“American Sniper” spawns racist backlash and death threats against Arabs and Muslims

(by Rania Khalek via Electronic Intifada)

Violent anti-arab racist twitter posts in response to American Sniper movie

Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”

The ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month. But the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.

Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.

Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.

“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.

“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did … It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

An excerpt from Chris Kyle's book where he talks about how much fun he had shooting people.
An excerpt from Chris Kyle’s book where he talks about how much fun he had shooting people.

“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.

In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.

Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.

The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.

Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.

[…]

While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.

Racist twitter user says: "Just watched american sniper and I feel like killing every sand nigger on the fucking planet"The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.

In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.

Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs,” says Kyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world … those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”

Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.

Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”

This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancées and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.

(Source: Rania Khalek, “‘American Sniper’ spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims“. Electronic Intifada. 22 January 2015)

6 Examples of Undercover Cops Having Sex and Fathering Children w/ Activists They Are Investigating

(via Green is the New Red)

Policing Through Sexual Infiltration

“It must be a horrifying experience to discover that your partner is not the person they say they are; that they may have been relaying information provided in confidence ‘on the pillow’, to the state; and that the fundamentals of the relationship were lies. Many have described the sense of violation they feel.” – Tamsin Allen

The exploitation of human sexuality is a well-known pressure point in the repression of social movements. Typically such measures are thought to be reserved for military conflicts involving complex, multi-tiered, counter-insurgency campaigns, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout the first and second Palestinian uprisings, Israeli intelligence forces regularly recruited Palestinians for collaboration after first documenting them in precarious sexual situations. Classically, Israeli handlers would observe and record a Palestinian engaging in extra-marital, homosexual, or otherwise ‘deviant’ sexual behaviors and then leverage the publicity of these filmed vices in exchange for actionable intelligence leading to the capture of wanted Palestinian fighters and activists.

Though such methods may be more familiar to students of ‘traditional’ warfare, the collection of intelligence through the exploitation of trusted social network is a common domestic policing strategy as well. A 2014 study demonstrated that 81% of “law enforcement professionals” use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) in their investigations, and that 80% agree that the creation and management of fake social media profiles is an “ethical” practice in law enforcement. In 2011, the British press was made aware of several undercover police agents who were infiltrating protest movements throughout a 40-year period. Of the seven undercover officers initially exposed, five were found to have had sexual relationships with women. Often times these were women the officers were tasked with monitoring. These sexual liaisons between cop and activist were the product of misrepresentation. Subsequent investigation into the actions of these officers exposed 10 individuals, nine of which who had sexual relationships with activists.

The following will provide brief biographical profiles of these individuals. In doing so it is my hope that movements can learn from these examples and improve our resistance to infiltration and disruption. The purpose of these methods is to reverberate distrust, fear, uncertainty, suspicion and divisions amongst our friendship circles, our communities and our wider social networks.

Bob Lambert

bob-lambert-recentBob Lambert, posing as Bob Robinson, infiltrated leftist and animal liberation networks, using a job at Greenpeace London as an activist cover, and targeting activists affiliated with the ALF. Between May 1987-November 1988, Lambert was engaged in a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old female, not affiliated with political activism, whom he met at a party. Lambert reportedly maintained the relationship for 18 months to create the background of a personal life for his projected activist persona. To this end, Lambert even arranged to have his own home raided by police to show that he was a ‘known activist.’ In total, Lambert spent 26 years in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch (including the Special Demonstration Squad), and recently issued an apology for the relationship stating:

I also apologise unreservedly for forming false friendships with law abiding citizens and in particular forming a longterm relationship with [the woman] who had every reason to think I was a committed animal rights activist and a genuine London Greenpeace campaigner.

Not only was Lambert involved with the unnamed 24-year-old, but a year or so prior, he also had a sexual relationship with a second female whom he fathered a child with before disappearing. Lambert met the female activist whom he was meant to spy on in the “mid-1980s” and had a son with her in 1985 before breaking up in 1987. When the child was two years old, the female activist married a second man and Lambert surrendered his paternal rights. The woman came forward in early 2013 after seeing Lambert’s 1980s picture in a newspaper and recognizing it as that of her long lost ex-boyfriend and the father of their son. The woman reports that she met Lambert in 1984, and became involved in animal rights and involving herself in direct action networks. In 2013 Lambert admitted to having relationships with four women while undercover. Throughout this infiltration, Lambert was also legally married. Lambert is one of at least two UK police infiltrators that fathered a child with a female activist who was targeted for surveillance.

debenham-fire-lambertIn addition to his service as a police agent and sexual infiltrator, Lambert also served as an agent provocateur carrying our acts of property destruction, including the use of arson, and attributing such actions to the ALF. According to Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, in testimony given to Parliament, Lambert was responsible for placing and detonating an incendiary device in the Harrow, northwest London branch of the Debenhams department store in 1987 in protest of its selling of fur.

