Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Monday, October 16, 2017

The British Empire Was an Unwieldy Creation

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
 
It is hard for 21st century people to comprehend a geographic institution so huge and long-lasting that at one time it was assumed that the sun would never set upon it.

Today, the sun can’t even find it – but its legacy, in terms of language, laws, international organizations, and models of governance, are with us still.

At its height, the British Empire, which lasted half a millennium, spanned the world, from the Arctic shores of northern Canada and the deserts of Australia to the humid tropics of India and the beaches of Fiji. A quarter of the globe was coloured pink on maps.

By 1921, it contained a population of some 460 million people, then approximately one-quarter of the world's population. It covered more than 35 million square kilometres.

The empire was decentralized, as there had never been a master plan of conquest. It wasn’t governed from an imperial centre, as others, like the French or Spanish ones, were.

Much of it was created piecemeal, and happenstance and chance were often involved in the absorption of all of the bodies of land on every continent and the numerous islands throughout all the world’s oceans that eventually comprised the empire.

Britain frequently found itself unintentionally the owner of new territories through the actions of individuals whose policies had either not been thought through in London or even sanctioned. 

Indeed, much of its most important possession, India, was initially the property of a private enterprise, the East India Company, which expanded its holdings on the subcontinent over the decades. Other regions, too, were originally owned by firms such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and the British South Africa Company.  

“The British Empire was nothing more than a series of improvisations conducted by men who shared a common culture but often had very different ideas about government and administration,” concludes Kwasi Kwarteng in his 2011 book Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World. “There is very little unifying ideology in the story of Britain’s empire.” 

Kwarteng agrees that it was created, as the famous phrase has it, “in a fit of absence of mind.”

Bernard Porter, in British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t, and Empire Ways: Aspects of British Imperialism, both published in 2016, concurs with this assessment. 

He maintains that Britain was “a less imperial society than is often assumed.” The empire was neither monolithic nor guided by an overarching vision that defined its function and objectives. 

British possessions had little in common with each other beyond the fact that the Union Jack flew over them.

This pragmatic approach enabled powerful colonial officials, often described as “men on the spot,” to direct policy in each jurisdiction with little supervision from London. 

Such individualistic behaviour meant that procedures developed over the years by one governor could simply be reversed as a new one took his place. They were elitists who sought to wield power without much oversight.

Nonetheless, while the empire-building enterprise involved colonial settlement, missionary activity, and administration, the primary goal was usually to make huge amounts of money through trade. 

Profits from all these far-flung outposts, especially India, ultimately found their way back to enrich the centre.

Most shameful of all was the purchase and sale of people. More than three million Africans were transported across the Atlantic to toil in Britain’s American, Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies for more than two centuries.

Slavery on an industrial scale was a major source of the wealth, based upon the West Indies sugar trade and cotton crop in North America was based. Slavery was finally abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833.

The empire began to be wound down not long after the Second World War; Britain could no longer sustain it. And while decolonization was sometimes a brutal affair, as in Aden, Cyprus or Kenya, it was mostly a fairly orderly process. 

But in places with deep-seated religious rivalries, such as India and Palestine, both destined to be partitioned, the British simply lost control.

Even toward the end of empire mainstream opinion in Britain retained an unshakable confidence in the endurance of its values and centrality to world affairs.

Perhaps this was understandable. After so many centuries as the world’s pre-eminent nation, it took a long time for the British to come to terms with the fact that they were no longer a superpower.

The Dismal Beginnings of the Congo State

By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

Some nine decades ago, at the height of European imperialism in Africa, one colony, though ostensibly a “free state,” was so brutally managed that a European government had to wrest control from its ruler, who treated it as a personal possession.

The country known as the Congo Free State, until it became the Belgian Congo in 1908, emerged out of a treaty promulgated by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, attended by 14 countries. 

Now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, it gained its independence in 1960, but few countries in the world have had such a tragic past – nor are things much better today.

In 1876 King Leopold II of Belgium had hired the American explorer Henry Morton Stanley to explore and colonize the Congo River basin of equatorial Africa. 

His claims to the Congo, which emerged out of the scientific and philanthropic activities of the Association Internationale du Congo, would lead to a “scramble for Africa” especially amongst France, Germany, Great Britain and Portugal, among those represented at the conference.

By the mid-19th century, European nations such as Great Britain, France, and Germany had begun looking to Africa for natural resources for their growing industrial sectors as well as a potential market for the goods these factories produced. 

Neither the Berlin Conference itself nor the framework for future negotiations provided any say for the peoples of Africa over the partitioning of their homelands. It was a conference purporting to determine the future of Africa in which no Africans were involved.

At this major gathering to create an orderly division of European spheres of influence in Africa, King Leopold would convince the delegates that common trade in Africa was in the best interests of them all.

Though the centre of Africa was supposed to be internationalised, it eventually became Belgian, as the conference decisions would lead to the recognition of King Leopold’s fledgling Congo Free State, with dire consequences for its population.
 
It was not a colony as such, as there was no metropolitan power to which it was responsible; nor was it a state formed, like Liberia, as a consequence of settlement. It retained the form of a private “philanthropic” initiative ostensibly advancing the common interests of the peoples of Africa and Europe.

Leopold had cultivated the notion that he wished to sponsor a self-westernising native confederation. His so-called Free State would become a convenient device which would allow the European powers to preserve access to the area without undertaking financial or political obligations – Leopold would take care of those – while persuading themselves that they were advancing the well-being of Africans.

In reality, he instituted one of Africa’s most brutal and exploitative colonial regimes, marked by violence, slavery and mass murder, as its inhabitants were literally worked to death, with perhaps as many as 10 million killed.

Forced labour was used to gather wild rubber, palm oil, and ivory. Resistance elicited swift and harsh responses from Leopold’s private army, the Force Publique, who were also known for cutting off the hands of the Congolese.  

