Petrodollars and Profit: Rethinking Political Economy through the Middle East

"What if oil prices are not received, but made? What if cartels raise prices by constricting supply, and use war, legal chicanery, and international property deeds to do so? Such questions led Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, two political economists, to examine the production, distribution, and political structure of the oil business. They derived from these patterns a theory of prices and power distinct from orthodox and heterodox worldviews alike. They see prices as the result of social processes, “a symbolic quantification of power.” One of them is sabotage, or the strategic disruption of production. Power, then, is the ability to create and order the world to ensure just the right mix of sabotage and supply in order to ensure profit rates beat out those of your competitors. It is this novel, fascinating, brash, and contested theory of capitalism which they lay out in a new book, The Scientist and the Church."

غنائية أحمد العربي

Considering that we are speaking about an event which took place in the "civilized" part of the world, it was in fact the most babaric event in human history.  WWII in numbers.

Madrid officials to change street names marking Franco regime

Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime (a book review)

Comment by Salah Nasrawi, Cairo, Egypt

"Salah Nasrawi: I have repeatedly raised this question which is underscored in the excellent review that : " Scholars whose research might build on or respond to Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party will have to face the question of whether it is ethical to conduct research using Iraqi documents held by the United States." The archive should be sent back to Iraq and be open to Iraqi researchers, otherwise skepticism and doubts will be always raised about what others write on Iraq's history using an archive never seen by Iraqis.This will be a great deficiency for the US and world academia.
عودة الارشيف العراقي من امريكا ضرورة ثقافية وحضارية وانسانية تاريخية اذ كيف يتاح للاجانب الاطلاع على وثائق في غاية الاهمية تخص تاريخ العراق الحديث في حين لا تتاح هذه الفرصة للباحث وللقارئ وللانسان العراقي...لماذا يكون بامكان جوزيف ساسون كتابة تاريخ حزب البعث ولا يستطيع ذلك باحث عراقي....."
"Human Rights"

"Since the end of state socialism in Eastern Europe, the revolutions of 1989 have become a central element in the mythology of human rights. Human rights are portrayed as a catalyst, alighting a revolutionary ethos within those living in the Eastern Bloc. By depicting 1989 as the result of a mass moral epiphany regarding universal human rights, such narratives naturalize and depoliticize the collapse of state socialism. While the discourse of human rights was important in unifying dissident groups, it had also been used to by socialist states to legitimize dictatorial rule. 

"During the Arab Spring, international commentators and local actors invoked this mythological version of 1989 to declare that a similar awakening was once again taking place and that human rights were sure to triumph over dictatorship. The example of Egypt appeared to mirror that of 1989 with mass demonstrations for human rights, prompting optimism that a similar revolutionary change was inevitable. Instead, the successful reassertion of military dictatorship has been legitimized in the name of protecting human rights. In viewing the end of state socialism as the result of the proliferation of human rights consciousness, the mythology of 1989 creates a tragically flawed model for reform and revolution."

Ned Richardson-Little, Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern EuropeVolume 23, Issue 2-3, 2015, pages 151- 166. Published online: 21 Dec 2015

"The woman didn't take the ball, it was the invisible hand of the free market that allocated the ball where it can be put to use most efficiently." 
— H. B. (the owner of this joke wants to remain anonymous)

Institutional racism

“I completely and utterly reject the bad apples argument,” the director told EW. “Chicago just got caught with their pants down in a way that can’t be denied. But I completely and utterly reject the ‘few bad apples’ argument. Yeah, the guy who shot [Laquan McDonald] is a bad apple. But so are the other eight or nine cops that were there that said nothing, did nothing, let a lie stand for an entire year.”
“And the chief of police, is he a bad apple?” Tarantino continued. “I think he is. Is [Chicago Mayor] Rahm Emanuel a bad apple? I think he is. They’re all bad apples. That just shows that that’s a bulls*** argument. It’s about institutional racism. It’s about institutional cover-ups that are about protecting the force as opposed to the citizens.”

