Tuesday, February 27, 2018

One Person’s Terrorist? Reflections on Zohra Drif’s Memoir of the Algerian Revolution

Originally published in The Nation on 2 February 2018. Republished with the author's permission. My reflections follow Bill's article.

One Person’s Terrorist? Reflections on Zohra Drif’s Memoir of the Algerian Revolution

Is the civilian population of a colonial-settler regime ever a legitimate military target?
By Bill Fletcher Jr.

I have seldom felt compelled to write a review or an essay after reading a book. I am often inspired, saddened, or reflective after finishing a book, but normally I don’t feel compelled to publicly think through issues that emerged for me in the course of reading someone’s work.

Zohra Drif’s Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter left me in a very different place. I grew up inspired by the Algerian national liberation war against France and had, along with thousands of other activists of my political generation, seen the famous Gillo Pontecorvo film The Battle of Algiers—and Drif played a key role in some wrenching scenes depicted in it. What I failed to grasp was how close the film had actually been to the facts, at least as described by Drif.

Yet Drif’s book is striking less because of its connection with the Pontecorvo film than because it is the story of a woman who, in the very conservative climate of colonial Algeria, became a revolutionary in the cause of Algeria’s freedom. Drif had to overcome the reluctance that existed within her own family, in addition to the repression carried out by the French authorities.

These issues, in and of themselves, would be enough to lead one to appreciate Drif’s story. But it is her discussion of the armed activities in which she was involved, including the bombing of civilian targets, that sent chills up my spine and caused me to stop and reflect.

Anyone who has seen The Battle of Algiers will remember that the urban guerrillas of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) carried out bombings of civilian targets in retaliation for the torturing and killing of Algerians by French troops and terror attacks against Algerian civilians by French colonists. Every time I have watched those scenes—and I have seen the film multiple times—I have been deeply unsettled at the sight of settler civilians killed and wounded. I wondered how Drif would handle this question in her book. To some extent I was surprised by her direct and unapologetic approach.

Drif’s description of the Algerian Revolution can be more fully appreciated when one looks at the entirety of the situation and, especially, the treatment to which the Algerian people were subjected. Algeria was among those colonies of Europe that could be defined as “settler states” or “settler colonies.” These were colonies where the Europeans not only controlled the territory and seized its resources but where there had been a conscious decision to settle Europeans. Other such settler states included Ireland, Kenya, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, South Africa, Palestine/Israel, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

There are many noteworthy things about settler states. One is how often God is referenced, as having allegedly given those territories to the European settler population. That was particularly true in Ireland, South Africa, Israel, and the United States.

A second is the manner in which the settlers psychologically and physically displace the native population and redefine themselves as the legitimate population of that territory. In the United States we are familiar with this, and the ramifications for the American Indians. In Algeria the French encouraged poor southern Europeans to migrate to Algeria and settle. As far as the settlers were concerned, they were now the Algerians, or, more specifically, the French Algerians. The indigenous Algerians were the equivalent of chopped liver.

The poor southern Europeans who settled came to be known as the pieds-noirs (black feet). They arrived after the French military had defeated the indigenous forces and seized the best land—a conquest that began in 1830. The settlers proliferated, and the indigenous Algerians became their servants. Whenever the Algerians rose in revolt, they were brutally suppressed.

The French government felt a special bond with the territory of Algeria, ultimately declaring it to be a part of France. This distinguished Algeria from many other territories occupied by France, as well as territories colonized by other European powers. It was along the lines of the way the United States claims Puerto Rico, after having seized it from the Spanish in 1898.

The indigenous Algerians—a population made up of a broad mixture of African peoples including Arabs and Berbers—had a different point of view, of course. They engaged in various forms of both violent and nonviolent resistance to colonial oppression over the many decades of French colonization. The forms of resistance mattered little to the French government and the pied-noir administrations. Resistance was forbidden.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, a war during which France was occupied by Nazi Germany, the Algerian people rose in protest. On May 8, 1945, French authorities carried out massacres in the Algerian cities of Sétif, Guelma, and Kherrata, targeting thousands of unarmed Algerians. By 1954, a wing of the Algerian independence movement—the FLN—chose to move toward armed struggle as the only means of achieving total liberation from France and the elimination of the settler-colonial regime.

When the oppressed are jailed, tortured, and murdered in settler-colonial systems, the oppressor force treats this in one of several ways. There may be outright denial, e.g., “No, we would never have….” The incidents may be explained away, e.g., “We had to take these steps because the natives were out of control.” The actions of the oppressor state may be treated as an accident or as collateral damage, e.g., “We didn’t mean to shoot those children on the beach; we thought they were terrorists.” The incidents may also be ignored, with no explanation ever given.

