Archive | October 21st, 2016

Hillary’s War Crime: The Murder of Muammar Gaddafi. “We Came, we Saw, he Died.”


Today, October 20, 2016, is the fifth anniversary of the murder of Muammar Gaddafi by forces organized and unleashed by US President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Remember the killer bitch’s performance, with gleeful laughter, on CBS “News”:  “We came, we saw, he died.”  

Muammar Gaddafi was the most progressive political leader in the world.  Gaddafi used Libya’s oil wealth for the benefit of the Libyan people. 

He lived in a tent, a nice tent, but not in a palace, and he did not have collections of European exotic cars or any of the other paraphernalia associated with the ruling families in Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates that are Washington’s Middle Eastern allies.

In Libya, education, medical treatment, and electricity were free. Gasoline was practically free, selling for 14 US cents per litre.  Women who gave birth were supported with cash grants and couples received cash grants upon marriage. Libya’s state bank provided loans without interest and provided free startup capital to farmers.

Gaddafi’s independence from Washington is what brought him down. Earlier in life Gaddafi’s goal was to organize Arabs as a bloc that could withstand Western depredations.  Frustrated, he turned to Pan-Africanism and refused to join the US Africa Command.  He wanted to introduce a gold-based African currency that would free Africans from American financial hegemony.

Gaddafi had Chinese energy companies developing Libya’s energy resources. Washington, already upset with Russian presence in the Mediterranean, was now faced with Chinese presence as well.  Washington concluded that Gaddafi was playing ball with the wrong people and that he had to go.

Washington organized mercenaries, termed them “rebels” as in Syria, and sicced them on Libya.  When it became clear that Gaddafi’s forces would prevail, Washington tricked naive and gullible Russian and Chinese governments and secured a UN no-fly zone over Libya to be enforced by NATO. The express purpose of the no-fly zone was to prevent Gaddafi from attacking civilian targets, which he was not doing.  The real reason was to prevent a sovereign state from using its own air space so that the Libyan Air Force could not support the troops on the ground.  Once the gullible Russians and Chinese failed to veto the Security Council’s action, the US and NATO themselves violated the resolution by using Western air power to attack Gaddafi’s forces, thus throwing the conflict to the CIA-organized mercenaries.  Gaddai was captured and brutally murdered.  Ever since, Libya, formerly a prosperous and successful society, has been in chaos, which is where the Obama regime wanted it.

All sorts of lies were told about Gaddafi and Libya, just as lies were told about Saddam Hussein and are told today about Syria and Russia.  A British Parliamentary Report concluded unambigiously that the Western peoples were fed lies by their governments in order to gain acceptance for the destruction of Libya, and that Libya was destroyed because Gaddafi was regarded as an obstacle to Western hegemony.

Note that none of the presstitutes have asked the killer bitch about her guilt under the Nuremburg laws for this war crime prepared on her watch.  Note that the oligarchs who own the killer bitch and their press prostitutes intend to make this war criminal the next president of the United States.

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Contemporary Political Dynamics Of Japanese Nationalism


This essay examines why nationalism seems to be on the rise in Asia and beyond at a time when globalization is also becoming more salient, by focusing on the political dynamics that propelled both changes in Japan in the post-Cold War era. The more open and liberal type of nationalism that appeared in Japan in the 1980s to the mid-1990s was followed by an abrupt revisionist backlash beginning in the late 1990s. This illiberal, authoritarian turn in contemporary nationalism was confirmed and accelerated during the premiership of Koizumi Jun’ichiro (2001-06), when further neoliberal reforms were simultaneously implemented. I argue that the New Right transformation of Japanese politics –the combined ascendancy of economic liberalism and political illiberalism—is the driving force of contemporary nationalism in Japan.

Jingoism and Revisionism

According to annual surveys conducted by the Cabinet Office, in recent years negative sentiments vis-à-vis China and South Korea have risen sharply in Japan. The 2014 survey revealed that 93% per cent of the Japanese respondents have negative sentiments towards China, as it appears to be a growing threat to Japan. The rise took place in two stages, first in the mid-2000s, during the government of Koizumi, when he made annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni Shrine that derailed bilateral relations, and then further in the early 2010s as tensions rose over the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

Regarding Japanese sentiments vis-à-vis South Korea, there was a sharp drop in positive feelings in 2012 as bilateral relations deteriorated following President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Takeshima/Dokdo islets also subject to competing claims of sovereignty similar to the standoff with China, allegedly out of frustration with the lack of progress in dealing with the “comfort women” (the women who were subjected to sexual slavery in wartime military brothels at the behest of Japanese military authorities) issue. The same 2014 Cabinet Office survey indicates that 66.4 per cent of Japanese harbor negative sentiments towards South Korea.

Considering the fact that negative sentiments against China were consistently around 20 per cent until the June 4th Incident in 1989, while those against South Korea less than 40 per cent until as recently as 2011, these are worrisome developments that raise concerns about the future of Northeast Asia.

Moreover, a study of influential conservative monthly magazines, Shokun! and Seiron, also confirms similar trends of growing antipathy in the media. Articles with titles that include such words as han-nichi (anti-Japan), invariably in relation to China and Korea, dramatically increased in the late 1990s, and continued to rise sharply through the 2000s (Jomaru, 2011, 390-392). The popular Manga Ken Kanryu (Hating the Korean Wave Manga) published in 2005 broke the hate-mongering taboo, and spawned a countless number of similar publications, whose principal message was hatred of Korea and China. Today, sensationalist books and magazines that fan anti-China and/or anti-Korea sentiments have become an alarmingly ubiquitous feature of Japanese bookstores, and indeed, commuter trains, where the adverts of populist weeklies persistently exhibit hate messages targeting these two nations.


Zaitokukai Demonstrations Target ethnic Koreans in Japan

While there has been no violence or riots against the Chinese or the Koreans in Japan in recent years, hate demonstrations against the Zainichi Korean population have become a prominent social issue, particularly since the establishment of Zaitokukai (short hand for Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai, Citizens’ Group Against Special Rights for Koreans in Japan in 2007. “Ordinary” Japanese, who previously were content to consume hate-mongering publications and spread jingoistic messages on the Internet against the Zainichi population subsequently took to the streets and spewed invective while terrorizing ethnic Korean permanent residents of Japan (Noma 2013; Sakamoto 2011). Zainichi are targeted based on groundless beliefs that they are accorded special privileges and because they are the collateral damage of worsening relations with South Korea over unresolved historical grievances and clashing territorial claims, anger over North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals, and anxieties generated by Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons program.

Secondly, there has been a spectacular ascent of historical revisionism in mainstream politics and media. The sharp rise in hate-mongering articles in conservative media mentioned above was directly triggered by reports in 1996 that all Ministry of Education approved history textbooks for use in junior high schools from 1997 included references to “comfort women.” In a virulent reaction to this development, revisionist nationalists in politics and in the media launched an organized revisionist counterattack. Revisionists champion an exculpatory and valorizing narrative of Japan’s wartime actions and seek to revise the prevailing mainstream consensus that they condemn as ‘masochistic’ for being too critical of Japan’s conduct.

Thus, in January 1997, Tsukurukai (short hand name for Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho o Tsukurukai, Japan Society for History Textbook Reform) was launched by rightwing media figures and academics, while in February, the late Nakagawa Shoichi and Abe Shinzo led a group of junior revisionist politicians to launch the Young Parliamentarians Association that Consider Japan’s Future and History Education, and in May, Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi) was established as a powerful lobby group that brought together neonationalist intellectuals and business leaders with the religious right (Shintoist groups as well as new religions). Nippon Kaigi also has a parliamentary arm with members mostly hailing from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party that has dominated Japanese politics since it was established in 1955. This flowering of the revisionist movement on multiple fronts came to a head in 1997. From the very beginning, such rightwing/conservative media conglomerates as Fuji-Sankei group (that publishes Seiron as well as Sankei newspaper) and Bungei Shunju (that used to publish Shokun! among others) provided a media platform for these concerted efforts (Tawara 1997; Sasagase et al 2015; McNeill 2015).

Although serious scholars in the late 1990s dismissed revisionist claims as baseless, and in conflict with available evidence, by the time Abe succeeded Koizumi as Prime Minister in 2006, all reference to the “comfort women” disappeared from the main texts of the government-approved textbooks.

One key point that needs to be made at this juncture is that these two phenomena—jingoism and revisionism—are essentially elite-driven processes rather than reflecting grassroots sentiments or public opinion. Political and media elites took the lead in fanning negative sentiments against Japan’s neighbors, often, of course, in response to what they considered to be provocations by their Chinese and Korean counterparts. However, when we look at the chronology of these developments, it is evident that xenophobia among the Japanese people was instigated by the political and media elites

While it is entirely appropriate to ask in what sense the “top-down” xenophobia (anti-China and anti-Korea sentiments in particular) and historical revisionism discussed here constitute “nationalism,” these are clearly worrisome trends that stoke risings tension between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, where anti-Japanese sentiments are a touchstone of “nationalism.”

Neo/liberal Path to Nationalism

The rise of contemporary nationalism since the late 1990s is all the more curious once we consider how it all came about in the first place. After all, Japan was seemingly set on a steady path to neoliberal internationalism since the 1980s.

