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Legalise and Destigmatise

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Ireland goes to the polls this week to vote on whether to repeal the 8th amendment, one of the most controversial pieces of the Irish constitution. Just three years after voting to legalise gay marriage, Ireland has another opportunity to strike a crushing blow against the regressive forces that want to keep the country in the dark ages.

The vote comes mere months before a visit from the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. The church’s influence on the island of Ireland has been deeply pernicious causing extreme amounts of oppression, no more so than its teachings on abortion which has caused an immeasurable amount of stress and misery to many pregnant people throughout the years. The church’s position that life begins at conception and that all forms of abortion are to be prohibited is viewed as extreme across most of the secular world but in Ireland the rights of pregnant people are restricted by the constitution and our media and politics has pandered to anti-choice ideologues for too long. This is the most consequential referendum on abortion since 1983 when the anti-choice extremists managed to dupe the country into voting for the introduction of the 8th amendment based on lies and divisive manoeuvres. But the landscape is dramatically different now with a well organised pro-choice campaign and a Catholic Church which has seen its influence wane due to abuse scandals and its rigid teachings on several social issues.

Ireland has a sordid and troubling history when it comes to its treatment of pregnant people. We of course all heard of the harrowing case involving Savita Halappanavar which made international headlines but there have been cases preceding and following her case which have been deeply shameful too.

Just years after the 1983 referendum the scenario which pro-choice advocates greatly feared came to pass. It became known as the X case and involved a 14 year old girl who had been raped and required an abortion. The state intervened and granted an injunction which forced the girl and her family to travel back from Britain where they had been staying to receive the care she so desperately needed. In the month that followed, her case became the subject of a bitter legal dispute which was eventually settled when the supreme court overturned the high court’s decision and declared she could leave the county to have an abortion. To the shame of the Irish government legislation was never brought forward to protect the mother’s life when her health was at risk.

Savita’s death in 2012 left an indelible mark on the country. Her case was a seminal moment in the country’s attitudes to abortion. While the cause of her death was due to sepsis, the legal inability of doctors to perform an abortion at her request allowed the sepsis to develop. Savita knew there was little chance of her child surviving but was denied an abortion on the grounds that the foetus still had a heartbeat. The author of the report into Savita’s death, Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran has stated that Ireland’s illiberal abortion laws directly led to her death. Her death led to international condemnation and scrutiny of Ireland’s abortion laws and showed the human cost of anti-choice zealotry. If she lived in a country which wasn’t ridden with anti-choice extremism she’d still be alive today. Since her death, pro-choice people have dedicated themselves to make sure her death wasn’t in vain. Her father has also made an emotional plea to the country stating that he will be watching the vote and hopes the country votes for access to abortion.

In response to Savita’s death the protection of life act was brought in and yet it was a very flawed and wholly inadequate piece of legalisation. The flaws were starkly underlined by another horrific case which occurred in 2014. The Y case involved a woman who was brutally raped abroad and who was provided asylum in Ireland, her case was made more difficult by the fact it would have been unlikely for her to have been able to travel to England to have an abortion because of her status. Despite her poor mental state and strong desire to have an abortion she was forced to continue with the pregnancy. Amnesty gave a detailed account of the horrendous treatment Ms Y was subjected to and it’s gruelling to read about. These are the kind of scenarios that will continue to arise if this amendment isn’t repealed.

Only a few months following the Y case we had the deplorable case involving MS P, who despite being clinically brain-dead was kept on life support in the slim chance that her foetus may survive. It caused considerable anguish to her grieving family. All of these cases are a great source of shame for the country. We can not pretend to be a forward-thinking country while we subject people to this kind of treatment.

The inescapable fact is that abortion is already a reality in this country but it’s unsafe, unregulated and puts women under great mental and financial strain. In addition to the use of imported abortion pills which has caused great concern among doctors, thousands of Irish women travel abroad each year to England to have the procedure they so desperately need. At least 170,000 women have made the journey to England since 1980 and on average 12 women a day make the journey. Many of these women have recounted their poignant stories In Her Shoes and it underscores the courage so many Irish women have. Their bravery in sharing their experiences has gone a long way in reducing support for the noxious amendment. If the 8th is retained the country will have chosen to betray these women and continue to subject pregnant people to this unnecessary and emotionally testing journey.

In the video below, a beautiful mosaic of notes sharing the personal stories of many women who have travelled abroad to access abortion services.

Our Right To Choose from Uilu Stories on Vimeo.

The objective of any pro-choice person should not merely be to campaign to legalise abortion but to also remove the stigma from the act of abortion itself since this stigma is so detrimental to people who have had abortions. It’s also what has allowed the anti-choice side to have moralised quite effectively on the issue for so long. Far from being undesirable, abortions are a vital and normal service for those who may need it. In most democracies which have introduced pro-choice legislation the results have been clear: Abortions alleviate suffering not increase it. There will always be isolated cases of people who have bad experiences with abortions, like any medical procedure which contains minor risks but for the bulk of people who require the procedure they go as expected and allow them to go back to living their life without the imposition of an unwanted pregnancy. The No side are correct to state this referendum is about far more than abortion in cases when the mother’s life is in danger or when a victim of rape needs one. We shouldn’t have to distance ourselves from what should be a morally uncontroversial fact. The bulk of abortions will not happen under these circumstances and that’s perfectly okay. Pregnant people who have abortions shouldn’t feel under pressure to rationalise their decision, it’s between them and their family and should not be something for society to pass judgement and sanctimony on. Abortion is not invariably a difficult decision for pregnant people, for some it’s simple and takes away the unnecessary stress a pregnancy would bring. Bringing a baby into the world is a beautiful thing when there’s a genuine desire to care and love for it, but when a pregnancy is imposed on people by force it can become ugly and lead to quite a degree of suffering for the person involved. Legalising abortion is simply about providing more autonomy to pregnant people and this can only be of benefit to wider society.

The desperation of the No Side is laid bare by their provocative tactics throughout the referendum. A side confident of victory wouldn’t resort to such desperate tactics, and this is an expression of intense rage at the realisation they’re losing the battle on this critical social issue. They’ve also tried to imitate the styles of Trump and Brexiters by depicting themselves as fighting against the establishment and being tyrannised by a biased media, being the underdog essentially. This is a standard mindset from people who have had unearned privilege and an unchallenged platform for much too long. Once they’re challenged and their claims no longer treated with the undeserved reverence they once had, they feel oppressed and under attack. The pro-choice side have done well to keep things as civil as possible, and avoid getting personal with the No side, but make no mistake about it: They feel deep feelings of revulsion at the tactless antics of the No Side

The anti-choice side are on such perilous ground when it comes to the morality of abortion they resort to propagating anti-scientific falsehoods. A side sure of their convictions on the morality of an ethical issue would require no need to promote lies because the truth would be more than enough to convince the average person of the virtues of their stance. Some of the untruths they perpetuate include the ideas that abortions cause depression, suicide, cancer and reduce fertility. All of these claims have been repeatedly debunked but it doesn’t stop them advancing these insidious lies because they sow doubts in the public’s mind about abortion. But expert medical opinion matters and it is overwhelmingly in favour of a repeal of the 8th amendment. More than 1000 doctors and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have expressed support for Yes.

The No Side have claimed that in the event the referendum passes the proposed legislation is extremely radical but in actual fact we’d still be on the conservative end of the European spectrum when it comes to reproductive rights. The mandatory waiting period of three days before the procedure can be done also sets us apart from many European countries and has been criticised for being patronising and infantilising to pregnant people implying that they haven’t seriously considered the decision before arranging for the procedure to be done. What is being proposed is a big step in the right direction but it’s by no means everything pro-choice campaigners wanted. What’s in fact radical is the maintenance of the status-quo which unmistakably distinguishes us from other European countries.

Facebook and Google deserve credit for banning foreign ads related to the referendum on social networks. The anti-choice side have tried to exploit this because they’re aware how ineffective they are on the ground and connecting with run of the mill people. Social media has come under intense scrutiny since the 2016 US elections with many people convinced the promotion of fake news and use of bots determined the outcome of the election. A study has cast doubt on just how influential fake news was but nevertheless the anti-choice since were hellbent on trying to influence the result with money from America. The fact this avenue is now closed to them is deeply gratifying.

Credit must go to leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin for supporting the repeal of the 8th. His party is rife with anti-choice fanatics and he knew the avalanche of abuse his courageous statement would unleash but he outlined his support for repeal and that support underscored just how successful repeal campaigners have been. To get the leader of a party which has always been notorious for anti-abortion prejudice is an incredible feat and just shows how impactful the repeal campaign has been. Simon Harris, minister for health has also been a breath of fresh air on this specific issue, vigorously campaigning for repeal. In addition he has refused to pander to the anti-choice brigade which attracted a lot of personal abuse but instead of kowtowing to them he confronted them on it.

Not every anti-choice person is odious, some sadly have just been deceived by the sheer scale of anti-abortion propaganda which has infested this country since its inception. But everyone who votes no on the 25th May will have chosen to deny human rights and ensure more suffering occurs, a reprehensible act which shouldn’t be excused on the basis of ignorance. While we disagree with anyone who abhors abortion those who have set aside their personal distaste for the procedure and accepted that everyone has the right to decide for themselves warrants some credit. These people have managed to put their personal morals to one side and not violate the human rights of their fellow citizens.

The No side did get a late boost by RTE’s regrettable decision to host a live audience in its first televised debate for the referendum. Peter Boylan who is a dignified man was treated horrendously and you can understand why he was targeted. Boylan who is a consultant obstetrician and former master of the National Maternity Hospital has spoken eloquently and powerfully on why the 8th amendment needs to be repealed. The fact the anti-choice mob targeted him shows you how effective a voice he’s been to the repeal side. An issue of this seriousness deserves a bit more respect than it to be reduced to sheer bedlam more resembling a circus than a dignified, solemn debate on an emotive issue. When it’s kept civil and to the hard facts this will always suit those on the side of evidence and rationality whereas chaos always suits those who peddle lies. RTE’s decision wasn’t based on any sort of journalistic integrity but a selfish urge to attract as many viewers as possible and unsurprisingly it worked.

The amount of people who have protested and campaigned for reproductive rights over the last number of years has been deeply inspiring. People from all age-groups have worked hard to secure the right to choice. We managed to interview a canvasser from the Yes side, Martin Byrne of Balbriggan who has attended pro-choice marches and has canvassed strenuously in the weeks leading up to the referendum.

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Martin Byrne and Together For Yes Canvassers.

Hello Martin, as a vehement pro-choice advocate can I first express my appreciation for your tireless campaigning over the past few weeks. I think it speaks to the importance of this issue that so many people from all walks of life have been motivated to get out and campaign.

Have people been more receptive to your pro-choice message than you would have thought?

Everywhere we go we are getting a great welcome. I think that’s because people have seen such a huge amount of ‘No’ postering and messaging that they are happy to see their team showing up. You can also feel the underlying anger in many people – anger at how women have been treated in the country for decades, in fact a century. They want to tell us how determined they are to vote yes and that all of their household is voting yes. So overall we’ve had a great welcome at the doorsteps.

Have you encountered any nastiness or intimidation while out canvassing?

I’ve encountered very little. I was called a murderer by one older lady. She tried to give me a ‘no’ pamphlet and I said ‘No thanks, I trust women to decide’. She said ‘So you don’t mind murdering babies, then’

One man at a doorstep said ‘God gives life and God takes it away’ – I smiled and thanked him for his time. But overall everyone has been very decent and respectful, even if they strongly disagree with what we are saying.

What has impressed you most about the Yes campaign?

I’ve been most impressed by the unity and organisation on the ‘Yes’ side. Every canvass has a leader with maps and an almost military level of canvasser management. I’ve also been impressed by the big variety of people involved. All ages, genders and classes are together for yes, and the atmosphere has been universally positive and welcoming.

The No side have run a decidedly hateful and vitriolic campaign. What did you find most offensive about their tactics?

I found the graphic imagery outside schools and hospitals to be pointlessly offensive. I’ve also found the deliberate misinformation to be frustrating. If one side is going to openly lie, then the other side is left with the job of countering and explaining. They start fires so we have to waste time putting them out instead of getting our own message across.

I find it hard to believe that the organisers of the ‘no’ campaign have any genuine concern about the issues involved. I think some of them are just serial ‘antis’ – be it Equal Marriage, Children’s Rights, Divorce, Contraception, Protection of Live During Pregnancy – they have been anti everything.

And finally, are you confident of a victory in a weeks time?

I’m not completely confident, no. I think it’s going to be very close, and it could still be won or lost on turnout. The last poll has ‘Yes’ with a 16 point lead. But there are still plenty of undecideds and still a week of misinformation and scare tactics from the anti choice side. We are changing our messaging to ‘Plan your vote’ so as to encourage as many people as possible to get out and vote on the day. It could come down to a few votes in each ballot box at the end of the day, as it did with the divorce referendum.

Throughout my article you will have noticed I have used the gender-neutral term “pregnant people”. Of course it goes without saying that misogyny is a major component of the efforts to criminalise abortion in this country. But abortion isn’t an issue that exclusively affects women as both trans men and non-binary people can become pregnant too and may need access to services. Remembering to be inclusive is a small step but goes a long way in helping the trans community to feel welcome in the Repeal campaign. For too long they’ve simply been erased from the debate. Their voice matters too.

Sadly, a victory in a weeks time wouldn’t bring an end to the hateful and odious behaviour of the anti-choice dogmatists. When we have access to abortion they will try to terrorise people who do have abortions and will try to stymie pro-choice legalisation. But that aside, victory would mark the biggest defeat for the anti-choice lobby since the country’s inception and would show that Ireland is a country which values the human rights of its citizens.

Top Of The World

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The mark of a great champion isn’t merely an ability to win, but the ability to overcome adversity. With his victory on Sunday at the Open, Justin Spieth displayed that ability in abundance.

Spieth’s victory comes 15 months after his calamitous loss at the Masters where he squandered a 5 shot lead, which involved a disastrous quad bogey at the infamous 12th. Some speculated that loss may do irreversible damage to his psyche and that he would struggle to fully recover. And indeed, it looked like the crushing defeat took its toll because in the following majors Spieth looked deprived of that killer instinct that had become so distinctive. But as we remarked back then, Spieth has all the attributes of a champion and it would only be a matter of time before he bounced back.

The signs coming into the championship were auspicious. Just three weeks ago he won The Travelers championship in memorable fashion by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, the second time he has achieved such a feat. But even such a great win couldn’t be a true gauge for just how well Spieth would cope under intense pressure at one of the most coveted tournaments in golf.

For the first three rounds Spieth played near faultless golf, recording only four bogeys. It led many to believe the final round would be a coronation with Spieth coasting to victory. But it proved anything but with Spieth getting off to an inauspicious start by bogeying three of the first four holes. The magic we’d come to expect from Spieth’s putter abandoned him, he was rattled and suddenly looked like any other golf exhibiting vulnerabilities on the greens in a final round of a major championship.

The catalyst for his miraculous recovery would prove to be one of the worst golf shots he’s ever hit. On the 13th tee he launched a drive so errant it was 120 yards off line, on a steep mound buried in rough so thick it meant he would have to take an unplayable lie. Speith was visibly shaken by his egregious tee shot, putting his hands on his head, an indication of the predicament he thought he would find himself in. But the golf gods were shining on Spieth, not only was his ball found by spectators but he could take an unplayable lie which meant he could hit his third shot from short grass and possibly salvage a bogey. His third shot wasn’t struck perfectly but it left his ball in a position where it was possible to get up and down. He pitched to 10ft and his tournament arguably hinged on that putt. Miss and he would face a deficit of two shots with all momentum gone, make it and suddenly the hole which looked like ending Spieth’s championship would become the one which made it. He made the putt and salvaged the most improbable of bogeys, one that would make Houdini proud.

From that moment onwards Spieth’s whole demeanour changed. Suddenly his killer instincts which deserted him for most of the round returned in stunning fashion: A gorgeous tee shot led to a birdie on the following hole to tie him for the lead, and then a sensational 50ft eagle putt on the next returned him to the top of the leaderboard. For good measure he birdied the next two as well to complete one of the greatest finishes to a major tournament in golfing history, leaving fans marvelling in awe.

Matt Kuchar was Spieth’s opponent and a worthy one at that. He barely put a foot wrong all day, and his class endeared him to the galleries. For journeymen golfers like Kuchar, opportunities to win majors are not dime a dozen so he will understandably be crushed to lose in those circumstances. But hopefully his defeat will motivate him to keep plugging away, and perhaps he will taste major success in the future.

But this was a day that belonged to Jordan Spieth, a victory which now puts him into the category of all time greats. What happened at Augusta in 2016 is now firmly in the rear view mirror and his sights will now turn to winning the career grand slam, a feat he could achieve in three weeks time. Spieth has his doubters, but surely they must admit what he accomplished on Sunday at Birkdale was mightily impressive.

Jez We Can

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This was supposed to be a foregone conclusion, a landslide win for Theresa May and a drubbing for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
But when the exit poll was released at 10 pm on Thursday evening it sent shockwaves throughout the British establishment that reverberated around the world. Yes, Corbyn didn’t win and yes the Tories remain the largest party, but this result has completely changed the landscape of British politics.

There can be no escaping the fact that Theresa May made one of the worst political calculations in political history by calling this election. Her opportunism has backfired in stunning fashion and she is now mortally wounded with the only question being when she leaves, not if. She has squandered the majority the conservatives had and if she lacked a mandate to implement a hard Brexit before this election, she certainly does now. From the very beginning of the campaign Mrs May’s arrogance led her to believe that she could ignore the people and the press and coast to victory, badly underestimating the campaign her opponents would run. She launched a manifesto which is universally regarded as one of the most disastrous in U.K political history, with her controversial policies on social care causing a furore and leading to a U-turn. Her response to the manifesto launch compounded matters, instead of showing contrition and admitting the mistake she insisted nothing had changed and sneered at the press when questioned on it. In response to the terrorism which befell the country she exploited the attacks to make a cheap smear claiming that Corbyn stated British people were to blame for the terrorism. Her reaction to the Manchester attack was as bad, calling for regulation of the internet which angered tech experts.

Now for the 2nd year in succession, the Tories who are absurdly regarded as a party which is responsible has brought major instability to the country. To make matters worse, their desperation for power and what they will resort to get it have been laid bare to the public. Mrs May’s immediate instinct was to make a deal with the DUP, having no regard for the implications both for her party’s long term interests, but more importantly the interests of Northern Ireland and the peace process. The DUP who are infamous for their regressive social views, and ties to loyalist paramilitary groups may not drag England backwards when it comes to social rights, but the optics look terrible, and this may be the latest in a long list of political miscalculations from Theresa May. All throughout the campaign May and the Tories depicted Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, and that a vote for him would potentially bring a coalition of chaos. Now it’s the Tories who find themselves once again creating chaos and dependent on a party which has a history of supporting terrorism. For once and all this election has shattered the myth that conservatives are a party of stability and responsibleness.

When this election was called Corbyn and Labour found themselves in a hopeless situation. Polling was indicating not just a defeat, but a mauling. Enthusiasm was scarce, and Corbyn’s personal ratings were catastrophic. Anyone who had the temerity to suggest that this election could turnaround was dismissed and roundly ridiculed. But what has unfolded in the last two months has been something of a political miracle. The conventional wisdom is that campaigns are largely irrelevant and that public opinion rarely sees radical shifts in a short period of time. But this was not a normal campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn is not a normal candidate. His and Labour’s resurgence is one of the greatest fight-backs in UK political history. Despite the wobbles of May’s campaign it would have largely been forgotten if Corbyn wasn’t on his game ready to capitalise. From the moment he started the campaign his message was clear and firm, “for the many, not the few” a political slogan which perfectly encapsulated the contrast between the Tories and Labour. He advocated defending the NHS, investing in jobs and strengthening job security. His manifesto which was brimming with popular policies including banning zero hour contracts, plans to renationalise the railways and an increase in taxation on the ultra wealthy resonated with the British people and created enthusiasm among Labour’s base. Corbyn’s campaign was also notable for the amount of people he attracted to his rallies showing that his message really does have popular appeal.

Corbyn’s campaign wasn’t all plain sailing, on Question Time he struggled on questions pertaining to Trident and the IRA, and clearly the topic of security made him nervous. On Woman’s hour he forgot the figures to his childcare policy although in contrast to May he humbly apologised hours later. No doubt Corbyn has performed better than anyone expected during this campaign, but there are still areas where he can make major improvements.

Those most loyal to Corbyn always insisted that despite the polls, once an election began and Corbyn was given a fair chance by the British media, that the public would respond well to him. This is precisely what has happened.
The media caricature of Corbyn as a man who is hopelessly incompetent, weak and an extremist fell apart once the public had a chance to listen to Corbyn over the course of a campaign.

The brilliance of Corbyn’s campaign was reflected in the fact Labour gained seats in Kensington and Canterbury. Canterbury saw a swing of more than 18% from Tories to Labour and it was first time Labour took the seat since before the 2nd World War. Kensington equally was extraordinary seeing a swing of 11% to Labour from Tories and it was the first time Labour took the seat. Their share of the vote increased from 30% to 40% a figure considered inconceivable only weeks ago. It was also Labour’s highest share of the vote since 2001 and the highest swing in share since 1945. But just as importantly, they also reduced the deficit in a number of constituencies turning them from safe seats for the Tories into marginals. Since the election Labour’s membership has increased by some 25,000 members; momentum is now fully with them.

Bizarrely and keeping with the theme of this election, Scotland proved to be Tories saving grace. The SNP were widely expected to lose a few seats, but they had a disastrous night, reflected by the fact Westminster MP Angus Robertson and former leader Alex Salmond both lost their seats. Labour also saw a bit of a resurgence in Scotland but were always going to be held back by Scottish Labour’s fiercely unionist politics. What’s clear is the timing of Nicola Sturgeon’s call for another independence referendum was a big miscalculation. Over the last year, Nicola Sturgeon has made a habit of deriding Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable and that he won’t get anywhere near Downing Street so it is deeply ironic that the reason Corbyn isn’t sitting in Number 10 this week is because of the SNP’s bad performance in Scotland.

Perhaps the only ones who came out of this election looking stronger than Jeremy Corbyn were YouGov and Survation. While the outcome took many by surprise, the fact of the matter is that according to certain polls it was far from inconceivable that a hung parliament would occur. Weeks before the election YouGov predicted a hung parliament and gains for Labour, leading to derision and declarations that come the result Yougov’s reputation as a reliable pollster would be toast. In addition, Nate Silver, the much-maligned US statistician cautioned that the polls giving May such a sizeable majority may not be taking into consideration the different factors in this election compared to previous ones. And finally, Survation on the eve of the election, when all polling looked grim, stated Labour was only one percentage point behind the conservatives. Survation unlike some of the other pollsters refused to herd, and stuck by their projection, basing their confidence on the fact that the model they were using accurately called the last election which left them ruing their decision not to publish it.

Now that Corbyn has outperformed and exceeded expectations, ambitions will now be higher. He is now in the strongest position since his leadership victory almost two years ago. Many MPs who doubted whether he could gain seats in a general election have conceded they got it wrong. This result will embolden Corbyn and the Labour left but also hopefully unify the party behind them and lead to the kind of stability within a party that is conducive to general election success. But most importantly what Corbyn has done has brought hope back to British politics, and created a sense that there is another way, one that is fairer and just. Considering where he found himself no more than two months ago, that is an incredible accomplishment.

A Pyrrhic Victory For The Tories

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Britain goes to the polls tomorrow to determine who will lead the country through their exit from the European Union. Theresa May – leader of the Tories is expected to retain a majority for her party despite a poor campaign. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are expected to perform much better than initially expected, but despite a strong campaign which has created genuine enthusiasm among Labour’s base, they faced insurmountable odds going into the election with polling showing a more than 20 point lead for the Tories at the beginning of the campaign.

The election comes almost a year after the British public voted to leave the EU in an historic referendum which shocked the world. Unsurprisingly much has changed following the outcome: Nigel Farage – leader of UKIP, the leading exponent of Brexit for many years resigned after his successful bid to end Britain’s membership of the EU. The outcome of the referendum also had the effect of consolidating the conservative vote because many UKIP voters flocked back to the Tories.

Prime minister David Cameron who called the referendum both as a ploy to get votes and to pacify the pro-Brexit members within his own party resigned the morning of the result after campaigning for remain; this triggered a leadership contest where Theresa May was overwhelmingly chosen by Tory MPs to succeed Cameron as PM.

On the Labour side, many MPs held Corbyn responsible for the result, blaming his lacklustre campaign and held a vote of no-confidence in which MPs overwhelmingly voted for him to go. Corbyn maintained that he still had the support of the Labour membership and that if he was go, that would have to be determined in another leadership election. Many Labour MPs wanted Corbyn removed from the ballot but the NEC declared he would be eligible to stand again. All throughout the summer Corbyn was pilloried and hounded by the press and those within his own party. His challenger Owen Smith floundered during his campaign suffering many gaffes which included making inappropriate jokes about two women politicians, and advocated negotiating with ISIS and could not create a message that resonated with the membership. Corbyn won the leadership election, but unlike his first victory this was no cause for celebration. The sabotage of his leadership had done irreversible damage to the party’s image and decreased the odds of winning a general election.

Brexit is a poisoned chalice, of that there’s little doubt. Article 50 was triggered on 29th of March and now Britain is in the process of exiting the EU. Despite the calls for a 2nd referendum from the most aggrieved of the remainers the British electorate has no enthusiasm for another divisive referendum.

Theresa May’s insistence that she wouldn’t call a snap election always seemed insincere because for one she lacked a mandate from the British electorate and two her poll ratings in contrast to Corbyn were too good to ignore. She called a referendum fully expecting to lead the party to a landslide victory and to humiliate Corbyn’s Labour. There is nothing politically unusual about that type of opportunism but Mrs May must take us for fools when she says she called it for ‘the good of the country’.

May has faltered since calling the election, she has displayed great antipathy for the British people by refusing to debate her policies and has generally tried to avoid interviews from the press. The manifesto launch was a disaster leading to questions on social care and a u-turn on the infamous dementia tax. Whatever the result May’s position has unquestionably weakened, both in the eyes of the electorate, but arguably more importantly in the eyes of EU negotiators.

In terms of Brexit negotiations she has repeatedly said no deal is better than a bad deal but that ignores the fact that no deal is disastrous in and of itself. May’s negotiating style is said to have angered EU negotiators and with her at the helm the chance of a good deal appears increasingly unlikely which is why she’s depicting a no deal as an acceptable outcome. In addition, May appears determined to implement a hard Brexit. Economic growth has already been quite dismal under the Tories, but with the instability involved in exciting the EU, Britain’s economy will weaken further.

Labour’s policies are costed unlike the Tories and would be conducive to a more successful Brexit, but much of the consequences that will arise because of Britain’s exit would be out of their control and they would be scapegoated for the mistakes made by the Tory government. Bearing that in mind, it may be preferable for their long-term prospects that they avoid government and allow the Tories to take full responsibility for the mess they have made.

Before the campaign the consensus among the British press was that Corbyn would lead Labour to its most catastrophic result in decades making the party unelectable for generations to come. It would also be seen as a major rejection of the left and the Labour right who sabotaged Corbyn’s leadership would feel vindicated and retake control of the party. There are signs the Labour right still intends to go on with their plans, but they’re unlikely to succeed as the membership bear plenty of animosity towards them. Corbyn has his faults but when it comes to the future of the party, he’s on the right side of history. For Labour to be a force in British politics they had to extricate themselves from the toxicity created by New Labour’s politicians, and Corbyn’s reign has helped further that process. It’s imperative that the next leader doesn’t reverse Labour’s turn leftwards, and appeals to the large membership which Corbyn has helped created.

Corbyn’s strength has always been campaigning. Indeed that’s what propelled him to leader in the first place and prevented the attempt of getting rid of him. Not only has he excelled throughout this campaign but he’s also won over some critics and skeptics because of his strong performance. Corbyn’s personal ratings have also significantly improved in part due to his impressive TV appearances, while May’s have tanked because of the wobbly campaign. While huge rallies and thousands of people cheering your name don’t translate to electoral success they can’t be dismissed either. For a future left-wing party to succeed there has to be a strong grassroots support for the party and under Corbyn that has returned. In addition Corbyn launched the most radical manifesto in years, far from resembling Michael Foot’s ‘suicide note’ which the media claimed it would, it generated huge enthusiasm among British people and received praise from a hostile media.

The media has generally been very hostile to Corbyn. Scrutiny of political leaders is perfectly reasonable but the degree of attacks against Corbyn and the way in which he’s been misrepresented is clearly disproportionate to the way the Tories are treated. Part of the reason Corbyn has done well in this election is because of the rules governing media coverage during an election which mandate that candidates are given equal coverage and that their speeches are reported. What this shows is that if the media were fairer to Corbyn throughout his leadership his chances of winning would have undoubtedly been greater. While the power of the traditional media has weakened, there’s little doubt that its coverage of parties and candidates still has an impact on how they’re perceived by the wider public.

Many on the left recognised that when Corbyn won the leadership contest, winning a general election was always an improbability, the sabotage which followed only furthered his odds. But for many on the left, Corbyn’s victory was in many ways more about the future direction of the party than Corbyn himself. A party in transition is always unlikely to fare well in an election where stability and unity are often valued, but if Corbyn and his supporters could win the argument on the direction the party should go, it would lay the groundwork for future electoral success. The hope is that in the coming years someone who has more leadership qualities, doesn’t have the weak spots that Corbyn does, and runs on a platform as left-wing as his wins.

If the Tories win a majority, Corbyn should resign sometime in the coming weeks but state passionately that the path he’s led the party on should continue. He’s shown that there’s a large enthusiasm among people and especially the young for an unapologetically left-wing party.

The Lib Dems who were tipped to have a great election have done quite poorly under the uninspiring leadership of Tim Farron. It was widely expected that their share of the vote would greatly increase because of their Pro-EU stance which would attract disillusioned Labour voters who wanted another referendum. Farron to his credit has made civil liberties and the decriminasaltion of cannabis a subject of this election. Despite taking a lot of flack from the technically illiterate press, Farron has maintained his stance that encryption should not be weakened and defended his rejection of the authoritarian snoopers charter. He deserves genuine credit for that.

For the SNP, this election is unlikely to change much. Nicola Sturgeon has come under increasing scrutiny over her leadership of the party but Scottish people still prefer the party to the Tories and the staunchly unionist Scottish Labour. There are signs that under Corbyn, Labour are recovering some ground in Scotland but the sense of betrayal many Scots hold for Labour over their project fear campaign during the 2014 independence referendum lingers. The SNP who have called for another referendum on Scottish independence have had to tone down the calls for another referendum because during this time it’s not popular. Sturgeon no doubt will expect that under a Tory government and the hard Brexit they promise, support for a 2nd referendum will increase especially considering the Scots voted overwhelming to remain a part of the EU.

The horrendous events in Manchester and London have overshadowed the elections. The attack in Manchester which was targeted at young people was particularly gruesome and sinister.

The timing of the attacks are unlikely to be coincidental. ISIS make no secret of wanting to influence politics. They have said in the past that their goal is to eliminate the grayzone of coexistence between Muslims and the West. These attacks are intended to engender a backlash against Muslims in the West, in the hopes that they’ll become more sympathetic to ISIS’ goals. A win for Corbyn would be a disaster for ISIS because it would show that contrary to their claims about everyone in the West hating Muslims, there is a significant number of people who don’t want to demonise Muslims and who don’t think bombing is the solution to the problems in the Middle-East. On the other hand Theresa May has pandered to xenophobic nationalism and threatened more authoritarianism in the wake of the attacks.