Lambert is also said to have admitted his involvement in the arson to a female activist. The arson was part of a three site simultaneous attacks with only two perpetrators arrested. According to testimony from one of the convicted arsonists Caroline Lucas as well as other evidence, Lambert was the third participant. Lambert, as expected, has denied these accusations but proudly asserts his role in providing intelligence that led to the arrest of the other two arsonists. The fires caused £7-8 million in damages and according to some, were instrumental in motivating the chain to cease the selling of animal fur. The purpose of the attack was for Lambert to garner credibility amongst his ALF community and convince them he was a committed activist.

Lambert played other key roles in the animal rights community penning an ALF leaflet explaining the group’s philosophy and even co-writing the infamous McLibel leaflet in 1986 which defamed McDonalds and led to the longest civil trial in UK history. During his dating and sexual exploits, Lambert also used his role as the boyfriend of an activist to encourage more militant action. According to “Charlotte,” one of Lambert’s sexual partners, “He would tease me for not being committed enough…he got me to become more involved in ‘direct action.’”

Mark John Kennedy

Mark-Kennedy-007Police Constable Mark Kennedy, posing as Mark “Flash” Stone, infiltrated environmental and leftist networks for approximately eight years (~2001-2009) in the area of Nottingham (sometimes working alongside a female spyplaying the role of an “eco-activist”), hosting meetings with activists in up to 23 countries including the United States, and participating as an activist in illegal actions including blockades, site occupations and sabotage, sometimes playing key logistical roles such as transport. In numerous accounts from activists, Kennedy is portrayed as a provocateur, encouraging activists to commit acts of violence including attacking police. For his work, stone was paid £50,000 annually, plus an additional £200,000 annually given for “bribes, drinks, accommodation, a vehicle and travel abroad to meet other anarchists.” During this time, Kennedy presented himself as an “avid rock climber and former drug smuggler,” maintained a four year relationship with a 26-year-old, female activist named Anna who reports having sexual intercourse with Kennedy more than 20 times. After Kennedy’s true identity was revealed, Anna spoke to the news media stating, “‘If somebody was being paid to have sex with me, that gives me a sense of having been violated.”

In addition to this relationship, Kennedy reports sleeping with a second female Welsh activist, though testimony from “those who knew him best” suggests that more female activists were likely victimized. It was this second female that exposed Kennedy after discovering his legitimate passport while on vacation with the spy in July 2010. Anna, Kennedy’s first activist girlfriend, stated to The Guardian that there were “several other women within the protest movement who Kennedy slept with,” but that while she knew he was sleeping with these additional women, “there was never any type of romance involved.” After his police handlers became aware of his “erratic sexual conduct” he became the subject of surveillance, wherein police officials videotaped him having sexual contactwith female activists. While Kennedy joked about his use of “horizontal interrogation techniques” with activists, he maintained a second life with his wife Edel, and their two children. Kennedy defended his actions, stating that sexual promiscuity was common within the protest movement. “It was a very promiscuous scene. Some people had five or six lovers…Girls on protest sites would sleep with guys in order to entice them to stay in these horrible places: Cold, wet, with bad food and nonexistent bathroom facilities.”

Since the exposure of Kennedy as a police spy, international activists have compiled an open-source, online, database attempting to document the host of protests, meetings and convergences in which he attended. Using the Powerbase platform, activists have linked Kennedy to at least 68 incidents, some covering multiple years. According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. After Kennedy’s infiltration became public knowledge, and he left law enforcement, he used his wealth of insider knowledge for personal financial gain, establishing a series of companies (e.g. Tokra Limited, Black Star High Access) thought to be private consulting firms. In a report by The Guardian, Kennedy used the privileged access he gained in police infiltration campaigns to act as a “corporate spy” while still maintaining his Mark Stone alter ego. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Kennedy was working for a second spy firm in the US, Densus Group, targeting “anti-capitalist demonstrators.”Kennedy claims that during his sexual exploits, his police handlers “sanctioned” his actions, stating that some echelons of British policing was aware of his sexual relationships. Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde told Members of Parliamentthat “he had no knowledge of the [Kennedy] case until the Guardian disclosed the prosecution of six activists…collapsed because of Kennedy’s role in it.” According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. While the UK’s infiltration efforts targeting social movements date back to at least to anti-war campaigners in 1968, the pervasiveness of establishing sexual partnerships appears to be a newly intentional strategy.