Quentin Tarantino
Gone but not Forgotten

Golden Horseshoes (a movie, Tunisia 1989)
...Winston Churchill [compares] Palestinians in 1937 to the dog in the manger after reading the Peel Commission which suggested partitioning British mandated Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. Churchill said of the Palestinians in 1937, "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

"I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race."
The greatest Briton
This is Hell! interviews Andreas Malm on his upcoming book, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming:
"It pops up everywhere - in science about climate change, fiction about climate change, in the political debate - 'we' in general have caused this, 'we' all must share responsibility and 'we' all must do our part. As though climate change emerged from a society that was completely democratic and egalitarian and where everyone influenced outcomes to the same degree."

"He was not Algerian, nor an Arab, nor a Muslim by birth. Indeed, he was middle class, received an elite education, and was a French citizen, as cited. Fanon was not of the wretched of the earth. Yet he developed a deep sense of solidarity with the Algerian struggle, based on a mutual history of racial discrimination and colonial chauvinism. An outcome of his contingent internationalism, this radical empathy not only had practical effects on his life direction. This solidarity also forcefully disrupted a politics of difference—by race, nation, culture, and class—established by colonialism."
Fanon at Ninety

Politics Isn't a Fairytale about Good Versus Bad

Journalist: M. Ben M'Hidi, don't you think it's a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people? 
Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.

See also

More crimes by state terrorism. Russian this time. "200" Syrian civilians killed. No, they are not French!

"All of this infuriates Orabi Hamdan. I met him at a refugee reception centre in Stockholm. 
He comes from Deraa, where the first anti-regime demonstrations began, and is waiting to be re-united with his wife who is living in another centre. 
He feels he and his family are pawns of the big powers. 
"They play and we pay. It is a game. But a bad game and a bloody game. Our children play. You see every day a lot of kids killed without any reasons. You find the kids as pieces without legs, without heads, without arms...why?"
The Syrian talks may produce a settlement that allows Orabi to go home. 
But the conflict stands as a testament to the failure of the international system. (Source: the bbc )

See also
What Happened to the "Arab Spring"?
"While the Right views all Muslims as a problem and as a fifth column in Western nations, the liberal establishment sounds more reasonable in that it differentiates between terrorists and the majority of Muslims. But it nevertheless holds an entire group of people responsible. This is why establishment liberals believe that “moderate Muslims” should “take responsibility” for denouncing the terrorists, that leftists and anti-racists should get over their political correctness, and that everyone should join them in supporting the war on terror and its practices of war, surveillance, indefinite detention, and drone strikes."

"None of this is to say, of course, that Trump doesn’t represent a frightening turn in US politics, but rather that we should try to understand the no-less-frightening political dynamic that makes Trump possible, a dynamic that is a product of the political system in its entirety. It bears reiterating that we need to understand this phenomenon in systemic terms — not as the product of a single individual or a single political party."

Spain: an essential background

"Despite this pointed Northern patronage, the PSOE adopted a new programme at its 27th Congress 
of December 1976, the first held in Spain since the Civil War, which seemed to define it as the most radical Socialist party in Europe—a ‘class party with a mass character, Marxist and democratic’. Rejecting ‘any path of accommodation to capitalism’, the programme envisaged ‘the taking of political and economic power, the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange by the working class’. Of course such formulations of the final goal had once been the standard, raising no eyebrows among the continental parties of social democracy. But this was now seventeen years after Bad Godesberg had brought programme into line with practice and enshrined a most extensive accommodation to capitalism as the model for European Socialism. The González team, deeply indebted to the SPD for material and political aid, had never shown any commitment to a Marxist inflection of the Party’s ideology and strategy. Why, then, this language of the 27th Congress?

