Syria’s Civil War Spills Over in Sydney

<p>Mike Bowers/The Global Mail</p>
Refugee advocate Jamal Daoud, who says he has been the target of a sectarian violence by hardline Sunni Muslims.

Syria’s Civil War Spills Over in Sydney

Syria’s civil war is playing out in Australia’s suburbs along sectarian lines — with some living in Sydney’s west too scared to speak, after beatings, a shooting and an alleged arson.

In early September Abu Ali began to seriously consider closing up his barber shop in the Sydney suburb of Auburn and moving his family to safety in the Shiite Muslim enclave of Arncliffe. That was when two heavyset men with the shaven heads, long beards and short dishdashas favoured by adherents of the strict Orthodox Wahhabi sect came into his shop and ordered him to take down campaign posters for a candidate in the Auburn council elections.
“He said, better for you to take down this photo. I said, no. He said if you [do] not take it down, I’ll give you some trouble,” says Abu Ali, who believes the men were Islamists.
“I am scared of these people. Their version of Islam is very violent. They can attack people,” he says. As a father, he is haunted by internet photos of slain Syrian children, and he fears the same atrocities could be visited on his own.

This was not the first threat. About 18 months before, as the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime began, a muscular bearded man drew up in a car near Abu Ali’s shop, saying Shiites were rubbish, hurling other abuse and threatening to kick him out of his business.
This man also spoke and dressed like a Wahhabi, Abu Ali says. Shiites, or Shia, belong to a branch of Islam which diverged from the Sunni tradition. Wahhabis, or Salafis, are Sunni Muslims. Sunnis are in the majority in Syria, where resistance to the longtime leader Bashar al-Assad has turned into a bloody civil war.
Abu Ali chased the man away, throwing jars of barber’s gel at his car. But eight months ago, more men appeared in his shop on a busy Sunday and shouted at customers who were lining up for haircuts to get out.
“They said, ‘This is [an] infidel Shia. Why are you coming to have business with him?’ And [they] forced people to go out. So the customers got scared and ran away... Many customers did not return,” Abu Ali says.
Under the weight of such threats, some Shiite families have already fled the Auburn area and several more are thinking of following them, according to Abu Ali, whose shop walls now bristle with CCTV cameras. Police are investigating the threats. Abu Ali is wondering how he can rebuild his barber’s business in Arncliffe and how his wife and children would cope moving away from family, friends and school.
But the fear is not confined to Auburn.
The Global Mail has spoken to several members of Sydney’s Shiite community and of another sect within Shi’ism, the Alawites, who have experienced threats and violence. Across the city, an Alawite man has been shot, a Shiite businessman’s shop was destroyed by fire, there have been several instances of extortion using violence, and one man says he slept with his knife for a week following death threats.
“In some areas of Sydney you can’t say you are Shia — Greenacre, Lakemba and Punchbowl. There are Sunni there from Lebanon and Syria. Some of them are really dangerous.”
Those who spoke to us fear that they are victims of a sectarian campaign, one made all the more frightening because it includes Facebook hate pages glorifying Osama bin Laden and other violent jihadist figures.
After physical intimidation, one building contractor who wants to be known only as “HN” says he avoids certain suburbs, claiming they are becoming “no-go” zones for Shiites.
“In some areas of Sydney you can’t say you are Shia — Greenacre, Lakemba and Punchbowl. There are Sunni there from Lebanon and Syria. Some of them are really dangerous,” says HN.
At heart is the Syrian war, which at its simplest, has Sunni as the main opponents of the Assad regime and Shiites and Alawites as its principal supporters.
Sydney is not the only Australian city where violence has erupted. At least one Melbourne Alawite centre has been fire-bombed and Canberra police are still investigating the February trashing of the Syrian Embassy by demonstrators from interstate.
Jamal Daoud, the council candidate in the poster which the hard men wanted gone from Abu Ali’s shop, believes passionately that violent intimidation on sectarian lines flows from the war in Syria.
“In the last one year, there was big tension in the community. It is an impact of what is happening in the Middle East, especially what is happening in Syria and the perception of some people that this is a global jihad against certain sects and certain ideologies,” says Daoud.
The leafy Auburn avenue where Daoud lives with his family and a chirruping budgie is about 14,000 kilometres from Syria.
But in August he says he slept for a week with his knife, because he had received death threats by text and phone from Sunni fundamentalists who did not want him elected to council.
<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

