Does Turkey Aim to unseat Saudi Crown Prince MBS via Khashoggi Affair?

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/turkey-unseat-khashoggi.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179584

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – | –

Turkish authorities are subjecting Saudi Arabia to a Chinese water torture, releasing a bit more of the fruits of their investigation into the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi everyday, seemingly timed to refute whatever lame excuses the Saudis had come up with that day.

On Monday, Turkey leaked to CNN video and photographs proving that one of the 15-man hit squad sent in by crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman to the Istanbul consulate was a middle aged body double for Khashoggi. The man was filmed entering the building in jeans and a plaid shirt and exiting a couple hours later from the back door wearing Khashoggi’s clothing.

The Saudis apparently hoped to use video of the double, Mustafa al-Madani, to create the impression that Khashoggi exited the consulate and then disappeared later on, at a time when the Saudi Arabian government was no longer responsible for his whereabouts.

The problem? The double forgot to change his shoes! He wasn’t wearing Khashoggi’s shoes when he left the building. Maybe they had a different size. But anyone could see in the video that the shoes were different, and that made the footage useless as an alibi. (Not to mention that al-Madani had donned a fake beard that was extremely chintzy and would never have passed muster for the real thing).

Moreoever, the Turks caught al-Madani on camera changing out of Khashoggi’s clothing and going back to his plaid shirt and jeans, and dumping the other man’s clothes in a trash bin.

So the Saudis had to abandon their hopes of muddying the waters with film of Khashoggi leaving the building.

The whole “body double” caper was so badly planned out and executed that it reflects very poorly on the murdering skills of crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman. Saudi Arabia probably has $1.5 trillion in extra money between its dollar reserves and its sovereign wealth fund. They could have afforded to hire a body double of Khashoggi who had his own beard and could pick up some black shoes.

It is about the most pitiful thing I’ve ever heard of in the way of covert ops.

It tells how the Yemen War could be such a huge SNAFU, if it is being planned and executed by the same high officials.

The mainstream Turkish Hurriyet newspaper, according to BBC Monitoring, on Monday carried a column by Abdulkadir Selvi.

Selvi alleged that Jared Kushner, UAE crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahayan, and Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman made up a ‘devel’s triangle’. He says that the goal of these three is to overthrow Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan. Selvi urges that every effort be made to unseat Mohammed Bin Salman himself, “Otherwise, we cannot live with a Turkey-enemy crown prince for 50 years.”

I don’t know of any evidence that the troika mentioned is trying to get Erdogan, and the assertion seems paranoid.

If Erdogan really is trying to move MBS out of office, this could be a wild ride.

No Dissent Allowed: United Arab Emirates Jails Western Ph.D. Researcher

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/dissent-emirates-researcher.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179581

By John Nagle | –

The case of the Durham PhD student, Matthew Hedges – who has been arrested and placed in solitary confinement on the charge of spying – exposes the extreme limits on academic freedom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But Hedges’s plight, while outrageous, is not altogether shocking for seasoned observers of the oil-rich Gulf monarchy.

This year I spent four months as a visiting professor at the UAE’s national university. I found much to admire in their universities. Staff conduct research in campuses endowed with world-class facilities that arouse awe and jealousy from visiting academics. Highly motivated students make teaching rewarding.

These benefits however come at a price – academic freedom. Academics are often banned from entering the country because they are classified as security threats. Academics find themselves arbitrarily imprisoned for human rights activism. Censorship is regularly applied to academics and scholarly events. During my time in the UAE, restrictions were placed unannounced on internet and Skype use.

These limits on academic freedom are motivated by the authorities’ obsession with clamping down on any activity considered threatening to security and authority. The state is unnerved by the chaos unleashed by the protests and demonstrations of the Arab Spring, and will do anything to stop this being exported to its shores.

Any hint of dissent directed at the Emirati elites, or demand for greater liberties, predictably results in a security crackdown. The potentially democracy-promoting spaces of the internet – and especially social media – are of particular suspicion. In 2012 the law on cyber crimes made imprisonment acceptable for any speech seen as damaging the state.

The Qatari spat

It is its neighbour Qatar that particularly vexes the UAE at present. The UAE accuses Qatar of sponsoring terrorists to destabilise the region. These claims are currently elevated to a full-blown diplomatic crisis involving sanctions and a major blockade against Qatar – with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, and the internationally recognised Yemeni government severing diplomatic relations.

But what really drives UAE’s antagonism towards Qatar is its state-funded media network, Al Jazeera. The broadcaster represents a thorn in the side of the Gulf monarchies by broadcasting embarrassing stories about them. And in pursuit of taking down its rival, the UAE courts help from allies.

In the US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have probed for information about possible attempts by the UAE to gain political influence by siphoning money into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. And in March this year, the BBC obtained emails of a lobbying effort by the UAE to get the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, sacked for failing to support the UAE against Qatar.

This returns us to Hedges’ case. The UAE’s attorney general announced that the PhD student is accused of “spying for and on behalf of a foreign state” and jeopardising “the military, economic and political security of the UAE”. Matthew Hedges’ research, which investigates the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE’s security strategy, clearly hits a tender nerve. His arrest additionally acts as a powerful message that the state is willing to curtail the free speech of academics.

The limits to academic freedom

As an academic working in the social sciences, I have been brought up to think perhaps optimistically of universities as bastions of free speech and critical thinking. In spending a number of months based at the UAE’s national university I soon learned that education here served a rather different function. Rather than encouraging critical thinking, education in the UAE rests on a technocratic logic. Education is supposed to help its society resolve tricky social problems and maintain the status quo.

For example, up to 90% of students at the national university are women and the university is segregated into male and female campuses. By studying at university, women are supposed to gain practical skills that help them integrate into the labour force without losing their traditional roles as mothers and wives.

But the state may be fighting a losing battle. Marriage rates are decreasing and the UAE has the highest divorce rate in the region, as women demand more independence. In teaching, I found the female students to be incredibly hardworking, engaging and ambitious driven by increasing openings in employment. The issue of free speech may well come next from students.

The lure of the UAE

Given that there are many wealthy students keen on gaining qualifications from world-ranking institutions, the UAE is an attractive destination for cash-strapped UK universities. In September, for example, the University of Birmingham opened a campus in Dubai. But academic freedom is an inescapable issue confronting these institutions. A number of high-profile cases have plagued New York University Abu Dhabi since it opened in 2008.

I enormously enjoyed my time as an academic in the UAE and I can’t complain of any bad personal experience. But I very quickly learned the limits of academic freedom. I would love to return, but I fear that even writing this piece could see me fall foul of the UAE authorities.

Some UK-based academics have already been banned from entering the UAE for penning critiques of the Gulf state. And as can be seen in Hedges’ case, doing research on topics deemed to be sensitive leads to frightening consequences.The Conversation

John Nagle, Reader in Sociology, University of Aberdeen

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

—–

Bonus Video:

Sky News: “British student accused of spying in UAE being ‘unjustly held'”

MESA Letter Defending Lucy Peterson, Grad, in her Boycott of Israel

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/defending-peterson-boycott.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179570

Via Middle East Studies Association

Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA)

3542 N Geronimo Ave

Tucson AZ 85705 (USA)
520-333-2577

520-207-3166 fax

Website

October 22, 2018

Mark S. Schlissel, President
University of Michigan
presoff@umich.edu

Martin A. Philbert, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Michigan
philbert@umich.edu

Dear President Schlissel and Provost Philbert:

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our grave concern about the threat of “serious consequences” that you made in your joint statement dated 9 October 2018 against Lucy Peterson, a Graduate Student Instructor at the University of Michigan, because she rescinded an offer she had made to write a letter of recommendation for a student that would be used to support his application for a study-abroad program in Israel. We believe that the threat or imposition of disciplinary sanctions against Ms. Peterson for acting on the basis of her convictions and exercising her discretion as an instructor would be a distressing and dangerous violation of her academic freedom as well as of her constitutionally protected right of free speech.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 2500 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

As we understand it, earlier this month Ms. Peterson informed a student to whom she had earlier agreed to provide a letter of recommendation that she was no longer willing to do so because she had become aware that the student would use the letter to apply to an academic program in Israel. She explained that her decision was based on her commitment to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions called for by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, whose guidelines stipulate that “international faculty should not accept to write recommendations for students hoping to pursue studies in Israel….”