The Muslim community who are invariably blamed for not doing enough to stop the terrorists alerted the authorities over their concerns regarding them. One of the London attackers was also banned from his mosque for his extremist views.

The attacks inevitably turned the discussion to security which Corbyn is perceived as being weak on despite being vindicated on a number of security issues. Security also became a bit of headache for May because of her time as home secretary when she cut some 20,000 police officers despite warnings that it would risk the security of Britain. The Tories also received some criticism for their cosy relationship with the Saudi government, but this is an issue that the average British person just doesn’t care about.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London came under vicious attacks from US president Donald Trump. Trump deliberately took Khan’s comments out of context at a time when he should be showing solidarity towards London. His remarks were rebuked by people within his own government and political leaders of Britain. Conspicuously absent in denunciations of his comments was Theresa May, who also refused to public denounce him for his decision to exit the Paris agreement.

The response to the attacks have been a lesson in the proper way to respond to terrorism. Instead of playing into the terrorists’ hands people within Manchester have shown unity and displayed courage. The One Manchester Concert was poignant and inspiring and the perfect way to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks and also a defiant reminder to the terrorists that people will not be cowered by terror. Credit must go to Ariana Grande for returning so soon after the attack, visiting the wounded in hospital and relatives of the victims and putting on a concert which uplifted the city.

The Tories now have the task of leading the country through a tough period. They’re an unpopular party and their regressive and anachronistic ideology is ill-equipped to deal with modern challenges. Under Brexit the perils and failures of their policies will be laid bare to the British public. Tories’ weaknesses will be exposed and the party will likely incur major long term damage because of Brexit. The electorate – especially the youth will feel betrayed and turn to someone else for solutions. The Labour Party and the Left should be prepared for when that day arrives.

Patriots Win In Historic Comeback

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There are events throughout history that leave yourself scratching your head in disbelief. The 51st Super Bowl was without question one of those moments.

I’ve seen my fair share of Super Bowls and I thought I’d seen it all in 2015 when the Seahawks blew a 10 point lead and were 1 yard from glory when they inexplicably chose to throw the ball instead of running which led to an interception. But that pales in comparison to what unfolded last night.

When the Atlanta Falcons accumulated a 28-3 lead at the beginning of the 3rd quarter there was talk of humiliation, this lead was seemingly insurmountable, a comeback so statistically improbable that not even the most ardent Patriots fans could have envisaged it, some even had the audacity to suggest Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady should retire. Little did they know what was to come and how instrumental a role Brady would play in it.

Even by the end of the 3rd quarter the Falcons had a healthy 19 point lead. The Patriots would have to score a field goal and two unanswered touchdowns with two point conversions under severe pressure, a tall order under normal circumstances. Many in Europe had turned off and went to bed thinking the game was long over. But when the Falcons fumbled the ball in their own half, the momentum and the game turned. Even after securing the 8 point touchdown the odds were still stacked against the Pats. The Falcons were agonisingly close to getting a field goal which would have ended hopes of a comeback but their quarterback was sacked which put them out of field goal range and they had to punt. Suddenly the Patriots sensed a history-making comeback and seised it in the most spectacular way possible. When Julian Edelman caught the most improbable of catches you knew this was going to be their day. Brady then did what Brady does, in the dying embers of the game, threw the touchdown that with the 2 point conversion tied the match. For the first time in Super Bowl history, overtime would be required. The rules of overtime mean that the first team to score a touchdown wins the game, with a field goal giving the opposing team an opportunity to respond. The coin toss couldn’t be more important under these circumstances and of course it went to the Patriots. And it only took them a matter of minutes to score the decisive touchdown which etched their names in sporting history.

To put this feat in perspective, no team has ever come back from more than 10 points down in a Super Bowl. To complete a comeback like that in a normal game would have impressive, to do it in a Super Bowl when the eyes of the world are watching is just unfathomable. For Edelman to make that catch under those circumstances just defies reason and to break so many records under the highest pressure imaginable just reinforces what a great team the Patriots are.

If there was any doubt before last night on whether Tom Brady was the greatest of all time, he dispelled it with the performance of his life, directing his team to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. What makes it all the more impressive is how poorly he started by Brady standards. He was sacked multiple times and threw an interception which led to a touchdown. To respond in the fashion he did epitomises mental strength and only confirmed what a great champion he is.

Anyone watching last night should feel privileged to have witnessed the greatness on display. I was rooting for the Falcons, and can only imagine the despondency their team is feeling today but last night is why we watch sport. To experience emotion, drama and passion.

Props must go to Lady Gaga too for her impressive half-time performance. She delivered on the biggest of stages and her little monsters will be incredibly proud. The only disappointment was the lack of a satanic ritual but we can’t have everything.

Terror In Quebec

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On Sunday evening a mosque in Quebec, Canada was attacked by a gunman which killed 6 people and injured more. The attack comes amidst a period when prejudice towards Muslims is alarmingly high with anti-Muslim extremists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen doing well politically.

Initially there was some confusion about the motive of the attack because the Quebec authorities detained the witness who actually alerted them of the massacre. The name of the witness was released and the media reported on it and his Moroccan nationality; the name of the witness and suspect should have never been released until it was ascertained exactly what the role of the two individuals were. The suspect who has now been charged with 6 counts of murder was named as Alexandre Bissonnette a French-Canadian who was a white nationalist with some appalling political views which included support of political extremists Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen; Le Pen’s visit to Quebec City in March 2016 is alleged to have inspired Bissonnette to become more overt in his extreme politics. He was a college student who has been described by classmates as pro-Trump and a vigorous supporter of the Israeli military who also had an antipathy towards immigrants and refugees.

The response from the far right was predictably noxious and only reinforced the fact that their political views are driven by hatred. The instant reaction from them was not one of compassion or concern for the injured but immediate opportunism, trying desperately to create a narrative that this was Muslims killing each other in an attempt to absolve themselves of guilt about what their kind of prejudices can lead to. When it was revealed it was of their own who had committed the act of wanton slaughter they were conspicuously silent. This was compounded by the fact that the press secretary of the Trump administration exploited the murder of Muslims to justify the deplorable travel ban targeted at Muslims.

Some have claimed the gunman’s support of Trump is irrelevant and that’s irresponsible to connect Trump to the killing. If Trump was just some random politician who never had a history of making contemptible remarks about Muslims you could understand that line of reasoning but Trump is a demagogue who has made inexcusable remarks about Muslims in the past. He’s also rewarded racism by appointing the former head of Breitbart (one of the most fervently anti-Muslim sites in the US), Steve Bannon as his chief strategist who is also part of his National Security Council. Michael Flynn his national security advisor has said fear of Muslims is rational. And how could we disregard Trump’s travel ban which is motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice and which has coincided with this brutal attack. The prejudice stoked by Trump and his chumps is inextricably linked to crimes like this because it contributes to a political atmosphere where Muslims are stigmatised and increases the risk of extremists targeting a group of Muslims.

The attack just underscores how vital it is confront prejudice towards Muslims. It’s not simply innocuous and without consequences, this is an outcome that sadly could be foreseen by many considering the degree of prejudice against Muslims in Western society. We’ve seen arson attacks against Muslims, attempts to police the clothing of Muslim women, attacks against Muslim women and aims to intimidate Muslim people; this is not simply an unforeseen, isolated event but the natural consequence of vicious prejudice which plagues Western society. We must of course confront Jihadist violence, and show no tolerance for it but decent people know that all of Islam and Muslims are not responsible for every act of Jihadist murder. To generalise or treat average Muslims as if they bear some responsibility for the acts of murderous criminals is inexcusable and creates a toxic political atmosphere where people feel like they can justify targeting Muslims.

Credit must go to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s PM for his strong statements following the attack. He immediately denounced it as a terrorist attack and expressed his support for the Canadian Muslim community. An attack like this, in a place of worship is not just an attack on the Muslims of that Mosque but all Canadian Muslims and is designed to terrorise and spread fear in the Muslim community. A passionate and firm denunciation of the attack from the head of the country is important for a community reeling from such a horrific attack against them.

In these testing times, we can again take solace from the love people have shown in the aftermath of the attack but also be aware of the threat we face. This killer is not a loner, his vicious ideology is shared by an increasingly alarming number of people in society, many radicalised online, hellbent on dragging Western society backwards. They feel emboldened by the political events of the last year, and interpret this as a sign that we’re edging closer to their sinister version of what society should be like. We must make damn sure that isn’t allowed to happen.

Don’t Lose Hope, America

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President-elect Trump. A fact that would have appeared unthinkable not long ago came true in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In a result that stunned not just America but the world, Trump pulled off one of the greatest upsets in political history.

As many Americans are still coming to terms with this seismic result, many people are wondering how this was possible. How could someone who espouses the most absurd conspiracy theories, promotes vicious racism and misogyny and overtly expresses authoritarian tendencies win a democratic election to become the most powerful man on the planet?

There is not one solitary answer to that question. A multitude of factors all coalesced to provide Trump with an opportunity of victory. If you listen to some Democrats, the answer is simple! The result is easily explained by racism and sexism, and other factors such as class, anger at the establishment and the incompetence of the Democratic Party should be discounted.

There is no doubt that prejudice contributed to Trump’s victory. His base is overt in their hostility to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and movements like Black Lives Matter which aim to confront the racism which greatly plagues the US. The Republican Party has also spent many decades whipping up hostility towards minorities and this marks the culmination of that, Trump is certainly no more prejudiced than contemptible racists like Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, but unlike them he makes no effort to sanitise it which is why he has received such enthusiastic support from the KKK and people like David Duke.

But attributing the victory exclusively to prejudice does not compute. If there genuinely was a huge revolution for Trump, and massive voter turnout which favoured him there would be more credence to that claim. While votes are still being counted it looks like turnout among Democrats and Republicans was the lowest since 2000 – Trump won fewer votes than Bush in 04, McCain in 08 and Romney in 2012. It’s quite clear what happened here and Sanders and his supporters predicted this long before the eventual outcome. The Democratic vote collapsed which gave Trump a clear path to 270 electoral votes. Trump managed to win key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina but what was unmistakable was how he breached Clinton’s supposed firewall. Blue states that voted Democrats for decades turned red – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all voted for Trump in narrow margins despite the confidence the Democrats had in holding these states. The results clearly show that Trump pulled this upset off not because he managed to inspire millions of new voters to come out for him, but because there was very little enthusiasm for Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Sanders’ prophetic words in 2015 on why the Democrats would likely fail:

Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout. With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.
The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.
We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors. In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it”

Some people have discounted the idea that income and poverty levels played any role in the defeat of the Democrats. They cite statistics showing Clinton winning among voters who earn below 50k a year and claim this debunks the notion of a working-class revolt; this is misleading however. Low-income voters always tend to vote for the Democratic Party opposed to the GOP but what occurred in this election was pretty staggering. They swung significantly in favour of the Republicans greatly reducing the margin of victory Democrats usually enjoy in that income bracket. A 16% percentage swing in favour of the Republicans among voters earning below 30k a year is highly significant bearing in mind how slim the margins of victory were in this election. Low voter enthusiasm among this group for a party they feel alienated and abandoned by was most likely the primary factor in this huge swing.

The Democratic establishment will vigorously deny this fact but Clinton was a woeful candidate who should have never been chosen to lead the party in one of the most important elections in decades. Some people have also tried to pin Clinton’s defeat on voter suppression but the evidence indicates it had little impact on the final outcome of the election. In most of the key states that Clinton lost, no new voting restrictions had been passed prior to the election. Her lacklustre campaign failed to resonate with most of the electorate and they were complacent and neglected states they assumed would remain blue; for instance throughout the whole general election campaign Clinton didn’t make one stop in Wisconsin. Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said: “It’s is nothing short of malpractice that her campaign didn’t look at the electoral college and put substantial resources in states like Michigan and Wisconsin,”

So the natural question to ask is would Bernie have won? Obviously this question can’t be answered with a high degree of certainty but there certainly is a compelling case to be made that he could have performed better than Clinton in some of the key states that she lost. Bernie didn’t have the unpopularity and untrustworthiness issues that Clinton had, and was in fact one of the most popular senators in America. Clinton’s supporters counter this by claiming that once Bernie became the nominee the Republicans would have waged a vicious campaign on him and his popularity would have plummeted, they also contend that it’s delusional to believe Bernie could have turned Trump voters into Democratic voters. On the latter point they’re correct, but it misses the point. The Democrats didn’t lose because they failed to persuade Trump supporters to vote for them, they failed because of voter apathy and the fact they couldn’t inspire millions more people to come out and vote. Clinton and her strategists put more of a priority on switching disillusioned Republicans than they did on motivating uninspired Democrats to come out and vote, the miscalculation was reflected in the fact more Democrats switched and voted Republican than vice versa. Sarah Jaffe writing for the NYTimes summed it up perfectly: “Mrs. Clinton opened her arms to disaffected Republicans rather than wooing the disaffected within and around her own party. Most of the television ads she ran were more about painting Trump as a dangerous aberration, an outsider unfit for office, than pitching any plan of her own for change.” More than 40% of people eligible to vote didn’t in this election, which isn’t particularly anomalous but Sanders’ campaign showed quite clearly he had the potential to inspire new voters, and that his message was resonating with a large number of Americans. In addition during the Democratic Primaries Bernie beat Clinton in two of the key states she lost – Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominant theme in politics at the moment is hostility towards the establishment, this manifests itself not only in people voting for anti-establishment politicians but also for people simply refusing to vote for establishment candidates and parties. Bernie was unapologetically anti-establishment and has spent his entire life fighting to make America’s economic system fairer, during times when it was unpopular he fought against racism and stood up for LGBTQ Americans. People would have seen that he was authentic, and that his message wasn’t simply a facade to gain votes.

Most Bernie supporters do not take great delight in Clinton’s defeat, and we aren’t criticising the Democratic establishment due to vindictiveness. The reason we think it’s vital not to downplay Clinton’s failings is because we fear the Democratic Party won’t learn anything from this humiliating defeat. We feel the party is out of touch with most Americans, and that unless it goes in a different direction, one more in tune with Bernie’s message, they will continue to suffer in congressional and presidential elections.
The Democratic Party in its current state will not inspire Americans disillusioned by the political system and it’s the politically apathetic voters they need to reach if they want to defeat the Republicans in upcoming elections.

What’s been striking since Trump’s victory is how the markets have responded. Despite predictions from pundits that the markets would crash and wouldn’t recover, the precise opposite has happened. They’ve surged with the Dow closing at an all-time high on Thursday evening. Unlike Brexit which ensured long-term uncertainty, the Republican victory in the presidential race and Congress actually satisfies Wall-Street executives, bankers and investors because Trump and the Republicans are determined to deregulate the financial system by repealing the modest regulation Obama put on the financial system and provide tax-cuts to the wealthy. In the next 4 years we’re going to see a return to extreme neoliberalism which will further exacerbate the economic inequality in the country and which will greatly increase the risk of another financial crisis. The Trump supporters who bought into Trump’s rhetoric of ‘draining the swamp’ and ‘shaking things up’ will most definitely be disappointed; they have been duped by a narcissistic demagogue who will now embrace the political and financial establishment.

Before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination the media provided him with disproportionate coverage compared to other candidates. It’s ironic that Trump complained so much about the media coverage of him, because without them it’s highly doubtful he would have won. The amount of exposure a candidate receives in the media strongly correlates with how successful they are. If they’re largely ignored by the media, they will struggle to compete in the primaries. The mainstream media gave unprecedented coverage to Trump, which greatly facilitated his campaign for the simple reason that coverage of Trump was profitable. When you contrast this with how little coverage Bernie got in comparison despite the thousands of people he was attracting to his rallies and events you can see why his supporters feel a little aggrieved. Far from conjecture, this is substantiated by empirical data from a study conducted by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics Public Policy.

“Of all the indicators of success in the invisible primary, media exposure is arguably the most important. Media exposure is essential if a candidate is to rise in the polls. Absent a high poll standing, or upward momentum, it’s difficult for a candidate to raise money, win endorsements, or even secure a spot in the pre-primary debates… In the early going, nothing is closer to pure gold than favorable free media exposure. It can boost a candidate’s poll standing and access to money and endorsements. Above all, it bestows credibility. Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials. If Trump had possessed them, his strategy could have been political suicide, which is what the press predicted as they showcased his tirades. Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally.”

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I do not hold animosity towards the Democrats for expressing their willingness to work with Trump. The Democrats lost the senate, the house and the presidency. They are not in a position of strength, and therefore trying to undermine Trump’s presidency would be completely counterproductive and would only lead to Trump doubling down on some of his extremist ideas. Every effort should be made by the outgoing president and elected congresspeople to mitigate the damage of a Trump presidency and there’s no conceivable way to do that without working with Trump’s administration. But Trump’s presidency has no moral legitimacy, and in an ethical political system he would have long ago been disqualified for his advocation of criminality. That’s not to say overthrowing him or advocating violence towards him is the solution, but people should exercise their 1st amendment rights and demonstrate against him. Trump and the dark forces that he represents have to be shown that there’s a significant portion of the country unwilling to give legitimacy to his presidency.

The United States is a deeply divided country and that won’t change anytime soon. But the country is a much more tolerant and progressive place than it was 30 years ago. Socially, the country has been moving in the right direction over the last few decades. Trump’s victory is a major setback, and considering that the Republican Party is one of the most dangerous political organisations in human history, the stakes couldn’t be much higher but the result has the potential to motivate hundreds of thousands of people to become politically active, and build a powerful progressive movement in the country. The future of the world very much hinges on whether they’re successful.

Trump Must Be Beaten

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This November the US public will elect their 45th president to succeed incumbent president Barack Obama. The choice is decidedly grim – the nominee for the Democrats is former First-Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who is regarded by many as the quintessential establishment candidate with close ties to Wall Street and weapons contractors. The Republican candidate is the infamous business tycoon Donald Trump who has secured the Republican nomination by masquerading as an anti-establishment candidate while pandering to the very worst prejudices of the American people.

The outgoing president Barack Obama won an historic election in 2008 becoming the first African American to serve as president of the United States.
Obama who is an adept campaigner, deceived people into believing that he would be a president who would address the legal and ethical violations of the Bush administration and who would be a force for change in the US political system. Following his inauguration it became immediately apparent that this wouldn’t be the case and that Obama’s policies would resemble Bush’s more than Democrats would care to admit.

With regard to the economy, Obama hasn’t been disastrous as the Republicans predicted, but his success is wildly overstated by his supporters. Obama had the misfortune of inheriting an economy which was in its worst state since the 1930s, an economic crisis which was precipitated by increasing financialization of the economy and the deregulation of the banks which had bipartisan support in the US. Obama’s decision to pursue a stimulus was certainly better than the huge cuts in public spending which the Republicans recommended but it didn’t go far enough and the introduction of modest legislation like Dodd-Frank was a positive step, but Obama’s policies are designed to mitigate the extent of a crisis, not to prevent the crisis itself. The same financial structures which led to the crisis in 2008 are still intact, and make another economic crisis all but inevitable. It also is important to note that accountability for criminal behaviour is an important step to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If those engaged in criminal activity are shown leniency where is the disincentive for others to refrain from illicit risk-taking especially when the rewards are so lucrative? Under Obama’s presidency, Wall Street has been shielded from legal consequences for their acts of illegality and considering Wall Street donated significant sums of money to Obama’s campaign in 2008 it’s not difficult to see why. Obama touts the declining unemployment rate as one of his finest achievements as president yet it’s not the resounding success he portrays it to be. Gauging the strength of an economy solely on the rate of employment while disregarding other key factors is facile and doesn’t give a true understanding of the health of the economy. Things that should also be judged are quality of employment, labour participation rate, wages and job security. When judged collectively it’s clear that the US economy is in a more fragile state than Obama’s optimism would indicate. Since the US economy crashed the bulk of the job growth has come in low-wage employment whereas the middle-income bracket has been shrinking due to losses in jobs in construction and manufacturing. In fact the decline of the Middle-Class in America is not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening since the neoliberal policies were ushered in by the Regean administration, and while wages have been skyrocketing for CEOs and top executives, the wages of middle-class people have been stagnating. In addition Obama has supported harmful trade agreements like TTIP which would undermine democracy and provide corporations with even more power than they already have. Obama does deserve credit for helping avert a financial depression, but his deceptive statements about the state of the US economy are insidious especially when there is a desperate need to address the extent of wealth inequality in the US.

Owen Jones on the US economic recovery:

“The gains of economic recovery have certainly been beneficial to those of great wealth – including the culprits behind the crash – but have meant little to the average American. Of course, that has everything to do with the structure of the US economy since Ronald Reagan swept to power. Consider this: according to the Economic Policy Institute – a thinktank close to the embattled US labour movement – between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% seized 53.9% of the entire increase in US income. It is often suggested that male median income has been stagnant in the US since the 1970s, hidden only by a flood of women into the workforce: how that’s worked out depends on all sorts of qualifications, such as which price index you choose. Yet even by the most optimistic calculations, if university-educated American men have enjoyed a boost in salaries, those with only high school qualifications endured sliding incomes between 1979 and 2013. But if Reaganism engineered this model, Obamaism failed to replace it. According to Emmanuel Saez, a US economics professor, between Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and 2013, pre-tax income among the top 1% has jumped from $871,100 to $968,000; for everybody else, it practically stood still.”

The US health system is rife with problems and when compared to health-systems in other industrialised countries it’s clear significant change is needed. Most of the issues stem from the fact that the US system lacks universal health care coverage, costs are also astronomically high and contributing factor to why low income Americans are less likely to visit a physician when sick or visit a dentist than their counterparts in other countries. Over 50% of physicians in the US also acknowledge their patients have difficulty paying for care. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt to mitigate some of these problems and reduce the rate of uninsured in the US but it lacked a public health care option. It has made improvements, but it’s going to take something much more ambitious to adequately deal with the problems of the health-system in the US.

A lot of criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy centre around his apparent failure to resolve the Syrian Civil War. Some neocons have described Obama as an enabler of genocide for his failure to overthrow the Syrian government and they lament the lack of US intervention. It goes without saying that this is complete drivel and no one who is serious about addressing the Syrian crisis should heed the opinions of those who are partially responsible for one of the most destructive and violent wars since World War 2. The idea that the US haven’t intervened in Syria has no grain of truth either, since 2011 they have poured weapons into the country, many of which have ended up in the hands of extremists, have imposed sanctions which are said to have caused untold damage to the civilian population of Syria and have implicitly allowed Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund and arm extremists while also illegally invading Syria to bomb ISIS. To this day the more extreme hawks are still demanding an imposition of a no-fly zone which is a pretext for war and virtually guarantees a military confrontation with Russia; there’s too much at stake for Russia in Syria and the expectation that once militarily confronted by the US, they’ll simply stand down fails to take into account Russia’s long-standing loyalty to the Syrian government. Negotiations haven’t been particularly fruitful so far, but then no one expected a miraculous resolution to this bitter war which is now in its fifth year. But it still beats the alternative which is a full-scale military intervention by the US and its allies which could put the world on a path to a nuclear war. Obama’s primary foreign policy failures are not in Syria, but in Yemen, Gaza and Egypt. In Yemen, Obama has facilitated the Saudi’s war of aggression in Yemen by supplying them with weapons, providing intelligence, refuelling their planes and also giving diplomatic cover for their crimes. Just weeks ago the Saudis bombed a funeral which killed more than a hundred people using US-supplied weaponry and recent reports from renowned writer Robert Fisk also indicate the Saudis are deliberately targeting Yemen’s agricultural industry which will lead to starvation among an already beleaguered country. In Palestine, Obama has rewarded the violence and criminality of the Israeli government by supplying them with the largest military aid package ever given to another country, and protected Israel at the UN from accountability by vetoing several resolutions designed to bring some form of justice; Neantahyu and his vicious government will never make concessions when they know that not only will the US ignore their human rights violations, but will actually reward them; the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank are case in point. The US has always had a pretty deplorable history in Egypt, supporting the despotic and violent Mubarak government up until he decided to stand down due to severe pressure from the Egyptian people in 2011. Once the Muslim Brotherhood were democratically elected the US didn’t really change its position, and were clearly interested in maintaining the close relationship with Egypt. In 2013 many Egyptians became disillusioned with the Brotherhood due to economic issues, constitutional issues and lack of security. But the disillusionment was exploited by the Egyptian military to launch a coup and install army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt. What’s followed since then is appalling, the military has returned to the Mubarak-levels of repression and has crushed dissent, the most notable atrocity occurring in August 2013 where at least 800 civilians were massacred. Obama made verbal condemnations but the support and aid to Sisi’s government continues to this day.

When Obama campaigned for president he pledged to be a protector of whistleblowers, he said they were “the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled” we now know of course that this was insincere and an electioneering tactic and that the Obama administration has actually waged war on whistleblowers. Under Obama the NSA has become almost an exact manifestation of an Orwellian dystopia which indiscriminately collects data on Americans including telephone records and online communication; many of these programs are regarded as illegal by legal experts. The courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden selected journalists from The Washington Post and The Guardian to examine the documents he took and ascertain which of those were in the public’s interest. Obama and many who criticise Snowden said he could have gone through the ‘proper channels’ instead of leaking to the press, the people who make this claim know that it hasn’t a whiff of truth, but rely on the public being ignorant of the facts. Most people know who Edward Snowden is, they may not know who Thomas Drake is, who similar to Snowden was aghast at what the NSA were doing without the consent of the US public. He tried the approach advocated by Snowden’s critics and he was destroyed and his concerns disregarded. If Obama genuinely understood the importance of whistleblowing he would do what the NYTimes has said he should do: Offer Snowden a presidential pardon. In addition he should offer Chelsea Manning a pardon, and this is probably more urgent considering the degree of abuse inflicted against her has intensified in the last year. Chelsea Manning exposed severe crimes during an illegal war the US waged on another country, her leaks shed light on the US’ human rights abuses and there’s no evidence they harmed any US military personnel but even if they did, the responsibility is on the warmongers who launched the war in the first place.
Obama has also been described by award-winning NYTimes journalist James Risen as the “greatest threat to press freedom in a generation”. Now whether you think Risen’s characterisation is hyperbolic or not, the fact remains that Obama’s attitude to the press and whistleblowing has been troubling to say the least. He’s employed the repressive and anachronistic Espionage Act several times and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all of his predecessors combined. Over time, his authoritarian attitude towards the press and whistleblowing will rank as one of the worst aspects of his presidency.

Justin Raimondo on the injustice of charging Chelsea Manning but excusing Hillary Clinton:

“The “crimes” of Chelsea Manning weren’t crimes against people but against the US government, i.e. they were acts of conscience that should be rewarded rather than punished. Nothing she did hurt a single person, except those persons in power whose hypocrisy and venality was exposed: not a single US casualty in our interminable “war on terrorism” can be traced back to the leaking of the materials that have been posted on Wikileaks via Manning. Indeed, the material that was released to the world exposed the very real crimes of our rulers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. This is Chelsea’s real “crime,” one for which she is paying dearly. On the other hand, let’s take a look at another lady who stands accused of mishandling US secrets, including material classified “Top Secret”: Hillary Rodham Clinton. While serving as Secretary of State, she violated US government protocol by conducting both her professional and personal email correspondence on her own private server. This alone is illegal, but her crimes don’t stop there. When this unusual arrangement was discovered, she refused to hand over the server: instead, she separated out those emails she deemed “personal,” handed some over to the US State Department, and then erased the entire contents of the server – thus covering up whatever violations of national security standards may have occurred during her tenure.”

Two of Obama’s foreign policy successes (and it’s important to highlight considering how extreme the Republicans are on these issues) is the Iran nuclear deal and the rapprochement with Cuba. Neither of these policies would have been possible under a Republican presidency. Most of the world agreed with Obama on the sensibleness of the Iran nuclear deal but his administration faced extreme hostility from Republicans in Congress and the extremist government in Tel-Aviv, both who are eager for war with Iran, in fact Israel would have launched a war on Iran long ago if it weren’t for the effective military deterrent the Iranians have. The nuclear deal has been successful and reduces the chance of a conflict with Iran and that warrants credit. Secondly, the US has a shameful record with regard to its treatment of its small neighbour, Cuba and Obama whitewashes the US record of terrorism and destabilisation by referring to it as ‘attempts at democratising the island’ but nevertheless regardless of Obama’s intentions, the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries is a step in the right direction in terms of relations between the two countries. The Republicans who consider an end to US criminality towards Cuba as tantamount to surrender are hellbent on preventing the lifting of the economic embargo, an embargo which the vast majority of Americans oppose.

Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and it’s long been clear that she’s been the Democrats preferred successor to Obama. Similar to Obama, she will likely make history by becoming the first woman to lead the country since its independence 240 years ago. But she is a much weaker politician than Obama, and lacks his charisma and charm which has helped Obama avoid the scrutiny his presidency warrants. In fairness to Clinton, Obama is the exception not the rule, most politicians do not have the ability to inspire in the way he does but this does pose a problem for the Democrats. Rationalising a lot of what Obama has done has been made much easier by the fact that the presidency of his predecessor was marred by the scale of illegality it committed both domestically and abroad. The liberal press has also been much more lenient on Obama because of his likeable personality and amongst liberals, aversion to Obama is seen as a great sin. Clinton won’t have these luxuries, animosity towards Clinton among the general public is considerably more prevalent than Obama and liberals do not revere her in the same fashion they do with Obama. It’s also no secret that the catastrophe of the other candidate has made it taboo to be very vocal in your disdain for Clinton. Once Clinton is elected president there should be no hesitancy or reluctance among those on the left to hold her to the standard a leader of the most powerful country on the planet should be held to. Her deplorable record of supporting odious policies and people should not be whitewashed simply because the alternative candidate was such a monstrosity.

Clinton has long been regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the Democratic Party, and for good reason. When you consider how close a relationship she has with a vicious war-criminal like Henry Kissinger and the fact she describes people like Mubarak as friends of her family it’s easy to understand why. Her voting record on US military interventions abroad paints a bleak picture, but perhaps her most shameful moment in regard with foreign policy is how she played an instrumental role in the US’ participation of the Libya intervention in 2011 which decimated the Libyan government and left a vacuum for jihadists to fill. Once Gadaffi was butchered on the street, a despicable way to be killed regardless of his crimes, Clinton boasted by quipping “we came, we saw, he died”. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, like so many interventions before it became clear the US had no intention of rebuilding the country and investing in infrastructure, the only goal was to destroy.

David Mizner of Jacobin on Hillary’s disastrous legacy in Libya:

“The humanitarian case for war depended not just on the prospect of mass atrocities by Qaddafi but also on the existence of a superior alternative. Administration officials and others depicted the opposition as gloriously and uniformly progressive. When the United States recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as Libya’s governing authority in July 2011 — and gave it access to $30 billion — Clinton described it as “steadfast in its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The TNC, far from a representative sample of the opposition, was a collection of expats, former Qaddafi loyalists, and other elites who rose to power with the apparent help of France. One of Blumenthal’s memos to Clinton asserts that France funded the nascent council in exchange for the promise of financial favors. French intelligence “expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” Whatever its nature, the TNC was merely the figurehead atop a loose coalition that included vicious racists and other reactionaries. Indeed, it was immediately evident that the threat of mass atrocities came not from the government but from the opposition.”