In 1890, the author Joseph Conrad traveled on one of the first steamboats on the Congo River. He saw a colonial regime of appalling greed, violence and hypocrisy. In 1899, he transformed his notes about the journey into his novel Heart of Darkness.

Such public outcries finally forced the Belgian government to take the Congo over in 1908.
The Berlin Conference remapped Africa without considering cultural or linguistic borders, dividing the continent into some 50 different colonies. 

This new map was superimposed over the more than one thousand indigenous cultures and regions of Africa, including dozens in the Congo itself.

It is by any measure one of the world’s most dysfunctional states. Since 1997, various civil wars have resulted in some five million deaths.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A "Second Israel" in the Middle East?


By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

In the recent Kurdish referendum on independence, the citizens of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq, to no one’s surprise, voted overwhelmingly to create a sovereign state. The yes side gained almost 93 per cent of the vote.

In the run-up to the vote, opponents of the move tried to smear the Kurds by claiming that they were, in effect, in the pay of Israel.

The “proof?” A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:  “While Israel rejects terror in any form, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

Turkey and Iran, as well as the government in Baghdad, then began to spread false news.

“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Iraqi Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister, said at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman.

A number of Turkish media outlets claimed that Kurdish groups had entered into a secret deal with Israel to gain their independence by resettling Jews to the region.

They alleged that Mahmoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), agreed to welcome some 200,000 Israeli Jews of Kurdish origin. 

In exchange, Israel would reportedly back Barzani’s bid for Kurdish statehood in the upcoming referendum. Another Turkish paper contended that Barzani is Jewish and comes from a long line of Kurdish rabbis. “Turkey, don’t be asleep!” one column warned.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency played a role in Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote.

Supporters of the ultra-nationalist Turkish Homeland Party protested outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara, claiming that Jerusalem was attempting to establish a “second Israel.”

Diliman Abdulkader, a Kurdish scholar and analyst of Middle East affairs, told Newsweek magazine that such attacks were designed to destroy Kurdish credibility in the region by associating them with Israel and playing on prejudices against Jews.

In Iran, Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister who now serves as foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, described Barzani as a fixer working for “Zionists” bent on causing the disintegration of Muslim states.

Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, also denounced the referendum as a “plot” hatched by Israel and its allies. “The Zionist regime and the world arrogance” -- meaning the United States -- “are behind this,” he declared.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chair of the Assembly of Experts, the body that selects the country’s Supreme Leader, asserted that Kurdistan’s bid for independence from Iraq is an attempt to “create another Israel” in the region.

And Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior Iranian cleric, expressed the hope that Kurds would come to their senses and give up the Israeli plot.

In actual fact, the Kurds and Israelis do go back a long way as allies. The relationship dates back many decades, after the outbreak of the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq in the autumn of 1961 under Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, father of the current president of the KRG.

However, these ties were abruptly stopped in March 1975 following the Algiers Accord between Iraq and Iran that put an end to the Kurdish rebellion. 

Tehran as part of the agreement agreed to suspend its aid to the Iraqi Kurds, and Israel did not wish to offend Iran, then an Israeli ally under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

But the 2003 war in Iraq and the establishment of a de facto Kurdish state reinvigorated ties between Israel and the KRG.

The referendum again reminds us of the injustice of a Middle East political order arbitrarily imposed by British and French colonial powers after 1918, one that had left the Kurds betrayed and without a state.

Once Again, Homage to Catalonia

By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
 
Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell’s 1938 account of the Spanish Civil War, described the fight by the Catalans for self-rule against the centralizing Spanish nationalism of Francisco Franco’s fascists. 

They were on the losing side, and Franco abolished Catalan autonomy in 1938. Following his death in 1975, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence.

Eight decades later, is history repeating itself?

Of course today’s Spain is no dictatorship, and since 2006, when a Statute of Autonomy granted sweeping powers to Catalonia, the region already controls its own police, education, health care, schools, parliament and media.

Nevertheless, the Catalan government in September decided to hold a binding referendum on self-determination. 

It was meant to fulfil a pledge made in 2015 by Artur Mas, then the president of the Catalan regional government, known as the Generalitat, and reaffirmed by Carles Puigdemont, the current president.

However, the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid did all within in its power to disrupt the scheduled Oct. 1 vote.

Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, is situated in the country’s northeast and home to 7.5 million people. The capital, Barcelona, is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

Catalans have their own history, culture, and language, and until 1714 Catalonia was a self-governing polity within the Spanish Empire of the day. 

Industrially more advanced than the rest of the country, Catalonia has come to resent the political dominance of elites in Madrid.

It accounts for almost one-fifth of Spain’s economic output, and its departure would be a tremendous loss to the country, so Madrid is determined to hold onto it.

Spain’s judiciary maintained that the Constitution does not allow any region to secede, so in advance of the vote, Rajoy blocked 140 websites, including that of the Catalan National Assembly.

Spanish authorities raided the offices of the Catalan regional government, seizing 10 million ballot papers and arresting at least 14 senior Catalan officials. They dismantled the technology to connect voting stations, count the votes, and allow online voting.

Madrid also took control of Catalonia’s finances to ensure that separatist politicians could not spend further public funds on the referendum. 

About 4,000 national police officers were sent to Catalonia ahead of the vote, under orders to keep polling stations closed, and some 1,300 schools were sealed off, to prevent them being used.

On the day of the referendum, Spanish riot police smashed their way into polling stations and fired rubber bullets at protesters.

Catalans contended that the Spanish response was returning the country to the dark days of Franco’s fascist dictatorship, which had banned all “separatist” activity in Spain. 

Back then, even the Catalan language was suppressed and only “Spanish” – that is Castilian – could be taught. Is Catalonia going back to the future?

The balloting went ahead, but in conditions that amounted to a virtual state of siege.
The Catalan government announced that the referendum had been approved by 90.09 per cent of voters  – but in a turnout of only 42.3 per cent of those eligible to cast ballots. 