There is an additional response from the oppressor group that overlaps each, which can be summed up as, “So what? Things happen.” In other words, the lives of the so-called natives, be they racially, nationally, or colonially oppressed, are in no way comparable to the lives and experiences of the oppressor population. The suffering that befalls the oppressor is always treated as of qualitatively greater significance than anything that happens to the oppressed, at least according to the settler/colonial framework.

That settler/colonial framework was of course at stake in the Algerian Revolution, as it is in every national liberation movement. In the debased morality of such a framework, to what extent can the oppressed be understood as human beings, as opposed to an unidentifiable black, brown, or yellow mass? To what extent should their pleas for freedom be understood as eloquent demands for emancipation rather than the inarticulate moans of suffering?

The Algerian Revolution encountered this challenge on multiple levels. After numerous acts of brutality on the part of the pieds-noirs and/or the French authorities, including but not limited to a particularly ignominious terrorist attack against Algerian civilians by a pied-noir group known as the Ultras, the FLN decided to retaliate. Their view was that such attacks on Algerians would continue and the world would hear nothing and do nothing until and unless the settlers suffered in like manner. As a result, Drif and others made the fateful decision to place bombs where pied-noir civilians congregated.

It was at that moment in the book that I paused. I had to think about the implications. I have always been someone who has felt very strongly that civilians should never be the target of military operations. Yet, here was one of the greatest national liberation movements of the 20th century, and they made a very different decision.

I found myself reflecting upon Native Americans/American Indians who, in their battles with the expanding white settler populations of North America, engaged in warfare that sometimes included kidnapping and/or killing white settlers. With their backs to the wall, was there another option? When white settlers, either formal military or militia, carried out massacres against the Native population, which they would later claim as military victories—massacres that were commonly celebrated by the white civilians—did the indigenous have any options?

The FLN bombings shook the settler population of Algeria in ways that they had never expected to be shaken. The national liberation war was now a reality that hit very close to home. The settlers were no longer safe. And they certainly no longer had the luxury—if they ever did—of remaining neutral, since, by their very presence, they were asserting their right to the land, and control over the people, of Algeria.

Military actions by the FLN throughout Algeria contributed to the ultimate victory but, as the film The Battle of Algiers illustrated at the end, it was mass actions by native Algerians throughout the country that made colonial Algeria ungovernable. Finally, in 1962, to the pleasure of most of the world, Algeria achieved independence.

Yet the moral/political conflict inherent in the decision to hit civilian targets was not resolved, though the FLN members seemed comfortable that they had made the correct decision. Drif certainly believes that the decision was correct and not to be confused with jihadist violence that we have seen in the more recent past around the world.

How does an emancipatory struggle gain world attention? How does it point out to the oppressor group, whether settlers or simply occupiers, that there can be no normality? And, most controversial, when does a so-called civilian population become not merely an instrument of an oppressive regime but an intrinsic and crucial weapon of control?

The FLN saw their actions as retaliatory violence, and the settler population as part of the enemy. This conclusion seems neither illogical nor irrational.

The FLN saw their actions as retaliatory violence. But they also saw the settler population as part of the enemy. This conclusion seems neither illogical nor irrational. The overwhelming majority of the pieds-noirs believed in what they called “Algérie Française.” On more than one occasion the settlers came close to creating a civil war within France, including through the establishment of a notorious crypto-fascist organization, the OAS (in English, the Secret Army Organization), in order to permanently secure Algeria to France.

Yet in striking at civilians, the challenges for the FLN included not only the intrinsic ethical dilemmas posed by such attacks but also the response of world opinion and the legacy they would have for future generations. Though the mass base of the FLN may have supported hitting civilian targets as a form of retaliation for state torture and pied-noir terrorism, the reality is that much of the rest of the world either did not agree or did not understand. As far as much of the rest of the world was concerned, these were civilian establishments that were not engaged in the war and, therefore, should have been considered off limits.

The battle against settler regimes is a unique fight because the settlers are, in most cases, an unofficial component of the army of occupation. In this sense, the pieds-noirs were never a neutral civilian population that had to make a choice between two sides (as every population ultimately does during war). Certainly individual settlers made choices, including the minority of settlers who chose to enlist with the FLN. (Frantz Fanon, originally from Martinique but a hero of the Algerian Revolution, devoted a chapter in his book A Dying Colonialism to the European minority and made the point that they were not a monolithic bloc.) That said, the mass of settlers’ presence in a colonized land represents an act of aggression, an invasion.