MESA has taken no formal position either for or against the BDS campaign, but in keeping with the principles of academic freedom and the right to free speech it is committed to vigorously defending the right of faculty and students to advocate for or against it. We would therefore regard any decision by the University of Michigan to impose disciplinary sanctions on Ms. Peterson as a violation of those principles and that right.

In your 9 October 2018 statement you asserted that Ms. Peterson’s action, and the similar action taken by Professor John Cheney-Lippold (addressed in our letter to Interim Dean Elizabeth R. Cole dated 16 October 2018), “interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission.” We find these assertions unconvincing, if not tendentious. As you well know, providing a letter of recommendation is no guarantee of admission to any program; nor is it plausible to claim that Ms. Peterson’s decision violated the academic freedom of the student in question and betrayed the university’s educational mission. More broadly, we believe that it should be entirely up to each member of the university’s instructional staff to decide whether or not he or she wishes to write a letter of recommendation for a student, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that a refusal to do so was motivated by racial, ethnic, religious or gender bias.

We call your attention in this regard to “On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom,” issued in 1994 by the American Association of University Professors, which states that “[p]rotecting academic freedom on campus requires ensuring that a particular instance of fac­ulty speech will be subject to discipline only where that speech violates some central principle of academic morality, as, for example, where it is found to be fraudulent (academic freedom does not protect plagiarism and deceit).” Ms. Peterson’s decision not to write a letter of recommendation was entirely hers to make and certainly violated no principle of “academic morality”; nor did it contravene the University of Michigan’s undefined “expectations” of its faculty to which your statement refers. We do not see it as acceptable for university leaders, administrators, or members of boards of trustees or of regents, to arrogate to themselves the right to define the boundaries of academic freedom, which is precisely what your statement and your threatened disciplinary action against Ms. Peterson do in this case.

We further note that article 601.01 of the University of Michigan’s Standard Practice Guide, on freedom of speech and artistic expression, states that “Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not only for those who espouse a cause or position and then defend it, but also for those who hear and pass judgment on that defense. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.” Ms. Peterson clearly acted on the basis of sincerely held convictions about an issue of public concern, and your threat to impose disciplinary sanctions on her constitutes a clear violation of the letter and spirit of this article. It is moreover an infringement of her academic freedom and her right to free speech.

We therefore call on you to refrain from imposing, or threatening to impose, any disciplinary penalty on Ms. Peterson. We further call on you to publicly reaffirm the University of Michigan’s commitment to respect, and vigorously protect, the academic freedom and free speech rights of all its instructional staff.

Sincerely,

Judith E. Tucker
MESA President
Professor, Georgetown University

Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director

Fearful Saudi Dissidents: Gov’t Tried to Lure us to Embassies, Too

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/fearful-dissidents-embassies.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179573

Washington (AFP) – The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sent a chill through exiled dissidents, with many revealing discreet government attempts to lure them to their embassies as an apparent “trap” to return them to the kingdom.

Khashoggi, a critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in what sources close to the government have said was likely an authorised rendition that went wrong.

Saudi exiles in three different countries have recounted what appeared to be official attempts to bait them into the kingdom’s diplomatic missions, exposing them to potentially the same fate as Khashoggi.

Omar Abdulaziz, a 27-year-old Saudi activist exiled in Canada, said he was approached earlier this year by Saudi officials who urged him to visit their embassy with them to collect a new passport.

“They were saying ‘it will only take one hour, just come with us to the embassy’,” Abdulaziz, who rankled authorities with a YouTube show that satirized the Saudi leadership, said in a video posted on Twitter.

He refused to go, fearing a trap, and two of his brothers and a handful of his friends were arrested in the kingdom, he said, thus validating his suspicions.

The Washington Post said it received hours-long tapes from Abdulaziz of his conversations with those officials, which he secretly recorded.

Abdullah Alaoudh, a Saudi scholar at Georgetown, said he was subjected to a similar “plot” in Washington.


AFP/File / Yasin AKGUL. Turkish forensic police officers arrive at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 18, 2018.

Last year, when Alaoudh, son of prominent cleric Salman al-Awda who is jailed and faces trial in the kingdom, applied to renew his passport at the Saudi embassy in Washington, he says he was told to return to the kingdom to complete what appeared to be basic formalities.

“They offered me a ‘temporary pass’ that would allow me to return to Saudi Arabia,” Alaoudh told AFP.

“I knew it was a trap and just left with my expired passport.”

– ‘Cover up’ –

The testimonies suggest what appear to be growing Saudi efforts to snare overseas critics of the government or entice them to return since Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, became crown prince last year.

The Saudi information ministry did not respond to requests for comment, but sources close to the regime have also hinted at a broader program to bring dissidents back to the kingdom.

“MBS probably authorized a rendition (of Khashoggi), which, if so, was ill-advised, but leaders and governments make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones,” tweeted Ali Shihabi, head of pro-Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation said to be close to the government.

“The cover-up was ill-advised and incompetent.”

Khashoggi, who went into exile in Virginia last year and openly criticised Prince Mohammed’s growing crackdown on dissent, disappeared after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul where he sought documents related to his planned wedding to his Turkish fiancee.

After an uproar globally, Saudi Arabia admitted on Saturday what it vigorously denied for two weeks — Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

“The strongest and most chilling message here was that no one is safe from Saudi Arabia’s brutal reach,” Sherif Mansour, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote for the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Before his murder, a Saudi aide to the crown prince had contacted Khashoggi in recent months to offer him a senior job in the government if he returned to Saudi Arabia, a friend of the Washington Post columnist told AFP.

Khashoggi declined, fearing it was a ruse, the friend added.

– ‘State of shock’ –


AFP/File / Amelie QUERFURTH. Manal al-Sharif is pictured at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, on October 11, 2017.

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman activist exiled in Australia, said she narrowly escaped the kingdom’s dragnet in September last year when Saud al-Qahtani sought to lure her to a Saudi embassy.

“If it weren’t for the kindness of God I would have been (another) victim,” Sharif tweeted, posting a screenshot of private messages with Qahtani, a media advisor in the royal court who was sacked in the fallout over Khashoggi’s killing.

The number of asylum seekers from Saudi Arabia globally has more than doubled since Prince Mohammed’s ascendance to power — from 575 cases in 2015 to 1,256 in 2017 — according to the United Nations’ refugee agency.

Khashoggi’s death has caused such a wave of fear among exiles that some are now cautious of even visiting their country’s overseas missions.

“The horrid story of Jamal Khashoggi has sent many activists into a state of shock,” said Amani al-Ahmadi, a 27-year-old Saudi exile in Seattle.

“Many activists abroad don’t speak up, fearful of bringing harm to their families back home, losing their scholarships or worse abduction and arrest.”

Many also fear an online army of trolls loyal to the regime, known to harass critics such as Khashoggi, in a program the New York Times said was crafted by Qahtani.

McKinsey this week said it was “horrified” after the newspaper claimed a report prepared by the consulting firm to measure public perception of Saudi Arabia’s policies may have been used to silence dissidents.


AFP/File / OZAN KOSE. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman (R), flanked by Egyptian opposition politican Ayman Nour (L), holds pictures of Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul.

But many exiles point out the irony that in silencing Khashoggi, the kingdom has spread his message wider than ever before.

“The perpetrators of the horrific act against Khashoggi were sending a message that anyone who expresses the slightest disagreement with the rulers will be targeted,” said Alaoudh.

“Did this reckless action work in silencing dissenting voices? Jamal’s voice is louder than ever before.”

Feature Photo: AFP/File / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH. Jamal Khashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018 in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

Was Saudi Arabia’s Assassination inspired by N. Korea, Israel, Russia or US?

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/arabias-assassination-inspired.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179578

(Foreign Policy in Focus) – Saudi Arabia’s apparent assassination of Jamal Khashoggi might have taken inspiration from Russia and North Korea — or Israel and the United States.

Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia are the latest members of a select international club.

Assassins Without Borders has roots that go back, in the modern era at least, to the policies of the Soviet Union, Chile, Israel, Bulgaria, and the United States. All of these countries share a single trait. They were willing to defy international law in order to assassinate their critics and opponents in other countries.

