Monday, April 21, 2008
The Chinese blogospehere is overflowing with calls to boycott Carrefour. The torch relay in Paris was a disgrace indeed. On the one hand, peaceful protests should be permitted, but on the other hand the torch relay should not be disrupted. I am not in favor of the torch relay, because it was invented by Hitler - so to speak - and has turned into a meaningless media circus. But both sides in the equation should be allowed to have their place under the sun. Paris leaned towards the protesters and thereby insulted the Chinese.
The Chinese people's anger has focused on Carrefour. A boycott of companies and institutions financing the Dalai Lama could, indeed, be a powerful weapon against what the Chinese government calls "Tibetan separatists". But proof of Carrefour's financing of the "Dalai clique" has not been substatiated. The biggest source of financing for the Dalai Lama remains the U.S. government and its assorted agencies such as the CIA. If venting some anger at Carrefour makes you feel better, very well then, go ahead. But perhaps it's not the most appropriate target.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
“Are the Tibetans doomed to go the way of the Native Americans?” asks Ian Buruma in “Tibet's last stand” (The Guardian, April 14, 2008) The comparison is preposterous. The Native Americans or Indians have been ruthlessly murdered by the white American settlers, driven ever more westwards, having their lands confiscated, their women and children murdered. Nothing of the sort has or is happening in Tibet. China's central government has pumped billions of yuan in the development of Tibet. Yes, it's all hardware – buildings, roads, airports, a railroad, the restoration of temples. Usually you start with the hardware, the software will follow. But it's precisely in the “software” field that more needs to be done.
Some Han Chinese – the engineers and managers – have been sent to Tibet by the central government. Many others – the shopkeepers, gold diggers and prostitutes – just went searching for a place to earn a few bucks. They live alongside the Tibetans, but don't speak a word of Tibetan, forcing the Tibetans to communicate in Chinese. This creates friction and tensions. Free Tibetan language and culture classes could promote the integration of the two communities. The Chinese government should invest more in this field.
As even Ian Buruma has to admit, “capitalist development has been even more devastating to Tibetan tradition” than Chinese communism. Tibet is now a breading ground for small scale capitalism. An independent Tibet would no doubt invite the big international mining firms and millions of Western tourists. It would be even more devastating to Tibetan culture, which would be relegated to zoo-style performances for tourists.
On the other hand, modernization should be welcomed, not rejected to preserve a Medieval way of life. Monks are welcome to continue their study of Buddhism, but they shouldn't dominate society.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
The Belgian government has decided to send four F16 fighter bombers and 100 support personnel to Kandahar in September for four months to beef up Belgium's contribution to the NATO aggression against Afghanistan. While Canada is considering pulling its troops out and Germany refuses to give in to pressure by the U.S. to increase its forces in the South of Afghanistan, the Belgian government and its so-called “Christian” minister of defense Pieter De Crem show their total moral depravity by jumping deeper in the Afghan quagmire.
As Matthew Parris convincingly argues in The Times (“Enough. Time to pack up and leave”), Britain should also withdraw its forces because they are not doing anything worthwhile in Afghanistan. Parris: “We British - never mind about America, or Italy, or Canada, Germany or France - are at the limit of what we can achieve by force. It is no good sending any more troops: we haven't any to spare, and the force we already send to Helmand province is overstretched.”
Foreign forces should finally withdraw from the country and let the Afghans sort out their problems. Today the country is no better off than under the Taliban. Sure, there are some pockets of progress, some girls can go back to school, but nobody is in control of the country, certainly not the puppet Kharzai clique, which is not worth to be called a government. Violence is rife, development is stunted and here comes De Crem throwing 30 million euro into the cesspool to finance Belgium's contribution to the mess.
While Belgian F16s have been stationed in the country before, they never dropped a bomb. This time, they will be assigned combat missions and start dropping bombs, killing tens, perhaps hundreds, of innocent Afghan civilians, while the pilots committing these war crimes remain safe up in the air, so De Crem can avoid the ordeal of seeing body bags arriving in Brussels. While murdering Afghan civilians, the Belgian airmen should not run any risks. Shouldn't we call this racism?
Friday, February 1, 2008
The last post on this blog dates from September 15, 2007. For several reasons, I just couldn't keep up with the blog. But I still have been following the news. Every day, there is a story worth telling, a comment waiting to be launched in cyberspace. From now on I will not only resume posting comments every day, but will also try to add stories for each day since September 15, 2007. Of course this is going to take some time, probably several months, and it may be difficult to post something for each and every day since then, but I'll give it a try.
