Iraq and the Islamic State: The Cause and the Conundrum

By Haniya Khalid

First published on 1 August 2014

 “We are often apt to read history backwards, which, I submit, is a very wrong method of reading history. History, in order to be properly appreciated, has to be read forwards. One must put oneself behind the events which one desires to evaluate, and then judge and appraise them.”

-Sir Zafrulla Khan’s address to the UN General Assembly on the Question of Palestine 28th November, 1947.

While the world watches Israel and Gaza thrash each other to death, the former providing the beating and the latter complying with a rising death toll, the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) continues its havoc wreaking campaign through Iraq. From its capture of Fallujah in early January 2014, and then its panic-inducing milestone takeover of the second city of Mosul to the Kurdish capital of Arbil, up to the North of Baghdad, with cities like Tikrit and Samarra under full IS control, to its West with Ramadi, IS continues its descent, moving ever closer towards the capital.

IS in Iraq

IS in Iraq, Source: bbc.co.uk

The extreme Sunni based militant Islamist group, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) before its self-declared caliphate installed its elusive leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as the Caliph of the seized territories in the Levant in the beginning of June, has been locked in a deadly battle in Syria with Hezbollah, allied with the Syrian army, in both Syria and the spillover of in-fighting on Lebanon’s eastern frontier, as well as continuing its bloody expansion through Iraq. Two weeks ago, it overran hundreds of Iraqi government forces including Shiite militia in Tikrit who had been trying to retake the city. Government forces and Shiite militia volunteers were pushed back 10 miles south of Tikrit to the town of Ajwa. In Syria it has hefty control in areas like Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo.

A journalist for Issuehawk.com wrote on Wednesday, “Determining the “beginning” of the turmoil in Iraq is a complex task, so the best way to begin is to work backwards.”

And while the ensuing article briefs over key points in the Islamic State’s movement across Iraq, from its annexation of Fallujah to Mosul and the cities and provinces between as well as locations near the Syrian and Turkish borders, it leaves out the originating factor, the raison d’etre of the strong presence of IS in Iraq specifically, perhaps thus vindicating the words spoken sixty years ago, that to go backwards is to stunt a progressive view of history.

Likewise, the mainstream press duly informs us that IS’s success in Iraq is, first and foremost, a result of the fallout from the Syrian civil war that has been raging on in the last four years and which contributed extensively to IS’s growth. The Syrian civil war itself stemmed from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in the country against the over-zealous President Basher-al-Assad, from among which emerged strong Al-Qaeda affiliates, such as the leading Jabhat-al-Nusra and the Islamic Front, both of whom IS engaged in fierce combat last year during the internecine conflict between rebel groups. It also tells us that IS was once a faction of Al-Qaeda that defected, or rather was disowned (not long after it claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in rebel headquarters in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which a senior Al-Qaeda affiliated rebel commander died), from the infamous terror network in early March 2014 to pursue its intended, caliphate conquest across the better part of the Levant.

Al-Qaeda cut ties with IS, known then as ISIL, purportedly after the latter defied the former’s commands to leave Syria to Jabhat-Al-Nusra, and months of clashes with other Al-Qaeda affiliates and western backed rebels fighting in Syria.

And finally, the concoction of IS itself as a jihadist movement, one that abides by a particularly extreme interpretation of Wahabbism, arising from its predecessors amid the Sunni resistance as part of the Iraqi insurgency against the 2003 US invasion in its early years, is common knowledge.

But the position that the speedy establishment and lightning expansion of the current Islamic State in Iraq is due to the Syrian civil war, under whose bloody shadow the dregs of a radical ideological movement like IS came into full fruition, while correct by the current facts to an extent, falls short of the bigger picture.

Passing The Buck

There are several things that render this view erroneous. For one thing, it leaves a vacuum of bipartisan blame that audacious news anchors and self righteous hacks proceed to fill with lamentations of the ungrateful nature of these crazy sand dwellers Iraqis, as Martha Raddatz of ABC News did after the IS victory over Fallujah, “So 11 years after the US invaded Iraq–lost nearly 4,500 American lives and spent over $730 billion–Iraq is in crisis” or CNN’s Wolf Blitzer expressed in no uncertain words on his show The Situation Room how “the United States spent 10 years there. We assumed that Iraq would emerge a peaceful, stable democracy.”