Andrew James Boyling (aka Jim Boyling)

Jim-Boyling-008Detective Constable Jim Boyling, 28-years-old, posing as Pete James Sutton or Jim Sutton 34-years-old, infiltrated pro-bicycle movement Reclaim the Streets for five years (1995-2000) as a lead organizer, as well as having contact with additional environmental and hunt saboteur campaigns. During this time events were organized within the activist community designed solely to collect information on attendees. During his time within activist movements, Boyling married Angharad Bevan, the 28-year-old activist he was tasked to monitor, and fathered two children with her before divorcing. Boyling only made his superiors aware of his relationship in 2005 by informing a single senior officer close to the time he married Beven. His relationship with Beven was one of two sexual relationships Boyling had with females in activist networks while undercover. Both relationships were described as “serious.” At times Boyling worked directly under Bob Lambert, with Lambert acting as his handler.

Following Boyling’s exposure, Chief Constable Jon Murphy of Merseyside (NW England) told newspapers that sexual conduct between police agents and activists was “never acceptable…under any circumstances,” further stating in relation to the police infiltrators that “something has gone badly wrong here” and calling the undercover agent’s actions “grossly unprofessional…a diversion from what they are here to do…[and] morally wrong.”. Despite such grandstanding, Boyling’s ex-wife stated in an interview with The Guardian that superiors were knowledgeable of these incidents, stating:

Jim [Boyling] complained one day that his superiors said there was to be no more sexual relations with activists anymore – the implicit suggestion was that they were fully aware of this before and that it hadn’t been restricted in the past…[Jim Boyling] was scoffing at it saying that it was impossible not to expect people to have sexual relations. He said people going in had ‘needs’ and I felt really insulted. He also claimed it was a necessary tool in maintaining cover.

Boyling also reportedly perjured himself in court in 1997, giving evidence under oath (as Pete James Sutton) while concealing his true identity as a police spy during his prosecution alongside protestors arrested after occupying a government office.

Boyling was also present during legally protected conversations held between defendants and their lawyers, as the police spy was represented by the same legal firm. This action has led to a legal challenge where protestors have argued that Boyling’s presence during such conversations violated the defendants’ right to protected communications with council, and that Boyling thus obtained information through protected, private correspondences. Investigations by The Guardian revealed that “police chiefs [had] authorized undercover officers to hide their identities from courts when they were prosecuted for offences arising out of their deployment.”

Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs, 44-years-old, posing as 29-year-old Marco, infiltrated anarchist, anti-globalization, animal rights, and other social justice networks for five years (2004-2009) in the Cardiff area. Jacobs was known for taking on logistics and financial roles in his circles, and used the reputation he built within the Cardiff Anarchist Network (CAN) to infiltrate the Dissent! anti-G8 planning committees. During 2008, Jacobs maintained a sexual relationship with a female movement activist, and reportedly was responsible for encouraging CAN to engage behaviors to increase division and inebriation. On organizer with CAN reported to press:

He changed the culture of the organisation, encouraging a lot of drinking, gossip and back stabbing, and trivialised and ran down any attempt made by anyone in the group to achieve objectives. He clearly aimed to separate and isolate certain people from the group and from each other, and subtly exaggerated political and personal differences, telling lies to both ‘sides’ to create distrust and ill-feeling. In the four years he was in Cardiff a strong, cohesive and active group had all-but disintegrated. Marco left after anarchist meetings in the city stopped being held.

Following Jacobs’ exposure as a police spy, his activist girlfriend stated, “I was doing nothing wrong, I was not breaking the law at all. So for him to come along and lie to us and get that deep into our lives was a colossal, colossal betrayal.” According to additional testimony, a second female also maintained a dating relationship with Jacobs but littler more information is available.

John Dines

John-Dines-010Sergeant John Dines, posing as “John Barker” infiltrated London Greenpeace as well as unnamed anti-capitalist groups from around 1987-1992. He worked with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad and began infiltrating Greenpeace following the departure of Bob Lambert. In 1990, Dines began a relationship with Helen Steel, and abandoned her in 1992 feigning a mental breakdown. When Steel sought to track down the whereabouts of her boyfriend, she discovered that John Barker was really Sgt. John Dines who had stolen the name of Phillip John Baker, a child who had died of leukemia years prior. Steel also discovered that Dines has been married since 1977.