"... [T]he franquista regime actively presided over the most sustained and explosive expansion of any Atlantic capitalist economy from the late fifties onwards. Tourism, emigrant remittances and cheap labour were the motor of a surge of accumulation which broke every European record and utterly changed the structures of the society that had once thrown up the revolutionary challenges of the Second Republic

"[I]n the first year after Franco’s death, Spanish labour rose to the highest level of militancy in the continent: in 1976, 150 million working hours were lost in disputes, the great majority of them politically inspired.

"The crucial objective, symbolized in the drive for EEC membership, was to strengthen the Spanish economy and polity through participation in the bourgeois-democratic order of Western Europe, and to effect the transition in such a way that the flow-tide of working-class radicalism would not leave a permanent mark on any new political settlement.

"Within a little over a year, Suárez had smoothly piloted the fascist state to a soft landing on the plains of a more or less conventional bourgeois democracy. He had done so while maintaining a nearly perfect continuity of personnel in the upper reaches of the civil service, judiciary and armed forces, except where it had been necessary to find posts for former bureaucrats of the defunct vertical syndicates. The new Constitution [of 1978] sanctified the principle of private property, recognized the army’s role in ‘protecting the constitutional order’ and laid down the obligation for any government to maintain relations of cooperation with the Church. Topping the whole edifice was an unelected monarch who had been given the power to command the army, select governments and ultimately to veto legislation. Such was the mess of pottage for which the insurgent and republican birthright of the Spanish labour movement was given up by the leaders of the Socialist and Communist opposition. For in effect, once the reformist course had won the day in the political establishment, the PSOE and PCE leaderships simply decided to fall in with its scope and timing.

"... for the PSOE and PCE leaderships in the late seventies, the ‘free-enterprise monarchy’ set the parameters for an epochal reconciliation of class interests... For its part, the González leadership of the PSOE kept its sights fixed on a German type of political system in which the Socialists and the Centre would loyally alternate in the roles of government and opposition."

Analysis in full: Spain: an essential background

Turkey's AKP and its record help us understand its present
NATO's Islamists (pdf)

  • By the second half of the 1990s, however, it was becoming clear that the Islamist regimes in Iran and Afghanistan were corrupt, inefficient or coercive, while international Islamic banks and credit institutions were plagued by scandal. Faced with state repression, Islamist resistance movements in Algeria, Egypt and elsewhere alienated their supporters by resorting to indiscriminate violence. ‘Actually existing’ Islamist radicalism was becoming broadly discredited. This disillusion with religious militancy in the Muslim world was given powerful impetus by Washington’s change of line. Having been willing to arm the crudest Islamist groups against Communism during the Cold War, and to back such murderous confessional states as General Zia’s Pakistan, the US had started to distinguish between fundamentalist and ‘moderate’ Islam. The latter referred to religious movements that cooperated with Western hegemony, while oppositional forms were now redefined as terrorists. 
  • The third vote was carried out in ErdogFan’s authoritarian presence: a crushing majority of AKP deputies now voted in favour of sending troops to Iraq... the votes demonstrated that the AKP could prevail against the will of 90 per cent of Turkish citizens on a matter of international war. The legacy of decades of Islamist activism had been appropriated to support an Anglo-American military invasion in the Muslim world.
  • A major test for the Islamists was the dispatch of Turkish troops to join the UK force in Lebanon in October 2006. As with Iraq, a majority of the population was strongly opposed to the Israeli invasion and the IDF destruction of south Beirut...  [A] decision ratified by 340 to 192 in an emergency session of the Meclis on September 5th, despite opinion polls which showed that some 80 per cent of the public was against the measure. The decision was also welcomed, of course, by the EU, the Western media and pro-Western liberals in Turkey; some European commentators even saw it as a good reason to speed up EU accession talks.
  • Domestically, the new ‘conservative democrats’ have worked closely with the IMF to cut public spending—aiming at a 6 per cent surplus...and privatize both public enterprises and natural resources. The AKP is undertaking an extensive privatization of public forests—justified by the claim that it will only sell off tracts that have ‘lost their quali- ties’ as forests. Real-estate speculators have known how to interpret the message: there were 829 fires in the first seven months of 2003 which scorched 1,755 hectares of forest, qualifying them as fit for privatization.