Puigdemont blamed this on “indiscriminate aggression” by Madrid and contended that Catalans “have earned the right to have an independent state.” 

But Rajoy declared the process illegal since a majority of Catalans hadn’t voted.
Rafael Catala, Spain’s justice minister, warned that Madrid was prepared to use its emergency powers to prevent a unilateral declaration of independence. 

Two days later, King Felipe VI of Spain accused the separatist leaders of “inadmissible disloyalty” that threatened the country’s constitution and unity.

And on Oct. 5 Spain’s constitutional court suspended a forthcoming session of the Catalan regional Parliament was expected to approve a unilateral declaration of independence.

Many Catalan demonstrators, outraged, held signs that mentioned the 1930s civil war. One read,  “We’re the grandchildren of those that you didn’t manage to kill.”

Friday, October 06, 2017

Akko had its Moment in Jewish History


By Henry Srebrnik, [Calgary] Jewish Free Press
 
When I’m in Israel in November, I’ll be visiting the Mediterranean seaside city of Akko (Acre in English). I’ve been there once before, many decades ago.

Not that many Jewish tourists go there. It’s north of Haifa and off the beaten path. For most of its history, it has been an Arab town; many of its landmarks date back to the Crusader period.

It’s an ancient settlement, mentioned in the Bible, and over the centuries it was home to Canaanites and Greeks, Crusaders and Ottoman Turks, Jews and Britons. Alexander the Great conquered it; Napoleon failed to do so.

Akko fell to the Arab armies commanded by the Caliph Umar in 638, but the Christian Crusaders captured it from its Muslim rulers in 1104. The city developed extensive trade relations with Mediterranean cities like Genoa, Pisa, Venice and Marseilles.

During this period it was known as St. Jean d’Akko; the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem had their headquarters there. They were concerned with the welfare of pilgrims who came to the Holy Land.

The last outpost of Christian rule in Palestine, Akko fell to Mamluk armies in 1291 The Knights moved to the Greek island of Rhodes, and later to another Mediterranean island, Malta. In 1517, Akko became part of the Ottoman Empire, and would be under Turkish rule for the next four centuries. 

Today, its population of 47,000 includes Jews, Muslims, Christians, and members of the Baha’i faith, for whom it is a holy city. 

Few Jews live in the Old City, where most of the residents are Muslim Arabs. In the modern city of Akko, however, Jews comprise about 70 percent of the population.

The rampart-ringed Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its mosques, Turkish baths, Crusader castle ruins and tunnels, is worth a visit.  

The Ahmed el-Jazzar Mosque, built in 1781, is the largest one in Israel outside of Jerusalem, while the Hospitaller Fortress is one of Israel’s most monumental examples of Crusader architecture. It contains an ancient underground passage discovered and maintained by the order.

Akko is also the site of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. The city was the final resting place of the Persian founder of the Baha’i faith, who was exiled there in 1868 and spent the last years of his life in a house in its gardens.

The Ottoman Citadel, built in the 18th century over the ruins of a 12th century Crusader fortress, became the tallest structure in the city.

Underneath the Citadel is the Crusader City historic site, a series of gothic vaulted halls, which were once headquarters for the Crusader armies. There is also a series of narrow subterranean tunnels to explore and a crypt.

The Citadel served as a major high-security prison during the period of British rule in Palestine after the First World War. 

The prison housed many top members of the Zionist resistance to British rule. The first prisoner was Ze’ev Jabotinsky. He and 19 others were imprisoned during the 1920 Palestine riots.

In 1939, 43 members of the Haganah, including Moshe Dayan, were prisoners in the Citadel.

On May 4, 1947 a dramatic prison breakout by incarcerated members of the right-wing Irgun and Lehi underground fighters captured headlines around the world and was later even included in Leon Uris’ 1958 novel Exodus.

Two weeks earlier, four Irgun members, Dov Gruner, Yehiel Dresner, Mordechai Alkahi, and Eliezer Kashani, who had been captured by the British, were hanged in the prison. 

In response, the Irgun made plans for a massive prison attack. They purchased a truck, a jeep, two military pickup trucks and civilian vehicles, which were then disguised as British. They also acquired British Army uniforms.

At the time, 163 Jews were being held in Akko prison, 60 of them Irgun members, 22 Lehi, and five from the Haganah, the main force fighting British rule. The remaining Jewish prisoners were felons; 400 Arabs were also jailed there.

The Irgun High Command selected 41 prisoners for escape: 30 Irgun and 11 Lehi, as that was the available number of spots available at safe houses. 

Disguised as British soldiers, the Irgun convoy arrived at the prison. In an audacious attack, the wall of the fortress was blasted open. An ensuing fire blocked the guards from reaching the escape route.

Altogether, 27 inmates succeeded in escaping --20 from the Irgun and seven from Lehi. Nine fighters were killed in clashes with the British army: six escapees and three members of the Irgun attacking force. Eight escapees, some of them injured, were caught and returned to jail. 

Also arrested were five of the Irgun attackers who did not make it back to their base. The Arab prisoners took advantage of the commotion, and 182 of them fled as well.

Three weeks after the jail break, the five fighters who had been captured after the operation were put on trial; three were sentenced to death.

The Akko prison break strengthened morale in the Palestinian Jewish population and they became more determined in their fight to create a Jewish state.

The prison is now the Museum of the Underground Prisoners. It features an interactive display with original and reconstructed exhibits, a tour of the prison cells and an account of the prison’s rich history.

An impressive sculpture close to the site, the work of Israeli artist Zvi Gera, depicts a scene from the great escape and memorializes those who risked their lives to save their comrades, and those who perished in the heroic effort.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

In 2017, Nationalism is Considered Illegitimate

By Henry Srebrnik, [Saint John, NB] Telegraph-Journal

Though we like to think the world is becoming ever more integrated and “globalized,” the desire for “a state of one’s own” remains strong among many ethnic groups.

