Egypt: Mursi’s Power Grab

After years of struggle under the repressive regime of Mubarak, the Egyptian people have seemingly come under another totalitarian leadership after the spontaneous power grab of the democratically elected leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammed Mursi.

Muhammed Mursi Grasps for Autocratic Powers, Sparking Violent Animosity

Leading the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice party, Muhammed Mursi became the presidential candidate after Khairat el-Shater was disqualified.  Euphoric jubilation followed his election in June, despite the array of problem that he would face as president.  The celebration of his presidency and the democratic era of Egypt continued after the successful negotiations led by Mursi to instill a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.  Nevertheless, the jubilation was short-lived as the streets in Cairo have filled with thousands of protesters demanding Mursi revoke recent policies granting Mursi near autocratic powers.  Reminiscent of the democratic groundswell that swept the country’s former leader from power nearly two years ago, Egyptians swarmed into Tahrir Square to demand that Mursi respect their wishes.   Protesters have risen throughout the country against Mursi and his declaration last week that his presidential edicts are beyond the reach of judges, suggesting his rise to unquestionable power and authority.  Mursi has promised the country and the top judges within that he will restrict his newly self-granted powers to sovereign matters.  The edict from last week granted Mursi immunity for his presidential decisions in sovereign matters but not judicial power.  So saying, Mursi’s edicts effectively neutralize the judiciary, which was the only branch of government in a position to balance Mursi, who holds not only executive but also legislative authority.  Nevertheless, as protesters storm Muslim Brotherhood quarters in various cities, the public belief in Mursi’s power restraint is evident.  The presidential decree triggered several days of street battles between Mursi opponents, supporters and police in major Egyptian cities, resulting in 370 injuries so far.

“Suddenly Mursi is issuing laws and becoming an absolute ruler, holding all powers in his hands.  Our revolt against the decrees became a protest against the Brotherhood as well.” – Mona Sadek, Tahrir Square protester

The election Mursi sparked a new era in Egyptian history in which hopes arose for a democratic transition through which a new Egyptian infrastructure would arise on a prospering economy and a democratic society.  So saying, the path towards the democratic era contained a plethora of hurdles for Mursi.  Among these hurdles was and continues to be the numerous opposition groups opposing the monopoly on power that the Muslim Brotherhood holds.  Another hurdle remains the strong military presence, embodied by the military council that existed as a transitional government after Mubarak.  So saying, Egypt’s elections did not promise an easy road forward and many through Mursi would merely become a puppet leader for the military council.  Nevertheless, the actions being taken by Mursi now have indicated the perseverance of the new guard towards the construction of a new era for Egypt.  The election of a Muslim Brotherhood monopoly sparked animosity in Egypt among opposition groups, proliferating fears of a religious theocracy emerging in the hard-fought political freedom they had just won.  Therefore, with the majority Muslim parliament in the midst of writing a new constitution, the minority groups of Egypt remain fearful of their country emerging as a religious dictatorship like Iran.  These fears are represented in the judicial system, as the top judges are skeptical of Mursi’s vision of Egypt’s future and were intending to oppose many of the new government’s actions.  For these reasons, domestic forces were turned against the Mursi government for its religious views and thus Mursi has taken an apparently dictatorial pathway at ensuring the democratic transition for Egypt. Mursi argues that he needs to sweep the judiciary of Mubarak’s old guard to ensure a new constitution and parliament.  According to Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the edicts are necessary to defend the fragile Arab Spring revolution that led to the country’s free elections.

“We are the people who will keep you honest, right after you grabbed all of this power for yourself that has made you even more powerful than Mubarak, who we got rid of last year.  So the people were here to say, ‘We might have elected you as president, but we did not elect a new dictator”. – Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian journalist

Mursi’s actions, construed as a step towards dictatorial power, has brought Egypt back to the brink of revolution as the country has come to a halt as protests and strikes paralyze the foundations of the nation.  In addition to outbursts on the street, Egypt’s judges have reacted.  All but 7 of Egypt’s 34 courts and 90% of its prosecutors went on strike in protest.  The unrest raises new concerns about stability in Egypt, thus halting Egypt’s path forward and doing the opposite of what Mursi had hoped his actions would bring about.  The fears of the people have spread to the Egyptian stock market, with volatile trade over the past few days, and the turmoil could derail government efforts to implement already unpopular economic policies such as the removal of petrol products.  The turmoil is also causing the international community to yield in its advancement towards Egypt.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board is to meet in a few weeks to consider a nearly $5 billion financing agreement for Egypt and its members will need to ensure that the economic outlook for the country has not changed and that the government is capable of successfully implementing its economic reform program.  So saying, the domestic forces are shown to consider Mursi’s actions as those of dictatorial consolidation, but the intentions of Mursi are not those of a dictatorial nature.  Mursi’s democratic ideals are seen in his mediation of the Israel and Hamas crisis.  As the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, fears had arisen that Egypt would rescind on its 1979 peace treaty.  The possible dissolution of the accord is an appeal shared by many Islamist figures who see the Israelites as a foreign imposition and an evil needing to be eradicated.  Nevertheless, Mursi demonstrated his resolve for peace and stability by negotiating the cease-fire and aiding the Israeli nation.  Thus, to suggest Mursi is intending to usurp power in an Islamist power grab opposes his mediation of the crisis, the installment of the democratic institutions in Egypt, as well as the drafting of a new constitution intended to secure a system of democratic checks and balances on aspects of authority and power in Egypt.