محمود درويش وناجي العلي

This is an interesting study. There is only a resumé/abstract in French and English. The study is in Arabic. 
You may need to create a free accound in order to access the study.

Salafi-Jihadi Youth in a 'Popular' Tunisian Quarter
Some points from a speech by Gary Younge
  • Labour produced mugs saying it would be tough on immigration; the Tories produced policies.
  • After more than a decade of war and almost a decade of austerity, social democratic parties across the continent and beyond had failed to develop a programme or strategy that could engage with their traditional bases. They no longer spoke the language of reform but instead containment. Their project, it seemed, was to limit the damage inflicted by international capitalism, not to prevent it less still to reverse it.
  • My guess is that the overwhelming majority who attended that [historical] march [against the war on Iraq] ... voted for the government they were demonstrating against and at least a plurality, including many here, voted for them again.
  • When Lula won the presidency in Brazil on a redistributive manifesto in 2002 the invisible hand of the market tore up his electoral promises and boxed the country around the ears for its reckless choice. In the three months between his winning and being sworn in, the currency plummeted by 30%, $6bn in hot money left the country, and some agencies gave Brazil the highest debt-risk ratings in the world. “We are in government but not in power,” said his close aide, Frei Betto. “Power today is global power, the power of the big companies, the power of financial capital.”
  • “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
  • We see those symptoms today in the fundamentalisms of Mohammad, the military and the market. The war on the poor; and the wars without end.
  • Whoever you vote for, capital gets in.
  • Grassroots movements and electoral wins across Europe testify to the vitality of the left. But until it works out how to exercise power in the interests of its supporters and challenge global capital, any gains will be shortlived.
“MT [Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.” — Christopher Hitchens

The Squalid Truth Behind the Legacy of Mother Teresa
 This is a very significant vision of the structure of the world: we have a mass of destitute people who make up half of the global population, we have an oligarchy whom I could well call aristocratic, from the point of view of their number. And then we have the middle class, that pillar of democracy, who, representing 40% of the population, must share between them 14% of global resources. 

This middle class is principally concentrated in the so-called advanced countries. So it is largely a Western class. It is the mass support for local democratic power, parliamentary power. I think that we can say, without wanting to insult its existence— since we’re all more or less a part of it, aren’t we?—that a very important aim of this group, which, even so, only has access to quite a small part of global resources, just 14%, is not to fall back into, not to be identified with, the immense mass of the destitute. Which we can well understand. 

This is why this class, taken as a whole, is porous to racism, to xenophobia, to hatred of the destitute. These are the subjective determinations that threaten this median mass which defines the West in the broad sense, or the representation it has of itself; and they are determinations that fuel a sentiment of superiority. We know very well that the Western middle class is the vector of the conviction that the West, in the end, is the place of the civilised. 

When we read everywhere that we must wage war on the barbarians, it is obviously being said in the name of the civilised, and in so far as these barbarians come from the enormous mass of those who are left behind, with whom the middle class does not want to identify, at any cost. 

All of this clarifies the singular position of the middle class, especially the European middle class. It is like a photographic plate sensitive to the difference—which is constantly threatened by the capitalist real—between itself, the middle class, and the enormous mass, faraway, a little distant, but which also has its representatives in our own countries, of those who have little or nothing. And it is to this middle class threatened by precarity that we owe the discourse of the defence of values: ‘We must defend our values!’ In reality, to defend our values means to defend the Western way of life, that is to say the civilised sharing-out of 14% of global resources between 40% of the ‘median’ people. Pascal Bruckner, head held high like Hollande in his role as warchief, tells us that this way of life is not negotiable. ‘The Western way of life is not negotiable.’ This is the phrase of Pascal Bruckner who, himself, in any case, will not negotiate. With anyone. He is already convinced, Bruckner is; he dons his uniform: War! War! Such is his wish, his catechism. 

