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Thu, 01 Jun 2023
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The unraveling of Sykes-Picot

The thrice-promised land it has been called.

It is that land north of Mecca and Medina and south of Anatolia, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

In 1915 - that year of Gallipoli, which forced the resignation of First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill - Britain, to win Arab support for its war against the Ottoman Turks, committed, in the McMahon Agreement, to the independence of these lands under Arab rule.

It was for this that Lawrence of Arabia and the Arabs fought.

In November 1917, however, one month before Gen. Allenby led his army into Jerusalem, Lord Balfour, in a letter to Baron Rothschild, declared that His Majesty's government now looked with favor upon the creation on these same lands of a national homeland for the Jewish people.

Between these clashing commitments there had been struck in 1916 a secret deal between Britain's Mark Sykes and France's Francois Georges-Picot. With the silent approval of czarist Russia, which had been promised Istanbul, these lands were subdivided and placed under British and French rule.

France got Syria and Lebanon. Britain took Transjordan, Palestine and Iraq, and carved out Kuwait.

Vladimir Lenin discovered the Sykes-Picot treaty in the czar's archives and published it, so the world might see what the Great War was truly all about. Sykes-Picot proved impossible to reconcile with Woodrow Wilson's declaration that he and the allies - the British, French, Italian, Russian and Japanese empires - were all fighting "to make the world safe for democracy."

Star of David

Torture and human rights violations in Israel and Palestine

Torture allegations against the treatment of Palestinians detainees in Israeli prisons make headlines again. Few days after his arrest, Arafat Jaradat died in Israeli custody. On 27 February 2013, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, called for an international investigation on the death of Palestinian prisoner Jaradat while undergoing interrogation in an Israeli facility. Falk stressed that "the death of a prisoner during interrogation is always a cause for concern, but in this case, when Israel has shown a pattern and practice of prisoner abuse, the need for outside, credible investigation is more urgent than ever. The best approach might be the creation of an international forensic team under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council."

The violations of the human rights of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupying forces have not decreased despite the peace process and there is no difference between the Labor Party and the Likud bloc. The list of the offenses is long: torture, arbitrary killings and arrests, the demolition of houses, the severe restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement by hundreds of check points, violence against Palestinians, land confiscation and the construction of illegal settlements, the "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem, collective punishments, such as the total closure of the territories like Gaza and curfews, and the bombardments of the people of the Gaza Strip.

The list of human rights violations involving Palestinian victims for which the Palestinian Authority (PA) is responsible is similarly long: torture and maltreatment, the denial of fair trials before military courts and the State Security Court, which has the power to issue the death sentence, the intimidation of undesirable persons, the restrictions on the freedom of speech and the press, and the hampering of the work of human rights organizations. Both the Fatah- and the Hamas-led governments use repressive measures in order to control and subdue the population under their reign.1 After Israel began its offensive in Gaza in 2008/09, Hamas took extraordinary steps to control, intimidate, punish, and at times eliminate its internal political rivals and those suspected of collaboration with Israel. The majority of Palestinians executed by other Palestinians during Israel's military operations were men accused of collaboration with Israel.

War Whore

Naming our nameless war

© Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images
Marines in Afghanistan, where US forces have been since 2001.
The Long War? The Second Hundred Years War? What we call the ongoing violence is a key to understanding our times

For well over a decade now the United States has been "a nation at war". Does that war have a name?

It did at the outset. After 9/11, George W Bush's administration wasted no time in announcing that the US was engaged in a Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT. With few dissenters, the media quickly embraced the term. The GWOT promised to be a gargantuan, transformative enterprise. The conflict begun on 9/11 would define the age.

Upon succeeding to the presidency in 2009, however, Barack Obama without fanfare junked Bush's formulation (as he did again in a speech at the National Defense University last week). Yet if the appellation went away, the conflict itself, shorn of identifying marks, continued.

Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much. Names bestow meaning. When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about. To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others. Let me provide a few illustrations.

With rare exceptions, Americans today characterize the bloodletting of 1861-1865 as the Civil War. Yet not many decades ago, diehard supporters of the Lost Cause insisted on referring to that conflict as the War Between the States or the War for Southern Independence (or even the War of Northern Aggression). The South may have gone down in defeat, but the purposes for which Southerners had fought - preserving a distinctive way of life and the principle of states' rights - had been worthy, even noble. So at least they professed to believe, with their preferred names for the war reflecting that belief.


City cracks down on sidewalk cafes just in time for summer

© Getty
Forget the great outdoors.

The Department of Consumer Affairs has sent notice to 17 New York restaurants, telling them that that they will have to close their sidewalk seating areas unless they are willing to comply with the city's zoning regulations.

"Please be advised you have 100 business days from and including May 1 to complete one of the following options," the agency notified owners on April 29, reported the New York Post. The restaurants were given the options to get a "certified land survey" to show they're operating on private property, file for a zoning exemption or surrender their permits.


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah clinically dead: Report says


Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz is reported to be clinically dead as the monarch is not recently seen in the public.

A Saudi journalist working for London-Based Asharq Alawsat says the Saudi monarch has been clinically dead since Wednesday.

He also quoted medical sources in Saudi Arabia as saying that the king's vital organs, including his heart, kidneys and lungs, have stopped functioning.

Doctors are said to have used a defibrillator on him several times. He is also reported to be alive with the help of a ventilator.

The Royal Court has yet to comment on the report of King's death.

Stock Down

Afghanistan war has cost broke Britain more than £37bn


Jolly good then
The war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household, according to a devastating critique of the UK's role in the conflict.