What were you drinking when you developed these assumptions, Wolfy? Oil?

This of course ignores not only the thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilian lives lost under the violence of the US invasion, the hundreds of Iraqis displaced, not to mention the destruction of a sovereigns state’s whole infrastructure, but also the natural consequences of military invasion by an unwanted, foreign power, which includes the brewing of sectarian tensions as a people already crippled by thirteen years of sanctions were further divided by the friendless, anarchic landscape of war.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer

CNN host Wolf Blitzer

And for another, it leaves out the US government’s complicity in what is touted solely as prime minster Nuri-al-Maliki’s incompetence, which hints at the overall Middle Eastern ineptitude at sustaining a ‘successful’ western friendly democracy by both the right and the left. And achieves the overall aim of shifting the blame firmly onto what pundits call the millennium old sectarian religious war that has rocked the region. If we disregard for a minute the fact that sectarianism or groups like IS in Iraq did not exist in its current form of violence and persecution among the civilian population until after the 2003 invasion, this still fails to explain the root cause of the turmoil enveloping the country.

It’s funny how the practice of passing the buck has become the common subtext of Western political discourse in relation to Middle Eastern affairs. It could be even more ironic if it wasn’t so predictable that such a practice takes place in the newsrooms and pundit panels of the liberal press, the fourth estate of the world’s developed nations.

As a great demonstration of this very practice, Wolf Blitzer says later on during the June 10th airing of the Situation Room: “Once the U.S. leaves Iraq, just as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, they’re going to go back to the Shiites, the Sunnis, the Kurds. In Syria, you see the civil war going on there. Don’t you think what’s going on in the region, irrespective of U.S. involvement, would have happened under any circumstances, given the centuries of the tradition of what’s gone on in that part of the world?”

In other words, are we talking about the installation of democracy, or merely a shell of this ideal filled with an oozing centre of glib hypocrisy?

Lakhdar Brahimi, United Nations diplomat and former United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria talks about why repeating history, in other words listening to Tony Blair on Iraq, is a mistake.

 

A Soldier Speaks

As the crisis in Iraq began to heat up in mid June, Former United States soldier Chelsea Manning described the situation as presented to him in 2010 during his work as a US Intelligence analyst in Iraq, around the time of al-Maliki’s reelection, in an Op Ed piece for the New York Times.

“If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.”

“Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.”

Ex US soldier Chelsea Manning

Ex US soldier Chelsea Manning, Source: thguardian.com

He goes on further, describing the process by which dissidence under al-Maliki was crushed through the work of intelligence analysts like himself.

“Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed…I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties to terrorism; they were publishing a scholarly critique of Mr. Maliki’s administration. I forwarded this finding to the officer in command in eastern Baghdad. He responded that he didn’t need this information; instead, I should assist the federal police in locating more “anti-Iraqi” print shops.”

It won’t come as a surprise that the former US soldier’s Op-Ed was largely ignored by mainstream commentators. But Manning, who not only experienced US involvement in al-Maliki’s Iraq firsthand through his time in the army, but has also been sentenced to thirty five years solitary confinement after leaking 250,000 U.S state diplomatic cables and 500,000 Army reports to the whistle-blowing platform WikiLeaks, all which detail, among other information, the excesses, war crimes and breaches of International Law by US and coalition forces operating in foreign lands, is surely worth listening to.

‘I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election,” writes Manning, “Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.’

So…now it’s all America’s fault?

Not entirely, but as the world’s superpower, and self-professed policeman, perhaps it should have been more cautious in its preference of al-Maliki over the prior candidate.

So it can’t afford slip-ups?

Not at all, except name more than one country in the Middle East and besides, in whose affairs the US has played part in the last twenty years, the result of which has not been more death, destruction and infighting.

The problem is, one could say, is that it has had far too many for a superpower that is hailed, often by itself, as the stalwart of Democracy and the pinnacle of civilization in the developed world.

Yet this isn’t the time for US bashing or Middle East bashing or even hegemony bashing. History may choose take care of all of that.