We have seen this with the recent referenda in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia in Spain.
In both cases, the respective governments in Baghdad and Madrid were strenuously opposed to these, and the international community concurred. 

It seems that the territorial integrity of states has trumped the desire for self-determination on the part of ethnic, religious and linguistic communities, including those that were historically separate from those polities.

The Kurds of Iraq and the Catalans in Spain already enjoyed autonomy, controlling their own police, education, health care, schools, parliament and media.

Nevertheless, in both cases, their regional governments decided to hold referenda on full sovereignty, scheduled for Sept. 25 in the Kurdish case, and Oct. 1 in Catalonia. 

The referendum in the Kurdish region went ahead, since the Iraqi state had no control over the area, and its people voted massively to create an independent state.

But not only did the Baghdad regime refuse to recognize the vote, neither did neighbouring Iran, Syria and Turkey. They have all promised to reverse the decision.

In the Catalan case, the government in Madrid, backed by the European Union, did all within in its power to disrupt the scheduled Oct. 1 vote.

Thousands of riot police were sent to the region, and ordinary men and women were dragged from the polls by helmeted police. In this case, too, a majority of those voting supported an independent republic, though the Madrid government insists the vote itself was illegitimate.

Catalans and Kurds have their own histories, cultures, and languages. Until 1714 Catalonia was a self-governing polity within the Spanish Empire of the day, while the Kurds were promised a state after the First World War, but instead ended up under the rule of Arabs, Persians, and Turks. 

In both these cases, Ottawa and Washington oppose the formation of a new polity. But why have they, reflexively, come to oppose self-determination anywhere and everywhere? 

Spain and Portugal were one country for almost sixty years, until 1640, when the Portuguese regained their independence. The Portuguese are as similar, in terms of language, culture, and religion, to Spaniards, as today’s Catalans are.

Until 1922, Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom, and by that time all its inhabitants had the same legal and political equality as people in the rest of the British state.

So, had Portugal remained part of Spain, and Ireland part of the UK, would they be denied independence today, should their people have now wished it? 

Here’s another, perhaps more hypothetical, case: In the 18th century Poland was partitioned by its Austrian, Prussian and Russian neighbours and disappeared from the map of Europe.

This remained the case until after the First World War, when the three empires disintegrated, and Poland was reconstituted as a state.

But what if the war had never happened, and those multinational states had evolved into liberal democracies? 

In that case, the Poles might have ended up as minorities in all three, but with full individual rights and freedoms. 

Would their desire to once again live in a free country of their own then be seen as something disruptive of the political order in Europe? No doubt Austria, Germany and Russia would have claimed as much, and many would agree.

But why can self-defined collectivities no longer form independent states if they want them? Does it all this simply come down to timing? As if the right to self-determination by nations ended arbitrarily at some point in the mid twentieth century?

For today’s liberal multiculturalists, the answer to separatism is a definitive no – it is something to be avoided, except in the most extreme cases of massive violence. 

They maintain that if people have democratic rights and personal freedoms, as individuals, there is no justification for collective ethnic nationalism -- now deemed atavistic and dangerous. 

They regard as illegitimate states which are founded on the basis of ethnic or religious nationhood, as opposed to the civic-territorial model found in present-day Canada or the United States. 

They have come to define nationalism itself as a variant of racist intolerance, indeed a political pathology that leads inexorably to the narrowest of so-called “tribalism.”

The New York Times correspondent based in Madrid, Raphael Minder, reflects this view perfectly. 

In a Sept. 30 article on the Catalan crisis, he blamed politicians for “awakening the demons of nationalism rather than solving more pressing issues,” as if national identity was something conjured up by unscrupulous troublemakers. 

This stance is both anti-democratic and ridiculous. Fortunately for the Irish, Poles, and Portuguese, they beat that liberal “deadline,” but it appears the Catalans and Kurds have not.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Yes, Virginia, There is an American "Deep State"

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The idea of an American “deep state,” comprising what some call the “ruling circles” or “power elite,” running things behind the scenes, for most people conjures up visions of conspirators lurking in the shadows, secretly controlling the country. 

It sounds like something out of a far-left or far-right fantasy. But actually, it hides in plain sight, if you know where to look. 

In The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor of urban planning at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, explains that the self-segregation of America’s elites result in what she calls “highly stratified hyper-educated affluent places” in parts of cosmopolitan cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, New York, or Seattle.

It’s not a closed caste system – the Clintons and Obamas are now part of it. But the result is “a deep cultural divide that has never existed with such distinction as it does today.”

As Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, noted in the Spring 2017issue of the Claremont Review of Books, “Well-nigh the entire ruling class -- government bureaucracies, the judiciary, academia, media, associated client groups, Democratic officials, and Democrat-controlled jurisdictions --have joined in ‘Resistance’ to the 2016 elections,” in which, to their consternation, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Their practical objective is to hamper and otherwise delegitimize 2016’s winners and “browbeat Trump voters into believing they should repent and yield to their betters. This campaign might break the Trump presidency.”

Codevilla’s is definitely a view from the far right. Yet it fits well with a commentary from the left by Serge Halimi, president and director of the French newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique, in its September 2017 English edition.

Halimi noted that, after Trump won the election, he was after a good deal from Russia. Trump was personally eager to explore the possibility of a strategic accommodation with Russia, especially in Syria.

A new partnership would have reversed deteriorating relations between the powers by encouraging their alliance against the Islamic State and recognising the importance of Ukraine to Russia’s security.

As we know, he has been completely stymied in his efforts, because there was a convergence in the objectives of the U.S. intelligence agencies, the leaders of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, the majority of Republican politicians, and the anti-Trump media. That common objective was stopping any entente between Moscow and Washington.

