in or with the Middle East, at
You may reject the parenthetical addition
to (ii), but the other changes hold and made very large
Here are some of the differences:
Three areas highlight the
post-democratic transformation of this military with striking clarity:
the blending of military professionals with privatized mercenaries in
“limited” wars; the way senior military commanders are cashing in on
retirement; and finally the emergence of U.S. Special Operations
Command (SOCOM) as a quasi-missionary
imperial force with a presence in at least 135
countries a year (and counting).
There is more, but first a sketch of why
these changes came about:
I’m a product of the all-volunteer
military. In 1973, the Nixon administration ended
the draft, which also marked the end of a citizen-soldier tradition
that had served the nation for two centuries. At the time,
neither the top brass nor the president wanted to face a future in
which, in the style of the Vietnam era just then winding up, a force of
citizen-soldiers could vote with their feet and their mouths in the
kinds of protest that had only recently left the Army in significant
disarray. The new military was to be all volunteers and a
thoroughly professional force. (Think: no dissenters, no
protesters, no antiwar sentiments; in short, no repeats of what had
just happened.) And so it has remained for more than 40 years.
I think "the professional U.S. Army" was
already in 1973 (when I was 23) mostly motivated by "no dissenters, no protesters, no antiwar sentiments" (at least not in the military) and I also thought so then,
but I am not American and I was a Vietnam-protestor, so this
may be regarded as my personal reaction.
Then again, around the same time the Dutch army was also
"professionalized". I was against that as well, and mostly on
"democratic grounds": it seemed to me that if anyone could be
drafted (if male), then the military might be subject to some
democratic control. I don't know whether that ever was true , but in any case the Dutch army also was
"professionalized" then and has remained so ever since.
Here is a prescient quote from Joseph
Ellis, who wrote in 1982 the following about the dangers of a U.S. professional
- "all-volunteer" - army:
“[V]irtually all studies of the
all-volunteer army have indicated that it is likely to be less
representative of and responsive to popular opinion, more expensive,
more jealous of its own prerogatives, more xenophobic -- in other
words, more likely to repeat some of the most grievous mistakes of
Vietnam … Perhaps the most worrisome feature of the all-volunteer army
is that it encourages soldiers to insulate themselves from civilian
society and allows them to cling tenaciously to outmoded visions of the
profession of arms. It certainly puts an increased burden of
responsibility on civilian officials to impose restraints on military
operations, restraints which the soldiers will surely perceive as
That seems wholly correct. And so does the
As Nick Turse has documented
post-9/11 America has seen the rapid growth of U.S. Special Operations
Command, or SOCOM, a secretive military within the military that now
numbers almost 70,000 operatives. The scholar and former CIA
consultant Chalmers Johnson used to refer to that Agency as the
president’s private army. Now, the commander-in-chief quite
literally has such an army (as, in a sense, he also now has a private
robotic air force of drone
assassins dispatchable more or less anywhere). The expansion
of SOCOM from a modest number of elite military units (like the Green
Berets or SEAL Team 6) into a force larger than significant numbers of
national armies is an underreported and under-considered development of
our post-democratic military moment. It has now become the regular
go-to force in the war on terror from Iraq
to Cameroon, Libya
As Gregory Foster, a Vietnam veteran and
professor at the National Defense University noted
recently, this now-massive force “provides an almost infinite
amount of potential space for meddling and ‘mission creep’ abroad and
at home due, in part, to the increasingly blurred lines between
military, intelligence, police, and internal security functions… [T]he
very nature of [special ops] missions fosters a military culture that
is particularly destructive to accountability and proper lines of
responsibility… the temptation to employ forces that can circumvent
oversight without objection is almost irresistible.”
Yes, indeed. Incidentally (and by the
way): Since I have decided that 9/11 was definitely not what
the U.S. government said
it was, and that mostly because the three buildings that collapsed seem
to have been blown up by internal explosives, an outfit like SOCOM may
be responsible for it, although this is a mere guess on my
part, for which it is highly unlikely there will be proof.
Anyway, this is a good article that is recommended.
4. Fascism, American Style
The fourth item today is by John Whitehead
on Washington's Blog, and originally on the Rutherford Institute:
This starts as follows:
“If we define an American fascist as
one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings,
then there are undoubtedly several
million fascists in the United States.” ― Henry A. Wallace,
33rd Vice President of the United States
This is an indictment of every
politician who has ever sold us out for the sake of money and power, it
is a condemnation of every politician who has ever lied to us in order
to advance their careers, and it is a denunciation of every political
shill who has sacrificed our freedoms on the altar of Corporate America.
They’re all fascists.
No, not really.
For one thing, while fascists would
probably put "money and power ahead of human
beings" in case of a conflict, not
everybody who does so is a fascist (and quite possibly much more than
half (!!) would first think of their own power and their own
wealth, before thinking of the lives, healths, wealths and
powers of others).
For another thing, "fascism" and
"fascists" are both strongly emotional words and words that are not
easy to define well. (And in fact this article will cause me to write
21 definitions of fascism I've meanwhile found: it probably will
not help much, but it may give some clarity to some.)