Some businesses in Sydney’s west have been put on boycott lists, posted online.
“There is a dangerous mix here. Religion, politics. Sectarian. It is very dangerous,” he says.
Although he is a Sunni, because of his opposition to removing the Syrian regime by force, extremists have lumped him in with the Shiites they despise, he says.
He replayed the tape of a hate call he recorded on August 29 from a man who spoke in English and Arabic with a Lebanese accent. The man assumed Daoud, a Palestinian from Jordan, was an Iraqi Shiite.
“You fuckin Shia dog. I’m gonna fuck you...send you back to Iraq, you fuckin dogs, you fuckin scumbags,’’ the message said.
Australian authorities acknowledge the tensions. ASIO says in its recently-tabled annual report: “…The situation in Syria, with the potential for violence spilling into other parts of the Middle East, increases the possibility of associated communal violence in Australia and remains a concern for ASIO. There are a small number of people actively promoting hatred and inter-communal violence in Australia.”
Tony Sheehan, the Attorney-General’s Department official responsible for national security and criminal justice, recently warned of the volatility in the air after September demonstrations by Muslims in Sydney’s CBD turned nasty.
“Protests such as the one in Sydney have the potential to intensify existing tensions, particularly when combined with the localised violence in Sydney and Melbourne resulting from issues such as the conflict in Syria,” he said.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas told The Global Mail: “We are certainly aware that there are tensions within the community out of what’s happening in Syria. We accept that that is the case.”
“In the last one year, there was big tension in the community. It is an impact of what is happening in the Middle East, especially what is happening in Syria.”
He sees evidence of that in a number of Sydney incidents, but says there are a handful of perpetrators in an Australian Muslim population of half a million. It is not all about politics, he says.
“Some people who have a criminal background and have been involved in criminal activity in the past appear to be simply using the events in the Middle East as an excuse to cover up their continuing criminal activities in Sydney, such as extortion and so on,” he says.
While their cause may not be clear, a string of incidents has kept those who feel vulnerable in the Shiite and Alawite communities on edge.
Shooting: Ali Ibrahim was shot in the leg outside his home in the Sydney suburb of Punchbowl in February. After speaking to Ibrahim’s family, Daoud told reporters that the shooting followed a Facebook debate over the Syrian conflict.
A man has been arrested, charged and appeared in court in relation to the shooting and further charges are now being considered, according to Kaldas, who cannot say if there is a political or sectarian element to this.
“It’s difficult to say definitively what his motives were, because he’s not telling us a great deal ...I guess we’ll have to wait and see with that one how it plays out in court,” he says.
Shop fire: Rockdale councillor Michael Nagi was quoted in a local newspaper in July saying that a suspicious fire which destroyed his Bankstown chicken shop was lit “because I am a Shiite Muslim”.
Nagi is not prepared to speak about it now. Kaldas says there is still “very much an active investigation” into the fire. Police are not sure who did it, he says.
Extortion: The proprietor of a Sydney juice shop named in a Facebook hate page, “Boycott Tyranny”, which urged its fans to shun Shiite-run enterprises, was assaulted and forced to quit his business. It is understood police are still investigating.
Firebombing: Victoria Police say they are still investigating a petrol bomb attack on the Alevi Community Council of Australia, a Turkish Alawite centre in North Coburg. No-one has been charged.
Fear of reprisals
The conflict in Syria, where some preachers are advocating ethnic cleansing, is a constant conversation topic among locals with Middle East backgrounds, says Joe Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council.
“They are generally scared of what is happening there and what could happen here,” he says.
Where once the Sunnis were the underdogs in Syria, spied on by secret police, “it’s all twisted now because you have a situation where the people who are pro the government are the ones now spied on... There is now a vindictive thing going on,” Wakim says.
Australian Shiites and Alawites are being told “if you don’t keep your mouth shut, we’ll get your relatives overseas”, he claims.
<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