No fair assessment of evidence. No due process.

Just rub them out at a distance. Like Saudi Arabia had done — reportedly — to one of its domestic critics.

The Saudi regime had been unhappy about journalist Jamal Khashoggi for some time. The Washington Post columnist had previously been a regime loyalist before he decided that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had crossed a line. He decamped to the United States and began to launch long-distance attacks. The regime decided to reciprocate in kind.

Khashoggi was no obscure dissident. He knew the secrets of the regime. And he was prominently placed — both in the mainstream media and in social media with close to 2 million Twitter followers — to do maximum PR damage.

The Saudi authorities already discussed a plan to lure Khashoggi back to the country for a kangaroo trial. But when he entered the consulate in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers, Khashoggi walked into something else: interrogation, torture, and execution by a 15-person team dispatched from Riyadh.

It’s one thing for Riyadh to kill its critics through a dubious court process at home, as it did the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. That was a “sovereign” matter. It has also gotten away so far with killing thousands of Yemenis, with U.S. assistance. But Yemen is about as poor and obscure as a country can be these days.

Assassinating a well-known journalist with lots of high-placed friends in the United States: now that’s a risky move.

Even the Trump administration has had to pretend to take this matter very seriously, although Trump himself has suggested that maybe it was a rogue band of killers that somehow broke into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to do the job and that, as with Brett Kavanaugh, everyone is innocent until proven guilty (except for Khashoggi, of course, who was declared guilty and executed without any proof of guilt offered).

State-sponsored assassination is a ruthless gamble. But other countries have gotten away with it. No doubt that Saudi Arabia expects that the tempest will blow over, and the world will once again flock to Riyadh in pursuit of oil, investments, and geopolitical intrigue.

After all, that’s what has happened with North Korea. In the absence of oil, nuclear weapons will do in a pinch if a regime needs international exoneration.

North Korea and Russia

Last year, the Kim Jong Un regime sent agents to Malaysia to take out Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s older half-brother. These agents in turn hired Indonesian and Vietnamese accomplices, who say that they thought it was a prank for reality TV, to apply in succession the components of VX nerve agent to the hapless brother. He died on the way to the hospital. According to South Korean intelligence, from the moment he took control of the country, Kim Jong Un wanted his brother dead. It took him six years to accomplish the task.

There was global outrage at the assassination. The two women accomplices are on trial in Malaysia, still declaring their innocence. Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, is meeting with world leaders, like Moon Jae-in in South Korea and Donald Trump in Singapore. He might even share a Nobel peace prize if he plays his cards right.

Saudi Arabia no doubt took careful notes.

Russia has been more aggressive in its pursuit of critics. Russian agents used polonium to poison and kill former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. It employed a nerve agent in an attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, an attack that even Donald Trump now acknowledges was likely a Kremlin plot. Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has fallen deathly ill twice from poisonings, both on trips back to Russia.

But Putin doesn’t believe in just killing one person as a warning. He does everything to excess. Consider Mikhail Lesin, the founder of the Russia Today network. He was about to spill the beans to the FBI in Washington, DC in 2015 when he was discovered, just before the scheduled interview, dead in his hotel room. Initially, DC police attributed the death to a drunken fall down stairs. But FBI agents believe that he was actually bludgeoned to death.