“I think it is a bit of an exaggeration, not because I know his intentions – but I think he cannot really become a new pharaoh and what we’ve witnessed over the past few days really testifies to that.” – Khalil, Egyptian activist

In retrospect, the edict marks the usurpation of dictatorial powers by Mursi, but the intentions behind Mursi do not seem to suggest that Mursi is intending to institute another religious dictatorship in the Middle East.  Moreover, the response of the country to the actions taken by Mursi clearly illustrate the inability for Mursi to capture such a position of power.  The democratic ideals and institution already installed have empowered the people and their vigor will not allow for the Muslim Brotherhood to hijack the revolution from them.  The Arab Spring revolution in Egypt remains one aimed at democratic transition and Mursi has attempted to consolidate the installment of the necessary steps through his unorthodox actions, attempting to halt questions and repeals in order to solidify the passing of already unpopular acts that are necessary for Egypt to emerge as a strong democracy.


Syria: Chemical Weapons – What Can the International Community Do?

The Syria conflict has gained renewed intensity after the al-Assad regimes announced its willingness to utilize its stockpile of chemical weapons if the international community were to militarily involve itself; thus ensuring that international activity in the region will not surpass mere sanctions and also suggests that the al-Assad regime may be feeling the pressure of the various opposition groups within Syria.

Despite the Confirmation of Biological Weapons, the International Community Still Can’t Do Anything

Though Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons has been an open secret for the past 4 decades, the Assad’s regime’s announcement is a direct confirmation that Syria does indeed have a chemical weapons arsenal at their disposal.  The announcement targeted the international community, stating that if any foreign intervention in Syria’s civil war would be met with the deployment of chemical weapons.  The weapons include mustard and sarin gases, as well as cyanide, and are capable of being deployed by aircraft, surface-to-air missiles and rockets.  The announcement has sparked renewed animosity towards the regime, as well as towards the eastern powers that still persist in supporting the Assad regime, such as Russia and China.  Though the announcement does spark another international dilemma to be confronted if the community were to begin renewed intervention-talks, it does not present any new looming threat for the opposition groups still fighting throughout the Syrian country.  As the perpetuating conflict in Aleppo demonstrates, the opposition groups are utilizing a hit-and-run, urban-guerrilla warfare against the security forces of the regime.  The chemical weapons are poorly suited for such close-quarters style combat; rather, these weapons are generally most effective against mass formations in open country.  This does pose a problem for neighboring anti-Assad countries, such as Turkey.  Turkey has remained a proponent of direct military involvement and has, in the past, deployed reinforcing troops along its borders and has run military-training exercises as a show of force.  So saying, the foreign powers that constitute the ‘Friends of Syria’ contact group are those most threatened by the weapons and it is for this reason that the recurring hopes for further foreign assistance to the people of Syria will most likely dwindle away again.  Nevertheless, Assad forces have killed more than 15,000 protesters in an attempt to repress what it has called a ‘foreign conspiracy’.  Thus the efforts of diplomacy, embodied by the UN’s Annan plan, have gone nowhere and the humanitarian catastrophe escalates.

“No chemical or biological weapons will every be used.  Unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.” – Jihad Madkissi, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman

Russia, a remaining ally for the Syrian dictator, has refused to budge on its stance against unilateral international action, but they have also warned Assad against using the chemical weapons.  Russia’s defense of Assad can be explained by merely pointing a finger at the current President, that being Putin.  The repression enforced in Russia during the first round of presidential elections represents elements of the Stalin-esque era, as well as the heavy-handedness supporting by Russia and represented by Assad in Syria.  Combined with the installment of loyal office-holders in the regime by Putin, the regidity of the country to liberalization is evident.  So saying, Syria also represents to Russia its last stronghold in the Middle East and is also part of a lucrative bilateral trade agreement, thus making Russia very reluctant to lose such an ally.  Many have stated that if Russia were to withdraw its veto on any and all UN measures, then the international community would be able to respond with force against Assad.  However, the complexities of involvement go beyond the mere reluctance of Russia and the American gun-ho attitude of invasion without knowledge, as in Iraq, cannot be the strategy taken.  If Russia were to continue maintaining strong ties to the Assad regime whilst the international community launched a Libyan-style intervention, the result would be a proxy struggle mired in a protracted civil war.  With great powers funding militias on both sides, entering a period of escalated violence, civilian casualties would dwarf the already high numbers currently.  The situation then would not resemble the relatively successful Libyan intervention, but more so that of the Lebanon civil war which resulted in over 150,000 deaths over decades long span.  So saying, an internationally involved military conflict would not provide the sought after government transition.  As of now the Obama Administration, despite hot-headed criticism from GOP Presidential candidate Romney, has taken the correct diplomatic path towards Russia.  The American government continues to try and persuade Russia, if not to join the Friends of Syria contact group, then at leas ease its objections to sanctions.  The recurring request comes after another recent UN resolution for sanctions was vetoed by both Russia and China.  Nevertheless, even without Russia, the current sanctions and embargoes will bankrupt the Syrian regime – just not as swiftly as desired.

“Our duty today as Syrians is to unify for one goal, and that is to make our country free and democratic.” – Manaf Tlass, Free Syrian Army Brigade General

As said before, much blame for a lack of direct action by the Western community, is directed as Russia.  If Russia were to remove its support for Assad and thus allow the international community an unhindered approach to do as it pleases, the situation in Syria as a whole still represents a variable that is nigh unconquerable.  The international community was able to involve itself in Libya because it was a large country with a small population, allowing the rebel forces there to capture a significant stronghold.  Syria is roughly one-tenth the size of Libya and it has 3 times as many people.  Moreover, the rebel forces in Syria have not been able to take control of any significant part of the country.  A majority of the Syrian population lives in or around Damascus and Aleppo, both of which remain under the regime’s general control.  The Syrian rebels have been able to launch sporadic attacks, but poor organization and a lack of unity has made expansion and coordination impossible.  Elements of al-Qaeda and other religious extremists are fighting with the rebels, as well as members of the country’s various minority groups – Christian, Druze and Kurdish groups.  This divided group stands under the umbrella name of the Syrian National Council, which faces a loyal Alawite hierarchy.  There has been no signs of high-level dissent, mainly due to the connection between the Alawite dictator and the fact that all key military and intelligence posts are held by Shi’ites as well.  There loyalists have remained supportive because they know that in a post-Assad Syria, they will likely be massacred.  The scenario was seen in Libya where Qaddafi loyalists were executed without trial.  Evidently, the Assad regime still remains military strong and thus an international-militaristic-coalition would not be the correct response to topple the regime.