A pleasant afternoon in Auburn, but the Syrian civil war is causing tension within the suburb’s Muslim community.
In the digital age, where images can cross the globe in a flash, there is an additional cause for fear. Agitators are taking photographs at both pro- and anti-Syrian regime demonstrations in Melbourne, Sydney and overseas which can be used to target protesters or their families, Wakim says.
“I knew people who wanted to go to demonstrations but didn’t go because they were worried that their relatives could be beheaded,” he said.
Three Sydney men who initially agreed to speak about the intimidation they had experienced withdrew.
In one case, a man’s wife screamed in distress when he ushered this reporter into the family living room in western Sydney. He apologised and said she was too afraid for him to tell his story.
Two more men confirmed that they had been attacked, but declined to speak for fear of retribution.
“If we don’t protect the community, then we have a lot to answer for, God forbid.”
A community leader who, with the encouragement of his religious mentors after he was attacked, planned to speak to The Global Mail about Sydney Shi’ites’ fears, pulled out at the last minute.
“In view of the assassination in Beirut [when a car bomb killed Sunni leader, Lebanese intelligence chief, and Assad opponent Wissam al-Hassan] and the situation in Syria getting worse, my family not feeling safe of myself doing this interview, just in case they [his attackers] work it out. It will be putting my family in danger,” he texted.
A Sunni man who supports the revolution to overthrow the Assad regime said he could not afford to use his real name because his Syrian relatives could suffer the consequences.
Facebook campaign
Supporters and opponents of the uprising have taken to social media to push their cause with gusto, posting pictures of fallen martyrs, dead and injured children, and militiamen in battle. Then there are the hate pages.
In mid-October, it was still possible to find an Australian Facebook page headed by a photograph of Osama bin Laden, describing the late violent jihadist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi admiringly as “Lion of Jihad and Slayer of Shi’ites.”
The page is named “Bab Al Tabbaneh”, after a Sunni suburb of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, a regular scene of conflict with the Alawite neighbours in Jabal Mohsen.
It described its role thus: “Together hand in hand from Lebanon, Australia and around the world in solidarity and support of the Syrian Revolution and Palestinian Liberation, against the ruthless dictator Bashar Assad and the Terrorist State of Israel”.

Bab Al Tabanneh’s original Facebook page, taken down by October 17.
The page listed Sunni religious leaders who, it claimed, signed a fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law) declaring that Shiites were “outside the fold of Islam”. It named more than 20 Sydney businesses that it urged followers to boycott because they were Shiite or Alawite. This list attracted 5,843 “likes” and some lively hate posts.
One by Hala Haouchar said: “U know wat burns me the most is Hariri chicken!! I stopped eating there when i was told with his own mouth that he had coverted to shiism...i couldn’t finish my food...”
By October 17, the original Bab Al Tabbaneh site was taken down and replaced by another, “Bab al-Tabbaneh”, with the post: “We are backkkkkkkk.”
It directed people to another Facebook page,“Bilad Al Sham: The Revolution”, which had 2,664 “likes” by Tuesday morning.
A post by Khaled Ibn Al Walid which — still on the page at the end of October — praised bin Laden, declaring “may Allah be merciful with him”. Walid says on his own Facebook page that he lives in Sydney.
The list of businesses to boycott is still running on another Facebook page which vilifies Shiites, called “The Awkward Moment When You’re Engaging In Taqiyyah”. It has 193 likes.
Kaldas says that these pages are illegal but can be difficult for counter terrorism authorities to shut down quickly.
“The monitoring and censorship of information and material contained on Facebook pages is primarily the responsibility of Facebook...Facebook is hosted in the United States, which makes it difficult for Australian law enforcement agencies to police,” a spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police says.
Moderate Sunni leaders, still smarting from the virulent anti-Muslim sentiments unleashed by the September protests, are circumspect.
Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association says: “There are a lot of people in the community who would like to inflame things beyond what they are.
“There have been some incidents and there have been some kerfuffles, but they are not directly related. There has been dialogue and discussions and yelling and screaming, but they are not acts of violence.”
“Hans” Dandachli, a leader of the Australian Syrian Association, which advocates both tolerance between religions and Assad’s overthrow, says he has only heard reports of threats, but he hopes that authorities can close down extremist pages.
“I say if you find these people, stop him...Australia is not Syria. Australia is not another country. Australia is Australia. Keep Australia clean,” he says.
Hosam Khammousieh, an Association member, believes anyone could have mounted the Facebook pages and says that no-one has reported attacks to its Lakemba office.
<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