Another flaw of Clinton’s is how intimate she is with Wall Street executives and the latest Wikileaks revelations have only reinforced how close she is to them. Three of Clinton’s top 5 individual donors have been Wall Street banks – Goldman Sachs, Citibank and JP Morgan. Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticised Clinton throughout the campaign for receiving so much money from Wall Street, and stating this undermined her ability to reform it. Clinton claims Wall Street’s enormous donations haven’t influenced her voting record, but CEO’s of Wall Street banks seem very confident that a Clinton presidency will shield them from losses in enormous profits. Clinton like Obama claims to be a friend of the American worker, but there is a clear conflict between trying to reduce the scourge of inequality in America and being beholden to Wall Street; they don’t donate that kind of money for nothing.

It may very well be true that Clinton’s foundation has done some good things around the world, but that should be no reason for it to be immunised from scrutiny, especially when there are troubling relationships with some of the most autocratic governments on the planet. The Saudi government has donated between 10 million and 25 million to the Clinton foundation, and other gulf countries have donated too. During Clinton’s time as Secretary Of State, the state department supplied these regimes with billions worth of weaponry. Clinton insists that there was no quid-pro-quo but even some of her supporters have been able to recognise the clear conflict of interest that arises because of donations made to the foundation.

Just fathom for a second how absurd it is that someone who has awarded Israel with its most expensive military package ever is apparently not loyal enough to Israel. Well Clinton has expressed her wish to resolve this ‘rift’ that developed between Obama and Nentanyahu and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States by taking it to “the next level”, which simply means more enabling of war crimes, and more impunity. She has also denounced BDS and linked it to anti-semitism, which is appalling when you consider BDS is probably only one of the mechanisms in which Israel can be held accountable for its actions.

Before the Democratic National Convention in July, Wikileaks revealed information that proved the Democratic National Committee conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign using black propaganda. The information led to the resignations of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other high level officials. There is little doubt this was in the public’s interest; Democrats and Bernie supporters had the right to know how their candidate was mistreated by the committee before the official nomination of Clinton.

The more recent leaks from Wikileaks have revealed more interesting information. They’ve been dismissed by Clinton partisans on the basis that they’re not shocking, but it doesn’t have to be to be newsworthy. Leaked emails show Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta claiming that Saudi Arabia and Qatar funded ISIS, that she has disdain for environmentalists and that she is an eager promoter of fracking despite it’s harmful effect on the climate.

Wikileaks has a sterling record of releasing pristine, authentic data to the extent that it’s been used in 100′s of court cases to convict people of crimes and to free those falsely accused from prison and their data has many references in academia. Its role in shining light on how those in power operate and often abuse their power has been a tremendous service to the world. Wikileaks is not infallible and have been legitimately criticised by whistleblowers and journalists who are mostly supportive of their cause for their lack of curation and at times their leaks have done harm to innocent people. But claims that they’re a front for the Kremlin is just a propagandistic tactic used in an attempt to delegitimise the important work they do.

Clinton and Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time. Popularity or lack of doesn’t exactly correlate with success as we see that Obama currently has a very impressive popularity rate, but at a time when the country is plagued by division, America needed a candidate who could repair some of this division. Sanders was that candidate.

Strong, healthy democracies do not nominate someone who incites violence and who is as racist, misogynistic and abusive as Donald Trump to be one of the two contenders for leading the country. Trump’s ascension is not just an indictment of the extremist Republican Party but much of the country and indicates that racism and sexism are still pervasive in America. With the election only weeks away, it looks like Trump has squandered his chance at victory with one too many scandals, but any relief should be tempered with the reality that there is a significant appetite among Americas for someone who is overt in their prejudice and that the movement that drove Trump to the head of the Republican Party is going nowhere. The fear is that someone much more charismatic and competent than Trump comes along who genuinely is a fervent right-wing nationalist but unlike Trump is much more adept at navigating the US political system. If such a figure arises in the next decade or two, this could spell major trouble for both the US and the world.

It’s important to note that the Republican party gave up on parliamentary politics years ago, in fact following Obama’s election many in the party made it their mission to sabotage Obama’s presidency and engage in obstructionism, because the Republican Party has very little to offer the country apart from tax breaks to the wealthy and more military intervention abroad, they’ve instead prioritised attacking Obama and Clinton opposed to rebuilding their party. Nevertheless the Republicans do have a solid base of voters who can always be relied on to vote so while the party has struggled to win many presidential elections in the last few decades, they have been able to retain control of US congress. But many Republican voters have also become disillusioned with the direction of the party, they feel abandoned by what they call political elites in Washington and want to “shake things up” and this partly explains the appeal of Trump to them.

While Trump can’t legitimately be described as anti-establishment as he wants to further entrench economic inequality in the country, and make America’s military even more powerful than it is today, he’s certainly considered an outsider compared to the usual Republican candidates like Bush, Romney, Rubio and McCain. Trump completely destroyed every Republican candidate in the Republican nomination, illustrating just how significantly the party has changed in the last few years. Jeb Bush the brother of George W Bush was expected to at least compete in the race, but Republican voters sent a clear message that they have no appetite for another Bush presidency.

Trump’s unwillingness to engage in political correctness and say exactly how he’s feeling is also something his supporters find refreshing, they see the progress America has made in regard to women’s rights, gay right and civil rights and feel like they’re losing their country. Seeing Trump given such an enormous platform to spew his venomous prejudice fills them with a sense of nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” a catchy, effective political slogan is simply code for undoing the social progress the country has made over the last few decades.

Oliver Laughland on the horrific injustice inflicted on the Central Park 5 who were convicted of a crime someone else committed and Trump’s hideous role in it:

“Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted. Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened. He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.” Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled. “We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.” All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”

There’s no doubt Trump has capitalised on distrust of media. Like many leftists his supporters condemn the mainstream media for its biased news coverage. Distrust of US media is not misplaced and the evidence that it is subservient to power is overwhelming. The problem that arises is that those disillusioned by the mainstream media seek out sources which at times are even worse. Examples include RT, Breitbart and Infowars, which has a big influence on Trump supporters. This is why it’s imperative that those on the left spread awareness about sources of alternative media which are reliable, don’t kowtow to the US government and have a record of providing responsible coverage of the news. Democracy Now, Alternet and Truthout to name a few.

One of the vexing things about this election is the attempt to depict Trump as uniquely evil when judged against previous GOP presidents. It involves whitewashing the long list of crimes committed by Republican administrations. Reagan for instance is revered by these so-called moderate and respectable conservatives but he was one of the most warmongering, racist presidents the US has had in recent time. What separates Trump from previous Republican presidents and nominees isn’t so much that he advocates criminality and violence but that unlike them he doesn’t embellish it in fancy doublespeak. It makes it much easier for reasonable people to recognise the threat Trump poses, but I doubt I’m alone in thinking the overt manner in which Trump displays his extreme political views is less of a threat. So many Republican politicians like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Dick Cheney have escaped the level of vitriol aimed at Trump because unlike him they’ve been more competent at sanitising their horrific involvement in or advocation of violence.

Some people claim when it comes to nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear war that Hillary Clinton is much more dangerous than Donald Trump because of some of her hawkish views on Syria. I believe this to be a misguided position. While Hillary Clinton’s actions while in government have been a threat to world peace there is no indication she is unaware of the threats of nuclear war. In Syria she has advocated for a no-fly zone, which would be a reckless policy to impose, but in private she has recognised the dangers. I also doubt Clinton would be the type to directly disobey the warnings or advice from the military. Trump on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand nuclear weapons at all, and as commander in chief would have the power to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike against another country. Trump also is depicted as somewhat of a dove by his supporters who has no interest in meddling in the affairs of other countries, but this is highly misleading

Physicist Lawrence Krauss on the perils of Trump leading a country which has possession of nuclear weapons:

“Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a source of anxiety for many reasons, but one stands out: the ability of the President to launch nuclear weapons. When it comes to starting a nuclear war, the President has more freedom than he or she does in, say, ordering the use of torture. In fact, the President has unilateral power to direct the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Cabinet members may disagree and even resign in protest, but, ultimately, they must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump issuing an ultimate, thermonuclear “You’re fired!” to China, Iran, or another nation—and perhaps to the whole human race. This summer, Scarborough cited an unnamed source who said that Trump, in discussing nuclear weapons with his foreign-policy advisers, had asked, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Trump’s campaign has denied that he asked this question. But elsewhere Trump has said he would consider using nuclear weapons against isis and suggested that it would be good for the world if Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquired them. These comments demonstrate a fundamental confusion about the role nuclear weapons have played among the superpowers.”

The Democrats have also attacked Trump for his alleged connections to the Russians. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a businessman like Trump does have connections but the conspiracy theory that Putin is the one pulling the strings and commanding Trump to do as he pleases is amusingly absurd. Putin most likely supports Trump which is hardly controversial, Trump is less hostile towards Russia than Clinton and has showed more willingness to cooperate with them. In 2012 Putin endorsed Obama over Romney for the same reason, Romney was much more critical of Russia than Obama and the Democrats ridiculed him for living in the past. In addition one could be excused for forgetting that Bill Clinton himself was attacked over connections to Russia in the 1992 elections by Bush. Are Democrats pleased they have come to mimic the Republicans they once derided for engaging in these McCarthyist-like tactics?

A real issue throughout the election has been the scarcity of coverage or discussion about the crisis of climate change. During the debates it wasn’t even mentioned. At a time when the scientific evidence is painting a really bleak picture, it is crucial the most powerful country on the earth is at the very least devoting adequate time to its discussion. But for the media it just doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. There are many positions of Trump that should disqualify him from even running for president but you’d be hard pressed to find more than denial of climate change and his pledge to exit the climate agreement the US signed in Paris last year. In addition to Trump’s scientific illiteracy he believes the most absurd and problematic conspiracy theories like the long debunked one that vaccinations cause autism.

Trump being the narcissist he is can’t fathom the idea that he might actually lose something, so he had to find some reason to justify a probable defeat. He’s chosen to claim that the election is rigged and that there’s significant voter fraud. US elections aren’t the paragon of democracy they’re portrayed as, and there’s no disputing that certain candidates are given favourable coverage by the media and have unfair advantages over others but voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the US. One of the real ways elections are unfair is voter suppression, but this actually favours the Republican party over the Democratic party and to no surprise the Republicans have no interest in helping confront this problem.

In 1996 an advisor to nationalist candidate Pat Buchanan predicted the Trump phenomenon were seeing unfold, and it explains that there’s an economic dimension to Trump’s rise as well. Trump and his supporters unlike the elites in the party aren’t as dogmatic in their support of Really Existing Capitalism and have criticised ‘free-trade’ agreements like NAFTA and TTIP which should come to no surprise of those aware of the damage NAFTA inflicted on American workers. But Trump is not a genuine nationalist, but simply a narcissistic opportunist, in reality his economic proposals would do considerable damage to the American worker, and considering his record of tax avoidance it’s amusing how he can describe himself as a friend of the American worker with a straight face. While it’s true many Trump supporters harbour prejudiced beliefs, there are also genuine economic grievances that have to be addressed. If these concerns are disregarded and Trump supporters are abandoned by the political system, their radicalisation will only get worse.

What’s not amusing is his treatment of women, and the degree which his supporters have tried to trivialise his misogynstic abuse. The latest allegations and the leaking of the video showing Trump basically expressing intent to sexually assault a woman have reinforced what a sexist man Trump is, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Trump’s degrading attitude towards women goes back years, and accusations of sexual assault towards him are not new. In the 90′s he stated that the media’s opinion of him was irrelevant “because as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass it doesn’t matter”, at the beginning of this election when Megyn Kelly, anchor of Fox news criticised him for previous episodes of sexism he referred to her as a “bimbo” who “wasn’t capable of objectivity when there blood coming out of her whatever”, he’s also routinely insulted the appearances of women who have been critical of him including the women who accuse him of sexual assault. It’s also been noticeable just how misogynistic his supporters have been to Hillary Clinton often referring to her in sexist terms.

A troubling theme of this election has been Democrats’ unhealthy hysteria regarding Russia. You don’t have to be an apologist for Putin’s regime to be concerned about the direction the US is going in regard to its relationship with the Russian government.
Putin is an authoritarian and a militarist but the idea that he’s the next Hitler or has ambitions to reclaim the territory that gained independence from the Soviet Union is arrant nonsense.
What explains the US’ recent hostility to Putin and Russia? The idea that it’s Putin’s repressive policies or merciless bombing doesn’t stack up because this was occurring even when the US and Russia were on good terms.

The reason is quite simple, for probably the first time following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has directly challenged US power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has been expanding eastwards despite a verbal promise to the Russians that this wouldn’t occur. In Ukraine the US supported an unconstitutional coup, and a government which is no less violent or corrupt than the one it replaced but it is opposed to the Russian government. Russia fearing a loss of access to their military bases in Crimea illegally annexed the peninsula, and supported the rebels in Ukraine who were opposed the coup government supplying them with a BUK missile which downed a civilian airliner. Russia’s role in Ukraine is criminal and disgraceful but US policy of expansion in Eastern Europe has been dangerous and decreases the chance of peace between the two countries.

In Syria the US claims to be offended by Russia’s bombing campaign yet recent history shows the US are in no position to moralise about war crimes. The priority for the US in Syria was never the people of the country but undermining a government which was a threat to US, Israeli and Saudi power. Weakening Assad’s government by extension weakens Iran which remains enemy number 1 in Israel and Saudi. Thankfully Israel and the US have not been able to launch a campaign of terror against Iran because they have an effective military deterrent but in Syria the US and Saudi could arm rebels and Jihadists in an attempt to oust the regime. And for a while it appeared as this approach was working, Assad’s military was demoralised and had lost significant territory by the summer of last year. But then Russia intervened and everything changed, by unleashing horrendous terror the Russian military reclaimed key territories in Syria like Palmyra and Latakia. They’re currently inflicting severe misery on the civilian population of eastern Aleppo in an attempt to help the Syrian regime retake it from rebels. The US now has no effective strategy to overthrow Assad, barring a major military intervention which would require thousands of US boots on the ground and the American public do not find another major war appealing. While the threat of nuclear war lingers, it’s still not a likelihood at the present moment, but we may be returning to the Cold War, where Russia and the US avoid direct military confrontation but back proxies to weaken eachother. It goes without saying that this should be resisted. While we were fortunate to avoid a nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, the amount of violence and extremism that occurred on both sides made life unbearable if you were in a country targeted by Moscow or Washington. In Eastern Europe the repression inflicted on the people was inhumane while in Latin America the US terrorised many countries under the guise of fighting communism. There is no great solution to this problem, each power is not driven by social justice or humanitarianism but simply amassing more power, compromise on each side is the only effective way of reducing tensions.

The US government also formally accused the Russian government of interference in the US elections, essentially implying that they’re hacking the US government to change the outcome of the election. It’s impossible to discount this claim completely of course because of the state of relations between the two countries at the moment but the US has yet to provide any evidence of this interference and considering its previous lies with regard to WMDs in Iraq and dishonesty about mass surveillance they should be taken with a large grain of salt. There’s also a deep irony to the US complaining about interference in their elections considering the degree to which they’ve interfered in the political system of other countries. Amusingly former NSA director Michael Hayden claimed that the alleged hacking would be no different than what the US government does to other countries and that he would not like to have to deny it in a court of law.

Glenn Greenwald on the pernicious trend regarding Russia throughout this election:

“Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation: After converting Trump and WikiLeaks into arms of the Kremlin, Democrats turned their smear campaign to media outlets and journalists who simply reported on the contents of the leaked DNC emails: beginning with The Intercept, the first to report on it. That The Intercept and its journalists and editors proved themselves to be witting or unwitting Kremlin weapons and guilty of being Russia apologists and sympathizers was pronounced by MSNBC’s most enthusiastic neo-McCarthyite host, a Clinton-revering Boston Globe columnist, the Communications Director of California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi (including the outright lie below), and one of the growing legion of Hillary’s neocon supporters.”

The highlight of this election has undoubtedly been Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who has a history for standing up for social justice, and fighting for the average worker in America. If Trump’s ascension showed the worst of America and portended trouble ahead, Sanders’ rise showed the best of the country and indicated that there is great potential for the country to move beyond its period of violence and extremism. Sanders inspired thousands upon thousands of younger Americans and managed to get them active in politics which is a real achievement. When you look at the state of the US political system, and the shenanigans with Trump it’s easy to see why young people may simply want to disregard politics as much as possible, but people like Sanders convey the importance of making your voice heard and getting politically active. Sanders managed to attract impressive attendances to his rallies, and his messages surrounding economic justice really resonated with a significant number of people; Sanders is also a major supporter of unions and understands that strengthening them is a necessary step to deal with the inequality in the country. The odds were always stacked against Sanders, but he gave the Clinton’s a run for their money when they were expecting a coronation. Throughout the election he defied convention and criticised certain things that were previously considered to be beyond the pale. For instance, he showed no hesitancy in admonishing Clinton for her relationship with Henry Kissinger and correctly described him as a war criminal who has been responsible for a large amount of violence during his time as Secretary Of State. He also condemned US foreign policy, most notably for its polices in Latin America and its support of terror in Nicaragua. The hope is that Sanders’ campaign emboldens many people on the left to become more active, and to confront the US government on some of its deplorable policies. As inspiring as Sanders was, there was never a realistic expectation that he alone could make radical changes to US policy, even if he won the presidency he would have lacked congressional representatives and governors. The real change to US policy will not come from within the system but pressure exerted from the people. For all the flaws of the US government, it still has important democratic elements which mean if properly organised the people can affect real change. Sanders’ campaign has increased the prospect of that change, and for that we should be thankful for the energy he expended throughout this election.

The smearing by the Democrats of the honourable Ralph Nader who has done so much good work in America was really deplorable. This arose when the Democrats were trying to shame people who were considering giving their vote to Jill Stein. Nader, if you’re not familiar was a third party candidate during the 2000 election in which George W Bush controversially and narrowly beat Al Gore, a result which some still consider illegitimate. The Democrats claim that Nader is the reason Bush is the president, but what they neglect to mention is the amount of Democratic supporters who voted against the party in favour of The Republicans. If the Democrats managed to retain their own voters, they would have won the election. While we disagree with voting for Stein in this election, especially if you’re in a battleground state, if Clinton loses it would be absurd and unfair to pin the blame primarily on Stein’s supporters. If Clinton loses this election with the might of the media and large donations behind her campaign it would be a political humiliation of epic proportions for the Democratic Party and they will try and scapegoat Stein and third party voters. If Clinton is unable to beat someone as clownish as Donald Trump, the people who will bear most of the blame outside of Trump’s supporters are those who backed Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a much better candidate than Clinton.

Anthony L Fisher on the myth that Nader handed Bush the election:

“What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it…) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified “liberals” voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader. The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that “Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and ‘None of the above,’ meaning his presence there may have been a total wash.” In 2006, Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis authored a UCLA study on the effect of third party voting on the 2000 election. Among their findings: “Only approximately 60% of Nader voters would have supported Al Gore in a Nader-less election. This percentage is much closer to 50% than it is to 100%. One might have conjectured, that is, that Nader voters were solid Democrats who in 2000 supported a candidate politically left of the actual Democratic candidate. This conjecture, we have shown, is wrong: Nader voters, what participating in non-presidential contests that were part of the 2000 general election, often voted for Republican candidates. Correspondingly, [Reform Party candidate Pat] Buchanan voters voted for down-ballot Democratic candidates. Thus, the notion that a left-leaning (right-leaning) third party presidential candidate by necessity steals votes from Democratic (Republican) candidates does not hold.” So why hasn’t there been 16 years of hand-wringing over the thirteen percent of voting Florida Democrats going turncoat for the Republican nominee? What about the traditionally Democratic-voting bases of white women and seniors who both went for Bush, or lower-income voters, who mostly tilted for Gore but nearly forty percent of whom voted for Bush? Why is Ralph Nader the boogeyman of the left and not Al Gore himself who (despite being a VP in a popular administration which had the dumb-luck of presiding over a booming economy) was unable to win his home state of Tennessee, a state with enough electoral votes to send him to the White House even without Florida? Simple. Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major parties are entitled to your votes, and if you have any agency at all it’s to prevent the more terrible of the two from taking the reins of power. That’s how Gore, despite running an uninspiring campaign where he benched uber-campaigner Bill Clinton and chose the hawkish and moralistic Joe Lieberman as his running mate (thus turning off a great many off the liberals whose votes many feel were Gore’s birthright as the Democratic nominee), gets let off the hook, as do the hundreds of thousands of Republican-voting Democrats (in Florida alone), while “Ralph Nader” becomes shorthand for the folly of idealism.”

This election has caused severe embarrassment to the US and led to international derision and regardless of the outcome of the election, the US’ status as an oligarchy with severe democratic deficits and an imperialistic foreign policy will remain firmly intact. Clinton’s policies will be conducive to further inequality at home and violence abroad, but from a careful analysis of both their history and political views it is our view that a Trump presidency poses more risk to both the United States and the world. Therefore it is imperative that Trump tastes defeat this November.

Murray, A Champion Not A Bottler

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Throughout his career Andy Murray has not only had to contend with the difficulties of competing with some of the all-time greats like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic but with the noxious idea that he’s a bottler, that mentally he’s simply not equipped to be a legend of the game. On the contrary, Murray’s 2nd victory at Wimbledon not only dispels the idea that he’s mentally weak but actually is a demonstration of his wonderful mental fortitude.

There is no denying that Andy Murray is an inferior player to the aforementioned greats, nor is there any shame in that. He exists in an era where tennis has been graced by three players with indescribable ability, who have broken innumerable records, amassed an abundance of major titles and contributed enormously to the game. Murray has also faced great heartbreak in the game losing several finals to both Djokovic and Federer which led to some doubting whether he had the qualities to win a Grand Slam. It would have been easy for Murray to yield to the forces he was up against, to indulge in self-pity at the misfortune of playing in the generation of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. But instead he rose to the challenge. The pivotal moment in Murray’s career came in 2012, when he had to endure arguably his most crushing defeat of his career to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
It’s moments like those which reveal whether someone has the attributes to become a champion. Murray answered in the most resounding fashion possible. Only a month after the devastation suffered at the hands of Federer, Murray faced him again in the final of the Olympics at Wimbledon but this time he produced a masterclass defeating Federer in straight sets. The elusive slam finally came in September 2012 where he beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open and his greatest triumph came less than a year later where he beat Djokovic again to win the most coveted championship in the game. In the years since his consistency hasn’t wavered but he was unable to clinch a third slam until now.
A beaten finalist twice this year, Murray’s hard work was finally rewarded against Milo Raonic in the final. The road to glory was undeniably made easier by Djokovic’s early exit and the lack of fitness of both Nadal and Federer. But Murray delivered an exceptional performance in the final, not having his serve broken once and showcased arguably his greatest asset: his return of serve. The highlight of the match was Murray not just returning a serve of 147mph but winning the point. While Murray will bask in the glory of a second victory at Wimbledon he will now set his sights on Rio, New York and achieving the world number 1 ranking. While a lot will depend on how Djokovic performs in the upcoming months, Murray’s confidence is arguably at its highest. He has the potential to win a few more slams to add to his impressive collection.

Murray embodies the very best of what a champion is: He’s passionate, tenacious and dedicated to the game. For many years he had to endure the agony of losing several finals.
The adversity has made his success all the more gratifying. Even his most ardent critics must now concede he’s one of the greatest British sportspeople to have existed.
Now surely he will get the recognition he thoroughly deserves.

The Real Reason Behind The Plot To Oust Corbyn

Ever since it emerged that there’s a plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn – the leader of the British Labour Party – it’s been conspicuously obvious that the motivation behind it was nothing to do with the outcome of the EU referendum or concerns over Corbyn’s electability. The events of the last few days, in addition to solidifying that view have revealed that the people trying to orchestrate Corbyn’s downfall are motivated purely by self-interest and not by the interests of the Labour Party.

It’s important to bear in mind that Jeremy Corbyn inherited a party that was in crisis. The traditional Labour Party voters have felt alienated by a party that has abandoned them due to reckless wars, discredited economics and the failure to offer a coherent alternative to the inhumane policies of the Tories. Gordon Brown left power in 2010 and they had ample time to setup a political agenda that would take down the Tories. Not only did they fail, but they were responsible for Labour’s greatest election defeat in decades. When Miliband went, the Parliamentary Labour Party failed to have a political awakening leaving a vacuum for Corbyn to fill. Recall that Corbyn was not initially eager to contest the leadership election but was convinced to put his name forward for candidacy and received just enough votes from MPs to run. His reluctance quickly turned to enthusiasm when he realised just how many people were willing to support him. Some credit must go to Ed Miliband for democratising the Labour leadership contest changing it from a three-way electoral college to a one member, one vote system which made Corbyn’s ascension possible. Previously Trade Unions and MPs had considerably more leverage than average voters on who would win an election, Miliband changed the system so that the voice of the voters took precedence, which in effect means someone who signs up to Labour for 3 pound has as much power as someone like Tony Blair. Ironically it’s Miliband’s single greatest decision as leader that has plunged the party into its worst crisis in decades exposing the disdain many party elites harbour for the democratic will of Labour voters. In the past few days we’ve seen people claim that the only reason Corbyn won is because of ‘entryism’ and the hijacking of the party by leftist extremists. Of course anyone with any awareness of the facts knows that’s unmitigated bilge simply designed to remove the legitimacy of Corbyn’s democratic victory. While it’s undoubtedly true that the entrance of thousands of new and old Labour voters increased Corbyn’s margin of victory, he won the backing of full members and affiliate trade unions.

The plan to oust Corbyn was cynically planned months in advance, the result of the referendum was extraneous to the decision but the Brexit result provided them with the opportunity to make it appear like it was motivated by concern over Corbyn’s performance during the campaign. Angela Eagle one of the proponents of the coup and the woman that is supposedly going to run against Corbyn in a leadership contest actually praised Corbyn during the campaign for his arduous work on behalf of the remain camp, but was critical of the media for not covering it, she also retweeted a link from the news website The Canary which praised Corbyn for coming out fighting on side of Remain. In contrast, in her resignation letter she claimed that under his leadership the case to remain was made with half-hearted ambivalence. If the coup was genuinely about electability concerns there would have been a planned alternative ready in the scenario Corbyn resigned but all indications are there wasn’t. Hilary Benn was sacked on Saturday night, and the resignations began immediately after but it took until Wednesday evening for it to be revealed that Eagle was to challenge Corbyn announcing it on Thursday at 3PM which has now been delayed too, again demonstrating that the people trying to bring Corbyn down are totally devoid of any competence whatsoever. It’s not just the pathetic dithering over the selection of a candidate to challenge Corbyn, but the people they’re contemplating that reflects a serious lack of judgement. Both Tom Watson and Angela Eagle have horrific records as MPs, they both voted in favour of the Iraq War and against an enquiry into it. Eagle has also voted for increases in tuition fees, and abstained on the deplorable Tory welfare bill in July last year. Even her own local Labour party want Corbyn to remain and have setup up a petition pleading with Angela to resign. Eagle’s political values do not conform with Labour Party members, she is a quite dismal and unenthusiastic speaker and certainly would not ‘unify’ the Labour Party which just goes to show this whole manoeuvre to oust Corbyn has nothing to do with electability concerns and much more to do with their revulsion for his humane political values. The other likely motivation is the release of the Chilcot report which is due imminently, and according to a source of the Independent is set to be highly critical of Tony Blair and expected to damage the reputations of other officials who were involved. What lends credence to this possibility is People like Watson, Eagle and Benn who all voted for the war and against an enquiry do not want someone of Corbyn’s integrity leading the party when it’s released because it’s unlikely he will sanitise the findings. He’s said he’s prepared to call for an investigation into war crimes committed by the Blair government and has vowed to apologise on behalf of the Labour party for its role in the war. It is of course true that not all people who want Corbyn to go are Blairites or people involved in the hideous invasion of Iraq, some reasonable people like Ed Miliband have also expressed their desire to see him go, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the main architects of the coup are revolting people whose politics have no place in the Labour Party.

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It’s not only Labour MPs waging war on Corbyn, much of the media want him gone too and there have been more instances of blatant dishonesty on their part in the last few days. Yesterday it was reported that the renowned economist Thomas Piketty quit as his advisor because of his weak campaign during the EU referendum debate. This was factually wrong as Piketty himself confirmed and his friend and accomplished economist Mariana Mazzucato castigated the Guardian for misleading its readership. The Piketty story was important because the media could frame it in a way that it wasn’t just Corbyn’s ideological enemies against him, but someone who obviously influences him and Corbyn respects. More appalling however were the events of today, the much awaited Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour Party was released this morning, many of Corbyn’s foes were patiently waiting to seise on the results in an attempt to heap further pressure on Corbyn to resign. But the conclusion actually vindicated Corbyn and said that while there were cases of anti-semitism in the party, the party is not overrun by prejudice towards Jewish people which was claimed during the scandal which emerged in April. Without the result that they hoped for, they resorted to something much more malicious. In the report about anti-semitism it stated that expecting Jewish people to have an opinion on Israel simply on the basis of their faith is as wrong as expecting a Muslim person to have an opinion on an atrocity committed in the name of Islam simply because they’re Muslim. Corbyn said in his speech that “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli or Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations” There was absolutely nothing unreasonable about that statement, Corbyn was not making a comparison with Israel and Jihadist groups but a criticism of the guilt by association fallacy which is used by both anti-semites and anti-Muslims to denigrate them. Despite this several media outlets claimed he was making a direct comparison between Israel and ISIS and some even had the temerity to smear Corbyn and claim it constituted anti-semitism; thankfully Cathy Newman, a reporter for Channel 4 who actually has integrity corrected the wilful misquotes.

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Corbyn has been described as weak and gutless. This week has proven he’s anything but. Despite the sheer lengths some are going to get rid of him, he refuses to succumb to the pressure and will not be bullied into submission. Because the patronising calls for resignation have now failed, the personal attacks on him are becoming increasingly nasty.
The fact Corbyn is going on is a testament to his resilience and mental strength.

Corbyn Must Stay

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In the wake of the EU referendum which Britain voted to exit the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a crisis where several members of the Labour Party shadow cabinet have resigned following the sacking of Hilary Benn. Much of the media who have been hostile to Corbyn since the beginning are exerting pressure on him to quit, but Corbyn refuses to succumb to the pressure, maintaining that if he is to leave it will have to be through a democratic election.