Settlers actually know this, if only subconsciously, which is why they try so hard to claim or mythologize that there was allegedly no one on the land before they arrived, as in the settler’s tales in South Africa, Israel (“a land without a people for a people without a land”), and the United States. The admission that there was a population in existence, even if the justification is that the population was “primitive,” raises myriad questions about how and why the land was expropriated. The fact that settler-colonial states generally go further and ensure that the settlers are armed, have military training, and can frequently be enlisted in military operations by the settler-colonial state is only the icing on an already toxic cake.

In settler states the settlers have access to weapons, while for the natives it is generally prohibited. Settlers have a racial or national privilege that separates their existence from that of the natives, whether in the form of housing, access to water, utilities, freedom of movement, or education. The settler is living a completely different life from that of the native, and attempts by natives to assert their humanity and demand even a modicum of equality are perceived as threats to settler privilege. The settlers, as a group, never see themselves as aligned with the interests of the natives but rather fight to assert their settler privilege, even going so far as to proclaim themselves “nationalists,” insofar as they want the settler state to remain a settler-dominated formation, no matter how that state might change in formal terms.

To those not directly involved in a conflict with a settler regime, the civilian settler is perceived not as an extension of the repressive apparatus of the occupying regime but as a simple civilian and, as such, a non-combatant. The conflict is perceived as being a formal one between the apparatus of the occupier, on the one hand, and the organization(s) of the native, on the other. In such a scenario, the civilian settler is frequently perceived as being a neutral party who only wishes to live well and be left alone.

While such a scenario is false on its face, it is what is often believed and, in the Western media, what is frequently portrayed. The oppressed are not given any “permission” to retaliate against atrocities—often not even against the occupier’s military forces—while any attack by the armed forces of the oppressor are viewed as legitimate acts of self-defense.

The acts on the part of the FLN were historically understandable but politically problematic, a point that must be reflected upon in similar such struggles and which goes toward the legacy of the Algerian Revolution. Liberation struggles never take place in isolation, and they never involve only two sides. Surrounding any conflict are “invisible” forces that interact with and influence the parties directly engaged in the struggle. In some cases, such forces are very active, for example US establishment support for the ongoing Israeli colonization of Palestine. In other cases, they may initially be neutral but then come to be engaged, for example, the USSR in the Algerian Revolution (initially neutral but later supportive of the national liberation struggle). The activities of the other parties can be influenced by various factors, including but not limited to the nature of the actual fight itself.

Though an anti-settler movement can legitimately argue that the settlers are complicit in oppression, in each case the movement must determine the consequences of identifying targets. What, for instance, will be the impact on potential allies—including not only other governments but solidarity movements abroad—if civilians are targeted? Will potential allies recognize a legitimate right of retaliation, or will they look at such acts as terrorism?

During the so-called Troubles in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s through the mid-1990s, the Irish Republican Army generally took great pains to distinguish hard targets (military or government targets) from soft targets (civilians). This did not mean that civilians were not killed—there were some horrendous exceptions to this policy—but rather that they were generally not the targets of military activity. This, in fact, distinguished the IRA from the loyalist paramilitary organizations, which disregarded the soft target/hard target distinction and were quite comfortable attacking nationalist/Catholic civilians. Such an approach made it difficult for the British to successfully portray the IRA as terrorists, though the British media worked overtime in support of the London government on this issue.

The example of Ireland also illustrates an additional complication. During the Troubles, the British would establish military installations in or near civilian establishments, which I witnessed first-hand in 1988, during a visit to Northern Ireland. This meant that if the IRA were to carry out a military attack on a British installation, there was a good chance that civilians would be killed or injured, and the British could describe the attack as an act of “terrorism.” The fact that the British created this situation was generally missed by the media.

During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the African National Congress took a similar approach toward military actions. The basic policy was that civilians were not to be targeted, though there was always a recognition that civilians might be killed or injured as a result of an attack on a military or government target.

The fundamental challenge in decolonization struggles and national liberation movements against settler-colonial regimes is that the dilemmas of the oppressed are almost never given contemporary equality with those of the oppressor. On the other hand, when viewed retrospectively, actions by an oppressed or “righteous” group, including against civilians, often receive some degree of legitimation.