A Lethal Alliance?

The dangerous reality of IS’s triumph in today’s Iraq is that even members of the late Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist party, now banned, and other secular and moderate Sunnis have formed a sort of mutual alliance under this new extremist faction against who they consider in the last eight years to be their oppressor due to ethnic and sectarian divides. And more lethal is the fact that unlike al-Maliki’s government IS, is not concerned with its reputation as it slaughters any civilians who do not identify with their ideology at will. As Patrick Cockburn wrote in piece on 15th June, for the Independent, detailing the corruption incompetence and occupational nature of the Iraqi army under al-Maliki:

“Sectarian discrimination and persecution became the common lot of Iraq’s five or six million Sunni who had been the dominant community for centuries. A Sunni might be picked up by the police, tortured into a confession, sentenced to a long term in prison or even executed. Even if he was found innocent by a court, his family might have to pay $50,000 to $100,000 to get an officer in the prison to sign his release papers. An Isis fighter was recently reported as joking: “When we capture our enemies we kill them; when you capture one of us we pay money and he is released.”

Corruption in the army took place at every level. A general could become a divisional commander at a cost of $2m (£1.18m)…in Sunni areas the army and security forces behaved as an occupation force and were consequently much feared and hated. Frightening and bloodthirsty Isis fighters may be, but for many in Mosul they are preferable to government forces…Anger at these abuses is relevant to what is now happening. The majority of Sunni Arabs in Mosul ….are wary of Isis but terrified of what a vengeful Iraqi army will do if it retakes the city. The same is true in the rest of Sunni Iraq. Isis may have begun the assault, but many other groups have joined in. We are now looking at a general uprising of the Iraqi Sunni. Those taking over Saddam Hussain’s hometown of Tikrit are not Isis, but his old adherents who are putting up posters of the late dictator.”

We might as give up the ghost right now, and admit that the US, through its involvement in Iraq, is undeniably one of the players in this recent escalation (another being Nuri-al-Maliki), not only because Maliki was the US preferred and consequently chosen alternative to Ibrahim-al-Jafaari in 2006, but because it was US and coalition troops that went into Iraq in 2003, waking the hideous monster that is systematically winding up the Levant in its serpentine embrace.

And it could also be said that this is what makes the clearly corrupt Nuri al-Maliki the ultimate scapegoat as US calls for his resignation and the formation of a new government are echoed by both the International community and, much understandably, the Iraqi electorate. Yesterday’s election of Kurdish politician Fuad Masum as President Jalal Talibani’s successor looks like a potent prescient to al-Maliki’s imminent disposal.

Fuad Masum, new Iraqi PM

Fuad Masum, new Iraqi PM

The Choice

It’s easy to see the sticky conundrum in which the US finds itself stuck and which leads to such back peddling. If one begins to think of viable solutions to the IS trail of death and destruction that is slowly scything its way towards the seat of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, and which would pose a very real threat of exported-terrorism to the US if it achieved its aims, this brings us to The Choice that the US faces. Either it allies with Iran, “the axis of evil” to help Al-Maliki, or a new government, defeat IS and restore the US definition of order in Iraq, or it continues vocally backing some Syrian rebel factions and consequently allies with Al-Qaeda in Syria. This at a time when has been revealed that Shia Iran, firm ally of Maliki and his Shiite majority government, has sent a Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ghassem Soleimani, along with 120 advisors from the Guard to help train Iraqi Shiite volunteers.

Ghassem Soloeimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Ghassem Soloeimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The Lebanese-Shiite political and military organization Hezbollah has already sent 250 military advisors to help Iraqi Shiite militia in their struggle against IS as well as upping its support of the Syrian army in Syria. Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria began as early as 2013 in the battle of Qalamoun as it launched a counter offensive against rebels attempting to use the mountainous area as a strategic base.

The Battle of Qalamoun

The Battle of Qalamoun

Which brings us to another gaping detail neglected in the face of popular analysis, and which, if implemented, further renders previous US allegations and rhetoric centered on the Middle East as invalid. The current Syrian regime, which has been vehemently condemned as a bloodthirsty child killing machine for almost four years, and upon which the EU has imposed sanctions, is now a glaring contradiction to the reality that Syrian army, along with Hezbollah, another organisation proclaimed as a terrorist organization by much of the West are fighting IS to the death in Syria and Lebanon.