“It would be morally far more satisfying to do something dramatic that would topple Assad tomorrow.  But starving his regime might prove the more effective strategy.” – Fareed Zakaria, Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine

In retrospect, the international community must stand behind its current plan to constrict the Syrian regime financially, through a series of stricter embargoes and sanctions.  Though Russia and China remain allies to Bashar al-Assad, their support is not the key element in keeping the international community from entering into Syrian with guns blazing.  The reality is that the international community cannot, or at least should not, become militarily involved because of the uncertainty of the Syrian situation represented by a fractured opposition and because Assad does hold a key deterrence tool, that being a large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.


Egypt: Mohammed Mursi and Egypt’s Foreign Relations

Islamist Mohamed Mursi was declared winner on Sunday of the run-off presidential election, becoming Egypt’s first freely elected president and now faces the overbearing power of the military council that has already curbed his powers as president and dissolved the previous Islamist-led parliament.

Mohammed Mursi’s Victory Represents the Continuation of the Revolution

The election of Egypt’s first democratically elected president has followed with euphoric jubilation, yet the hopes of the Egyptian revolution may fall short as President Mursi currently stands merely as a figurehead of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military junta that maintains widespread control of the country.  So saying, Mursi faces an array of challenges at home and abroad.  So far, the democratic road-map for Egypt has been plagued with militaristic totalitarianism wielded by the military, an iron first that has dissolved the constitution and the democratically elected Islamist parliament.  Under the interim constitutional deceleration, the military council has ensured that it retains the power to make laws and budget decisions until a new constitution is written and a new parliament is elected.  Alongside the challenges to overcome the repressive hold of the military, Mursi also inherits a struggling economy, with widespread poverty, high unemployment and its main source of investment, its tourism sector, is slow to come back after the political and social unrest that has haunted Egypt since its uprising against Mubarak.  The political situation remains very much unsettled amid lingering questions about whether the military will loosen its grip on power.  Its firm handed ruling has already led to mass demonstration and clashes with authorities, illustrating that th revolution still continues.  Although the Egyptians successfully ousted Mubarak and his regime, their jubilation was short-lived as military officials continued the same longstanding policy of using deadly force against domestic populous in cases of emergency.  Thus, the excitement following the election of the former Muslim Brotherhood member may be as short-lived as the cheers following the dispatching of Mubarak.

“The revolution goes on, carries on until all objectives of the revolution are achieved and together we will complete this march.” – Mohammed Mursi, President of Egypt

Although Mursi has resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party so as to represent all Egyptians, he does represent the more conservative Islamist view of the Brotherhood and thus raises many questions about international relations for Egypt.  His win has already had an immediate impact beyond Egypt’s borders, inspiring Islamists who have risen up against autocrats across the Middle East and swept to power in North Africa.  Among the fears of the international community is Iran and the possibility of Iran and Egypt forming diplomatic ties.  Iranian news agency Fars published an interview in which Mursi called for restoring severed ties to build strategic balance and though Egyptian officials denied the interview had taken place, it still illustrated the significant fears circulating about a Islamist revival in the region.  In the heart of these problems is the issue of Israel.  Egypt currently is in accord with Israel due to a 1979 peace treaty that was signed and consolidated under Hosni Mubarak.  Amid the cries of the Egyptian populous, however, are calls for the dissolution of the accord.  The viewpoints are ones shared by the many Islamist figures who have referred to Israeli leaders as ‘vampires’.  The relations of Israel with the rest of the Middle east are best illustrated by Iran, whose supreme leader has called for a perpetual cultural war against the Jewish nation and wishes to see them disappeared from the face of the planet.  The tension has recently been heightened by Iranian mission into uranium enrichment.  So saying, Israel and its Western allies have been very vocal about the continuation of the peace deal with Egypt.  Mursi has stated his intentions to preserve all national and international agreements, but his calls for unity and devotion to the representation of the will of the masses does pose a conflicting point as the masses are not in favor of said agreement.  The victory for the Muslim majority will likely strengthen the hand of Hamas in its fight against Israel because it will give it a moral boost.  The Islamist attitude has become charged after the victory.  Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi has stated that Palestinians look forward to future cooperation with Egypt and its supportive position for the Palestinian cause, once again depicting the balancing game that will be played by Mursi to appease the cultural diversity of the region and uphold his ties with the West and Israel.

“Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections.  Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributed to regional stability.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

In retrospect, the democratic election of Mursi represents a historic milestone for Egyptian transition to democracy but it is still a long way from stability and the successful installation of democratic institutions.  Before the declaration of the presidential winner, the military council warned of its intentions to use deadly force against protesters and dispatched more than 1,800 ambulances, which is a clear illustration of the problems that are still rampant in Egypt.  Along with this evident military oppressiveness, the Islamist resurgence does pose a problem for democratic progress and regional peace for the regions of North Africa and the Middle East.  So saying, Mursi faces a plethora of domestic and foreign issues that span from restoring a basic infrastructure in Egypt to maintaining peaceful ties with Israel.

Syria: Houla Massacre – The International Puzzle Box

The perpetuating Syrian conflict has become a diplomatic crisis due to its recent intensification resulting in the deaths of 100 dissidents in the town of Houla and once again isolating opposing members of the United Nations Security Council on methods of response.