Image Revisionists seek to rehabilitate the inglorious wartime past

When the Basic Treaty with South Korea was signed in 1965, the Joint Communiqué noted the “regrets” (ikan) and “deep remorse” (fukaku hansei) expressed by the Japanese side and similarly, when diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and Japan were established in 1972, the Joint Communiqué stated that, “The Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself” (sekinin wo tsukanshi, fukaku hansei suru) (Hattori 2015, 9-10; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 1972).

While leaders of the countries at the time considered these expressions sufficient and appropriate, the issue of war memory gained in salience and became a diplomatic issue in the shape of the history textbook controversy that erupted in 1982 over alleged changes in the wording of Japanese descriptions of its invasion of China (that turned out to be incorrect). In response, Japan issued the 1982 Miyazawa Statement on History Textbooks by Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi noting that the “spirit in the Japan-ROK Joint Communiqué and the Japan-China Joint Communiqué naturally should also be respected in Japan’s school education and government textbook authorization. Recently, however, the Republic of Korea, China, and others have been criticizing some descriptions in Japanese textbooks. From the perspective of building friendship and goodwill with neighboring countries, Japan will pay due attention to these criticisms and make corrections at the Government’s responsibility” (Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan 1982).

This led to the adoption of the so-called “neighboring countries” clause in the Ministry of Education criteria for textbook approval that stipulates that “due consideration should be made from the point of view of international understanding and international cooperation when dealing with modern history issues that involve neighboring Asian countries.” Improvements have since been made in history textbooks, but in contemporary Japan this clause is hotly contested by the revisionist right; by 2015 PM Abe has all but abandoned it.

On August 15, 1985, marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, then Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro paid an official visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The Chinese government protested his visit, noting that the Class-A war criminals that were found guilty of orchestrating Japan’s rampage in Asia are enshrined there. By 1986, Nakasone decided to suspend future visits to the shrine in consideration of the Chinese criticisms and subsequently admonished Prime Minister Koizumi not to visit, arguing that doing so undermines national interests.

What is crucial to understand here is that Northeast Asia, and indeed, the whole world, was going through a period of liberal opening in the 1980s as the Cold War was nearing its end. China embarked on its extensive economic reforms in 1978, and they were further accelerated by the mid-1980s. This led to a somewhat more pluralistic society and political leadership—a country that was now rather different from the time when Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai held power. Similarly, the democratization movement was flaring up in Korea throughout the 1980s, resulting in the June 29 Declaration of democratization in 1987, as the military dictators lost their grip on power. Even in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and began the process of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (opening, transparency) that ushered in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. China, however, crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in 1989 as its leaders resorted to violence in a bid to prevent a Soviet-type scenario, deny popular demands for representative government and preserve the communist party’s monopoly of power. These developments indicate that even in authoritarian regimes, the government was no longer able to fully control popular demands and address public concerns, and that their polities were becoming more pluralistic, and thus, less stable.

It was in this context that Japan under Nakasone was also pushing through neoliberal reforms with the professed ambition to play a stronger leadership role in the liberal economic order. Japan was part of the 1985 Plaza Accord that triggered the rapid appreciation of the yen (which in turn unleashed the bubble economy in Japan), and a key participant in the Uruguay Round of multinational trade negotiations since 1986. Following the June 4th Incident, Japan joined the western sanctions against China, but it also became the first country to lift them, with Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki visiting Beijing in 1991, followed by the Emperor’s visit in 1992.

Beyond the economy, the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Crisis tested Japan’s liberal internationalist orientation as Iraq invaded Kuwait. Japan’s “checkbook diplomacy,” contributing $13 billion towards the coalition campaign but committing no troops, drew U.S. criticism for ducking the risks of combat due to constitutional constraints on its military forces. As the Cold War was coming to an end, there was growing pressure from the U.S. and its European allies for Japan to play a leadership role not merely in the global economy, but also in the security arena. Overcoming strong political opposition, the government succeeded in enacting the Peacekeeping Operation Law in 1992 allowing the dispatch of military forces in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping efforts.

Japanese political leaders at the time, including the nationalist Nakasone, thought that Japan’s prestige would benefit significantly from military normalization. They also understood that reconciliation with the former victims of Japan’s militarist past, most particularly, China and South Korea, was an absolute prerequisite to realize those ambitions. This is why they were prepared to go a long way in trying to come to grips with the past. It is possible to say that even ardent nationalist sentiments during this period displayed distinctly liberal characteristics.

Thus, when the first victim of Japan’s comfort women system appeared in front of the TV cameras in 1991 calling for the Japanese state to assume its responsibility, the government conducted an investigation including interviews with former comfort women that led to the 1993 Kono Statement (Kono Yohei was Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan in 1993) and subsequently established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995 to provide redress to these aging victims. Also in 1993, Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro became the first Japanese prime minister to publicly acknowledge that Japan was engaged in a “war of aggression” in the Second World War (Hosokawa 2010, pp. 30-31). This liberal trends regarding war responsibility culminated in the Murayama Statement of 1995 acknowledging and apologizing for Japanese wartime aggression (Murayama Tomiichi was the socialist Prime Minister in 1995 in a coalition government with the LDP).

Illiberal, Revisionist Turn

The liberal opening up of societies around the world continued in the post-Cold War era, and it seemed as if the vexing history issues that emerged were going to be resolved by the same liberal political elites. Liberalization of political systems, however, also meant that liberal elites were no longer in full control of social demands, or in fact, even of government policies. The quest for international reconciliation over history issues turned into an unpredictable process involving multiple actors that are not neatly divided across national lines. As mentioned in section 1 above, certain political and media elites manipulated anti-China/anti-Korea sentiments and historical revisionism for their own purposes from the late 1990s. Indeed, nationalists’ grandstanding in the late 1990s onward has intensified tensions across borders, reinforcing nationalist discourse in their respective countries at the expense of moderates.

Several different factors coalesced to further the illiberal, revisionist turn. First, after more than fifty years since WWII, the late 1990s saw a rapid generational turnover among political elites, with those with direct personal experience of the war replaced by younger politicians with no such experience who were building political careers in the post-Cold War era in which there was no apparent rival ideology to neoliberalism. In many cases, they were also born and raised in privilege as hereditary scions of political dynasties. These new elites often opposed expressions of war guilt and contrition, and disavowed the reconciliation initiatives of previous generations. They are also prone to exhibit a rather more cynical, neoliberal worldview, according to which self-interested actors vie to get ahead at the expense of each other in domestic politics as well as international relations.

Tellingly, while Miyazawa in 1991 was the first postwar prime minister to hail from a political dynasty (he had also served as an elite bureaucrat like many of his predecessors), since 1996 to date no less than seven of the ten prime ministers came from political dynasties.2 The oligarchic tendency becomes even more striking when one considers the fact that of these hereditary prime ministers, Abe, Fukuda Yasuo, Asō Tarō, and Hatoyama Yukio are, in fact, sons or grandsons of postwar prime ministers. While not all of the hereditary politicians share a revisionist outlook, their predominance, particularly at the very top, does point to the emergence of a privileged ruling class. In fact, it is highly ironic that in Northeast Asia, where “nationalism” has raised regional tensions to unprecedented levels, Japan and its neighbors, China, South Korea, and North Korea, are all currently led by hereditary politicians.

Significantly, the rightward political shift in Japan in the 21st century coincides with economic decline, creating a volatile context for a rising tide of nationalism. Japan faces prolonged economic stagnation, relative decline, and mushrooming public debt, in addition to growing disparities between rich and poor that undermine the norms and values that have been a foundation of postwar national cohesion. In other words, the oligarchic political tendency is also evident in the economic sphere, in a country known for, and proud of, its egalitarian society. Insecurity and precarity hit the lower strata of society and youth especially hard, leading to increased suicide, divorce, non-marriage, deflation and lower productivity because firms no longer invest in training disposable workers. In this acute social crisis, political leaders sought to divert attention to “external enemies.”


poster for the Rally Against Precarity

Again, on this front Japan was not alone or unique, as the predominance of neoliberal economic policies everywhere meant that the social fabric was torn apart as oligarchic governments often lacked the fiscal resources, or indeed political will, to ensure minimum standards of national wellbeing. “Nationalism” or xenophobic campaigns provided a “no-cost” alternative to provision of adequate social security, enabling the ruling elites to dodge their responsibilities and offer a false sense of national unity that elided the marginalization and expansion of the “have-nots.” As Dr. Samuel Johnson famously remarked as early as 1775, patriotism is ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’ while in contemporary Japan it constitutes conservatives’ palliative for what ails the nation.