The intelligence community and elements in the Pentagon feared that a rapprochement between Trump and Vladimir Putin would deprive them of a presentable enemy once ISIS’s military power was destroyed, writes Halimi. 

The Clinton camp was keen to ascribe an unexpected defeat to a cause other than the candidate and her inept campaign; Moscow’s alleged hacking of Democratic Party emails fitted the bill. And the neoconservative foreign policy hawks hated Trump’s neo-isolationist instincts.

“The media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, eagerly sought a new Watergate scandal and knew their middle-class, urban, educated readers loathe Trump for his vulgarity, affection for the far right, violence and lack of culture,” asserted Halimi. “So they were searching for any information or rumour that could cause his removal or force a resignation.”

British journalist Glenn Greenwald, in an article he published Jan. 11 on his Intercept site, also observed that there really is, at this point, “obvious open warfare between this unelected but very powerful faction that resides in Washington and sees presidents come and go, on the one hand, and the person that the American democracy elected to be the president on the other.”  

Greenwald, a longtime iconoclast, maintains that they preferred Clinton to Trump because she defended and intended to extend the decades-long international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s pre-eminence depends, while Trump posed a threat to it.

“Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework,” he concluded, “that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.”

But the nationalists who backed Trump’s agenda --hard-liners like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka --have been ousted. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Is it now drowning him?

Iraq's Kurds Aim for Independence

By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
 
In 2004 I co-edited a book, De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty, which was to include a chapter on Iraqi Kurdistan. The person asked to write it didn’t come through, though, so it wasn’t in the anthology. Today such an article would be an absolute necessity. 

It’s been a long time coming, but on Sept. 25 the Kurds in northern Iraq finally voted in a referendum on independence. In a turnout of some 73 per cent of the more than five million eligible voters, the pro-independence side gained 92.73 per cent of the vote.

Those who follow events in the Middle East know that the Kurds, at least 30 million in number, are the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country, even though one was promised them as far back as the end of the First World War.

They are spread across the region, mainly in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and have fought for a state of their own at one time or another in all of these countries.

But only in Iraq, where they have enjoyed limited self-government since the Gulf War in 1991, when the United States enforced a no-fly zone across the north, have they had a realistic chance to acquire it. Indeed, the area they govern has increased since the Islamic State temporarily drove the Iraqi army out of northern Iraq in 2014.

The Kurds now control around a fifth of Iraq’s territory, including land they have long claimed is theirs but which was Arabised under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It includes the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is populated by a mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.

While the rest of Iraq has for years been beset by violence, the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, with its population of eight million, gained international recognition as part of a federal Iraqi state in 2005. 

Before the elimination of Saddan Hussein, the Kurds in Iraq were the victims of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, which peaked in the late 1980s when Saddam slaughtered some 200,000 of them.
In 1992, the two major political parties in the region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), established the autonomous regional government.

The two parties have long contended for power. The capital, Erbil, is the stronghold of the KDP, led by the Barzani clan. The current prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, is a nephew of the region’s president, Masoud Barzani. 

The weaker PUK is run by the Talabanis, whose leader, Jalal Talabani, is a former president of Iraq. His son Qubad has been the deputy prime minister since 2005. They dominate the region around the city of Sulaymaniyah.

Not surprisingly, the Baghdad government opposed the referendum and said it would never give up its claim to Kirkuk, located within an oil-rich province from which the Kurdish regional government has been independently exporting oil.

Those oil fields pump about 40 per cent of Iraq’s total output and are seen as the economic engine necessary to support an independent Kurdistan.

Washington, concerned that the vote would hobble the fight against the Islamic State, saw it as a bad precedent and as a destabilising force in the region. 

The governments of Iran,Turkey and Syria also dislike the idea of an independent Kurdistan breaking away from Iraq, since the Kurds in those countries might wish to join them in a greater Kurdistan.
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut off the pipeline which exports the oil from Kirkuk across the Turkish border.

Will the overwhelming yes vote lead to independence? Maybe, but it won’t be easy.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Far Right Gains in Germany


By Henry Srebrnik, [Saint John, NB] Telegraph-Journal
 
As was widely predicted, Angela Merkel has won a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor in the Sept. 24 Bundestag election. But it’s a victory that feels like a loss.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its allies won less than 33 per cent of the vote, good for 246 seats, but sharply down from 41.5 per cent in 2013. It’s the lowest result for them since she became leader.

The Social Democrats, who had been in a “grand coalition” with the CDU, slumped to 20.5 per cent, a new post-war low, for 153 seats. They too came up short, their vote down from 25.7 per cent four years ago.

The populist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) comfortably took third place in the election, ahead of parties like the Free Democrats, Alliance 90/the Greens, and the Left.

With almost 13 per cent of the vote, the AfD gained 94 seats in the 598-seat federal parliament. A far-right party has now entered parliament for the first time in seven decades.

Each person casts two votes in a Bundestag election, to allocate the 598 seats. Half of these seats are individual constituencies , where candidates win in first-past-the-post contests.

The remaining 299 are for party lists, allocated near-proportionately to the party vote share in each of Germany’s 16 federal states. 

To be included in this process, a party must achieve at least five per cent of the national vote. 

There has been some disarray in the AfD, and one of its most prominent figures, Frauke Petry, has left the caucus and announced she would sit as an independent.

She championed a course that aimed to make the party more amenable to moderate voters, while more radical party members insist the AfD’s job is to remain an opposition party outside the centrist politics practised by Merkel and Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz.

The AfD’s leading voices now are a study in opposites. Representing the far-right is 76-year-old Alexander Gauland, a critic of Petry’s. He is a lawyer and journalist who was a member of the Angela Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union for 40 years. 

The more moderate faction will now be led by 38-year-old economist Alice Weidel, who lives at least part-time in Switzerland with her female partner and two children.

Weidel said Petry’s walkout was “hard to beat in terms of irresponsibility” and urged her to leave the party altogether “to prevent further harm.”