Thus, the question of the FLN’s campaign in Algiers must be viewed in the context of the 1950s. What were the ethical considerations, and to what extent would targeting settler civilians hurt the cause of Algerian liberation? To what extent would it stop the French and/or pieds-noirs from further atrocities against the Algerians? And, what would be the lingering impact on the Algerian Revolution itself of authorizing attacks on civilian targets?

At the same historical moment, the Vietnamese left made a very different decision. In both the war against the French and, later, the war against the US puppet regimes, the Vietminh, and later the National Liberation Front and the Vietnamese People’s Army—in comparison with the apparatus of the respective regimes they fought—worked to distinguish between hard targets and soft targets, not always successfully. Their behavior had a major impact on the manner in which the Vietnamese national liberation struggle was perceived internationally.

The Algerian FLN won and Algeria became free. An outstanding question, besides one of morality, is again, one of legacy and, specifically, the conclusions arrived at by other movements for national freedom. Were there specific challenges in the Algerian Revolution—in comparison with other anti-colonial and anti-settler movements—that necessitated a turn toward the killing of settler civilians?

Other movements in similar circumstances made very different choices. This is not a matter of passing judgement, but an assessment. Did the killing of civilians in Algeria’s anti-colonial war legitimize, in the minds of those who became jihadists years later, the blurring of the lines between hard targets and soft targets? Did it lead some to conclude that through terror against a population one could force that population to make certain choices?

These are the issues that Zohra Drif opens for consideration in her critically important memoir. In her actions as a militant, Drif casts aside the romanization of revolution. One need not agree with her conclusions in order to appreciate her courage and that of her other comrades in the FLN, who fought what many people assumed at the beginning of the struggle to be an unwinnable war of national liberation.

Bill Fletcher Jr. is a former president of TransAfrica Forum, writer, and trade unionist. He can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

I have always thought that one of the great Catch-22 in the modern world is that while almost everyone recognizes civilians' right to self-defense, the minute they pick up weapons, they are no longer considered civilians. This was the predicament that those that rose up against tyranny in Libya and Syria found themselves faced with. While the whole world was appalled when Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, ordered the army to open fire on unarmed protesters, as soon as they armed themselves to take on the fascist regimes on their own terms, many where quick to brand them as the terrorists.

For the revolutionaries, the decision to take up armed struggle comes with its own set of compromises and contradictions. I am presenting this essay by Bill Fletcher Jr. as an important contribution to that discussion. I have much more to say on this question but I have already held up this republish long enough trying to put the words together.

Friday, February 2, 2018

After a week of Hype the Trump-Nunes Memo turns out to be a Nothing Burger

Finally, The MEMO that the White House, Fox News, and Russian bots have been shouting about for a week, has been released and it turns out to be a big Nothing Burger. 
Although the long hyped and just released Trump-Nunes Memo is only 4 pages long, they make it very easy to focus in on its most important point because it is the only phrase rendered in bold type. It reads:
For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he "was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president."
Steele was hired by Fusion GPS in investigate Trump's Russian connections in June 2016. September 2016 was after Christopher Steele had conducted his investigation. That in no way shows that Steele entered his investigation of Donald Trump with a bias, although he might well have in as much as he didn't need to be a seasoned British spy to be aware of Trump's long history of racism and misogyny. It only shows that he "was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president," after he had spent months investigating Trump, his sexual perversions, and his ties to the Putin gang in Russia. What would you expect? BREAKING NEWS would have been if Steele still thought Donald Trump would make a suitable president while knowing even just the parts of his dossier that have been verified.

I'll bet Elliot Ness was passionate about sending Al Capone to prison after learning of his many, then unproven, crimes, but you didn't hear any Republicans screaming that he should be denied warrants and pulled off the case.

Another item:
The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNS... 
As if the Judge couldn't have asked for more details on the "named U.S. person" if he thought it relevant to the warrant application. Maybe he considered Steele a trusted source. Judges regularly hear from private investigators who are paid by someone with a vested interest in the case, that isn't exactly breaking news either. What is important are the facts presented, and nothing in this Trump-Nunes Memo impeaches those facts, the backlash may be that this Memo does help to impeach the president.

More updates to come as this news develops.....