The Dines/Barker case is said to be one of at least 80 similar occurrences organized by Scotland Yard over a 30 year period wherein police adopted the names of dead children in order to produce false identities and documents with verifiable back stories. Other police spies utilizing sexual infiltration, including Bob Lambert, also used the identities of dead children to create false names and documents. According to Lambert he adopted his identity from that of a seven-year-old child who died of a heart problem, and stated to media sources that the UK Home Office was aware of this practice, and that it was widespread.

Mark Jenner

Mark Jenner, the police spy who went by the name of Mark Cassidy for six yearsMark Jenner, presenting himself as “Mark Cassidy,” infiltrated UK protest groups from 1994-2000 as an officer in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad under the direction of Bob Lambert. During his tenure, Jenner was married yet maintained a five year relationship (1995-2000) with a 29-year-old female activist, living with her in a London apartment and rarely returning to his family. After their lengthy cohabitation, the woman explained that she thought of themselves as “man and wife” having “completely integrated [Jenner] into my life.” Jenner met the woman’s family and even appeared in her mother’s wedding photographs and videos from other family events. The woman explained that Jenner used her as an “excellent cover story.”

Jenner used the woman’s credibility and trusted social network to insure his own cover story, as she explains, “People trusted me, people knew that I was who I said I was, and people believed, therefore, that he must be who he said he was because he was welcomed into my family.” Given this history, the woman was motivated to investigate his identity after Jenner disappeared in 2000 from their shared apartment stating that he was depressed. In testimony given to a Parliamentary inquiry, the woman, speaking via the pseudonym “Alison,” spoke of the deception stating, “It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationships and other subsequent relationships. It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”

Further Inquiry

According to activists, at least two additional undercover informants were also present and had sexual relationships with activists. They have been named as Rod Richardson and Simon Wellings. According to Evans and Lewis, Richardson was not sexually involved with activists. While it is unknown if Wellings had relations with activist women, his behavior mirrors that of other informants, collecting and reporting on the personal details of activists such as their friendship circles as well as sexual preferences and partners. It is reported by the BBC that Wellings infiltrated anti-capitalist group Globalize Resistance from 2001-2005.

Source: Loadenthal, Michael. “6 Ways Cops Have Used Sex to Infiltrate and Disrupt Protest Groups“. Green is the New Red. 20 January 2015.

The False Friends of Kobane

(via Jacobin)

Assyrian fighter at a martyrs' cemetery near Hassake, a city in northeast Syria (Photo: Roman Kutzowitz, October 2014)
An Assyrian fighter at a martyrs’ cemetery near Hassake, a city in northeast Syria (Photo: Roman Kutzowitz, October 2014)

For nearly four months now, heavily armed Islamic State (IS) militants have been laying siege to the city of Kobanê in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

Another IS massacre was initially feared. But the homegrown defense units of Kobanê, despite being hopelessly outmatched militarily, have been able to repel IS incursions for a surprisingly long time — and for much of this time without help. It has been a pitched battle that has repeatedly seen bitter house-to-house fighting.

However, with the questionably timed expansion of military assistance from the United States and the opening of Turkish territory to Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan, the tide appears to be turning. The close fighting within Kobanê has all but ended, though the surrounding countryside remains occupied by the IS.

After a wave of solidarity demonstrations for Kobanê all across Europe in October and November, international attention on the region noticeably abated with the arrival of the Peshmerga reinforcements. Nevertheless, the situation is still militarily and politically complex, and the battle over Kobanê remains in part a battle over the appropriate means of international solidarity.

The debate about what practical, concrete form this solidarity should be taking has not been settled. At an early stage of the fighting, some parliamentarians from Germany’s Die Linke — despite the party’s long-standing rejection of military interventions — proposed an international operation with a United Nations (UN) mandate. As Die Linke’s parliamentarians rushed ahead, a skeptical German public found itself again asking where it should stand regarding international military operations.

At the same time, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon called on those who could protect the civilian population of Kobanê to do so. This raised additional questions, not only about who exactly could respond to such an appeal, but also about how realistic it was to hope for a military intervention whose primary objective would be the protection of civilians and not the pursuit of power. In the face of a spreading wildfire, care has to be taken not to call for aid from those who set the fire in the first place and then doused it with gasoline.