According to a

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<p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href="https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/arabias-assassination-inspired.html">https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/arabias-assassination-inspired.html</a></p><p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href="https://www.juancole.com/?p=179578">https://www.juancole.com/?p=179578</a></p><p>(<a href="https://fpif.org/assassins-without-borders/">Foreign Policy in Focus</a>) &#8211; Saudi Arabia&#8217;s apparent assassination of Jamal Khashoggi might have taken inspiration from Russia and North Korea — or Israel and the United States.</p> <p>Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia are the latest members of a select international club.</p> <p>Assassins Without Borders has roots that go back, in the modern era at least, to the policies of the Soviet Union, Chile, Israel, Bulgaria, and the United States. All of these countries share a single trait. They were willing to defy international law in order to assassinate their critics and opponents in other countries.</p> <p>No fair assessment of evidence. No due process.</p> <p>Just rub them out at a distance. Like Saudi Arabia had done — reportedly — to one of its domestic critics.</p> <p>The Saudi regime had been unhappy about journalist Jamal Khashoggi for some time. The <em>Washington Post</em> columnist had previously been a regime loyalist before he decided that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had crossed a line. He decamped to the United States and began to launch long-distance attacks. The regime decided to reciprocate in kind.</p> <p>Khashoggi was no obscure dissident. He knew the secrets of the regime. And he was prominently placed — both in the mainstream media and in social media with close to 2 million Twitter followers — to do maximum PR damage.</p> <p>The Saudi authorities already <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/11/politics/khashoggi-us-intelligence-saudi-plan-to-lure-journalist/index.html" title="discussed a plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">discussed a plan</a> to lure Khashoggi back to the country for a kangaroo trial. But when he entered the consulate in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers, Khashoggi walked into something else: interrogation, <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181017-details-of-the-11-minute-audio-recording-of-the-torture-and-death-of-khashoggi/" title="torture" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">torture</a>, and execution by a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/10/alleged-saudi-hit-squad-linked-to-jamal-khashoggi-disappearance" title="15-person team" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">15-person team</a> dispatched from Riyadh.</p> <p>It’s one thing for Riyadh to kill its critics through a dubious court process at home, as it did the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. That was a “sovereign” matter. It has also gotten away so far with killing thousands of Yemenis, with U.S. assistance. But Yemen is about as poor and obscure as a country can be these days.</p> <p>Assassinating a well-known journalist with lots of high-placed friends in the United States: now <em>that’s </em>a risky move.</p> <p>Even the Trump administration has had to pretend to take this matter very seriously, although Trump himself has suggested that maybe it was a <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/International/trump-spoke-saudi-king-denies-knowledge-missing-journalist/story?id=58502802" title="rogue band of killers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rogue band of killers</a> that somehow broke into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to do the job and that, as with Brett Kavanaugh, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/16/politics/donald-trump-saudi-arabia/index.html" title="everyone is innocent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">everyone is innocent</a> until proven guilty (except for Khashoggi, of course, who was declared guilty and executed without any proof of guilt offered).</p> <p>State-sponsored assassination is a ruthless gamble. But other countries have gotten away with it. No doubt that Saudi Arabia expects that the tempest will blow over, and the world will once again flock to Riyadh in pursuit of oil, investments, and geopolitical intrigue.</p> <p>After all, that’s what has happened with North Korea. In the absence of oil, nuclear weapons will do in a pinch if a regime needs international exoneration.</p> <p><strong>North Korea and Russia </strong></p> <p>Last year, the Kim Jong Un regime sent agents to Malaysia to take out Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s older half-brother. These agents in turn hired Indonesian and Vietnamese accomplices, who say that they thought it was a prank for reality TV, to apply in succession the components of VX nerve agent to the hapless brother. He died on the way to the hospital. According to South Korean intelligence, from the moment he took control of the country, Kim Jong Un wanted his brother dead. It took him six years to accomplish the task.</p> <p>There was global outrage at the assassination. The two women accomplices are on trial in Malaysia, still <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/16/kim-jong-nam-murder-trial-proceed-judge-rules-evidence-points/" title="declaring their innocence" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">declaring their innocence</a>. Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, is meeting with world leaders, like Moon Jae-in in South Korea and Donald Trump in Singapore. He might even share a Nobel peace prize if he plays his cards right.</p> <p>Saudi Arabia no doubt took careful notes.</p> <p>Russia has been more aggressive in its pursuit of critics. Russian agents used polonium to poison and kill former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. It employed a nerve agent in an attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, an attack that even Donald Trump <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-60-minutes-salisbury-attack-russia-putin-skripal-novichok-a8584271.html" title="now acknowledges" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">now acknowledges</a> was likely a Kremlin plot. Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/02/03/russian-activist-felled-2015-suspected-poisoning-hospitalized-similar-symptoms/97437612/" title="fallen deathly ill twice" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fallen deathly ill <em>twice</em></a> from poisonings, both on trips back to Russia.</p> <p>But Putin doesn’t believe in just killing one person as a warning. He does everything to excess. Consider Mikhail Lesin, the founder of the Russia Today network. He was about to spill the beans to the FBI in Washington, DC in 2015 when he was discovered, just before the scheduled interview, dead in his hotel room. Initially, DC police attributed the death to a drunken fall down stairs. But FBI agents believe that he was actually <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jasonleopold/putins-media-czar-was-murdered-just-before-meeting-feds" title="bludgeoned to death" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bludgeoned to death</a>.</p> <p>According to a <href ="#.epoo6p075"="=&quot;#.epOo6P075&quot;" title="Buzzfeed investigation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Buzzfeed investigation last year, several other deaths of vocal Putin critics in England attributed to suicide or natural causes were actually hits, including oligarch Boris Berezovsky in 2013, whistleblower Alexander Perepilichnyy in 2012, Georgian tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2008, and cofounder of the Yukos oil conglomerate Yuri Golubev in 2007.</href></p> <p>The attempt on Skripal finally seemed to get the notice of the UK. The May government has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/05/skripal-charges-russia-uk-foreign-policy-diplomacy" title="called for" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for</a> additional EU economic sanctions against Russia and brought charges against two members of Russian military intelligence after <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/world/europe/russia-uk-novichok-skripal.html" title="discovering traces" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">discovering traces</a> of the Novichok nerve agent in the room they rented in London. But the UK is on the verge of leaving the EU and the two operatives are safely back in Russia.</p> <p>Saudi Arabia might be calculating that Russia, despite a series of overseas hits, is not an international pariah — so maybe Riyadh can get away with one such job.</p> <p>History suggests otherwise.</p> <p><strong>Historical Precedents</strong></p> <p>In 1940, Stalin finally got his wish: the assassination of one of his most vocal opponents abroad, Leon Trotsky, in Mexico. Stalin would only live another 13 years and Stalinism effectively died with him.</p> <p>In 1976, agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet assassinated Orlando Letelier, former ambassador to the United States under the leftist Allende government. Pinochet would fall from power and eventually died under house arrest with numerous charges of human rights violations pending. The Chilean government has indicted Armando Fernandez Larios for his involvement in the assassination and has called for his extradition from the United States to Chile for trial.</p> <p>In 1978, Bulgarian agents used the poisoned tip of an umbrella to kill dissident writer Georgi Markov in London. Bulgaria’s Communist regime of Todor Zhivkov lasted only another 11 years.</p> <p>Stalin, Pinochet, Zhivkov: history does not look kindly upon them. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia might be looking at a different set of historical cases.</p> <p>Israel, for instance, has assassinated a large number of would-be citizens of its state, namely Palestinians.</p> <p>Most recently, Israel has killed <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/gaza-protest-latest-updates-180406092506561.html" title="over 200 residents" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">over 200 residents</a> of Gaza who began protesting last March the conditions in the enclave and demanding the right to return to their expropriated land. Going back to the 1950s, it <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Israeli_assassinations" title="also assassinated" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">also assassinated</a> a West German rocket scientist working for Egypt, a Libyan embassy employee in Rome, an Egyptian nuclear scientist in Paris, a Brazilian colonel in Sao Paolo, a Canadian engineer in Brussels, a number of Syrian military men, and several Iranian scientists. And yet no one has been brought to trial for any of these killings.</p> <p>The United States, meanwhile, has attempted, supported, and occasionally succeeded in killing overseas leaders. But it was only in 2011 that it assassinated U.S. citizens. That year, the Obama administration authorized a drone strike in Yemen that killed two U.S. citizens — Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan — and then another strike two weeks later that killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. The Obama administration did not face any consequences for this extrajudicial killing.</p> <p><strong>Lawlessness</strong></p> <p>The Saudi government probably felt that it could get away with this assassination of Khashoggi because of its close relationship with the Trump administration. It had also been successfully wooing America’s liberal elite. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for instance, garnered rave reviews from journalists like Tom Friedman, who <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/saudi-prince-mbs-arab-spring.html" title="declared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">declared</a> the reform agenda of the likely next Saudi king to be an “Arab spring.”</p> <p>But it’s also not hard to conclude that Saudi Arabia felt that it could take out a journalist because of a more general lawlessness that is pervading the international community. Russia’s innovative mixture of government policy and mafia operations is part of it. So is the Trump administration’s overall disregard for human rights. Then there’s the open season that’s been declared on journalists, many of them like Daphne Anne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia targeted for their reporting on corruption.</p> <p>At a time when right-wing populists want to shut down borders to prevent migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from finding safe refuge, another type of border crosser is having an easier time of it: the assassin. If Saudi Arabia gets away with its latest atrocity, the club of Assassins Without Borders will soon be inducting many new members.</p> <p><em>John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and author of the dystopian novel <strong>Splinterlands</strong>.</em></p> <p><a href="https://fpif.org/assassins-without-borders/">Foreign Policy in Focus</a></p> <p>&#8212;&#8212;-</p> <p>Bonus video added by Informed Comment:</p> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/tquPToUEwGo "> Leaked Surveillance Footage Shows Man Walking In Jamal Khashoggi&#8217;s Clothes | TIME </a></p> <p><lj-embed id="9233"/></p>

Germany halts arms Sales to Riyadh, as Investors sell $1 bn in Saudi Stocks

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/germany-riyadh-investors.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179566

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that Germany would put arms sales to Saudi Arabia on hold in light of the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She said that they “could not take place in our current circumstances.”

Meanwhile, foreign investors sold $1 billion worth of Saudi stock in the past week, as investors question the kingdom’s stability with a mad prince at the helm who keeps a bone cutter by his bed.

Socialist Party figure Heiko Maas, who is in Merkel’s coalition government, had already called for an end to arms to the kingdom. The SPD head, Andrea Nahles gave an interview in which she said, “After such an incredible process, the relationship with Saudi Arabia is fundamentally put to the test”.

Likewise, the Green Party and the Left called for an immediate and permanent halt to arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has outstanding contracts for German armaments worth 416.4 million euros and is Germany’s second largest arms export market this year after Algeria.

There has already been a struggle in German politics over selling arms to Saudi Arabia while it is pursuing its destructive air war on Yemen. Last January, Germany said it would halt arms sales to belligerents in the Yemen War. But thereafter it said it would allow existing contracts to go forward. Still, some arms exporters have not been able more recently to get German export licenses.

Spain cancelled a major shipment recently over Yemen war atrocities.

Britain has the most to lose if a movement to boycott Saudi Arabia on arms sales grows, since 48% of its arms are sold to the kingdom.

The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament, Norbert Röttgen of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, went so far as to wonder whether Germany should not expel the Saudi ambassador until the situation is clarified.

Röttgen also said that the murder was a test for the moral leadership of the United States and that Europe must press President Trump on this matter. (Good luck, Norbert). He added, “The policy of President Trump in the Middle East, of relying entirely on Saudi Arabia to isolate Iran, may have encouraged the Saudi Crown Prince to believe that there are no limits at all for him.”

Apparently German politicians don’t watch American cable news much, or they wouldn’t be speaking with a straight face about *Trump* having an opportunity here to show global moral leadership!

How loudly does he have to say it? Trmp doesn’t *have* any morals and is just out for number one, and he doesn’t like Europe or Europeans because he thinks they are moochers and while the Saudi prince may be a Middle Eastern version of Hannibal Lector, at least he is a big spender in American markets.

Die Zeit, however, wonders if this talk in Germany of halting arms sales is mostly just that–talk. Many such sales are handled by private businesses on a European-wide basis so that the arms from Germany actually go to Riyadh via Paris or London. For German firms to cancel these contracts with European partners would be extremely costly, exposing them to lawsuits.

—–

Bonus video:

Wochit News: “Merkel Condemns Khashoggi’s Killing”

Under Public Pressure to Cancel Peace Treaty with Israel, Jordan ends Annexes

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/pressure-cancel-peace.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179562

AMMAN (Ma’an) — Jordanian King Abdullah II informed Israel, on Sunday, that he will not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan concerning territory leased to Israel.

The territories in question are al-Baqura and al-Ghamr, which are also known as Naharyaim and Zofar in the Hebrew language.

King Abdullah II posted a tweet on his Twitter account, which read “Baqura and Ghamr areas have always been our top priority and our decision is to end Article 2 of Annexes I (b) of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty emanating from our keenness to take whatever is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians.”