Syria’s Conflict Continues to Polarize the International Community

The international response to the Syrian civil war has been a blitzkrieg of failed resolutions, condemning statements, economic sanctions, and failed observer missions, all of which have been knee-jerk reactions to the inability of the international community to authorize a join resolution of all UNSC member nations to respond with military force.  Despite the evident slaughter of men, women and children in Houla, both Russia and China reiterated their opposition to military intervention in Syria.  Their resolve is also paralleled by the remaining presence of Syrian diplomats in their countries, a juxtaposition to the position of 9 other Western nations that have expelled Syrian diplomats from their embassies.  Along with Japan, the US, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain have all retroactively announce the expulsion of Syrian diplomats in protest of the massacre in Houla.  Nevertheless, the show of force in the Western hemisphere amounts to nothing because of the rigid positions of China and Russia.  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stated that Moscow will veto any Council resolution that authorizes foreign military interference in Syria.  Similarly, in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China opposes regime change by force in Syria. The massacre, another death toll to be added to the genocide, is another reflection of the failure of the Annan ceasefire deal.  Annan’s plan had called on the Syrian government to withdraw heavy weapons from civilian areas and abide by a truce with rebels.  President Assad had promised to abide by the regulations if the rebels were to cease their weapon smuggling and lay down their arms, a clause that clearly represented a security dilemma as the rebels would then be helpless.  Although many attacks have been carried out since the plan was laid out a month ago, the Houla massacre represents the peak of slaughter in the deteriorating county of Syria.  According to Herve Ladsous, pro-Assad gunmen known as the shabiha executed civilians and others were killed by artillery and tank fire, all of which was clearly the responsibility of the Syrian government.  So saying, the polarized positions of Russia and China have kept the full power and authority of the UN at bay, whilst allowing executions and genocide of thousands to continue under Assad.

“We took this action to expel Syrian diplomats in response to the massacre in the village of Houla – absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women, show at point-blank range by regime thuds, the shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend.” – Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman.

In response to the climatic events, the European Union is likely to press the Human Rights Council to recommend the UNSC refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court.  Nevertheless, because China and Russia have the power to veto any UN sanctions against Syria, the widespread outrage is unlikely to translate into tough action on the Syrian government.  The dilemma emerging is that members of the international community want different things and do not share the same principles, though mass slaughter being wrong would be one to share.  Russia, China and many 3rd world nations are not victim to the same outrage and gun-ho attitudes of many Western nations.  The repression of a totalitarian regime is not so hard a concept for many to grasp, most especially considering that many nations were victim to repression from Western imperialism.  Despite the demise of the old Soviet empire, the of Putin still represents the hardness of the past.  Though it may be referred to as ugly and not nice, the regimes of the East stand because of their heavy-handedness, as being implemented by Assad to a much greater extent.  Moreover, the repression enforced in Russia during the first round of elections, considered to be rigged, represents elements of the Stalin-esque era.  Combined with the installment of loyal office-holders in the regime by Putin, the rigidity of the country to liberalization is evident.  So saying, Syria also represents to Russia its last stronghold in the Middle East and is also part of a lucrative bilateral trade agreement, thus making Russia very reluctant to lose such an ally.  In the US, the position of Russia and the massacre in Syria has entered the presidential race, with Republic candidate Romney calling Russia’s position heartless and ugly.  Romney has further called for a firmer and more assertive position by the US.  Nevertheless, as with all presidential statement, it is easy to blame and insult but hard to actually come up with an effective strategy or replacement.  The tools with which to approach Russia are not as clear and concise as the GOP candidate presumes.  Many have called for the isolation of Russia through moral and verbal attacks, something that will have as much of an effect as the Anna peace plan in Syria.

“We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives.  This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government’s flagrant violations of its United Nations Security Council obligations.” – Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman

The ties between Russia and China are not easily isolated and cut, and thus attacking Russia with morality questions will undoubtedly lead to more rigidity and opposition by the Russian regime to any Western resolution towards Syria.  Moreover, the cohesive West is not as cemented in its mission towards Syria either.  Israel, a strong US ally in the Middle east, does not want to have  strong Syria nearby and welcomes the thought domestic divide and a weakened enemy.  Israel is surrounded by enemies and the likely repeal of its nonaggression treaty with Egypt, due to its rising Islamist party, will represent another enemy and tense relation for Israel.  Israel is also presented with the encroaching threat of a nuclear Iran, another powder keg tied to the Syrian conflict.  Iran is a strong ally to Assad and is responsible for providing much of Syria’s arms trade and troops, such as the trained shabiha thugs.  If the West were to intervene in Syria, not only would this divide the hemisphere of the West and East into extreme poles, but Iran will most likely drop nuclear talks that are set to resume and thus continue its uranium enrichment, possibly resulting in a volatile nuclear power in heart of the Middle East.  So saying, the cultural and religious divides of the Middle East present an unconquerable task of overcoming or appeasing.  Israel’s existence is already reason enough for many nations to start war, but if Turkey were to involve itself militarily on the behalf of the West, the divides between the Kurdish, Shi’ite and Sunni populations would ignite into a much larger international crisis.

“I made it clear that it is not an open-ended process and that time is coming, sooner rather than later, when the international community will need to make an assessment as to how things are going and what further actions or activities may be necessary.” – Kofi Annan, UN special envoy

In retrospect, the situation for the international community is a looming diplomatic and humanitarian crisis which is only perpetuated by their indecisiveness and polarized members.  The Western nations are attempting to involve themselves in the internal dynamics of domestic politics of a country miles away and in the throes of a civil war, a task nigh impossible without considering the opposition they face from their own member nations.

America: ‘A Republic, If You Can Keep It’ – Undemocratic Media

Given the responsibility to uphold the liberties and freedoms of the republic, the American system has become defined by a hyperreality in which truth and fiction have become indiscernible because of the corporate creation of the media medium that propagates an understanding embedded in a state of excited delirium and benightedness.