Last, but not least, these processes were accelerated by neoliberal internationalist policy orientation that we noted earlier. There are four key elements in this process. First, since the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system was introduced in 1994, the LDP became a much more centralized party. Diversity of internal opinions that used to moderate (or dilute, depending on one’s point of view) the overall party stance, and thus, offered a thriving environment for consensus-seeking moderates, was replaced by the predominance of uncompromising conservatives with extreme views. Second, electoral system reform was soon followed by administrative reform that centralized power in the prime minister’s office. This confluence of developments facilitated the emergence of a “top-down” style of governance that was inspired by the neoliberal, corporate model. Third, electoral system reform and the party realignment that ensued brought about the demise of the Left, namely the Japan Socialist Party, that used to provide effective opposition and served as a check on the reactionary inclinations of LDP governments. When Murayama, the Socialist prime minister, stepped down in 1996, moderates in the LDP also lost their pivotal position in the evolving coalition politics. Fourth, by 1998, it became evident that the new main rival for the LDP-led government was the neoliberal Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ); overall, these rivals for power occupy the same ideological niche. After Prime Minister Obuchi Keizō failed to spend his way out of economic stagnation, a new neoliberal consensus emerged between the DPJ and Koizumi’s LDP that signaled the beginning of an era of ideational politics. This marked the end of the era of interest politics in Japan, when the government had ample resources to satisfy its supporters and silence opponents. The ideas, ideologies, and identities that the LDP would effectively mobilize in the new era were nationalistic, revisionist, and even xenophobic to a degree.

The late 1990s thus served as a transition period when these changes in the illiberal, revisionist direction were emerging, but it was not until the 2000s under Koizumi that these changes accelerated.

Xenophobia, Revisionism, and Authoritarianism under Koizumi and Abe

While there is no denying Koizumi’s strong charisma and mastery of political theatrics, it would be a mistake to overlook the institutional underpinning that was put into place by his predecessors in analyzing the sources of his effectiveness as a political leader. Koizumi was fortunate in being able to make use of the newly concentrated power afforded him as the leader of the LDP and as prime minister to marginalize critics, promote loyal followers, and propel his agenda. His neoliberal agenda of “structural reform with no sacred cows” was not always popular within the party, but he shrewdly made up for it by fanning and exploiting “nationalistic” sentiments. His annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were a case in point. There is no record of interest on his part in Yasukuni before or after he served as prime minister (unlike Abe, who deeply cares about it). Koizumi nevertheless claimed that the visits were a matter of his “heart” and dismissed Chinese and Korean criticisms as domestic interference. He thus shrewdly invoked nationalist symbols to appear as a resolute leader and advance his economic program, a marked contrast to PM Abe who invokes economic reform to divert criticism from his revisionist agenda targeting wartime history and the constitution along with ramping up Japan’s security profile.

Koizumi’s “Children”-1st time elected politicians-obediently follow him to Yasukuni Shrine

The hardcore nationalists, who disliked Koizumi’s privatization and deregulation reforms that they viewed as a sellout to U.S. corporate interests, nevertheless cheered him as he stubbornly refused to cave in to Chinese and Korean criticisms and continued to visit Yasukuni (Nakano 2006, 403). The New Right technique Koizumi employed replicates Margaret Thatcher’s mobilization of nationalist support for the Falklands War when her monetarist economic policies were proving deeply unpopular in the early 1980s. Ultimately, as Koizumi’s signature reform project of postal privatization encountered stiff opposition from within the LDP, he took the unusually authoritarian route of firing uncooperative ministers from the cabinet, expelling from the party Diet members opposed to his scheme, and called a snap election for the lower house to counter the upper house’s rejection of his bill. Such a move on his part would not have been possible without the centralized power conferred on him by the political and administrative reforms of the 1990s.

One should note here also that under Koizumi there was a decisive shift away from the internationalist foreign policy orientation that Japan adopted since the 1980s. The Koizumi premiership in Japan overlapped with the presidency of George W. Bush in the U.S. In a striking departure from prevailing assumptions that Japan needs to reconcile with China and Korea as a pre-condition for military normalization, Koizumi even went so far as to claim that “There is no such thing as U.S.-Japan relationship that is too close. Some people maintain that maybe we should pay more attention to other issues and that it would probably be better to strengthen relations with other countries. I do not share such views. The U.S.-Japan relationship, the closer, more intimate it is, the easier it is for us to establish better relations with China, with South Korea, and other nations in Asia” (Prime Minister of Japan 2005). The Bush Administration perceived Koizumi’s instrumental use of revisionism as “healthy nationalism” allowing Japan to assume a greater, if subordinate, military role in the alliance framework, damaging the prospects for reconciliation with its former victims.

Given the loss of economic opportunities, however, the Japanese business community ensured that when Koizumi finally stepped down, his successor, Abe, would work to rebuild Japan’s ties with China by refraining from visiting Yasukuni Shrine. Abe duly acted pragmatically at the time (though he later said that he regretted not having visited Yasukuni as prime minister), and in any case, his first stint at the premiership lasted only for a year as he suffered a humiliating upper house election defeat in 2007 at the hands of the then ascendant DPJ. Within that year, however, Abe changed the Basic Law on Education to include “love of country” as a goal of education, upgraded the Defense Agency to a full-fledged ministry, and set the rules for conducting an eventual referendum for constitutional revision.

When Abe returned to power in December 2012, he faced a rather different set of political conditions. The rival DPJ suffered a catastrophic defeat, while there were a couple of new parties that were positioning themselves even further to the right of the LDP on many issues and were indeed willing to collaborate to advance this agenda. Abe also successfully silenced potential dissent from big business by giving a boost to stock prices with the reflationary policies of “Abenomics,” devaluing the yen to make Japanese exports more competitive, and advocating restarts of Japan’s idled nuclear reactors.

Abe also gained the enthusiastic backing of the Sankei and Yomiuri newspapers, which acted as media cheerleaders for his policies and pit bulls for his critics. Having suffered from negative media coverage in his first premiership, Abe sought to tighten his grip on the media, placing a trusted henchman with no media experience as the head of Japan’s flagship public broadcaster, NHK.

Once the upper house election of summer 2013 was out of the way, with a handsome victory for Abe’s ruling coalition, he revealed his true colors by setting up the National Security Council, pushing through the highly controversial Designated Secrets Law that gave largely unchecked discretionary power to government officials to designate documents as state secrets, and visiting Yasukuni Shrine on the first year anniversary of his second premiership. In July 2014, he further revised the official government interpretation of the constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense by a mere cabinet decision – something that successive postwar LDP governments had repeatedly acknowledged would require constitutional amendment.

The prospects for revision have been strengthened by Abe’s 2016 electoral victory, but there are no longer doubts about Abe’s real agenda as Abenomics increasingly seems to have promised more than it has delivered and, because its main success is boosting stock market prices, critics dismiss it as welfare for the wealthy. Abe has also tried to position himself as an advocate for womenomics, but here again the rhetoric exceeds the reality. He reshuffled his cabinet in September 2014 with his media spin masters emphasizing the record number of five women ministers (plus a woman policy chief for the LDP)3, but nearly all of these women politicians were better known for their far-right revisionist views than for their feminist policy orientation. Indeed, Yamatani Eriko (National Police and Disaster Management Minister), Takaichi Sanae (Internal Affairs and Communications Minister), and Inada Tomomi (LDP Policy Chief), in particular, were notorious for their anti-feminist and extreme revisionist views, in addition to dubious ties to Neo-Nazi and/or xenophobic activists.

The revisionists launched orchestrated, vitriolic attacks in 2014 against the liberal-leaning Asahi newspaper after it retracted a handful of articles on the “comfort women” from the 1990s that were based in part on false testimony. Abe also seized the opportunity to attack the critical newspaper and served as cheerleader-in-chief even as emboldened extremists issued death threats against a university that employed one of the former Asahi journalists who wrote some of the “comfort women” stories that were not in fact based on the false testimony. This McCarthyism-style campaign by reactionary nationalists threatens press and academic freedoms in Japan while intimidating moderates. (Uemura with Yamaguchi 2015).

When Abe called a snap election in December 2014 to consolidate his hold on power, the LDP’s official campaign pledge included a passage that said, “We shall act to restore Japan’s honor and national interest by presenting firm counterarguments against groundless accusations based on falsehood through external communication to the international community,” a thinly veiled reference to its plan to use the Asahi retraction to challenge the consensus that the “comfort women” were sex slaves (Liberal Democratic Party 2014). This revisionist campaign aims to convey the misleading impression that the whole of the sex slave system was an Asahi fabrication, and rewrite Japan’s shared history with Asia in ways that imperil Japan’s regional interests.

Moreover, Abe pursues this revisionist agenda internationally, as Japanese diplomats in New York sought unsuccessfully to have McGraw-Hill revise its description of the comfort women in an American history textbook (Fackler 2015). This provoked a public relations disaster for Japan and publication of a letter by a group of US-based historians (including eminent scholars such as Carol Gluck and Sheldon Garon) expressing “dismay at recent attempts by the Japanese government to suppress statements in history textbooks both in Japan and elsewhere about the euphemistically named ‘comfort women’ who suffered under a brutal system of sexual exploitation in the service of the Japanese imperial army during World War II” in the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (Dudden et al. 2015, 33). Since the U.S. government remains firmly opposed to revision of the Kono Statement, Abe and his supporters have conducted hit-and-run attacks against it in the Diet to discredit this mea culpa while denouncing the 1996 UN Coomaraswamy Report on “comfort women” (UN Commission of Human Rights 1996). Revisionists are thus waging a campaign to deny that Japan was responsible for forced recruitment of young women and that the “comfort women” system constituted sexual slavery, again tarnishing the dignity of the nation and its victims.

