Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Electoral Reforms for Developing Democracies

Indira Gandhi, Nehru and Charlie Chaplin.
The biggest fault in democracy, as it is practiced all over the world, is the election campaign funding part, because individuals and corporations that finance an election campaign always have ulterior motives: that is, they treat political funding as an investment from which they intend to make profits by influencing the executive policy and legislation. In this short essay I am going to offer a few suggestions to make the democratic process more transparent and representative.

The way I see it, there are three big structural faults in the Pakistani political system. A representative and democratic political system tends to weed out the corrupt and inept rulers in the long run. But the Pakistani democracy has frequently been derailed by decade long martial laws (1958-71, 1977-88 and 1999-2008) and every time we got back to the square one and had to start anew.

It works like the trial-and-error method: the politicians who fail to deliver are cast aside and those who deliver are retained through the election process. A martial law, especially if it is decade long, gives a new lease of life to the already tried, tested and failed politicians.

But this imperfection in the democratic system is only Pakistan-specific. When we take a look at the stable democracies, like India for instance, even their politicians are not representative of their masses, because they work in the interest of the elite rather than the underprivileged masses. This fact begs some further analysis of democracy as it is practiced in the developing world.

Politics is the exclusive prerogative of the ultra-rich in the developing world: that is, the feudals, industrialists and the big businesses. The masses and the members of the middle class cannot take part in the elections because the election campaigns entail huge expenses; and if the individual candidates spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns, or the election campaigns of their respective political parties, then how can we expect from such elected representatives that they will not use political office for personal benefits in order to raise money for their expensive election campaigns in the next elections?

In the developing countries politics works like business: the individual candidates of the political parties make an investment on their election campaigns and reap windfalls when they get elected as law-makers in the legislature or as ministers in the government.

In the developed Western countries the individual candidates do not spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns; the political parties raise funds from the contributions which are then spent on the election campaign of the political parties and their individual candidates.

But this practice is also subject to abuse; because the donors of election funds, especially the corporations, when they donate money to a particular political party’s election campaign, in return they demand a say in the policy making of the government of such political parties. Such a government is beholden to its financiers and cannot pursue an independent policy in the interests of the masses.

A much better practice for generating election-related funds has been adopted in some developed countries, where the state allocates funds from its national budget for the political parties’ election campaigns if they manage to obtain a certain percentage of the popular vote on a national level.

Though, it may sound onerous for the impoverished, developing democracies, but if we take a look at all the other governance-related expenses, it would appear feasible. Take the cost of maintaining federal and provincial bureaucracies for instance: paying the salaries of the bureaucrats; maintaining the federal and provincial public service commissions and academies, etc.

The bureaucracy only constitutes the mid-tier of the governance structure; the top-tier is occupied by the politicians who formulate the state policy. Paying for the election-related expenses of the political parties is only a one-time cost and its benefits can be enormous, and it also avoids all the pitfalls of taking contributions from the shady individual and corporate donors.

Notwithstanding, another big fault in the Pakistani political system is the refusal of the party chiefs of the two national level political parties: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP,) to hold intra-party elections. How can you champion democracy on a national level when you refuse to implement representative democracy in your home? Because of this reason both of these political parties have become personality cults and family fiefdoms rather than representative political parties, as such.

The only mainstream political party, which has held intra-party elections before the 2013 parliamentary elections, is the new entrant in the Pakistani political landscape: that is, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI.) Those elections were far from perfect but it was a step in the right direction. Democracy evolves over time. Instead of losing faith in the political system we must remain engaged in the repetitive electoral process, which delivers in the long run through the scientifically proven trial-and-error method.

Isn’t it ironic, however, that apart from PTI the only two political parties in Pakistan that regularly hold intra-party elections and that have created a public fund for the election campaign related expenses are Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI?) No wonder then the Urdu-speaking Mohajir nationalists and the hardline Islamists vote in droves for these political parties, respectively, because they represent the middle class of a section of Pakistani society.

Had it not been for the racism and thuggery of MQM and the hardline Islamist ideology of JI, both of these parties would have easily swept the election the way PTI won an overwhelming mandate in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the general elections of 2013.

Notwithstanding, in the developed Western societies a distinction is generally drawn between power and money. If we take a cursory look at some of the well known Western politicians; excluding a few billionaires like Trump, others like Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Francois Hollande, all of them were successful lawyers from the middle class backgrounds, before they were elected as executives of their respective countries.

The Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Labour parties, all of them accept political contributions which are then spent on the election campaigns of their nominees, which generally are the members of the middle class. Nowhere in the developed and politically mature West it is allowed for the individual candidates to spend money from their own pockets on their election campaigns, because instead of a political contest it would then become a contest between the bank accounts.

Though, money does influence politics even in the Western countries but only through indirect means like election campaign financing, congressional lobbying and advocacy groups etc. In the developing Third World democracies, like India and Pakistan for instance, only the feudals, industrialists and billionaire businessmen can aspire for public offices due to the election campaign related expenses, as I have mentioned before, and the middle class and the masses are completely excluded from the whole electoral exercise.

This makes a sheer mockery of the democratic process because how can we expect from the ultra-rich elite to protect the interests of the middle and lower classes? They would obviously enact laws and formulate public policy which favors their respective business interests without any regard for the larger public interest. In Pakistan politics is the exclusive monopoly of the feudal Bhutto dynasty and the industrialist Sharif dynasty, while in India another elitist Nehru dynasty has practically been kicked out of politics due to its neoliberal policies and outlandish ideology.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit: A Victory For Britain's Working Class

George Bush and Tony Blair.
There is an essential condition in the European Union’s charter of union according to which the under-developed countries of Europe that joined the EU allowed free movement of goods (free trade) only on the reciprocal condition that the developed countries would allow the free movement of labor.

What’s obvious in this condition is the fact that free trade only benefits the countries that have a strong manufacturing base; and free movement of workers only favors the under-developed countries where labor is cheap.

While joining the EU, Britain compromised on the rights of its working class in order to protect the interests of its bankers and industrialists, because free trade with the rest of the EU countries spurred British exports.

I am of the opinion that the British working classes must have overwhelmingly voted in favor of Brexit, because after Britain’s entry into EU and when the Schengen Agreement on abolishing the internal border checks among the EU member states became effective in 1995, the cheaper labor force of Eastern Europe flooded the markets of Western Europe; and consequently the wages of indigenous British labor force dropped and it also became difficult for them to find jobs because the foreigners were willing to do the same job for lesser pay, hence raising the level of unemployment among the British workers and consequent discontentment with the EU. The subsequent lifting of restrictions on the Romanians and Bulgarians to work in UK in January 2014 further exacerbated the problem.

The biggest incentive for the British working class to vote for Brexit is that the East European workers will have to leave Britain after its exit from the EU, and the jobs will once again become available with better wages to the indigenous workforce.

Keeping in view the principle of reciprocity enshrined in the EU’s Charter that free trade should be made contingent upon the free movement of labor, now, when the international financial institutions, like the IMF and WTO, promote free trade by exhorting the developing countries all over the world to reduce tariffs and subsidies without the reciprocal free movement of labor, whose interests do such institutions try to protect? Obviously, such global financial institutions espouse the interests of their biggest donors by shares, i.e. the developed countries.

Some market fundamentalists who irrationally believe in the laissez-faire capitalism try to justify this unfair practice by positing Schumpeter’s theory of ‘creative destruction’ that the free trade between unequal trade partners leads to the destruction of the host country’s existing economic order and a subsequent reconfiguration, somehow, gives birth to a better economic order.

Whenever one comes up with gross absurdities such proportions, they should always make it contingent on the principle of reciprocity: that is, if free trade is beneficial for the nascent industrial base of the underdeveloped countries, then the free movement of labor is equally beneficial for the working classes of the developed countries.

The policy makers of the developing countries must not fall prey to such deceptive arguments, instead, they must formulate policies which suit the interests of their working classes. The only trouble is that the governments of the Third World are dependent on foreign investment and the global loan sharks, that’s why, they cannot adopt an independent economic and trade policy.

The so-called “multinational” corporations based in the Western financial districts make profits from the consumer markets all over the world and pay a share of those profits to their respective governments as bribes in the form of taxes. Every balance of trade deficit due to the lack of strong manufacturing base makes the developing nations poorer, and every balance of trade surplus further adds to the already immense fortune of the developed world.

A single large multinational corporation owns more assets than the total GDP of many developing nations. Without this neocolonial system of exploitation the whole edifice of supposedly “meritocratic” capitalism will fall flat on its face; and the myth of individual incentive would get busted beyond repair, because it only means incentive for the pike and not for the minnows.

