Right Wing Militia Prepares to Overthrow US Government – and Turkey to quit NATO

Armed and ready for the revolution

Armed and ready for the revolution

A journalist for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper recently interviewed members of an armed civilian militia based in West Texas. A spokesman for the group, Johnny Cochrane, was quoted as saying, ‘the greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government’. Fireteam Diamondback is one of many such groups spread throughout mainland USA. ‘Our job as militia,’ said Cochrane ‘is to re-establish the government in a way George [Washington] and the boys intended. And to do that we can’t go and hide in the bushes; we have to take active participation in the overthrow that Thomas Jefferson point-blank told us was our duty as Americans.’ Ready for active participation at a moment`s notice, his personal Hummer is stocked for the coming conflict with ‘an AR15 assault rifle, a minimum 300 rounds of ammunition, a Cold Steel curved knife (“I can remove a human limb with that and the head of a white tail buck with one swat”), a Kimber .45 pistol and six spare magazines, a shotgun, first aid kit, combat boots and military-issue MREs (meals ready to eat) for three days.’

Polish school kids gearing up for battle

Polish school kids gearing up for battle

As far as I know, that article was not published in the New York Times, and probably most of our friends in the USA will reassure us that those guys are just fringe lunatics who don’t really pose a serious threat to the Obama regime or the security of the homeland. On the other hand, just last weekend the NY Times did publish an article headlined: Poles Steel for Battle Fearing Russia Will March on Them Next. The Times correspondent in Kalisz, Poland, interviewed 16 year-old Bartosz Walesiak, who said he had been interested in the military since playing with toy soldiers as a little boy, but had been motivated to join a paramilitary group, the Shooters Association, after Russia moved into Crimea. Young Bartosz was ‘one of thirty students who took an oath to defend Poland at all costs, joining nearly 200 other regional members of the association — young men and women, boys and girls — marching in formation around the perimeter of the dusty high school courtyard here. They crossed Polish Army Boulevard and marched into the center of town, sprawling in four long lines along the edge of St. Joseph’s Square.’

We sure are fortunate to have reputable newspapers like the Times keeping us up-to-date with these threats to world peace. How long before the US government is canvassing support for a coalition of sycophants and the jingoistic gullible to provide on-the-ground military support for the Polish Shooters Association and their high school student troops holding out against the evil Russian bear?

Maybe you think I’m being excessively cynical here. But I’d be prepared to bet that those Polish kids don’t have access to the kind of personal firepower available to Johnny Cochrane and his Texas militiamen. You might think those people at the New York Times would be better advised to keep an eye on problems in their own backyard. But that’s not what they do. Their expertise is far more attuned to identifying conflicts in other countries thousands of kilometres from their safe haven on 8th Avenue, Manhattan.

Take as another example, the editorial they published last Friday: Turkey’s Drift from NATO. The writer claims that the Turkish government is ‘not cooperating fully or . . . acting in outright defiance of NATO’s priorities and interests’. Their evidence for this is:

  • They are allowing thousands of ‘Jihadists’ to cross their border into Syria to fight with ISIS/ISIL.
  • They are not making military bases and troops available to the American-led coalition against ISIS.
  • They are considering the purchase of a $3.4 billion air defence system from China.
  • They are working on an agreement with Russia to build a natural gas pipeline through Turkey, bypassing Ukraine in defiance of ‘Western’ sanctions.
  • They are working with a Russian company to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station.

Now in my humble opinion the credibility of a newspaper that relies on the word of a 16 year-old high school kid as the basis for an article about a foreign country would have to be seriously suspect. But this is the New York Times; and that’s an editorial, not just some correspondent/blogger venting his spleen. So let’s see if the piece stands up to closer scrutiny.

First of all, whose ‘priorities and interests’ are we talking about here? The citizens of NATO member countries who voted to send troops back to Iraq and Syria (maybe I missed that)? Or the US industrial/military/finance nexus, for reasons of their own, looking for someone to bomb? And if it’s the latter, why is Turkey obliged to cooperate?

US military base at Incirlik, SE Turkey

US military base at Incirlik, SE Turkey

Turkey has in fact been a member of NATO since 1952, before Germany joined, and 30 years before Spain. Probably against their better judgment, but out of a sense of solidarity, they sent troops to America’s Korean War. According to a recently published book[1] the United States had ten military bases in Turkey during the Cold War. In addition they had five radar stations, six naval facilities and storage centres, ten ‘communication nodes’ and seven other ‘facilities’. The US had strike aircraft armed with tactical nuclear weapons based there, and almost 30,000 military personnel. Another writer on the subject, Robert E Harkavy[2], says ‘In the late 1950s, in response to the “missile scare,” . . . the U.S. based medium range ballistic missiles, Thor and Jupiter, in the U.K., Italy and Turkey.’ Making Turkey, I guess, a prime target for the USSR in the event of war with the West.