Israel leased the land for 25 years upon the signing of the peace treaty and the deadline for renewing leases of the treaty is this upcoming Thursday.

Due to the deadline for renewal approaching, King Abdullah II has faced ongoing pressure from the Jordanian parliament not to renew the leases and to return the territory to full Jordanian sovereignty.

It is noteworthy that 87 lawmakers have also signed a petition regarding the issue.

Last week, mass demonstrations took place in Amman, as well as social media campaigns demanding that Jordan reclaim sovereignty over Baqura and Ghamr, with slogans such as “The people want national honor” and “The story is about national sovereignty.”

Several demonstrators also demanded Jordan to cancel the entire peace treaty with Israel.

Via Ma’an News Agency

Turkey Vows to Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ over Khashoggi Death

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/turkey-reveal-khashoggi.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179555

by Fulya Ozerkan with Brian Knowlton in Washington and Joe Jackson in London | –

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed to reveal within days the “naked truth” over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as Riyadh said it did not know the whereabouts of his body and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had been unaware of any operation to murder him.

The Turkish leader’s statement came the day after Saudi authorities conceded Khashoggi had been killed inside their diplomatic compound in Istanbul.

“We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

In his strongest comments to date on the affair, President Donald Trump accused Saudi Arabia of lying about the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who fell out of favour with the ultraconservative kingdom, as pressure built on the US administration to strike a tougher line.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, on Sunday described the killing as a “tremendous mistake” and said it had been a “rogue operation” by individuals who “exceeded their responsibilities” and then “tried to cover up for it”.

Jubeir insisted in an interview with Fox News that the operation was not ordered by the crown prince known by his initials MBS, also adding that “we don’t know where the body is”.

Erdogan, who has not yet directly blamed Saudi Arabia, held a telephone call with Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified “in all its aspects,” a Turkish presidential source said.

Erdogan is expected to make a full statement to his party’s MPs in parliament at around 0800 GMT on Tuesday.

Turkish officials have said they believe that 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on two flights on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s death.

Riyadh reacted by claiming one of the 15 had died in a car accident years ago.

Saudi officials originally said Khashoggi, who stepped inside the doors of the diplomatic mission on October 2, had left unharmed, before announcing he was killed inside the building in what they described as an altercation.

The kingdom has since admitted Khashoggi died in a “brawl” inside the consulate and said it has fired five top officials and arrested 18 others in an investigation into the killing.

– ‘Lies’ –

Khashoggi, who would have been 60 this month, sought refuge in the United States after fleeing his native Saudi Arabia after the 2017 appointment of strongman Mohammed bin Salman as heir to the throne.

The journalist, who had espoused both Islamist and liberal views throughout his decades-long career in the press, was engaged to a Turkish woman.

Turkish officials now believe Riyadh carried out a state-sponsored killing and dismembered the body, with pro-government media in Turkey reporting the existence of video and audio evidence to back those claims.

As the Turkish leader is expected to reveal all details into the journalist’s killing, Trump has stepped back from his stance that Saudi Arabia’s latest explanation over the death was credible amid mounting pressure at home.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” he said of the shifting accounts of Khashoggi’s death offered by Riyadh.

“Their stories are all over the place.”

Several senior members of Trump’s Republican Party said they believed Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, was linked to the killing, and one called for a “collective” Western response if a link is proved.

Trump has stopped far short of calling for the prince to be replaced, emphasising as he has before how important the US-Saudi relationship is to Washington’s regional strategic goals.

He described the 33-year-old prince as a “strong person; he has very good control.”

“He’s seen as a person who can keep things under check,” added Trump. “I mean that in a positive way.”

– UK, France, Germany intervene –

The controversy has put the kingdom — for decades a key ally in Western efforts to contain Iran — under unprecedented pressure.

It has also blown up into a major crisis for Prince Mohammed whose image as a modernising Arab reformer has been gravely undermined.

Britain, France and Germany have shown a united front, demanding Saudi Arabia clarify how the journalist died inside its Istanbul consulate backed by “credible” facts.


AFP/File / FAYEZ NURELDINE. Saudi Arabia has sacked deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, a close aide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Late Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed “the circumstances” around Khashoggi’s “tragic death” in a phone call, without offering further details.

Australia, Canada, the UN and the EU have also demanded greater clarity around Khashoggi’s death.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that Berlin would not export arms to Saudi Arabia “in the current situation”.

Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, military exports by Berlin to Saudi have mostly consisted of patrol boats.

Featured Photo: AFP/File / OZAN KOSE. The death of Jamal Khashoggi has sparked outrage and a crisis for Saudi Arabia.

Afghanistan: America’s Longest Forgotten War Turns a grim 17

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/afghanistan-americas-forgotten.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179553

(Tomdispatch.com) | –

We’re already two years past the crystal anniversary and eight years short of the silver one, or at least we would be, had it been a wedding — and, after a fashion, perhaps it was. On October 7, 2001, George W. Bush launched the invasion — “liberation” was the word often used then — of Afghanistan. It was the start of the second Afghan War of the era, one that, all these years later, still shows no signs of ending. Though few realized it at the time, the American people married war. Permanent, generational, infinite war is now embedded in the American way of life, while just about the only part of the government guaranteed ever more soaring dollars, no matter what it does with them, is the U.S. military.

This October 7th marked the 17th anniversary of that first of so many still-spreading conflicts. In league with various Afghan warlords, the U.S. military began moving into that country, while its Air Force launched a fierce campaign, dropping large numbers of precision munitions and hundreds ofcluster bombs. Those were meant not just for al-Qaeda, the terror outfit that, the previous month, had dispatched its own precision air force — hijacked American commercial jets — to take out iconic buildings in New York and Washington, but the Taliban, a fundamentalist sect that then controlled most of the country. By early 2002, that movement had been ejected from its last provincial capital, while Osama bin Laden had fled into hiding in Pakistan. And so it began.

The 17th anniversary of that invasion passed in the heated aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings, as the president was rallying his base by endlessly bashing the Democrats as an “angry mob” promoting “mob rule.” So if you weren’t then thinking about Afghanistan, don’t blame yourself. You were in good company.

On October 8th, for instance, the front page of my hometown newspaper had headlines like “Court Showdown Invigorates G.O.P. in Crucial Races” and “20 Dead Upstate as Limo Crashes on Way to Party.” If you were old like me and still reading the paper version of the New York Times, you would have had to make your way to page seven to find out that such an anniversary had even occurred. There, a modest-sized article, headlined “On 17th Anniversary of U.S. Invasion, 54 Are Killed Across Afghanistan,” began this way:

“Kabul, Afghanistan — At least 54 people have been killed across Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, according to a tally based on interviews with officials on Sunday — 17 years to the day [after] American forces invaded the country to topple the Taliban regime. The violence was a reminder that the war has only raged deadlier with time, taking a toll on both the Afghan security forces and the civilians caught in the crossfire…”

And that, really, was that. Little other mention anywhere and no follow-up. No significant commentary or major op-eds. No memorials or ceremonies. No thoughts from Congress. No acknowledgement from the White House.

Yes, 3,546 American and NATO troops had died in those long years (including seven Americans so far in 2018). There have also been Afghan deaths aplenty, certainly tens of thousands of them in a country where significant numbers of people are regularly uprooted and displaced from their homes and lives. And 17 years later, the Taliban controls more of the country than at any moment since 2002; the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces arereportedly taking casualties that may, over the long run, prove unsustainable; provincial capitals have been briefly seized by insurgent forces; civilian deaths, especially of women and children, are at their highest levels in years (as are U.S. and Afghan air strikes); al-Qaeda has grown and spread across significant parts of the Middle East and Africa; a bunch of other terror outfits, including ISIS, are now in Afghanistan; and ISIS, like al-Qaeda (of which it was originally an offshoot), has also franchised itself globally.

In other words, 17 years later, what was once known as the Global War on Terror and is now a set of conflicts that no one here even bothers to name has only grown worse. Meanwhile, the military that American presidents repeatedly hailed as the greatest fighting force in history continues to battle fruitlessly across a vast swath of the planet. Afghanistan, of course, remains America’s “longest war,” as articles regularly acknowledged some years ago. These days, however, it has become so eternal that it has evidently outgrown the label “longest.”