The blog break is over!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Madonna is a pop icon and some of her songs, such as “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl” will remain popular forever. One can appreciate songs whatever the religious belief of the performers. But Madonna is going too far. Brought up a catholic, she converted to Kabbalah, a Jewish sect condemned as heretic by the orthodox rabbis. As most of Kabbalah's holy sites are located in Israel, Madonna frequently visits the Zionist state. This week, at the end of the Jewish New Year, she even met Israel's president, war criminal Shimon Peres, who gave her a copy of the Old Testament. As she converted to Kabbalah, she even took a new name “Esther”.
Madonna, the famous pop singer is dead, reincarnated as a Jewish fanatic who is cozying up to war criminals. She is hereby deleted from the list of my favorite singers. (CNN: “Madonna meets Shimon Peres”)
Friday, September 14, 2007
Twenty-five years ago this week, more than 1,700 Palestinians were slaughtered in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 48 hours of carnage while Ariel Sharon watched from a safe distance. Most victims were women and children. An Israeli commission of inquiry concluded that then defense minister Sharon was "indirectly" and "personally" responsible, but far from being punished for this despicable crime, he would still rise to the top and become prime minister of Israel. Franklin Lamb notes that it is considered "the bloodiest single incident of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a crime for which Israel will be condemned for eternity". (Counterpunch: "A Letter to Janet About Sabra-Shatilla"), (Aljazeera: "Sabra Shatila recalled")
All of those who perpetrated the massacre, the hundreds of Phalange and Haddad militia, escaped justice, because they acted on the orders of the Israeli government. Survivors are still haunted by the memories 25 years later and most still live in refugee camps. 45,000 people still live in Sabra and Shatilla today. But many Lebanese, let alone people around the world, have never heard of Sabra and Shatilla. Therefore it is imperative to keep the memories alive and remember the victims.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Almost three months after the Belgian general elections of June 10 there is still no new government and no solution in sight to the problems preventing a coalition government to be formed. Finally, the foreign press also starts noticing. (The Economist: “Time to call it a day”); (The Independent: “The Big Question: Is Belgium on the brink of breaking apart, and would it matter if it did?”, “Pressure grows on Belgium's fragile state”)
The disappearance of Belgium may be the result not of a conscious act but of a general acknowledgment of its irrelevance. It is true – at least for now – that there is no majority for a break up of the country. Even in Flanders, there is no majority for a declaration of independence. Rather Belgium may “fade from the page of history” to borrow an expression used by Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini when he was talking about Israel. The Jewish state will disappear because it is built on a gross injustice – the genocide of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a racist apartheid state. Belgium will fade simply because it is no longer needed. There are altogether seven parliaments and governments where three will suffice to guarantee governance: one each for Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. There will still be chocolates and beers, although they may no longer be called Belgian. The only thing for which Belgium is indispensable is the monarchy. The royals will have to look for another job.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
On September 11, some European right-wing forces planned a demonstration in Brussels about what they view as the islamisation of Europe. But the mayor of Brussels banned the demonstration fearing counter manifestations by migrants.
While being firmly opposed to the viewpoints of the organizers, banning demonstrations is never a good option. When there is a demonstration, there is always the possibility of a counter-demonstration. The best the authorities can do is to separate both demonstrations to avoid clashes. In the end even the main organizer withdrew his support for the demonstration and only around a hundred people turned up where about 20,000 were expected.
The leaders of law-and-order Vlaams Belang – who usually always defend an increase in police powers – were briefly arrested when they showed up to demonstrate. Now they claim to defend the freedom of expression, but if a left-wing demonstration would have been organized, they would be the first to support a police crackdown. Their hatred of migrants and Islam led them to break the law. (Al-Jazeera: “Clashes at Belgian anti-Islam rally”)
Believers in Islam should be allowed to practice their religions and customs.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The most anticipated congressional testimony by a U.S. general since the Vietnam War brought nothing new. Even before the start of the Surge, one could have predicted what general David Petraeus would say yesterday and today, which is: the surge is working, the situation is improving and we have to stay the course. And in the meantime reduce the number of surge troops to deceive the public that troops are coming home.
The surge was a dismal failure and could not have been otherwise. Occupying a country doesn't work and intensifying the occupation will only intensify the resistance. Now the general says we have to wait for his next report in March 2008. In the meantime tens of thousands more Iraqis will have been killed. What makes Petraeus think that the situation – from an American point of view – will be better in six months? It's stupid wishful thinking on his part, because it won't. Only an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq will create conditions for an improvement in the situation. The experience of Vietnam shows us that generals are consistently wrong in their assessments and recommendations. They only say what they think their bosses in the White House and the Pentagon want to hear.