In other words, if the US did indeed choose to ally, in some official form or other, with Iran to defeat IS, it would be aligned with not only its Nuclear Nemesis, but also indirectly yet distinctly with Hezbollah and Assad The Butcher (as he has been dubbed by press and politicians alike). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a conundrum personified. It’s all rather funny when one thinks about it, and phrases like full circle and what goes up must come down, come to mind.

In times like these, one needs to look at non-official points of view-and even alternate media isn’t exactly the untarnished prism that one would expect. As an aside, in this spirit, an exchange that sums up the current situation went on in the comment section of the Guardian under an piece relaying the news that IS had offered an ultimatum to Iraqi Christians, Convert, pay tax or die:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 00.59.11

The article in question states a little tidbit of information that reiterates a former point, is easily verified by state documents pre-invasion and fundamentally important in our understanding of Iraq itself as a civilisation before it had retracted head first into the mayhem we see today.

“The Mosul residents who saw the Islamic State announcement estimated the city’s Christian population before last month’s militant takeover at around 5,000. The vast bulk of those have since fled, leaving perhaps only 200 in the city. Mosul, once home to diverse faiths, had a Christian population of around 100,000 a decade ago, but waves of attacks on Christians since the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein have seen those numbers collapse.”

 

The Lean-Mean-Fact-Reducing-Killing-Machine

All this would be a huge problem for our politicians involved. IF, among other things, we weren’t the proud recipients of the finest, most informative, hard hitting infotainment media organisations in the world.

Whether it’s the Iraqi ingrates and their thanklessness at the huge US sacrifice for democracy, or the recycled, 60 year old, two headed polemic once again coming to the fore amid the newest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, blame shifting is the core principle of contemporary political analysis, the basic tenet of every mainstream pundit’s ideology, because the lean-mean-fact-reducing-killing-machine that is the press could make a Disney villain look like a princess

Churnalism not Journalism

Churnalism not Journalism

It’s true that the solutions for IS expansion, while fairly simple in theory, pose problems for the interests, and reputation of the US and its most vocal allies in the long run. Those could easily be resolved by the fact that it is unlikely that the US would ally with Iran, publicly at least, considering its systematic vitriol against the Iranian regime in the past few years, something shared with its strongest Middle Eastern ally, namely the state of Israel. And the Obama Administration has already promised against US troops returning to fight in Iraq, something that would further help curdle the mess his predecessor ultimately created and he himself welcomed and exacerbated with open arms. But when you start something, you finish it, and if most of your previous rhetoric is centered on how what you started was done for the benefit of the people it affected the most and conducive to a cohesive and civilised society, and the end result is the antithesis, then there is some serious self-evaluation to be done before one thinks of a just solution. That is a principle that should be of paramount importance for all parties involved.

What did Albert Einstein say about insanity again?

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

 

Now if that isn’t the mutual, masochistic love affair between the Middle East and the US in a nutshell, pigs do indeed fly…

belltoon512

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I Am A Traitor. I Am A RAW Agent. I am A Kafir. I Am A Pakistani With An Awakened Conscience.

A thought provoking and compelling piece that forces brutal reflection…

Hafsa Khawaja's Blog

Winston Churchill once said,

‘’You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’’

A slightly simplified or altered version of this quote goes as ‘A person who has no enemies never stood up for anything or anyone.’

It may be universally true but for Pakistan, I ‘reshape’ the quote to; If you’ve never been called a Kafir, traitor, RAW or MOSSAD Agent, it means you’ve never stood up for anything.

And today I’ll confess what makes me liable to be labelled any of the aforementioned terms on the virtual world.

I am a traitor for I chose to speak.

I am part of the ‘Fifth column of the enemy’ for I ask of the Army’s budget to be accounted for and known to the nation. I am a RAW Agent for it agonizes me to see the oppression being carried out in Balochistan by no…

View original post 421 more words

On Being Human

PANDORA_2732043b

Pandora’s Box

When half of your day was worse than your personal depiction of hell, and the other half was soaring into the fiery zenith,  head focused on an optimistic future.