Read it for yourself - and be very frightened

Read it for yourself – and be very frightened

Furthermore, Holmes says, ‘Some of the more secretive aspects of the US presence included CIA operations and the establishment of a special warfare department.’ She quotes from a book by Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, which you can download here. It’s a scary read, and obligatory for anyone really wanting to understand the workings of NATO.

In recent years, the Turkish government has three times invoked Article 4 of the NATO charter, requesting discussion on: the Iraq War in 2003 and twice in 2012 over acts of aggression against Turkey by Syrian forces. As far as I am aware, NATO took no action to support one of its most loyal members.

On the subject of Turkey’s ‘porous’ border with Syria, more than a million refugees have crossed over, desperately seeking sanctuary from the four-year civil war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly called on richer countries to help out with this humanitarian disaster. According to the European University Institute the most porous border is actually the Mediterranean Sea. Refugees are constantly attempting to cross to European countries in unseaworthy boats. Some do succeed, and I have it from a reliable source that they are contributing to EU economies by supplying cheap labour in dodgy industries not much favoured by local citizens. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, however, are having to absorb the bulk of the displaced Syrians – and short of ordering them back at gun-point, what would you have Turkey do? Incidentally, the border between Turkey and Syria is 822 km long, and far from Turkey’s main centres of population, industry and civilisation.

Refugees from Syria queuing at Turkey's 'porous' border

Refugees from Syria queuing at Turkey’s ‘porous’ border

The Turkish government has not, in fact, refused to assist the US coalition (let’s call it what it is). They have, however, insisted that their participation is conditional on the coalition’s having a plan for dealing with the chaos in the region, especially the civil war in Syria – and so far no such plan has been spelled out.

What about that missile deal with China? Surely that’s a bad thing? Depends on your point-of-view. US free-marketeers are quick to assert their right to purchase from the lowest bidder. Is that right exclusive to US business interests, or does it extend to others? The Chinese have apparently included in their deal provision of technical expertise that will allow the Turks to begin manufacturing components on their own soil. American and European arms manufacturers are understandably miffed at the idea of missing out on a lucrative contract, and have announced their refusal to integrate the Chinese weapons into their system should Turkey go ahead with the purchase.

Ralph Lauren uniforms - proudly manufactured in China

Ralph Lauren uniforms – proudly manufactured in China

Incidentally the US ran a $342 billion trade deficit with China in 2014. Trade with that country had more than doubled in ten years since 2004. A Huffington Post article listed iconic American products currently manufactured in China, including: Barbie dolls, Converse All Star sports shoes, Levi jeans, US Olympic uniforms, television sets, iPads, bicycles and, in 2010, $3.2 million worth of American flags. Among the US’s loyal allies, China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, and Australia’s Number One! It’s ok for them but not for Turkey?

Then there’s that gas pipeline from Russia. In defiance of Western sanctions. In fact most of the gas flowing through that pipe will go to EU countries that import more than 30% of their gas and oil requirements from Russia. In the days before Muammar Gaddafi was violently removed from office, France and Italy were his biggest customers for oil. It does seem that the United States and its European allies are trying to hold Turkey to standards they don’t expect of themselves. So Turkey is working with a Russian company to build their first nuclear power station. Well, I have to tell you I’m not a big fan of using nuclear energy to generate electricity, especially in a country criss-crossed by several seismic fault lines. But that’s not what the NY Times editor is complaining about. Energy-poor countries in the developed world generate electricity using nuclear power (eg France, Germany, Japan) – and Russia is Turkey’s nearest neighbour with the technological know-how. Who else is offering to help? The European Union has been holding Turkey at arms-length for more than 50 years. A little goodwill flowing in an easterly direction might strengthen the bonds of friendship.

And by the way, look at a map and ask yourself why Russia might be uncomfortable about the European Union’s efforts to add Ukraine to its membership. The United States have been punishing Cuba for 50 years for getting too cosy with Soviet Russia. Incidentally, the USSR actually did offer to join the NATO alliance in the 1950s, but was rejected.

Our American friends may be right in playing down the threat of Johnny Cochrane and his Texas militiamen. At the same time, they might be wise to weigh up the degree of trust they can put in their own news media, starting with the New York Times.


[1] Social Unrest and American Military bases in Turkey and Germany Since 1945, Amy Austin Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

[2] Strategic Basing and the Great Powers, 1200-2000 (Routledge, 2007)


Who is Supporting the Terrorists?

I’m passing on this article by Ralph Lopez
 from Global Research that was published on February 24, 2015

Bush Family Ties to Terror Suspects Re-opened by the 9/11 Classified “28 Pages”

As pressure builds to make public 28 pages of a joint congressional inquiry on 9/11 which was classified by President George W. Bush, the Bush family’s well-documented relationships to Saudi and other foreign terror suspects are again coming to the fore.

bush_war_criminalNorth Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones told the New Yorker last September, of what is now commonly known as the “28 Pages”:

““There’s nothing in it about national security…It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.””