The Gallipoli Mosque in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn. Shia Muslims in the area have reportedly been intimidated, threatened and attacked over their alleged support for the Syrian regime.
Daoud, who describes himself as a “hard left” secular Hezbollah and Hamas supporter, insists that there is segregation in western Sydney, along both sectarian and ideological lines.
“People don’t talk to each other. People don’t buy from each other...I do this myself. If I know that this shop is owned by one Wahhabi, I won’t go and buy,” he says.
He claims the NSW and Australian Federal Police are turning a blind eye to a situation with potential for bloodshed, given the ease with which arms can be obtained in Sydney.
But Kaldas says that police have found there was no real evidence of Daoud’s death-threat allegations and he also does not accept that there are “no go” zones in Sydney. An Egyptian-born Arab himself, he says police are well informed about the doings of Australians from the Middle East.
“If we don’t protect the community, then we have a lot to answer for, God forbid,” he says.
Whatever the police assurances, Abu Ali, who came to Australia 14 years ago fleeing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s persecution of Shiites, is ever vigilant, in case the hard men come back. He no longer sees Australia as a place of refuge.
“I’m really scared now. It reminds me of what was happening before in Iraq. We thought we came to a democratic safe country,” he says, “but we are very scared now.”


Lebanon’s Red Lines, Bared

By Sharmine Narwani

What a difference a week can make in the Middle East.

On October 19, when a car bomb tore through the upscale Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh in Beirut killing a major security official, Lebanon shuddered in fear that the era of political assassinations was back.

Politicians and commentators didn’t miss a beat. The murder of Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Branch head Wissam al-Hassan was compared to the killing of his former boss, ex-PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005. And the Hariri-allied pro-West, anti-Syria, pro-Saudi “March 14” political coalition lined up to deliver a visceral blow to their opponents, just as they had in 2005 when they ejected Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Hassan’s body was not yet cold before his political allies started pointing their fingers at Syria and whipping up fury in the anti-Syrian Sunni enclaves of Lebanon. Young men spilled onto the streets with weapons brandished; some with RPGs and even combat uniforms. Clashes ensued, people died, but still their March 14 leaders did not call for calm.

In a replay of 2005 when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese rose up in the State Department-dubbed “Cedar Revolution” to oust the Syrians, March 14 groups on Sunday called for the masses to rally against Syria and its Lebanese government allies.

Except that not a single Syrian was ever charged by the international UN-backed tribunal that investigated Hariri’s death. And last week there was no evidence that Syria was implicated in Hassan’s assassination either.

But that didn’t stop the political theater at Hassan’s funeral service last Sunday when just a few thousand showed up to participate in what some hoped would be a replay of 2005.

There was no comparison whatsoever.

Instead of the sea of Lebanese flags, unifying slogans like “Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence” and the dazzling marketing and color-revolution choreography of, respectively, Saatchi & Saatchi and Serbia’s Otpor that marked the 2005 event…the scene at Martyr’s Square in downtown Beirut on Sunday resembled a wake for the March 14 coalition.

There was barely a Lebanese flag to be seen. Instead, the throngs held up flags of the Future Movement headed by Hariri’s son Saad, right-wing Lebanese Forces Christian militia flags, Saudi flags, the colonial flag of the Syrian opposition and Islamist flags in black. Radical Muslims rallied alongside radical Christians, their one commonality, revulsion for the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.

The visible awkwardness of these March 14 alliances was impossible to ignore on Lebanese TV that day. Who failed to note the incongruity of a right-wing Christian Samir Geagea supporter standing next to a Sunni youth sporting an Al Qaeda headband? How can there be a future for a Future Movement so fundamentally at odds within itself, one wondered.

The crowds had little in common, their disparate leaders were smug, the mood was nationally divisive – little wonder then that the event ended with sticks and stones and tear gas. Not to mention a pitiful attempt to storm the Grand Serail and eject the Lebanese government headed by Hezbollah ally and billionaire Sunni, Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Those few hours on Sunday produced the first post-bombing revelation: March 14 has nothing to offer Lebanon – they are morally bankrupt, out of ideas, yesterday’s leaders clawing for relevance as the region changes rapidly around them. Their supporters too are just treading water – this grouping exists only in opposition to something; it stands for nothing.

While the bombing had March 14 licking their opportunistic lips, it was their own western allies France, the UK and US (FUKUS) that crushed their political hopes. Without any apparent tactical coordination, FUKUS overrode March 14 publicly, and declared that PM Mikati and his government must stay.