Since Corbyn won the Labour leadership contest in September with a huge mandate, winning an unprecedentedly high share of the vote there have been several attempts to undermine his leadership, most prominently during the Syria vote in December and the manufactured anti-semitism scandal in April. The claim in December was that because Corbyn failed to unite his party into voting against the airstrikes his position had become untenable, which failed to take into account that most of the MPs in favour of airstrikes in Syria failed to provide a coherent reason for why the airstrikes would make a significant contribution in weakening ISIS and didn’t address the futility of bombing ISIS without the presence of a diplomatic plan to deal with the underlying causes of why ISIS has risen to power in Syria; the fact they refused to listen to persuasive arguments against the bombing in Syria reflects poorly on them, not Corbyn. The vote also underscored the ideological divide between Corbyn and other MPs, many of the MPs who were in favour of the bombing subscribe to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention where Western militaries are a force for good in the world. Indeed the man who made headlines during the Syria vote was Hilary Benn, he made a stylish speech which led to many in the media fawning over him but his speech was devoid of substance as he failed to outline a feasible strategy for defeating ISIS. The fawning from the media illustrated just how incompetent they are at doing their job, Hilary Benn may be an eloquent speaker but his views on the Syria vote should have been immediately dismissed on the grounds of his previous role in illegal and murderous Western interventions. He supported both the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, which serve as an indictment of his judgement on foreign policy. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Iraq war was a humanitarian disaster, he expressed no remorse for the way he voted and even worse has voted against enquiries into the war. The fact that much of the media extolled his Syria speech despite his voting record underscores how uncritical of power they are. The anti-semitism scandal which erupted in late April was manufactured to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership before his first important test in the UK local elections at the beginning of May, many MPs seised on the accusations and implied Corbyn had made anti-semitism acceptable within the Labour Party. The coup would have to be put on hold though as the disastrous results many predicted for Corbyn in the elections failed to materialise. While the anti-semitism scandal was a plot designed to weaken Corbyn, there were instances of inexcusable posts and statements made by both Naz Shah and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Corbyn acted decisively and suspended both members and explicitly stated that anti-semitism would not be tolerated within the party displaying clear leadership during a moment of crisis. But the real animosity for Corbyn stems from his dedication to the Palestinian cause, he has been a relenting and vigorous critic of the state of Israel which continues to commit crimes in Gaza and the West Bank with impunity. Many of the MPs in the Labour party are apologists for Israeli terror and find it very unsettling that someone who is overt in their hostility to the state is the leader of their party. To many of them opposition to Israeli war crimes is indistinguishable from anti-semitism which again demonstrates the invidious position Corbyn is in.

When Corbyn was elected in September he tried to pacify some MPs by assembling a shadow cabinet which consisted of people who had views quite divergent from his. But it was always bound to fail as the divisions are too severe to be reconciled. In truth Corbyn should have confronted this problem much earlier and sacked disloyal members and unified his party. But it’s good news that this problem will finally have a resolution because the situation Labour found themselves in was clearly unsustainable. It certainly was not in Corbyn’s interest to have this problem persist for much longer as a general election within the next 12 months is not inconceivable, by the time that arises ,the party has to be united behind Corbyn therefore the exodus of anti-Corbyn MPs is necessary if a Corbyn Labour can succeed. The PLP have opportunistically used the result of the EU referendum in an attempt to stage a coup against Corbyn, the glaring flaw with this strategy is most Labour party voters are closer to Corbyn’s position on the EU than with those opposed to Corbyn. Corbyn for years has been a critic of the EU as have many leftists like Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis, Owen Jones and Noam Chomsky. Many of the criticisms include the EU’s embrace of neoliberal capitalism which has had a disastrous effect on most of the world, it’s harsh imposition of austerity in peripheral EU states like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the creation of the Eurozone which has been an undeniable failure, even acknowledged by the former president of the European commission and most recently its appalling handling of the refugee crisis. The lack of enthusiasm for the EU is entirely of its own making and if Corbyn fully embraced the EU after years of reasonably outlining the very flaws of it, he would have completely lost credibility with the electorate. Voters deserve honesty, not deception and Corbyn gave them the best possible defence for remain, he like Jones, Mason and Varoufakis harbour a lot of disdain for the EU, but they understood that without a progressive alternative in place, leaving would not yield a successful outcome. In addition it’s been claimed Corbyn sabotaged the remain campaign by refusing to collaborate with Tory prime-minister David Cameron, a claim which is ludicrous in the extreme. The man who bears responsibility for the lack of cooperation is Cameron himself, as he is the man who called the referendum and the was the leader of the country campaigning to remain in the EU, it was his responsibility to avoid alienating the leader of the opposition, but in the months following Corbyn’s election Cameron labelled him as a threat to national security and a terrorist sympathiser, the hyperbolic and inflammatory language he used rendered any chance of cooperation remote. In addition, if Corbyn campaigned with the Tories he risked making the same mistake Labour did during the Scottish independence referendum when several Labour MPs campaigned alongside Tories to remain in the United Kingdom, in the general election only months later they were destroyed. The truth is, the outcome of the EU referendum is simply a pretext for the attempted coup, Corbyn campaigned without deception unlike many on the leave side and he should be commended for that.

The last few days have also reinforced just how hostile to Corbyn the media are. Despite Cameron’s humiliating defeat, the disarray the Tories are in, the lies from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who misled the electorate, the media have instead decided to focus much of their attention on Corbyn. The notion that the media are yearning for Corbyn to fail is not some crackpot conspiracy theory but one very much grounded in fact. A study from November showed the British systematically tried to undermine Corbyn’s leadership with their extremely critical coverage of him and in May former chair of the BBC trust said it was likely the BBC had shown bias against Corbyn. In addition just this weekend the appalling Daily Mail posted a very offensive picture of Corbyn with the word “Labour Must Kill Vampire Jezza” emblazoned on it, this less than 14 days after the left-wing politician Jo Cox was assassinated for her political views. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, the establishment media are averse to anyone who challenges power, and setup in way which is conducive to biased political journalism. Years ago with so many powerful forces opposed to Corbyn the likelihood that he could survive would have been remote. But with the advent of social media and the profusion of alternative media, the power they wield isn’t quite as formidable as it once was. Corbyn’s many loyal supporters are well connected on social media, and won’t let the coup succeed without a fight. Already thousands have signed a petition backing him to stay as leader, and there are plans for a demonstration in support of Corbyn tonight in London. The support from the trade-unions, grassroots movements and the Labour party members should be enough to stave off the coup attempts from the deplorable MPs. They will probably succeed in winning a vote of no confidence but it will likely trigger another leadership contest which Corbyn hopefully will win. It’s claimed that Corbyn has been a failure as a leader, but in fact his victory and the support he has received remains one of the most positive developments in UK politics for some time. In May 2015 when Ed Miliband led the party to one of its most humiliating defeats in electoral history Labour Party membership stood at 201,000, by January 2016 it rose to a whopping 388,000 a huge success on Corbyn’s part, in addition the amount of younger voters flocking to the party has exponentially increased since his victory. A criticism of Corbyn is that he comes across as mundane and uncharismatic, but I myself find that refreshing. At a time when extremism is on the rise, and dramatic figures like Trump and Boris Johnson are dominating the headlines the calmness of Corbyn is somewhat appealing, he isn’t a great orator but he speaks honestly and from the heart and I’d much prefer that than someone like Obama who has the ability to inspire and exhibits great charisma but is so disappointingly lacking when it comes to policy or principles. The claim that he’s done nothing is also absurd. Since his victory in September he’s helped force U-turns for Saudi prisons and police cuts, helped stopped Osborne’s 4.5bn welfare cuts plan, got firefighters to re-affiliate with the party, made re-nationalisation of railways an official policy, and spoke out against the UK’s role in Saudi’s hideous war in Yemen.

Study from the Media Reform Coalition in November:

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a “neutral” stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders – and claims that “the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage”. … In the days after he was selected, Corbyn was criticised for his controversial shadow cabinet appointments, policies that were at odds with the views of many of the party’s leading figures, his decision not to sing the national anthem and his poor relationship with the media after pulling out of an interview on the Andrew Marr show. … “One might expect news items, as opposed to comment and editorial pieces, to take a more balanced approach but in fact the opposite is true. A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292) were positive, versus 61% negative stories and 32% taking a neutral stance.”

“This ‘default’ position is particularly significant given how these stories make up the bulk of the coverage during Corbyn’s first week”. … The research is part of the Media Reform Coalition’s project campaigning for a reduction in the monopoly of the UK’s media ownership, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

“Newspapers have every right to take a partisan line in their reporting and freedom of the press is a key component of democratic societies,” the reports author Emily Seymour wrote, but she stressed their concern about the monopoly over ownership of UK newspapers, which they called “profoundly anti-democratic”. … “What concerns us, however, are the ownership structures underlying this degree of political intervention,” the report said. “The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it’s hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in the way that they are.”

If Corbyn is ousted, it’s the end of the Labour party. It would be a betrayal of voters and would lead to an exodus of Labour party members. I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future, there is no guarantee Corbyn could win a general election and perhaps his message won’t resonate with most of the electorate, but he’s the best man Labour have got at the moment. He’s also dragging the party further to the left which is necessary after the disaster of Blair’s tenure, and the terrible campaign Ed Miliband led. The foundations for future success are being built, Corbyn must continue.

Update: In a huge display of solidarity thousands of people have congregated to express their support of Jeremy Corbyn in both London and Newcastle. The vote of no confidence by secret ballot takes place tomorrow.

The Stuff Of Dreams

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At the beginning of the Premier League season Leicester City were 5000-1 odds against winning the league title, to have merely suggested a title challenge would have elicited mockery from the most esteemed journalists in the game, a fantasy that could not be achieved in the real world. Well, to hell with reason, Leicester City have achieved the unachievable.

It’s almost impossible to convey the magnitude of this feat but for much of last season Leicester languished in the relegation zone, which was no great surprise considering they were only promoted the season before. They ended the season strongly managing to stave off relegation and finished in a respectable 14th position. Their fans were delighted, and perhaps dreamed of an even better finish this season, but this historic victory has surely exceeded even their wildest expectations. The man who took Leicester City to glory was the humble and endearing Italian Claudio Ranieri, remarkably he hasn’t managed a Premier League team since he was sacked by Chelsea in 2004 who felt Ranieri didn’t have the calibre to win the title, but what a return it’s been, throughout his career titles have eluded Ranieri wherever he’s managed but all the years of failure must have been worth it for this one season of splendid triumph. When Ranieri was appointed last June, many were apprehensive and for good reason. Ranieri had just come off one of the most humiliating debacles of his career with the Greek national team which included a pitiful defeat to minnows, The Faroe Islands. His reputation was greatly damaged and there was little reason to suspect that Ranieri had the capacity to take the club forward, but never before have so many people been delighted to have been proven so wrong. Ranieri has remained grounded all season instructing his players to take it one game at a time and implored them to not get carried away with the prospect of a famous victory. And unlike in many underdog stories where the underdog relies on luck, few will deny that Leicester have been the superior and most consistent team during the whole season. And while Leicester depended on a remarkable defensive effort which saw them record twelve 1-0 victories courtesy of magnificent performances from players like Kanté, Huth and Morgan, they also bedazzled many fans with scintillating football by virtue of the skill and guile displayed by players like Mahrez, Okazaki and the clinical finishing from Ulloa and Jamie Vardy a former non-league player. But most of all, their togetherness and unity drove them to paradise which Ranieri must take great credit for.

As upsets go, it can’t be disputed that this is one of the best in the history of not just the game but all of sport. Leicester City have defied logic, done the unthinkable and have inspired the world. Their season of glory will forever be etched in the annals of sporting history.

Spieth’s Shocking Surrender!

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With 9 holes to go at Augusta National Jordan Spieth looked on course to win consecutive Masters titles and his 3rd major championship in 12 months. With 4 consecutive birdies on the final holes on the front 9 he established a 5 shot lead. Many thought the remaining 9 holes would be a coronation, with Spieth cruising to victory, what unfolded however was a capitulation of epic proportions.

By his own admission Spieth hadn’t produced his best golf all week, his ball-striking was inconsistent and his driving was errant, but Spieth who is renowed for his clutch putting managed to hold onto his lead by making key putts when he needed them most. There were signs throughout the week that Spieth was uncomfortable with his game, a sloppy finish on Friday cut his lead to one, and on Saturday after restoring a sizeable advantage he faltered late in the round playing the final two holes in 3 over par. Despite this, mentally he looked unflabbable, driven by sheer determination to win his 2nd Masters despite the obvious shortcomings in his game. But on the 12th hole it all caught up with him and the weaknesses were exposed in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Amen Corner which is notorious for its perilous and merciless layout had claimed another victim. Spieth arrived at the breathtakingly beautiful 12th at Augusta on the back of consecutive bogeys at the 10th and 11th, his lead had been cut to only a solitary shot. Despite the intense pressure few would have expected him to have folded under these circumstances, after all Spieth had demonstrated all week his ability to bounce back from bogeys and he has proven his competence at the highest level in this game with two major championships.
Spieth struck his shot aiming to play a fade, but long before the ball found the creek Spieth recoiled in digust, certain of the outcome. If Spieth could have mitigated the damage and salavaged a bogey or a double-bogey a recovery would have not been inconceivable, but he compounded his error by finding the water again with his 3rd shot from the drop zone. He hit the shot so fat and atrociously that the ball barely even reached the hazard, Spieth visibly furious turned his back and couldn’t even bear to watch. He finished the hole with a quadruple-bogey and faced a deficit of 3 shots. In a testament to Spieth’s mental strength he responded remarkably well, birdying 2 out of the next three holes and gave himself a slim chance of catching the leader, Danny Willett but the damage was too extensive, there was to be no revival. The old adage that “the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday” was most certainly true today. Golf has seen its fair share of meltdowns over the year, Greg Norman in 96 at the Masters, Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999, Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006 and Mcilroy at the 2011 Masters but Spieth’s was arguably the most astonishing considering how impervious he appeared to the pressure most of the week.

Spieth was gracious in defeat, and in accordance with Masters tradition draped the green jacket on Danny Willett and congratulated him on his victory. Willett who nearly missed the Masters because of the birth of his child was the worthy winner. He shot an almost immaculate bogey-free 67 which included 5 birdies and he displayed tremendous nerve on the 17th to scramble an unlikely par. Willett’s victory will inevitably be overshadowed by Spieth’s collapse, but this was one of the best final round performances you’re likely to see at Augusta National.

Spieth understandably will be reeling from this loss for a while, but he can take great solace in the fact that he came so close to creating history. He’s played 3 Masters and his record is T2nd, 1st & T2nd which includes leading in 7 consecutive rounds. In addition he’s becoming scarily consistent in the majors, since the beginning of 2015 his record in the majors is 1st, 1st, T4th, 2nd & T2nd and yet he’s still only 22 years old.
There is no reason to suspect Spieth won’t bounce back from this, if anyone is mentally equipped to deal with a diaster of this scale, it is him. Champions overcome adversity, and Spieth is a champion. He will comeback from this nightmare.

Reflections On Obama’s Cuba Visit

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The shot of Air Force One coming into land in Havana was iconic and the perfect way to begin this new chapter in relations between the US and Cuba. There are moments in history you don’t want to miss, and this momentous visit by Barack Obama was undoubtedly one of them.

The reestablishment of bilateral ties between the two countries faced many obstacles, most prominently Cuba’s well grounded suspicion of the US government. The breakthrough came in late 2013 when anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela died. Mandela held the Castro brothers in great esteem and was grateful for their contributions in facilitating the defeat of the apartheid government in South Africa which Reagan’s administration embraced. Both Raúl Castro and US president Obama were invited to the funeral which put the US president in an invidious position. Be courteous towards Castro and face the wrath of extremists back home, or snub the Cuban president and disrespect Mandela’s family. Obama thankfully chose the former and recognised that Cuba’s president had a right to attend the event. This then provided the foundation for the relationship to develop with Castro expressing his appreciation for Obama’s civility at the funeral.

Obama’s politics are odious, of that there is little doubt but as a politician he is remarkably competent. It was clear that throughout the visit to Cuba, Obama was totally in his element – you could readily discern that he was fully enjoying being a part of this historic visit. Obama honoured Cuban hero José Martí and laid a wreath at his memorial. Amusingly during the ceremony, a mural of Che Guevara loomed large in the background, quite expectedly US Republicans reacted with fury. During Obama’s press conference the condescension about human rights was accompanied by praise of what Obama called Cuba’s “enormous achievements” in healthcare and education, and their humanitarian contributions in east Africa where their doctors have put their lives on the line to alleviate the suffering of people who contracted Ebola. Castro maintained that the occupation of Guantánamo Bay and the inhumane embargo would remain as impediments to full normalisation of relations. The trip ended on a good note, where both Obama and Castro attended a baseball game between Cuba and The Tamba Bay Rays. Many must have thought their eyes were deceiving them when Obama and Castro participated in the Mexican wave, which again aroused rage from Republicans. Raúl Castro then travelled with Obama to the airport and waved goodbye as Obama departed to Argentina.

While’s Cuba’s grievances with the United States cannot end during one visit, there is now a path towards reconciliation which is a step in the right direction. Neither Cubans nor the vast majority of Americans have much interest in a return to violence, and a majority of Americans want the deplorable embargo to be lifted. It would be nice for both countries if ‘American democracy’ delivered what their people want.

Obama In Havana

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Barack Obama visits Cuba this week which marks the first time in 88 years that a sitting US president has visited the island. With increasing pressure exerted on the US by several Latin American countries and with mediation from Pope Francis, Obama has taken steps to normalise diplomatic relations, has eased trade restrictions on Cuba and has advocated an end to the Cuban embargo which requires approval from US Congress.

For many Americans Cuba has connotations of dictatorship and association with the Soviet Union. Therefore it should come as no great surprise that a large portion of Americans harbour considerable hostility for the Cuban Government. If you get your knowledge through the lens of the US propaganda system this is an entirely reasonable point of view. From an American perspective, their government has always been a friend to Cuba, assisting them in their liberation from Spanish colonialists in 1898, and supporting their government up until the revolution. Then suddenly all this cooperation and friendliness was disturbed by a group of guerrilla fighters who overthrew the government which was our ally and could be relied upon to serve our interests whatever they may be. They then punished US businesses operating in Cuba, and allied with our great enemy the Soviet Union, compounded by their request to bring nuclear missiles into Cuba which led to the missile crisis and threatened the peace and security of Americans. Again, the conclusion that the Cuban government are the embodiment of anti-Americanism and that the revolution brought regression to Cuba is quite logical within this framework. The only problem? It’s utterly antithetical to reality. To understand the US’ paternalistic relationship with Cuba you really have to have an awareness of the Monroe Doctrine which played an instrumental role in the formation of American policy in Latin America. The doctrine essentially stated that the Western Hemisphere was to be exclusively the domain of the United States, President Monroe declared that the traditional imperial powers in Europe should not intervene in the affairs of Latin American countries and the mercantilist policies pursued by the Spanish and Portuguese should end because it prevented American economic expansion in the region. The Monroe Doctrine was established in 1823 during a time when the British reigned supreme in much of the world, for this reason exerting US influence in Latin America and implementing the doctrine was not achievable because of the deterrent of the British fleet. But as British power gradually waned and the Spanish and Portuguese lost their grip on the colonies, an opportunity for the US to impose its will on the southern hemisphere opened up. In 1898 the US acted to prevent the Cuban liberation from the Spanish, and turned it into a virtual US colony ensuring that legitimate independence would have to wait. Instead of outright annexation the US decided to grant Cuba partial independence under terms set by the US government which would guarantee a system of control for the US. In the years that followed America would exercise almost complete economic and military dominance over the island, intervening militarily in Cuban affairs several times to maintain its control over the country. The treaty Cuba signed under military occupation in 1903 is still used by the US today as a justification for the occupation of Guantánamo Bay where they operate a naval base. Guantánamo Bay has become notorious for the torture camp established during the War On Terror in 2003, it’s often criticised by rights groups and the international community, but what’s often neglected in the discussion about the torture camp is that the US occupation of Guantánamo has no legitimacy. The Cuban government has repeatedly exhorted the US government to return the territory to Cuba and has refused to accept the rent checks from the US, but the US cite a provision from the treaty which requires mutual agreement before the lease of Guantánamo ends. The way the US government phrases their argument makes it sound like the Cuban people consented to the leasing of the land to the US which suffice to say is ludicrous. Under international law treaties imposed by force are illegal, in addition the terms of the treaty have been violated by the US which have allowed commercial use of the Bay. One of the most shameful moments in the history of the US’ relationship with Cuba was its support of murderous dictator Fulgencio Batista, the US supplied Batista with everything a tyrant could desire: military, financial and logistical support. Batista neglected the Cuban people displaying apathy towards their wishes for better education, health care and housing and conversely helped the US advance the interests of American corporations which saw their profits rise; US influence was so dominant that the US ambassador to Cuba said: “Until Castro, the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.” The worst crimes Batista’s forces committed were the murders of thousands of Cubans with US backing. The US’ position of supporting Batista became so untenable that in 1958 they stopped supplying weapons to him and imposed an arms embargo on Cuba. Castro and his group of guerilla fighters which included Che Guevara fought valiantly and managed to defeat Batista and his forces. In an effort to resolve the US’ economic domination of Cuba they nationalised the exploitative US businesses operating in Cuba which elicited a hostile response in Washington. The US government then imposed a vicious embargo on Cuba and conspired to overthrow the Cuban government by training and arming a paramilitary group comprised of Cuban exiles. It quickly became apparent that the US attempt to overthrow Castro was failing and the Bay Of Pigs invasion became a major embarrassment to the Kennedy administration, in addition to the overt aggression the CIA was also involved in covert plots to assassinate Fidel Castro which thankfully failed. Following the outright aggression from the US, Cuba established ties with the Soviet Union and placed Soviet nuclear missiles on its island feeling it would act as a deterrent against US attempts at regime change. The Soviets later agreed to dismantle their weapons in Cuba in exchange for a promise from the US government that they would not invade Cuba without direct provocation. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Cuba lost its primary trading partner which resulted in food shortages and a lack of basic goods and was forced to diversify its economy into biotechnology and tourism. In 2006 during the calamitous hurricane Katrina the Cuban government offered to send its health workers to America to help the victims but the US government declined. When Fidel Castro stepped down due to declining health the legislative parliament of Cuba voted for his brother Raul to succeed him.

JFK on the US’ support of Batista:

“Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state—destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror. Administration spokesmen publicly praised Batista—hailed him as a staunch ally and a good friend—at a time when Batista was murdering thousands, destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people, and we failed to press for free elections. I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”

When Obama announced that he was visiting Cuba this month it was accompanied with this assertion: “America will always stand for human rights around the world”
A cursory look at the US’ history in Latin America makes a mockery of that claim.
You’d be hard pressed to find a country in Latin America which has come away unscathed from US interference or intervention. The innumerable crimes have been well documented but today I’ll focus on post World War 2 crimes. Less than a year after the US overthrew the democratically elected prime-minister of Iran they were involved in another coup in Guatemala in 1954. Jacobo Arnetz was democratically elected and was in the process of making gradual improvements to the daily life of Guatemalan people but this conflicted with US corporations who were preoccupied with making as much profit as they could. At the behest of the United Fruit Company the CIA orchestrated the coup and their forces invaded Guatemala bombing the city and conducting a campaign of psychological warfare. The US-backed dictator reversed the reforms, and gathered peasant leaders, executing them and conditions for the people of the country quickly deteriorated. In the years that followed the US would support the repressive authoritarian rulers who committed unspeakable crimes against the people. During this period the Guatemalan army committed genocide against the Mayan people and assassinated several catholic priests and nuns who supported the rights of the Mayan people. Historian Greg Grandin stated that: “There is general consensus today among academics and Guatemalan intellectuals that 1954 signalled the beginning of what would become the most repressive state in the hemisphere, a state responsible for the torture and murder of two hundred thousand of its citizens”
In Chile, president Allende who was also democratically elected was overthrown in a coup in 1973 led by Augusto Pinochet which was supported by the US. During Pinochet’s rule his forces committed sexual abuse, torture and killed thousands of people. While the CIA denied playing any direct role in the coup the years of destabilisation of Allendes’ government provided the conditions required for Pinochet to rise to power. The US also consolidated his power by making Pinochet’s officers into paid members of the CIA and US military. In Nicaragua the US’ interference is particularly sinister. They overtly supported tyrannical ruler Somaza who was overthrown by the Sandinistas in 1979. The US led by Reagan in the early 1980′s authorised a covert war against Nicaragua by funding and training a death squad known as the Contras. The Contras’ crimes were so significant that the US Congress banned support of them, but the Reagan administration defied this and continued to aid the terrorists. Crimes included torture, kidnapping, rape of women and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch released a report in 1989 stating: “The Contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants, and mistreating prisoners. The International Court Of Justice condemned the US for its terrorism in 1986 but the US dismissed it and blocked enforcement of the judgement by the UN Security Council thereby preventing compensation to the Nicaraguan people. While all of this was ongoing the US continued to rationalise their policies under the guise of promoting democracy.
“In a 1981 study, human rights researcher Lars Schoultz concluded that US aid “has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens…to the hemisphere’s relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights.” In 1998, Latin American professor Martha Huggins stated “that the more foreign police aid given (by the United States), the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become.”
These are just a small selection of the extensive list of US crimes in Latin America, and Obama is no doubt aware of them which makes his remarks so contemptible and offensive to people who have suffered and been killed because of the US’ policies. For all the talk from Western media about human rights violations in Cuba, one thing always remains conspicuously absent. The largest human rights violator in Cuba is not the Cuban government itself but the United States who operate a torture camp on the island which is illegal under international law. Many of the detainees are denied a fair trial, and have been subjected to degrading and inhuman torture. In addition the inhumane embargo imposed on Cuba has been repeatedly condemned by the UN, and most states in the world including even the US’ most loyal allies are against the embargo. Since 1992 the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution every year condemning the impact of the embargo and declaring it to be in violation of the charter of the UN and international law.

Marjorie Cohn professor at Thomas Jefferson School Of Law writes in the Huffington Post:

“The U.S. government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, health care, education, and its guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal pay rates. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo.
The U.S. embargo of Cuba, now a blockade, was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War in response to a 1960 memo written by a senior State Department official. The memo proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the [Castro] government.” That goal has failed, but the punishing blockade has made life difficult in Cuba. In spite of that inhumane effort, however, Cuba guarantees its people a remarkable panoply of human rights.”

John Pilger’s informative documentary on the US War On Nicaragua:

Despite the embargo and terrorism inflicted on Cuba, they have made some remarkable accomplishments and humanitarian contributions both domestically and abroad since the revolution in 1959. The Cuban government prioritised both education and healthcare understanding that if the new system was to survive it was vital those two necessities were taken care of. The first of these was the 1961 literacy campaign which was designed to teach people to read and write. Prior to the revolution the literacy rate in Cuba was between 60 & 76 percent. The campaign was a resounding success and taught thousands these essential skills, the literacy rate was consequently raised to 96%. Expenditure on education is also relatively high and has led to a high level of educational achievement. In addition prior to the revolution many people who were impoverished were denied access to education, following the revolution these children were now afforded free access to education. Apologists for US imperialism claim all of these facts are propaganda but organisations like the UN and the World Bank have heaped praise on these accomplishments; in 2006 Gallup conducted research on the opinions of Cuban people in the two largest cities, a high percentage of them expressed satisfaction with their education system. Cuba’s achievements in education are no doubt profound but when it comes to healthcare they’re just off the charts. Despite being a third world country with very little wealth its life expectancy is on par with developed countries like the US, it has the lowest child mortality rate in Latin America and Unicef has commended the Cuban government for tackling child malnutrition. Last year the World Health Organisation confirmed that Cuba became the first country to eliminate transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby. They described this success as “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” Cuba has made some impressive medical innovations, most notably a vaccine for meningitis B which has been administrated in countries throughout the world, they’ve also made a possible breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer, climavax-evg a therapeutic cancer vaccine was the result of a 25 year research project and has aroused interest of the medical community in the US, doctors in the US are very excited about getting to clinically test it. Thomas Rothstein a biologist at the Feinstein Institute For Medical Research said: “The Cubans are thinking in ways that are novel and clever” Cuba is also renowned for its medical internationalism and played a pivotal role in alleviating the suffering caused by the ebola crisis in 2014. In fact, its positive role in Africa has been so important than Cuba was the first country heroic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela thanked following the collapse of the racist system in South Africa. The achievements since the revolution are extensive and must not be trivialised, but equally the flaws and human rights violations by Castro’s government must not be whitewashed or forgotten. Cuba like many countries during that time had a society replete with homophobia, and the Cuban government imprisoned innocent gay and trans people without charge or trial often subjecting them to harsh treatment. Ana Marrero a trans woman said: “It was horrible, we couldn’t have a life. In those days the Cuban government was very backward and cruel about homosexuality.”
Gradually Cuba has become more progressive when it comes to LGBTQ rights, a few years ago Cuba elected its first trans woman to office and in 2010 Fidel Castro apologised and took responsibility for the persecution of LGBTQ people but nothing can excuse that shameful chapter in Cuba’s history. The Cuban government also adopted censorship and has an abject record when it comes to press freedom and civil liberties. Dissidents are also treated improperly and often detained without charge. The Cuban government also treated the internet with suspicion and it’s among one of the most tightly controlled in the world, however there have been gradual improvements in the last few years. There is undoubtedly compelling evidence that the good the Cuban government has done exceeds the bad, but like any state it is susceptible to abusing its power, and this makes uncritical support of it a danger. Genuine supporters of Cuba will not downplay the very real grievances of Cuban expats, or try and rationalise its flaws, but work to make Cuba a true model for the world.

Nelson Mandela on Cuba:

“We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or fighting for their freedom have been able to count on the support of Cuba? I was still in prison when I first heard of the massive help which the Cuban international forces were giving to the people of Angola. The help was of such a scale that it was difficult for us to believe it, when the Angolans were under attack by the combined forces of South Africa, the FALA [Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola] who were financed by the CIA, mercenaries, UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola], and Zaire in 1975. In Africa we are used to being victims of countries that want to take from us our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history there is not another instance where another people has stood up for one of ours. We also acknowledge that the action was carried out by the masses in Cuba and that those who fought and died in Angola are only a small portion of those who volunteered to go. To the Cuban people internationalism is not only a word but something which they have put into practice for the benefit of large sectors of mankind. We know that the Cuban forces were ready to retreat after driving back the invasion in 1975 but the continued aggressions of Pretoria did not allow them to do so. Your presence there and the reinforcements sent for the battle of Cuito Cuanavale has a historical meaning. The decisive defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale was a victory for all Africa. This victory in Cuito Cuanavale is what made it possible for Angola to enjoy peace and establish its own sovereignty. The defeat of the racist army made it possible for the people of Namibia to achieve their independence.”

While Obama’s less extreme approach to Cuba is a welcome departure from decades of US terrorism and demonisation of Cuba, it still falls far beneath the standards expected of anyone who claims to be an upholder of human rights. No admission of wrongdoing on the US’ part nor does Obama acknowledge that the immoral and illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay which serves as a naval base for the US should end. This is what Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest said regarding returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba:”The naval base is not something that we believe should be closed” Some will describe Obama’s willingness to engage with Cuba as a noble act, and again when compared with the major extremists in the Republican party that doesn’t appear unreasonable, but Obama’s Cuba policy isn’t motivated by benevolence but by political necessity; if the US continued down the path of embargo their isolation in Latin America would have only increased. In 2012 several Latin American countries threatened to boycott future Americas Summits if Cuba’s ostracism didn’t end. Obama like anyone living in the real world understands perfectly well that the US’ policy towards Cuba in the last 60 years has been counterproductive in achieving what it was designed to do: Weaken the Cuban government, and see a transition to a Pro-US government which is amenable to the interests of US corporations. Obama claims the US no longer wishes to oust the Castro government, and perhaps it’s true for some US politicians, but US Congress is controlled by extremists from the Republican party who still want regime change in Cuba, and have been vehemently critical of Obama’s steps at normalising relations with Cuba. Bearing that in mind, Cuba should remain very wary of the US government, and skeptical of accepting Obama’s rhetoric of changing course.