Prominent in the rise of the political fortunes of both the 41st and 43rd presidents is the support of figures listed by the US government as terrorist financiers, as well as some connected to the now closed, Saudi-controlled criminal enterprise known as BCCI.

Two major investors in the 43rd president’s early business ventures, Arbusto Energy and Harken Energy, were Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother, and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a 20% stakeholder in BCCI, who was himself accused and investigated for financing terrorism. Mahfouz, who died in 2009, was known as the personal banker of the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi-controlled BCCI played a central role in acting as a conduit for renegade CIA operations run by Lt. Col. Oliver North and General Richard Secord, with the elder Bush overseeing the operations from his position as vice president to Ronald Reagan and as a former director of the CIA. Known as the Iran-Contra Scandal in the Eighties, the renegade operation illegally sold thousands of Stinger missiles to the new Revolutionary Government of Iran, in exchange for Iran hurting President Jimmy Carter’s prospects for re-election by holding onto American hostages in the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. (Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report)

pc_8488f8a3328d56b827a6b4eff8b1718aThe Kerry-Brown Committee also reported on international groups, in particular Israeli, assisting in gunrunning and other illegal operations in league with BCCI. The report stated:

““In April 1989, a network of Israeli arms traffickers, operating out of Miami, made a shipment of 500 Israeli manufactured machine guns through the Caribbean island of Antigua for the use of members of the Medellin cartel. Later, one of these weapons was used in the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, and several other of the weapons were found in the possession of cartel kingpin Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha after his death in a gunfight with Colombian drug agents.””

At the center of the Israeli gun-running operation which provided weapons to the Medellin cartel was Israeli national and BCCI banker Bruce Rappaport.

Read the whole article

Some Thoughts on Football – and links to chariot-racing in Constantinople

Football is a game that comes in many guises – and a word that arouses strong emotions. In much of the world it is played with a round ball, propelled, as the name suggests, with the foot; and rules that seek (at least) to prevent players engaging in bodily contact and injuring each other. In American football by contrast, the primary aim seems to be exactly that – launching yourself deliberately and with maximum force at an opponent so that players only survive by suiting themselves in helmets and body armour – and activity involving the egg-shaped ball seems largely incidental. In between these extremes are varieties of rugby football, union and league, preferred in outposts of the British Empire such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, former industrial regions of Wales and Northern England, and the playing fields of public school purveyors of education to English aristocracy and sons of Arabian sheikhs. Here pretty much any part of the body can be employed for pretty much any purpose, but rules of fair play demand that you don’t deliberately set out to maim someone who doesn’t actually have the ball in hand. Then there is Gaelic Football; and that peculiar mix of basketball, football and pro wrestling played almost exclusively in the Australian State of Victoria.

Was he fouled or did he dive?

Was he fouled or did he dive?

In my school days in New Zealand, ‘footie’ was very definitely rugby, and the round ball game was for ‘girls’ – by which was meant, not the female of the species, but males whose actual manhood was open to question. A common feature of the ‘girls’ game seemed to be players throwing themselves to the ground for no apparent reason and carrying on as though some medieval Spanish inquisitor was applying hot coals to the soles of their feet. In rugby, on the other hand, it is considered bad form to show any emotion whatsoever even when suffering the effects of the most heinous foul by an opponent. Correct protocol requires that you store the memory and exact on-field vengeance when opportunity arises – thereafter repairing to the nearest pub and forging lifetime bonds of brotherhood over oceanic quantities of ale.

Well, boys will be boys, and violence in one form or another seems to be an integral part of our biological makeup. Perhaps one of the advantages of the semi-licensed in-match carnage of rugby is that it lessens the need for off-field acts of aggression. Soccer football has always seemed more prone to post-match riots, mass tramplings of spectators and street hooliganism – for the very reason, perhaps, that the game itself offers so little opportunity for that kind of masculine self-expression.

I recall being mildly shocked at my first experience of a football match in Istanbul. It was a derby between two of the city’s big three clubs, and squads of police were ensuring that supporters of the two sides were ushered to viewing areas separated by high walls and razor wire. When all were seated and the match began, police in riot gear armed with automatic rifles ringed the pitch with eyes focused on the crowd. I was impressed, truth to tell, by the fact that, far as I could see, not one turned at any stage to see what was happening on-field. After the final whistle, joyous fans of the victorious local lads were obliged to remain in their area while visitors were escorted safely off the premises and sent mourning and rampaging on their way.

 Just a few football fans meeting in the marketplace

Just a few football fans meeting in the marketplace?