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Trump's gift to MS-13 the day after bashing them in #SOTU

The development of Artificial Intelligence Technology under capitalism means that competition among workers worldwide for a dwindling supply of jobs will be fierce. Self driving cars are expected to replace 7 million professional driving jobs in the next decade in the United States alone. Uber knows what's up. They are building an infrastructure and market position on the backs of its current drivers. Within the decade, they will be handing them pink slips and sending self-driving cars to take you to the airport. And this is but one example. We can already see the jobs lost to automation at the checkout lines of our local stores. What is harder to see is the automation taking place in the huge Amazonian warehouses that are replacing the local stores and their entire workforce, and while they now employ a host of delivery people, they, quite rightly, envision a future of delivery drones and bots.

All this would be fine and good under socialism, where the work reduction would be shared among all workers. Under socialism, it could mean the standard work week could be reduced from 40 to 20 and eventually even 10 hours a week, with wages raised such that those hours support a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. But we are still under capitalism where every technological advance is twisted to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.

Trump's tax plan already lays much of the economic groundwork for this AI transition. In the past, the capitalist tended to put their plants where the cheap labor was, and they industrialized the world in the process. In the coming era, that is less of a consideration. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes Benz, is spending over a billion dollars to build a new car factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and it will only create 600 new jobs.  Whenever did an auto plant employ less than a thousand workers? Ford's great River Rouge plant employed a hundred thousand workers at its peak. Today, its Kansas City plant employs 7,320, and its Louisville plant employs 4,610. Plants like this Daimler one are extremely capital intensive, the owners want to place these new ones where they will be safe. Trump's tax plan is designed to give them the capital to do that. His military expansion and increased police powers are designed to protect their investment.

The capitalists and their politician are no dummies. They know workers are not likely to take this lying down. They can expect much civil unrest, even revolution. The lessons of the Arab Spring and Occupy are not lost on them. What to do? One answer: Boil them like frogs. Bring on the changes slowly. Another: Bring back racism, big time.

White supremacy, even the very concept of a "white race" or "white people" was an invention of emerging American capitalism in the 17th century. Unwilling or unable to attract enough European workers to the new world, they took to kidnapping laborers from Africa. When the African and European bonded laborers made common cause and revolted together, as they did in Jamestown in 1676, the bourgeoise decided on a strategy of "white privilege," the "privilege" of not being reduced to lifetime bondage, as the Africans were. [They did try that first. Read the history.] Since then, it has always been one of the main tools they have used to divide and conquer the working class.

In the post-World War II civil rights era, the US bourgeoisie, or atleast the leading portion of it, saw that the domestic struggle against racism could jeopardize their power, so they allowed, even led, certain changes in the direction of social justice [while they externalized racial aggression to Korea, Vietnam and Central America.] They even forced these changes on the most backwards of white workers, and so they remained in the driver's seat of these changes. To a certain extent, they retained the ability to roll them back. If the term "neoliberalism" has any meaning, it is this. So in the face of this coming conflict with labor, it should surprise no one that they are bringing back white supremacy bigtime, and the Trump cabal is their instrument for doing this. This is what the white Left refused to see, and even aided, with its infamous "don't vote for the lesser of two evils" campaign.

While these neo-racists are initially focussing on illegal immigrants because they can call them criminals by definition, and then legal immigrants or would be immigrants, because they aren't Americans, it is easy to see that sooner or later they will be targeting all people of color, especially the 39 million African-Americans, for expulsion or extermination. To prepare the way, they are getting the public use to a government that routinely, and by its own laws, treats people of color with heartless cruelty.

On Tuesday President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address, and while it contained a number of racist slights against African Americans and other people of color, a real focus was to brand all illegal immigrants from Central and South America as criminals by retelling vivid tales of MS-13, the El Salvadorian criminal gang that first developed in Los  Angeles, and then was spread to El Salvador and from there to the rest of the world, because the US chose to deal with what was essentially a domestic problem, home grown criminals, by making use of a legal technicality to send those criminals to El Salvador. [Remember when they accused Fidel Castro of "dumping" Cuba's criminals on the US after they invited any Cuban that could catch a boat to come here legally? Immigration policy can change fast if it's thought a socialist economy can be hurt in the bargain. Remember the outrage that Castro would send his criminals here when they should have been locked up in Cuban jails! Remember the uncontrolled violence that brought even to an advanced country like the US? Remember Scarface?] Nevertheless, with no sense of history, and in a speech that was suppose to set the agenda for the whole country for the next year, Trump found a way to call out "the savage gang MS-13" by name no less than four times. He did this to stoke racism as a capitalist buffer in the coming crisis.