Maria de los Angeles Flores, A resident from Havana on Obama’s historic visit:

“The most important thing in the world after 90 years is for a black president come here to Cuba to unite the relationship and end all the wickedness that existed, for the economic blockade to end, for the humiliation over the Guantanamo Naval Base to end. The world needs peace,”

Since 1959 the Cuban people have demonstrated that they will not be manipulated by the US government, and that they will stand firm in their resistance to US imperialism. They’ve won the support of legions of people in Latin America, including thousands across the globe who have also been impacted by US aggression.
The US’ desire to normalise relations is a tacit acknowledgment of the failure of their policies towards Cuba since the revolution and a testament to the achievements of the Cuban people. They have succeeded in resisting US imperialism which is no small feat.

Saudi Starts 2016 With Beheadings

After Saudi Arabia beheaded 43 people, you would have thought it was the perfect opportunity for US Republicans to identify the Saudi government as one of the main exponents of a toxic, fundamentalist form of Islam. After all one of the main features of the presidential campaign has been particularly inflammatory rhetoric from the Republican candidates, most notably Donald Trump regarding Muslims and Islam. But following the beheadings – a method of execution most associated with ISIS – it was Republicans who offered the most vehement defence of Saudi Arabia.

The beheadings come at a particularly volatile time in the Iran-Saudi strife, Syria is still embroiled in a calamitous civil war which has killed over 250,000 people and led to the displacement of millions since fighting began in 2011, Iran has backed its only consistent ally since 1979, Assad’s government which it sees as key to its regional interests, meanwhile Saudi Arabia desperate to counter Iran’s growing influence within the region has supplied extremists including Jihadists with weapons and training. In Yemen, Saudi perceives the rise of the Houthis as directly attributable to Iran, and has tried to justify their murderous intervention by exaggerating Iranian involvement. The war in Yemen, which began in March after a Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States and Britain has wreaked much havoc on Yemen, including the killing of an alarming number of civilians due to indiscriminate coalition bombing; the destruction shows little signs of waning, as a Doctors Without Borders hospital was bombed on January 10th.
Executing 47 people on a solitary day is inhumane regardless of the crimes of those killed, but what aroused such outrage was the fact Saudi executed a Shi’ite cleric, Sheikh Al-Nimr who was charged for participating in protests against the regime. Al-Nimr who protested against the Saudi regime in 2011/2012 protests advocated a non-violent approach in resisting Saudi oppression. In 2012 Saudi police shot him in the leg and indiscriminately shot at those who staged a demonstration voicing their disdain for the arrest, two people were killed; he was allegedly tortured while incarcerated. The Saudis have tried to rationalise the killing by portraying him as a sectarian violent man who had ties with the Iranian government. This though is propaganda of the most sinister kind, far from being a pawn of the Iranian government, Al-Nimr was critical by asserting that they act out of self-interest, and that Saudi Shi’ites shouldn’t simply support them on the basis that they’re Shia; he also criticised the Syrian government and Assad and characterised him as an oppressor. A belligerent reaction from Iran was inevitable considering the bulk of its population belongs to the Shia branch of Islam but dismay at the execution was on display throughout the whole region including in Saudi and Bahrain. The forces in each country have a long history of responding to protest by deploying squads of armed police designed to both quell and deter dissent, any reluctance to succumb to their pressure will met with violence, which in some cases is fatal.
This case was no exception. In Manama, a village in Bahrain authorities used water cannons and fired birdshot pellets at people indignant at the executions. In Saudi, police killed a Shia resident from Awamiya and wounded an 8 year old child. Shi’ites in Saudi are in a very perilous position, in addition to the oppression from the Saudi regime, ISIS have also inflicted severe misery on their communities by targeting their mosques. The response in Tehran to the execution was also quite hostile, the Iranian government of course are hardly in a position to condemn the executions, they’re second only behind China in the number of executions a year, most who are executed are non-violent drug offenders, many Iranians though were incandescent with anger at the execution of someone they revered. While understandable there could be no justification for the ravaging of the Saudi embassy where protestors resorted to throwing molotov cocktails and destroying furniture and documents. While the response from the Iranian police was swift and they identified and detained those who entered the embassy, the damage was already done. Saudi then announced it was severing all diplomatic ties with Iran, along with a number of other countries. Needless to say that this is a very troubling development and will likely only fuel more conflict in the region. Saudi too are suffering from a precipitous fall in the price of oil, which has seen them incur a major budget deficit. To counter this they’ve employed austerity measures, but an integral part of the Kindgom’s maintenance of control of its population was the supply of money to certain parts of the population to prevent social unrest, without this vital tactic its hold on power becomes more fragile. This is why it makes sense for the Saudi government to generate more sectarianism, it diverts attention away from its own failings. But it’s a strategy that is fraught with danger.

Following the executions the condemnation from Saudi’s Western allies was tepid. This was to be expected of course, there’s too much money at stake to risk alienating Saudi, which scathing condemnations may have done. In October Jon Snow confronted David Cameron on Saudi’s abysmal human rights record, and why the UK conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi to ensure both states got elected to the UN human rights council. Cameron really struggled to offer a rationalisation, but not surpringly when backed into a corner he appealed to the security of the country and claimed the relationship with Saudi was integral to the security of Britain. The dogs on the street know why the UK is in bed with the Saudis and it’s got nothing to do with preventing terrorism, it’s to do with money. Since David Cameron was elected in 2010 the UK have sold 5.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. Many of these arms have been used by the Saudis in their horrific war against the Yemeni people. In December Amnesty said that according to the legal opinion of several professors that the UK’s military contracts breach both domestic and international law because of the government’s full awareness of the atrocities the arms that they’re selling are causing. In the United States, several Republicans defended Saudi Arabia and stated that they should have the full support of the United States. “Frankly, the Saudis don’t survive without us. Well, I would want to help Saudi Arabia, I would want to protect Saudi Arabia” Donald Trump said following the executions. “Saudi Arabia is one of America’s closest and oldest partners and deserves our continued support” asserted John McCain. “The Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East” said Ben Carson in response to the executions, he also implied America were in someway responsible for inciting Saudi to execute the Sheikh because of the Iranian nuclear deal. These statements are in contrast with what they’ve stated regarding Jihadist terrorism. “I think people want the truth. I think they’re tired of politicians. They’re tired of politically correct stuff. Until President Obama uses the words radical Islamic terrorism then the problem will not be solved!” Donald Trump “Look at the world in 2009, and look at the world today. It is dramatically shifted in favour of the forces of radical Islam, forces of terror, and they are now direct threats to the United States of America.” John McCain “U.S. leaders must acknowledge the existential threat ISIS and radical Islamic terror pose to the nation.” Ben Carson. It’s clear that these two sets of statements are irreconcilable, but it’s not difficult to see why Republicans are comfortable expressing contradictory positions. The first set are in service of the defence industry who depend on the Saudis for billions worth of sales each year, whether the Saudi government are a hideous regime has little relevance, they’re a loyal customer and there’s too much money at stake to risk destabilising the relationship. The second set of statements are designed to convince Republican voters that unlike President Obama they’re willing to be strong in tackling radical Islam, this usually involves advocating for merciless bombing of Muslim-majority countries, and or other policies that will cause more suffering to Muslim people. Evidence and reason are enemies to the Republican party, what’s important is appealing to the prejudices of their potential voters to secure power. The Democratic party do this to a degree too of course, but they’re very careful to avoid alienating independent voters, Trump’s strategy has been successful in gaining the support of Republicans and has given him a great chance of winning the Republican nomination, his supporters are loyal and fully committed to him, but he will struggle to gain the support of independents because of his divineness which makes a Clinton presidency an almost certainty, barring some significant scandal or major terror attack.

The completion of the Iran nuclear deal is indeed some positive news amid the war and conflict in the region – A demonstration that diplomacy can indeed be successful – Those desperate for war opposed the deal including the Israeli government who are led by a vicious war criminal, and hardliners from both the Iranian and US government found themselves in agreement that it’s not in their interests to engage with the enemy. Without Hassan Rouhani, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and John Kerry the prospect of such a deal would have been remote. Rouhani was elected as the Iranian president in 2013 and has been described as a pragmatist and advocated engagement with the West. Iran have made significant concessions with regard to their nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions which have been in place for more than 30 years. Despite the sanctions Iran has made huge advances in science, and its scientific progress is reported to be the fastest in the world, and 70% of Iran’s science and engineering students are women. Iran will now gain access the billions of dollars in assets that were frozen overseas. Comically, the US also paid them back the money they owed them for an arms deal made more than 30 years ago when the Shah was in power. Iran paid the US government millions, but because the Shah was overthrown they never received the supply of weaponry. The exchange of prisoners was also a step in the right direction: Americans who were detained unlawfully were allowed to travel home in exchange for the release of Iranians who violated sanctions. Whether this signals an increased chance of rapprochement between the two countries is too early to ascertain. The Obama administration is now in its final year of office, and there’s no guarantee the following administration will be as willing to engage with the Iranians. The fact the Iranian government is still an enemy of America’s two strongest allies in the region Saudi and Israel will also act as a hindrance to possible rapprochement. It’s also worth bearing in mind that two of America’s allies in the region Israel and Pakistan do have possession of nuclear weapons, and aren’t signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. If the US are seriously interested in stability and peace in the region they should exert pressure on each government to join the treaty, and begin the process of nuclear disarmament.

In Western media, Iran are often depicted as an aggressor, a nation which not only poses threat to its neighbouring countries, but who constitutes a threat to world peace. The animosity some Iranians harbour for Western governments is said to be a product of the propaganda that emanates from Iranian media. This view is decidedly repugnant to reality that it raises questions about the state of Western media and to what extent it’s marred by ideological bias. Far from being a perpetual conflict that can be attributed to theological differences, Iran and the United States once had mutual respect for each other, so much so that president Truman who was president from 1949 to 1953 sympathised with the plight of the Iranians and felt revulsion at the racist, colonial attitude Great Britain had towards Iran. Iran admired the US for standing up for them after the 1st World War, and appreciated their political system. At this time the US government had very little involvement in the affairs of countries in the Middle-East, and it was primarily the actions of colonial Britain that aroused much of the hostility in the region. Britain was the leading empire in the world and felt that owning profitable resources like oil reserves from faraway countries was their God-given right. The company that caused all the controversy was the Anglo Iranian Oil Company which extracted petroleum from Iran, it built a refinery in Abadan and the bulk of the profits went to the British. Iranian workers were also exploited and treated like objects. For many years there was little resistance to this project, because the British had the support of tyrannical Iranian dictators who maintained order and control; there were some attempts to gain some compromises from the British but these were unsuccessful. This would all change after 1941 when the Soviets and British invaded and occupied Iran forcing the Shah to step down in favour of his son. Iranian nationalism was on the rise and a figure who would forever change Iran’s history emerged: Mohammad Mosaddegh. He abhorred British imperialism, and was a proponent of nationalising AIOC, in addition he espoused secular values, and wanted greater freedom for the Iranian people. In 1951 he was democratically elected as prime-minister of Iran, he introduced social reforms which were greatly beneficial to the average Iranian. At this point the British were eager to stage a coup but President Truman couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to overthrow Mosaddegh who he had a lot of sympathy for. When President Eisenhower was elected in 1952 this would all change; suddenly the British led by Churchill had an administration who was receptive to the idea of deposing Mohammad partly because of the fear of communism and partly because of the benefits they would later receive and with the assistance of the CIA the plot to overthrow Mosaddegh dubbed Operation Ajax began. The CIA bribed thugs, clergy and politicians to participate in a propaganda campaign against Mosaddegh, a pro-Shah mob was paid to riot in August, and between 300 and 800 people were killed. Mosaddegh who was vehemently opposed to violence was ill-equipped to resist this. The mob marched at his residence and he was forced to disappear, eventually he surrendered and was convicted of treason, and placed under house arrest, many of his supporters were executed. Kermit Roosevelt who ran the operation was triumphant and he celebrated with the Shah. US companies benefited financially from the coup, much of the oil concessions were given to them by the Shah. Iran’s brief period of democracy and independence was over, for the next 20 years the Shah would operate with an iron fist, dissent wouldn’t be tolerated and his secret police force SAVAK was setup with the assistance of the CIA, they would torture and persecute any opposition to the Shah. In addition the US sold billions worth of weaponry to the Shah, which helped him tighten his grip on power. The love Iranians had for Mosaddegh didn’t wane, and the Shah was acutely aware of this so much so that he forbade any mention of portraying him in a good light, even when Mosaddegh died Iranians weren’t permitted to mourn him. When the Shah fell Iranians eventually got their chance to pay homage to Mosaddegh, on the 12th anniversary of his death thousands payed their respect to Mohammad; he finally got the send-off he much deserved. Without a doubt he was one of the most towering figures in Iranian history, a man of boundless integrity who left an indelible impression on anyone who knew of him. For many Americans they were completely oblivious to what their government was doing, in fact the US government succeeded in covering up the coup for several decades. On the 60th anniversary of the coup, the CIA finally admitted it was fully involved in planning and execution of the coup. It acknowledged that: “The coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.” From any impartial observation of history, the view that Iran instigated the conflict is deeply untenable to the extent it requires proponents of that view to either disguise Western crimes in Iran, or to exaggerate and lie about the actions of the Iranian government: It started with the exploitation and theft of Iranian resources by the British, the overthrow of Iran’s democratic president which was orchestrated by the CIA and MI6, the support and supply of billions in weaponry to the Shah, who was a murderous tyrant, and the assistance to his secret police force SAVAK which tortured and killed dissidents. And then following the Islamic revolution the support and supply of weaponry to Saddam Hussein who launched an attack on Iran which resulted in one of the worst wars of the century, in addition the US assisted Saddam while he gassed Iranians, and when he committed a ghastly chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, the US lied and accused Iran of being behind the attack despite knowing full well it was their ally. The US also downed an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people, mostly Iranians. They were later forced to pay compensation but never fully apologised or admitted to any wrongdoing and awarded the admiral responsible for the atrocity; what message does that send to the rest of the world? The sanctions imposed on Iran have also had devastating effects on the civilian population. How could someone have awareness of these facts and still maintain that Iran is the aggressor? Perhaps, irrational, tribalistic patriotism? Or racism against Iranians that view them as uneducated, backward people? Or simply dishonesty by someone who understands the facts but chooses to ignore them? None of this negates the fact that the Iranian government has committed some grotesque crimes and its form of theocracy restricts the freedom of its people. It’s entirely incompatible with Mohammad’s vision for the country which was for it to be secular, democratic and free. But the precedent set in 1953 sent the message that if you weren’t willing to be strict and authoritarian your fate would be the same of Mosaddegh’s. Any discussion about the current authoritarian government in Iran which disregards the role the United States and Britain played in creating the conditions that led to its power is one devoid of any semblance of reason. The notion that Iranian aversion to the US government is unreasonable is all the more remarkable when you consider the blatant overreaction to the incident involving the American soldiers who entered Iranian waters last week. Despite the fact it was error on the part of the US soldiers, Republicans and several in the US media depicted it as an aggressive act by Iran. This underscores the lengths Republicans and hawks in the media are willing to go to provide some justification for their desire to see an aggressive act undertaken by the US military against Iran.

If The United States does not make fundamental shifts to its foreign policy, violence and war will continue unabated for decades to come. Its unwillingness to confront Saudi Arabia and Israel’s destabilising role along with its catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has done untold damage to the region. If it continues down this dangerous path of pursuing regime change, and failing to address its own flaws along with those of its allies the risk of nuclear war is great. We now know how close the world to came to nuclear disaster during the Cold War, saved only due to the actions of a few individuals. There’s no guarantee that next time such a crisis emerges, that we’ll be so lucky.

A Month Of Terror

In the last month the world has been beset by a series of attacks by ISIS. The worst attack was on October 31st when a Russian passenger jet was downed by a bomb over Sinai, in Egypt, 224 people lost their lives including 214 Russian people. This was followed by a suicide attack near Beirut, Lebanon where 43 people died, then France suffered its second worst case of mass murder on its soil this year when a group of Jihadists staged coordinated attacks in areas throughout the city, hundreds were injured and 130 people were killed.

ISIS’ recent attacks mark a shift in strategy in how the group operates. Up until recently Western intelligence agencies have viewed Al-Qaeda as the primary Jihadist threat to their own territory, regarding ISIS as an issue mostly confined to Syria, Iraq and Libya. One of the distinctions that was often drawn between ISIS and Al-Qaeda was that ISIS unlike its Jihadi counterpart prioritised accumulating territory in Western Iraq and Eastern Syria with the aim of establishing a functional state, whereas Al-Qaeda were far more interested in launching large scale attacks against Western cities. With these latest attacks ISIS appears to have superseded Al-Qaeda in its capacity to strike at foreign targets.
Following the horrific succession of attacks, there’s been much discussion regarding possible solutions to ISIS’ terror. All indications are that neither the French, US or British government have any interest in pursuing long term strategies that are conducive to significantly reducing the Jihadist threat. Neocons in Washington still advocate the sledgehammer approach, despite the obvious perils to such a plan and the fact that it’s been a large contributor to ISIS’ ascension. ISIS are an outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the war in Iraq had the effect of uniting the Jihadist movement and making it infinitely more powerful than it was prior to the illegal invasion. During the invasion and in subsequent years Iraq was replete with the kind of conditions that Al-Qaeda could capitalise on. The most salient one of course was the occupation and the war crimes which ensued. Al-Qaeda knew recruitment would soar with the presence of US troops in Iraq, but the way in which it benefited Bin Laden’s organisation probably exceeded all expectations. One study from 2007 concludes that since the invasion of Iraq, terrorism increased by a factor of seven, and also observed that public support for the United States plummeted in Muslim majority countries courtesy of the murderous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, an internal report from US intelligence agencies concluded that the occupation of Iraq greatly compounded terrorism and in 2010 the former head of MI5 stated that the Iraq war substantially exacerbated international terrorism. So without a doubt the US invasion of Iraq did not curtail the threat of terrorism, and with a high degree of probability directly increased it. The de-Ba’athification of the Iraqi government also had major ramifications. The policy led to thousands of Iraqi men, who were armed and militarily competent being completely humiliated and unable to provide for their families, inevitably this led to many of them participating in the insurgency. This destructive policy perplexed several officials in the US military: ” One of the most senior military officials in the United States, Admiral Mike Mullen states that the de-Ba’athification policy coupled with the disbanding of the Iraqi military created security problems, and unnecessary sectarian tension. The Admiral stated that that Iraqi military could have been used to help secure the country more quickly, but instead its disbandment contributed to the overall decay in security.”
Another factor is the installation of a highly sectarian, anti-Sunni prime-minister, Nouri Al-Maliki. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Sunni and Shi’ite muslims lived without any serious conflict, so much so that intermarriage between them was relatively common, of course no one is blaming the US entirely for the Sunni-Shia schism which goes back centuries but they certainly did revive it with their policies in Iraq. Al-Maliki’s government has played huge role in inadvertently empowering ISIS, during his tenure he reneged on many of his promises which included building an inclusive government, his government has also indiscriminately fired on protestors killing many civilians, and they deprived Sunni Arab cities from vital services, including electricity, he’s also showed reluctance to tackle the issue of Shi’ite militias which committed atrocities against Sunnis. Taking these factors into account it’s easy to see why Tony Blair and Barack Obama both acknowledge the war in Iraq was instrumental in ISIS gaining its power.
But Iraq isn’t the only country ISIS and Jihadists have exploited political strife for their own nefarious gain. Syria too presented many of the of the same conditions found in Iraq. A decidedly oppressive leader, Bashar Al-Assad who killed thousands of innocent civilians with indiscriminate bombing, a military which was ill-equipped to deal with the competence of Jihadist fighters, and recent foreign involvement from Iran, Russia, The US and France. Groups like ISIS seek out political instability like a moth to a flame. So therefore to deal with ISIS you have to combat the conditions that are advantageous to them. A diplomatic solution is urgently needed, but the prospect of that happening anytime soon seems remote considering the conflicting agendas of the states and groups involved in Syria. The US’ strategy in Syria has been motivated primarily by their two most loyal allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia whose interests align with regard to Syria. Both are insistent that Assad must go, and are determined to weaken their common enemy, Iran. The US knows that pursuing a diplomatic solution in Syria which would involve the Syrian government would likely exasperate both countries, especially only a few months after the Iranian nuclear deal. Ideally, the major players, the Syrian government, along with Iran and Russia would meet at the negotiating table with the US, France and Saudi Arabia and come to some sort of compromise which would result in the situation improving for the Syrian people. If eventually, there was an agreement that Assad will leave, it is imperative the Syrian government is not dismantled and that money is invested into rebuilding critical infrastructure. Self-evidently, ISIS are not in the business of negotiating, so it is abundantly clear that the territory ISIS has stolen must be reclaimed through force. The US and Russia appear reluctant to send in a large array of ground troops which is understandable considering what happened in Afghanistan after 1979 and Iraq in 2003. Bear in mind that neither case yielded a humanitarian outcome despite being framed as a battle against terrorists. The most effective way to weaken ISIS is to support the local ground forces who are already securing victories against ISIS. The Kurdish militants have proven to be one of the most effective ground fighters against ISIS, liberating Kobane and Tel Abyad; no doubt that ISIS would be infinitely more powerful if it weren’t for the Muslim fighters putting their life on the line to defeat the Jihadists.

ISIS are not a reaction to US & British imperialism or oppressive dictatorships in the Middle-East, they’re an exploiter of it. By and large it’s predominately Muslims who are their victims, not Westerners or Christians. But many of the powerful commanders of ISIS are shrewd strategists. They’re aware that one of the major grievances people in the Arab world have is the amount of suffering Western powers have caused since the collapse of the Ottoman empire. One of the ways ISIS try to appeal to people is to portray themselves as liberators from Western imperialism and the complicit Arab dictatorships. The bulk of people in the Arab world however have vehemently rejected ISIS, and while they may see Western involvement in the region as an impediment to peace, they certainly do not view ISIS as a solution. One of the arguments used in an attempt to refute the claim that US or British foreign policy contributes to the rise in extremism is that 9-11 predated the Iraq war, the inhumane detention camp in Guantanamo and the use of UAVs. Such arguments display a remarkable ignorance of history. US meddling in the Middle-East far predates 9-11, their support of countless dictatorships to secure the resources of the region for their gain, their support of the Zionistic regime which kills Palestinians with impunity, the shooting down of a civilian passenger jet while supporting and assisting Saddam while his regime was gassing Iranians, or the bombing of a pharmaceutical facility in Sudan which is estimated to have killed a lot of people. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief the war against the Iraqi people started years before the 9-11 attacks with the sanctions imposed on Iraqi people which were permitted by the UN security council. The sanctions had a devastating impact on the civilian population killing thousands of people, and led to two UN officials resigning because of their disgust at the effects they were having on the Iraqi people. There’s a reason people are so eager to believe the fundamentalists when they cite religion as a motivation but so resistant to listen when they claim they’re inspired by the countless atrocities committed by the US and Britain as they have done on numerous occasions. The former involves no introspection of any kind, and feeds the racist clash of civilisations narrative which gained popularity after 9-11, by blaming it solely on religion we can wash our hands of the possible role our governments have played in creating the extremism. The latter would involve a realisation that our own governments have been committing acts of terror for decades and we have a moral responsibility to implore them to stop.

It would be remiss to examine ISIS without a focus on the ideology which inspires its most fervent commanders. The type of Salafi doctrine espoused by ISIS is rejected by most of the Muslim world, and the reason it’s gained such prominence is not despite popular misconception because the Muslim world gives it some sort of legitimacy but rather because there’s a lot of money invested in it to ensure it spreads around the world. While there’s no direct evidence the Saudi Arabian government has funded ISIS, it’s nevertheless true its ideology bears a lot of resemblance to that of Jihadist groups.
The Wahhabi ideology it subscribes to isn’t just purveyed domestically, but billions have been spent to generalise it around the world. Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative, strict, sectarian ideology that is named after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who formed a dynastic alliance with the house of Saud in the 18th century. Al-Wahhab considered himself a purist and wanted to return Muslims to what he considered the original principles of Islam. Initially, Wahhabism’s influence was restricted to parts of Saudi Arabia, but with the collapse of the Ottoman empire it spread to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. The discovery of petroleum near the gulf in 1939 acted as a catalyst for the global spread of the ideology, and the with the 1973 oil crisis and burgeoning oil prices, Saudi accumulated astronomical profits which were then allocated to the expansion of Wahhabi ideology, billions spent on media, schools, the building of hundreds of universities and mosques and the expansion of the ideology. Saudi Arabia supported the Jihadists during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, supplying them with considerable financial support. The movement would however split in 1990 when the Saudis allowed US troops to be stationed on their territory to fight Iraq. This disillusioned many of Salafists who then supported the overthrow of the Saudi monarch.
ISIS and Saudi Arabia may not be indistinguishable but their similarities are too hard to overlook. Only days after the horrific attacks Saudi announced the sentencing to death of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh who is alleged to have committed blasphemy. The kingdom is notorious for its high rate of beheadings, and in the last year it’s executed at least 175 people. To make matters worse it’s also terrorising the poorest country in the region, Yemen and has created a humanitarian catastrophe with their indiscriminate bombing and blockade of ports. This murderous war is being supported by France, the United States and Britain. In fact, France and Saudi agreed a contract worth billions in October, and days following the attacks the US state department approved a deal worth 1.29 billion with the aim of replenishing Saudi’s weapon supplies. The leading Western powers can not reconcile their rhetoric of despising Jihadist terrorism with supporting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states whose ideology resembles that of Jihadist groups.

Inevitably, as is the case after most terrorist attacks political opportunists are keen to exploit the emotional reaction of the public. Edward Snowden caused a considerable amount of embarrassment to the NSA, and the political elite of Washington when he supplied journalists with classified material which would later reveal to the world the extent of US and British surveillance. This attack presented them with the opportunity to vilify Snowden and propagandise to the public about the necessity of mass surveillance. CNN, a propaganda outlet invited ex CIA director on to express his desire to see Snowden “hung by the neck, until he’s dead”. John Brennan, the current CIA director, who is a pathological liar also implied Snowden bore some responsibility for making the job of intelligence agencies more challenging in thwarting attacks. A fantastic editorial from the NYTimes completely falsified their claims, but the purpose of the lies are to stoke fear to increase public support for the NSA’s policies, despite the rebuttal from the Times it’s very likely to have succeeded considering the submissive role most of the media play when it comes to the words of government officials.
Refugees have also been thrown under the bus since the attacks, especially in the US where presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have expressed utterly prejudiced remarks about them and the house passed a bill to suspend Obama’s program to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Their views are sadly in line with many American people. The US is a country that has a long history of racism. Bear in mind, that the vast majority of Americans supported the racist and criminal war against Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands of people. There is a also a majority of support when it comes to the use of UAVs, despite the fact it’s killed thousands of civilians and exacerbates terrorism. In someways you can attribute the prevalence of these appalling views to the most powerful propaganda system in the world, but it’s still no excuse. Attacks against Muslims have also increased since the Paris attacks, which is precisely what Jihadists want as they’ve explicitly said. The strategy of terror attacks is to engender a backlash against the minority Muslim populations in Europe and the US with the hope of polarising society. Murtaza Hussain of the Intercept: “In a statement published in its online magazine, Dabiq, this February, the militant group the Islamic State warned that “Muslims in the West will soon find themselves between one of two choices.” Weeks earlier, a massacre had occurred at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack stunned French society, while bringing to the surface already latent tensions between French Muslims and their fellow citizens. While ISIS initially endorsed the killings on purely religious grounds, calling the murdered cartoonists blasphemers, in Dabiq the group offered another, more chilling rationale for its support. The attack had “further brought division to the world,” the group said, boasting that it had polarized society and “eliminated the grayzone,” representing coexistence between religious groups. As a result, it said, Muslims living in the West would soon no longer be welcome in their own societies. Treated with increasing suspicion, distrust and hostility by their fellow citizens as a result of the deadly shooting, Western Muslims would soon be forced to “either apostatize … or they [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens,” the group stated, while threatening of more attacks to come.” Politicians are also using the attack to justify more intervention in Syria. Neocons like John Mccain want to intensify the US’ intervention by sending thousands of American ground troops into Syria, and in Britain the Tories are pushing for another vote on military escalation. It’s the least bit surprising then to see the stocks of defence contracters soaring following the attacks in Paris.

They were stark differences in how the attacks on Paris were reported on compared to the ones near Beirut and over Sinai. Following the attack in Sinai the sentiment arose from several people that while the loss of life was tragic the victims somehow made an idiotic decision to holiday in Egypt, a place which has suffered a lot of political violence lately. This despite the fact thousands of tourists travel to Egypt each year without being killed, and the bombing of a passenger jet is extremely rare. Now, extend the same logic to France which has recently suffered from Jihadist terror. If anyone even hinted at stupidity on the behalf of tourists in Paris they would be rightly castigated and considered extremely tactless for saying such a thing. But such words about the victims of the plane crash over Sinai were common on many websites reporting on the horrific attack. Tourism is an integral part of the Egyptian economy, and the solution is not scaring prospective tourists from visiting Egypt in the future, but ensuring the security threat is reduced. There was also the suggestion that the attack on the Russian passenger jet was a result of Russia’s entrance into the Syrian civil war ” On a BBC panel discussion the Telegraph’s Janet Daley referred to the crash as “a direct consequence of Russia’s involvement in Syria”, adding: “Putin has perhaps incited this terrorist incident on Russian civilians.” Ms Daley however did not apply the same reasoning when the innocent French people were murdered “If there is any need to argue about these matters, it should come at some other time,” she wrote, because “the French people did not deserve this”, and “it is wicked and irresponsible to suggest otherwise” this glaring hypocrisy pervades most of Western media; stating that Russian intervention may provoke a retaliation is seen as perfectly rational position, but stating that the French bombing of Syria may also provoke the same sort reaction in their country is perceived as rationalising or somehow excusing the violence. The victims of the bombing near Beirut were victim to dehumanisation from Western media. Several outlets described the attacks as one on a “Hezbollah stronghold”, implying it was militarily motivated when in fact it was an attack on civilians who were mostly Shia Muslims. Perhaps even more shocking was a Republican candidate running for senate saying “I support any attack made against Hezbollah or ISIS. That includes the attack launched today against Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

In Ireland the Paris attacks led to renewed discussion about what support we should lend to the militaries of Western states, and whether the use of Shannon makes our government complicit in some of the monstrous crimes the US government has committed. In the the days after the attack French president Francois Hollande invoked article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty, which calls on EU member states to aid and assist France in whatever way they’re capable of. Irish defence minister, Simon Coveney and other Irish minister have insisted than any possible deployment of Irish troops will not compromise Ireland’s policy of militarily neutrality which is overwhelmingly supported by the Irish people. However, there are a number of issues with Coveney’s claim which are documented here by Ryan Mccarel. What’s also been raised is whether the use of Shannon airport by the US military increases the security threat to our country. It’s highly probable that it does, we know that many extremists harbour a lot of hostility for the US for their wars in the Middle-East, and would likely see our association with the US military as a form of complicity. Despite this, it’s very unlikely Ireland would be prioritised in an attack because our army are not involved in the wars in Syria or Iraq. France and Russia were both targeted because they’ve been intensifying their bombing of Syria in the last few months, while ISIS may detest all people who abhor their ideology, the fact remains that they have limited resources and they will likely prioritise attacking countries they’re at war with. But apart from the security rationale for preventing US military access to Shannon, there’s also a moral one too. The government has always maintained that the use of Shannon by the US military is done in accordance with our policy of neutrality but this is patently false. If any military avails of Shannon airport there are supposed to be restrictions which include being unarmed, no carrying of weapons, ammunition or explosives and that the planes are not part of a military operation or exercise. The US government offered assurances to the Irish government that it would comply with these restrictions before the Iraq war, but instead of taking these ‘assurances’ with a degree of suspicion, the Irish government turned a blind eye to what the planes were being used for. According to a former pilot of the US military who flew military personnel to Kabul in Afghanistan where the CIA would torture detainees, the planes were never inspected and on several occasions weapons were carried and stored in the plane’s luggage hold. In 2005 Amnesty international revealed that six planes used by the CIA for rendition flights had made 50 landings at Shannon airport, this was in response to Dermot Ahern’s ‘plea’ that if anyone had any evidence of the flights to provide it to him and he’d have it immediately investigated. Amnesty supplied the evidence yet no investigation ever came to fruition. This is what Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland said regarding the rendition flights: “It is undeniable that the Irish government knew rendition flights transited Ireland and that they knew this breached the legally binding international convention on torture. Yet they did nothing. Ireland was prepared to ignore our role in kidnap and torture for the sake of maintaining good relations with the United States government” All of this was also done without the permission of the Irish citizenry; a poll from 2007 showed that the vast majority of Irish people oppose the use of Shannon airport in the Iraq war. Earlier this year a TD used Dail privilege to state that US troops carry weapons on planes that travel through Shannon airport. He referenced a recording played by Dr Tom Cloonan which was made on US military plane in Shannon: “It advises US soldiers, and I quote: to leave their weapons on board” In 2014, 272 planes carrying weapons or explosives were given permission to fly through Shannon airport, the bulk of these being US military aircraft. Of the 606 requests to carry munitions through Irish airspace, 93% of them were from the US. We should refuse to allow the US military into Shannon not because some Jihadist may desire it, but because facilitating an imperialistic military which has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people undermines our moral standing in the world.