More recently, in the street demonstrations that continued for a month or two after the Gezi Park incident of May/June 2013, many of the participants identified themselves as followers of one or other of the Big Three Istanbul football clubs, perhaps the most prominent being the Beşiktaş group calling themselves Çarşı. It’s an innocuous enough name, meaning ‘market’ in Turkish, referring, I guess to the retail shopping precinct near the Bosporus waterfront where supporters congregate en masse on match days in club colours, knocking back cans of Efes Pilsen and psyching themselves up for the big event. The apparent innocuousness of the name Çarşı belies the intent of its members: the stylised version seen on banners having the ‘A’ of Anarchy as its second letter, accompanied by the slogan, ‘Çarşı, her şeye karşı’ (‘We’re against everything’). Over the summer holiday period, of course, players get a break from their weekly grind of night clubs, fast cars, beautiful women and football – leaving hordes of loyal supporters at a loose end.

The Gezi Park business, it might be said, erupted at a fortuitous time, providing off-season training opportunities for sports fans who joined forces with battle-hardened left-wingers, middle-class youth and head-scarved aunties, united by a common hatred of Prime Minister (now President) Tayyip Erdoğan. There was much talk in news media, at home and abroad, of peaceful tree-huggers confronted, gassed and beaten by faceless hordes of government enforcers. Undoubtedly there were a few genuine nature-lovers amongst the protesters – but political demonstrations in Turkey are rarely peaceful, and it’s not easy in the heat of the moment to distinguish a peacenik from a Molotov cocktail-hurling anarchist. I have just received another of the regular mailings sent out by my compatriots in the NZ Embassy in Ankara reminding me: New Zealanders in Turkey are advised to avoid all political gatherings, protests and demonstrations as even those intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn violent. Police may use tear gas and/or water cannons to disperse demonstrations.’

And you’d better believe it. I’ve been living in this country for a few years now, and I can tell you, those ‘Gezi Park’ protests were no new phenomenon. I remember George W Bush visiting Istanbul for a NATO summit in 2004. The whole city came to a standstill; public transport including Bosporus ferries was put on hold, and the waterfront at Kadıköy turned into a battlefield. The first ever ‘May Day’ rally held in Taksim Square in 1977 became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ after around 40 demonstrators were killed and up to 200 injured by security forces.

Violent public demonstrations against the government have a long pedigree in Istanbul. In fact, the tradition can be traced back to ancient times when the city then known as Constantinople was capital of the Roman Empire. Interestingly, the connection between sports fans and political protest was a factor in those days too.

Re-creation of Constantinople with its hippodrome

A major feature of ancient Roman cities

Visitors to Istanbul these days inevitably gravitate to the Sultanahmet area within the walls of the ancient city where many of the most famous tourist attractions are to be found: the cathedral/museum of Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, the Basilica Cistern and several of the important museums. Just in front of the main gate of Sultan Ahmet’s mosque can be seen three intriguing columns that once stood in the centre of the hippodrome – an immense stadium where up to 30,000 singing, chanting, screaming supporters urged on their favourite teams in the chariot races that were one of the main forms of entertainment. Where the Blue Mosque now stands was the Great Imperial Palace with a connecting passage to the kathisma or viewing box where the emperor and his retinue sat to observe proceedings.

Emperor Theodosius watching the sports from his royal box

Emperor Theodosius watching the sports from his royal box

In Rome itself there had been four teams competing in the races, identified by their colours, the Blues, Greens, Reds and Whites – but when Constantinople became the centre of empire, just two remained. The Blue and Green charioteers divided the city into two mutually antagonistic bands of fanatical supporters drawn from all walks of life, extending their influence far beyond the confines of the hippodrome into activities normally associated with street gangs and political parties. Betting was, of course, an important feature of the competitions. Drivers, though their lives might be short, could also make good money, and the most successful were enviably wealthy.

Members of the aristocracy generally took an interest in one or other of the teams, and were not above manipulating supporters to exert pressure on an unpopular emperor by street demonstrations and riots. Such activities seem to have been fairly common, but by far the most famous is the event known as the Nika Riots of January 532 CE.

Chariot racing in the hippodrome

Chariot racing in the hippodrome

Emperor at the time (from 527 to 565 CE) was Justinian I, who seems to have been a somewhat controversial figure. Most of our knowledge of this period comes from the writings of a scholar known as Procopius of Caesarea. His official works on the wars and the buildings of Justinian depict an emperor deserving the epithet ‘Great’, despite his humble peasant origins. Justinian, with his general Belisarius, recovered some of the western territories lost to ‘barbarians’ in the previous century. His ambitious building projects included reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia cathedral which still stands today. He is renowned for his complete revision of Roman Law and for being the last Latin-speaking Roman Emperor; is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church; and Procopius was fulsome in praising the beauty of his wife, the Empress Theodora.