(Un)Happy Anniversary indeed!

Wedded to War

If you consider this the anniversary of a marriage made in hell, then you would also have to think of the war on terror that started in Afghanistan as having had a brood of demon children — the invasion of Iraq being the first of them — and by now possibly even grandchildren. Meanwhile, the first actual American children born after the 9/11 attacks can now join the U.S. military and go fight in… well, Afghanistan, where about 14,000 American military personnel, possibly tens of thousands of private contractors, and air power galore (as well as the CIA’s drones) remain active indeed.

And keep in mind that Americans aren’t the only people wedded to war in the twenty-first century. However, when it comes to the others I have in mind, it’s not a matter of anniversaries ignored, but anniversaries that will never be. Let’s start with a recent barely reported incident in Afghanistan. On October 5th, either the U.S. Air Force or the Afghan one that has been armed, trained, and supported by the U.S. military destroyed part of a “wedding procession” in Kandahar Province, reportedly killing four and wounding eight, including women and children. (By the way, on the day of the 17th anniversary of the war, an Afghan air strike reportedly killed 10 children.) We don’t know — and probably never will — which air force was responsible, nor do we know if the bride or groom survived, no less whether they will marry and someday celebrate their 17th anniversary.

All we know and probably will ever know is that, in the melee that is still Afghanistan, the obliteration of that wedding procession was just one more scarcely noted, remarkably repetitive little nightmare to which Americans will pay no attention whatsoever. Admittedly, when directly asked by pollsters 17 years later, a near majority of them (49%) do think that U.S. goals still remain unmet in that country and, according to other recent polls, somewhere between 61% and 69% of Americans would support the withdrawal of all U.S. forces there. That, however, is anything but a stunning figure given that, in 2011, a Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that two-thirds of Americans believed the Afghan war “no longer worth fighting.” Evidently it’s now simply no longer worth giving a moment’s thought to.

Essentially unnoticed here, the destruction of wedding parties by U.S. air power has, in fact, been a relative commonplace in these years of endless war across the Greater Middle East. The first time American air power obliterated a wedding in Afghanistan was in late December 2001. U.S. B-52 and B-1B bombers mistakenly took out much of a village in Paktia Province killing more than 100 civilians while wedding festivities were underway, an event barely noted in the American media. We do not know if the bride and groom survived. (Imagine, however, the non-stop media attention if a terrorist had attacked a wedding in this country and killed anyone, no less the bride or groom!)