The aim of the surge was to give Iraqi leaders the security needed to make stabilizing political arrangements. None were made and Iraq is further disintegrating. Effecting a troop surge without any results and then scaling it back won't solve anything. A BBC poll in several countries showed that 67% of the respondents want an immediate or gradual withdrawal of American troops. As even former secretary of state Madeleine Albright had to admit: “Our troops are being asked to risk their lives to solve problems our civilian leaders created.” Still the U.S. is clinging to hopes of an impossible victory, inflicting ever more damage. (The Independent: “The view from Washington: Petraeus offers hope of success to a war-weary America”, “The view from Baghdad: Mounting death toll which makes a mockery of US optimism”, “Patrick Cockburn: The 'surge' has failed to improve the bloody stalemate”, “Under siege: what the surge really means in Baghdad”); (The Guardian: “A wrong ID, a wrong turn can mean death”, “We need to get out of Iraq”, “Delaying the inevitable withdrawal”)
Monday, September 10, 2007
Many Chinese officials and businessmen have mistresses these days. There's nothing much wrong with that, although some become corrupt to satisfy the money hunger of their mistress. But like with anything else you can overdo it. Take the “Zipper mayor” for example. Pang Jiayu (63) is a former mayor of Baoji in Shaanxi province and has also been deputy chairman of the provincial Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He had no less than 11 mistresses, most of them the young wives of his subordinates. That seems to be a few too many for a man his age. In return for sexual, he promised them to help their husbands get rich. But when some of the schemes fell through and some of the husbands got the death penalty, the mistresses banded together and informed in a letter the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Pang's misdeeds. As Wang Xiaowei writes in the South China Morning Post, “Pang's case takes the cake”.
Eleven mistresses, joining hands to denounce their former patron, if anybody can do better, please raise your hand. The fact that Pang's case has fueled the imagination and has had a wide-ranging impact guarantees that his punishment will be severe. (The Guardian: “Concubine culture brings trouble for China's bosses”) But the fact remains that Pang could break the law for 13 years and - to borrow the official jargon - "lead a desolute life" without being exposed. Many similar "local emperors" still ride roughshod over the people and only a new cultural revolution can stop them.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Chairman Mao passed away 31 year ago today. “31” is not a sexy number, but still one would expect that some commemorative articles would have appeared in the Chinese press. There was no such thing. Chairman Mao's death went by unobserved in China. The party leadership doesn't really know what to do with Mao's legacy. It has clearly betrayed his ideology and policy recommendations. But the leadership also doesn't want to ditch Mao completely. The resulting debate could be devastating for the Communist Party, which remains a communist party only in name. An public debate would open the floodgates. On the other hand the current leaders of the Communist Party are following a policy so opposed to everything the Chairman stood for, that they decided to just ignore him.
But amid the dislocations, exploitation and misery caused by the current capitalist development, many people have not forgotten Mao. He created a massive social experiment, and indeed many things went wrong. Social engineering on the vast scale of China is not an easy matter. And most experiments don't succeed on the first try. But if the imperialist U.S. and the rising capitalist power China are common stakeholders in a “harmonious world”, something must be wrong.
Socialism, let alone communism, cannot be realized in poverty. Only when the forces of production are highly developed can socialism be realized. Deng Xiaoping argued that some people could get rich first and common prosperity would be realized. The migrants flooding China's cities in search of factory work are better off toiling in the sweatshops compared to life on the land. But that doesn't mean they are not exploited. Moreover, income disparities between urban and rural residents are still widening. Historical experience proves that capitalist development cannot be skipped. But going out for all round capitalist development also means a revolution is in the making.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
As we all know, Bush's brain has left the White House and now he is acting even more like an idiot on the world stage. While attending a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) he thought he was attending an OPEC summit, that's short for Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. And when thanking his Australian hosts for their contribution to the war in Iraq he was talking about “Austrian” troops. (The Times: “How Australia became Austria – and in Opec”)
This guy really doesn't know what he's talking about, he is merely able to misread the papers and briefing notes written by his staff. This guy is commander-in-chief of the Big Paper Tiger, the army with the most firing power in the world. Not only is he an idiot, he's also a war criminal and still the leaders of other states are treating him like one of their own. Can't the American people see the damage he is doing to its reputation?
Friday, September 7, 2007
Yesterday an Israeli fighter jet intruded into Syrian airspace and apparently has bombed a target inside the country. This may very well be a test run for a more devastating strike on Iran. News reports claim that there is a cooperation in the nuclear field between Syria and North Korea. Israel might have tried to take out a nuclear installation in Syria to prepare for a strike against the Busher reactor in Iran.
Israel has clearly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. And, of course, the U.N. Security Council is doing nothing. Now imagine that the Iranian Air Force would have attacked a U.S. target in Iraq or a Syrian plane would have dropped a bomb on Israeli territory. This would surely have given the Bush-Cheney war criminal gang an excuse to start another war “to bring democracy to the Middle East”. But the Zionist apartheid state of Israel can violate the airspace of its neighbors with impunity, drop bombs at will, deny any wrongdoing and nobody is doing anything about it.