This is one of the reasons why the mass murder [the terrorist attack in Paris] of which we speak this evening is significant and traumatising. For it strikes within this Europe, which, in certain regards, is the soft underbelly of globalised capitalism, it strikes at the heart of the middle mass, the middle class which represents itself as an island of civilisation at the centre of a world—whether it is a matter of the oligarchy who are so few that we can hardly see them, or the immense mass of the destitute—that surrounds them, enframes them and presses close to them, this middle class. This is the reason why the sinister event was experienced as a crisis of civilisation, that is to say as an attack on something which already, in its historical and natural existence, is threatened by developments underway in globalised capitalism, but to which nevertheless we cling. 

Western subjectivity is the subjectivity of those who share the 14% left over by the dominant oligarchy. It is the subjectivity of the middle class, and in addition it is largely concentrated in the most developed countries. It is here that the crumbs can be shared out. This subjectivity, as we see it playing out today, is in my view worked through by a contradiction. A first element is a great self-satisfaction—westerners are very happy with themselves, they like themselves a lot. There is a historical arrogance behind this, of course: it was not that long ago that westerners held the world in their hands. At that time, one needed only to add up the possessions, conquered by pure violence, of the French and the English, and one would have practically the whole map of the extra- European world. What remains of this direct and immense imperial power is a self- image of the westerner as, in some way, the representative of the modern world, as having invented and as being the defender of the modern way of life. 
Alain Badiou, 23 November 2015
أسطورة الشعب الكسول

Hussein, 14 years old, works in aluminium pots industry workshop at Al Gamaliya, Cairo, Egypt.
He takes a salary that varies between 15 to 25 EGP per day. The minimum wage of a worker in the public sector is 1,200 Egyptian pounds ($170) a month.
حسين, ١٤ سنة, يعمل في ورشة لصناعة الاواني الالومنيوم بالجمالية. مصر.
يتقاضى حسين اجر يومي يترواح ما بين 15 الى 25 جنيه.
Photo by @mostafa_bassim 


"دعم المؤسسة الأمنية" هكذا يهتف السياسيون والمثقفون من أقصى اليمين إلى أقصى اليسار، من الأشد تزمتا إلى الأكثر حداثة وليبرالية، من راشد الغنوشي إلى حمة الهمامي، ومن إمام المسجد إلى أكاديمي الجامعة، ومن أنصار الأحزاب الحاكمة الى أنصار الأحزاب المعارضة الأكثرها راديكالية....
جوقة يومية تطالب بتزويد البوليس بالسلاح والأجهزة المتطورة وإحياء مؤسسة المخابرات وإعادة الكوادر القديمة وانتداب المزيد من الأعوان و"تحسين ظروف الأمنيين"....الخ، بل إنهم يلومون الحكومة على تساهلها هنا، وعدم الضرب بيد من حديد هناك، وبقدر الصخب والضجيج الذي أثارته بعض قوانين ميزانية 2016 فيما يتعلق ببعض التفاصيل الجبائية فإن رصد أكثر من 10 بالمائة من هذه الميزانية لحساب وزارتي الداخلية والدفاع لم يلق سوى الترحيب من جميع الكتل النيابية في ما يسمى مجلس نواب الشعب...
وبما أن "الخطر الإرهابي"، وفق الخبراء والمحللين وكل مرتزقة صناعة الرأي العام، سيمتد لسنوات طويلة، فإن "المجهود الوطني" لتعزيز "المؤسسة الأمنية" و"تطوير أدائها" وتمكينها من كل الوسائل اللوجستية والتقنية سيتواصل بنفس النسق، بل سيمتص المزيد من موارد الدولة، وسيكدس المزيد من الأسلحة بيد البوليس والجيش. ومع كل عملية إرهابية جديدة ستنتفخ ميزانية الداخلية والدفاع والسجون لتغذي هذا العملاق وتمكنه من كل وسائل القوة...
وهكذا، وتحت تصفيق المعارضة، وحذلقة الخبراء، والقصف اليومي لوسائل الإعلام، سنجد أنفسنا أمام أخطبوط مدجج بالسلاح، شديد التدريب، متغلغل في كل مسمات المجتمع، متمكن من أكثر وسائل الجوسسة والمخابرات تطورا، مدعوم بترسانة من القوانين، متمرس بالحياة السياسية، مسنود بشبكة من العمد وأنصار الأحزاب الحاكمة ومحترفي الوشاية، بحيث ستجد النضالات الاجتماعية نفسها في مواجهة آلة جهنمية من القمع تكتم أنفاسها في المهد. طبعا هذا بدون أن نتحدث عن أن أي اندلاع مستقبلي لحركة ثورية سيواجه بمجازر دموية، وستكون موازين القوى لصالح هذا المسخ الذي يتم تسمينه بالموارد التي تمتصها الدولة من عرق الأجراء ومن الثروة الاجتماعية....
"الخطر الإرهابي" الحقيقي من منظور الدولة والطبقة الحاكمة هو الخطر الثوري، خطر الطبقات المسحوقة، خطر الأحياء الشعبية، خطر المناطق المهمشة وجمهور المستبعدين من الثروة والسيادة، لذلك فهي تجهز نفسها وتحصن مواقعها تحضيرا لمعاركها الآتية ضده...
والذين يصفقون اليوم لآلة البوليس والجيش ويرمونها بالورود، باسم مقاومة الإرهاب، سيجدون أنفسهم يصفقون لها وهي تقمع الحركة الشعبية، وإن رفضوا مواصلة تقديم ولائهم لها، حتى باسم ما تبقى لهم من شرف قليل للدفاع عما يسمونه حقوق الإنسان، سيكونون أول ضحايا الوحش الذي نفخوا في روحه وسلموه رقابهم. 
صباحا، يقدم اليساريون باقات الورد للبوليس
مساء، ينعتونك بالبوليس