The AfD has vowed to shake the consensus politics of Germany. Gauland told party supporters after the results, referring to the CDU: “We will go after them. We will claim back our country.”

The AfD got its start in 2013 as a rebellion against European Union plans to bail out debt-stricken Greece. In that year’s German parliamentary vote, the AfD won 4.7 per cent, nearly meeting the five per cent threshold to win seats.

But it was the backlash against Merkel’s response to the 2015 refugee crisis that came to define the AfD’s image, and that pushed its support to 15 per cent or more in polls taken early last year. 

So, while the AfD did well in this election, its support is still slightly down from last year. That’s because Merkel stopped the continuing flow of migrants into the country, making it less of an issue, as things quieted down. 

Sensing that the anti-immigrant right was stealing her thunder, she tightened up asylum rules. The number of refugee arrivals plummeted and the crisis began to fade.

Following her victory, Merkel attacked “illicit migration” and said “internal and domestic security” would be one of the focuses of coming months.

Still, the more than 1.5 million already there won’t be going away. So for the anti-immigrant sector of the population, frustrations will remain.

The Social Democrats have now formally ruled out the possibility of a new “grand coalition” with the Christian Democrats, in order to prevent the AfD from becoming the official opposition.

Indeed, Schulz told Merkel on live television that she was the election’s “biggest loser.” 
He’s right. 

Low unemployment and a strong economy were apparently not enough for voters to forgive Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis.

Should the economy start to lose steam, this might propel the AfD to even better results in 2021.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Yemen's Civil War "Humanitarian Crisis"

By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
 
For two and one half years, Yemen has been torn by a civil war in which its internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by a coalition supported by the United States and Great Britain, is trying to roll back the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels who control most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sana’a.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 and includes Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan.

The Huthis belong to a branch of Shi’a Islam and are allied with supporters of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The anti-Huthi forces in the Saudi Arabian-led coalition are mainly Sunni.

Today the country remains split between Houthi-controlled territory in the west and land controlled by the government and its Arab backers in the south and east. Peace talks brokered by the United Nations have stalled, and none of the warring parties has indicated much willingness to back down. 

As well, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula controls some of southern Yemen, including areas of Shabwa and Hadhramaut provinces. Earlier this summer, a government offensive in Shabwa, with help from United Arab Emirates and American forces, has tried to drive the militants out. 

The war against the Houthis has killed more than 12,000 people, displaced more than three million and ruined much of the impoverished country’s infrastructure. Public and private services have all but disappeared. 

Repeated bombings have crippled bridges, hospitals and factories. The Saudi-led coalition has also kept the international airport in Sana’a closed to civilian air traffic for more than a year. 

The fighting has left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 10.3 million who require immediate help to save or sustain their lives. More than 17 million people in Yemen, 60 per cent of its total population, are currently food-insecure.

On July 2, the World Health Organization reported a cholera outbreak in the country. It has killed more than 2,000 people and infected 540,000, one of the world’s largest outbreaks in the past 50 years.

Shortages in medicines and supplies are persistent and widespread and 30,000 health workers, including doctors, have not been paid salaries in nearly a year. There are no doctors left in 49 out of 276 districts. 

“Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough clean water,” stated WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“With the malnutrition we have among children, if they get diarrhea, they are not going to get better,” remarked Meritxell Relano, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Yemen.

Apart from disease, children are also being killed by the bombing. Human Rights Watch released a study Sept. 12 documenting the deaths of 26 children killed in five airstrikes since June. The group said that despite promises by the coalition to abide by international law, the airstrikes have failed to do that.

“The Saudi-led coalition’s repeated promises to conduct its air strikes lawfully are not sparing Yemeni children from unlawful attacks,” stated Sarah Leah Whitson, its Middle East director. 

“Yemen is a humanitarian disaster of really epic proportions,” added Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth. “What is striking to me is the incongruity between the severity of the disaster and the weakness of the response by the UN Human Rights Council.”

Meanwhile, Canada and the Netherlands are spearheading a bid to push a resolution through the UN Human Rights Council this month on creating an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate abuses in Yemen.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has urged it to order such a probe.

Chinese Agricultural Aid Programs in Africa

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
 
During the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2006, the Chinese government pledged to build 10 agricultural technology demonstration centres, or ATDCs, across Africa. Funded by China’s Ministry of Commerce, the figure has now risen to 25.

The mission of these centres is to modernize African farming while also giving Chinese companies a foothold in new markets. 

Chinese commitments to African agriculture are growing fast; they increased almost five-fold between 2000 and 2013, to more than $300 million, according to estimates by AidData, which tracks development funds around the world. 

Each year around 10,000 African officials are trained in China, and agriculture and development policy are prominent.

The ATDCs “highlight the Chinese approach to development cooperation that does not separate aid, diplomacy, and commerce,” according to Ian Scoones, who researches agriculture and development at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in England.

They provide alternative development pathways for agricultural technology cooperation in Africa, and a very different vision to established western bilateral aid programs.

Why are African countries interested in partnering with China in agricultural development? 

Isaac Lawther, who teaches in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo, maintains that they seek to partner with China because Beijing can offer intermediary agricultural technologies that enable them to implement aspects of their own domestic agricultural development plans. 

At the ATDC in Huye, Rwanda, Chinese agronomists teach local farmers the benefits of mushrooms. They grow quickly, even in bad soil, and don’t take a lot of room. They are rich in protein and other nutrients. 

At the end of five days of training, the students take a cooking class where they learn how to make things with mushrooms, which have not been part of the traditional diet of most Rwandans.

“Western countries donate money; this is what we do,” Hu Yingping, director of the centre, told Lily Kuo, a reporter for the digital global business news publication Quartz, last year. Hu and his team have already trained more than 1,000 Rwandans.

Eventually these mushrooms will be sold to surrounding African countries as well as Europe and China. And the companies selling them will be Chinese, or Rwandese companies working with Chinese partners.