Mass Media Has Taken America From The People

The media system produces the public discourse, a discourse that circulates among the people and is consumed by society and its characteristics.  Through this medium, the public readily believes the sensationalist and bias views of the system and thus emerges a public opinion constructed by a media-produced headline.  Therefore, the manufacture of public opinion has always been an objective of those who rule, those in power.  The reality that has emerged in the American media system is one in which the propaganda machine dominates the base upon which decisions are made by citizens, taking away the liberties and freedoms of a democratic society.  Though this is no typical definition of theft, as their exists remnants of basic liberty and freedom demonstrated by the ability for Americans to make guided-political decisions governing the collective life, the extent of their power has been undermined and robbed.  The individual thought that governs their decisions, their discourse and their opinions have been infiltrated by media system owned by a handful of conservative capitalists.  The public conduct can be dominated or determined by force, but the events of the Arab Spring demonstrate that physical repression generates more complicated problems for the ruling powers than does domination through a more symbolic violence – the shaping of minds by the organized management of public opinion.  This is not to suggest that physical repression is above the American government, as the emerging police state is a testament to the state sponsored terrorist activities that have taken place domestically.  Nevertheless, the concentration of this post is to illustrate how the media system has become a central part of the undemocratic nature of modern society.  Similar to the thoughts expressed under ‘Mass Media‘, this blog will build from its predecessors.  “The Propaganda Machine” concentrated on the political and military control of media to justify policies, the attitude of the elites towards the Great Beast, as well as the creation of a sheepish public through said propaganda.  “Economic Sadism and Mass Media” concentrated on the ability of mass media and its corporate owners to target society with slogans and promises so as to subdue them into perpetuating subservience.  This post will concentrate on the loss of domestic involvement, political accountability, the loss of democracy in the American system,  the loss of the ability for each individual to carry equal power in determining the collective life, all of which is caused by the manufacturing of consent through lies propagated on mainstream media.

“The press scribble every half-truth spoke, then shoot it round the country like an April Fools joke.  Hype the nation for a Desert Storm love affair.  Wave the stars and striped like you just don’t care.” – Anti-Flag, “The Press Corpse”

The creation of the American republic was intended to create a radical idea of a ruling nation based on the people, the ‘demos’.  There was meant to be an equal governance or accountability shared by all people.  This power was to be a common commodity for the people.  Communication can generate power, so if in a democracy everyone should be able to exercise power, it should be argued that the people should be able to govern over media and the publication of information.  Without said knowledge, the people are left in the dark and in confusion; hence, the elite consensus theory emerges, which argues that the people would readily join a bandwagon of any uniform political consensus.  This confusion, this lack of knowledge allows for the decision-making role to be solely in the hands of the elites.  So saying, the more confusion the more the people seek guidance from the emerging aristocracy, allowing for the peoples’ choice to be mutated into another asset of the elites.  The more confusion, the less ‘demos’.  This confusion is not inherent to communication however; rather, the confusion is propagated and generated.  Alternating ‘free speech’ for ‘freedom of noise’, the people are berated with a blitzkrieg of images and reports that leave them blind and broken.  Mass media communications is based on the presentation of partially factual stories framed inside socio-emotional story lines that juxtapose some foreign evil with patriotism and Christian fervor, both of which are upheld by capitalist backed politicians.  Being able to construct pubic fervor, to direct it, into a cohesive force has been the role of the media and its ‘informative noise’.  This confusion has become useful; it has allowed for social, economic, military and political responsibilities to go unheeded.  Confusion reduces complaints, reduces the accountability of politicians and it reduces the demands of the public, who sit complacent in deluded status quo.  Confusion has become particularly effective when the confused people never realize that they are being taken advantage of.  The involvement of the people has dwindled and instead of being a republic run by the masses, the republic has become a hallow puppeteer state run by business leaders and their Washington suits, to control and lead the masses like beasts.  The powers open to the people, to exercise their civil duties and enforce political accountability, has become another lost concept of the republic constructed by the founding fathers.

“Just take a look around the world and you’ll find that nearly all mass media are owned and controlled by a handful of conservative capitalists.  We must devise and implement alternative methods of distributing our news, our information, our ideas.” – Anti-Flag, “Underground Network”

Benjamin Franklin believed that the republic he and the founding fathers created was to exist in a form of pluralism, according to Miquel de Bustos, requiring the collective deliberation of all viewpoints existing in society.  In order to construct said informed public, the media systems must decentralize power and thus define the democratic state.  The free press is supposed to represent a mean to reach the democratic state, representing the right to freely express, comment and publish, the right of mas participation, political pluralism, diversity of opinion, and naturally some quality of information to be provided.  Nevertheless, increasingly processes of communication have been left in the hands of privatized markets making them commodities controlled by corporations.  This, in essence, is the conflicting embodiment of capitalism to democracy, the increasing commodification of a human fields, including information and communication, thus ridding the elements of democracy and establishing more so a plutocracy run by narrow business interests and opportunist politicians.  Mass media is regulated by the market, becoming based on point that there are companies that use communication to produce economic and political benefits for their owners by appealing to a particular group of people.  This has created social perversion, dividing the society into camps based on ideologies and principles spread on the evening news and anchored into the peoples’ heads.  This divide, most easily exemplified by the division of liberals behind MSNBC and conservatives behind FOX , has allowed for the government to freely reign domestically and internationally.  The media has removed the one impediment, the one obstacle, established by the founding fathers to regulate and hold the government accountable.  With the people divided, there is no fear of retribution because there will always exist a camp supporting said policies, ensured by a new form of slavery being proliferated by mass media.  In a developed society slavery is forbidden; one may not sell and buy people.  Yet, there still exists the opportunity to sell and purchase a portion of a characteristic of a person, such as their attention.  This has allowed media and its owners to target groups and buy their beliefs, thus creating a new herd to trample periodically in support of one or another element of the leadership.