In addition to his official histories, however, Procopius also produced a work known as the Secret History, discovered centuries later in the Vatican Library. Here, the historian tells a different story. Justinian and Belisarius were hen-pecked and incompetent, manipulated by ruthless and ambitious wives. The Emperor himself is described as cruel and amoral, fleecing his citizens rich and poor alike, and killing without hesitation any who opposed him. His wife Theodora may have been beautiful, but in her previous life she had been one of the city’s more spectacular harlots, engaging in public displays of obscene exhibitionism, and entertaining a significant sampling of the male population. Which may go some way towards explaining why Justinian missed out on beatification by the Roman Church.

Emperor Justinian I and his wife Theodora

Emperor Justinian I and his wife Theodora

But back to the Nika Riots. In an attempt to curtail the political activities of the Blues and Greens, the Emperor had arrested several of the ringleaders and had them sentenced to death, much to the chagrin of supporters who demanded their release and Justinian’s resignation. Rioting broke out in the hippodrome and spilled out on to the streets, with rioters holding the Imperial Palace in a state of siege for five days. Fires were lit and much of the city was burned to the ground, including the previous church of Hagia Sophia. Members of the Senate joined in the anarchic activities and declared a replacement for Justinian, Hypatius, nephew of a former emperor.

Justinian, apparently, had pretty much given up hope of hanging on to his throne, and was getting ready to abandon ship. His good lady Theodora, however, was not ready to give up the life of power and luxury she had worked so hard to attain, saying she would prefer to die. Shamed into action, her husband, by a cunning mixture of double-dealing and brute force, turned the tables on the would-be usurpers. His generals, Belisarius and Mundus led a company or two of regular soldiers into the hippodrome and the resulting punitive slaughter left some 30,000 rioters dead.

Justinian ruled for a further 33 years, rebuilt the city and secured his reputation – at least in the eyes of the Eastern Church. But as far as we know he never played football.

Freedom of Speech in the United States

Florida Bans Use of ‘Climate Change’ by State Agency: Report

Another article I chanced upon while trawling around some news sites. The source is Reuters, dated March 9, 2015. I’m pasting it here without comment:

Street scene in the Sunshine State

Street scene in the Sunshine State

Climate change activists blasted Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday for leading an “Orwellian” campaign to ban employees of the state’s lead environmental agency from using such terms as “global warming” and “climate change.”

Despite coastal Florida’s vulnerability to storm surges and rising sea levels, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection was directed in 2011 not to use the phrases in official communications, according to a report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

“This is embarrassing, but worse than that, it’s very worrying,” said David Hastings, a marine science professor from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, on Florida’s west coast.

“To have this authoritarian word control is very Orwellian, a page right out of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’” he said, referring to George Orwell’s dystopian novel about widespread government surveillance.

30 years on from 1984 . . .

30 years on from 1984 . . .

The governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection denied there was a policy banning the terms. “There is no policy and it simply is not true,” said Scott’s deputy communications director, John Tupps.

Former employees of the department detailed the unwritten policy in interviews with the non-profit news agency, which reported the ban on Sunday.

Employees were told not to use the phrases ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ ‘sea level rise,’ or ‘sustainability,’ attorney Christopher Byrd, who worked with the department’s Office of General Counsel from 2008 to 2013, confirmed to Reuters.

“Nobody questioned it. There was just a lot of snickers and internal chuckling,” Byrd said.

The euphemism suggested to employees for “sea level rise” was “coastal resiliency,” he said.

The prohibition began after the election of Scott, who had disputed the human impact on climate change during his 2010 campaign, according to the report.

US Government makes premature chicken count

Just a reminder, in case he's forgotten

Just a reminder, in case he’s forgotten

How Opening Cuba Helped Isolate Venezuela

The headline in my online Time newsletter shocked me, I have to tell you. Could it be possible that Cuba had sold out so suddenly after holding out for 54 years against America’s trade embargo? The article penned by Time‘s former Jerusalem Bureau Chief Karl Vick seemed to suggest so.

“President Obama’s decision to reopen relations with Cuba is having an interesting side effect,” he says, “it’s helping isolate Latin America’s other hard-line leftist regime in Venezuela.”

The rest of the piece, however, failed to give anything in the way of tangible support to the eye-catching headline. Maybe just another case of a sub-editor having a rush of blood to the head.

A short five minutes later I was scrolling through the Yahoo news page, and it seemed that the Cuban government had been very quick to refute any suggestion that they were breaking ranks with their South American comrades. On the contrary, the Yahoo headline read:

Cuba throws weight behind Venezuela in row with US

Havana (AFP) – Cuba rallied behind Venezuela on Tuesday, offering its closest ally “unconditional support” after US President Barack Obama authorized new sanctions against officials of the turbulent South American oil producer. The Cuban reaction marked its first public confrontation with the United States since the two countries began discussions in December on fully restoring diplomatic relations.