Despite so much suffering and violence on this planet, we can take solace in seeing how people around the world reacted to the events in Paris. The solidarity on display was something to behold and it just reinforces the point that even though the world is plagued by a lot of ills, there is so much potential to make it a more peaceful, and united world.

Obama’s Hypocrisy Reaches New Heights

On Monday, during a speech at the UN general assembly, US president Barack Obama castigated Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Al-Assad’s government in Syria and for their complicity in the killing of children. The US government’s position on Syria is that Assad must go and there must be a transition to a more ‘inclusive government’ which is at odds with Russia and Iran who want to strengthen Assad’s government and ensure it isn’t ousted.

The conflict in Syria has become multifaceted and complex with multiple countries and groups involved who have different motivations. In 2011 during the Arab spring, Syria like other MENA nations experienced a popular uprising but unlike in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt the regime managed to withstand the resistance initially by responding malevolently to the protestors using force in an attempt to deter dissent. Assad’s security forces indiscriminately fired on many demonstrators and resorted to torturing detained protestors. This however only galvanised more Syrians to participate in protests and express their disdain for their government. Eventually it developed from protests into an armed rebellion with various groups taking up arms, most notably the Free Syrian Army, which was formed when various militias along with Syrian army defectors coalesced into one group. As the fighting continued more radical groups started to become involved like the Islamic Front who are supported by Saudi Arabia & Al-Nusra both who are Salafists and who want to establish an Islamic state in Syria, regardless of what the Syrian people may desire; both these groups have cooperated in pursuit of their goal of defeating Assad’s forces. The most notorious Jihadist group involved is the so-called Islamic State which separated from Al-Qaeda in 2014 and declared a caliphate. They have become infamous for their monstrous crimes and control large parts of Iraqi and Syrian territory due to the competence of their commanders. The reason many people attribute the ascension of ISIS to the United States is because of the destabilisation of Iraq, the installation of a sectarian anti-Sunni prime minister, Al-Malaki and lastly the aggrandisement of the largest missionary state in the region, Saudi Arabia which purveys a sectarian form of Islam, Wahhabism. Furthermore, recently a US intelligence report from 2012 was declassified which discusses the prospect of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria, and declares that the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria were Al-Qaeda and other Salafists, the Pentagon report also asserts that the supporting powers of the opposition desire this to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion. The group which has secured many victories against ISIL are the Kurdish militias but this has been undermined by Turkey, a NATO member and ally of the US government who views the PKK as a terrorist organisation and who vice-president Joe Biden claimed in 2014 poured money and weapons into anyone who would fight Assad including Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra, Biden was forced to apologise to prevent a diplomatic crisis but none of what he claimed is implausible. US intervention in Syria has not yielded a humanitarian outcome, but has only exacerbated the suffering of the Syrian people, with many of their weapons ending up in the hands of vicious extremists. Their bombing of ISIS has had very little effect, but has killed civilians and probably has assisted ISIS in recruitment of new members. From a humanitarian perspective, there’s no doubt the US strategy has failed, but in terms of reducing Assad’s power it’s surely succeeded up until now. His government only controls a small part of Syrian territory and state institutions have largely been destroyed. The geopolitical implications of the Syrian war are significant, and several analysts have described it as a proxy war. Iran, the major ally of the Syrian government wants to preserve the regime because of its regional interests, and Russia, contrary to what some claim are not prioritising the welfare of the Syrians, but their own national interests; their solitary military base outside the old Soviet zone resides in Tartus and they want to empower Assad’s government for geo-strategical reasons, both these nations also harbour fears of further Western intervention considering the disaster of intervention in other countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Take for instance Libya which was hailed as humanitarian mission to liberate the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi’s government, well NATO’s bombs did not bring peace and stability to Libya, they just exacerbated a deadly civil war. Britain spent considerably more on bombing Libya than helping to rebuild vital infrastructures which were destroyed. Prior to the intervention in 2011 Libya topped the human development index in Africa, and had the highest life expectancy in Africa. What reason does anyone have to believe NATO intervention would produce something better in Syria? Saudi Arabia who views Iran as its major enemy within the region is determined to weaken the Syrian government which by extension weakens Iran, the opportunists in Riyadh and Washington, contrary to what they say are not interested in human rights and the welfare of the Syrian people but increasing their hegemony within the region and this is why they have exploited the civil war. The latest intervention from the Russian government is unlikely to defuse the conflict and while it’s true some of their bombs have hit ISIS, their target includes anyone who is a threat to Assad’s power which includes groups who are not Jihadists and who are backed by the West. This is a recipe for even more disaster, two nuclear-armed states on opposing sides now directly involved in Syria, with diametrically-opposed interests. One thing the media often neglect to mention regarding Syria is the Golan Heights which is occupied by Israel, and who have built illegal settlements, this was condemned by the United Nations as violating international law, but Israel rejected this and its foreign minister said in 2010 Syria should abandon its hopes of ever recovering the territory.

Yemen, the poorest nation in the Middle-East has been under fierce attack for a number of years from the West, most recently the country has been beset by aerial bombing from the Saudi-led coalition which is militarily supported by the US; the Saudis are fighting the Houthis who overthrew the Saudi & Western backed government of Yemen in 2014, the state army didn’t attempt to thwart the coup because they declared their support for “the people’s revolution”. From Saudi’s perspective this is an attempt from Iran to extend their power and influence right to Saudi’s border but documents from Wikileaks and American officials have cast doubt on these claims, and have said privately Iranian involvement is exaggerated for political reasons, according to US officials Iran discouraged Houthi rebels from a takeover in 2014, a spokeswoman for US National Security council said: “Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”. In one of the worst attacks since the war began 135 civilians were killed after an airstrike on a Yemeni wedding in late September, Saudi unsurprisingly denied responsibility, but considering they have air supremacy over the area that was bombed it is highly probable they committed the attack. The US and Britain have not only facilitated Saudi’s crimes by refuelling Saudi aircraft and providing intelligence, but also with their provision of weaponry to the Saudi regime over the course of the last few decades and throughout the war. Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of US arms globally, lucrative military contracts worth 90 billion have been agreed between Washington and Riyadh which results in Saudi Arabia acquiring fighter jets, attack helicopter, missiles and armoured vehicles.
Saudi Arabia has one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle-East courtesy of the West, one such weapon that was used was a cluster munition, supplied by the United States according to a human rights group, conspicuously absent from the signatories on the 2008 convention on cluster bombs which prohibits their use, was the United States and the other members of the Saudi-led coalition. In April a young Yemeni boy mistook the canister for a toy and it exploded wounding him, and several others. Since fighting started in March the conflict has descended into a humanitarian disaster. Over 2000 civilians have been killed including more than 500 children, with many more wounded and in desperate need of humanitarian assistance which is being deliberately impeded by the Saudi-led coalition; the naval blockade imposed on Yemen by Saudi which cuts them off from vital supplies in time of distress has been condemned by human rights organisations. According to aid agencies over 80% of Yemen’s population is in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies and this blockade has severely compounded the humanitarian crisis by depriving them of those necessities. The media coverage of this conflict has been alarmingly sparse with many in the West not aware of the extent of British and US complicity. Recently it’s been uncovered that Britain and Saudi were involved in a secret deal to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council, furthermore the United States has been accused of sabotaging a Dutch-led effort to create an independent human rights mission for Yemen, overtly the US claimed to support it, but according to Nicolas Agostini, a Geneva representative for the International Federation For Human Rights, America’s late public expression of support and the emphasis on the need to reach consensus meant they were essentially pushing for the alternative Saudi text which called only for the UN to assist a national inquiry in Yemen established by the exiled government. Saudi has also come under increased scrutiny for their domestic human rights violations, this year alone they beheaded more than 100 people, they’ve flogged and continue to terrorise blogger Raif Badawi for the innocuous sin of criticising senior religious figures and discussing the flaws of Salafism, and most recently the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a teenager who has been sentenced to execution and crucifixion for challenging the Saudi monarchy. Neither the US or British government are going to exert any meaningful pressure on the KSA to tackle their human rights violations lest they destabilise the relationship they rely on for military contracts, and strategical purposes. The victims of Saudi’s tyranny and barbarism are not as important as money – that’s the message being sent from Western governments – loud and clear.

In 2014 and 2015 there was an exponential increase of refugees into Europe. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are where a good percentage of the refugees are fleeing, all three have been adversely affected by Western intervention. Other countries include Nigeria which has been plagued by the radical Jihadist group Boko Haram and Eritrea whose government has one of the worst human rights record in the world. Sadly, myths about the refugees are prevalent, and there’s been deluge of irrational fearmongering. What’s often overlooked is how the EU cooperated with Colonel Gaddafi’s government, and financed their brutal treatment of migrants and refugees for years, the problem with this oppressive approach apart from being morally reprehensible is it doesn’t confront the problem and when Gaddafi’s regime was defeated it was inevitable there would be an increase in refugees travelling to Europe. In 2014 the UK said it would stop supporting search and rescue operations because according to their dubious logic it would prevent more people drowning at sea. They were warned that this strategy was not only callous but illogical but didn’t listen. The number attempting to make the dangerous journey only increased in 2015 with many dying. The EU has invested millions in defence, high tech security and border patrol, but not much in preparation for an increase in refugees so it was woefully unprepared for this crisis. According to EU law a refugee is required to stay in the state it arrives in, the problem with this policy is it puts enormous pressure on border states like Greece which has been crippled by austerity to deal with the problem and it doesn’t take into account the complicity of imperialistic states like Britain and the United States in contributing to the problem. Claims that the refugees will have major effects on European demographics along with containing prejudice are also patently false. Even if the EU were to take 4 million Syrian refugees and they solely consisted of Muslims the percentage of Muslims living in the EU would rise by 4% to 5%, hysteria about Muslim birth rates also aren’t grounded in reason, while birth rates in the Muslim population are higher they drop and adjust as the standard of living and quality of education rises, consistent with other groups of people. What’s also forgotten is the vast majority of Syrian refugees are in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, together they’ve taken in more than 3 million refugees, despite being a relatively poor nation Jordan has taken in more Syrian refugees than all of Europe combined. The response from Israel and the wealthy Gulf states has been pitiful, both have framed this as security issue rather than a human rights one. Refugees will continue to suffer unless the world’s most powerful states come together to devise a workable and humane solution to the crisis. This should be a top priority.

War criminals like Barack Obama often lack self-awareness so none of his hypocritical rhetoric should surprise us, his moral posturing is no deviation from other US presidents, pursuing murderous policies while masquerading as someone who cares about peace and democracy is characteristic of a US president. Bashar Al-Assad too is a war criminal and the crimes he’s committed against his people should not be trivialised, but the US government has no right to dictate to a sovereign state considering its crimes far exceed the Syrian government over the course of the last century. Bombs are unlikely to bring an end to this conflict, and will only inflict more misery on the Syrian population. Anyone who claims there’s a simple solution to this conflict is being disingenuous, too many powerful states are involved and there’s no guarantee they’ll choose peace over war, but bombing has been tried for a number of years now and the situation has only deteriorated for the Syrian people. Trying the diplomatic route is not certain to work, but there should be at least an attempt from all countries involved to resolve this through peaceful means. While the war persists we should make every effort to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian and Yemeni people, this means governments, globally investing in more humanitarian aid, confronting the stigma and misconceptions regarding refugees, providing asylum for more refugees and donating to aid groups like Oxfam and Unicef.


Corbyn’s Victory


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On Saturday, avowed socialist and anti-imperialist Jeremy Corbyn won the election for the leadership of the British Labour party. Corbyn achieved an emphatic victory by securing 59.5% of votes beating other Labour candidates Andy Burnham (19%), Yvette Cooper (17%) and Liz Kendall (4.5%). This follows the defeat Labour incurred in the British general election a few months prior, with the Tories gaining a majority, Labour having their lowest seat tally since 1987 and Ed Miliband resigning shortly after.
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After Ed Miliband resigned few could have imagined what would unfold in the coming months. Jeremy Corbyn was long regarded as a fringe member of the Labour Party and the prospect that he could lead was never taken seriously. It wasn’t until the very last minute he put his name forward for candidacy and received just enough signatures from MP’s to enter the race. Disillusionment of the Labour Party has grown in the last number of years. The murderous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waged by Blair’s government, the continuation of neoliberal economics, a poisonous ideology and the failure to offer a viable alternative to the Tories’ callous economic policies have all contributed to that. Corbyn unlike the Parliamentary Labour Party has a very clear vision of what is conducive to a fair and equal society and his ideas have resonated with Labour voters. He’s renowned for his influential role in the Stop The War coalition, which vigorously protested against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; one of his first acts as leader of the Labour Party will be to apologise for Labour’s role in destroying a nation. His activism extends beyond that though, he was a vigorous protestor against apartheid in South Africa and was arrested in 1984 for protesting outside the South African house in London. In addition he campaigned for the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who overthrew the democratically elected government in Chile and established a military junta, killing thousands in the process with the support and assistance of the CIA. Furthermore he’s been a vehement critic of the regime in Israel which continues to kill and oppress Palestinians, and British complicity in it. He’s also expressed ambitions to withdraw from the hideous military organisation NATO and has condemned its expansionism. His strong support can probably be attributed mostly to his economic policies though, which are firmly grounded in reason. Corbyn is acutely aware of the damage wreaked by neoliberal economics and the burgeoning income inequality in Western states. A lot of his proposals, like renationalising the railways and imposing a higher tax rate on the wealthy are supported strongly by the UK public. Most of the UK also support the imposition of rent control on landlords, and the bulk of the British public also agree with cutting tuition fees. Corbyn was also the only one of the four Labour leadership candidates to oppose the vicious welfare bill proposed by the Tories which will cut welfare spending by 12bn. He’s also won the backing of economists who have contradicted the media’s assertion that his economic policies are unreasonable.

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The British media which is largely subservient to power mounted a concerted smear campaign and demonised Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to suppress support of him. Evidently, this has backfired spectacularly but it will likely pale in comparison to what’s ahead. Jeremy Corbyn represents the largest threat to the British establishment in sometime and now that he’s actually won the election, the fearmongering is only going to intensify. Many have praised most of the Labour voters for being impervious to the latest propaganda emanating from the British media, but how the British public reacts to it remains to be seen. Following Corbyn’s victory, we’ve already seen British PM, David Cameron labelling Corbyn a threat to economic and national security, this from the man who has imposed vicious austerity and who brazenly welcomes a war criminal to Downing Street.

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The special relationship between the United States and Britain is well documented, since the 2nd World War, Britain have essentially been a lackey to the US, they have collaborated with and facilitated the US’ imperialistic policies for many decades. Corbyn challenges this relationship and is vehemently critical of US hegemony in the world. There’s no doubt the powerful in Washington will be concerned about his victory, and if his support continues to increase it’s inevitable they’ll be trying strenuously to prevent him from becoming Prime-minister. The US media which is oligopolistic and where power is largely concentrated in a small selection of news providers are as committed as their British counterparts to ensuring someone with the views of Corbyn does not gain significant power.

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What’s impressive about Jeremy Corbyn is the collectivist approach he espouses. He subscribes to genuine democracy where the public actually have leverage over the policies their government are implementing, and where they’re actively participating in politics and not merely viewing from the sidelines. He also understands there are no quick fixes, and that overcoming the extensive damage caused by previous governments and the incumbent one is a long process that requires patience and deep commitment. Ultimately it’s not Jeremy Corbyn who will determine whether there’s a resolution to the oppression by the British government, but the people themselves. Energising the British electorate and organising movements is essential in service of that goal.

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Unlike the PLP whose politics were imperceptible from the party they sought to defeat, Corbyn is ideologically at variance with the Tories and offers a legitimate, humane and rational alternative to the scourge of neoliberal capitalism, militarism and jingoism.
It’s hard to overstate just how positive this development is: The largest opposition party in the UK is now led by a proper Socialist, and vociferous opponent of the UK’s imperialistic policies; this would have seemed unthinkable not long ago. For too long the left has been plagued by defeatism, harbouring the misguided belief that the oppressive systems of power are unassailable, Jeremy Corbyn exhibits a conviction that we can overcome the formidable forces we’re up against.

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A Great Rivalry 

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GAA has always been a sport of great rivalry: Cork and Kerry, Kerry and Dublin, Galway and Mayo, Armagh and Tyrone and Dublin and Meath, but what’s undoubtedly become the most intense rivalry in recent years is Dublin and Mayo.

The modern rivalry started in 2006 with the All-Ireland senior semi-final, Dublin went into the match as heavy favourites and Mayo hadn’t beat them in the history of the championship. Before the match even started, the two teams became embroiled in a bitter confrontation. Mayo who were well aware Dublin traditionally practiced in front of the hill decided to aggravate the Dubs, by doing their preparations down that end of the pitch. Dublin responded by marching assertively towards the hill and their manager Paul Caffrey infamously shouldered Mayo selector John Morrison. What unfolded during the game would prove to be even more dramatic, however. By the 46th minute Dublin had established an impressive 7 point lead but they faltered and Mayo erased the 7 point deficit by the 54th minute and took the lead minutes later. Dublin exhibited some strength by levelling it late on and came agonisingly close to snatching it but Mark Vaughan’s effort rebounded off the post; to rub salt in their wounds Mayo immediately capitalised on their fortune by going up the other end and securing victory, by virtue of a superlative point from Ciaran McDonald. It would be six years before they would meet again, but Dublin were a much more formidable outfit by 2012. In 2011 they beat the almighty Kerry to clinch their first All-Ireland in 16 years. Mayo struggled for a number of years, but had a new batch of players with immense talent including Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor. Mayo dominated for much of the game and built what looked like an insurmountable lead of 10 points but Dublin mounted a comeback and cut the deficit to three before Bernard Brogan had a glorious goal chance thwarted by David Clarke with a brilliant save and Mayo held on. A year later Dublin had the perfect opportunity for revenge and they seised it by beating Mayo to win their 2nd All Ireland in 3 years. Mayo started brightly despite conceding a sloppy goal to Bernard Brogan early in the match and had a 1 point lead at half time. Dublin gained momentum in the second half with brilliant points from Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan before Andy Moran scored a goal that looked like changing the complexion of the match. But Dublin’s reaction epitomised their superior mental strength and scored an excellent team goal which finished with Bernard Brogan fisting it into the net. Mayo frantically tried to get back into the match but Dublin’s defence held firm and Dublin were victorious.

Yesterday’s encounter while devoid of the open expansive football we saw in 2013 was tactically engrossing. Dublin’s porous defence in 2014 allowed Donegal to score three decisive goals and overturn a 5 point deficit to deny them a chance of competing in the final. Jim Gavin, a perceptive manager wasn’t going to let that happen again. The other big challenge for Dublin was neutralising the threat of Aidan O’Shea who has been brilliant throughout this years championship, while you can’t do anything about the aerial advantage he has you can reduce the supply of balls into him and Dublin executed that game-plan almost to perfection. Cian O’Sullivan was deployed to play just ahead of O’Shea and his marker and reduce the space where Mayo would possibly punt long balls in and when O’Shea did catch a long ball there were enough Dublin players to avert any danger. Dublin’s major defensive error yesterday was overzealous tackling, which allowed Mayo to stay in touching distance throughout the match; with someone as adept from placed kicks as Cillian O’Connor, you’re guaranteeing an almost certain point to Mayo, and O’Connor’s 1-9 tally all came from placed kicks; in the first half Mayo only scored one point from play. In the second half Dublin didn’t concede as many frees in easy scoring positions but Mayo were profligate in their shooting and kicked some very poor wides. When McMenamin scored the goal and Dublin increased their lead to a 7 point margin when 61 minutes had elapsed few could have imagined what the last 14 minutes would consist of. Dublin floundered and Mayo summoned the energy to mount an improbable comeback. Mayo pushed up and applied more pressure to Cluxton which led to the quality of his distribution deteriorating significantly. Cluxton made a major howler when his kick was blocked down by Andy Moran but his blushes were spared when John Small blocked Moran’s goal attempt on the line. Dublin made some impetuous decisions in the later stages of the game. They should have killed the game but they ceded possession on a few occasions in the final stages and Denis Bastick’s black card was a key moment, Paul Flynn instead of maintaining possession and waiting for an easy chance took on an audacious attempt for a point and missed. Just prior to the Mayo penalty Dublin had the ball but yielded possession once again. After O’Connor converted the penalty, Cluxton kicked an egregious kick out, and his defence had no time recover, Mayo levelled it and scored 1-4 in less than 10 minutes. To Dublin’s credit, they regained some composure and managed to prevent a humiliating defeat and the replay will take place on Saturday evening. Cluxton may have had a chance to win it, but with all the commotion that had just ensued and the fact he hasn’t been accustomed to kicking frees this year, he can be excused. But Dublin need to ensure they have a reliable kicker next week, Dean Rock who is a fine player has not yet become inured to the extreme pressure of kicking when the stakes are so high. Cluxton needs to devote some time to practicing his kicking during the week and return to free-taking duty next Saturday.

The other major talking point of the match was the cynicism of both teams. On a number of occasions both teams engaged in cynical fouling. Cian O’Sullivan could have been black carded as could Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea. The Black Card, which is designed as a deterrent to prevent players from deliberately dragging or tripping the opponent has proven controversial with some criticising its inconsistent application by referees. To be fair to yesterday’s referee Joe Mcqullian it was a very difficult match to officiate and the most important decision of the game he got correct, which was awarding Mayo a penalty.
Some have suggested a TMO to facilitate the referees decision making process and it would certainly be a welcome addition. The most contentious issue however was the dirty play by both teams. In the first half Cillian O’Connor, who has a history of violent misconduct struck Rory O’Carroll on the face which led to him being substituted and getting 10 stitches; some may suggest it was accidental but the force and height his arm struck at would indicate some malice. Johnny Cooper put his studs into a Mayo player and was fortunate to escape with a yellow card. In the second half Aidan O’Shea feigned being headbutted when video evidence actually proved he dragged Philly McMahon to make it appear like a headbutt. And then in the dying embers of the game, Lee Keegan eliminated one of Dublin’s most prolific scorers by pulling him to the ground, Connolly’s reaction was inexcusable and he was correctly sent-off but Cillian O’Connor had some insolence demanding a red card when he should have been sent off in the first half. All of that nonsense is a blight on the sport and hopefully on Saturday it’s a much cleaner game.

The match on Saturday will be fascinating. From a Dublin perspective they’ve got to employ a similar strategy as Sunday while improving their discipline, Mayo who are so eager to win that elusive All-Ireland will have to be more accurate with their kicking and prevent Dublin from scoring goals, they did limit Dublin to only 2 goal chances yesterday which were both converted, if they can prevent Dublin getting a goal Mayo will be confident they can win. If Dermot Connolly’s red card isn’t rescinded he will be a major loss to Dublin but Jim Gavin has built a team with a lot of depth so they should cope with that. Saturday will be another chapter in this intriguing and developing rivalry. But as a Dub, a 10 point victory would suit me just fine.

Terrorism

In the space of 24 hours, two separate nefarious crimes were committed by Jewish extremists.
The first was an anti-LGBT attack perpetrated by an ultra-orthodox extremist where he stabbed 6 people at an LGBTQ rally. The second was ghastlier, an arson attack against a Palestinian family by illegal zionist settlers, an 18 month old child was killed and his family were seriously injured.

The first attack occurred in Jerusalem during an LGBTQ pride parade, the assailant has a history of violence towards the LGBTQ community, in 2005 he stabbed three people at a similar parade and said afterwards “I came to murder in the name of God. Such abomination cannot exist in Israel.” Taking this into account it’s clear there’s an element of negligence involved from the Israeli authorities in this attack. A 10 year prison sentence for a man who attempts to murder three people, expresses no remorse and has a strong conviction that he’s backed by Jewish theology is much too lenient. Even if the 10 year sentence was proportionate he should have never have been allowed near an LGBTQ event again considering his eagerness to inflict suffering on the LGBTQ community. The police allegedly claimed to have prepared meticulously for the event with a large presence present in case of an attack, but failing to recognise the attacker considering his past conviction is a clear dereliction of duty. It would be remiss to ignore the glaring difference in how an Israeli extremist is treated opposed to a Palestinian one, it is inconceivable that if a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis they’d be released in 10 years and very likely they would have been killed by either the police or military, none of this is hypothetical of course because Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians is well documented. Just over a week ago the IDF killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank because the soldiers allegedly had stones thrown at them. And how could we forget the shooting by the IDF of two 17 year old Palestinian boys who were participating in a demonstration in the West Bank, HRW concluded it was a war crime but there was never an indication that there would be a prosecution. These are just two examples of the innumerable crimes committed against Palestinians by both the Israeli military and illegal settlers. At the time of this piece the victims of the stabbing are in serious condition and we hope they have a fully recovery, we also send our solidarity to the Israeli LGBTQ community.

The second attack is more sinister for a host of reasons. The child who was killed Ali Saad Dawabsha was not even two years old, his mother and brother also sustained major burns and it’s not clear whether they will survive, it really doesn’t get much worse than attacking a defenceless child but depressingly this is not unprecedented either, in 2014 a Jewish settler killed a 5 year old Palestinian in a hit and run. An attack like this does not happen in a vacuum but is attributable to a culture where Palestinians have been dehumanised and demonised, anti-Arab racism is rife in Israel and in areas plagued by the settlements, it is one of the reasons 95 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the murderous war in Gaza last summer. Israel’s justice minister has made genocidal posts in the past and has labelled the entire Palestinians the enemy, it also received over 5000 likes. When you have someone with such prominence making such hateful statements, it emboldens people to commit violence and it normalises racism. It’s also hard to overlook the Israeli governments’ complicity in the crime. Some of course will disregard their role for obvious reasons, but it’s tantamount to disrespecting the victims. Israel for decades have been pursuing a policy of settlement expansion, which time after time has been condemned as a violation of international law, just this week when Israel announced a further 300 settlements they were denounced by the UK and the US; exactly what incentive does the Israeli regime have to abide by international law when there’s no consequences for breaking it? Settler violence is very prevalent but not a lot is being done to combat it, since the beginning of 2015 there have been at least 120 attacks in the occupied West Bank by Israeli settlers but most of the violence is committed with impunity. In 2014 an Israeli human rights group reported on the failure of Israeli forces to investigate the alleged crimes and concluded that 83 percent of cases weren’t probed.

Cecil the Lion was barbarically killed by poachers a few weeks ago, and people were aghast at the crime. Many celebrities voiced their outrage and the story received considerable coverage. There is a perception from Palestinians that their plight does not receive anywhere near enough attention compared to incidents like that, and it’s one that is accurate. Some may be reluctant to remark about a conflict they feel is divisive, but apathy contributes to the predicament of Palestinians. After the Iran deal, Netanyahu’s government along with the neocons in Washington expressed their disgust, to pacify Netanyahu, Obama promised more aid to Israel. To this day Obama’s unwavering support of this regime serves as a major indictment of his Nobel peace prize. Considering the role the West has played in facilitating the violence of the Israeli state, there is a responsibility to speak up and pressurise governments to alter their policy. There’s a reason extensive coverage isn’t devoted to the crimes of Israel by the Western media establishment, because once you see it, defending Israel’s actions becomes untenable. This is why the advent of social media and increased access to the internet is so important, because people aren’t isolated to a small selection of news coverage anymore. Now people can find different sources of news, and look at a range of perspectives.

Whether the terrorists involved in this instance will face justice remains to be seen, but the major terrorists who have been wreaking havoc on Gaza and The West Bank for decades will remain immune from punishment. Unless the root problem is addressed incidents like this will happen again and again. For many years, resistance to Israel’s malevolent policies was sorely lacking in the West, but the tide is turning, and there is a growing hostility towards the Israeli government.
Zionism, a great blight on humanity has killed thousands. The West’s appeasement of Israel since the end of the 2nd World War is one of its great crimes.

Update: One of the 6 victims of the stabbing at the LGBTQ parade has now died, she was 16 and her name was Shira Banki. We send our deepest condolences to her family.
The father of Ali Saad Dawabsha has succumbed to his injuries, his mother is still in critical condition while his brother is recovering.

Addendum: Israel has responded to the Jewish terrorism by employing the controversial method of administrative detention. Netanyahu’s security cabinet sanctioned the order and it marks the first time this dubious practice has been invoked for an Israeli citizen. For many years Israel has held Palestinians in detention without trial and subjected them to deplorable treatment. A parity in mistreatment is not something to be applauded and they will likely exploit this to rationalise their maltreatment of Palestinians.
While there’s an eagerness to see justice administered we must resist the temptation of glorifying an extension of an abandonment of due process and consider the long term implications. Recognising this as a legitimate response will only encourage Israel to continue their abuse of Palestinians. Still, there’s a strong probability that the killer of members of the Dawabsha family will escape punishment considering the history of impunity given to settler violence.

Syriza’s Capitulation

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On Monday, just over a week after the Greek people overwhelmingly voted no to a bailout package that would include more harsh austerity, Greece and its creditors came to an agreement which will prevent a Greek exit from the Eurozone but which includes harsh measures which will compound the economic situation in Greece. The deal will pass before parliament with strong likelihood it will pass.

Prior to the referendum last Sunday, many of the Greeks felt that they could reconcile their desire of ending austerity with preserving their place in the Eurozone, many felt the bureaucrats in Brussels, who were threatening a Grexit if a no vote prevailed were bluffing.
This was indeed myopic, the main powers in Europe were well aware that Syriza had no legitimate strategy to leave the Eurozone, and they knew they could issue harsh ultimatums because without a contingency plan Syriza had no option but to surrender. Tsipras conceded responsibility for the defeat.
This does not mean the referendum and protesting was futile, admittedly it didn’t produce any substantive change to Troika’s plans but it did send a message throughout Europe that there is growing resistance to the Neoliberal system espoused by the EU, currently that resistance is not yet large enough to mount a serious challenge, but there is no question that it is growing.