محمد المثلوثي، تونس 16 ديسمبر 2015

Is there really any difference between a terrorist and an ordinary criminal?

and a good comment by Ed Lytwak: "The real question: Is there any moral difference between individual terrorism and State Terrorism? 
P.S. apart from the fact that State terrorism is systemic and practiced on a much larger scale."
Today, the so-called liberal paper The Guardian removed a comment of mine. I lost the original text, but it was in this vein:

I am lonely in London. I tried to integrate for a few years: I conformed and conceded. In the last few years and after seeing the crimes of the state of this country at home and abroad, the plunder of the wealth, the exploitation, the hypocrisy, the vacuousness of the so-called freedom and democracy, the wars, the indifference and complicity of the silent majority and their individualism and self-centrism, the mediocrity and sameness, etc. I have become more radicalised and more extremist, unbearable to people because of my radical views, and I now refuse to integrate in such a society.

A shopkeeper reading a newspaper, Cairo 14 December 2015
A photograph by Everyday Egypt

Benedict Anderson (1936-2015)

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

Man Without a Country
"... I think there's a serious misunderstanding... on the role Trump is playing. Trump is not the cause of anti-Muslim bigotry in the US: he is a symptom of it. We're now 14 years into a war that the United States has waged on Muslims, in which all of the extraordinary steps that the state has taken - Guantanamo Bay, torture, black sites, omnipresent electronic surveillance, endless war, unlimited drone assassination anywhere on the planet - are acceptable precisely because the victims of these measures have been racialized. "The innocent have nothing to fear" is code for "look, we're going after Muslims, everyone knows we're going after Muslims, you're white, you have nothing to worry about." And a decade and a half of a bipartisan project to criminalize Muslims - embraced by every mainstream candidate in the United States from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders - has been an American mainstream which is suspicious of Islam at best and violently racist at worst. This is not a surprise; this is not a shock; this was predictable and predicted.