The planned intervention of Turkish ground troops has been among the more dubious propositions. This was, in any case, purported to be a controversial plan; France had declared its support for the establishment of a buffer zone by Turkey, while Great Britain and the US rejected this proposal, at least in public.

Given that IS militants have reportedly been crossing the Turkish-Syrian border with ease, and in the context of Turkey’s longstanding hostility to Kurdish interests, it was clear that such a plan would amount to the fox guarding the henhouse.

[…]

Turkey’s hostility to Rojava is intimately bound up in its own strategic goals — preserving regional influence as well as territorial sovereignty — and in Rojava’s apparent alignment with a domestic resistance that has historically threatened these goals. A cursory review of the background of this relationship should suffice here.

Shortly after the onset of demonstrations against the Syrian government in 2011, the PYD began to construct autonomous governing structures in the majority-Kurdish regions of northern Syria, and to assemble self-defense forces (YPG/YPJ) among citizens.

The PYD had previously made known that its activities were independent of the wider Syrian opposition. When the latter began conferring with Turkey and, with Western support, took up arms against the Syrian government and started calling for foreign military intervention, the PYD spoke out against such outside intervention and stressed that a democratic Syria could only be the collective project of all Syrians.

Under the leadership of the PYD, democratic council structures were erected in three regions (Afrin, Kobanê, and Cizirê) that are referred to as cantons. The governing assemblies as well as the self-defense forces are characterized by gender quotas and representation of all populations according to ethnic and religious identification (Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian Christian). Town, neighborhood, city, and regional councils invite and receive active participation from the population in decision making.

Democratically decided price controls, a constitutional justice system, and free schooling in any student’s mother tongue are additional distinguishing features of Rojava’s egalitarian structures. Under exceedingly adverse conditions, the region has managed to sustain its people on the basis of self-organized production collectives.

At the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Rojava’s representatives did not merely reject outside military intervention. In negotiations with the Syrian opposition, they also argued for the autonomy of the Kurdish region in a possible future Syria. The Syrian opposition organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council categorically rejected both these stances.

Representatives of Rojava were thereafter increasingly isolated by the opposition and its supporters, the so-called “group of friends of Syria.” This isolation was accompanied by an economic embargo that has been enforced by Turkey and the government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq (Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG).

The Turkish government, for its part, declared it would not tolerate this “terrorist formation” on its border, holding it as identical to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), against which it has waged a long-term campaign of repression with US support. And rivalries within Rojava between smaller Syrian-Kurdish parties and the PYD, the leading party, ruptured relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.

The smaller parties drew nearer to the KRG in time and jointly accused the PYD of monopolizing political power. Though the social footholds of these parties in Rojava were small, the discord between them and the PYD became a pretense for the KRG, in association with Turkey, to weaken Rojava by any means.

[…]

For the Turkish government, Rojava represents a threat on multiple levels.

First of all, Rojava’s democratic autonomy model functions as an example to the Kurdish population within Turkey itself. The cantons have declared that the natural resources of Rojava will remain the collective property of the region’s people, and any potential revenues from them will be invested back into the people. The egalitarian council structures and the collectivization of resources stand diametrically opposed to the confessional conservatism of the ruling Justice and Development Party and its neoliberal politics.

Furthermore, Rojava is an obstacle to Turkey’s ambitions to expand its regional influence. The strategic and economic orientation of Turkey is fundamentally at odds with Rojava’s project. Thus the entire prehistory of the conflict contradicts the expectation that the Syrian-Kurdish people might receive support from Turkey.

This plays out similarly in relation to the KRG. Self-organized production collectives, progressive gender politics, and democratic council structures also stand opposed to the basic orientation of the oil-rentier proto-state in northern Iraq — though nearly all commentary on the current situation might suggest otherwise.

If that weren’t enough, Rojava and Kobanê in particular have a strategic significance for the IS. Should Kobanê fall fully into the hands of IS, it would be even easier for the group to recruit from Turkey, as well as smuggle arms and other goods. In addition, Kobanê is in the middle of the three cantons geographically. The other two cantons would be completely dislocated from one another without Kobanê, and their defense against further attacks by the IS or other militias would be much more difficult.

Turkey is attempting to exploit this situation and instrumentalize the IS offensive in order to make Rojava into an international issue. Davutoğlu’s publicly declared conditions — to only support the use of US military bases in Turkey and US ground troops against the IS if the fall of the Syrian government is also a goal — are revealing.