Most sensible people acknowledge that Troika and Germany’s behaviour over the last few years has been deplorable but that does not shield Syriza from much warranted criticism.
They were backed into a corner but they should have had the foresight to prepare for that eventuality. Any hopes the referendum would yield a better deal were quickly dispelled when German chancellor Merkel ruled out debt relief and refused to make any compromises and in fact demanded even more concessions from Greece including the privatisation of 50bn in Greek assets. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister even resorted to suggesting a temporary exit of Greece from the monetary union, but France who have been just as complicit in Greece’s plight, balked at the idea. Even the IMF, hardly a moral institution recognise the urgency of considerable debt relief. Syriza’s negligence in failing to devise a contingency plan has proven to cost the Greek people dearly. There has been dissension within their own ranks, with the far left faction of their party calling for a no vote on the bailout agreement, this schism will likely lead Syriza to split. But without a viable alternative which Syriza should have had devised prior to now, rejecting the deal is not a reasonable option.

Yanis Varoufakis ex Greek finance minister on preparing for a Grexit:

“We had a small group, a ‘war cabinet’ within the ministry, of about five people that were doing this: so we worked out in theory, on paper, everything that had to be done, to prepare for/in the event of a Grexit. But it’s one thing to do that at the level of 4-5 people, it’s quite another to prepare the country for it. To prepare the country an executive decision had to be taken, and that decision was never taken.”

Syriza thought they could reconcile Eurozone membership with a fair economic system, it’s now clear that was a mirage. But characterising it as a betrayal is inaccurate, what’s hard to overlook is the majority of Greeks did not want to exit the Eurozone, nor did Syriza have a mandate to follow through with that plan.
So while it’s certain they should have devised an alternative strategy they still would have had to gain the permission from the Greek electorate, who up until this point have insisted they want to remain part of the Eurozone.
So the Germans exerted their immense leverage to compel Syriza to surrender, well aware the Greeks hadn’t fully planned for the eventuality of leaving the Euro. Some have even claimed that Germany’s actions have amounted to an attempt to overthrow the elected government, their demands designed to eradicate Syriza and get a new party in power who are more amenable and compliant. The goal of wanting to end austerity while wanting to preserve your place in the Eurozone is irreconcilable, it really is a case of an either or proposition. If Syriza have any eagerness to liberate the Greek people they will now have to recognise the people they are negotiating with can’t be reasoned with. They must now mobilise their party for preparation towards an exit from the Eurozone and prepare a referendum seeking the permission of the Greek electorate to execute their plan.

Mariana Mazzucato, an economist who is professor at the University of Sussex on the economic absurdity of Troika’s impositions:

“As happened elsewhere, the massive private debt later translated into a massive public debt. While the Greek system was laden with different types of inefficiencies, it is simply not true that the problems were solely due to an inefficient public sector and different types of ‘rigidities’. The problems were also caused by an inefficient private sector, that got by only through increased indebtedness and the use of “structural funds” from the EC to make up for their own lack of investments. When the financial crisis laid bare this problem, the government ended up having to bail out banks, and found itself with a massive fall in tax revenue due to falling incomes and jobs. Greek debt/GDP levels, like those in most countries, rose exponentially after the crisis for these reasons.

The reaction of the Troika was to impose austerity, which as we now well know caused Greek GDP to fall by 25% and unemployment to reach record levels—permanently destroying opportunities for generations of young Greeks. Syriza inherited the disaster and focused on the need to increase cash by increasing tax revenue through battling tax evasion, corruption, monopolistic practices, and even fuel and tobacco smugglers. It agreed to begin reforming labour laws, cut spending and to increase the retirement age. Some errors were made by the young government, but it surely cannot be said that they were not making headway as many of these reforms had indeed begun. Indeed, during the new government’s first four months, the treasury reduced the deficit massively, and had a primary budget surplus of €2.16bn (not including debt interest payments), which far exceeded their initial target of a €287m deficit.

Did the austerity help? No. As John Maynard Keynes stressed, during bad times when consumers and the private sector are cutting back, it makes no sense for government to cut as well. This is what makes recessions turn into depressions. Instead the Troika asked for more and more cuts, and wanted them made even more quickly, giving the Greeks little breathing room to continue with the reforms that they had begun. And making it impossible to get Greece back on its feet (only through future growth will they pay back the debt) through any sort of investment strategy.

The European project was built on the ideas of solidarity and unity, or at least that’s the type of rhetoric we heard. Countries would have common goals, and there would be a collaborative effort to help attain those goals. But what’s unfolded is sadly an aberration of those ideals. Germany has emerged as the hegemon in the Eurozone wielding massive economic leverage, and able to make other countries comply or face its wrath. What’s happened in Greece sets a troubling precedent. If any other countries try and resist the flawed and inhumane policies of Troika, it’s more than likely they will face a harsh reaction too.
But that is not an excuse for defeatism, the forces we’re up against are certainly formidable, but defeating them is by no means insurmountable. Syriza’s defeat should not deter us, but motivate us to fight even harder. There is too much at stake to roll over.

Insightful pieces pertaining to the deal:

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/colette-browne/vultures-are-already-circling-athens-now-the-troika-is-in-charge-31374685.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/left-reject-eu-greece-eurosceptic?CMP=twt_gu

Stand Your Ground, Syriza.

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In January the Greek electorate voted anti-austerity party Syriza into power. Since then they haven’t deviated from their pledge to resist austerity but their commitment has been met with extreme hostility from the EU and Troika which of course many foresaw. On Monday the Greek government were forced to impose capital controls to prevent a collapse of their financial system after the ECB limited financial assistance to the Greek banks and then on Tuesday Greece went into arrears after failing to pay a 1.6 billion payment to the IMF.

Like all crises, understanding what precipitated them is essential to ensuring they don’t happen again, some of course will try to obfuscate the real reasons behind the crisis to prevent any meaningful change occurring. Prior to the global financial crisis in 2007 Greece had one of the fastest growing economies in the Eurozone with 14 years of consecutive growth. In 2004 they joined the Eurozone and by virtue of that their currency changed to the Euro, by transferring their currency to the Euro, Greece ceded their monetary sovereignty and went from being a currency issuer to a currency user. The Euro was created for ideological and political reasons, not because it was economically viable, a fact recognised by the former president of the European commission.
Following the great recession of 2007 & 2008 the Greek economy faced its largest crisis in decades. A variety of factors contributed to this including their entry into the Eurozone and the corruption of their neoliberal government who engaged in high risk borrowing which was enabled by high risk lending. Because of their inclusion into the Eurozone they lost their sovereignty over key fiscal matters, and lost the ability to employ such measures like devaluation in a time of calamity. In 2010 Troika responded by launching a 110 Billion bailout program on the condition that Greece impose austerity, make structural reforms and privatise state assets. Needless to say, these policies pursued by Troika have been an unmitigated disaster; since their implementation Greece’s GDP has declined 25% and overall unemployment rose to a whopping 28%. One of the accusations levelled at Greece is it has done nothing to mitigate its suffering, this argument has no resemblance to reality however. Spending has been reduced considerably, approximately 20% lower than it was in 2010, social benefits have received a dramatic cut, taxes have been raised and pensions which were higher than average have also been decreased. Another malicious claim is that the Greeks are lazy. The OECD data actually testifies to the opposite. On average they work longer hours than other European countries and considerably longer than German workers. So why are this misconceptions so prevalent? Because they’re designed to disguise the disastrous effect of the inhumane impositions from Troika.
Inevitably these policies sowed resentment in Greece, with many people taking to the streets to protest, and others participating in worker strikes.
Syriza’s moment had arrived. Elected on their promise to confront the failed policies of the EU, Syriza haven’t relented yet but they are facing a hostile response from the EU who are unwilling to make any significant concessions or provide any reasonable proposals. Whether Syriza will be victorious in their pursuit of liberating their country from draconian impositions is yet to be determined but what is abundantly clear is that they are the first government to really mount a significant challenge to the Neoliberal order and that is why their approval rating has risen since election and why they’re receiving significant support across Europe.

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Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winning economist on the harmfulness of Troika’s polices:

What went wrong? I fairly often encounter assertions to the effect that Greece didn’t carry through on its promises, that it failed to deliver the promised spending cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Greece imposed savage cuts in public services, wages of government workers and social benefits. Thanks to repeated further waves of austerity, public spending was cut much more than the original program envisaged, and it’s currently about 20 percent lower than it was in 2010.

Yet Greek debt troubles are if anything worse than before the program started. One reason is that the economic plunge has reduced revenues: The Greek government is collecting a substantially higher share of G.D.P. in taxes than it used to, but G.D.P. has fallen so quickly that the overall tax take is down. Furthermore, the plunge in G.D.P. has caused a key fiscal indicator, the ratio of debt to G.D.P., to keep rising even though debt growth has slowed and Greece received some modest debt relief in 2012.

Why were the original projections so wildly overoptimistic? As I said, because supposedly hardheaded officials were in reality engaged in fantasy economics. Both the European Commission and the European Central Bank decided to believe in the confidence fairy — that is, to claim that the direct job-destroying effects of spending cuts would be more than made up for by a surge in private-sector optimism. The I.M.F. was more cautious, but it nonetheless grossly underestimated the damage austerity would do.

Regardless of what caused this crisis, the policies implemented by Troika are exacerbating the immiseration endured by the Greek people. The bailout money provided to Greece predominately goes back to the banks, with less then 10 percent used to reform the economy and reduce the suffering of the Greek people. In terms of economic growth austerity measures, which cut public expenditure are counterproductive and likely to compound insolvency. Cutting public spending and imposing high taxes on the average citizen reduces their disposable income and leads to low consumer spending.
Austerity which has been implemented in various countries throughout Europe at the behest of the EU has not yielded any positive economic result whatsoever and has actually undermined economies yet it continues to be perpetuated. Empirical research testifies to this fact as does the demands from world renowned economists that the EU end austerity:

Economist Martin Wolf analyzed the relationship between cumulative GDP growth in 2008–2012 and total reduction in budget deficits due to austerity policies in several European countries during April 2012. He concluded, “In all, there is no evidence here that large fiscal contractions [budget deficit reductions] bring benefits to confidence and growth that offset the direct effects of the contractions. They bring exactly what one would expect: small contractions bring recessions and big contractions bring depressions.”

Economist Paul Krugman analyzed the relationship between GDP and reduction in budget deficits for several European countries in April 2012 and concluded that austerity was slowing growth. He wrote: “this also implies that 1 euro of austerity yields only about 0.4 euros of reduced deficit, even in the short run. No wonder, then, that the whole austerity enterprise is spiraling into disaster.”

On Sunday Greece will have a plebiscite on its bailout conditions, Tsipras who views the bailout terms as unacceptable is imploring the Greek people to vote no, he feels that because Syriza only received 36% of the vote in January that all Greek people, even those who opposed Syriza deserve a vote on a matter of such importance. He believes that if Greece vote no, that it would send an unmistakable message to the EU that Austerity is contrary to the will of the people and that it would provide him with a mandate to reject their conditions. The decision to hold a referendum has been met with fierce anger from the EU. Just prior to the referendum Yanis Varoufakis accused the creditors of committing economic terrorism. Members of both the no and yes side have been out in the streets of Athens rallying for their respective causes.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist on the vote:

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.
By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.
I know how I would vote.

Paul Krugman on why Greece should vote no:

Greece should vote “no,” and the Greek government should be ready, if necessary, to leave the euro.
To understand why I say this, you need to realize that most — not all, but most — of what you’ve heard about Greek profligacy and irresponsibility is false. Yes, the Greek government was spending beyond its means in the late 2000s. But since then it has repeatedly slashed spending and raised taxes. Government employment has fallen more than 25 percent, and pensions (which were indeed much too generous) have been cut sharply. If you add up all the austerity measures, they have been more than enough to eliminate the original deficit and turn it into a large surplus.
So why didn’t this happen? Because the Greek economy collapsed, largely as a result of those very austerity measures, dragging revenues down with it.
Much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone — me included — the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not. But even so, devaluation couldn’t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. Greece is not that different.
Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.

Most reasonable people will agree that irrespective of what triggered this crisis it is incumbent on those with power to alleviate the suffering of the Greek people and try to facilitate its return to prosperity. First of all we have to recognise that the unfathomable amount of debt Greece has incurred is unsustainable and it’s not feasible for it to be paid back in its entirety, however their creditors have not shown a whiff of leniency. This is not exactly unprecedented, following the end of the 2nd World War, Germany owed a considerable amount of debt to its creditors which included Greece, a country whose economy was destroyed by the Nazis.
The debt relief they were provided with gave impetus to economic prosperity and Germany developed into a major economic power who now have massive leverage over other countries.
Even the IMF acknowledge the unsustainability of the debt and the urgency of considerable debt relief, in a document which was released yesterday which vindicates Syriza’s position that a restructuring of debt is needed and angered the EU: “The IMF has electrified the referendum debate in Greece after it conceded that the crisis-ridden country needs up to €60bn of extra funds over the next three years and large-scale debt relief to create “a breathing space” and stabilise the economy”.
Another policy conducive to growth would be a stimulus package containing enough capital to stimulate the economy, in 2009 America introduced a stimulus bill with the purpose of limiting the damage from the financial crisis, the consensus from economists was that it had a positive effect on employment. So if Troika are genuinely interested in the welfare of the Greek people they will start espousing policies which are actually empirically proven to work. But all evidence suggests they are not. If Troika do not make any concessions, the most advisable course of action for Greece may be to exit the Euro, return to their previous currency, the drachma and devise a new economic system which is predicated on fairness. If Syriza’s strategy yields a successful outcome perhaps it will embolden the other peripheral nations to reconsider their subservience to the EU.

The neoliberal doctrine espoused by the EU is becoming increasingly untenable, and its inherent flaws all the more obvious. But radical change is not going to come from the oligarchs who have every interest in maintaining the system. The Greek debt crisis is no anomaly, but is in fact symptomatic of a fundamentally flawed economic system. Failure to address this will not only inflict more suffering on the Greek people, but anyone beholden to the EU. A no vote on Sunday would be the largest repudiation of the EU’s economic policy to date, it’s imperative that the message is sent.

Essential piece to read with relate to the Greek debt crisis:

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/owen-jones-elites-are-determined-end-revolt-against-austerity-greece

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/29/referendum-greeks-europe-capitalism-greece-eurozone-economic-system?CMP=twt_gu

http://www.socialeurope.eu/2015/06/europes-attack-on-greek-democracy/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/28/greece-europe-imf-democracy

https://www.byline.com/column/11/article/124

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/europes-moment-of-truth/?smid=tw-share&_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/01/fear-mongering-enemy-of-democracy-from-greece-to-camerons-eu-referendum-euro-crisis?CMP=share_btn_tw

https://ricochet.media/en/505/why-i-would-vote-no-in-greeces-referendum

https://hiredknaves.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/corruption-in-europe/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/opinion/paul-krugman-nobody-understands-debt.html

The Appeasement Of Prejudice Has Got To End

As we draw nearer and nearer to the same-sex marriage referendum the homophobia emanating from the No Side is intensifying, as they endeavour to persuade the electorate to perpetuate a homophobic law. Because they are devoid of any reasonable arguments against providing access to marriage equality to the LGBTQ community, they have resorted to the tactics which were expected like fear mongering, red herrings and obfuscation.

Initially most of the strategies by the No Side were ineffective but lately some people have become more amenable to them, even members on the Yes Side. The most notable one being yielding to the No Sides’ claim that not all people who deny access to equal marriage are homophobic. Which suffice to say is ludicrous, there is a perception that homophobia invariably consists of vitriolic slurs hurled at gay, bisexual or pansexual people but homophobia exists in many forms and it’s glaringly obvious to anyone who cares about social justice that restricting rights on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes a severe display of homophobia.
Admittedly this pandering could be attributable to an apprehension from members of the Yes Campaign that labelling people homophobic is divisive in a heteronormative society and may deter ambivalent voters from siding with them. But an unintended consequence of that is legitimising homophobia; it implicitly suggests homophobia is acceptable in discourse and that we should heed the arguments of homophobes. This is nonsense and patronising, considering how entrenched and pervasive homophobia was in Ireland it would be beyond the realm of possibility that a member of the LGBTQ community hasn’t already been subjected to prejudiced and asinine justifications for homophobia, the LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly for years confronting and counteracting the prevalence of homophobia in society and the whole reason we have a referendum is because of that struggle. What truly infuriates homophobes is the loss of an unwarranted privilege, for decades they were afforded access to platforms where they could propagate prejudice without much resistance, the lack of resistance has ended and now they feel victimised because that untenable position has come under increased scrutiny. The No Side have a persecution complex, a false perception they are being silenced which unsurprisingly doesn’t correspond with reality. They are afforded tremendous clout, which far exceeds what’s warranted, and write and appear on prominent platforms like the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and RTE. I must reiterate the point that it is not that they are under attack, but that the once privileged position they had of facing little resistance for their odious views has ended. They were accustomed to propagating problematic views with a very slim prospect of confrontation, now that their views are rightly coming under increased scrutiny they’re struggling to rationalise them and so they perceive this as an attack because values they regard as sacrosanct are being rejected by society. Several people on the No Side also feel reluctant to express their sentiments due to fear of ridicule or criticism of their homophobia, insinuating that is symptomatic of an intolerant society. Expressing controversial ideas or views usually entails a backlash of some kind regardless of whether those ideas contain any merit. There’s never any assurances society will embrace your views but if you believe in your convictions you will persevere and try and persuade people to the best of your ability. While legally anyone should have the right to express the most controversial of ideas, there should be no guarantee that those ideas will receive respect or approval.

Brendan O’Connor expressed a pernicious viewpoint in a piece for the Irish Independent suggesting that ambivalent voters may vote vindictively in the election to deny access to same-sex marriage and that the Yes Campaign would be culpable because of their pontificating and characterisations of people as homophobic. This line of reasoning is not only absurd, but again consists of homophobia. It implies equality should be contingent on members of the marginalised group exhibiting deference to the hegemonic group in society, namely heterosexuals and only then they’ll bestow equal rights to them. Hypothetically even if all members of the LGBTQ community were terrible people they would still be entitled to their rights; human rights should never be conditioned on civility, they should be the default and they should be inalienable. The other problematic aspect of that piece was absolving no voters of their immoral action by asserting that the yes voters would bear responsibility for their months of sneering. If people do genuinely vote no espousing that mindset they are not very nice people to put it mildly, attempting to deny access to equality because you harbour resentment towards some members of the Yes Campaign because of trivial sneering amounts to a severe abdication of your responsibility as a voter.

One of the assertions from the No Side is that some people on the Yes Side are hostile and uncivil. Be that as it may, hostility and impoliteness are innocuous; working strenuously to deny equality however is not; I’d much rather a moral position expressed antagonistically than an abhorrent position conveyed with superficial civility. The No Side have a facade of civility, on the surface it looks civil and unthreatening but underneath it contains the most virulent homophobia, which evinces a sheer disdain for gay people. The protagonists of the No Side intellectualise their prejudice; their hate veiled in sophisticated language giving the impression it’s more reasonable than homophobic slurs.
But when you decipher it, it’s patently obvious it’s just a more decorated form of homophobia, and one which is potentially more insidious.

When Dublin GAA footballer Ger Brennan penned a piece for the Irish Independent declaring his support for a no vote, it was perturbing to see several members of the Yes Campaign commending him for his ostensible bravery and standing up for his convictions; this is a mistake and only emboldens bigots, there is nothing laudable about expressing a prejudiced position which has been prevalent in society for centuries.
Bravery, contrary to popular belief is not always a virtue, it has to be accompanied with a righteous position for it to be worthy of extolment. People who have committed some of the most egregious crimes have exhibited bravery; bravery without an ethical purpose is futile at best and dangerous at worst. The type of bravery that should elicit reverence is the one manifested so potently by the LGBTQ community over the last few decades. Despite the risk of genuine ostracisation, inevitable abuse and increased risk of being subjected to violence they have persisted in the struggle for equality and the conspicuous improvement in the treatment of the LGBTQ community is a testament to not only their courage but their tenacity too. The people who reap the rewards of a more tolerant society will always owe a debt of gratitude to those valiant crusaders of justice.

The strategy of the no campaign since the beginning has been to put an emphasis on the welfare of children, in a cynical attempt to exploit people’s natural tendency to protect children. Essentially they are using children as props to mislead people into thinking same-sex marriage will have disastrous implications for the future of our nation. Any studies they usually cite to claim same-sex parenting will have an inimical effect on children’s development contain methodological flaws and they refuse to heed the views of child welfare groups who falsify their inanity. Even though the issue of children is extraneous to this referendum let’s confront this dubious suspicion that same-sex parenting will have adverse effects for society, one of the claims they make is that depriving a child of a mother or father will be detrimental to their development, but this is predicated on essentialist thinking which insists men and women have immutable behaviours which distinguish them from each other, that’s a facile way of looking at gender differences. In reality it’s a lot more intricate than that with socially constructed gender roles having more of an impact on behaviour than generally assumed. When it comes to the rearing of children what takes precedence is unconditional love and stability, that should be the priority not the gender of the parents. Furthermore there are actual empirical studies testifying to the fact that gay parents are as equipped to rear children as heterosexual ones, the largest world study conducted on gay parenting bears that out. Despite the scientific consensus on gay parenting the homophobes will continue to peddle sinister myths claiming there are perils to gay parenting. Concern over the implications gay parenting will have on children is nothing more than a pretext to justify discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation; this posture can’t be indulged, anytime this ugly theory that gay parents are somehow inferior rears its ugly head it’s got to be confronted and falsified. Thankfully child welfare groups have done just that expressing support for marriage equality and have denounced the contemptible tactics of the no side. Children’s Rights Alliance condemned the No campaign’s exploitation: “The No campaign are using children as pawns, and in a way that is dishonest, that’s part of the reason we’re coming together to call for a yes vote” Fergus Finley chief executive of Barnados said: “I see a sickening insult to the thousands of lone parents who love and care for each other in Ireland every time I see a poster calling for a no vote because of the claim that every child deserves a mother and father” “The message is exploitative, hurtful and dishonest, what every child deserves is love, respect, safety. That can come from two parents of either sex, two parents of the same-sex or a single parent” Tanya Ward chief executive of CRA said: “In no way does the referendum undermine the rights of children, the question is why are children being used in this referendum as pawns” “A yes vote would send a message to all children that when they grow up, they fall in love and want to make a life-long commitment to a person, that the relationship will be respected and valued.” Grainne Long chief executive of ISPCC said: “A yes vote in this referendum is in the best interests of children, I’m worried by the extent to which children are being used in this debate. Those statements are an unmistakable repudiation of the No campaign’s duplicitous tactics regarding the welfare of children.

Judith Stacey, of New York University, stated: “Rarely is there as much consensus in any area of social science as in the case of gay parenting, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and all of the major professional organizations with expertise in child welfare have issued reports and resolutions in support of gay and lesbian parental rights”.

In 2006, Gregory M. Herek stated in American Psychologist: “If gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents were inherently less capable than otherwise comparable heterosexual parents, their children would evidence problems regardless of the type of sample. This pattern clearly has not been observed. Given the consistent failures in this research literature to disprove the null hypothesis, the burden of empirical proof is on those who argue that the children of sexual minority parents fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents.”

The other issues injected into the debate by the No Side have been surrogacy and adoption in a deliberate attempt to complicate the matter. With regard to adoption, marriage or coupledom isn’t a prerequisite to applying for adoption and gay parents already have access by virtue of the recent act introduced by the government. Regardless of which side is victorious none of that will change. The result of the referendum also has no bearing on surrogacy and it will be separately dealt with by the government in the future. Currently it’s unregulated, neither is it outlawed nor is there are a legal right to access it regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. Dr Conor O’Mahony has an in depth piece on the misleading claims from the No side, and he masterfully refutes the assertions from the no side. The following paragraph is most salient:

The first question is whether the amendment would, as claimed, give same-sex couples who marry a constitutional right to access donor-assisted human reproduction and surrogacy and make it impossible for the Oireachtas to pass laws regulating or restricting access to such services. The case law does not support this claim. The courts have not, to date, recognised a right of opposite-sex married couples to unfettered access to such services; and far from claiming that the constitutional protection afforded to the institution of marriage precludes regulation or restriction of access, the courts have repeatedly called on the Oireachtas to enact long-overdue legislation to provide a legal framework regulating artificial human reproduction, lest Ireland “become by default an unregulated environment for practices that may prove controversial or, at least, give rise to a need for regulation” (per Hardiman J in Roche v Roche [2010] 2 IR 321 at 383). The recent decision of the Supreme Court on the issue of surrogacy in MR and DR v An tÁrd Chláraitheoir [2014] IESC 60 repeatedly stressed the preference of the Court that controversial social issues such as this be dealt with by way of legislation, with the courts playing a highly deferential role and preferring not to involve themselves.

The antics from the No Side belie the simplicity of this referendum: A yes vote would ensure that same-sex married couples would be guaranteed constitutional protection, which would result in parity with the status of opposite sex marriages; civil parternship only permits legal protection which gives the Oireachtas the authority to discard or amend that right. Constitutional protection can only be altered by the electorate. Hopefully voters will bear that in mind.

If the Yes side prevail, Ireland would hold the unprecedented position of securing marriage equality through a plebiscite. It’s disconcerting to think homosexuailty was only decriminalised in 1993 and gratifying to consider how far we’ve come in such a short period of time and whatever the outcome in the referendum it’s clear there’s a lot of work that remains to be done. But Friday presents a rare opportunity to send a resounding message to the bigots that their power in society is waning, and that their prejudice is unacceptable. Victory would definitely mark a momentous day in the pursuit of equality and it would taste oh so sweet.

My favourite Yes poster by far courtesy of the Anti Austerity Alliance. Bold, powerful and poignant:


Netanyahu Greeted With Praise And Approval By Congress


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Following the death of Boris Nemstov in front of the Kremlin, Western media and US politicians didn’t miss the opportunity to demonise Russian president Vladimir Putin, implying he was directly responsible for or complicit in his death. A multitude of people also superciliously derided Russian Today for its propaganda. Ironically only days later notorious war criminal Netanyahu addressed Congress and received lavish praise from attendants.

The purpose of this post is not to draw equivalence between Netanyahu’s crimes and Putin’s, they obviously differ in certain aspects, nor is it intended to absolve Putin from past crimes, the purpose is to illustrate the absurdity of the premise that the Western media establishment is somehow immune or less inclined to propagandising which is quite patently false. From the Iraq War, to the drone attacks, the Snowden leaks and their coverage on the Palestine-Israeli conflict their coverage has been palpably biased.

Not even a year after the brutal incursion into Gaza which killed thousands, John Boehner speaker of the house shamelessly decided to invite the Israeli Prime-Minister to speak on Capitol Hill. Netanyahu failed to directly notify president Obama of his visit which is customary for a head of state before visiting the US. Netanyahu who maintains his trip to the US is not ‘political’ is preparing for the Israeli elections which occur on the 17th of March, US Republicans revere him and are very supportive of him winning another term and wax lyrical about his jingoistic foreign policy on a constant basis. Democrats are less subservient to Netanyahu and Obama has expressed criticism of his visit resulting in Republicans levelling accusations at him that he’s betraying his country. Just before Netanyahu set off to Washington he claimed he is the emissary of all Isreali’s and all Jewish people, it was criticised by Senator Feinstein but it gives an insight into the grandiose perception he has of himself.

The main topic of his speech was concerning the nuclear deal between America and Iran. Netanyahu began by commending America and Obama for persistent military support and then he documented America and Isreal’s history, before moving onto the threat of nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu has a history of crying wolf in terms of Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons, it goes all the way back to 1992 when Netanyahu erroneously claimed Iran were three to five years away from developing nuclear capability and that America had to lead the fight in counteracting that possibility. He’s made further warnings including in 1995, 2002, 2009 and 2012. Weeks prior to his speech, disclosed documents showed Israeli intelligence service Mossad contradicting Netanyahu’s claim in 2012 that Iran were a year away from developing Nuclear weapons. The agency concluded that Iran were not performing the activity necessary to create Nuclear bombs. Nevertheless it appears most of Congress continue to regard Netanyahu’s claims without a whiff of suspicion. He also made the dubious claim Iran is intending to nuke Isreal and drew parallels to the holocaust. However it betrays logic to believe the Iranian regime want to wipe out Israel, it would kill scores of Palestinians in the process and Israel has possession of a second strike nuclear capability which would render any nuclear offensive from Iran a death wish, they would be immediately obliterated following an attack. Clifton W. Sherril of Troy University stated in 2012 that “It is highly unlikely that the Islamist regime plans to actually detonate a nuclear weapon in an offensive attack. Both of the obvious targets, the United States and Israel, have a second-strike nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the Islamist regime’s survival.” Perhaps though the largest indictment of his expertise on foreign policy is his speech to Congress in 2002 concerning the Iraq War. He said “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region” Suffice to say that prediction didn’t turn out too accurate and yet American politicians are still heeding his views on Iran. During the speech he also praised president Obama for his support during the bombardment of Gaza last year, Democrats without a degree of hesitation stood up and applauded. Support of Israeli’s tyranny is undeniably bipartisan. He concluded by saying “You’re wonderful, thank you America, thank you” a clear show of gratitude for America’s complicity in his war crimes. He then received a standing ovation.

American politicians are hypocrites, and that is well established but what’s concerning is how little resistance his attendance to Congress received. Code Pink a courageous group of activists protested outside and expressed their disdain for Netanyahu, a group named Israelis For A Sustainable Future also marched but the vast majority of the American public were apathetic about the visit. Just hours before the speech a report from Gallup was released showing American support for Netanyahu has risen quite significantly since 2012, despite the atrocity committed in Gaza last summer. This is quite clearly attributable to the sophisticated propaganda system in America which is almost invariably reverential regarding Israel; portraying Netanyahu as a reasonable figure is a pernicious form of propaganda which impacts public opinion resulting in alarmingly high approval of him and renders the prospect of policies conducive to peace for Palestinian people remote. You will never see any of the major media establishments in America like CNN, Fox News or ABC characterising Netanyahu as a war criminal despite there being clear consensus from human right groups and ample evidence of it. To rub salt to the wounds a revolting hashtag gained prominence on Twitter during the speech dubbed #IStandWithBibi mostly consisting of Republicans eulogising Netanyahu. Furthermore prior to the horrific and heinous invasion of Iraq in 2003 Western media outlets were very hawkish, and at times even well regarded journalists resorted to accusing opponents of the war of being part of a fifth column or betraying the Iraq people.

Over the last few days Western media has indulged in criticism of Putin, some of it reasoned, some of it not, but by committing a false dichotomy, insinuating it’s a case of the evil Putin vs the moral West it inadvertently revealed its own form of propaganda, perpetuating the myth that Western powers are moral. Today’s warm reception towards Netanyahu and the media’s coverage of it reinforces the point that our propaganda system resembles Russia’s more than we’d care to admit.

A collection of the most deplorable tweets from Republicans worshipping Netanyahu like a deity:


Paul Murphy And The Anti-Water Charge Protests

On Friday Paul Murphy was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late show. Murphy, a former member of the European parliament was elected to Dail Eireann in October and has been stridently opposed to the imposition of a water charge on an already beleaguered citizenry. He’s participated in and organised anti-water charges protests and has been instrumental in its ascension.