When you can’t breathe because the accumulation of the emotional debris is too nuanced to reflect upon in the manner of the sane.

At this point in time I am beginning to think I will never understand what it is to be human, for we are such a selfish, flawed, cruel, beautiful, gentle, ugly,  race.

And then I understand that I know what it is to be human. We are sickeningly breathtaking.

On Media Mischaracterisation

                                                    Abby-Martin-Screenshot

‘At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over the news.’ George Orwell, England, your England.

Once again I am struck by the hypocrisy of the mainstream press, and it seems Orwell’s words constantly manifest themselves in the media’s day-to-day coverage of world affairs.

Since Russia Today’s employee Abbey Martin’s announcement against Russian military intervention on her show Breaking the Set a this week, it seems her words were seized  by various anti-Russian, pro-Western media outlets and then purposely mischaracterised as the speaking out of a brave RT employee against big bad Russia and in doing so, using it to cast a halo of heavenly light on the White House.

However, mischaracterisation is the corporate media’s middle name (if not only name) and some light needs to be shed on the full context of her rather brave remarks.

Contrary to the way it has been displayed in the mainstream, Abbey Martin criticised Russia’s recent military activities in the Crimea because, in her words on the following episode of Breaking the Set yesterday:

‘After witnessing the military build up by Russian forces in Crimea, I decided to give a heartfelt statement on Monday about how strongly I oppose military aggression in another sovereign nation.’

In the original hyped about broadcast last Monday, she said;

‘Just because I work here for RT doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong. I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologise and defend military aggression.’

Note, she says “any state-intervention”- those under any delusions-and most of these people are those who are not familiar with Martin’s work or views-that she will be supportive of so-called world policeman USA’s future military or political intervention are quite off the mark. She is what some may sneeringly call a ‘9/11 truther’ (those who believe that the American state was complicit in the 2001 attacks), a strong opponent of the Iraq war and the disinformation spouted to the public by the mainstream press in its lead up, and a critic of Western foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as of the corporate media.

Martin herself reiterates this on the latest episode of BTS:

“This stance is completely in line with everything I’ve said on this show about US military build up around the world. The second I saw it happening in Ukraine, I felt morally obligated to speak out, even if it goes against the editorial line of my employer.”

Anyone who knows Abbey Martin’s work knows she is one of those rare journalists who won’t compromise her principles to sell a story or, as demonstrated rather well in this particular incident, keep her job. All journalists, especially those riding on the mainstream, should be striving to do as Martin did.

According to Glenn Greenwald for his piece on the story for The Intercept, “American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true. But one of its leading hosts, Abby Martin, remarkably demonstrated last night what “journalistic independence” means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine.”

He goes on to ask, “For all the self-celebrating American journalists and political commentators: was there even a single U.S. television host who said anything comparable to this in the lead-up to, or the early stages of, the U.S. invasion of Iraq?”

Indeed, was there?

Abbey Martin said on the Monday broadcast: ‘Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing, from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation.’

Yes, she was talking to you too, Fox News, CNN, BBC, Sky News, France24, and all your less flashy counterparts. And I’m sure she is voicing what many of us have been feeling for the past few weeks over the media coverage of the region. If you want to know what I mean, the introduction to this very story by a CNN host read like this, “An interesting Media story in all this. One anchor on state-sponsored Russian TV appears to be mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. Abbey Martin had a Howard Beale moment on her show Breaking the Set on RT Russia Today, slamming Russia’s actions in Crimea.”

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I rest my case. It’s as yellow as you can get. All I can say is that at least CNN included the whole clip of her monologue.

Abbey Martin is all that embodies a journalist-one who stands for the masses against the abuses of the powers-that-be:

“Above all my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are now wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They’re the real losers here. All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full-blown cold war between multiple superpowers. Until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it. Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you back on Breaking the Set tomorrow.”

Despite her remarks, Abbey Martin has been able to keep her job and has refused the offer of an assignment in the Crimea extended to her by RT.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a Fox (or other corporate media host) criticise the US government’s various military ‘interventions’ in other nations and accuse it of war crimes, live on air, and then walk away with their job intact.