The second incident we know of

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<p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href="https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/afghanistan-americas-forgotten.html">https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/afghanistan-americas-forgotten.html</a></p><p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href="https://www.juancole.com/?p=179553">https://www.juancole.com/?p=179553</a></p><p>(<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176485/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_anniversaries_that_never_will_be/ ">Tomdispatch.com</a>) | &#8211; </p> <p>We’re already two years past the <a href="https://apracticalwedding.com/traditional-modern-anniversary-gift-ideas/" target="_blank">crystal anniversary</a> and eight years short of the silver one, or at least we would be, had it been a wedding &#8212; and, after a fashion, perhaps it was. On October 7, 2001, George W. Bush <a href="https://twitter.com/OnThisDayNYT/status/1049268167737053185" target="_blank">launched</a> the invasion &#8212; “liberation” was the word often used then &#8212; of Afghanistan. It was the start of the second <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175578/best_of_tomdispatch%3A_chalmers_johnson,_the_cia_and_a_blowback_world/" target="_blank">Afghan War</a> of the era, one that, all these years later, still shows no signs of ending. Though few realized it at the time, the American people married war. Permanent, <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/petraeus-went-afghanistan-reason-need-stay" target="_blank">generational</a>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/for-trump-and-his-generals-victory-has-different-meanings/2018/04/05/8d74eab0-381d-11e8-9c0a-85d477d9a226_story.html?utm_term=.65810d65e692" target="_blank">infinite</a> war is now embedded in the American way of life, while just about the only part of the government guaranteed ever more soaring dollars, no matter <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176391/tomgram%3A_william_hartung%2C_the_pentagon_budget_as_corporate_welfare_for_weapons_makers" target="_blank">what it does</a> with them, is the U.S. military.</p> <p>This October 7th marked the 17th anniversary of that first of so many still-spreading conflicts. In league with various Afghan warlords, the U.S. military began moving into that country, while its Air Force launched a fierce campaign, dropping large numbers of precision munitions and <a href="https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/enduring-freedom-ops-air.htm" target="_blank">hundreds</a> ofcluster bombs. Those were meant not just for al-Qaeda, the terror outfit that, the previous month, had dispatched its own <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176183/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_a_9_11_retrospective%3A_washington%27s_15-year_air_war/" target="_blank">precision air force</a> &#8212; hijacked American commercial jets &#8212; to take out iconic buildings in New York and Washington, but the Taliban, a fundamentalist sect that then controlled most of the country. By early 2002, that movement had been ejected from its last provincial capital, while Osama bin Laden had fled into hiding in Pakistan. And so it began.</p> <p>The 17th anniversary of that invasion passed in the heated aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings, as the president was rallying his base by endlessly bashing the Democrats as an “<a href="https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-hits-message-of-democrats-as-angry-mob-at-kentucky-rally/ar-BBOl5hU" target="_blank">angry mob</a>” promoting “<a href="https://www.apnews.com/92410850d9504819a339ecc45e138e59" target="_blank">mob rule</a>.” So if you weren’t then thinking about Afghanistan, don’t blame yourself. You were in good company. </p> <p>On October 8th, for instance, the front page of my hometown newspaper had headlines like “Court Showdown Invigorates G.O.P. in Crucial Races” and “20 Dead Upstate as Limo Crashes on Way to Party.” If you were old like me and still reading the paper version of the <em>New York Times</em>, you would have had to make your way to page seven to find out that such an anniversary had even occurred. There, a modest-sized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/world/asia/afghanistan-casualties-anniversary.html" target="_blank">article</a>, headlined “On 17th Anniversary of U.S. Invasion, 54 Are Killed Across Afghanistan,” began this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Kabul, Afghanistan &#8212; At least 54 people have been killed across Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, according to a tally based on interviews with officials on Sunday &#8212; 17 years to the day [after] American forces invaded the country to topple the Taliban regime. The violence was a reminder that the war has only raged deadlier with time, taking a toll on both the Afghan security forces and the civilians caught in the crossfire&#8230;” </p> </blockquote> <p>And that, really, was that. Little other mention anywhere and no follow-up. No significant commentary or major op-eds. No memorials or ceremonies. No thoughts from Congress. No acknowledgement from the White House. </p> <p>Yes, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/05/heavy-price-paid-for-war-in-afghanistan" target="_blank">3,546</a> American and NATO troops had died in those long years (including <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-service-member-killed-in-action-in-afghanistan-today-2018-10-04/" target="_blank">seven</a> Americans so far in 2018). There have also been Afghan deaths aplenty, certainly <a href="https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/figures/2016/direct-war-death-toll-iraq-afghanistan-and-pakistan-2001-370000" target="_blank">tens of thousands</a> of them in a country where significant numbers of people are regularly uprooted and <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/un-says-more-than-100000-afghans-displaced-2018/29244546.html" target="_blank">displaced</a> from their homes and lives. And 17 years later, the Taliban controls <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42863116" target="_blank">more</a> of the country than at any moment since 2002; the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces are<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/21/world/asia/afghanistan-security-casualties-taliban.html" target="_blank">reportedly</a> taking casualties that may, over the long run, prove unsustainable; provincial capitals have been briefly <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/11/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-ghazni.html" target="_blank">seized</a> by insurgent forces; civilian deaths, especially of women and children, are at their <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/10/asia/afghanistan-airstrikes-civilian-deaths-un-report-intl/index.html" target="_blank">highest levels</a> in years (as are U.S. and Afghan <a href="https://www.militarytimes.com/news/2018/08/28/us-airstrikes-in-afghanistan-continue-to-climb-this-month-highest-in-a-decade/" target="_blank">air strikes</a>); al-Qaeda has <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-al-qaeda-survive-20180910-story.html" target="_blank">grown</a> and spread across significant parts of the Middle East and Africa; a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/22/trumps-incorrect-claim-that-20-u-s-designated-terror-groups-operate-in-afghanistan-and-pakistan/?utm_term=.8dcf08f8a70c" target="_blank">bunch</a> of other terror outfits, including ISIS, are now in Afghanistan; and ISIS, like al-Qaeda (of which it was originally an offshoot), has also <a href="https://www.rand.org/blog/2018/02/expanding-the-isis-brand.html" target="_blank">franchised</a> itself globally.</p> <p>In other words, 17 years later, what was once known as the Global War on Terror and is now a set of conflicts that no one here even bothers to name has only grown worse. Meanwhile, the military that American presidents repeatedly hailed as the <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175337/tomgram:_william_astore,_we%27re_number_one_(in_self-promotion)/" target="_blank">greatest fighting force</a> in history continues to battle fruitlessly across a vast swath of the planet. Afghanistan, of course, remains America’s “<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176458/tomgram:_engelhardt,_america%27s_(near)_thirty_years%27_war/" target="_blank">longest war</a>,” as articles regularly <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/05/29/these-are-americas-9-longest-foreign-wars/?utm_term=.cd51d7093531" target="_blank">acknowledged</a> some years ago. These days, however, it has become so eternal that it has evidently outgrown the label “longest.”</p> <p>(Un)Happy Anniversary indeed!</p> <p><a name="more"></a></p> <p><strong>Wedded to War</strong></p> <p>If you consider this the anniversary of a marriage made in hell, then you would also have to think of the war on terror that started in Afghanistan as having had a brood of demon children &#8212; the invasion of Iraq being the first of them &#8212; and by now possibly even <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/17/world/africa/niger-ambush-american-soldiers.html" target="_blank">grandchildren</a>. Meanwhile, the first actual American children born after the 9/11 attacks can now <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2018/09/12/afghanistan-war-has-gone-so-long-people-born-after-sept-can-now-enlist/?utm_term=.d2c5ed9a9a44" target="_blank">join</a> the U.S. military and go fight in&#8230; well, Afghanistan, where about <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/28/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-strategy-retreat.html" target="_blank">14,000</a> American military personnel, possibly <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/this-is-how-many-private-contractors-and-us-troops-are-in-afghanistan-2017-8" target="_blank">tens of thousands</a> of private contractors, and air power <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/us/us-adding-air-power-intelligence-gathering-in-afghanistan" target="_blank">galore</a> (as well as the CIA’s <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/7xmadd/trump-escalating-americas-drone-war" target="_blank">drones</a>) remain active indeed.</p> <p>And keep in mind that Americans aren’t the only people wedded to war in the twenty-first century. However, when it comes to the others I have in mind, it’s not a matter of anniversaries ignored, but anniversaries that will never be. Let’s start with a recent barely reported incident in Afghanistan. On October 5th, either the U.S. Air Force or the Afghan one that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/the-afghan-air-force-is-growing-so-are-questions-about-its-actions-in-combat/2018/07/28/5affac4a-8f62-11e8-8322-b5482bf5e0f5_story.html?utm_term=.afa7950b70cc" target="_blank">has been</a> armed, trained, and supported by the U.S. military destroyed part of a “wedding procession” in Kandahar Province, <a href="https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/airstrike-kills-four--wounds-eight-in-afghan-wedding-convoy-10795940" target="_blank">reportedly</a> killing four and wounding eight, including women and children. (By the way, on the day of the 17th anniversary of the war, an Afghan air strike reportedly killed <a href="https://www.defenseone.com/news/2018/10/the-d-brief-october-08-2018/151852/" target="_blank">10 children</a>.) We don’t know &#8212; and probably never will &#8212; which air force was responsible, nor do we know if the bride or groom survived, no less whether they will marry and someday celebrate their 17th anniversary. </p> <p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608469018/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank"></a>All we know and probably will ever know is that, in the melee that is still Afghanistan, the obliteration of that wedding procession was just one more scarcely noted, remarkably repetitive little nightmare to which Americans will pay no attention whatsoever. Admittedly, when directly asked by pollsters 17 years later, a near majority of them (49%) do think that U.S. goals still remain <a href="https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/study-finds-americans-feel%C2%A0us%E2%80%99s-involvement-has-%E2%80%98failed%E2%80%99" target="_blank">unmet</a> in that country and, according to other recent polls, somewhere between <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/10/08/most-americans-would-support-withdrawal-afghanista" target="_blank">61% and 69%</a> of Americans would support the withdrawal of all U.S. forces there. That, however, is anything but a stunning figure given that, in 2011, a <em>Washington Post</em>-ABC News poll <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/poll-nearly-two-thirds-of-americans-say-afghan-war-isnt-worth-fighting/2011/03/14/ABRbeEW_story.html?utm_term=.848238317297" target="_blank">indicated</a> that two-thirds of Americans believed the Afghan war “no longer worth fighting.” Evidently it’s now simply no longer worth giving a moment’s thought to.</p> <p>Essentially unnoticed here, the destruction of wedding parties by U.S. air power has, in fact, been a relative commonplace in these years of endless war across the Greater Middle East. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jan/07/afghanistan.rorycarroll" target="_blank">first time</a> American air power obliterated a wedding in Afghanistan was in late December 2001. U.S. B-52 and B-1B bombers mistakenly took out much of a village in Paktia Province killing more than 100 civilians while wedding festivities were underway, an event barely noted in the American media. We do not know if the bride and groom survived. (Imagine, however, the non-stop media attention if a terrorist had attacked a wedding in this country and killed anyone, no less the bride or groom!)</p> <p>The second incident we know of <href ="#2"="=&quot;#2&quot;" target="_blank">took place in Khost Province in Eastern Afghanistan in May 2002 while a wedding was underway and villagers were firing in the air, a form of celebration there. At least 10 people died and many more were wounded. The third occurred that July <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jul/03/afghanistan.lukeharding" target="_blank">in Oruzgan</a> Province when the U.S. Air Force dropped seven 2,000-pound bombs on a wedding party, again evidently after celebratory firing had taken place, wiping out unknown numbers of villagers including, reportedly, a family of 25 people. In July 2008, a missile from a U.S. plane <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jul/11/afghanistan.usa" target="_blank">took out</a> a party escorting a bride to the groom’s house in Nuristan Province, killing at least 47 civilians, 39 of them women and children, including the bride. The next month in Laghman Province, American bombers <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175092/tom_engelhardt_are_afghan_lives_worth_anything" target="_blank">killed</a> 16 Afghans in a house, including 12 members of a family hosting a wedding. In June 2012, in Logar Province, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-bombing-idUSBRE85508F20120606" target="_blank">another wedding party</a> was obliterated, 18 people dying (half of them children). This was the only one of these slaughters for which the U.S. military offered an <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/gen-allen-apologizes-for-civilians-killed-in-airstrike-in-afghanistan/2012/06/08/gJQA6JukNV_story.html?utm_term=.14cce7551dca" target="_blank">apology</a>.</href></p> <p>And that’s just what I happen to know about wedding parties in Afghanistan in these years. Don’t forget Iraq either, where in May 2004 U.S. jets attacked a village near the Syrian border filled with people sleeping after a wedding ceremony, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/may/21/iraq.rorymccarthy" target="_blank">killing</a> at least 42 of them, including “27 members of the [family hosting the wedding ceremony], their wedding guests, and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony.” Of that attack, the man who was then commander of the U.S. 1st Marine Division and is now secretary of defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/may/21/iraq.rorymccarthy" target="_blank">said</a> dismissively, “How many people go to the middle of the desert&#8230; to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?”</p> <p>And don’t forget the 15 or so Yemenis on the way to a wedding in December 2013 who were “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-strike/air-strike-kills-15-civilians-in-yemen-by-mistake-officials-idUSBRE9BB10O20131212" target="_blank">mistaken</a> for an al-Qaeda convoy” and taken out by a U.S. drone. As I’ve <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175787/tomgram%3A_engelhardt,_washington%27s_wedding_album_from_hell/" target="_blank">written elsewhere</a>, since September 11, 2001, we’ve been number one&#8230; in obliterating wedding parties. Still, we’ve had some genuine competition in recent years &#8212; above all, the Saudis in their brutal <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176469/tomgram%3A_rajan_menon%2C_the_american_war_in_yemen/" target="_blank">American-backed</a>and <a href="https://yemen.liveuamap.com/en/2018/18-august-graphic-from-cnn-identifying-civilian-massacres" target="_blank">-supplied</a> air war in Yemen. From an incident in September 2015 in which their missiles killed <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/death-toll-from-air-strike-on-yemen-wedding-party-rises-above-130-medics-idUSKCN0RT0XT20150929" target="_blank">more than 130</a> Yemenis at a wedding reception (including the usual <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/84547220-157.html" target="_blank">women</a> and children) to a strike on a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/world/middleeast/yemen-wedding-bombing.html" target="_blank">wedding</a> in April of this year that took out the groom, they’ve run a close second to the U.S. And then there’s ISIS, which, from <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/bomb-blast-kills-5-in-wedding-party-in-eastern-afghanistan/2018/10/13/f3bc8304-ceb9-11e8-ad0a-0e01efba3cc1_story.html?utm_term=.6edb8806d437" target="_blank">Afghanistan</a> to <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/22/490908579/suicide-bombing-at-turkish-wedding-carried-out-by-child-pinned-on-isis" target="_blank">Turkey</a>, seems to have a knack of its own for sending its version of a precision air force (suicide bombers) to take out weddings.</p> <p>All of these, of course, represent anniversaries that will never be, which couldn’t be sadder. In truth, if you live in any of the battle zones of the still-expanding war on terror, you should probably think twice about getting married or at least having a wedding ceremony. Since Americans don’t focus on such moments in our never-ending conflicts, they have no way of seeing them as the heart and soul of the twenty-first-century American way of war. And of course there’s always the question that General Mattis raised to take into account: What are you going to do with people who insist on getting married in the desert &#8212; other than slaughter them?</p> <p><strong>Afghan Previews? </strong></p> <p>Only days after the 9/11 attacks, every member of Congress but one voted in favor of the Bush administration’s <a href="https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf" target="_blank">authorization of military force</a> that opened the way not just for the Afghan invasion, but so much else that followed. The sole no vote came from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), who <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/09/11/barbara-lees-lone-vote-on-sept-14-2001-was-as-prescient-as-it-was-brave-and-heroic/" target="_blank">warned</a> that “a rush to launch precipitous military counterattacks runs too great a risk that more innocent men, women, children will be killed.” How right she proved to be.</p> <p>By now, there is the equivalent of unending “towers” of dead women and children in the Greater Middle East, while millions of Afghans and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-children/1-3-million-children-displaced-by-iraqs-war-with-islamic-state-unicef-idUSKBN1F81II" target="_blank">others</a> have been <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/un-says-more-than-100000-afghans-displaced-2018/29244546.html" target="_blank">displaced</a> from their homes and <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html" target="_blank">record</a> millions more sent <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jan/25/violence-forces-refugees-to-flee-afghanistan-again" target="_blank">fleeing</a> across national boundaries as refugees. That, in turn, has helped fuel the “populist” right in both Europe and the U.S., so in a sense, Donald Trump might be said to be one result of the invasion of Afghanistan &#8212; of, that is, a twenty-first-century American push to unsettle the world. Who knows what else (and who else) America’s wars may produce before they end, as they will someday?</p> <p>Here, however, is one possibility that, at this point, isn’t part of any thinking in this country but perhaps should be. In the wake of America’s first Afghan War (1979-1989), the Red Army, the stymied military forces of the other Cold War superpower, the Soviet Union, finally limped out of that “<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175261/tomgram%3A_engelhardt,_washington_drunk_on_war/" target="_blank">bleeding wound</a>” &#8212; as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called Afghanistan. They would return to a sapped, fragmenting empire and a country that would implode less than two years later.</p> <p>In that post-Afghan moment of victory &#8212; the end of the Cold War &#8212; nothing of the Russian experience was recognized as instructive for the last superpower on planet Earth. Here’s my question, then: What if that first Afghan War was the real-world equivalent of a movie preview? Someday, when the second Afghan War finally ends and the U.S. military limps home from its many imperial adventures abroad as the Red Army once did, will it, too, find an empire on the verge of imploding and a country in deep trouble?</p> <p>Is that really beyond imagining anymore? And if it were so, wouldn’t that be an anniversary to remember?</p> <p><em>Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the </em><a href="http://www.americanempireproject.com/" target="_blank"><em>American Empire Project</em></a><em> and the author of a history of the Cold War, </em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/155849586X/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">The End of Victory Culture</a><em>. He is a fellow of the </em><a href="http://www.nationinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><em>Nation Institute</em></a><em> and runs </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch.com</a><em>. His sixth and latest book is </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608469018/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">A Nation Unmade by War</a> <em>(Dispatch Books).</em></p> <p><em>Follow </em>TomDispatch<em> on <a href="https://twitter.com/TomDispatch" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and join us on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/tomdispatch" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, Beverly Gologorsky&#8217;s novel </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608469077/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Every Body Has a Story</a><em> and Tom Engelhardt&#8217;s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608469018/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">A Nation Unmade by War</a><em>, as well as Alfred McCoy&#8217;s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608467732/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power</a><em>, John Dower&#8217;s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608467236/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II</a><em>, and John Feffer&#8217;s dystopian novel </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608467244/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Splinterlands</a><em>.</em></p> <p>Copyright 2018 Tom Engelhardt</p> <p>Follow TomDispatch on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/tomdispatch" target="_blank">@TomDispatch</a>. <a></a> <a></a> <a></a> <a></a> <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/ajax/email/?thingID=176485" title="Email this story to a friend">Email</a> <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176485/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_anniversaries_that_never_will_be/print">Print</a> </p> <p>[<strong>Note for TomDispatch Readers:</strong> <em>Don’t forget to visit our donation page, where for $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.) you can get a signed, personalized copy of my latest book, </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608469018/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">A Nation Unmade by War</a><em>, Al McCoy’s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608467732/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">In the Shadows of the American Century</a><em>, Rebecca Gordon’s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1510703330/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">American Nuremberg</a><em>, or Robert Lipsyte’s </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0813593190/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Sportsworld</a><em>, among so many other titles that could change the way you look at our American world &#8212; and also offer a little support to </em>TomDispatch<em>. Tom</em>]</p> <p>Via <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176485/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_anniversaries_that_never_will_be/ ">Tomdispatch.com</a></p> <p>&#8212;&#8211;</p> <p>Bonus video added by Informed Comment:</p> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/RBKHVFW0ERo ">France24: &#8220;Afghanistan attack: &#8220;this is a major symbolic and strategic win for the Taliban&#8221; </a></p> <p><lj-embed id="9231"/></p>