What we have in Trump is not some dramatic break from the status quo of American politics, believe me. Rather, he is the logical and inevitable expression of a form of politics which has already been practiced in this country for most of my adult life. Trump is cruder about it, and more overt about it, than any other national politician, but the logic of racism has always been there; Obama's entire foreign policy depends on it, as did Bush's before him, as will Clinton's when she's president. To the extent that Trump is having a real effect here, it's that every time he says something insane, it gives the actual next president of the United States more room to shift further to the right herself (as she did a few weeks ago, when she promised a ground invasion of Syria). 

Chris Mastrangelo, a Facebook comment, 13 December 2015

Turkey's Time Has Come
(A free subscription is required to read this interesting analysis)

Read also
Whose Side is Turkey on?
Clash of Barbarisms

"The process of civilization is described as a historical process of pacification of human relations, overcoming aggressivness and the rule of law. And what we are seeing in this kind of clash is not, therefore, a clash of civilizations or features of civilizations clashing, but a clash of those kinds of barbaric potentials that every civilization include, whether Islamic or Western. These are barbarian forms which are potentially included in every kind of civilization and which can take over in periods of crisis or some specific historical periods.
Gilbert Achcar, 2003

Achcar said in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris: "The Western intervention, the Western action in the Middle East, has been creating the ground for all this. This is what I called previously the clash of barbarisms, with a major barbarism represented by Western intervention." 

On Naguib Mahfouz
"No corner of Egyptian life was foreign to him: his characters are pharaohs and whores, shopkeepers and bureaucrats, peasants and presidents. Part of Mahfouz’s achievement is its sheer extent, its superabundant precision, a kind of indigenous update of the Encyclopedists’ Description de l’Egypt. It is the size of his ambitions that make it so natural to compare him with the giants of the nineteenth century—Balzac, Dickens and Zola..."
Israel's barbarism

"David Halberstam wrote The Best and the Brightest out of genuine puzzlement at how highly educated academics, intellectuals, bureaucrats, and businessmen fell victim in Vietnam to their own myths of moral supremacy and military firepower. In our own time, the power of the technocratic elite has multiplied, helped by lavish funding from insecure politicians and self-seeking businessmen, the delegitimation of dissent in the mainstream media and universities, and broad-spectrum depoliticization."

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I Saw a Man Beheaded

"I want to share this account* as a small intervention to re-frame ideas and experiences of violence and terror.
I was an ambulance volunteer during Israel's Operation Cast Lead. It was a 22 day war on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 that killed 1409 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. It was the heaviest Israeli attack on Palestinian territory since 1967. The 2014 Gaza War has since eclipsed this in terms of deaths, injury and destruction in Gaza.
On the afternoon of Friday the 16th of January we picked up the body of a man who had just been decapitated by an Israeli air strike.
Dominant cultural narratives on violence in the global north now only see beheading as a terrorist act by ISIS or Al Qaeda or similar groups. The perpetrator is a Muslim. The colonial fantasy of the savage is coming back in to focus. 
The role of the state, armed with heavy aerial power – drones, F16s, Apache Helicopters, MIG jets – is not part of the story of beheading. I think it's important to bring the role of states back in to the story, all the more so given that UK air strikes on Syria could be about to intensify.
Violent deaths and their invisibilisation, as routinely experienced by marginalised and demonised populations, represent a form of collective punishment and a wielded amnesia, which can dismember communities and families as well as individuals.
The following account is about trying to find out who the headless man was, to try and piece him back together, and recover a sense of who he was. 
*The account is a chapter in my book Podpalic Gaze (Raze Gaza) published by WAB Warsaw, 2011. Only available in Polish. The original is written in English and was translated into Polish.
Niall Ferguson, a reactionary historian

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He was already arguing in The Cash Nexus, published a few months before the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, that ‘the United States should be devoting a larger percentage of its vast resources to making the world safe for capitalism and democracy’ – if necessary by military force. ‘Let me come clean,’ he wrote in the New York Times Magazine in April 2003, a few weeks after the shock-and-awe campaign began in Iraq, ‘I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang.’

Global Poverty

The Science of (Not) Ending Global Poverty