The interview began cordially with both Tubridy and Murphy exchanging pleasantries. Murphy then described his upbringing and the circumstances that attracted him to socialism. The first issue concerned the arrest of Paul Murphy which has been characterised as political policing by several people. Despite the fact Murphy committed no illegality at the Jobstown protest 6 officers forcefully detained him at 7am on a Monday morning which has been perceived by some as an attempt to intimidate him, Tubridy suggested Murphy revelled in the arrest, and Murphy resentful at the implication responded by stating he had important affairs to attend to that day. Following that, Tubridy ran a clip containing footage from the Jobstown protests where Joan Burton, the Tánaiste was subjected to scathing criticism and a blockade preventing her from leaving the area for over an hour. The clip also showed Murphy, in accordance with the Gardai’s wishes instructing the protestors to let her go, the people acceded to Murphy’s request and the protestors dispersed with Burton then moving into another car and leaving the area. The implication of the video being that Murphy was somehow complicit, which just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. You’d be forgiven for thinking the protest was organised by Murphy considering the coverage that surrounded the incident, but it was an impromptu rally which he attended. He also played no responsibility in the blockade, and complied with the Gardai’s wishes to defuse the situation. The next clip involved a man spewing ableist vitriol at President Higgins in January, and implicit in the showing of that video was that Murphy was culpable in someway despite it being extraneous to Murphy. It’s a glaring example of guilt by association: Because Murphy and the individual involved share an opposition to water charges, Murphy a prominent figure of the movement shares responsibility for it despite not inciting that kind of vitriol. The last dispute concerned the sentencing of 5 people over the breach of a 20 metre zone, the injunction granted by the high court prevents citizens from protesting within 20m of where the water installation workers are installing water meters; a clear inhibition on people’s freedom. Murphy has denounced the sentencing and expressed his solidarity to the incarcerated. One of the men sentenced was the person responsible for the abuse shouted at President Higgins. Tubridy tried to conflate these two separate incidents and asked Murphy does he support him with the veiled assumption that outrage at his imprisonment is unwarranted. One does not have to justify one’s previous bad behaviour to stand up for one when their civil liberties have been infringed upon; the fact that 5 people have been imprisoned because of an innocuous protest is an indictment of the Irish justice system. Murphy also expressed a position that should be uncontroversial, namely that he would brazenly violate injunctions depending on their merit which resulted in people levelling accusations at him that he has no respect for the law.
Lawmakers are not infallible, and when laws are enacted that are antithetical to a free and democratic society, civilly disobeying them is a moral imperative. Submissively accepting laws that violate people’s freedom is not indicative of respect for law, but respect for elitists who impose draconian laws. Finally Tubridy documented all the things Murphy is opposed to and condescendingly asked where’s the “pro in Paul Murphy” despite him being an avowed socialist. In addition to his support of socialism he’s pro-workers rights, he’s pro-Palestine and he’s pro-accountability for the bankers. The interview was more reminiscent of an interrogation than an objective interview and the aggressive approach adopted by Tubridy is anomalous from his usual style which is reserved and deferential. Droves of people took to social media to condemn Tubridy for his appalling interview, even people unsupportive of Murphy construed the interview as biased.
It certainly lends credence to the notion that RTE are not impartial when it comes to anti-water charge protestors.

While it’s true that there have been rare examples of abuse from anti-water charge protestors neither the Gardai nor Guardex, (contracted by Seirra GMC) have been immune to abusive behaviour. However there’s been distinct differences in the reactions to the incidents. On the same day Joan Burton was subjected to a blockade, a Garda viciously assaulted a protestor. According to the woman assaulted she didn’t intend to block Kenny’s car and later thanked one of the Gardai who calmly restrained her, despite this another Garda proceeded to violently throw here into a bollard and it clearly constituted excessive force. It received infinitesimal coverage and was rationalised by the same people criticising the protestors. Furthermore people were eager to contextualise the actions of the Gardai, but didn’t afford the same benefit to the protestors in Jobstown. More violence from the Gardai occurred during the December protests on O Connell Bridge, where on more than one occasion they shoved protestors to the ground, the media again didn’t deviate from convention and it received paltry coverage.
Reports also emerged that private security company Guardex violently intimidated local residents of the Stoneybatter community. Contrast the relatively apathetic reaction to these incidents to the hyperbolic rhetoric which ensued after the Jobstown incident and you see a glaring imbalance. Some claimed it was “attack on democracy” The Taoiseach maintained that the blockade “almost amounted to kidnapping”, another Fine Gael TD claimed Ireland may face an “ISIS situation” and described protestors as “parasites”, and Burton later said when she was inside her car during the blockade she was worried by “the parallels with fascism”. Of course it would be naive to assume this wasn’t studious, the exaggerations were designed to malign the anti-water charges movement, with the hope of them having a dissociative effect.

Both the arrests of Paul Murphy and the sentencing of the 5 people who violated an injunction may well have been an attempt to deter protestors, we can’t know for certain but it’s likely to embolden protestors instead. On Saturday members of the public engaged in a peaceful protest expressing their support for the citizens sentenced, and there are plans for large scale protests in March. Contrary to the assumptions some are labouring under, the water protests have been very peaceful considering the impressive scale of participation. Civil disobedience is a tactic that should be deployed, but judiciously.
Blocking traffic especially at a time when people are trying to get home from work is frivolous and undermines the movement, it just aggravates people and makes them less sympathetic to an important cause. Conversely, sit-ins, protests in shopping centres and refusal to pay the water charges can elevate the movement; logical strategies are key in attracting attention and maintaining the growth and development of the movement.

The anti-water charges protests are a powerful demonstration of democracy, while some have expressed incredulity at the disdain for water charges, they can’t be examined isolated from austerity. The austerity imposed on European countries was a form of collective punishment and structural violence, where innocent people who had no influence over the economic disaster bore the brunt of it; the undemocratic imposition of water charges was the tip of the iceberg for Irish citizens, people just can’t burden another tax. The anti-water charge protests should not be the end, but should act as a catalyst for even more vehement protests against the incumbent government who have been pitifully subservient and amenable to EU impositions. Activism genuinely works, and history is a testament to that.


Chapel Hill Tragedy

On Tuesday the 10th of February three Muslims were victims of a nefarious murder carried out by a man in North Carolina. Some are adamant the attack was motivated by Anti-Muslim prejudice, while others insist their faith had nothing to do with the murder.

The three victims of this repellent crime were students brimming with exuberance and optimism. Two of the victims got married mere weeks prior to their death. Deah Barakat was an altruistic man who was a purveyor of peace and was dedicated to philanthropic work; he participated in an effort to supply free dental supplies and food to homeless victims at the end of January and arranged to travel to Turkey to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in the summer. His wife, Yusor was benevolent and travelled abroad to Turkey to distribute dental supplies, she also had aspirations to become a dentist and intended to enrol at the same university attended by her husband later this year. The third victim, her sister Razan was only 19 years old and she was attending college too.
The odious perpetrator, a Caucasian middle-aged man had ties to anti-theism which has led to the suspicion that an aversion to their faith contributed to the killing. He also published pictures of his weapons and was a fervent guns right advocate.

There has been an abundance of speculation surrounding the motive of the assailant, with the local police claiming preliminary investigations indicate that it was regarding a parking dispute, but also refusing to rule out the possibility that prejudice contributed. The family of the victims repudiated this though by vehemently asserting that parking had nothing to do with it and that it was a hate crime. They also revealed that they had encountered problems with the man before, he intimidated his daughters by holding a firearm, when he accosted them in November over frivolous noise. A friend of Yusor corroborated the claim and wrote about the tragedy, detailing the incident. A report from the Washington Post casts doubt on the claim the killing was motivated by a parking issue, it references local citizens of the area expressing incredulity that it would be regarding parking because spaces are profuse in the area. The style of killing also undermines the theory that a parking dispute prompted the killing – perhaps if he reflexively discharged his gun and killed one person there’d be some credence to it but this was more reminiscent of a calculated execution – he entered their home forcefully and the three victims all died due to a gunshot wound to the head. I’m more inclined to believe the relatives of the victims opposed to the killer who has a vested interest in convincing the prosecutors it wasn’t a hate crime. You’d think avowed rationalists would treat a very suspect claim with a degree of scepticism but apparently not. Accepting that theory at face value is either 1. Indicative of credulity or 2. An internal bias desiring to trivialise the scourge of anti-Muslim prejudice within society. The reluctance of many to even consider the possibility that prejudice towards the Muslim community may have been a factor in the tragedy is very telling.

A vigil where members of the community show their condolences to the family of the victims:


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Early on Wednesday morning criticism percolated on social media that none of the US media outlets were covering this crime and several were indignant. Eventually the media establishment began reporting on the calamity but the perception that the media were reporting differently than if it was committed by a Muslim lingered; it’s a view grounded in reason. If you were to switch the identifies around, the killer being a Muslim and the victims being white it would be reported on a much larger scale with considerably more analysis and scrutiny. There would be immediate claims of terrorism, the tenuous claim that a parking dispute would cause such a killing would be taken with a pinch of salt and there would be extensive speculation that the faith of the attacker contributed to the attack, whereas the premise that a society replete with anti-Muslim prejudice may have aided in this attack received little airtime. You also wouldn’t see the spouse of the assailant so soon after the attack summoned onto national TV to give her account of the tragedy which diverges from that of the relatives of the families. In December a 15 year old Muslim boy was murdered in a hit and run and the police concluded that it was indisputably deliberate. It received relatively little coverage nor did it lead to any indictments of a culture where prejudice towards Muslims is commonplace. The media’s response to both calamities illustrated better than anyone could the preconceptions which determine how a tragedy is reported on, depending on the ethnicity of the victims and perpetrators.

Moustafa Bayoumi of the Intercept lucidly conveys the bias embedded within the media

What’s infuriating about the murder of the three young people in North Carolina is not only their tragic deaths, but also the speed by which the motive of the shooter has been labeled a “parking dispute” by the authorities and the press, as if that explains anything and as if a hate crime or a political crime could not also have a catalyzing event. The question is not whether this was either a hate crime or parking rage. It can be both. By all accounts, the shooter was always the belligerent one here, and yet the word “dispute” also suggests that the two parties were locked in conflict, as if responsibility is shared. That’s completely ridiculous and duplicitous, and other marginalized groups — LGBT communities, women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, the poor, and so many more — will recognize the reflex immediately for what it is: a way to displace and justify the violence of the dominant group onto the weaker.

Attributing this violent atrocity to his atheism would be a fallacy, since atheism has no doctrine of any kind and laying blame on the atheistic community would be abhorrent in a similar manner to the repetitive claim that Muslims are in someway responsible for violent extremism committed in the name of their religion, but exploring the idea that a climate of anti-Muslim prejudice may have facilitated the attack is one worth investigating. To me, the most plausible theory is that this was a man susceptible to extreme forms of anger with a virulent strain of Anti-Muslim prejudice to boot, resulting in him dehumanising the victims and precipitating the attack, with the parking dispute offering a convenient pretext to escape the charge of a hate crime. Chris Stedman of director of Yale humanists said atheists need to address the anti-Muslim prejudice in their community regardless of the motive of the attack and Richard Dawkins condemned the killing adding that “3 lovely people, senselessly deprived of their good life”. Muslims are a stigmatised group in society and the discrimination they face is well documented, several people are acutely aware there are many who harbour prejudice towards them and that’s why there’s a responsibility of those with leverage to discuss complex issues with tact, to reinforce this point, Cathy Newman a British journalist posted a falsehood about a Mosque in England recently, which she later recanted and apologised for, but the consequence of that was invective abuse being spewed at members of the Mosque and other Muslims.

Graph demonstrating the proliferation in Anti-Muslim hate crime following 9-11

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Prejudice takes many forms and needless to say no one is immune to it, regardless of political ideology, that’s why it’s paramount we remain self-aware at all times, because prejudice is often subliminal and pernicious. Bigotry towards Muslims doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is fomented by western media, and western intellectuals and persists because there isn’t an adequate disavowal of it. When someone raises the concern that your views may be detrimental to minorities and may embolden bigots, it’s a concern worth heeding, not one that should just be arrogantly dismissed. 9-11 ushered in an era where vitriolic abuse and demonisation of Muslims became more palatable than abuse of other minorities; it goes without saying that it’s a grotesque type of collective punishment where average Muslims who have no ties whatsoever to violent extremists are being negatively impacted. It’s well overdue that the systemic discrimination of Muslim people throughout America and Europe is confronted by society.

US’s Love Affair With Saudi Arabia

Whenever a tyrant dies the response you’d anticipate from governments who are ostensibly democratic is a scathing condemnation of their role in perpetuating injustice or a display of consolation and compassion to the victims of their tyranny. Contrary to that expectation America & the UK both abdicated their commitment to peace and expressed effusive praise of King Abdullah in their eulogies.

The Saudi Arabia monarchy are notorious for their regressive and tyrannical laws and consistently rank as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of human rights.
Saudi Arabia which adopts a draconian form of Sharia Law inflicts unwarranted and heinous punishment onto not just legitimate criminals but people accused of apostasy, sorcery, witchcraft and adultery. The punishment for these crimes can often be corporal or capital punishment which is a major component of the Saudi justice system. To compound matters they subjugate women and inhibit their freedom in numerous ways, most notably the lack of laws prohibiting spousal or statutory rape, the obligation of having to have a male guardian irrespective of age, and the prohibition of driving. Furthermore the Saudi government are a major contributor to the sectarianism which afflicts the country due to their financing of exponents of Wahabbism which is a puritanical form of Sunni Islam, and which demonises the Shia sect of Islam. Consequently Shias are marginalised and subjected to discrimination on a large scale. Recently there have been attempts at reform but they’ve been criticised as being merely symbolic and not substantive.

America established an alliance with Saudi Arabia prior to the second World War; Following the discovery of oil reservoirs in the region the American government developed an interest in forging a durable relationship with Saudi. There were a number of obstacles in actualising that goal, one being the US’s support of the imposition of a Jewish state on Palestinian land, but Roosevelt, the incumbent president managed to mollify the hostility emanating from Saudi by sending a letter assuring them that while America supported the conception of a Jewish state they weren’t responsible for it. During the second World War the relationship was demoted as America was prioritising the defeat of the Nazis, but as the war progressed America began to believe that the oil was strategically valuable to them. Following the second World War, America reinforced its loyalty to the Saudi’s by strengthening its relationship, this was pivotal in preventing the spread of communism in Arabia. Military aid increased exponentially with Saudi emerging as a significant military power. The relationship has not been devoid of hostility though, the aforementioned dispute regarding the support of Israel rose to prominence again in 1973 when King Fasiel participated in an oil embargo against America and Europe but eventually the embargo was ended and relations resumed. After the deadly terror attack on September 11th 2001 there was criticism directed at Saudi Arabia considering the hijackers were predominately Saudis, it mainly focused on the funding of wahhibism by the Saudi government. But the relationship remained intact because of the mutual benefits reaped from it, and in 2010 the US announced the largest arms deal in history intending to supply Saudi Arabia with $60bn worth of weaponry.

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Following the death of King Abdullah, leaders payed homage to his service and praised his tenure, others including the American president brazenly attended a service commemorating the life of a despot. It behoves any president who purports to stand for human rights to confront the salient encroachment of human rights. By disregarding the crimes of Saudi Arabia it completely undermines the American government’s moral authority in the world, not that they had much in the first place. Eulogising a tyrant is tacit approval of the odious crimes committed because the victims of their tyranny are swept under the rug and forgotten. While glorifying death is obscene the crimes committed should not be whitewashed, it should be a moment where we remember the lives of those killed and oppressed by a regime, and it’s an opportunity to show solidarity to current victims. Thankfully some citizens have been doing that and participated in protests against the flogging of a Saudi journalist.

The mourning and praise of the King also underscores the blatant hypocrisy of Western governments. Just weeks prior to his death, satirists from Charlie Hebdo were murdered by Jihadists. Many of the same leaders who are now praising King Abdullah were extolling freedom of speech and purporting to stand with Charlie Hebdo. In Saudi Arabia the notion of a publication like Charlie Hebdo existing is a mere fantasy, and if it were ever to exist the punishment for its creators and members would very likely be death. How can these governments reconcile their apparent disgust for the murdering of Charlie Hebdo satirists while openly and unapologetically supporting a regime which makes no secret of its willingness to execute people for blasphemy?

Suffice to say allying with an odious regime like this amounts to complicity. Saudi’s depravity could not be more at odds with America’s purported principles and the continuance of support and aid is tantamount to support of those crimes. Of course America’s values are very malleable and liable to change at any moment depending on the circumstances of the situation. They embrace the odious ‘end justifies the means’ mentality and will do what’s in their interest financially despite the moral obstacles or unintended consequences. The profuseness of oil in the region should have been rationed out fairly, with the profit being distributed to societal benefits like education, healthcare, and eradicating poverty. But the presence of oil has primarily been to the advantage of Western countries, and the Saudi monarchy at the expense of the citizens of the country. Not difficult to see then why many in that region harbour animosity towards Western governments who have continued to finance the oppression while acquiring rewards from it.

Equality and social justice are not just frivolous concepts which can be selectively espoused and rejected on a whim. They’re profound principles which require consistent commitment and unwavering support. The regular betrayal of these values from the American government just underscores the masquerade of them valuing peace and liberty for all.

The IDF Must Be Stopped

One of the most emotive and polarising struggles in the last 100 years has been the Israel-Palestine conflict and with the 2014 Israel incursion and alarming number of civilian deaths it’s only intensified in its divisiveness. Some maintain that the Israeli government are entitled to defend themselves against Hamas, who have indiscriminately fired rockets, others assert that Israel are engaged in ethnic cleansing and are committing genocide while others are somewhat ambivalent harbouring equal animosity both towards Hamas and the IDF. Determining who is the afflicted and who are the oppressors is imperative before we can attempt to resolve this protracted conflict.

While a historical perspective is not essential in making judgements about the contemporary conflict, it can provide context and shed light on the motives of the respective sides.
You have to go all the way back to the 19th century and to the formation of Zionism, with Theodore Herzl theorising about the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. With anti-Semitism proliferating in Europe, accentuated by the Dreyfus affair in France, the conception of a Jewish state was becoming more appealing to a legion of Jews and Zionism’s popularity soared. The unfathomable suffering inflicted on the Jews by Hitler galvanised the Jews into coalescing and led to almost unanimous support of the Zionist ambition. At approximately the same time a Arab nationalistic movement rose to prominence during the demise of the Ottoman empire. Throughout the war Britain had been a primary subsidiser of them to expedite the disintegration of the Ottomans. One of the assurances given to the Arabs was a state with much of the Arabian peninsula but this never came to fruition. Most of the territory was divided by two imperial powers: France and Britain. Resentment towards the hegemony inevitably arose and culminated in the Iraqi revolt of 1920 which resulted in an emasculation of Britain’s power. Uprisings also occurred towards the French in Syria and the French retaliated by bombarding the city causing thousands of deaths. The imperialists tried to appease the Arabs by giving them quasi-independence but they couldn’t reconcile this with colonialism. The frameworks of both Zionism and Arab nationalism were manifestly irreconcilable and the prospect of a gory encounter was increasing. Following the end of the British mandate in 1948 the UN proposed a two state solution in an attempt to placate both Arab nationalists and Jewish Zionists. However, this did not appease the Palestinian people and following the formation of Israel on May 14th 1948, war ensued. The other Arab countries allied with Palestine and fought the state of Israel. After much calamity Israel eventually won the war and this had profound implications for the region with Palestinian people sustaining the bulk of the damage; the causalities consisted of predominately Palestinian civilians and the war also entailed a mass exodus of Palestinian people.
During the war approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their home and forced to flee; refugee camps were created throughout the Arab region to accommodate them.
Israel appropriated significantly more land than the UN allotted and considering the demise of enemy forces there was little form of resistance; Jordan annexed the West Bank and Egypt claimed the Gaza strip with an All-Palestine government declared by the Arab league but this was later abandoned by Egypt.
Relations between Israel and the rest of Arabic countries festered and in 1967 the 6 day war transpired. Defeating Israel proved insurmountable once again for the Arabs as Israel were better equipped militarily and strategically. The death toll was again disproportionate with Israel sustaining relatively little loss of life, conversely the Arabs lost thousands of people due to Israel’s bombardment. Ergo Israel assumed control over more land including the Gaza Strip and The West Bank. Palestinian civilians were once again dislodged from their homes and fled the territory. In 1988 Hamas was founded and this gave new impetus to Palestinian resistance; its objective was to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and eradicate Israel but their tactics included controversial methods like suicide bombing and since 2001 rocket attacks. Hamas has also provided essential services to the Palestinian people including relief programs, school funding, healthcare clinics & soup kitchens; their contributions to the health sector have been substantial with them also facilitating free or inexpensive healthcare. In 2005 Israel enacted a plan to withdraw their troops from Gaza and dismantle all illegal settlements, however many were critical of the plan claiming it did not address issues such as Isreal’s control over Gaza’s airspace, borders, infrastructure, coastline and power. Hamas omitted the call for the destruction of Israel from their charter in 2006 and were democratically elected by the Palestinian people. After the election they offered a 10 year truce on the condition that Israel withdraw from the 1967 borders and recognised Palestinian rights including the right of return, But Israel weren’t willing to make any concessions. In 2009 the Gaza massacre occurred and the death toll was lopsided anew, Israel rationalised its brutality by affirming that they were attempting to prevent rocket fire into Israel. 13 Israelis died including 3 civilians contrasted with the 1417 Palestinians who died including an estimated 926 civilians. Israel were victorious again, but their reputation was faltering, they received scathing UN reports and criticism from human rights groups who were enraged at Israel’s barbarism which they claimed amounted to collective punishment.

5 years on and the Israeli government are still wreaking havoc in Gaza. On the 15th of May 2014 the IDF shot two Palestinian teenagers to death despite them posing no threat to them, then in June following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Israel accused Hamas of being behind the murders, after that Israel endeavoured to restrain Hamas which led to increased rocket attacks, this precipitated operation protective edge which expanded to a ground incursion of Gaza, with Israel systemically killing scores of Palestinians. It was civilians who bore the brunt of the arbitrary use of the armaments with the total number of Palestinian civilians casualties exceeding 1000 including the harrowing number of 513 children. Many were wounded too with civilians losing limbs and incurring considerable psychological damage. 17,000 homes were brought to ruins and IDF soldiers reportedly vandalised some homes by spreading excrement and inscribing on walls and tables “death to arabs” “Gaza will die”. Amnesty International condemned Israel for intentionally targeting civilian objects. On some occasions Israel warned civilians of imminent bombs in accordance with international law, but many of these warnings were inadequate and futile. Amnesty said: “although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an “effective warning” under international humanitarian law.” The IDF also killed 13 journalists during the conflict which is another infringement of international law. Israel deliberately targeted Hamas’ al-aqsa radio and tv stations in a strategic move because of the propaganda diffusion capabilities. After the NATO Bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in 1999 an ICC panel convened to assess the legality of the attack. They concluded by saying: “A journalist or media organisation is not a legitimate target merely because it broadcasts or disseminates propaganda.” Another odious war crime committed by Israel was the use of shells at UNRWA facilities which were designated to shelter civilians. As a result of misfire at least 46 civilians were killed including UN staff. They also repugnantly targeted a school in Rafah where many Palestinians found refuge; does the depth of their depravity know no bounds? Israel’s attacks also corroded the infrastructure of Gaza: Water, sewage and electricity systems were all compromised by air strikes and it was yet another violation of international law; Amnesty said it amounted to collective punishment. Similar to Israel, Hamas were no stranger to contemptible acts. Most notably the killing of suspected sympathisers or collaborators with Israel; Palestinian president Abbas denounced the killings calling them a crime against humanity. Hamas also used civilian buildings for military objectives endangering the lives of many innocent Gazans, which is prohibited under international law. Hamas have also been castigated for the indiscriminate firing of rockets in Israel. The iron dome which was built to counteract missiles by intercepting them played a pivotal role in the war, Iron Dome systems were deployed throughout the conflict and achieved a success rate of 90 percent. While Hamas’ rockets are mostly ineffective this doesn’t mitigate the abhorrence of firing at civilians.

The reductive claim that Israel are just defending themselves just doesn’t compute, despite their insistence that they’re not targeting non-combatants, their actions run contrary to this claim and by any objective observation it’s indisputable that their arbitrary targeting of hospitals, schools, and homes amounts to collective punishment. When you indiscriminately fire bombs into neighbourhoods, schools and hospitals that is tantamount to malevolence towards innocents. Considering the population density of Gaza they are cognisant that the inevitable outcome of their operation is the large scale killing of innocents. No amount of obfuscation will shroud that. What’s equally disturbing is the lack of remorse, anytime Israel are accused of war crimes they will deploy the platitude that Hamas are culpable regardless of the multitude of evidence to the contrary – this is an extreme form of nationalism with undertones of perceived infallibility – the IDF embody the most undesirable elements of a jingoistic force and seemingly are willing to do anything at the behest of their commander. Netanyahu also shamefully accused proponents of a boycott towards Israel of anti-Semitism, a pathetic attempt to conflate morally obligatory criticism of Israel’s crimes with deplorable anti-semitism. Netanyahu trivialises legitimate anti-semitism by attempting to exploit people’s healthy tendency to be wary of anti-semitism. He’s almost the Israel equivalent of Dick Cheney, not a modicum of remorse, undeterred by any criticism in his pursuit of supremacy and utterly convinced of infallibility; the level of arrogance & hubris that radiates from him really ought to concern people considering the power he wields. The contrast in the number of casualties between the sides which the graph below demonstrates is often swept under the rug but it provides a clear picture of the side enduring the preponderance of the damage – one of the pernicious ways Israel defenders try to trivialise the difference is by speciously asserting that if Hamas were in their position of power they would be less merciful – Irrespective of whether that’s true or not and it’s impossible to ascertain whether it is, justifying evil by pointing to worse examples of evil, and in this case hypothetical examples, is logically absurd; if you want to atone for your evil, contrition opposed to fallacious rationalisation is the more optimal route. There’s a fundamental disregard for Palestinian life by the Israeli’s and the fact that many of their war crimes have been perpetrated with impunity is not only an indictment of their allies but also of the application of international law against the powerful.

Another form of collective punishment is the Gaza blockade which was first imposed in 2007 and is deemed by many international bodies as an inhumane imposition on the Gazans. As an occupying power Israel bears responsibility for the welfare of Gazans and by restricting steady access to essential supplies they have abjectly failed in that regard. The blockade was predicated on the goal of sabotaging the Gazan economy in an attempt to weaken Hamas. To mollify growing international criticism Israel reduced restrictions both in 2011 and 2013 but the continuance of it hampers attempts to rebuild Gaza and strengthen its economy. In addition to that, the illegal settlements built by Israel, in the West Bank contravenes international law as construction of communities on occupied territory is a flagrant violation of the Geneva convention. This has been repeatedly upheld by the United Nations and even Israel’s most staunch ally considers them inimical to peace negotiations. Israel appear to have no qualms regarding this clear breach of international law and have tried to justify it numerous times. If Israel had any desire for an end in hostilities they wouldn’t perpetuate these illegalities which clearly undermines peace negotiations.

Propaganda is a salient utility during war and is utilised by both sides to engender support for their side. However unlike previous times the landscape has irrevocably changed. With the advent of social media a new major tool has emerged to propagandise and disseminate biased information. It has developed into a component of war and can be influential in impacting public opinion. Both Hamas and the IDF are aware of the importance of social media in either shaping or reinforcing biases. But while social media can be utilised to propagate falsehoods or misconceptions by the powerful it is also indispensable to the powerless. During many conflicts in the past much of the bloodshed has been concealed or kept hidden from the public, but during this conflict much of the calamity was reported and described in real time courtesy of increased access to smartphones. Individuals in the midst of the carnage were providing updates and imagery of the course of events including graphic and gory pictures of amputees and people who were maimed which would have left indelible memories in many. Many aghast at the horror conveyed their sympathy and support to the victims. The evocative and harrowing nature of these pictures gave people a tangible understanding of the grisly crimes committed by the IDF and immunised some to the toxic rhetoric of Israel defenders. The US media coverage of the conflict hasn’t deviated from convention. It’s been skewed towards Israel; the bulk of the scorn is usually reserved for Hamas, on rare occasions we get a glimpse of the IDF’s depravity but this often rationalised with the self-defence banality. In Israel expressing the ‘controversial’ sentiment that war is bad is heretical and it’s an increasingly perilous position to hold. If you don’t docilely accept the narrative that the IDF are courageous fighters you are susceptible to harassment and accusations of being a traitor. There have been multiple reports of this, and it stands to reason considering how supportive of the war Israelis are.

It would be negligent to analyse Israel’s depravity without focusing on America’s complicity. Israel has many powerful allies, but none more powerful than America. From a young age it’s inculcated into you that Israel is the moral power. You’d be hard-pressed to find another issue where congress is as unanimous and bipartisan as it is regarding Israel and this despite the palpable enmity that exists between the two parties today. America is an indispensable source of military funding and have been pivotal in the aggrandisement of Israel; Israel have been their largest cumulative recipient of aid since world war 2. Today the lion share of funding is used to consolidate the IDF. Furthermore America also provides Israel with political leverage, they’ve used their UN security council veto power 42 times pertaining to issues affecting Israel. America have no interest in recognising Palestinian statehood and have consistently impeded any resolution that may grant Palestinian sovereignty. Following a UN rejection of a Palestinian bid to end the occupation within 3 years, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed international agreements in a request to join the ICC, this could provide the court with the jurisdiction over Palestine territories and renders the possibility of war crimes being filed against Israel and Hamas. America responded by claiming they believe Palestine isn’t a sovereign state, and is ineligible to join the ICC. Both Israel and America took vindictive measures to deter the Palestine authority from joining by threatening and then imposing financial repercussions. This underscores the charade of the claim that America and Israel desire peace, it’s dominance and impunity they want to sustain and if Palestinians don’t acquiesce to that expectation they must face the wrath. America’s obstructionism has facilitated and contributed to Israel’s crimes, and it’s long overdue that the EU overcomes it supineness and stands up to Israel. Thankfully over the last few months some EU states have stated their intention to recognise Palestinian statehood. Sweden, Ireland, France and Britain have all taken steps to acknowledge Palestinian independence and each time were condemned by Israel. While it’s mostly symbolic it does signify less deference to Israel which is essential, subservience to Israel and America is now clearly antithetical to justice.

The pursuit for peace goes on but it will not come in the form of a two-state solution, Israel is a colonial state with a government who have repeatedly displayed their disregard for international law. Every action to date suggests they have no interest in a two-state solution and are in fact gradually destroying Palestine with illegal settlement expansion and murderous bombing. Because the United States guarantees impunity to them regardless of how unlawful and heinous their actions are, there is absolutely no incentive for Israel to stop.
The only legitimate chance of peace is a one-state solution where Palestinians and Jews are afforded equal rights. South African apartheid ended because of the pressure exerted on the powerful Western governments who enabled it, boycotts were effective and yielded a successful outcome. The BDS movement is really the only mechanism we have for applying pressure on the Israeli government, this is why they and their allies respond with such fervent hostility, because they know it has the potential to work.

While the troubles linger we must continue to express our solidarity to Palestinian people and our disdain to the people perpetuating their persecution. It’s appealing to dismiss the impact of protests and gestures but viscerally they’re important; they elevate awareness of the suffering and can be a great source of solace for Palestinian people. In addition we can donate to aid in the supply of necessities, which many are deprived of. What we mustn’t do is become apathetic or fatalistic because that would just enable the cycle of oppression.