The ATDC in Ethiopia is located at Ginchi. Chinese staff workers sent by the Guangxi Bagui Agricultural Technology Co. work together with Ambo University, the Ambo Agricultural Science and Technology Institution and other organizations.

The Ethiopian centre is teaching agricultural mechanization, soil improvement, water conservancy irrigation, seedling cultivation, and fish farming.

In 2016 Debont Co. Ltd., the Chinese agricultural company running the five year old Gwebi ATDC, signed an agreement with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Agriculture in Harare to set up eight satellite agricultural demonstration centres and experimental farms across the country for the sharing of farming expertise and providing training to locals.

An estimated 3,000 hectares of land would be cultivated by local farmers trained by Chinese and equipped with farming facilities including the irrigation system and made-in-China tractors. Some 10,000 local farmers wil be trained to use the farming facilities.

“We will promote the use of solar-powered irrigation facilities as a way to help local farmers cushion the impact of abnormal weather patterns, so they can make the migration to modern farming which relies less heavily on weather,” Debont’s project manager Yu Xianzeng explained.

In Tanzania, Chinese experts from the ATDC centre located in Dakawa, have been carrying out collaboration trials in the field of rice and maize, in partnership with scientists from Tanzania's Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives. 

Most of its agricultural experts come from China’s Chongqing Academy of Agricultural Science.

Dakawa is one of Tanzania’s major areas of rice production. The Chinese farming techniques have resulted in a 20 to 30 per cent improvement in productivity for the local rice varieties, compared to traditional methods. 

The ATDC’s manager, Professor Chen Hualin, added that the Chinese rice varieties not only have high yields, but also have good tastes.

These agricultural centres, then, serve a dual purpose, observed Kuo: they promote China’s image in Africa as a partner that encourages self-reliance, while also providing a training ground for Chinese companies looking to expand.

While the overall direct impact on agricultural development in Africa still appears limited, the training programs build relationships with African officials, and so project “soft power” in Chinese foreign policy.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The NDP is a Fading Force in Quebec

By Henry Srebrnik, [Saint John, NB] Telegraph-Journal
 
The New Democrats are in the final stretch of electing a new leader, following the resignation of Tom Mulcair after their disastrous showing in the 2015 federal election.
Under his leadership, the party dropped from its 2011 total of 103 seats, 59 of them from Quebec, to 44 seats, just 16 from that province.

What caused such a stunning rise, and precipitous decline – one that seems likely to continue? 

In 2011, when Jack Layton, originally a Quebecer, was leader of the New Democratic Party, Quebec nationalists in effect took over the NDP. 

It became a vehicle for them to support Layton’s Sherbrooke Declaration, the NDP document that stated that the party would recognize a “majority decision (50 per cent plus one) of Quebec people in the event of a referendum on the political status of Quebec.”

For that reason, and to help defeat the detested Stephen Harper, they were willing to desert their long-time home, the Bloc Québécois.

But they have no real allegiance to the NDP. Neither under Layton nor another Québécois, Mulcair, did they “convert” to federalism. Their first loyalty is to the Quebec nation, and certainly not to Canadian “multiculturalism.”

Three of the contenders, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Jagmeet Singh, are all, from the vantage point of Quebec nationalists, “anglophones” or “English Canadians,” regardless of their ethnic background, and they all hold views antithetical to Quebecois nationalists, particularly when it comes to immigration and the politics surrounding Muslims.

The three disapprove of a bill currently under debate in Quebec’s National Assembly that would prevent individuals wearing face coverings from dispensing or receiving public services –which would, especially, impact Muslim women who wear niqabs or burkas.

For “Charter” Canadians elsewhere in the country, it is a question of fundamental religious accommodation and minority rights.

But in Quebec, it’s a different matter. Caught in the middle, the Quebec wing of the party is rapidly disintegrating. 

MP Pierre Nantel told the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir recently that he, as well as others in the caucus, might prefer to sit as independents rather than to serve in the House of Commons under any of these three.

He also remarked at the final NDP debate that he didn't think Singh, a Sikh who represents one of southern Ontario’s most diverse ridings in the provincial assembly, could connect effectively with Quebec voters because he wears a turban.

The only Quebec politician running for the federal leadership, MP Guy Caron, has said that he would respect the will of the National Assembly on the matter, adding that there is a political consensus among leading right- and left-wing parties in the province when it comes to the open display of religion.

He insists that the party must recognize the province’s distinct history and its “authority” to legislate on issues of secularism, or risk becoming irrelevant in francophone ridings outside greater Montreal.

Quebec and Canada remain very far apart when it comes to identity politics. The Québécois as has been the case throughout their history, worry that in an increasingly diverse Canada, they stand to lose their language and culture.

But this is something that other Canadians have been told by their political elites, in no uncertain terms, not to fear, lest they be called out as “racists” and shunned in polite society.

The NDP, stuck in the middle, will probably revert to being what it always was – a left-of-centre party of “progressive” Canadians, of some consequence in the rest of the country but virtually none in Quebec. And the Bloc will welcome many prodigal Québécois back to their political home.

Will Increase in Religious Observance Lead to More Violence?