Although, the champions of globalization and neoliberalism all over the world must be bemoaning the fate of EU after Brexit, but the recent success of right-wingers all over the world: like the rise of Trump in America, the referendum in UK, the success of Modi and his hardline BJP in India, the emergence of Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar and the ascendancy of Islamic hardliners in the Muslim-majority countries, all of these are not the success of conservatism, as such. Conservatism is an outdated political ideology which is simply not a match for the more refined liberal worldview.

The aforementioned reactionary anomalies signify only one thing: the failure of neoliberalism as a political and economic ideology. Social liberalism of ‘60s and ‘70s used to be an inclusive and egalitarian philosophy while neoliberalism, ‘90s-onwards, with its exclusive emphasis on economic growth and elitist values, and without any regard for social justice and class equality, is losing its appeal among the masses all over the world.

In fact, politics has become such a comic business after the onset of neoliberalism that actual comedians like Jimmy Morales won a resounding victory in the Guatemalan elections last year; similarly, the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo’s “Five Star movement” also secured more than 100 deputies in the last Italian elections; and the biggest tragicomic of them all, Donald Trump, too, is all set for a victory in November this year.

Coming back to the topic, although, EU's labor provisions ensure adequate wages and safeguard the rights of workers, but the British working class chose to quit EU on the basis of demand and supply of labor. With East European workers out of the country, the supply of labor will reduce hence increasing the demand. The native British workforce can then renegotiate better terms and conditions from the owners of the modes of production, and it will also ensure ready availability of jobs.

Notwithstanding, instead of lamenting the abysmal failure of globalization and neoliberal economic policies, we need to ask a simple question that why do workers choose to leave their homes and hearths, family and friends in their native countries and choose to work in a foreign country? Obviously for better wages and reasonable working conditions.

In that case, however, instead of offering band aid solutions, we need to revise the prevailing global economic order; and formulate prudent and far-reaching economic and trade policies that can reduce the imbalance of wealth distribution between the prosperous and impoverished nations; hence, reducing the incentive for the immigrant workers to seek employment in the developed countries.

Free movement of workers only benefits a small number of individuals and families, because majority of the workforce is left behind to rot in their native developing countries where economy is not doing as well as in the developed world, thanks to the neoliberal policies. A comprehensive reform of the global economic and trade policies, on the other hand, will benefit everyone, except the bankers and the beneficiaries of the existing neoliberal world order.

Finally and in the nutshell, I would contend that Brexit is actually a blessing in disguise for the EU as well as Britain. The latter always closely identified with the American interests and foreign policy, while France and Germany took the lead in managing the affairs of EU. After Britain’s exit from the EU, it will align itself more closely with the American policy; and the member states of EU too, in the absence of pro-US Britain, might be able to form a more cohesive and coherent union.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Postmodernism: A Realm Beyond Renaissance Humanism

Hillary Clinton and Benazir Bhutto.
There is a marked difference between scientism, or the scientific worldview, which is an ideology and the empirically-proven science. Karl Popper addressed the demarcation problem between a scientific worldview and science proper (empirical and verifiable science.) When it comes to verifiability, I agree, that Popperian falsifiability inadequately addresses the problem, but that doesn’t means that every unscientific hypothesis should be given the credibility which has been reserved only for science proper.

Take biological evolution for instance: natural selection is a scientific fact; it can be said about speciation that it is a logical extension of natural selection; but how can we designate ‘primordial hot soup theory’ regarding the origins of life as science? There are obvious shortcomings in the scientific worldview (ideology), and instead of humbly accepting those shortcomings the hegemonic scientism wants to muzzle all dissenting voices.

I won’t get into the whole Big Bang science fiction because humans haven’t yet set foot out of the solar system, not even on Alpha Centauri which is our nearest star, and we are pontificating about the origins of the universe. What is dark matter and dark energy which comprises over 95% of the total mass of the universe? What are quarks made up of, packets of energy or photons maybe? From the infinite to the infinitesimal, we don’t have a slightest clue that how does nature works. Just by reverse engineering some of the wonders of nature, we like to think that science has reached the zenith of knowledge.

Let’s get to the easier questions of biology instead: the scientists biggest achievement so far have been the formation of organic matter from inorganic matter (urea.) The difference between organic and inorganic compounds is inconsequential; the real challenge for science is to address the difference between organic matter and the formation of first protein (amino acid), DNA and more importantly a living organism (a cell) with all of its myriads of structural and physiological wonders.