Of course, now it may sound as if I’m pro-Russian and trying to big up its media by pointing out RT’s ostensible benevolence, (I’m not) I’m merely pointing out a curious comparison in the way Russia is characterized as a very authoritarian state and society by our media (note especially the cynical coverage during the Winter Olympics) but then has hosts that the mainstream western media considers as ‘dissidents’ in the world of journalism-people like Ry Dawson and Abbey Martin. I think that is something to think about, you know, objectively, while disregarding our political inclinations for a moment.

Interestingly, according to an update by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept, “In response to my question about whether any U.S. television hosts issued denunciations of the attack on Iraq similar to what Martin just did on RT, Washington lawyer Bradley Moss replied: “Phil Donahue (MSNBC) and Peter Arnett (NBC).” Leaving aside that Arnett wasn’t a host, this perfectly proves the point I made, since both Donahue and Arnett were fired because of their opposition to the U.S. war.”

Another update by Greenwald on the same article states:

“The official RT account on Twitter seems perfectly proud of Martin’s statements, as they re-tweeted my commentary about her monologue condemning Russia’s actions:”

rt

Now all this sounds great, liberating, we may think we have finally found veracity in the work of non-mainstream journalists.

While this is true, it is to an extent.  According to an article by Paul Craig Roberts for CounterPunch, even Greenwald and Martin, who are firm and vociferous critics of the mainstream’s propaganda are unable to escape its clutches, so pervasive and diverse is its hold on us:

“My criticism of Greenwald and Martin has nothing to do with their integrity or their character.  I doubt the claims that Abby Martin grandstanded on “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” in order to boost her chances of moving into the more lucrative “mainstream media.”  My point is quite different.  Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.

For example, Martin’s denunciation of Russia for “invading” Ukraine is based on Western propaganda that Russia sent 16,000 troops to occupy Crimea.  The fact of the matter is that those 16,000 Russian troops have been in Crimea since the 1990s. Under the Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia has the right to base 25,000 troops in Crimea.

Apparently, neither Abby Martin nor Glenn Greenwald, two intelligent and aware people, knew this fact.  Washington’s propaganda is so pervasive that two of our best reporters were victimized by it.”

Interesting, eh? Just when you think you’ve found the closest thing you can get to the truth, and bam, it’s counter punched. Orwell’s words echo throughout the halls of even the dissenters and non-conformists.

Meanwhile, to reiterate what Martin said, as for the Ukrainian people, whether they are Pro-Russian or EU inclined, we can’t really do anything due to the half-truths and party lines being shoved down our throats from all mainstream outlets, except become aware of this misinformation and aware of the superpower’s dirty politics, while praying for a peaceful outcome for the masses.

You can find the latest episode of breaking the set where Martin examines the media attention around her remarks and the ensuing actions and manoeuvres of mainstream media outlets here.

Abbey Martin is also the founder of Media Roots, an online citizen journalism project which “reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and activists to unite” which you can find here.

Glenn Greenwald’s article on Russia, Ukraine, and Abbey Martin’s remarks here.

Piers Morgan’s interview with Abbey Martin on CNN here.

The full transcript of the original clip featuring Abbey Martin at the end of Breaking the Set on Monday March 3rd 2014:

Abbey Martin: Before I wrap up the show, I want to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military occupation of Crimea. Just because I work here for RT doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong. I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologise and defend military aggression. Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing, from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation. Above all my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are now wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They’re the real losers here. All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full-blown cold war between multiple superpowers. Until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it. Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you back on Breaking the Set tomorrow.

 

On Invisible Ceilings

I have a strange theory, a kind of childish fancy. In the insignificant, unrecorded moments of our lives, when we chance to crane our necks and gaze up at the ceiling under which reside, we can estimate, by its mere appearance and size, the degree of luxury in which we, or the owner  of its corresponding walls, live.

You know, perhaps.