There can only be peace in the Middle East when the Zionist state vanishes from the page of history.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Is the Chinese military hacking into other governments' computer systems to spy on and disrupt them? If you read a slew of revelations in the Western press in the past few days you may think so. It started with an allegation in Der Spiegel that the networks of Germany's foreign and economic ministries were hacked into. When exactly it happened is not very clear, but the revelation was made just before chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China and was clearly made to embarrass the Chinese and push the spying topic high up the agenda. In the following days news surfaced that also networks at the Pentagon, in Great Britain and in France had been attacked. (The Guardian: “China flexes muscles of its 'informationised' army”)
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said China was opposed to hacking computer networks and would punish the perpetrators. There is not much proof that the attacks originated in China, but it is of course possible that the PLA is conducting cyber warfare experiments.
The hypocritical thing is that the U.S. and other Western countries are also developing cyber warfare capabilities, but the recent accusations make you believe that China is a rogue state, while the U.S. is strictly adhering to international norms. The U.S. that is, which illegally invaded a sovereign country which posed no threat whatsoever. If they invade with an army of flesh and blood, can you believe they would not invade other countries' networks in cyberspace.
It seems, apart from the reported cyber attacks, it is the attacks in the press that were designed to embarrass China. Without any proof, as hackers in other countries could very well be using insecure computers in China to disguise their location.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Last week a B-52 bomber flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana carrying six cruise missiles for decommssioning. So far so good. But even the bomber's crew was unaware that nuclear warheads were attached to the cruise missiles. The U.S. thereby violated a treaty committing itself not to fly around with nukes. (CNN: "Air Force investigates mistaken transport of nuclear warheads")
The incident is considered to be a major breach of security. So here we have the U.S. accusing Iran of endangering world security - although the Iranians don't have nuclear weapons - while the U.S. air force is flying nuclear warheads around the country. Nuclear weapons should be dismantled so nobody can fly around with them, even by mistake. No, they could not have detonated, but if the B-52 would have crashed, radiation would have contaminated a large area, possibly including population centers.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
George W. Bush has now made his third lightening visit to Iraq. Six hours on a U.S. airbase in Anbar province. He doesn't even dare to go to Baghdad anymore. Do you call that visiting Iraq? If the Iraqi people are welcoming the Americans with roses and fireworks, why does the American president not dare to walk among them. Among those whom he has brought “democracy”? Bush said he wanted to “see with his own eyes the remarkable changes that are taking place in Anbar province.” Holed up in a fortified American base. What exactly is it you can see from there? The nearby McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken?
In order to prolong the occupation, Bush wants to prove that progress is being made. Of course there is no such thing. Once again he is on a quest to deceive Congress and get away with war crimes. (The New York Times: “Bush, in Iraq, Sees Possible Reduction in Troop Levels”)
Bush is urging Congress to listen to what the U.S. commanders in Iraq have to say. But they are only saying what Bush would like to hear, totally divorced from reality. Most disgusting of all, the puppet leaders of Iraq, Talabani and al-Maliki are welcoming and schmoozing with the war criminal who is responsible for the utter destruction of their country and the mass murder of its people. They truly belong in the dustbin of history.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Usually, The Independent has insightful stories about many issues, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and also publishes columns by Robert Fisk. But yesterday they blew it with a distasteful campaign to “support the troops”. (The Independent: “IoS campaign: Honour our troops”, "A debt of honour: They fight and die for Queen and country. We must support them”)
We should support the troops, the newspaper crows, they lack protective armor and are poorly cared for when they return. The bottom line is: they don't need protection if they stay home and are not sent to wage war abroad. And when they are not fighting, they will need much less care. “Dying for Queen and country” is absurd. It is totally idiotic to die for the Queen, as for dying for the country, they are not fighting to defend their country against aggression, the soldiers themselves are committing aggression against other peoples. The Military Covenant may very well be honored in defense of the country, but not if the military is committing the crime of aggression. In doing so they become war criminals, and the Independent on Sunday is asking us the support them. The U.K. has now lost 168 troops in Iraq and 74 in Afghanistan, plus 1,741 casualties lifted out of both countries. These men and women wouldn't be dead or wounded if they hadn't crossed their country's border to go to a place where they had nothing to defend.
Shame on The Independent!
Sunday, September 2, 2007
The U.S. is preparing a savage air attack on Iran – not excluding the use of tactical nuclear weapons – to prevent it from acquiring an atom bomb. Never mind that Iran and the UN atomic energy agency on August 21 agreed on a timetable for Tehran to clarify outstanding concerns about its nuclear program. If the ghost of the atom bomb is insufficient to justify war, the U.S. will engineer an incident “proving” that Iran is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. “The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days,” The Times writes. (“Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran”) Not “pinprick strikes”, but “taking out the entire Iranian military”.