Notwithstanding, how does science explains human consciousness? So far, the scientists have not been able to overcome the astounding mind-brain dichotomy, which has created an unbridgeable gulf between cognitive science and neurological science. Neurology is a part of medical science while psychology is an indefinable sphinx between biological and social sciences. The mind does the thinking while the brain gets infected by Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism: that is, the syllabus of neurology as a branch of medical science.

Teaching biological evolution in the public schools, without teaching the valid criticism on the theory of evolution and its corollary, the scientism, is like brain-washing the children: “Teach a child a religion and you indoctrinate him, teach him many and you inoculate him.”

Coming back to the topic, postmodernism is a belief in the subjectivity of existence; a post-human condition; and a context-based empirical, as opposed to ideological, approach to the social and moral issues.

All the latest moral theories like virtue ethics emphasize the importance of affect/emotion over reason. It is unfortunate that liberalism derives its moral inspiration exclusively from rationalism. Utilitarian maxima for instance: the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers. But it reductively defines ‘happiness’ in simplistic pleasure-pain equations.

Virtue ethics posits that morality is based neither on consequentialism nor on any deontological principle. More than the consequences of an action, it concerns itself with how that action reflects on the ‘moral character’ of the individual?

Human beings are moral beings, which means that they have a hard-wired sense of justice. I won’t get into the nature-nurture debate. By nature human beings are merely tabula rasa. It’s our nurture and culture which makes us moral. And the most important social institution which infuses morality into an individual is the institution of family.

Like I have said earlier, morality is based less on reason and more on affect/emotion. Reason falls well short, the best it can come up with is: reciprocal altruism, which by definition isn’t ‘altruism’ at all, since altruism implies self-sacrifice and without it, it is merely selfish reciprocity. Hence the importance of affect/emotion.

All morality is based on love, compassion and empathy. And what is the fountainhead of love? It is the institution of family which infuses love in its members: love between parents and children and siblings; and this love then transcends the immediate family and encompasses the entire mankind.

Liberals aren’t immoral people per se, but the reductive rationalist-materialist approach which they take towards morality is highly fallacious. And the erosion of the institution of the family and its values is one such example.

Liberalism, as an ideology, was an outcome of industrialization and the consequent urbanization. Conservative values are closer to the agricultural era values of a rural-agrarian milieu. Both conservative and liberal values have their pros and cons, but separately neither of them offers us a comprehensive system of morality. Therefore post-modernism strives to blend both traditional and liberal values to weave a new moral fabric which can address all of human needs and aspirations.

Notwithstanding, until we put the theory to the test of practical life, we cannot be certain of its practicality; and I believe that this defect has primarily been the undoing of liberalism, because its values are more theoretical than practical, as such. Regarding the blending of modern and traditional values, however, we do not have to invent anything new, we only need to integrate the older time-tested elements into the new model of morality.

Since the Renaissance Humanism onwards, we have taken an essentialist approach towards these issues: that all traditional values are bad and all modern values are good; a rationalistic hegemony which derives everything from deduction and rarely from induction and observation.

There are two kinds of traditionalisms: unconscious traditionalism and deliberate traditionalism. Deliberate traditions were a set of values which were devised during the agricultural phase of social evolution for the wellbeing of the individual and for the social cohesion of the group. While unconscious traditions were certain beliefs and superstitions which developed spontaneously without any conscious design and they were more harmful than beneficial, as such.

A better socio-moral model should retain the time-tested and empirically-proven deliberate traditions and eliminate the harmful traditions. Obviously preferences change over time in the light of new discoveries; some of the deliberate traditions may also not meet the requirements of the modern times. But while devising a new model, it should be kept in mind that an empirically-proven fact must always take precedence over any theoretically-derived reform: the onus lies on the reformer to prove beyond doubt that the suggested reform is an improvement on the original tradition as it is.

Regardless, it is also a fact that most social/moral values are basically ‘survival instincts’ but here we must keep in mind that they are the survival instincts of social groups, not individuals. Human beings are by nature social beings. Throughout our history we lived in social groups. During our nomado-pastoral phase, we survived not because of our physical superiority over all other species, but because of our intelligence and social cohesion. We were pack-hunters who were far more innovative than any other known specie, which gave us a comparative advantage in the race for survival.

All I am trying to say is that an individual is important but he is only secondary to the group, and ‘collective survival instincts’ which includes empathy and altruism for the fellow beings, must be an integral part of the comprehensive new system of morality.