Choreographing Closer US-Japan Security Ties 2015

Abe’s self-righteous nationalism and strong revisionist streak has alienated neighbors and made Washington increasingly abashed. Even if the Pentagon thinks of Abe as their man in Japan because he has delivered more on America’s longstanding security requests than the rest of Japan’s post-WWII prime minsters combined, he is making himself an awkward partner because nobody can pretend that shirking the burdens of the past is anything but narrow-minded and counterproductive nationalism.

This article is adapted from Nakano Koichi, “Political Dynamics of Contemporary Japanese Nationalism” in Jeff Kingston, ed., Asian Nationalisms Reconsidered (Routledge, 2016).


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Prime Minister of Japan (1995). “Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama ‘On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end.’” August 15, 1995. (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Prime Minister of Japan (2005), “The President’s News Conference With Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan in Kyoto, Japan.” November 16, 2005. (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Sakamoto Rumi (2011),‘Koreans, Go Home!’ Internet Nationalism in Contemporary Japan as a Digitally Mediated Subculture,The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 10 No 2, March 7.

Sasagase Yuji, Hayashi Keita and Sato Kei (2015) Introduction to Nippon Kaigi, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 48, No. 5, Dec 14. (translated by J. Victor Koschmann)

Tawara, Yoshifumi (1997). Dokyumento “Ianfu” Mondai to Kyokasho Kogeki (Document “Comfort Women” Issue and Textbook Offensives) (Tokyo: Kobunken).

Uemura, Takashi with Tomomi Yamaguchi (2015). “Labeled the reporter who ‘fabricated’ the comfort woman issue: A Rebuttal,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 13, issue 2, no. 1, January 12, 2015. (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

UN Commission on Human Rights (1996). “Addendum Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1994/45 Report on the mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the issue of military sexual slavery in wartime.” January 4, 1996. (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).


1  Neoliberalism refers to a set of “small government” policies, including privatization, deregulation, elimination of trade barriers, and cuts in public expenditure, that generally result in a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Only Mori Yoshirō (who comes from a family of local politicians) in the LDP, and Kan Naoto and Noda Yoshihiko from the Democratic Party of Japan served as prime ministers despite lacking family connections in national politics. Abe is counted once even though he served on two separate occasions, 2006-07 and 2012- present.

Koizumi’s first cabinet also had five women ministers.

Posted in JapanComments Off on Contemporary Political Dynamics Of Japanese Nationalism

Women Peace Activists Peace Treaty Initiative To End Korean War

Request to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon

On Tuesday, September 27, women peace activists held a press conference at the Interchurch Center across from the United Nations Headquarters building in NYC. They announced that they had delivered a letter signed by more than 100 women asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to initiate a peace process which will lead to a peace treaty between the US and the DPRK by 2020.

They explained that with 100 days left before the UN Secretary General completes his second five year term at the head of the UN Secretariat, he has an obligation to fulfill on a promise he made in a speech in 2007 where he stated: “Beyond a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue with North Korea, we should aim to establish a peace mechanism, through transition from armistice to a permanent peace regimen.”

In their letter the peace activists reminded the UN Secretary General, “We look to you to leave behind a legacy of diplomacy for peace in Korea, Northeast Asia and the World.”

In the past few weeks, journalists who are part of the UN press corps have asked the Secretary General if he has any intention of using his little time left as Secretary General to do something to work toward a peaceful resolution of the tension on the Korean Peninsula. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term in office will expire on December 31, 2016.

In response to the questions posed by these reporters, the Secretary General replied that he has no special plans.

It is to the credit of these women peace activists that they continue to call on the Secretary General to fulfill on the obligation of his office to work to lessen the tension on the Korean Peninsula. But whether their efforts will lead to any action on the part of the Secretary General or not does not detract from the importance of such efforts on the part of journalists and peace activists.

The peace activists holding the press conference pointed out that currently tensions are especially high on the Korean Peninsula. The combination of military exercises by US and South Korea, the US bringing B1 bombers to South Korea, and the North Korean nuclear tests leave the situation on the Korean Peninsula as one with no obvious means of lessening the tension.

During the press conference, one of the speakers, Suzy Kim, described a meeting held by the peace activists in February 2016 in Bali, Indonesia.

The International peace activists group Women Cross the DMZ (WCDMZ) had invited a South Korean women peace delegation and a North Korean women peace delegation to meet with them to discuss how to work toward the signing of a peace treaty between the US government and the North Korean government that would end the Korean War. In order to make the arrangements for their meeting, there was a need to get permissions from the South Korean government and the North Korean government for the women from their respective countries to meet with each other. While the delegation of WCDMZ peace activists got the needed permission from the North Korean government for the proposed meeting, the South Korean government would not approve such a meeting. Therefore, the international peace activists decided to hold separate meetings with the North Korean women and the South Korean women.

The web site includes a summary which describes the Bali meetings and includes a statement of principles created by the North Korean women and the international peace activists. Following is the statement:

Bali Indonesia February 10, 2016
(Between WCDMZ International Delegation and DPRK Delegation)

“1. We will make active efforts for public education and awareness raising regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and the need for an end to military action that further aggravates the situation.

2. We will work together as Korean and international women, in efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve peaceful reunification of Korea, in the spirit of prior inter – Korean agreements such as the June 15 North and South Joint Declaration, 2000.

3. We will carry out work toward the achievement of lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. This includes the removal of various political and physical hindrances to peace and reunification, replacement of the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty, and the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the entire world.

4. We will promote women’s leadership at all levels of peacebuilding, including preventing armed conflict and participating in peace negotiations. International women will actively work to urge each government to support women’s involvement in the Korean peace process, as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1325.”

Such a statement provides a guide for a transnational peace building campaign. The statement is an expression of the need for peace negotiations toward replacing the Korean War Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the world.

The summary of the February Bali meeting offers a demonstration of the value of including women in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in peace negotiations for the Korean Peninsula.

The importance of implementing UN Resolution 1325 in the conflict on the Korean Peninsula was also raised at an October 3, 2016 press conference at the UN marking the Russian Federation assuming the October 2016 rotating presidency of the UN Security Council. On the agenda for the October 2016 schedule is a UN Security Council meeting on October 25 which will be an open debate on UNSC Resolution 1325.

A question raised by a journalist and the response from Ambassador Vitaly Churkin at the October 3 press conference helps to support the need for women peace activists to be part of the peace process in difficult conflict situations like the Korean conflict:

Following is the slightly edited transcript of this question and Ambassador Churkin’s response:

(Journalist): “Yes, I have a question about (Security Council Resolution-ed) 1325. There are women, international women peace activists who went from North Korea and South Korea, and met with women in both countries. And now they sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon asking him for a process towards a peace treaty (between the US and North Korea-ed) and also to involve women in the process. And here we have the situation with North Korea where the Security Council has not made any progress. And they (the international peace activists-ed) are saying we need women involved in doing this, women working for peace.

Is there any way you see of doing this, any way you see to have 1325 actually implemented so you get some help toward having a peace development?”

Response from Ambassador Churkin:

“Well, You know what we believe is that, this is an extremely difficult situation. And the cycle of action and counter action which we have seen in the past few years, actually since 2005 when this deal of September 19 fell through, it is not working.

So we do believe we need to try some creative thinking. We don’t have some specific immediate proposals, but certainly, DPRK testing and then US and others conducting some higher level military maneuvers there, you know, beefing up their military presence, that does not help at all.

In that creative thinking, it may well be the greater involvement of women could be one of the elements that might move the situation forward.” (1)

By recognizing the need for and importance of contributions for the peace process mandated by UNSC Resolution 1325, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would do well to favorably respond to the letter from the international women peace activists.


1) See webcast for Oct 3, 2016 press conference with Ambassador Churkin: h/ambassador-vitaly-churkin- of-the-russian-federation- president-of-the-security- council-of-october-2016-press- conference/5153898747001

(at 33:08-33:58, and 33:59-34:42)

Posted in North Korea, South KoreaComments Off on Women Peace Activists Peace Treaty Initiative To End Korean War

U.S Allows ISIS-Daesh Terrorists in Mosul to Redeploy in Syria

Russia Sets Up Outpost To Fight Terrorists Fleeing from Iraq

150 Ahrar al-Sham members evacuated from Bustan Al-Qasir Neighborhood of Aleppo city under the deal with Moscow and Damascus. There are no doubts that this incident will weaken the terrorists’ positions in the area and create a precedent for further withdrawal of militants from the city.

Over 30 ISIS terrorists were killed in air strikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Arab Air Force in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on October 18. The air power supported the Syrian army’s operations against ISIS in the area of the Deir Ezzor airbase. Syrian troops also attacked ISIS units near the Panorama checkpoint. Air strikes on ISIS targets were also reported in the areas of al-Huweijeh al-Sakar, al-Sina’ah, al-Jafreh and al-Mura’yeh. In total, some 45 air strikes were delivered.

The intensification of air raids in eastern Syria came amid reports that ISIS terrorists are massively fleeing from the Iraqi city of Mosul to Syria.

Sources in the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) say The US-led coalition’s warplanes avoid to bomb military convoys of the terrorist group moving from Iraqi to Syria.