Cuba joins other leftist regional governments in closing ranks with Caracas in the deepening US-Venezuela row.

An official statement published in the island’s state-run media called Obama’s executive order implementing the sanctions “arbitrary and aggressive.”

Cars in Havana - harking back to happier days in US-Cuba relations

Cars in Havana – harking back to happier days in US-Cuba relations

“Cuba again reiterates its unconditional support and that of our people for the Bolivarian Revolution, the legitimate government of President Nicolas Maduro, and the heroic brotherly people of Venezuela,” the statement said.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister warned Monday that the Southern American bloc UNASUR would not allow foreign intervention or a coup in Venezuela.

The European Union said Tuesday it has no plans to follow the US lead and impose sanctions on Venezuela.

In Caracas, an irate Maduro pushed back against the new sanctions.

“You have no right to attack us and declare that Venezuela is a threat to the people of the United States. The threat to the American people is yourselves,” he said in the speech that lasted over two hours.

In activating the sanctions, Obama called the situation in Venezuela “an extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States.

“No one has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state or to declare, without foundation, someone a threat to national security,” Cuba said. “How is Venezuela a threat to America? A thousand miles away, without strategic weapons or having the means or staff to plot against the American constitutional order, the declaration sounds barely credible,” the Havana statement said.

Read the whole article

Whose Monster? Origins of Islamic Extremism

Do you watch/read the news to keep up with what’s going on in the world? Recently I’ve been scanning the Yahoo homepage, and I’ve been surprised to see how much negative stuff about Turkey they publish. Most of their items are actually gleaned from other sources. One I came across the other day originated from Business Insider, and announced dramatically, Turkey created a monster and doesn’t know how to deal with it.”

Question 2 is easier to answer

Question 2 is probably easier to answer

The gist of the article, insofar as it is possible to follow Michael B Kelley’s tortuous reasoning, seems to be that the Turkish government does not adequately police its border with Syria because it is afraid of retaliation from ISIS. The writer refers to a number of sources, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He enlists the support of an anonymous ‘Western diplomat’, unnamed ‘Western officials’ and a ‘smuggler and former-fighter with the US-backed free Syrian Army’ to give weight to his argument, which, by implication, is that the Turkish government created the current situation with ISIS.

Well, Kelley’s argument is so porous as to be unworthy of serious debate – but let’s address two of his more outrageous points. Contrary to what he would have us believe, Turkey’s main reason for maintaining an open border has been a humanitarian wish to give sanctuary to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war that has been raging in Syria for nearly four years. The international community has shown no willingness to provide any relief for these people despite repeated calls from the United Nations to do so. If there are ‘ISIS supporters’ among those refugees, it can hardly be blamed on the Turkish government. Moreover, Kelley appears to criticize Ankara for attempts to ‘trigger the downfall of the Assad regime’ – but later glibly acknowledges that the United States has been backing the Free Syrian Army.

President Reagan hosts Afghan mujahideen fighters in the White House, 1983

President Reagan hosts Afghan mujahideen fighters in the White House, 1983

So where is Michael B Kelley coming from? I guess those sources of his make it pretty clear. No need to ask where the sympathies of the folks at the Wall St Journal lie. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has been described as “part of the core of the Israel lobby in the United States.” The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a Washington-based neo-conservative think tank whose ‘major donors are active philanthropists to pro-Israel causes both in the U.S. and internationally.’ Ankara’s willingness to criticise the expansionist policies of the Israeli government in recent years has undoubtedly aroused powerful enemies.

Is there another way of viewing these matters? Indeed there is. A rather more cogent case is put forward on the Global Research website in an article entitled America Created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS Terror Group’. The writer, Garikai Chengu, summarises his argument thus: Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in- the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.’ Avoiding mysterious references to anonymous diplomats, officials and smugglers, and sources whose bias is only too evident, Chengu instead quotes people-in-the-loop like General William Odom, Ronald Reagan’s Director of National Security, and former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Among the points he makes:

  • Al Qaeda was originally a data-base of Islamist extremists trained by the CIA and funded by Saudi Arabia to combat the Russians in Afghanistan.
  • The 2003 US invasion of Iraq handed power to a Shi’ite administration and marginalised vast numbers of Sunni Muslims, exacerbating sectarian divisions and creating a climate conducive to an extremist reaction.
  • Washington has been arming rebels in Syria because they perceive Assad’s regime as an ally of Russia. Those weapons have subsequently found their way into the hands of ISIS fighters.
Bringing democracy to the world

Bringing democracy to the world

The only way to understand what is going on in the Middle East is to accept that the United States needs the oil and is determined to support Israel right or wrong. From these premises everything else follows. Palestinians must be seen as terrorists rather than as dispossessed people with a genuine grievance. Iran must be prevented from developing nuclear technology to ensure that Israel remains the only nuclear power in the region. Military dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) with close ties to the United States must be supported at the expense of human rights and democracy, and so on.