He could not say it any more clearly: the IS advances and the murder of Syrians within sight of the Turkish border do not provide sufficient motivation to act, even in the form of the relatively minor concessions demanded by the Kurdish movement.

The contents of the Turkish War Authority bill, recently passed by the Turkish parliament, are shaping this reality. In that document, the PKK — for Turkey, the same thing as Rojava — and the IS are both named, in the same breath, as “terrorist organizations.” Still, faced with a choice between the PKK/ Rojava and the IS, the Turkish government’s preference for the latter is clear.

[…]

The citizen council-governed cantons are showing the entire Middle East that it is possible to build a peaceful, democratic, and social justice-oriented self government that transcends cultural differences. Rojava presents an alternative to the ethnic and confessional polarization endemic in the region. That such a model has, at least up to now, been able to survive primarily through its own self-defense forces — in other words, without imperialist protection — is special to say the least.

Still, it is apparent that the continued existence of Rojava cannot be ensured without international solidarity, the more so as US military assistance and the KRG’s involvement both seem to be bound to fundamental concessions that would curtail the most emancipatory aspects of the model.

But what kind of “solidarity” can we practice from the West? In Germany, a start would be to confront the calls by some left parliamentarians for a UN-mandated military intervention. Considering the manifest divisions in the Security Council, these calls are no more than symbolic anyway. Since such a UN mandate is plainly unlikely to come about, the only remaining effect of these calls is to damage, once again, Die Linke’s basic peace platform.

Demands from other quarters for arms shipments to Rojava also do not constitute solidarity with Rojava, if we are coming from the perspective of a politics of peace.

Without a doubt, of course, calls out of Rojava for military aid, considering the all-or-nothing war there, are understandable. This may seem contradictory. But the problem for peace-platform politicians in Germany is a different one.

Can the German left guarantee that the “avenue of legitimacy” they are opening for (both German and non-German) foreign military operations and arms shipments will serve the “right” purposes? Since the current political balance in Germany doesn’t permit Die Linke any of the power necessary to control military operations or arms shipments, the answer must be no.

One example of this in the very recent past: when the Yezidi people in the Iraqi Sinjar mountains were facing slaughter by the IS, they were left completely unprotected by the Peshmerga and the KRG.

The forces from Rojava and the PKK that rushed in to help were exactly those whose already long struggle against the IS had been actively weakened by the KRG. Although the unspeakable role of the KRG lies open for all to see, it was the KRG that was lauded as the Yezidis’ savior and received German arms shipments in contravention of German laws and the UN Charter.

As long as the KRG is thus encouraged and empowered in its political orientation towards Rojava, no one can guarantee that these new arms won’t some day be pointed at Rojava or the PKK.

Therefore, instead of working for military intervention and arms shipments — the implementation of which they cannot meaningfully influence — the German left could demand that the doings of NATO-member Turkey be exposed for what they are: the intentional delivery of the people of Rojava into the hands of the IS.

The units of the YPG/YPJ have declared that they can, together with the PKK, manage the defense of Rojava on their own. Still, Turkey has to open a corridor through its territory for military resupply and logistical resourcing, and abandon its de facto support of the IS. The lifting of Turkey’s embargo on Rojava also has yet to be attained.

The German government and other Western governments must be pressured to force their NATO partner Turkey to end both its proxy war in Syria as well as its repression of political protest. Western leftists could also work for goals such as the removal of foreign soldiers (as well as Patriot missiles) stationed in Turkey and demand sanctions against Turkey if it continues to support the IS. Finally, military intervention by Turkey or other imperialist forces must be adamantly rejected, whereas a more skeptical stance towards Western governments’ goals in the region is needed.

Campaigns for an end to arms shipments to all actors in the region and for massive increases in refugee aid are among the most important concrete projects peace-oriented leftists should be working on.

Source: Babacan, Errol and Çakır, Murat  “The False Friends of Kobane“, Jacobin, 6 January 2015

Monarch butterfly may be listed as endangered species after 90% population drop

Endangered Monarch butterfly in May resting on clover flowers (Wikimedia Commons)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US government may add the Monarch butterfly to the Endangered Species list following a catastrophic loss of its population over last decades due to habitat decrease from cultivation of genetically engineered crops and climate change.

US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Monday it would conduct a one-year status review of the Monarch butterfly to determine if they are warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency is requesting scientific and commercial data through a 60-day public information period and they’re looking for data on the insects’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy, distribution patterns, population levels, life history, thermos-tolerance, and conservation methods.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the population has declined from a recorded high of approximately one billion Monarch butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded.