We recall, over dozen of villages have been liberated in the Mosul countryside since the start of the battle for this strategic city by the Iraqi forces, supported by the US-led coalition. 5,000 soldiers of the Special Forces, mainly American, support the Iraqi Security Forces, the PMU and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the ongoing operation on the ground.

The modern course of events shows that ISIS is not going to conduct massive counter-attacks until the Iraqi forces have reached Mosul. The main clashes will likely take place during the storm of the city itself.

Experts argue Washington is using this time to allow ISIS terrorists redeploy from Iraq to Syria where the terrorists would use fresh reinforcements to intensify operations against the Syrian government in the provinces Deir Ezzor and Homs.

Moscow has reportedly responded to this threat, reconstructing the T-4 Military Airport in eastern Homs. The Russian military had already used the airport as a forward staging post for its helicopter gunships during the operation in Palmyra and the nearby areas. However, the airfield was damaged with ISIS attacks later.

If the reconstruction is confirmed, the T-4 will become an important outpost that will allow the Syrian army and the Russian Aerospace Forces to counter the growing ISIS threat in eastern Syria.

Posted in USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on U.S Allows ISIS-Daesh Terrorists in Mosul to Redeploy in Syria

American Journalist Killed in Turkey for Revealing the Truth Regarding ISIS-Daesh


No Investigation Two Years After Suspicious Death of American Journalist Serena Shim

Although all signs point to foul play, indeed murder, by Turkish intelligence, until now the US government has neither conducted nor demanded an inquiry into the events of the alleged car accident which Turkish officials say was the cause of Shim’s death, let alone offer condolences to the family.

Serena Shim was at the time reporting on Ayn al-Arab (Kobani), from the Turkish side. She was, in her own words, one of the first, if not the first, on the ground to report on ,“Takfiri militants going in through the Turkish border”. These include not only ISIS but also terrorists from the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA).

As Shim’s sister Fatmeh Shim stated in 2015, “She caught them bringing in ISIS high-ranked members into Syria from Turkey into camps, which are supposed to be Syrian refugee camps.”

Serena Shim’s January 2013 expose, “Turkey’s Pivotal Role in Syria’s Insurgency: PressTV Report from Inside Turkey,” showed footage of what she estimated to be 300 semi-trucks “awaiting militants to empty them out”; included testimony explaining how Turkey enables the crossing of foreign terrorists “freely” into Syria; spoke of the funneling of arms via the Incirlik US Air Base in Turkey to terrorists in refugee camps or on through to Syria; and highlighted the issue of terrorist training camps portrayed as refugee camps, guarded by the Turkish military.

Shim named the World Food Organization as one of the NGOs whose trucks were being used to funnel terrorists’ arms into Syria, and stated this in her last interview, just one day before being killed. Notably, in that interview she also explicitly stated that she feared for her life because Turkish intelligence had accused her of being a spy. She told Press TV:

“Turkey has been labeled by Reporters Without Borders as the largest prison for journalists, so I am a bit frightened about what they might use against me… I’m hoping that nothing is going to happen, that it’s going to blow over. I would assume that they are going to take me in for questioning, and the next hope is that my lawyer is good enough to get me out as soon as possible.”

Two days later, Press TV announced her death, stating:

“Serena was killed in a reported car accident when she was returning from a report scene in the city of Suruch in Turkey’s Urfa province. She was going back to her hotel in Urfa when their car collided with a heavy vehicle.”

This was the official version of her death, although in subsequent versions the story changed. In a report one month later, Russia Today (RT) spoke with Shim’s sister, who said:

“There’s so many different stories. The first was that Serena’s car was hit by a heavy vehicle, who proceeded to keep on driving. They could not find the vehicle nor could they find the driver. Two days later, surprisingly, they had found the vehicle and the driver, and had pictures of the heavy vehicle hitting my sister’s car. Every day coming out with new pictures of different degrees of damages that have happened to the car.”

“Serena and my cousin who was the driver of the car were taken to two different hospitals. She was reported first dead at the scene. Then coming out with later reports that she passed away at the hospital 30 minutes later from heart failure?! ”


When on November 20, 2014, at a Daily Press Briefing, RT journalist Gayane Chichakyan twice pressed Director of Press Office, Jeff Rathke, for updates on Shim’s death, he unsurprisingly gave none:

Chichakyan: “It’s about the journalist Serena Shim, who died in Turkey under very suspicious circumstances. Did her death raise suspicions here at the State Department?”Rathke: “Well, I think we’ve spoken to this in the briefing room several weeks ago, after it happened. I don’t have anything to add to what the spokesperson said at the time, though.”

Chichakyan: “But then she died several days after she claimed she had been threatened by the Turkish intelligence. Have you inquired about this? Have you asked questions? Is there really nothing new about this?”

Rathke: “Well, I just don’t have any update to share with you. Again, this was raised shortly after her death. The spokesperson addressed it. I don’t have an update to share with you at this time.”

Chichakyan: “I just want to go back to Serena Shim. You rightly said the State Department commented on her death several weeks ago, and you say there is no update. Why is there no update? A U.S. citizen dies days after she said she’d been threatened by the Turkish intelligence.”

Rathke: “Well, I simply don’t have any information to share at this time. I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything additional. We spoke out about it, as I said, at the very start several weeks ago after her death, so I – but I don’t have anything with me right now to offer. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more that we can share.”

Of course, neither he nor any US government official has followed up. Last year, Shim’s mother, Judy Poe, replied to me in a message:

“There is no doubt in my mind that my daughter did not die in a car accident. There was not one single scratch on her there was no blood absolutely anywhere. I have tried to contact the American Embassy in Turkey with the cell phone numbers they gave me originally when I was going to get my daughter. Absolutely no response from the American Embassy in Turkey, including via personal cell phones.”

Shim’s sister in her RT interview stated, “We’ve got no support whatsoever, nor have we got condolences.”

None of the major journalist organizations have pursued a just investigation into Shim’s murder, much less lamented it. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) turns up zero results when Shim’s name is searched on their website. Yet, the CPJ does have a list of journalists killed in Turkey since 1992, and as recent as Feb 2016, obviously minus Shim’s name.

Likewise, a search on the Reporters Without Borders website turns up zero results. A December 19, 2014 article at the Greanville Post does have a CPJ spokesperson stating:

“The Committee to Protect Journalists has investigated the events surrounding Serena Shim’s death in Turkey and at this time has found no evidence to indicate that her death was anything other than a tragic accident. Unless her death is confirmed to be in direct relation to her work as a journalist, it will not appear on our database. In the event that new evidence comes to light, CPJ would review her case.”

The article Greanville Post notes, “As of February 2016, the CPJ has not changed its position.”

The International Federation of Journalists does have a short entry on Shim:

“Serena Shim, the female correspondent for Press TV in Turkey was killed in a car accident on the Turkish-Syrian border. She was returning from an assignment in Suruç, a rural district of Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey when her car collided with a truck.”

But no call for inquiry and no questioning of official narrative. In a November 21, 2014 article at Shim’s death, RT noted that, “the office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media at the OSCE told RT that Turkey is carrying out an investigation.” It cited OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Gunnar Vrang, as saying:

“The representative has been following the case since the first reports appeared about the car accident that claimed the life of journalist Serena Shim. According to information available to her office, the Turkish authorities have started investigation into the details of the car accident.”

Searching the OSCE for Serena Shim’s name also results in zero hits. On February 5, 2016, Judy Poe tweeted:

Clearly the representative went with the Turkish rendition of events. Few in corporate media have looked into Shim’s suspicious death. In one surprising exception, Fox News reported on Shim’s death, citing a US State Department spokesperson as saying the State Department “does not conduct investigations into deaths overseas.”

Given that Turkish intelligence threatened Shim, according to her testimony, and that Turkey is notorious world-wide for its imprisonment and murder of journalists, the US State Department’s lack of concern is incriminating in itself.

In stark contrast to the silence around Shim’s death, John Kerry at least twice publicly mourned the death of James Foley, lauding as a hero the journalist who snuck into Syria via Turkey to report embedded with al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and giving sincere condolences to his family.

Without a trace of irony, in August 2014, Kerry said of Foley, and never of Shim, “We honor the courage and pray for the safety of all those who risk their lives to discover the truth where it is needed most.”

In September, 2014, Kerry directly contradicted the above-mentioned words of the State Department spokesperson, saying: “When terrorists anywhere around the world have murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter how long it took.

And those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria should know that the United States will hold them accountable too, no matter how long it takes.” On the media and political blackout around Serena Shim’s suspicious death, Shim’s former colleague, Afshin Rattansi, host of RT’s “Going Underground” posited:

“There were a few press reports, but nothing like the kind of reporting about a brave young journalist that one would expect. Was this because the story she was covering was so dangerous that a NATO ally like Turkey should be cooperating with ISIS… was that the reason that this story has not been more widely broadcast? We don’t know.”

Indeed, this would not be the first time the US administration has not pursued justice for the murder of one of its citizens by an ally. Rachie Corrie’s March 16, 2013 murder by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer was not only witnessed by numerous rights activists with Corrie in Rafah, occupied Palestine, but was filmed. There is no denial that the Israeli soldier saw Corrie, drove his dozer over her and then reversed back, crushing her twice.