Here let me clarify that I  am not against individual autonomy; it’s only when the individual self-interest collides with the collective interest that we face a dilemma. In such a scenario, in my opinion, collective interest must prevail over individual interest. But how does ‘collective interest’ is interpreted entails different approaches. A democratic collective interest, that reflects the aspirations of the masses, is essentially different from how it is interpreted in the autocracies. Supposed “collectivism” under autocracies have made it such a slur that people now shy away from using the term in their discourse.

In the light of my limited online experience with the Western culture I have come to realize that a fully functional family is hard to find in the Western societies; they are more of an exception than norm. Most Western women with whom I have interacted are generally divorced, single mothers who are raising their children all by themselves; while the men folks either don’t get married at all, or even if they do get married under some momentary impulse or infatuation, they tend to leave their wives and kids behind them and either run away with their newfound girlfriends or they are otherwise non-committal in their relationships.

Unlike the Eastern societies which are family-centric the Western societies are mostly individual-centric. Reductive individualism and berserk hedonism is all fine but this unnatural state of affairs cannot last for long; the birth rates all over the Western world are dwindling and in some countries the population growth rate is negative. Only thing that is sustaining their population growth rate is not their natural birth rates, but the immigration of skilled work force from the traditional Eastern societies to the modern Western countries.

The institution of a fully functional family is the cornerstone of a healthy society and if the social environment is not conducive to the development of that fundamental institution, then there is something seriously wrong with our social axioms.

Regarding the civil unions and domestic partnerships, whether or not they are arranged under the title of “marriage,” that’s just the difference of semantics, not the substance. My contention relates to the longevity of such relationships and the reciprocal rights and duties of the conjugal partners. A marriage is a civil contract meant for the purpose of raising children and family; if one of the partners leaves the other midstream, it creates an unmanageable burden on the other partner to raise the children single-handedly.

Although, I don’t have statistics but my assumption is that in the Eastern societies the divorce rates are less than 10% while in the supposedly advanced Western societies they are well in excess of 50%. Sweeping such serious issues under the rug, that affect every individual and family on a personal level, by taking an evasive approach of “see no evil, hear no evil” will further exacerbate the problem.

Notwithstanding, individualists generally believe that an individual holds a central position in the society; the way I see it, however, being “human” is inextricably interlinked with the institution of family. Only things that separates humans from the rest of the animals is their innate potential to acquire knowledge, but knowledge alone is not sufficient for our collective survival due to excessive and manifest intra-special violence; unless we have social cohesion which comes through love, compassion and empathy, we are likely to self-destruct as a specie.

The aforementioned empathy and altruism, however, is imparted by the institution of family within which spouses love each other and their children, and in return children love their parents and siblings. That familial love then transcends the immediate environs of the family and encompasses the entire humanity, thus, without the institution of family there is going to be no humanity, or individual, in the long run.

Although, the family life in the Eastern societies isn’t as perfect as some of us would like to believe, but those are traditional societies that are based on agriculture era value systems; industrialization and consequent urbanization is the order of the day, those rural societies will eventually evolve into their urban counterparts. My primary concern is that the utopian paradigm that we have conjured up is far from perfect in which the divorce rates are very high and generally mothers are left alone to fend for themselves and raise their children giving rise to a dysfunctional familial and social arrangement.

Additionally, some social scientists draw our attention to the supposed “unnaturalness” of the institution of family and polyamory etc. in the primitive societies, but if we take a cursory look at the history of mankind there are two distinct phases of cultural development: the pre-Renaissance social evolution and the post-Renaissance cultural evolution.

Most of our cultural, scientific and technological accomplishments are attributed to the latter phase that has only lasted for a few centuries, and the institution of family has played a pivotal role in the social advancement of that era. Empirically speaking, we must base our scientific assumptions on the proven and visible evidence and not some cock and bull Amazonian fairy tales.

Regarding the erosion of the institution of family, I am of the opinion, that it is primarily the fault of the mass entertainment media that has caused an unnatural obsession with glamor and the consequent sexualization of the modern societies.

To sum it up, techno-scientific progress alone cannot ensure the survival and well-being of individuals in the long run; unless we are able to rear individuals who, along with intelligence and knowledge, also possess love, compassion and empathy; and such sentiments cannot be taught in schools and academies, which makes family an indispensable social institution which is necessary for our collective survival and progress.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mass Media: A Social rather than Commercial Enterprise

Jinnah reading Dawn News.
We expect from the individuals and the business enterprises to act in their self-interest. But then why do we expect from the government to work in the larger public interest; from the legislature to make laws and devise policy for the benefit of an entire nation; and from the judiciary, bureaucracy and the law enforcement to implement law and justice throughout the country? Will it be morally right if they too take advantage of their position and promote their own self-interest at the cost of larger public interest? No, because the government, legislature, judiciary and bureaucracy are governmental or public institutions which are more akin to social enterprise rather than a commercial enterprise; their job is to work in the larger public interest rather than the narrow self-interest.