The agency review comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus), who argue might be necessary.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the decline is driven in part to the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most Monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food.

In addition to herbicide use they say Monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the Monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to these threats.

Quite apart from their obvious beauty and appeal for Lepidopterists, the Monarch butterfly or the Danaus plexippus plexippus play an important role in ecology. They pollinate or specifically they carry pollen from plant to plant helping fruit, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. In the food chain in their caterpillar stage they are a food source for birds, mammals and other insects.

Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States and many fly between the US, Mexico and Canada – a journey of 3,000 miles. The journey, according to studies, has become more perilous for the butterflies because of threats along their migratory paths, their breeding grounds and wintering grounds.

“We are extremely pleased that the federal agency in charge of protecting our nation’s wildlife has recognized the dire situation of the Monarch,” said Sarina Jepsen, the Xerces Society’s endangered species director. “Protection as a threatened species will enable extensive monarch habitat recovery on both public and private lands.”

Source: “Monarch butterfly may be listed as endangered species after 90% population drop“, RT.com, 31 December 2014

Peter Gelderloos: Police and prisons as illegitimate institutions

“In the current crisis, the unquestionable dogma is that the police have a right to exist, that the police as an institution are an apt instrument to protect us and serve us, and therefore they are a legitimate presence on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

In this debate, the Right claim that the police are working just fine, while the Left claim that changes are needed to get them working better. Both of them are united in preserving the role of police and keeping real people—neighborhoods, communities, and all the individuals affected by police—from becoming the protagonists in the conflicts that affect us. Similarly, we frequently hear leftists claim that ‘the prisons aren’t working,’ exhibiting a willful ignorance as to the actual purpose of prisons. Sadly, for all their distortions and manipulations, the Right is being more honest. The police and the prisons both are working just fine. As per their design, they are working against us.”

–Peter Gelderloos, “The Nature of Police, The Role of the Left”

Charles E. Cobb, Jr: Guns kept people in the black freedom movement alive

“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”

–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”

On the killing of two NYPD police officers

“Blue Lives Matter” was the caption displayed in large letters on MSNBC, yesterday, when discussing the assassination of two NYPD cops by a Black man, the day before. CNN and all the rest of Empire’s networks have been holding a vigil ever since those killings. They have interviewed just about every member of those officers’ families, as well as their friends, colleagues, relatives and current and former police commanders, commanding officers and police “unions”. They have read letters written by their children, saying goodbye to the killed officers. They have shown their spouses crying. They have displayed the vigil by the police, standing in military formation, saluting their fallen comrades, as if an enemy combatant in Afghanistan has killed two of the occupying army, which we, as Americans, are obliged to mourn and feel angry at the enemy who dared to kill two of our own “brave men”. To humanize an otherwise inhuman police force whose main job is the repression of the occupied poor, who beat and kill unarmed and innocent members of the working class, every single day, with total impunity, which at times seems to even surpass the impunity of US occupying armies overseas, the media of the occupiers and corporate thieves have been showing, nonstop, the supporters of the police mourning and lighting candles and saying how good and brave those cops were. The commentaries and the message they convey are unmistakable: blame the protesters who are demanding change and justice for victims of the racist police.

The networks and the politicians they interview have been referring to the killed officers as “brave men who put their lives on the front lines everyday, to protect and serve their community”. This is what the media that’s owned, controlled and in the service of the 1%, want people to believe: that the police are there to “protect and serve the people”, not protect the class of the super wealthy from the wrath of the oppressed, beating and brutalizing and killing them, everyday, on the streets, to keep them in line and in leashes, out of fear that they may rise up and demand justice.

Compare the incredible display of sympathy by the corporate media for those two cops with their treatment of innocent young Black men who are regularly killed by the police. Not only do they not show any such sympathy for them, they actually try to dehumanize them, by digging up and mentioning past “troubles with the law”, putting THEM on trial, instead of the viscous and racist police who killed them. Where was their reading of letters of the children of Eric Garner? Where was their interviews of his widowed wife and his aunt and friends and relatives and neighbors and people who do similar work to his, etc, as they did with the children and relatives and friends and colleagues of the dead cops?

These shameless double standards and hypocrisy are not accidental. What the Empire’s media and politicians are trying to do is to use the killings as an opportunity to push back against the protests and their legitimate demands for change that are taking place nationally. The goal is to blame, discredit and put in the defensive the protests for heightening “tensions”. They view this incident as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in the minds of the people, to increase the support for the cops, which is understandably at record low, to justify their brutality and to end the anti-police protests.