Yet, in spite of the efforts of her family and supporters, the US has never pursued justice for this American citizen either. Judy Poe said that Serena’s favourite motto was: “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” Shim lived the motto. She was 29, with two children, when killed.

Posted in TurkeyComments Off on American Journalist Killed in Turkey for Revealing the Truth Regarding ISIS-Daesh

Video: US Backed Terrorists Leave Aleppo… Retreat of ISIS Forces in Iraq


US-backed moderates from Jabhat al-Nusra and other ‘opposition groups’, which operate inside and outside Aleppo, are not going to participate in the humanitarian pause announced by the Syrian and Russian militaries. On October 19, Syria and Russia reopened corridors in Aleppo, giving militants a chance to leave the city during mini-ceasefire scheduled for October 20. In turn, Jabhat al-Nusra (or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) and its allies relaunched offensive operations in southwestern Aleppo and seized the main part of 1070 Apartment Project. On October 20, militants continued attacks in the area.

Turkish-backed militants and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are clashing over the Syrian town of Tell Rifaat.

An alliance of Turkish-backed militant groups, operating under the banner of Ankara-led Operation Euphrates Shield, declared Tell Rifaat, 40km north of Aleppo, a military zone and gave the YPG 48 hours to leave the town on October 18. It was seized by the YPG from Turkish-backed militants in February 2016. On October 19, the so-called ‘FSA’ started shelling of YPG positions in Tell Rifaat while the Turkish Armed Forces’ artillery hit other YPG positions in Hasajik, Hasieh, Shahba Dam and Um Hosh. In turn, pro-Kurdish sources started disseminate info that the Russian airpower had bombed FSA militants south of Mare and at Tell Malid. On October 20, firefight and artillery strikes continued.

The reason of tensions is the recent YPG advance in the direction of strategic town of Al-Bab. The YPG took control of few villages located at the important roads heading to the ISIS-controlled town. In turn, to take control of Al-Bab and prevent the YPG’s chances to link up the Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria are one of the main goals of Turkish military operations in Syria.

On Wednesday, over 600 militants withdrew from the Mo’adhimiyah Al-Sham suburb of Damascus, passing its control to the Syrian army. The militants were transferred to Idlib province.

The Syrian Air Force delivered a series of airstrikes on Jabhat Fatah al-Sham positions in the provinces of of Latakia and Idlib, bombing terrorists near Zohra Katab Sandou and Tardin in northern Latakia and Hallouz and Um al-Qar in southwestern Idlib. The air raids resulted in elimination of 5 Jabhat Fatah al-Sham tactical units, 1 ammunition depot and at least 3 vehicles equipped with machine guns.

The Russian-made TOS-1A ‘Solntsepyok’ Heavy Flamethrower System was spotted among the Iraqi Federal Police’s artillery units shelling ISIS units deployed in the Shura area near the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul on October 18. TOS-1A systems were successfully used by the Iraqi army during the storm of Fallujah. Now, they are participating in the battle for Mosul.

On October 20, the Iraqi Air Force’s airstrike killed Wa’ad Youness, ISIS Governor in the Sahl region of Nineveh province. The event took place in the area northeast of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul. At the same day, the Iraqi military announced that the joint anti-ISIS forces have liberated 18 villages since the start of operation in Mosul countryside. Over 100 ISIS militants were killed during the operations.The main gains were achieved southeast of the ISIS stronghold. The ISIS-controlled towns of Bartallah and Bakhida are now the main priority of the Iraqi forces.


Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Video: US Backed Terrorists Leave Aleppo… Retreat of ISIS Forces in Iraq

Syria And “The Left”: Time To Break The Silence

Misunderstanding of Reality. There is No “Revolution” in Syria…

The cold, hard reality of the war in Syria is that the violence, bloodshed, and chaos continues unabated while the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness. Different points of view, conflicting ideological tendencies, and a misunderstanding of the reality of the conflict are all relevant issues to be interrogated, with civility and reasoned debate in short supply. But those issues are not the urgent task of this article; the Left does need to seriously self-reflect though about just how it responds to crises of imperialism and issues of war and peace.

However, what is urgently needed at this moment is a clear and unequivocal position on the future of this war, and the lives of all Syrians – political allegiances notwithstanding – as the escalation of the war approaches. There is little doubt that Hillary Clinton will win the crown of ringmaster of the political circus that is the US election. And, as she eases her freshly osculated behind into the leather captain’s chair in the Oval Office, it is only a matter of time before she ratchets up US military involvement in Syria, with a full US war, and attempted regime change, becoming all but a certainty.

And where will the Left be then? This question is not merely rhetorical as the Left has found itself in the usual circular firing squad predicament over the war in Syria. And though the issue continues to be debated, what should be beyond dispute is what the position on intervention into the war should be.

And as I brace for the predictable barrage of hate mail and name-calling from both sides of this debate – I’m mostly inured to that sort of thing after years of it – I want to make one point that should be obvious, and yet has become somehow controversial: opposing the war is the duty of all true anti-war activists.

But what does it mean to oppose the war? Does it mean that we should be opposing just Russian and Syrian bombs being dropped? Does it mean that only US-Saudi-Turkey-Israeli supplied weapons are doing the killing? Sadly, these too are not rhetorical questions as so many on the Left, including many self-described anti-imperialists, have positioned themselves as hawks in a war that has utterly devastated the country. It seems that many, myself included up to a point, have gotten so enveloped in the embrace of partisanship in this war that we have forgotten that our responsibility is to the people of Syria and to peace and justice.

Some on the pro-Assad side of the argument will correctly note that the role of the anti-war activist in the West is, above all, to oppose the imperialism of the West itself. And indeed, that is a primary responsibility. Others on the Left will argue that the responsibility of activists is to support liberation struggles of fellow revolutionaries. And while the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists – the uprising began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality, among other things – this cannot be taken to mean that countless innocent men, women, and children have not been maimed and killed by Syrian and Russian weapons, jets, and fighters.

Be that as it may, the question now before us is this: where do you stand on direct US intervention?

In the long and convoluted history of this war there have been precious few moments of clear and unmistakable moral judgment. If anything, the portrait of the war in Syria is colored in shades of gray, with little black and white to be found.

If you’re supportive of the anti-Assad forces, then it’s quite likely you’ve chosen to ignore the mountains of evidence that there is no “revolution” in Syria but rather a vicious contra-style war being fomented by US-NATO and its toadies in the Gulf, Turkey, and Israel. If you’re supportive of Assad then it’s a certainty that you’ve chosen to ignore or downplay the horrific violence of the bombings, the brutality of the torture chambers, and other unspeakable atrocities (I admit that I have often strayed too far into the latter) out of a desire to uphold the nominally anti-imperialist position.

And where has this left Syria? Where has it brought the Left? We’re no closer to an end to this horrific war, nor are we any closer to a resolution to the cancerous spread of terrorism in the region. Maybe just a few more US-supplied weapons and US-funded fighters will do the trick? Maybe a few more Russian and Syrian bombs will solve the crisis? Well, if you’ve been paying attention, neither one of those has brought Syria any closer to peace. And isn’t that what we’re allegedly supposed to be upholding?

And how about the refugees? I’ve seen the fascist talking points spouted by many fake “anti-imperialists” who with one breath proclaim their commitment to peace and justice, and with another demonize and scapegoat Syrian refugees whose politics don’t align with the pro-Assad position. Words like “traitors,” “cowards,” and “terrorists,” are shamefully applied to ordinary Syrians fleeing to Europe and elsewhere in hopes of saving their families. Indeed, it is precisely this narrative that is at the core of the white supremacist, fascist ideology that underlies a significant amount of the support base for Assad and his allies (see David Duke, David Icke, Alexander Dugin, Brother Nathanel, Alex Jones,Mimi al-Laham, Ken O’Keefe, and on and on and on). I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true, and too many of the pro-Assad camp have willfully ignored this fundamental point.

On the other side though, the unwillingness of the “Syrian revolution” camp to face up to the fact that they have unwittingly made themselves into the left flank of US interventionism and imperialism is cause for public shaming as well. Were this the 1980s one wonders whether they’d be saying the same things about the “revolutionary” contras in Central America who, like the so-called rebels in Syria, were also backed with US weapons, money, and training. How about the mujahideen in Afghanistan? Has the collective memory of the Left gotten so short? And what about those foreign fighters fleeing Syria? Are they revolutionaries when they go back to Libya and engage in human trafficking for profit? Or to Chechnya to smuggle Afghan heroin? Or to Saudi Arabia or anywhere else?

Undoubtedly there are people on both sides of this debate who, if they’re still reading (doubtful), are frothing at the mouth with rage as they prepare to send their hate mail or attack this article and me on social media. All of that is perfectly fine by me as my feelings are of little consequence in this war that has killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions.

But the conversation I’m hoping to spur here is not about the past, but about the future.

And so I put out the call, here and now, to all people of the Left and all those who wrap themselves in the shroud of revolution and anti-imperialism: where do you stand on intervention?