But in the same edition The Times (“How the West summoned up a nuclear nightmare in Pakistan”) published an extract from a forthcoming book, written by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, showing how the U.S. covered up Pakistan's quest for the bomb. So here we have the U.S. of A. turning a blind eye to Islamic Pakistan getting the bomb and preparing to strike at Islamic Iran to prevent it from getting the bomb. So what's the bottom line? It's not about nuclear non-proliferation. If you are a U.S. ally, you may have all the forbidden toys you want, but if you are not, you're gonna be bombed back to the Stone Age if the U.S. president only presumes that perhaps you would be tempted to acquire forbidden toys.
Bush accused Iran of “putting the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust”. Iran doesn't even have a bomb. But Pakistan does have several. Moreover, president's Musharraf's grip on the country is slipping and it could fall into the hands of Islamic militants, the very same who have trained and supported the Taliban. The authors of “Deception” describe Pakistan as a “desperately unstable country” [...] “on the failed states index at position 12, just below Haiti, in worse shape than North Korea and Burma”. Finally, Iran's Ahmadinejad was democratically elected (he was not even the candidate of the conservative clergy), while Musharraf took power in a coup.
To Bush that doesn't matter, you're with us or against us.
The book “Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons” will be published in Britain in September (Amazon.co.uk) and in the U.S. in October (Amazon.com).
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Belgium still doesn't have a new government following the June 10 elections. And it doesn't look like there will be in the near future. The gap between Flemish and French-speaking parties is too wide to reconcile. Ever more people are now contemplating the split of Belgium. If a Belgian government cannot be formed, Flanders will go its own way. Discussions of outright independence were usually confined to right-wing parties. But now for the first time the daily De Standaard publishes an extensive series of articles exploring how an independent Flanders could come about and what its place in Europe and the world would be.
Some argue that Belgium is already a small country and to split it up further would diminish its place in the world. But having six million inhabitants, Flanders has more people and is certainly more prosperous than many other countries. Even an independent Flanders would still be on a par with Denmark and be much larger than Luxembourg.
Many people who were not in favor of independence in the past are now changing their views because they become aware that Belgium is simply ungovernable. The two communities don't read each others newspapers or watch each others TV programs. Both vote for other parties and if people from the two communities do meet, they speak English, like they do with foreigners.
In 1830, Belgium split off from Holland. Perhaps in the coming years Flanders will split from Belgium and a proud new republic will be born.
Friday, August 31, 2007
A man called Michael Jackson has died yesterday. No, not his more famous namesake the pop singer. This Michael Jackson was a famous beer writer, who published many books about the world's beers. He also wrote a book about Belgian beers, which helped make them famous all over the world. He was also called "the beer hunter", the title of a popular television series he produced. (CNN: “Famed 'beer hunter' dies”)
Michael jackson was always on the look-out to taste new beers and to try to accurately describe their taste. He wanted something more than pils. When he tasted a beer brewed by Belgian monks he was hooked to discover more: Westmalle, Trappist, Geuze, Orval, Westvleteren, Duvel,... Sales of his books exceeded three million in 18 languages.
At 65 - much too early - he drank his last beer. But his descriptions of beers will continue to guide beer lovers for many years to come. Cheers!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
According to secretary general Giles Merritt of the think tank Friends of Europe , “China is mistakingly downplaying its own serious structural weaknesses”. He says the Chinese leaders fail to mention the country's problems because they don't want to lose face. (The Taipei Times: “Underneath China's happy mask”)
The Chinese indeed don't like losing face, but that's besides the point. Many Westerners see China as a rising power, exporting ever more goods, collecting giant foreign exchange reserves and even getting stronger militarily. Most foreign businessmen only go to the big coastal cities. They are mesmerized by the skyscrapers in Pudong and the Olympic village in Beijing. They hardly know anything about the countryside and the poor regions of the country. But you cannot say that the Chinese leaders themselves do not know this, as Wang Yong correctly points out in the Shanghai Daily. (“Western observer fails to see vigorous debate in China over problems”)
China is still a developing country and is certainly not hiding its problems. Some villages still don't have good roads or even electricity. China is developing fast, but it still needs several decades to become a developed country. To have a comprehensive understanding of China, you need to look at both the developed and the underdeveloped parts.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
No, the Taliban are not a nice bunch of guys. Who would want to envelop the bodies of women in a burqa where not even the eyes are visible? Men who impose this requirement must be totally out of their minds. The Taliban wanted to establish a dark medieval society. But what can you expect after 200 years of meddling by the foreign powers: the British, the Russians, the Iranians, the Pakistanis, the U.S. and an assorted collection of NATO troops? But the Talibs scored two achievements: they defeated the warlords and brought some sort of justice. Cruel justice, chopping of hands, feet and penises. And they almost eradicated the opium production.