What is surprising is March 14’s utter cluelessness about the way those winds were blowing. Not just FUKUS, but all five UN Security Council permanent members and Ban-Ki Moon’s personal representative in Lebanon weighed in on the side of Mikati’s government.

Not only was the UNSC speaking with one voice, but the speed and decisiveness of their message also undermined a key March 14-FUKUS refrain. In effect, the global powers were recognizing that the Iran and Hezbollah-backed Lebanese government was integral to guaranteeing the country’s stability at a vulnerable time. No longer could this duo claim that these regional players were acting to destabilize Lebanon.

And so another red line is bared. The three main western backers of the Syrian and Lebanese opposition have shown their limits: It is perfectly okay to sow sectarian strife in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere, but not if it means destabilization on several of Israel’s borders. One conflict-struck country is manageable in the Levant, but more than that and things can spread like wildfire. Controlled chaos is fine, but certainly not concurrent with a power vacuum. A powerless Lebanese state will mean loss of control over the critical southern territories along the Israeli border and along the eastern border with Syria – both are hard limits for FUKUS.

The FUKUS states have of course realized that at this critical juncture in Syria, they need levers in neighboring Lebanon. They care not a whit about their allies being in power – a compliant government is far less valuable than one with “access.” The governing March 8 coalition is led by a weak and malleable Mikati, but importantly, he is a route to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – which counts when regional stakes are this high.

No matter that Hezbollah has just flown a drone over FUKUS-ally Israel in an embarrassing breach of security for the Jewish state. No matter that Israel has been demanding military strikes against Iran just before a US presidential election. No matter that March 14 have been staunch FUKUS allies in both a local and regional geopolitical context against mutual foes Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

The only thing that counts now is that FUKUS isn’t confident about the outcome in Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has outlasted all their predictions and opposition forces supported by the west are radicalizing in a direction that makes their mentors uncomfortable. If Islamist militants spin out of control in Syria, FUKUS will need to tame that chaos fast, before it spills into allied Jordan and Israel and further disrupts the Turkish and Lebanese borders.

The red lines hurriedly drawn in Lebanon last week have shown regional antagonists some new and unexpected cards. March 14’s diffuse political identity resonates little with the Lebanese, and its interests are diverging from traditional external allies. FUKUS and the UNSC views the Iran, Hezbollah and Syria-backed Lebanese government as a force for stability in the Levant. Western leaders fear loss of control in the Syrian crisis they helped fan. Iran and Hezbollah hold valuable levers for the international community.

We may never discover who killed Wissam al-Hassan, but Lebanon last week was full of revelations nonetheless.

Sunday, Oct 28 2012

Syria: When will the west stop supporting terrorists?

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey    -- 29.10.2012
In answer to this question, let us examine the connection between NATO and terrorist organizations over the last decade and let us examine what NATO did to leaders of sovereign states who dared to stand up against Al-Qaeda. The findings are very curious and bring into question the entire credibility of the myth of "western democracy".

There is no doubt at all that out of the five terrorist groups operating in Syria, support from NATO is a constant factor (by "NATO" read also the GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, in the words of al-Qadhafi, "donkeys ridden by foreigners", or else Turkey, the state which complains about the Kurdish activists but which then sponsors terrorist organizations in Syria, or allows them to use its territory as a base).

Yet this is hardly surprising for those who wish to present an overview of the last few decades. All we have to do is re-read the history book, albeit the history book not present in western media, and we can draw our own conclusions.

In 1998, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, an interview which vaporised from the Internet (together with a good many of my articles, for example), Mullah Omar (the leader of the Talebaan) stated that the United States of America had offered his government 5 billion USD to build a pipeline across Afghanistan and through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.

This article I read and copied at the time. It has since disappeared from the Net, giving rise to the favourite accusation of pro-NATO toadies, "prove it". Cyber terrorism after all is "kosher" when perpetrated by those who have a birth-right to break the law, namely NATO countries in general and the FUKUS-Axis in particular (the epicentre of NATO, namely France, UK, US). Stuxnet.

Well going back to basics, the Mujaheddin movement in Afghanistan was fuelled by whom and by what? The Madrassah in Pakistan, yes but who and what was behind these religious schools? The CIA, using them as an instrument against the USSR's excellent governance in Afghanistan (strategically important because of the Central Asian energy resources).