Israel advances Bill Tying Cultural Funding to ‘Loyalty’

https://www.juancole.com/2018/10/advances-cultural-funding.html

https://www.juancole.com/?p=179559

Jerusalem (AFP) – A ministerial committee in Israel’s parliament voted Sunday to advance a bill that would cut subsidies to cultural organisations accused of not showing “loyalty” to the state, the culture minister said.

The proposed legislation, denounced by artists and freedom of speech activists, was proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev.

The text of the bill must be voted on in three parliamentary readings before becoming law.

It would give the finance and culture ministries the power to slash subsidies to any institution presenting work that denies Israel’s existence as a democratic and Jewish state or that marks the state’s independence day as a national day of mourning.

For Palestinians, the anniversary marks the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.

The draft law would also see funding cut over work that attacks the state flag, or incites racism or terrorism.

“I am very happy that this law has been passed by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation,” Regev wrote on Facebook.

“It will then be presented to the Knesset to be adopted, God willing, next month… Yes to freedom of culture, no to provocations!”

Regev, a member of Israel’s ruling right-wing Likud party, is no stranger to controversy and has repeatedly clashed with the country’s largely left-leaning cultural elite.

Last year she slammed the Israeli drama “Foxtrot”, which won the Venice Film Festival’s second highest prize, for spreading untruths about the Israeli army.

She was not invited to September’s Ophir Awards — Israel’s version of the Oscars — where “Foxtrot” won the best picture prize.

She instead appeared live on her Facebook page to criticise the movie and members of Israel’s Film and Television Academy.

Featured Photo: AFP/File / Vasily MAXIMOV. Proposed legislation in Israeli parliment would cut subsidies to cultural organisations accused of not showing “loyalty” to the state.