One of the things that makes racism work so well is that the racist power structure always works overtime to create in the oppressed population precisely those characteristics it claims most strongly to object to. Joel Kovel wrote about how this dynamic played out in the oppression of African Americans, which in turn became the prototype for all racial oppression, in White Racism: A Psychohistory:
Just as the dominative Southerner needed to keep "his" black body powerless, so does the aversive Northerner need a powerless object with which to play out the symbolic game. And not only must this object be powerless; it must be suitable to represent what has to be projected upon it. Thus for the black to fit into the aversive equations, he must be made into the affirmation of the excremental body. He must become the double negative of anality. the fantasy of a fantasy — not cold, pure, clean, efficient, industrious, frugal, rational (that is, not the pantheon of anal- negative ego traits which are the summum bonum of the bourgeois order) but rather warm, dirty, sloppy, feckless, lazy, improvident and irrational, all those traits that are associated with blackness, odor, and sensuality to make their bearer worthy of aversion. And so, throughout our history, whites have created the institutions by which black people are forced to live, and which force them to live in a certain way, almost invariably so as to foster just that constellation of unworthy traits. From slavery itself to modem welfare systems, this has been the enduring pattern, reinforced in popular culture and education by a panoply of stereotypes along the same lines. p. 195
Anal-negative is exactly right. Remember El Salvador is the one less than black country that Trump considers a "shithole," and here again he gives us an almost classic example of how the white supremist sets things up in the oppression community in such a way as to create the very problem he is complaining about. In this case, after tarring the whole immigrant community, as criminal, he has orders issued to strengthen the hand of criminals among the overwhelming law bidding illegal immigrant population. So it should surprise no one that the day after bashing MS-13 in his SOTU address, he had his immigration department give them this gift. From Newsweek:

by Graham Lanktree
1 February 2018
Immigration agents are being told it is official U.S. government policy to capture and detain undocumented immigrants in federal, state, and local courthouses.

The new guidelines were reportedly formalized Wednesday. The policy, however, runs counter to concerns raised by civil rights groups, California’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and so-called sanctuary cities where local authorities do not, as a rule, turn over illegal immigrants to federal officials. More...
This is a real boon to gangs like MS-13 that operate largely among the undocumented in immigrant communities. In the past, if a witness needed intimidating, they had to do it themselves. With this change in policy, they are being helped bigtime by ICE. It assures there will be fewer witnesses willing to come forward from among that immigrate community to testify against the gang members, and fewer criminal complaints as well, knowing that a, now dangerous, visit to the courthouse will be necessary for their prosecution. So this measure can be expect to strengthen the influence of criminals in the immigrant communities, the very thing Trump was complaining about. And while it is possible that more MS-13 gang members will be deported as a result of this policy, through their networks, they are likely to find their way back much quicker than the illegal immigrants that were deported for coming to court to oppose them. [Imagine that: an American justice system in which the criminal and the witness/victim receive the same punishment - deportation!] Besides, history has already shown that deporting gang members, rather than imprisoning them, and rehabilitating them where they are, only leads to the further expansion of gang activity. For the racists, that is the desired effect. For Trump the enemy is not MS-13, the enemy is all people of color, and MS-13 is his ally.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Linux Beach releases new film on false Hawaii ballistic missile alert

38 Minutes for the 38th Parallel 
What was behind the Hawaii Ballistic Missile Alert Terror?

Introducing an important new documentary from Linux Beach on the ballistic missile alert that led over a million people in Hawaii to believe that had only minutes to live for 38 minutes on the morning of Saturday, January 13, 2018. That was the time between when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent this warning to a million cell phones in Hawaii and the time they retracted it over the same emergency messaging system.

This documentary takes an in depth look at the false ballistic missile alert that terrorize Hawaii on the morning of Saturday, January 13, 2018. It combines real time news network footage from the day of the event, together with documentary footage from the Korean War, and archival footage from many other source to question the official explanation(s) of this terror event and the 38 minute delay in sending out the retraction. Evidence presented indicates that this was a planned exercise, a provocation for thermonuclear war, and a provocative case of a government terrorizing its own people.

How it came to be made

A number of luck coincidences came together to make the production of this very important film possible. Because I am protected by CA labor laws while my mostly TX coworkers aren't, my vacation hours roll-over from year to year whereas their's don't. So, as usual, I didn't join the scramble to burn vacation hours in December. Instead, I scheduled the third week off week in January for a bit of time off to read and relax. I didn't know that I was going to be hit with a bad case of timeline fever at the time.