Today, Afghanistan is ruled by nobody. There is the puppet Karzai regime in the presidential palace in Kabul, the warlords, the resurgent Taliban and the NATO troops. And guess what: the opium production is soaring to record highs. (The Independent: “Record opium crop helps the Taliban fund its resistance”), (The Guardian: “UN horrified by surge in opium trade in Helmand”), (The New York Times: “Afghan Opium Crop at Record High”).
Opium production increased more than a third compared to last year. Helmand province is the biggest single opium producer in the world, right under the noses of the NATO armies. The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa had to admit: “The results are very bad, terrifyingly bad”. And who is to be held responsible for this? The foreign armies occupying Afghanistan today.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
It should surprise nobody that the U.S. military is facing ever more difficulties to sign up new recruits. Everybody with a few grams of brain matter knows that after signing up, Iraq is waiting. Either they will have to endure innumerable tours of duty, utterly exhausting even the most battle-hardened soldiers. Now the U.S. Army has found a way: bribery. (The Washington Post: “Many Take Army's 'Quick Ship' Bonus”)
Since late July, more than 90% of new recruits have accepted a 20,000 dollar “quick ship” bonus. For most of them, that's the equivalent of more than a year's pay. Sure, that comes in very handy. But the flipside is that the new recruits leave their homes within days of signing up for a short crash course leaving them unprepared and badly trained. Then it's onwards to the battlefields of Iraq. Many of them will never get the chance to spend their 20,000 dollar, but will instead quickly return to the homeland... in a body bag.
In the first three weeks of the program, which started on July 25, the army enlisted 3,814 new recruits using the bonus. The American people is tired of the war in Iraq and the only way the military can fill its ranks is bribery, wasting more of the taxpayers' money to send the sons and daughters of the country to commit crimes abroad. Some of them would indeed have joined up, perhaps in 2008, without the bonus. So the army may now have a supply of fresh recruits, but will face more difficulties next year. The flow of cannon fodder will dry up.
Meanwhile, Bush wants to launch another criminal war against Iran. That will break the back of the U.S. military and even lots of money will not be able to solve the personnel problem. You can have the best military hardware in the world, you can sow death and destruction on an unimaginable scale, but in the end it's the people who are the driving force. Equipped with the best hardware, bombers, fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, spy satellites... the U.S. is defeated every day by Kalashnikovs and roadside bombs.
So what about the Iraqi resistance? Do they have a problem finding new recruits? No, because the war crimes committed by the U.S. are turning each and every Iraqi into a dedicated resistance fighter,... free of charge.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Nouri al-Maliki is an American puppet, frequently traveling to Washington to receive instructions from his boss, George W. Bush. But as it goes with puppets, if they won't or can't fulfill their master's wishes, they are prone to be kicked aside and replaced. al-Maliki is coming under fire because he can't deliver on the “benchmarks” which emerged from neo-con fantasy land. Hillary Clinton said that al-Maliki should be replaced by a "less divisive and more unifying figure". The problem for the U.S. is: another puppet won't be able to deliver either. The Iraqi government is totally irrelevant outside the Green Zone. How can it accomplish anything?
(ZNet: “King George, al-Maliki, & the Press”) (CounterPunch: “Don't Carpool with Nouri al-Maliki”)
In 1963 the U.S. ambassador in Saigon and the C.I.A. supported (behind the scenes of course) the murder by South Vietnamese officers of president Ngo Dinh Diem, because he could not fulfill America's wishes. al-Maliki should watch his back or buy a one-way ticket to Tehran, where as a fellow Shia he is still welcome.
al-Maliki told his American critics to stop meddling in the affairs of his country and behave like colonial overlords. But that's exactly what Iraq is: a colony of the U.S. and al-Maliki is a puppet-on-a-string. Until the master cuts the string...
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Many people on the right as well as on the left of the political spectrum oppose free immigration. Foreigners – defined as people from less fortunate countries of course, not rich Americans and Saudis – are not allowed to stay if they don't have the proper papers. They are hunted by the police, locked up in closed centers akin to jails and sometimes forcefully expelled to their countries of origin. The right says they are a danger to “our values”, which of course are defined as being of higher quality than theirs. On the left, immigrants are feared because they supposedly drag down wage levels.
But Nick Clegg has an interesting observation to make. (The Guardian: “Ignoring immigration issue is not an option”) “Millions of Britons take up the freedom to live and work abroad; there are more Britons living abroad today than there are non-UK citizens living here. We should never lightly deny the freedom of movement to others that we so fully enjoy ourselves.” Well said! “We” claim the right to migrate to other countries, and most of “us” will certainly keep our “values” and perhaps not even learning the language of the country we are living in. But if “they” come to live among “us”, they have to “integrate”, that is learning “our” language, conforming to “our values” (no wearing of headscarves) and still “they” will be treated as a nuisance at best and sometimes much worse.