But by then Al-Qaeda had reared its ugly head. Muammar al-Qadhafi was the first person to issue an international arrest warrant against its leaders. Saddam Hussein also had problems with Bin Laden, who targeted him as a pariah and look what happened in Iraq. And look what happened in Libya.

What happened in Bosnia? (Al-Qaeda and the west engaged together). What happened in Kosovo? (Al-Qaeda/Albanian terrorists and the west engaged together). The current affairs in Libya and Syria only underline what we have suspected all along.

Freedom? Democracy? Freedom of expression and of the press? Or a cynical manipulation of the truth through misuse of media resources, sabotage, terrorism and subversive activities?

I believe everyone knows what we are talking about here.

Syrian terrorists admit arms supplied by US

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey



A Leninist critique of Western humanitarian imperialism

We are living dangerous yet moral times, for a few hundreds of arrogant and powerful men (call them Bilderbergs, Illuminati, Trilateralists) have decided to rule the World together in the name of "the commerce and the imaginative", as put Cecil Rhodes, the founder of the first version of the NWO which opened first modern concentration camps for the Boers' families 111 years ago.

We are thus ruled by humanitarian oligarchs, by imaginative and moral rascals who mix oil with principles and raw materials with innumerable moral commandments which oblige us to intervene everywhere. Warmongers adore justifying their wars. It is like in the time of Hitler, when he was compelled to invade Czechoslovakia to protect his fellow Germans, then Poland to protect the citizens of Danzig, then soviet Russia to protect the West against the evils of communism (the Nazis, while massacring anyone, often boasted of protecting western heritage)!

And today when the West attacks and bombs Libya, Syria or Lebanon, waiting for poor Iran, massacring civilians, we are used to understand that it is for the promotion of good and to fight evil. Thanks to their own bad faith and disinformation, western mainstream media, politicians, military and adventurers are auto-convinced that they castigate the bad to celebrate the good, may they be the sinister Mujahedin in Syria or elsewhere. Such limited handling of reality explicates in Europe or in America our debt, our uncontrolled immigration, our social unrest, our unemployment, our weakness. Yet it has to be understood. Why are we so wrong?

I was for that reason reading again Lenin's masterwork about imperialism (Imperialism highest stage of capitalism). Some things have changed, fortunately for some countries (they are no more starved and whipped by democratic colonial powers), some others have not. The imperial and barbaric movement is still the same, except that it is now uneasy to assail India or China for a new break up, and that Russia is too strong and efficiently protects some of her allies. Of course now the hidden companions who rule the world have decided to ruin western people delocalizing all production and developing immigration... but I won't complaint since at Lenin's times these enlightened elites had decided to butcher Europe as a whole to defend some local mines or overseas interests... Anyway Lenin shrewdly denounces in his book decaying capitalism, economic parasitism and the oligarchic conduct of the 300, as put Rathenau, who then ruled their gloomy West.

Yet I must recognize that the most interesting parts of Vladimir Lenin's book come from his quote of an unknown and remarkable British writer named Hobson (John A. Hobson, Imperialism, a study). Contrarily to Lenin, Hobson is not a Marxist, and that perhaps gives him more intuition and finesse when it comes to understand the motives of our humanitarian elites. A capitalist may be a ruthless businessman full of greed, but he can be a real idealist too, and of the worst kind. Writes Hobson on the matter:

In view of the part which the non-economic factors of patriotism, adventure, military enterprise, political ambition, and philanthropy play in imperial expansion, it may appear that to impute to financiers so much power is to take a too narrowly economic view of history.

Hobson then reproaches the sinister role of adventurers, writers (Kipling, Verne, Haggard, etc.), missionaries, travellers, sportsmen, scientists, who promote the imperialist ideals. He writes and it's always the case that the western imperialist consider that they must have such a divine right of force that they even can lead "to the point of complete subjugation or extermination the physical struggle between races and types of civilisation." The lower race must disappear not because it is black or yellow, but because it is less moral! This is what happens nowadays with the Arabs, may they be Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians or Libyans.