The Friday evening before my vacation, I was browsing YouTube, and I noticed a channel streaming CNN in real time, Saturday morning, I woke up with a question: Could the software I use to download videos from YouTube also be used to capture this livestream? It took updating to the latest version and learning some new options, but by about 9AM PST I had CNN streaming live to my hard disk. I also found similar realtime streams for Fox News and Al Jazeera and got them going as well. This is how I came to be recording these channels as the false ballistic missile alert scare hit Hawaii.

Some of the most informative news about an event like this comes from the first reports from people in the area and the early explanations, for example, initially the Governor's office and the Trump White House gave very different explanations, caught on tape! Once I saw what I had captured, I knew what I had to do. I spent my vacation week huddled over my computers. I combined this event news footage with other found footage, including of American war crimes footage from Korea, to product a film that shows that the false Hawaii ballistic alert was a preplanned exercise designed to drive a war fever against North Korea. It was also designed to test local government and media compliance with federal policy, and raise the profile of the military in American life. It was designed to move us closer to thermonuclear war and was a flagrate example of a government terrorizing its own people.

Although I shot this out of the cannon in a week, I think it is my most important film ever, even compared to Vietnam: American Holocaust, because while that documentary was about remembering a holocaust, this is an urgent call to prevent one, a thermonuclear holocaust.

Please watch, download, and share widely.

In June of 2013 I wrote a guide to downloading YouTube videos with a program that is available for both Windows, Mac and Linux OS, Trust but Verify: How to Download YouTube Videos. The newest version even allows you to download livestreams, which is how I was able to capture much of the footage for this film.

In this era were freedom of information is being threatened as never before and important political and historical documentation is being removed daily from YouTube for a multitude of reasons, and especially because I have every reason to fear this film will be so threatened, I thought it would be a good time to dust off that blog, update it and make note of it again. The future existence of this and so many other important videos should not depend of the priorities of corporations, even Google. Please use youtube-dl to download this film and also to make a personal record of other YouTube videos that are important to you. Important records of people's struggles and suffering in Syria and Libya are possibly in the greatest danger. You might notice that many of the YouTube videos from those countries that have been featured in Linux Beach are no longer available, so get them while you can.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for our posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of our other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of our other blogs on Libya

Friday, January 12, 2018

Excusing Trump's racism: Tucker Carlson is not as stupid as he looks

A most hypocritical complaint:
"We've gotten to a place where nobody can be honest about anything."
                                                             -Tucker Carlson @ 03:19
Tucker Carlson began his Thursday evening Fox News show with a full-throated defense of President Donald Trump and his labeling of Haiti, El Salvador and unspecified African countries "shitholes."

He had Jose Parra, the "Latino communications director for Barack Obama's 2012 campaign," on as a guest. Carlson couldn't understand why anybody thought Trump's comment was racist. As usual, he acted as if it was just beyond the understanding of an intelligent white guy like himself and he called upon Parra to explain. He also called upon Parra to defend Haiti.

Carlson: President Trump said something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with. An awful lot of immigrants come to this country from other places that aren't very nice. Those places are dangerous. They're dirty. They're corrupt. They're poor, and that's the main reason those immigrants are trying to come here, and you would too if you lived there. President Trump asked why America doesn't receive more immigrants from places you might want to visit on vacation. Why aren't we getting more people from Norway, he said, which by almost any measure including the UN's measures is the most developed and richest country in the world. While saying this Trump used an expletive, and that's not surprising either since he uses them all the time and was speaking privately and yet for some reason virtually everyone in Washington, New York, and LA considered this a major major event. @00:11
Carlson's generalizations of various third world countries as dangerous, dirty, and corrupt is, of course, a racist stereotype that tells us more about the workings of his own mind than it does about Haiti, El Salvador or Africa. All around the world, you will find big cities that are "dirty" or have "dirty" parts depending on how you define "dirt" [see yesterday's blog], and dangerous and corrupt, make me think of Putin's Russia first, although there are a host of contenders. And while Norway may be a great place to vacation, it might not be for everyone. Business Insider ranked it the third most expensive place in Europe to vacation, at $183.76 per night, more expensive than Rome ($153.84), London ($151.40), or Paris ($145.89). Carlson probably also isn't a fan of Norway's 27% corporate income tax rate.