By Henry Srebrnik, Canadian Jewish News
If people become less religious, does it follow that crime will skyrocket, violence will rise, and life will degenerate into immorality and depravity? Many people think so, but is it true?
While most American politicians maintain that robust civil societies can only exist on a strong bedrock of religious values, statistics don’t confirm this. In actual fact, those societies today that are the most religious – in places like Nigeria, Uganda, the Philippines, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt -- tend to have the highest violent crime rates. 
Meanwhile those societies in which faith and church attendance are the weakest (the most secular societies today include Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Japan, Britain and France) tend to have the lowest crime rates. Generally speaking, religion is more important to people in poorer countries than in richer ones, though the United States bucks the trend with the highest percentage of people who are religious out of all economically advanced nations.
The Global Peace Index, an annual report that provides a comprehensive analysis on the state of peace in the world and is issued by the Institute of Economics and Peace based in Sydney, Australia, lists the degree of peace in the world’s nations, based on the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarisation.
According to the 2017 Index, the 10 most peaceful nations are Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Canada, Switzerland, and (tied for tenth) Ireland and Japan. All are largely secular societies, with virtually no religious conflict.
By contrast, Syria is the least peaceful country in the world for the fifth year running, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. They all have very severe ethno-religious divisions.
True, there are multiple and complex factors, including economics, geography, politics, and history, that are involved in determining levels of violence in states. But it is clear that a strong or increased presence of secularism isn’t as damaging a threat as many claim it to be. And as political theorist Michael Walzer notes in his 2015 book The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions, many noble, secular, and even socialist projects of national emancipation have foundered on the rocky shores of religious extremism.
“Why,” he asks, “have the leaders and militants of secular liberation not been able to consolidate their achievement and reproduce themselves in successive generations?” Indeed, why were they replaced by those who look backward rather than forward? One reason: they did not understand religious passion. This perhaps explains why countries like Bangladesh, India, Israel and Myanmar have been reverting to religiously based national narratives.
The Changing Global Religious Landscape, a study released by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, projects that, with the notable exception of Buddhism, all of the world’s major religious groups are poised for at least some growth in absolute numbers in the coming decades. By 2050, Christians and Muslims will make up, between them, more than 60 per cent of the world’s population, with Islam as the fastest growing faith.
So the study appears to indicate that sectarianism, confessional identities, and loyalties have not been superseded by globalization. 

And it may follow that if religion does correlate positively with violence, we can expect a more volatile world in the coming decades, because the world is becoming more religious. In this brave new world, highly secularized countries may tend to fare the best, while those nations with the highest rates of religiosity will be the most problem-ridden when it comes to violent crime and corruption.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Attacks on Myanmar's Rohingya May Lead to Wider Conflict

By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
 
In Myanmar (Burma), Buddhist animosity towards an ethno-religious Bengali Muslim minority, the Rohingya, has led to massive violence.

The Rohingya, who number some 1.3 million people, less than five per cent of the country’s population, live mainly in Myanmar’s far western Rakhine State, adjacent to neighbouring Muslim Bangladesh. 

Most were stripped of their citizenship under a 1982 law enacted by the military junta that used to rule Myanmar, and they have suffered decades of repression under the country’s Buddhist majority.

Indeed, the term “Rohingya” is itself highly contested, because it is perceived as a claim of indigenous ethnic status by a community most Buddhists regard as immigrants from Bangladesh, and who link their arrival to the first British incursion into Burma in 1824. They therefore prefer to refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali.”

“Location and lack of integration have helped to fuel views of Rohingya as illegal immigrants and made them more susceptible to false portrayals as a rapidly growing existential threat to Buddhist Burmese culture,” stated Dan Sullivan, a senior advocate at the humanitarian organization Refugees International.

In Southeast Asia, both Western and internal colonialism have been instrumental in the legal and political construction of indigeneity and its application to specific populations, according to Oona Paredes, a cultural anthropoogist at the National University of Singapore. 

Indigenous concepts of indigeneity typically diverge widely from state definitions, especially where territorial sovereignty is at stake, she contends.

The Rohingya population has seen its rights progressively eroded, and its gradual marginalisation from social and political life. This has become particularly acute since 2012 anti-Muslim violence in Rakhine State. 

Disenfranchisement prior to the 2015 elections severed the last link with politics and means of influence, and an increasing sense of despair has driven more people to consider a violent response.

On Aug 25, militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police posts and an army base, killing more than a dozen. 

In response, the Myanmar military began destroying entire villages, aided by Buddhist vigilantes supportive of the extremist 969 Movement. 

The stream of refugees has crossed into Bangladesh, which is itself poor and overcrowded. Around 400,000 Rohingya fleeing violence already lived there before the exodus. This new influx could soon add at least another 400,000 refugees.

The ARSA was formed from remnants of earlier movements, including the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). Arakan is the former name of Rakhine State.

The insurgents are led by a committee of Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia and commanded on the ground by Rohingya with international training and experience in modern guerrilla war tactics. They enjoy considerable sympathy and backing from Muslims in northern Rakhine State.

Muslim states are taking notice. Protesters in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, demanded that their government put pressure on Myanmar.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsud visited Myanmar and urged Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of the country, to end the ongoing violence. 

But, though the country’s nominal leader, she has little control over the military. The armed forces are run by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

In the Russian republic of Chechnya, tens of thousands protested against what its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, called Myanmar’s “genocide” against the persecuted Rohingya minority.
A senior leader of al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, Khaled Batarfi, called on Muslims to support their Rohingya Muslim brethren against the “enemies of Allah.”

Suu Kyi has come under fire for failing to speak out against the mass killings and displacement of Rohingya, particularly given her previous image as a champion of human rights.

Now she has gone further. In a telephone call with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, she claimed that Myanmar is the victim of “misinformation” that was being distributed to benefit “terrorists.” She added that her government was fighting to ensure “terrorism” didn't spread.

Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her decades-long campaign against Myanmar’s military junta, but now many critics have called for it to be revoked.

But liberal globalists conflate two different things. Perhaps her apparently inconsistent behaviour can better be understood, not through the prism of human rights, but that of ethnic conflict – a very different, and uglier, matter.

In her battle against the military that ruled the country, she was fighting what was in effect an internal struggle within the Buddhist Burman majority, which considers itself the “owners” of the country, their “homeland.” 

But the Rohingya are to her a “foreign” community, especially “dangerous “as their kith and kin live in neighbouring Bangladesh. She probably to some extent agrees with the narrative propounded by the nationalists. Therein lies the problem.