One reason to pay some attention to the definition of "fascism" is the
almost complete liberty one awards oneself if one does not
define it well or at all: Then everyone who is disliked may be scolded
for "being a fascist", like so :
If Donald Trump is a fascist—as nearly half
surveyed believe — then so
is every other politician in office or
running for office in America who has ever prioritized money and power
over human beings.
Truly, apart from Trump’s virulently
bombastic comments and his metaphorical willingness to spit in the wind
in order to garner media coverage and notoriety, how is he any more of
a fascist than Hillary Clinton and the millions
she has amassed from the financial sector?
How is Trump any more of a fascist than
Barack Obama, whose willingness to march in lockstep with the military
industrial complex has resulted in endless wars, covert
drone strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians abroad, and militarized
police who have killed thousands of American citizens here at home?
How is Trump any more of a fascist than
Congress, the majority
of whom are millionaires and who are more
inclined to do the bidding of their corporate sponsors and benefactors,
all the while remaining deaf to their less affluent constituents?
For that matter, how is Trump any more
of a fascist than the Supreme Court whose decisions in recent years
have been characterized
most often by an abject deference to government authority, military and
To be sure, I like none of the
above persons, but it seems odd
to me to declare Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, arbitrary
members of Congress, and (all of?) the Supreme Court to be as much
fascists as Trump is (supposed to be, by "nearly half of
One has to be more subtle than
that, it seems to me.
The following seems to me also an
The United States of America, that dream
of what a democratic republic ought to be, has become the Fascist
States of America. We have moved beyond the era of representative
government and entered a new age. You can call it the age of
authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police
Whatever label you want to put on it,
the end result is the same.
No, definitely not. There are large differences
between authoritarians and fascists, between fascists and
oligarchists, and between a police state and fascism, and to throw all
of them on one big heap of people one dislikes and therefore calls
"fascists" simply is to refuse being rational.
Somewhat oddly, the last bit I quote seems a bit more reasonable. I
split it in two parts:
For this seems simply true, and the
next bit, that continues it at least seems plausible:
Driven by our fears, we have entered
into a corporate-controlled, militaristic state where all citizens are
suspects, security trumps freedom, and the U.S. government does not
represent the majority of American citizens but instead is ruled
by the rich and powerful.
Any semblance of constitutional
government that we might still enjoy today is a mere shadow, a mockery
of what the founders envisioned. Constitutional government today—much
like the farcical circus that purports to be the presidential
election—is a sham, a hoax, an elaborate ruse maintained by the
powers-that-be to mollify us into believing that we still have a say in
the workings of our government. We do not.
Quite possibly so, but then this does not
by itself imply one has reached fascism.
In any case, as I said, I will probably
soon write a "Crisis: On 21 definitions of the term "fascism"", and I
also will link it here when I have done this.
It seems some
clarifications are necessary.
5. Terror in Brussels: A
Wounded City Searches for Answers
The fifth and last item today is by Jörg Diehl
on Spiegel International:
This starts as follows (and is the only bit I
will quote from this article):
This has the merit of being correct (and of not
answering the rather hysterical question its title asks). There is more
in the article, which is less reasonable, but I will leave that to your
"What we feared has happened," Belgian
Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Tuesday in response to the
terrorist attacks in Brussels. More than two dozen people were killed
and many more injured. Police are now searching for the perpetrators,
who may still be at large in the Belgian capital.
Who could be responsible for the
At the moment, there isn't conclusive
information about who is behind the attack. In an English-language text
released on Tuesday afternoon, the Islamic State terrorist militia
claimed responsibility for the attack, but it did not provide any
specific details or names that might help to verify the authenticity of
the claim. That, though, is not unusual.
My father said so and pointed to protests during the 1948 war that the
Dutch drafted navy then made (together with the army, for the Dutch state) against the
emergent Indonesia. This was both correct and a bit misleading: A few
communist draftees did protest, quite courageously
also, but that seems to have been all, and since then there had
been very few real protests by draftees against the army in Holland.
In other words, my own expectations about the draftees were probably
correct: The vast majority would conform to
whatever they were ordered to do.
Then again, I do agree with the general point that, at least
for the population as a whole, I think a drafted army
constitutes a far lesser danger than a professional
 I may help my readers remember
that I was called (often screamed at) "a (dirty)
fascist" in the University of Amsterdam from 1977-1989, while in
fact I had the most anti-fascist, communist and anarchist
family-background that anyone who studied there had, namely with a communist grandfather murdered by
the Nazis, and a communist father who had to spend 3 years 9
months and 15 days in four German concentration camps as a "political
terrorist", and a communist mother in the resistance.
This name calling was all done to harm me, and was not
based on any knowledge about me, and was completely derived
from the prejudices
of the students (who
were politically active, and mostly as communists, and most of whom these days are rich - compared to me - neoconservatives: "And so it goes").
I did not say anything in reply, because both of my
communist parents still were alive when this started, and I wanted to
save them the hassle of dealing with a bunch of anyway very stupid and
quite incredible fanatics.