The rich and prosperous reside under vast, vaulted ceilings, or modern, spacious expanses whose unadulterated whiteness is a match for even nature’s snow. Kings and Queens lived in long hallowed halls, their stone walls adorned by tapestries, their arched ceilings ornamented with sparkling chandeliers with one hundred glowing flames. Priests and imams and rabbis walk under domed masses full of calligraphy and jewel encrusted geometry or alternative earthly heavens, with paintings and carvings of gold depicting martyrs and cherubs and haloed angels.

It seems today, quality of life is measured by financial prosperity. That, I believe, is in itself a ceiling, a lid that claps down upon us and traps our full potential inside of ourselves, in the deepest of our unconsciousness, in our vaguest dreams-that untapped, ignored ability is a tiny pulse, a nagging, unknown memory; fading but not forgotten. That it hasn’t faded out entirely, that many of us still have time is the kind of thing that the poets call hope. We just need a magic pill for the effort and the sweat, blood and tears that can pull it up and out, pierce through the very core of the invisible dome while gravity sucks back the debris  down into the earth’s greying waters.

Sometimes, I get abstract thoughts; it happens to most of us. They don’t interconnect until I look back and then unconsciously I submerge my vague memory with my scintillating, almost tangible present thoughts. Because to present them to society in their rawest form would become a frowning social perversity, because what sense is there in disorder and vagueness unless it provides aesthetic balance to the refined observer?

There is an invisible ceiling on society that erases our individuality and it exists among the very same rhetoric about being ‘individual’ and ‘unique’- unique by being like everyone else-but in a ‘unique’ way.

Some may call this ceiling order, the epitome of everything Apollonian in our daily lives, the way we make sense of the unprecedented circumstance of our existence, but I say that these are separate things, and not limited to residing firmly within the status quo.

One of the synonyms for the word ceiling is limit. Many of us limit ourselves to live to work, whether for mere financial gain or to feed ourselves and those who depend on us. We pass the spare time allocated in mainly idolatrous fashion, we are too  fatigued and held captive in our Occupations, to occupy anything much worthwhile ourselves. And then there are others among us who acquire only hedonistic lifestyles, and those in themselves are as meaningless as being forever occupied by teeth grinding Occupations.

We are all guilty of these things at some point in our transient existence, because we are human and it is in our nature, and sometimes it’s too much effort and causes too much pain to turn that around.

Perhaps we shouldn’t work to live or vice versa-we should live and work, and let these two seemingly irreconcilable opposites co-exist in relative harmony. Then our jobs are no longer occupations, but jobs that we can go to and come back-and think of fondly. Money is only a necessity for our bodily and material needs and no longer a source of happiness, fulfillment, or measure of success-and no longer the end objective of our careers.

But that’s a mere fragment of the universal dream of a perfect, altruistic world, devoid of good and evil, right and wrong, left and right, no centers, no wholes, no halves-and so it follows it would be devoid of freewill. But perfection is boring and stunts human growth, because what is there to perfect if it already bears all the elements of supreme excellence? It is the striving for perfection that means anything, because we are doing, and when we are doing, the world is spinning and the seconds are ticking and the only difference between tomorrow and yesterday is today, the day that our minds are screeching hellfire through the suffocating ceiling at one thousand miles per second.

We cannot grant freedom to each other. We already possess it, in the form of freewill, and so we have to make good use of it. Freedom is not anarchy, nor is it democracy. Freedom is choosing what we do with our freewill.  There may be consequences, ramifications, rewards, to our ensuing actions, but it is us who are the vanguard in accumulating these experiences. Freewill is more potent than democracy, because no human can take it, and no one human can grant it. Things like democracy and anarchy and dictatorship are merely the means to make temporary sense of the chaos of existence, subjective concoctions of over-zealous humans so they can understand the universal mind in all its ancientness.

Listen, we are great orators, great writers, great artists, great fighters, great warriors, great leaders, great mathematicians, great scientists, great philosophers; but there’s something more, both within and without. It’s a great deal, a potent force, and it’s hard to place or name. It is the antithesis of the absolute. Some call it the Soul; others rationalise it through scientific theory. Both explanations are erroneous in the assumption of being singular theories in of themselves, as if each are unrelated or bear no connection to the other.

In this world, in this point in time, that is all I know, and I know nothing – and I’ll leave the skewering to experts of the absolute.

Yanis Varoufakis

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