–Sako Sefiani, “On the Killing of Two NYPD Police Officers

How Liberalism Infects Movement Building

It never fails. Every time there is critical resistance, an uprising and continued unrest people get dragged back to compliance (with permits) under the rhetoric of being peaceful or nonviolent. The movement gets dragged out of the street to sit attentively at the feet of the oppressors with speakers that tell us change will come if we are calm (and peaceful). […]

Rhetoric about resistance and direct action becomes meaningless, lost in the symbolism of marching for civic change. Movement managers try to make the movement mainstream-popular, inviting celebrities and business leaders to come forward, while at the same time pushing out radical elements that released pressure valves to begin with. If not directly, through terrible tactical choices that alienate people (like working with the police who are critically engaged in counter insurgency and developing profiles on agitators to undermine the movement).

Never mind, that working with the city and police legitimizes those avenues, while making it easier for the police to knowingly divide and attack groups that take nonpermitted action or respond to their conditions without the permission of the state. Is this what solidarity looks like?

Instead of hearing about what groups are doing to sustain themselves during these uprisings, we hear more and more about demands. Police reforms that usually come with dangerous baggage, more technology and funding for the police. But the movement is so pressured by popular media and civic leaders to clarify its goals, policy change becomes a priority before much needed discussions can happen. Before policy change can be challenged not as a goal, but maybe a tactic to gain concessions in a larger fight to abolish the infrastructure that makes racial oppression profitable.

But once the movement is focused on policy change, containment is practically complete. And the agitators who were able to explore what it means to act autonomously for liberation, who were harassed and attacked by the police, are cast aside as unreasonable. Ungovernable.

Unity becomes language to gather behind and solidarity is reserved for those who will declare their nonviolence or tolerance for police collaboration. Never mind that nonviolence never actually was not violent- it just tolerates violence in the hopes of receiving change. It accepts violence as a means of determining justice- because if someone is constantly violated don’t they deserve to be saved?

The cops are killing people, but pacifism will kill the movement every time. We say “first do no harm” but liberalism does harm to the movement every time. People pull permits in the name of pacifism, but invite the police. How does this make sense?

What is liberalism? There are many ways people might define or apply it. But for now i’ll start with, peace for the sake of appearing peaceful regardless of whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Appealing to and supporting state violence (the government) to restore “peace” whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Working with the enemy to minimize the affects of oppression, while never supporting those looking to prevent or abolish it.

Redirecting the outrage and energy of people away from their own communities and into organizations that work with and support the state (and it’s violence). Taking real anger and pain, and neutralizing it so that it does not actually threaten the economic and social conditions that produced it. Believing that the state is the only way we will be free. Controlling how other actors behave so that the state will make you free. And finally, using peace as a reason to dismiss and silence people seeking critical movement building dialogue to prevent the co-optation of the movement. Demanding peace without first acknowledging the conflict is dismissive and heartbreaking. Same with ‪#‎notallcops‬ rhetoric.

The popular media finds it much easier to latch onto movement building for reform because the hierarchical political structure wants people to resign power over to representatives and allow those representatives to determine clear goals. And just like that the movement becomes less about supporting black solidarity and more about appealing to the dominant white (and liberal) gaze for approval.

But what if the goals aren’t clear? What if supporting black rage and insurrection means that all of it will have to fall? Especially the privileges and comforts gained by whites and non-black POC under the capitalist system built on genocide and slavery. The economy of wagery and servitude that makes (black) people poor and deprives them of resources. The system of governance and gender violence that pits (black) community against each other based on sexuality, gender and patriarchy power. The lack of empowerment and shared decision making. The lack of access to resources for those who are disabled by society. The political system itself, who carries on war after war here and abroad without the consent of the governed. The way problems are handled, policed and result in mass imprisonment and violence for poor, brown and black communities of color.

It’s not simple. But to build this movement we cannot oversimplify it. We cannot ignore that non-black and white people benefit from seeing this movement silenced or neutralized. And we can’t pretend that it doesn’t make whites uncomfortable to think about a black revolution. This might be a large reason why people in the movement fall back on learned liberalism. Because people, particularly people of color, have been taught that to assimilate in Amerikan culture means to behave, which has become synonymous with being “reasonable” or deferring to white models of power. But this is not reasonable, co-optation will fail and the conditions will fall.

how many have to be killed - protest sign

Source: nowaronthepoor (Tumblr)