Of course in 1900 nobody in the European populations is convinced of the imperialistic benefits. Life is hard in Europe, inequalities fantastic, and many people must emigrate... in free countries, not in our colonies. Also, the expenses for colonial wars are enormous. This is why, for Hobson, the imperialist bankers, traders and their affiliates emphasize humanitarian motives, buy the press, print travel books and celebrate heroism and exotic action. They adore the generous missionaries, travellers (Dr Livingstone, I presume?) and all the Allan Quatermain and Phileas Fogg of the creation... These feelings are fed by a flood of the literature of travel and of imaginative writing... Today we have terrorist novels or books, manipulated reportages, false flag attacks, painted terrorism, faked digital pictures, and so on to justify for instance the "three trillion dollars" (Jo Stieglitz) war of Iraq or of Afghanistan. We all remember famous Randolph Hearst's expression, pronounced on the verge of infamous American-Spanish war: I'll produce the war! There was too a false flag attack to unclench war process.

Hobson has got a master point: like every capitalistic operation, imperialism is awfully interested in money yet it is often driven by a foolish agenda based on crossed morality, biased ethics and anarchic interventionism. We have today the human rights agenda, run by non-governmental-organisations, secret services and philanthropist billionaires. Already in 1900, there exists in a considerable though not a large proportion of the British nation a genuine desire to spread Christianity among the heathen, to diminish the cruelty and other sufferings... Hell is often paved with good intentions... western oligarchs want to be good even if, like said Oscar Wilde, "our conscience is always cowardice."

Since the West is no more Christian, it has become a criminal with a conscience! Western madness, this mix of hubris and nemesis, had of course softened after WW2 and decolonization, but it violently stroke back since the end of USSR; and the American agenda in Balkans and Middle-East was coldly applied by Clinton, Bush or Obama. And the same state of mind has remained: our elites and the so-called public opinion forged by media, polls, and bad consciousness ("we must destroy any new Hitler", especially if he lives in a small modernist Arab country!) have accustomed themselves to self-deception and fake ideals. Of course we know the strategic role of Afghanistan or Syria, the importance of oilfields, pipelines and minerals. But they're not alone, and we don't know how far the limits of Western bad faith can lead. I let humanist and pessimistic Hobson conclude:

The gravest peril of Imperialism lies in the state of mind of a nation which has become habituated to this deception and which has rendered itself incapable of self-criticism.


Don't let your culture and/or religion influence your belief in the "Universal Human Rights" 

Don't let your culture and/or religion influence your belief in the "Universal Human Rights" 

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. 

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. 

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. 

Article 15

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. 

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. 

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. 

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. 

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. 

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. 

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. 

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. 

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities for the maintenance of peace. 

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

(1) Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. 

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. 

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. 

Libya and the West's Human Rights Hypocrisy

Dan Kovalik

For some time to come, Libya shall stand as an enduring symbol of the West's hypocrisy, and indeed duplicity, on the issue of human rights. While the West, and especially the United States, justified its aerial bombardment of Libya last year on the pretense of saving civilians from a possible, future (rather than actual) attack by Gaddafi forces, the West is silent about the real and ongoing attack of the new Libyan regime upon the town of Bani Walid. Indeed, one must strain hard to even learn of this attack in the press.
On October 5, 2012, Amnesty International reported upon the siege of Bani Walid by government forces. As Amnesty explained then, "members of the Libyan army, Libya Shield forces and armed militias from various parts of the country, including Misatra, surrounded Bani Walid," ostensibly on the grounds of trying to hunt down and arrest suspects responsible for the killing of Omran Shaaban, "credited with capturing Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi on 20 October 2011."
Amnesty International spokeswoman Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui was quoted in this report as stating, "'[i]t is worrying that what essentially should be a law-enforcement operation to arrest suspects looks increasingly like a siege of a city and a military operation." Indeed, as the report explains further, groups of armed men have been preventing medical supplies, oxygen, medical personnel, fuel, water and food supplies from reaching the town. In this same release, Ms. Sahraoui expressed concern about "the situation of thousands of people held across Libya without charge or trial," the "ongoing abductions of individuals without warrant by armed militias,'" and "unofficial detention facilities spread across the country."
On October 12, Amnesty International put out an updated report, again expressing concern about the siege of Bani Walid and about the death of three civilians, including a 9-year-old child named Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed Fathallah, in an armed confrontation in the outskirts of the city. Amnesty then detailed further crimes committed by state and state-aligned forces. They explain:
Bani Walid was among the last cities to fall under the control of anti-Gaddafi forces during Libya's internal [sic.] conflict last year. Hundreds of residents from Bani Walid have been arrested by armed militias. Many continue to be detained without charge or trial across Libyan prisons and detention centres, including Misratah. Many have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The entrance of anti-Gaddafi forces into Bani Walid in October 2011 was accompanied by widespread looting and other abuses.