Clegg still calls for borders to be controlled more effectively. By the same logic, other countries should not allow so many Britons to immigrate. "We" keep "them" out, but "we" should still be able to go and live "there". There is only one correct policy: abolish the borders and let everybody travel and live where he or she pleases. Not only the rich Westerners, but everybody.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Facebook networking application is getting really hot. I joined some time ago at the invitation of an ex-colleague. It's certainly nice to keep in touch with old friends all over the world. You get notified when they add new photos or favorite music. You can send them a message or poke them from within the Facebook page. You can show off a lot of private information: contact details, places you have visited, photos, books you have read, your favorite music. You name it and there is probably a way to put it in your profile.
It's a pity you can only join one country network. All the expats out there would love to join two or even more networks, because it allows you to send friends requests to people you don't know in other countries. The World Friends application is not up to scratch, because you get too many random requests from people you don't even want to be friends with, like a fat (nothing against fat people, my beer belly is also further developing) lady from California, Presbyterian, conservative, with the Bible listed as her favorite book. Ouch, not my piece of cake. I'd prefer to be friends with a Mongolian girl with a Genghis Khan necklace. But Facebook doesn't make it easy to find them.
Anyway, so many people are joining up these days, Facebook will develop further and it could still be a good help to find long-lost friends or find new ones.
One must however be careful not to spend too much time on Facebook. One more application to check several times a day, while we already have to keep an eye on e-mail, websites, blog,... And there are still only 24 hours in a day!
Facebook is also increasingly used to launch local or even worldwide protests. Maybe someday it will become not only a friendly tool, but a revolutionary tool.
Friday, August 24, 2007
The attempt by Yves Leterme to form a new Belgium government has crashed. The king had to be whisked back to Brussels in an airforce jet from his vacationing spot in the South of France to enable Leterme to give back his assignment. What was the king doing in the South of France when everybody with the slightest political feeling could predict the pending crisis? But that's a minor detail. When he returned to his Belvedere palace, he passed a banner proclaiming “Independence for Flanders!” That may very well be the long-term outcome of this vaudeville.
The bottom line is: the situation is completely blocked. Leterme has failed miserably, and he's partly to be blamed for the mess. So is Madame “Non” Joelle Milquet and everybody else around the negotiating table. Since the elections on June 10, 75 days have been wasted in useless chit-chat carefully avoiding the main topic: the future of the Belgian federal state. Leterme is now heading for the balcony and wait for others to find a way out of the mess.
The best was out would be to:
declare Brussels “District of Europe”, Brussels D.E., where all the major European institutions are located. Issue European passports to the inhabitants of Brussels.
Split Belgium along the “language frontier” into two autonomous regions: Flanders and Wallonia. Of course we get rid of the monarchy in the process.
Establish a Europe of the regions, abolishing the nation states set up in the 18th and 19th century. In each and every European state there are profound contradictions between regions: Amsterdam against Rotterdam, Munich against Hannover, Paris against Marseille, Madrid against Bilbao, London against Glasgow. Get rid of the decaying carcass of the nation states and establish a true Europe of the regions.