“Social divisions encouraged by the few – few!  Those in power suckerin’ suckers like you – you! – as corporate welfare flows from troughs of the state – state! – big business takes more than their fair take – take!  But in the end it is suckers like you – you! – who buy that the poor are givin’ you the screw.” – Anti-Flag, “Watch the Right”

The people are indoctrinated into unquestionable loyal fodder for politicians and corporate leaders, spoon-feeding them fabrication after lie after fabrication to promote public beliefs that discourage and deactivate any attempt to transform the corporate controlled media toward a more democratic, decentralized society.  In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying news in the US.  It was argued that under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves.  The decision implied First Amendment rights belong to the employers, becoming a broad shield for them to hide behind.  Evidently, the public airwaves, once representing a tool for public discourse and non-biased information, have become a commodity and asset for corporations to influence.  This example demonstrates the propagation of fabricated news, sensationalist headlines, and lies to keep the people subdued and complicit to a system robbing them of their individual liberties and freedoms.  The bias towards hyperreality inherent in modern media is so rampant, the consumer-based populace only need turn on the TV to be exposed to the spin.  The hyperreality is easily seen in the sensationalist rhetoric of FOX and Glen Beck, both of whom seem adamant about demonizing Hugo Chavez, a leader repeatedly elected through democratic means and supported by over one and a half million voters in 2008.  For the lowest-income two-thirds of people in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez means health care, jobs, food and security in neighborhoods.  Along with lowering the unemployment to levels lower than that of the US, FOX has concentrated its efforts solely on providing an abundant source of negative Chavez news.  The presentation of this foreign evil is juxtaposed to the gilded conservative knight of Rush Limbaugh.  Rush Limbaugh, inside the corporate media, is a caricature of patriotism and Christian values.  That he lacks factual understandings of socio-political circumstances doesn’t matter in a hyperreal corporate media system.  His propagation of noise, however senseless, champions the cause of excited delirium of knowinglessness.  Rush Limbaugh once accused Paul Gusmorino of being a Marxist professor for his article “The Main Causes of the Great Depression”.  Gusmorino was in 10th grade when he wrote the piece in 1996, hardly a Marxist political economy professor. Nevertheless, the spin of the corporate media has succeeded in creating a “Truman Show” around Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, allowing for the mass production of their nonsense.  Evidently, the cultural decline will continue as long as the spin that incited it, corporate media sensationalism, is present.

“Our thoughts and our lives controlled by pocket books of rich politicians.  Like a rich daddy warbux, they pay for the deaths of those who speak of revolution, while they keep us at each other’s throats.” – Anti-Flag, “Daddy Warbux””

The American people were given a republic, if they could keep it, but the manipulation of the media has resulted in a rule by an aristocracy as government agents are given various powers over the general public.  The media has undermined and eliminated the means given to the people, by the founding fathers, to hold the government accountable.  The media system of domination protects itself through confusion, the proliferation of noise to isolate and bewilder the people.  Walter Lippmann, former member of Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, stated that the media secures the intellectual solitude of the ‘bewildered masses’, controlling with propaganda those whose lives are entertained and incommunicado with other people.  Individual thought is a weapon against this form of ‘mind think’, a form of blind patriotism in which the people allow themselves to be led along by lies of the elites.  It is in this instance that the Police States of America is depicted, through the suppression and silencing of people with individual thought.  The power of the media organizes silence around issues that should not be known by citizens, limiting the accessibility of information and rescinding the freedoms of the American people.  The media system of the American societies is the central machine of the organized silence and noise.  It is the mechanism used to establish who will dominate the apparatus that makes noise, by guiding the public thought towards one or another corporate controlled candidate.  So saying, Mattelart and Murciano argue that a democratic media system is simply a system in which power is diluted, or where power, as such, does not exist.  Power is intended to be contained in all the elements but none of the elements alone has sole power.  This separation and balance, the institution so set up, has been dissolved by the totalitarian system emerging through media thought control, physical repression through the security apparatus, and a rigged power hierarchy.  The American system is one set up to protect its capitalist interests and ensure that domestic forces remain subservient and silent to the evident violations of their constitutional rights.  So saying, the republic crafted by the founding father has become a tyrannical institution driven by capitalist greed and given free reign because of the ineptitude of the masses, an ignorance and consent constructed by the media.

Syria: Ceasefire Failure and Violence Spreads Across Borders

On the eve of the April 10th UN-brokered ceasefire, hopes are fading as conflict in Syria burst over the border into neighboring Lebanon and Turkey on Monday.

The Planned Ceasefire has Resulted in Escalated Violence

The unrelenting violence has indicated that the peace plan promoted by international envoy Kofi Annan and initially accepted by both sides was in tatters.  The Assad regime was to have started pulling troops out of urban areas by Tuesday the 10th, paving the way for a ceasefire to start 48 hours after troop withdrawal.  President Assad agreed on the premise that the opposition forces give written guarantees they would stop fighting and lay down their arms, a demand they immediately rejected considering the security dilemma that would position themselves into.  Without such arms, the security forces would face no challenge to their repressive violence that would quickly silence all domestic violence and therefore make redundant any international efforts to intervene.  So saying, the Free Syrian Army was only acting out of self-preservation by rejecting Assad’s plans.  Moreover, the lack of government forces giving any indication of pulling back verifies the intent of Assad and his loyalists.  The development have come after the US State Department said that the Syrian regime was trying to stall for time with its demands for written guarantees from the opposition forces.  Evidently, the failure of yet another international response has come at the price of more Syrians and the neighboring countries, intensifying the call to action to end the repression in Syria.