To the anti-Assad camp, I ask: What will you be doing when Hillary’s fire burns and cauldron bubbles? Will you continue to ignore the material reality of this war in favor of the chimera of a revolution betrayed? Put simply: will you be supporting US imperialism in the name of the “revolution”?

To the pro-Assad Syria fetishists, I ask: Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory? Are you comfortable in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards? Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart? Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?

I ask these questions as someone who took a firmly pro-Assad position from the very beginning, someone who felt (as I, and many others, still do) that Syria, like Libya, was a victim of US-NATO-GCC-Israel imperialism and that, as such, it should be defended. And while I still uphold that resistance, I also have enough humility to know that, in doing so, I abandoned other core beliefs such as defense of ALL oppressed people, including the ones with politics I reject.

I ask these questions as someone who takes the very notion of anti-imperialism seriously, and who is dismayed by the disgusting cooptation of that word by fascists, chauvinists, white supremacists, and neocolonial degenerates who use it for political expediency. This cannot be allowed to stand.

The direct US war in Syria is coming. Russia’s war in Syria is already active. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel have been fomenting war in Syria from the beginning, all in support of the Empire’s strategic goals. And hundreds of thousands of bodies have been buried in the sand and soil.

How many more bodies are we comfortable burying? How much longer before peace is once again on the table? How many more years before we realize that this war will never end on a battlefield?

Either way, I’ll see anyone who wants to join me on the front lines of protest when the Queen of Chaos launches her war. That’s where I’ve been many times before, and will be for years to come.

And that’s where the Left ought to be.

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The Candidate Of The Military-Industrial Complex


Image result for H. Clinton CARTOON

What about the problem of Perpetual War, the endless US-UK ‘interventions’ that have created millions of corpses and refugees around the planet? David Sirota wrote:

‘Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation.’

Jeffrey Sachs added:

‘There’s no doubt that Hillary is the candidate of Wall Street. Even more dangerous, though, is that she is the candidate of the military-industrial complex.’


‘Hillary was… a staunch supporter of the Iraq War, which has cost the US trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, and done more to create ISIS and Middle East instability than any other single decision of modern foreign policy.’

Immediately prior to the 1999 war on Serbia, while travelling in Africa, Hillary called husband Bill: ‘I urged him to bomb,’ she told a journalist.

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter has written of the ‘active effort’ made ‘by the US military to mitigate Obama administration regime change policies’. In 2011, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ‘had been strongly opposed to the effort to depose the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya led by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’.

Clinton, then, was more hawkish even than the US military. Writing in the Sunday Times, James Rubin, former Chief Spokesman for the US State Department, commented of Libya:

‘Former defence secretary Bob Gates has written that it was secretary Clinton’s “considerable clout” that tipped the balance in favour of action.’ (Rubin, ‘Why Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Obama,’ Sunday Times, April 12, 2015)

Sachs added:

‘Perhaps the crowning disaster of this long list of disasters has been Hillary’s relentless promotion of CIA-led regime change in Syria. Once again Hillary bought into the CIA propaganda that regime change to remove Bashir al-Assad would be quick, costless, and surely successful. In August 2011, Hillary led the US into disaster with her declaration Assad must “get out of the way,” backed by secret CIA operations.

‘Perhaps more than any other person, Hillary can lay claim to having stoked the violence that stretches from West Africa to Central Asia and that threatens US security.’

In her memoir, ‘Hard Choices’, Clinton revealed how she had also played a key role in supporting the coup in Honduras. A former sergeant in the Honduran military recently told the Guardian that, months before her death, he saw environmental activist Berta Cáceres on a hitlist distributed to U.S-trained special forces. The soldier said: ‘I’m 100 percent certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army.’

In 2014, Cáceres said:

‘We warned that this would be very dangerous. The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book “Hard Choices,” practically said what was going to happen in Honduras.’

Clinton commented on Israel’s 2014, ‘Operation Protective Edge’ war on Gaza, in which 2,220 Palestinians were killed, of whom 1,492 were civilians (551 children and 299 women):

‘I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself.’

Did Israel do enough to try and avoid killing civilians? Clinton replied that mistakes were made, ‘but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas’. Shamelessly apologising for the massacre, Clinton added: ‘it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets’.

Clinton blamed criticism of Israel’s vicious policies on anti-semitism:

‘we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair… You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today.’


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Good Deaths in Mosul, Bad Deaths in Aleppo


Exclusive: As the U.S.-backed offensive in Mosul, Iraq, begins, the mainstream U.S. media readies the American people to blame the terrorists for civilian casualties but the opposite rules apply to Syria’s Aleppo, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Note how differently The New York Times prepares the American public for civilian casualties from the new U.S.-backed Iraqi government assault on the city of Mosul to free it from the Islamic State, compared to the unrelenting condemnation of the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on neighborhoods of east Aleppo held by Al Qaeda.

In the case of Mosul, the million-plus residents are not portrayed as likely victims of American airstrikes and Iraqi government ground assaults, though surely many will die during the offensive. Instead, the civilians are said to be eagerly awaiting liberation from the Islamic State terrorists and their head-chopping brutality.

U.S.-backed Syrian "moderate" rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

“Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls,” writes Times’ veteran war correspondent Rod Nordland about this week’s launch of the U.S.-backed government offensive. “Those forces will fight to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State … has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul. …“Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading. … Graffiti and other displays of dissidence against the Islamic State were more common in recent weeks, as were executions when the vandals were caught.”

The Times article continues: “Mosul residents chafed under social codes banning smoking and calling for splashing acid on body tattoos, summary executions of perceived opponents, whippings of those who missed prayers or trimmed their beards, and destroying ‘un-Islamic’ historical monuments.”

So, the message is clear: if the inevitable happens and the U.S.-backed offensive kills a number of Mosul’s civilians, including children, The New York Times’ readers have been hardened to accept this “collateral damage” as necessary to free the city from blood-thirsty extremists. The fight to crush these crazies is worth it, even if there are significant numbers of civilians killed in the “cross-fire.”

And we’ve seen similar mainstream media treatment of other U.S.-organized assaults on urban areas, such as the devastation of the Iraqi city, Fallujah, in 2004 when U.S. Marines routed Iraqi insurgents from the city while leveling or severely damaging most of the city’s buildings and killing hundreds of civilians. But those victims were portrayed in the Western press as “human shields,” shifting the blame for their deaths onto the Iraqi insurgents.

Despite the fact that U.S. forces invaded Iraq in defiance of international law – and thus all the thousands of civilian deaths across Iraq from the “shock and awe” U.S. firepower should be considered war crimes – there was virtually no such analysis allowed into the pages of The New York Times or the other mainstream U.S. media. Such talk was forced to the political fringes, as it continues to be today. War-crimes tribunals are only for the other guys.

Lust to Kill Children

By contrast, the Times routinely portrays the battle for east Aleppo as simply a case of barbaric Russian and Syrian leaders bombing innocent neighborhoods with no regard for the human cost, operating out of an apparent lust to kill children.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as "shock and awe."

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

Rather than focusing on Al Qaeda’s harsh rule of east Aleppo, the Times told its readers in late September how to perceive the Russian-Syrian offensive to drive out Al Qaeda and its allies. A Sept. 25 article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, entitled “Syria and Russia Appear Ready to Scorch Aleppo,” began:

“Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours. It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.

“But in the past few days, as hopes for a revived cease-fire have disintegrated at the United Nations, the Syrians and Russians seem to be mobilizing to apply this kill-all-who-resist strategy to the most ambitious target yet: the rebel-held sections of the divided metropolis of Aleppo.”

Again, note how the “rebels” are portrayed as local heroes, rather than a collection of jihadists from both inside and outside Syria fighting under the operational command of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which recently underwent a name change to the Syria Conquest Front. But the name change and the pretense about “moderate” rebels are just more deceptions.

As journalist/historian Gareth Porter has written: “Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it. …

“At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the ‘Syrian Revolutionaries Front’ (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.

“However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.”

Arming Al Qaeda

This reality – the fact that the U.S. government is indirectly supplying sophisticated weaponry to Al Qaeda – is rarely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. news media, though one might think it would make for a newsworthy story. But it would undercut the desired propaganda narrative of “good guy” rebels fighting “bad guy” government backed by “ultra-bad guy” Russians.

The second plane about to crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

The second plane about to crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

What if Americans understood that their tax money and U.S. weaponry were going to aid the terrorist group that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? What if they understood the larger historical context that Washington helped midwife the modern jihadist movement – and Al Qaeda – through the U.S./Saudi support for the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s?

And what if Americans understood that Washington’s supposed regional “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have sided with Al Qaeda in Syria because of their intense hatred of Shiite-ruled Iran, an ally of Syria’s secular government?

These Al Qaeda sympathies have been known for several years but never get reported in the mainstream U.S. press. In September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored Syria’s Sunni extremists over President Bashar al-Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

And, in June 2014, speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

But such cynical – and dangerous – realpolitik is kept from the American people. Instead, the Syrian conflict is presented as all about the children.

There is also little said about how Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its allied jihadists keep the civilian population in east Aleppo essentially as “human shields.” When “humanitarian corridors” have been opened to allow civilians to escape, they had been fired on by the jihadists determined to keep as many people under their control as possible.