One option is an independent Democratic People's Republic of Flanders. But creating new states in Europe is not the best solution. Another alternative is for Flanders to join the Netherlands. More than 60% of the Dutch people would welcome a union with Flanders, but more than 60% of the Flemish people doesn't like the idea. Moreover, getting rid of the Belgian dynasty of the Saksen-Coburgs, to be ruled by the Dutch dynasty of the Oranjes is not an appealing thought. A unified Dutch-Flemish country would be economically very strong, but it would have to be a republic. The monarchies should be buried together with Belgium.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Not V from Victory, but V from Vietnam. In the past, George W. Bush stubbornly refused any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. Now that his brain (Karl Rove) is on the way out, Bush's I.Q. is reaching new depths. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign War in Kansas City, Bush did make a comparison, but of course a totally erroneous one. Look what happened in Vietnam after we left, goes his distorted logic, so we'd better stay in Iraq. The basic reason why Iraq is in such a bloody mess is precisely the American occupation. End the occupation, and it will still be a bloody mess for some time, but at the same time the first step will have been taken for Iraq to recover from the American invasion. (The Guardian: “This is a war for credibility”; “The Saigon syndrome”)
According to Bush, the mistake America made in Vietnam was not to have stayed there longer, a mistake he does not want to repeat in Iraq. The mistake (or more precisely war crime) America made in Vietnam as well as in Iraq was to commit aggression against those countries. The U.S. has learnt nothing; as Mao said “imperialism can only lift a rock to drop it on its own foot”. It will never learn. Bush also points out that a retreat would embolden the “terrorists”. But it is precisely the U.S. aggression that pushes them to act. Osama bin Laden was once a partner of the U.S. in the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. So why did he become America's deadly enemy? Because he believes in “Islamo-fascism”? Not at all! Because he objected to the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. Leave those Muslim countries alone, and al-Qaeda will no longer have the incentive to attack America. Bush is doing exactly the opposite. al-Qaeda did not have any activities in the Iraq of Saddam, it does now, right under the noses of the American troops.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Today, 14 U.S. soldiers died when their UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Iraq. Apparently, the cause of the crash was mechanical failure, not hostile action. It is the worst single incident since January 2005. (The New York Times: "Black Hawk Fails and Crashes, Killing 14 U.S. Soldiers")
Boys everywhere like to play soldier. They want to show that there strong and brave. To learn to become a leader of men, or perhaps to impress the girls. Sometimes playing soldier causes cuts and bruises. But that about it. Boys should grow up and stop playing soldier. In the real world war kills. Another 14 coffins loaded on a C-130. 28 parents, 14 wives and how many children in mourning. Since the start of the war, 3,721 U.S. troops died in Iraq. Tens of thousands got severely wounded and will remember their “tour of duty” in Iraq forever. They didn't die or get maimed to defend “freedom and democracy” nor to help the Iraqi people. They went to a distant land most knew nothing about to topple its government and occupy it. There action caused more than 700,000 Iraqis to die and another 4 million to become refugees. They died to achieve this “glorious” goal. The people of Iraq despise them, the peoples of the world detest them. When the American people is no longer deluded by neocon claptrap, it will also stop to “support the troops”.
Grow up and stop playing soldier. Grown-up men make love...
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton has called on his country to resume diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He believes that relations with the U.S. are so important to China that it will have to accept diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. Many neocons are completely out of touch with reality, but Bolton is one of the most brain-damaged.
Still, some people believe that in the not too distant future, a war between China and Taiwan is likely to break out. (see: Richard C. Bush and Michael E. O'Hanlon's “A War Like No Other: The Truth About China's Challenge to America”) Now, O'Hanlon is also the guy who said things were improving in Iraq, the U.S. can still win and Bush is a hero. (see my post of August 9 below)
Moreover, you would assume these guys have a crystal ball, knowing perfectly well what is going to happen. Well, nobody has, so they are just hallucinating from inhaling too much neocon nonsense. You could certainly piece together some possible scenarios for the future. But “A War Like No Other” goes too far. The authors say they don't want to see a war between China and Taiwan, but they secretly hope that China would be seriously damaged and the U.S. could remain the overlord of the world.
They write that “a process can begin that, if mismanaged, can escalate out of control. It should not. But it could.” Yes, it could. But it is also very well possible that the Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straight are clever enough to avoid it from happening. If war mongers like John Bolton would just shut up.
Monday, August 20, 2007
The creation of a new Belgian government is going nowhere. The country is irrevocably split between Dutch and French speakers. The Dutch speakers want to transfer more authority in almost all areas of governance from the federal level to the regional level. The federal government would only remain as a service-providing institution, whereas the regional governments would have the real power. The French-speakers want to move in exactly the opposite direction: more authority transferred back to the federal level.
The making of a new government always includes compromises: party A gives in one item, but gains on another and so on. Each party can blow up its gains and minimize its losses, thereby hoping to survive the next election. But if two groups are moving in exactly opposite directions, compromises are useless. Giving more authority to the regions in one area and taking it away in another doesn't solve anything and only achieves to make the whole construction of the state more complicated.
On Friday evening, prime minister-to-be Yves Leterme saw no way out anymore and called on king Albert II for help. What he could have done was to return his task of forming a government back to the king, who could have named somebody else – which wouldn't have solved much, because nobody can solve the problem – but that's what the constitution allows for. But no: the king called the party leaders to his palace to have private discussions. As Sp.A leader Vande Lanotte (a constitutional rights professor) pointed out: this is unconstitutional. The king may only consult the politicians at the start of the whole process to determine whom to name as an “informer” to gather more information or a “former” to write the next government's program and form the cabinet. Intervening in between is “not done”. The king is not neutral: he is a French-speaking aristocrat now giving his support to a coalition of Catholics and Liberals.
The King of the Belgians has overstepped his authority to save Leterme's skin and give a coalition government of his liking another try. It's not exactly a royal coup d'etat, but it's nevertheless impermissible. If he continues to meddle, he should be forced to abdicate the throne and the monarchy should be abolished. It'll save a cent or two for the already disastrous budget.