Carlson is sidetracking the discussion to avoid the main issue, which is that Trump didn't just swear, he used a word that raises very potent primeval images because it speaks darkly to the unconscious mind of the racist. The main tactic he uses to sidetrack the discussion is to set up a straw comparison so he can complain about "dishonesty," as through he honestly can't see why people say Donald Trump is a racist:
Carlson: I think we're kind of having that debate but what bothers me about the explosion this afternoon is the dishonesty in it, and I'll just give you one example: Joan Walsh over at MSNBC, an analyst over there, was asked just a minute ago would you rather live in Haiti or Norway, and she said with a straight face "I can't say." Now that's lying! If we've gotten to a point where we all have to pretend that every country is exactly as nice as every other country then we're being dishonest.
Even a billionaire like Haiti's Gregory Brandt above can't do this on most days in Norway.
While Carlson is clearly striving to equate Norway with "good" and Haiti with "bad," the question of which place an individual might prefer to live in is not as clear cut as Tucker would like us to believe. It really is a question of personal preference, and Carlson is forgetting at least two important facts: 1) The rich live well everywhere, and 2) Norway is cold no matter how rich you are. Also 8 hours of sunlight is the longest day, 18°C (64°F) is about the hottest, and cold is a whole nother story, so it certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea.
Carlson: We know he said these countries are crummy places, okay? They're holes or whatever profanity, but the people who left those countries, some of them rode trains all way through Mexico or hid in a wheel well of a plane to leave, they would agree with that. So why the outrage? Is it you have to lie, and pretend as Joan Walsh does "I don't know if I'd live in Norway or Haiti." Like we've gotten to a place where nobody can be honest about anything.
Carlson most conveniently forgets that Haiti was wrecked by an earthquake exactly eight years ago today,  3 million people were affected and as many as 316,000 lost their lives, and El Salvador was been ravished by civil war that led to 40,000 political murders and other manmade problems, and with regards to those, the United States has a lot to answer for:
Carlson: I mean one is the richest country in the world [ed note: Qatar ($124,930) > Norway ($70,590) per capita] , the other is one of the poorest countries in the world. You think it's immoral to point that out? It's a statement of values? I'm asking you a very simple question: If Haiti isn't such a bad place why don't we say to the people who are here temporarily in refuge from Haiti go back? It's great! We don't say that because it's not great actually. It's everything the president said. It was not an attack on Haitians. It's an acknowledgement that their country is not as nice as other countries, and if you can't even say that out loud without being called a racist by people like you, and the morons over on MSNBC...I'm saying anybody who says that's a racist statement should explain how it is.
The whole point of the segment was to defend Trump's "shithole countries" statement by claiming that it wasn't a racist slur. The denigration of Haiti and Joan Walsh was just fill, and Tucker Carlson managed to talk his way through the segment without mentioning "shit" by that or one of its many other names. He acted as though he was ignorant of what it was about Trump's comment that made it so incendiary, and thoroughly racist to the core. I would point him to yesterday's blog, How Trump's "shithole" comment reveals the psychology of his racism for an education, but he has already made it clear in at least one past show that he clearly understands even his own infantile obsession with feces and how it is intertwined with the mythology of racism.

Tucker Carlson used the feces fantasy to condemn Roma people, which he called "gypsies" moving to Pennsylvania. Anna Merlan wrote about it in Jezebel, 18 July 2017:
[O]n Monday, he invited a Roma filmmaker named George Eli on his program and demanded to know why his people can’t use toilets:

Eli gently suggested that both the townspeople and the new arrivals “are suffering from a little bit of culture shock.” But Carlson had poop on his mind, and could not be swayed.

“I have heard a lot of people mention, I hate to say it, public defecation,” Carlson told Eli. “There are a lot of news stories about this going back a long time in the UK and here.” He mentioned pooping on “playgrounds and sidewalks and front steps... That seems to me to be a hostile act.”

Eli chuckled but kept it together, telling Tucker that while he didn’t know exactly what was going on in Pennsylvania, “I’ve been Roma all my life and my family’s been Roma all my life and we use bathrooms... I can’t respond to something I’ve never seen as a Roma person.”

Tucker could not be swayed. He wanted to talk about the poop. “What’s that about?” he inquired. “It’s not something you need to do. So you have to assume it’s a statement.”

Eli did his best here, pointing out that some Roma people are from rural areas without great sanitation, while also clearly thinking to himself, “Why does this guy want to talk about poop so bad?”
Tucker Carlson wanted to associate the Roma people with poop for the same reason Donald Trump has taken to calling poor countries populated by people of color "shithole countries."  This infantile association is one of the strongest fortifications white supremacy has built into western culture and in times when white hegemony is being threatened, they feel the need to rev it up.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for our posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of our other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of our other blogs on Libya