For all the talk of ‘press freedom’ in the Western bloc, governments in those countries are clearly using the manufactured threat of ISIS and Islamic extremism in general to justify increased restrictions on freedom of expression and individual liberties of their own citizens. Watch the news by all means, but keep an eye out for the puppeteer pulling the strings.

My Name is Red – or Fifty Shades of Pink

Our local newspaper informs me that novelist Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the Aydın Doğan Prize for 2015. The prize has been presented annually since 1996 for high achievement in some aspect of culture or the arts. I’m happy for Mr Pamuk.

Missing the good old days of military coups

Missing the good old days of military coups

When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, however, response in his native land was muted to say the least. Some might assert that was because of the muzzling of free speech in Turkey under the AK Party government, but I wouldn’t be one of them. I have yet to meet a Turk who has actually read one of Pamuk’s pre-Nobel novels through to the end. Aydın Doğan is founder/owner of a commercial empire that includes several of Turkey’s most popular daily newspapers – and I don’t remember any of them celebrating the nation’s first and only Nobel Prize winner with front-page banner headlines. Interestingly, Turkey’s President at the time of the Nobel Award, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, departed from his normal practice of congratulating citizens who won honours on the world stage and actually refrained from publicly acknowledging Pamuk’s achievement.

President Sezer, in fact, was no friend of the AK Party government, having been appointed (not popularly elected) by the previous non-Islamic-rooted DSP government of Bülent Ecevit. His refusal to congratulate Pamuk was based on the novelist’s statements in foreign media that Turkey was responsible for the killing of 30,000 Kurds and more than one million Armenians. Pamuk himself makes much of the fact that a court case was brought against him for these statements – though he tends to play down the result, which was that the charge was dismissed and he was never actually brought to trial. His references to the case also fail to mention that it was not brought by the government but by an ultra-nationalist lawyer, Kemal Kerinçsiz, who was later implicated in the Ergenekon trial of high profile military officers and civilians accused of plotting to overthrow Turkey’s elected government.

History Prof. İlber Ortay says: Pamuk doesn't know English or Turkish!

History Prof. İlber Ortay says: Pamuk doesn’t know English or Turkish!

So we need to be a little careful who we listen to here. I don’t remember President Sezer attracting much criticism at the time for his cold shoulder treatment of Mr Pamuk. What I do remember is that there was pretty widespread feeling in Turkey that it was Pamuk’s expression of political opinions critical of his own country rather than his phenomenal literary talent that had won the hearts and minds of the Nobel committee – and possibly others like the German Book Trade who presented him with their ‘Peace Prize’ in 2005; the 2006 Time issue that listed him among the ‘100 People Who Shape Our World’; and the online poll in 2008 that voted him the 4th topmost intellectual person on the planet.

Critical opinion of Pamuk’s literary achievement prior to 2006 was somewhat mixed. The Nobel committee, of course, made no specific mention of the novelist’s public criticism of his compatriots, preferring to laud him as one “who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”. Professor Horace Engdahl, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Committee, in his presentation speech, commended Pamuk for having ‘made your native city an indispensable literary territory, equal to Dostoyevsky’s St. Petersburg, Joyce’s Dublin or Proust’s Paris – a place where readers from all corners of the world can live another life, just as credible as their own, filled by an alien feeling that they immediately recognise as their own.’

Prof. İlber Ortay says: Pamuk has no understanding of Turkish culture

Prof. İlber Ortay says: Pamuk has no understanding of Turkish culture

Well, I don’t know about that. My advice to dwellers in other corners of the world would be to come to Istanbul and see the city for themselves rather than rely on the rather narrow perspective they will gain from Orhan Pamuk’s books. According to one reviewer, ‘Pamuk does not respect his native land or its people; indeed, a good case can be made that he finds them almost wholly ludicrous, childlike – not as to their innocence – but as to their emotional and intellectual development – and profoundly ill-equipped to handle the exigencies of life and politics on their own ground, let alone on the world stage.’ Rather unkindly, he/she refers to other critics who found Pamuk’s novel ‘Snow’ boring, and says, ‘We need more than another third world whiner who wants to be a first world intellectual.’ Another review of the same book, commenting on its ending, says, ‘It is telling that when the book ends on its last sad note – “As the train pulled out and the people receded from view into the blur of the falling snow, I began to cry” – we are completely at a loss as to what Pamuk is crying about.’

'I don't think I can finish reading this!'

‘I don’t think I can finish reading this!’