“The Syrian regime does not understand compromise.  Its ethos is ‘rule or die’.  Therefore, Syria will continue its inexorable slide into full-scale civil war, especially since the chance for effective foreign intervention to stop bloodletting is also zero.” – Augustus Richard Norton, Middle East specialist from Boston University

Monday has proved to be one of the bloodiest days of the uprising despite the truce deal, which should be marked by troop withdrawals from towns and cities.  Activists reported more than 100 deaths, among them at least 30 civilians who died during the Syrian army bombardment in the central province of Hama.  The violence has also claimed the lives of civilians and journalists in neighboring countries, illustrating the international consequences of this civil war.  Lebanese Prime Minster Najib Mikati condemned the Syrian regime and sent his condolences for the death of Ali Shaaban, part of a 3-man crew with Lebanese television channel al-Jadeed, which was filming on Lebanon’s norther border with Syria.  In Turkey, violence broke out as a group of dozens of Syrians sought to cross the Turkish border, the latest of more than 20,000 other refugees.  The group was spotted making its way to the border and both Syrian nationals and Turkish policeman approached the border.  As the two groups met at the border, they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen in Syria, who injured the Syrian refugees, policeman and the translator on the Turkish side of the border.  With the population in both Lebanon and Turkey deeply divided between those who support the opposition and those who still hope the embattled president will remain in power, some fear that such incidents could prove a spark in a very combustible environment.

“We summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires in Ankara, and told him that every Syrian within Turkish territory was under Turkish protection, and we urged him that the fighting on the other side of the border stop.  We said that if this repeats, we will take necessary measures.” – Turkish spokesman

In retrospect, the diplomatic options open to the international community have been exhausted and the internal strife of the Syria conflict has begun to spill over unto neighboring lands, escalating the immediate need for definitive action.  If Turkey was backed by the US and other Western nations, all members of the “Friends of Syria” contact group, then the long-discussed ‘safe zones’ on the Syria side of the Turkish border could be the next step against violence in Syria.  The worsening conditions of the conflict make the situation far worse for the international community, as well as a bad reflection on their inability to respond effectively.  Much of the blame can be laid on the feet of Assad’s international powerhouse friends.  China has supported Assad in his year-long effort to crush the uprising.  Russia, which has defended him in the UNSC and remains Assad’s most important ally, stopped short of pressing him to rein in his army.

Religion: Islam and Violence

After the events of September 11th, the issue of Islam and violence once again came into intense discussion and debate because of its historic correlation to jihad, intolerance and terrorism.

With the Qur'an as Justification, Islam has Massacred Millions

Not aimed at presenting an ‘Islamphobia’ post, this post aims at presenting the religious dimension of violence that goes back to the heart and origin of Islam.  Despite various political, socio-economic and cultural factors contributing to the rise of violence and terrorism in fundamental Islam (as with all religions), Muslims who commit acts of violence and terror in the name of Allah can find ample justification for their actions based on the open-ended verses and teachings of the Qur’an and the saying of Muhammad (Hadith).  Islam’s doctrines and texts are associated with violence, with laws requiring the eradication of what is considered evil by Islamic standard and law, sometimes using violent means.  Throughout history, Islam’s religious texts or precepts have been used to promote violence.  Classically, and in the modern era, Muslims and their leaders, including a large number of jurists, have upheld Islamic ideas, concepts, texts and themes to justify warfare against non-Muslims.  Some suggest that the Qur’an contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with non believers for the sake of Islamic rule, verses that are mostly open-ended and therefore are not restrained by historical context of the surrounding text.  To offer a general illustration of the inherent relationship, it would do to point out that the root word for Islam is al-Slim which means submission or  surrender.  The Qur’an not only calls Muslim to submit to Allah, it also commands them to subdue people of other religions until they are in a full state of submission to Islamic rule.  Evidently, this has inspired the aggressive history of Islam and its success in conquering other cultures.

“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the place whence they drove you out, for persecution of Muslims is worse than slaughter of non-believers, but they desist, then lo!  Allah is forgiving and merciful!  And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” – Qur’an 2:191-193

Many claim that the verses in support of fighting in the Qur’an were for a special historical situation concerning the beginning of Islam.  They argue that since prophet Muhammad was persecuted in Mecca for the first 13 years of his ministry, he was justified in his military actions in the last 10 years of his life in Medina and for the support of the budding Islamic movement.  The problem arises however in that nowhere in the Qur’an are the commands to fight restricted to a special time period of against a special group of people.  Far from being mere history or theological construct, the violent verses of the Qur’an have played a key role in very real massacres and genocide.  This includes the brutal slaughter of tens of millions of Hindus for 5 Centuries beginning around 1000 AD with the Mahmud of Ghazni’s blood conquest.  Both he and the later Tamerlane (Islam’s Genghis Khan) slaughtered an untold number of men, women and children.  Muhammad was a military leader, laying siege to towns, massacring the men, raping their women and enslaving their children.  On several occasions he rejected offers of surrender from the besieged inhabitants and even butchered captives.  One prominent example is of the Qurayza Jews, who were completely obliterated only 5 years Muhammad arrived in Medina.  Their leader opted to stay neutral when their town was besieged by a Meccan army.  The tribe had killed no one from either side and even surrendered peacefully to Muhammad after the Meccans had been turned back.  Yet the prophet of Islam had every member of the Qurazya tribe beheaded, and every woman and child enslaved.  He actually inspired his followers to battle when they did not feel it was right to fight, promising them slaves and loot if they did and threatening them with Hell if they did not.  Evidently, Muslim armies waged aggressive campaigns and the religion’s most dramatic military conquests were made by the actual companions of Muhammad in the decades that followed his death.