Since 2006, on a conservative estimate, it has cost £15m a day to maintain Britain's military presence in Helmand province. The equivalent of £25,000 will have been spent for every one of Helmand's 1.5 million inhabitants, more than most of them will earn in a lifetime, it says.

By 2020, the author of a new book says, Britain will have spent at least £40bn on its Afghan campaign, enough to recruit over 5,000 police officers or nurses and pay for them throughout their careers. It could fund free tuition for all students in British higher education for 10 years.

Alternatively, the sum would be enough to equip the navy with an up-to-date aircraft carrier group, or recruit and equip three army or Royal Marine brigades and fund them for 10 years.

Mr. Potato

Al-Qaida fired troublesome terrorist employee Belmoktar last October 'for failing to fill out expense reports, execute spectacular attacks'


Turr'ist: Turban, check. Military green jacket, check. Glass eye, check. Kalashnikov, check. Al Qaeda flag, check.

Terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, a one-eyed Algerian, was supposedly fired from al-Qaida in an October 2012 letter obtained by AP. So whose side has he been on since then? Answer: the side that justifies French, US and UK wars for resources in Africa.
The terrorist life, it's not all bombs and glitter. There are expense reports, meetings, and the kind of responsibilities you'd expect from a low-level manager in any organization.

A trove of letters found and authenticated by the Associated Press in Mali tell the story of how a man who would come to be responsible for more than 100 deaths was fired from al-Qaida for failing to carry out some of the more mundane aspects of running an international terrorist organization.

In one 10-page letter, al-Qaida leadership scolded an ambitious terrorist, the one-eyed Algerian bandit known as Moktar Belmoktar, for failing to attend meetings, for ignoring orders, for missing their phone calls, and for failing to turn in required monthly expense reports, AP reports.

But there were other problems as well.

Among al-Qaida's complaints with Belmoktar: he didn't charge enough ransom for one hostage, he failed to carry out any "spectacular operations," and he posted messages on Internet forums badmouthing the terrorist organization.

Comment: No this is not satire, but yes the War on Terror is a sick joke. AP found the letters in Mali?

About that siege of the BP gas plant in Algeria in January:

Blonde haired, blue-eyed American and Canadian 'terrorists' led international 'al Qaeda' brigade in siege on BP gas plant in Algeria, while 'English-speaking Islamic militants of European appearance' roam Mali

War Whore

Engineering empire: A guide to the institutions of imperialism

The following is my first original piece for The Hampton Institute, "a working class think tank," at which I chair the Geopolitics Division. This essay is meant as an introduction to modern American geopolitics, and a reference piece for future research and published material through The Hampton Institute's Geopolitics Division.

Educating yourself about empire can be a challenging endeavor, especially since so much of the educational system is dedicated to avoiding the topic or justifying the actions of imperialism in the modern era. If one studies political science or economics, the subject might be discussed in a historical context, but rarely as a modern reality; media and government voices rarely speak on the subject, and even more rarely speak of it with direct and honest language. Instead, we exist in a society where institutions and individuals of power speak in coded language, using deceptive rhetoric with abstract meaning. We hear about 'democracy' and 'freedom' and 'security,' but so rarely about imperialism, domination, and exploitation.

The objective of this report is to provide an introduction to the institutional and social structure of American imperialism. The material is detailed, but should not be considered complete or even comprehensive; its purpose is to function as a resource or reference for those seeking to educate themselves about the modern imperial system. It's not an analysis of state policies or the effects of those policies, but rather, it is an examination of the institutions and individuals who advocate and implement imperial policies. What is revealed is a highly integrated and interconnected network of institutions and individuals - the foreign policy establishment - consisting of academics (so-called "experts" and "policy-oriented intellectuals") and prominent think tanks.

Gold Coins

Gold, currency debasement and the fall of the Roman Empire

Have you seen what the gold price is doing? It's tanking almost as dramatically as the green energy investments, that's what. Though, of course, for rather different reasons.

The latest downward move has been prompted, at least in part, by Cyprus selling off its gold to meet its debt obligations. And also, perhaps, by Goldman Sachs revising downwards its estimate of where the gold price is going to be at the end of the year.

As a goldbug, obviously this troubles me. But not a lot. Like many true believers of the Austrian school (Margaret Thatcher was one of us, I suspect), I see this more than anything as a tremendous buying opportunity. I'm thinking this especially having read the fascinating new report from The Real Asset Company, which argues gold could go at least as high as $6,000. (Over four times its current price)

You'll say: "Well obviously they've got an interest in talking up the gold price." But they don't actually. On the occasions I've rung to ask them about where they think gold's going, they say: "We haven't a clue." As far as their business model is concerned it doesn't matter which way gold goes, because their money is made on a percentage of each trade, rather than the gold price itself.

So why, if they have no view on gold, are they yet hinting at this dramatic rise? Because, they argue, both history and market fundamentals show that it cannot be otherwise.

Comment: Was currency debasement really a cause of terminal economic decline, or was it a symptom? David Hackett Fischer has written in The Great Wave: Price-Revolutions and the Rhythm of History that the same problems associated with economic collapse that we're seeing today have repeated themselves at certain periods in history, and are generally accompanied by severe environmental downturn...


From Laos to Yemen to Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill & Noam Chomsky on secret U.S. dirty wars

Jeremy Scahill and author Noam Chomsky recently sat down together at Harvard University to discuss Scahill's groundbreaking new book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Sponsored by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and the ACLU of Massachusetts.