As for me, I ploughed through all 688 pages of Mr Pamuk’s turn-of-the-millennium novel ‘My Name is Red’ (‘Benim Adım Kırmızı’), in English translation. It was a feat of endurance made possible only by grim determination and a powerful desire to give the author a fair go. After learning that this was probably the most readable of Pamuk’s works, I confess my enthusiasm was not up to sustaining the effort through another one. Another critic has said, ‘Unfortunately, the word I would have to use in describing Pamuk’s fiction as a whole—excluding most of ‘My Name is Red’ — is “ponderous.” It lacks the comic vitality characterizing the best postmodern fiction, although Pamuk’s intention to inject something of Western postmodernism into Turkish literature still seems a worthy and potentially interesting project. Finally, however, the attempt rarely rises above the lugubrious and heavy-handed. One might hope that Pamuk’s future fiction will show him handling the task of adapting modernist and postmodernist literary strategies to his non-Western subjects with a somewhat lighter touch, but, having been rewarded for his work in its current form with the most prestigious literary prize available, one suspects that Orhan Pamuk will find few reasons to reconsider his approach.’

To be fair, it seems that, since the award of the Nobel Prize, Pamuk has moved into more populist literary territory – to the extent that he has become a favourite with the Istanbul elite who earlier shunned him, some even accusing him of plagiarism. Witness the Aydın Doğan Prize mentioned above. Perhaps coincidentally, he seems to have moderated his former tough stance on the Kurdish and Armenian issues, pleading that he wants to be seen as an artist rather than as a political commentator – while at the same time espousing current politically correct views critical of Turkey’s AK Party government.

In an interview that gained some coverage in media at home and abroad, Pamuk was quoted as saying that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was “destroying the balance of powers, which is in fact the key to any democracy.” ’ Apparently in his little elite corner of Istanbul, he has detected “a climate of fear, people whispering.” ‘Commenting on Turkey’s recent history, from coup-happy generals to [Turkey’s President, Tayyip] Erdoğan, he said: “Authoritarian soldiers were (pushed) out, (an) authoritarian and Islamist government took their place” ‘. This is a theme Pamuk expresses frequently, as though he is the only courageous soul with the cojones to speak the truth – instead of being merely a member of a host of p.c. nay-sayers who have been vociferously criticizing Mr Erdoğan’s government with impunity since the day they were elected.

I hope I am not being unfair to the man, or shattering the illusions of European democrats eager to lionise him, but nothing I have read of his background leads me to believe that Mr Pamuk would raise his voice so loudly if he really believed there might be personal danger in so doing. Drawing on several biographical sources[1] here’s a little of what I have learned about the life and times of Orhan Pamuk.

Nice pun! Wrapped in cotton wool but an 'expert' on criticising Turkey

Nice pun! Wrapped in cotton wool but an ‘expert’ on criticising Turkey

He was born and grew up in the old money Istanbul district of Nişantaşı, roughly comparable to Mayfair in London, or New York’s Upper East Side. ‘Though his family was technically a Muslim one,’ according to one source, ‘it was a thoroughly secular household. “In my childhood, religion was something that belonged to the poor and to servants,” ’ So we can deduce that the Pamuk family had servants who were religious and clearly viewed as an inferior breed. “My grandmother,” he says, “used to mock them.” Orhan and his brother, however, were sent to Robert College, Istanbul’s American-sponsored academy for the elite, where they learnt English. Their first foreign travel was a trip to Geneva in 1959 when little Orhan was 7 years old. Thereafter, he said in an interview, I didn’t leave Istanbul again until 1982.” Apparently Orhan’s father did his best to fritter away the family fortune, but in spite of that he was able to send his son to university to study architecture.

Those were the days, as we know, of protest, hippiedom and alternative lifestyles, so it’s not surprising that Orhan left without completing a degree. His path did not lead to anti-establishment protest, however, but to a withdrawn life of self study. He enrolled in the late 70s, during one of Turkey’s most turbulent periods, in a journalism course which he did complete, admitting that ‘while his friends were risking their lives facing down soldiers, he spent most days reading at home in Nişantasi.’

Of course, all that is perfectly fine. I have nothing against a man whose desire for a life of artistic fulfilment drives him to live outside the mainstream of conformity and ticky-tacky boxes in suburbia. It’s pretty evident, however, that Orhan Pamuk was able to lead a life of privilege by virtue of family wealth. He was able to drop in and out of university, pursue a course of self-study in ‘the works of Western civilisation’s most acclaimed writers’, and groom himself for a career as a writer without the burden of having to support himself financially. In fact, nothing I have read in any of the biographical material on Mr Pamuk suggests that he has ever actually held down a real job.

Again, good luck to him. Many of us would have been only too happy to live such a life. I do question, however, whether someone who has spent most of his 63 years on the planet in the rarefied air of socio-economic privilege; who didn’t travel outside the largest city in Turkey for the first 30 years of his life; and who has never actually had to work for a living, can be considered such an expert on life, the universe and everything. Please correct me if I’m wrong.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/travel/orhan-pamuks-istanbul.html?_r=0