“In the Jihad which you are seeking, you look for an enemy and invade him.  This type of Jihad takes place only when the Islamic state is invading other countries in order to spread the word of Islam and remove the obstacles in its way.” – Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Egyptian Islamic theologian

Aiming to avoid a concentrated view on the historic study of Islam’s birth through blood and genocide, Islam as an ideology brings contempt and violence as well.  That Islam sees itself as a theocracy has enormous ramifications for how it regards itself and for the behavior of Muslims.  First it means that Islam is not only a religion but also a political ideology, as Muhammad was a political, military and religious leader.  If the government of the Muslim community is simply God’s community, then no other governments can be legitimate.  Thus, they are all at war with God and as a result, Muslims have divided the world into two spheres known as Dar al-Islam – “the house of Islam” – and Dar al-Harb – those who are at war with God.  Second, it means that Muslims have believed themselves to have manifest destiny.  Since God must win in the end, the Dar al-Harb must be brought under the control of the Muslim government and made part of the Dar al-Islam.  Third, since the Dar al-Harb by its nature is at war with God, it is unlikely that it will submit to God without a fight.  Individual groups might be convinced to lay down their arms and join the Muslim community by various forms of pressure – economic or military.  Because of the need to expand God’s domain by wars of conquest, Islam’s ideology imposes on Muslim the duty to fight for God’s community.  This duty is known as Jihad.  The concept of holy fight or struggle has been particularly incumbent on those on the edges of the Muslim world, where there was room for expansion.  Though highly radical, 9/11 still serves as an example of the intrinsic violence involved in fundamentalism, as the terrorists believed their sacrifices as a just part of Jihad.

“He (the Messenger of Allah) did that and said ‘There is another act which elevated the position of a man in Paradise to a grade on hundred higher, and the elevation between one grade and another is equal to the height of heaven from the earth’.  He (Abu Sa’id) said: ‘What is that act?’  He replied: ‘Jihad in the way of Allah!  Jihad in the way of Allah'” – Muslim 20:4645

The examples of international directed violence committed in the name of Islam is endless.  The affiliation of violence and this religion is made most evident by the religious organizations associated with Islam; Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah.  The acquisition of the enormous land that belonged to the caliphates was through military force and the brutal suppression of opposition.  However, the golden age of the Muslim Empire began to dwindle after the death of Muhammad.  Following his death, there lacked a clear line of succession which resulted in perpetual internal war.  Sunni and Shia Islam are two major denominations of Islam and therefore, for the sake of simplicity, this post will focus on their internal violence as an illustration of the evident nature of bloodshed that is inherent to Islam.  Sunnis believe that abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wide Aisha, was Muhammad’s rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leading endorsed by the Qur’an was in the consensus of the Ummah, the Muslim community.  Shias believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next Caliph making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad’s successors.  This difference has resulted in a jagged schism that has left Shias and Sunnis at odds to this day.

“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing: But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay they wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.” – Qur’an 4:89

The Battle of Siffin was the first open hostility between the two sects.  It was fought between Ali and Muawiyah I, on the banks of the Euphrates river.  Following the controversial murder of Uthman ibn Affan, Ali became Caliph but struggled to be accepted as such throughout the Muslim Empire.  Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, was a kinsman of the murdered Caliph, and wanted the murderers brought to justice.  For this reason, Muawiyah rebelled against Ali, who attempted to put down the rebellion.  The battle ended in stalemate and in thousands of casualties.  To the Shia, Ali was the first Imman.  To the Sunnis, Ali was the fourth Caliph Rashidun Caliph, and Muawiyah was the First Caliph of the Ummayyad dynasty.  The event surrounding the battle are highly controversial between Sunni and Shia, and serve as part of the split between the two groups.  More modern examples of the violence conflict are seen in Libya, Syria and Iraq.  In Libya, the tribal organization of the region has left the transitional government unable to stabilize the country because the different Islamist sects are raiding each other’s territories.  In Syria, the opposition forces are mainly Sunni Muslim whereas the leading government figures are Alawite, affiliated with Shia Islam.  As a result the opposition is winning support from the Sunni Muslim states and the regime is publicly supported by the Shia dominated Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.  The division of Sunni and Shia Islam is also demonstrated in post-US Iraq, in which over 1,000 people have died because of a new wave of sectarian violence.  After the election of the Iraqi Transitional Government, a wave of suicide bombers, believed to be mainly disheartened Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Syrians and Saudis tore through Iraq.  Their targets were often Shia gatherings or civilian concentrations of Shias.

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.” – Qur’an 5:33

The intolerance and hypocritical nature of Islam is evident by it Qur’an verses and history. Islam is intolerant towards the notion of gender equality.  Islam is militaristic, considering Muhammad organized 65 military campaigns in the last 10 years of his life and personally led 27 of them.  Islam is intolerant to other religions, as they discouraged such practices by slaughtering them by masses.  Islam also permitted ownership of slaved the freedom to sexually exploit slaves.  Moreover, despite the fact that Islam prohibits the killing of innocent people, the definition of innocent is rather flexible and has been graded down to the fundamental rule that if someone rejects Muhammad, they are no longer innocent.  Lastly, the incompatibility of Islam and Democracy is also noteworthy, as it bespeaks of its intolerance and tendency to favor dictatorships, repressive regimes and widespread inequality.  Under Islamic law, only Muslim males are entitled to full rights.  Islam is a theocratic system with Allah alone at is head.  Allah’s law is interpreted by a ruling body of cleric.  There is not room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.  The price of challenging Islam is seen by various modern examples of its violent practices.  Hashem Aghajari, an Iranian professor, was given a death sentence because of a speech that criticized some of the present Islamic practices.  Theo van Gogh was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri for producing the 10-minute film Submission, critical of the abusive treatment of women by Muslims.  Ehsan Jami was nearly beaten to death in The Netherlands by 3 Muslims for his activities in the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims.  Of course, the more resonating example of Islamic terror and suppression is the Ayatollah of Iran.  Along with announcing Jihad against the US, he has also carried out such practices against Kurds in Iran and categorized the Iran-Iraq war as holy war.  The Ayatollah, along with many Wahhabi fundamentalists, have vocalized their belief in world domination through the Islamic faith; thus, the violent nature of Islam becomes rather apparent.