Propaganda Fodder                       

By forcing the civilians to stay, Al Qaeda and its allies can exploit the injuries and deaths of civilians, especially the children, for propaganda advantages.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

Going along with Al Qaeda’s propaganda strategy, the Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets have kept the focus on the children. A Times dispatch on Sept. 27 begins: “They cannot play, sleep or attend school. Increasingly, they cannot eat. Injury or illness could be fatal. Many just huddle with their parents in windowless underground shelters — which offer no protection from the powerful bombs that have turned east Aleppo into a kill zone.

“Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common.”

This propagandistic narrative has bled into the U.S. presidential campaign with Martha Raddatz, a moderator of the second presidential debate, incorporating much of the evil-Russians theme into a question that went so far as to liken the human suffering in Aleppo to the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews and other minorities.

That prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to repeat her call for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria, including a “no-fly zone,” which U.S. military commanders say would require a massive operation that would kill many Syrians, both soldiers and civilians, to eliminate Syria’s sophisticated air-defense systems and its air force.

Based on the recent Wikileaks publication of Clinton’s speeches to investment bankers and other special interests, we also know that she recognizes the high human cost from this strategy. In one June 2013 speech, she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk — you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”

Yet, during the campaign, Clinton has spoken glibly about her own proposal to impose a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which has become even more dangerous since 2015 when the Russians agreed to directly assist the Syrian government in fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Also, left unsaid about such a U.S. intervention is that it could open the way for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff Islamic State to defeat the Syrian army and gain control of Damascus, creating the potential for even a worse bloodbath against Christians, Shiites, Alawites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.” Not to mention the fact that a U.S.-imposed “no-fly zone” would be a clear violation of international law.

Over the next few weeks, we are sure hear much about the Islamic State using the people of Mosul as “human shields” and thus excusing U.S. bombs when they strike civilians targets and kill children. It will all be the terrorists’ fault, except that an opposite set of “journalistic” rules will apply to Aleppo.

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Reflections By An ARAB JEW


Ella Habiba Shohat

by Ella Habiba Shohat

    When issues of racial and colonial discourse are discussed in the U.S., people of Middle Eastern and North African origin are often excluded. This piece is written with the intent of opening up the multicultural debate, going beyond the U.S. census’s simplistic categorization of Middle Eastern peoples as “whites.”

It’s also written with the intent of multiculturalizing American notions of Jewishness. My personal narrative questions the Eurocentric opposition of Arab and Jew, particularly the denial of Arab Jewish (Sephardic) voices both in the Middle Eastern and American contexts.

I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S. Most members of my family were born and raised in Baghdad, and now live in Iraq, Israel, the U.S., England, and Holland. When my grandmother first encountered Israeli society in the ’50s, she was convinced that the people who looked, spoke and ate so differently–the European Jews–were actually European Christians. Jewishness for her generation was inextricably associated with Middle Easterness. My grandmother, who still lives in Israel and still communicates largely in Arabic, had to be taught to speak of “us” as Jews and “them” as Arabs. For Middle Easterners, the operating distinction had always been “Muslim,” “Jew,” and “Christian,” not Arab versus Jew. The assumption was that “Arabness” referred to a common shared culture and language, albeit with religious differences.

Americans are often amazed to discover the existentially nauseating or charmingly exotic possibilities of such a syncretic identity. I recall a well-established colleague who despite my elaborate lessons on the history of Arab Jews, still had trouble understanding that I was not a tragic anomaly–for instance, the daughter of an Arab (Palestinian) and an Israeli (European Jew). Living in North America makes it even more difficult to communicate that we are Jews and yet entitled to our Middle Eastern difference. And that we are Arabs and yet entitled to our religious difference, like Arab Christians and Arab Muslims.

It was precisely the policing of cultural borders in Israel that led some of us to escape into the metropolises of syncretic identities. Yet, in an American context, we face again a hegemony that allows us to narrate a single Jewish memory, i.e., a European one. For those of us who don’t hide our Middle Easterness under one Jewish “we,” it becomes tougher and tougher to exist in an American context hostile to the very notion of Easterness.

As an Arab Jew, I am often obliged to explain the “mysteries” of this oxymoronic entity. That we have spoken Arabic, not Yiddish; that for millennia our cultural creativity, secular and religious, had been largely articulated in Arabic (Maimonides being one of the few intellectuals to “make it” into the consciousness of the West); and that even the most religious of our communities in the Middle East and North Africa never expressed themselves in Yiddish-accented Hebrew prayers, nor did they practice liturgical-gestural norms and sartorial codes favoring the dark colors of centuries-ago Poland. Middle Eastern women similarly never wore wigs; their hair covers, if worn, consisted of different variations on regional clothing (and in the wake of British and French imperialism, many wore Western-style clothes). If you go to our synagogues, even in New York, Montreal, Paris or London, you’ll be amazed to hear the winding quarter tones of our music which the uninitiated might imagine to be coming from a mosque.

Now that the three cultural topographies that compose my ruptured and dislocated history–Iraq, Israel and the U.S.–have been involved in a war, it is crucial to say that we exist. Some of us refuse to dissolve so as to facilitate “neat” national and ethnic divisions. My anxiety and pain during the Scud attacks on Israel, where some of my family lives, did not cancel out my fear and anguish for the victims of the bombardment of Iraq, where I also have relatives.

War, however, is the friend of binarisms, leaving little place for complex identities. The Gulf War, for example, intensified a pressure already familiar to the Arab Jewish diaspora in the wake of the Israeli-Arab conflict: a pressure to choose between being a Jew and being an Arab. For our families, who have lived in Mesopotamia since at least the Babylonian exile, who have been Arabized for millennia, and who were abruptly dislodged to Israel 45 years ago, to be suddenly forced to assume a homogenous European Jewish identity based on experiences in Russia, Poland and Germany, was an exercise in self devastation. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion. This binarism has led many Oriental Jews (our name in Israel referring to our common Asian and African countries of origin is Mizrahi or Mizrachi) to a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms.

Intellectual discourse in the West highlights a Judeo-Christian tradition, yet rarely acknowledges the Judeo-Muslim culture of the Middle East, of North Africa, or of pre-Expulsion Spain (1492) and of the European parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish experience in the Muslim world has often been portrayed as an unending nightmare of oppression and humiliation.

Although I in no way want to idealize that experience–there were occasional tensions, discriminations, even violence–on the whole, we lived quite comfortably within Muslim societies.

Our history simply cannot be discussed in European Jewish terminology. As Iraqi Jews, while retaining a communal identity, we were generally well integrated and indigenous to the country, forming an inseparable part of its social and cultural life. Thoroughly Arabized, we used Arabic even in hymns and religious ceremonies. The liberal and secular trends of the 20th century engendered an even stronger association of Iraqi Jews and Arab culture, which brought Jews into an extremely active arena in public and cultural life. Prominent Jewish writers, poets and scholars played a vital role in Arab culture, distinguishing themselves in Arabic speaking theater, in music, as singers, composers, and players of traditional instruments.

In Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia, Jews became members of legislatures, of municipal councils, of the judiciary, and even occupied high economic positions. (The finance minister of Iraq in the ’40s was Ishak Sasson, and in Egypt, Jamas Sanua–higher positions, ironically, than those our community had generally achieved within the Jewish state until the 1990s!)

The same historical process that dispossessed Palestinians of their property, lands and national-political rights, was linked to the dispossession of Middle Eastern and North African Jews of their property, lands, and rootedness in Muslim countries. As refugees, or mass immigrants (depending on one’s political perspective), we were forced to leave everything behind and give up our Iraqi passports. The same process also affected our uprootedness or ambiguous positioning within Israel itself, where we have been systematically discriminated against by institutions that deployed their energies and material to the consistent advantage of European Jews and to the consistent disadvantage of Oriental Jews. Even our physiognomies betray us, leading to internalized colonialism or physical misperception. Sephardic Oriental women often dye their dark hair blond, while the men have more than once been arrested or beaten when mistaken for Palestinians. What for Ashkenazi immigrants from Russian and Poland was a social aliya (literally “ascent”) was for Oriental Sephardic Jews a yerida (“descent”).

Stripped of our history, we have been forced by our no-exit situation to repress our collective nostalgia, at least within the public sphere. The pervasive notion of “one people” reunited in their ancient homeland actively disauthorizes any affectionate memory of life before Israel. We have never been allowed to mourn a trauma that the images of Iraq’s destruction only intensified and crystallized for some of us. Our cultural creativity in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic is hardly studied in Israeli schools, and it is becoming difficult to convince our children that we actually did exist there, and that some of us are still there in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Iran.

Western media much prefer the spectacle of the triumphant progress of Western technology to the survival of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East. The case of Arab Jews is just one of many elisions. From the outside, there is little sense of our community, and even less sense of the diversity of our political perspectives. Oriental-Sephardic peace movements, from the Black Panthers of the ’70s to the new Keshet (a “Rainbow” coalition of Mizrahi groups in Israel) not only call for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for the cultural, political, and economic integration of Israel/Palestine into the Middle East. And thus an end to the binarisms of war, an end to a simplistic charting of Middle Eastern identities.

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