Thousands of individuals suspected of having fought for or supported the government of Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi continue to be detained across Libya. The vast majority have yet to be officially charged or brought to trial. Since the fall of Tripoli and the vast majority of the country under the control of anti-Gaddafi forces in August 2011, human rights abuses by armed militias such as arbitrary arrest and detention; torture or other ill-treatment - including death; extrajudicial executions and forced displacement continued to take place in a climate of impunity. To date, armed militia seize people outside the framework of the law and hold them incommunicado in secret detention facilities, where they are vulnerable to torture of other ill-treatment.
Of course, I must pause a bit here to state that, while I certainly applaud Amnesty International for its candor in representing the dire situation of the civilian population in Libya after the fall of the Libyan government in August of 2011, and while Amnesty did some laudable reporting in advance of the conflict which debunked some of the most outrageous claims by the U.S. (e.g., that Gaddafi was allegedly giving Viagra to his troops so they could carry out mass rapes), the claim that the fall resulted from an "internal conflict" is of course an outrageous misrepresentation of reality. Indeed, as we all know, the regime change that took place over a year ago came about as a direct and intended result of the NATO bombing of Libya. And sadly, Amnesty itself fueled the push for such intervention by arguing for stepped up action by the UN Security Council and African Union based upon allegations which the organization itself later stated were false (e.g., that Gaddafi was bringing in African mercenaries to fight the rebels).
Meanwhile, the New York Times got around to reporting on the siege of Bani Walid this past Sunday, October 21, leading the story with a bit of understatement, claiming that "[a] city under siege, a rising death toll and hospitals filling with men wounded by gunfire were unmistakeable signs Sunday that war has returned to the Libyan town of Bani Walid, imperiling the country's fragile political transition." As the Times explained, "[a]t least 22 people have been killed in the last week and hundreds more injured around the city, a one-time bastion of support for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi that has shrugged off the new government's authority."
As a number of independent websites have been reporting for days, the Times acknowledged reports by "[r]esidents of the city [who] say that the electric and gas supplies have been cut off and that the militias encircling the town, including many from the coastal city of Misurata, are shelling it indiscriminately." The Times acknowledged that "[i]n Tripoli, the Libyan capital, hundreds of people from Bani Walid invaded the Parliament building on Sunday, demanding an end to the violence... "
Of course, what neither the Times nor Amnesty International will acknowledge, and what neither presidential candidate will dare to hint at, is that it was the U.S. and NATO which has unleashed this plague of violence upon the people of Libya.
After the September killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and other embassy staff, Hillary Clinton queried, "How can this happen in a country we help liberate, in a city (Benghazi) we helped save from destruction?" Of course, Hillary's question answers itself: Many Libyans do not view themselves as having been liberated or saved from destruction. To the contrary, they view themselves as having been thrown into an abyss of chaos and violence. And, as an objective matter, this is true.
And yet, despite Amnesty International's truthful reporting on the post-regime-change situation in Libya of thousands of unlawful detentions, of torture, extra-judicial killings, forced displacement and now the ongoing laying of siege to and shelling of a city, where are the cries for human rights intervention, military or otherwise, to stop this? Outside of Libya itself, one strains to hear any such voices. And of course, this is because the NATO attack on Libya was never about human rights to begin with.
Indeed, the nightmarish human rights situation confronting Libya notwithstanding, NATO's mission in Libya has been accomplished in full. A nationalist government which controlled Libya's oil, to a large extent for the benefit of the Libyan people, has been toppled. That chaos now reigns, along with crimes against the population, is of no consequence to the West so long as it continues to have unfettered control of Libya's oil -- the grand prize all along.
And, as is so often true, it is what is not said that is most revealing of one's true feelings. In this instance, it is Amnesty International's refusal to acknowledge the external source of Libya's current problems (that is, the NATO bombing) which reveals its own self-consciousness, and possibly even guilt, over its encouragement of a military solution to solve human rights problems -- a very dangerous, and at best unreliable, solution indeed. We are now witnessing the fruits of this solution in Libya, and it is not a pretty one.
Update: The U.S. has inexplicably blocked a draft proposal by Russia which calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Bani Walid.
Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh, and is currently teaching International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.