But where does the corporate media stands in this equation? Is it alright for the journalists and the opinion-makers to work in their individual and commercial interests rather than the public interest? The mass media is an informal fourth pillar of the state; and in a public relations and advertising-based democratic system, it wields far more influence than all the other pillars combined together. But it is organized as a commercial enterprise rather than a social enterprise.

The journalists write the stories which they send to the editors for publishing; the editors make the editorial policy and they are answerable to the board of directors of the media corporation; and the directors are in turn answerable to the owners or the share-holders of the media corporation. These owners and the share-holders are the same business interests that control the Western governments through their lobbyists and advocacy groups. They have vested interest in all kinds of trades all over the world. How can we expect from such shady groups to do objective reporting and show us the real picture if it goes against their commercial interests?

In a globalized world, where all the economies are interlinked, the media plays the role of our organs of sense perception. We can only have direct knowledge of the proximate objects around us; however, we do not have any knowledge of the far flung regions of the world, except what the media tells us about such regions and their people and politics through its reporting.

In the developed parts of the world there is a competition between the local, regional, and international media outlets; any false reporting can be compared and verified to some extent; that’s why it is more credible. But in the backward and remote regions of the world, we are totally dependent on the reporting of the large multinational news organizations; and they can twist the facts whichever way it suits their interests. But to maintain their credibility, they generally report the facts correctly. They take a more shrewd and subtle approach of committing crimes of omission rather than crimes of commission. An incident which happened somewhere and which was not reported by the media, for all practical purposes it never took place; because we have no other way of knowing except through media.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Education: A Privilege of the Rich

Benazir Bhutto & Peter Galbraith.
We commit a big fallacy when we assume that our educational accomplishments are our individual achievements. We like to believe that we were born with a certain innate talent which makes us intellectually superior to all the rest. But the fact of the matter is that our innate talents aren’t all that different. Some people are born with genes that make them grow to being six feet tall, while others have relatively short heights; these are all minor difference of genetics, nevertheless.

The difference of innate intelligence among people belonging to all the races is quite similar. It’s our environment, family, culture and educational institutions which are primarily responsible for our cognitive abilities and social values. In this regard, capitalism works like the outdated monarchy: a person born in a rich and educated family is by default a prince; he has access to all the modes of learning: like, parental guidance, best educational institutions, books, libraries and internet; peer pressure as a motivation, and intellectual discussions and debates with well-informed teachers, family members and close friends further hones one’s cognitive abilities.

A poor peasant, on the other hand, lacks the wherewithal to educate himself or his children to that level. Thus, when the neo-liberals blame the jahils (uneducated) for their jahalat (illiteracy), they are actually blaming the poor for their poverty, or the victims for their misfortunes. They ought to blame the structural faults and the capitalist system which engenders social stratification and the consequent jahalat.

It should be kept in mind, however, that I've written this post in the context of Third World's stratified educational systems where we have markedly different educational institutions for the elite and the masses. The public schools of the developed world provide quality education to all the citizens, irrespective of their social class, because in a country like UK the budgetary allocation for public education is $150 for a population of 65 million, while in a Third World country, like Pakistan, the education budget is only $5 billion for a population of 200 million. Thus, equality of opportunity, which is directly linked to the equality of education, is ensured in the developed world, but not in the Third World.

In the Third World developing countries, like India and especially Pakistan, there are four distinct types of educational institutions:

Firstly: The elite English-medium schools that offer courses in O/A Levels and Junior/Senior Cambridge. The quality of education in such institutions is quite good, but their tuition fee and other expenses are so exorbitant that only the upper middle classes can admit their children in such schools.

Secondly: The Urdu-medium public and private sector schools that cater to the educational needs of the children of middle and lower middle classes. Though, such institutions are often misrepresented as “English-medium,” because the textbooks are in English, but the lingua franca in such schools is generally Urdu; and their quality of education is average, at best.

Thirdly: The government schools that are run by the provincial education departments. The tuition fee in such schools is quite nominal and so is the standard of education that they impart. Such institutions cater to the educational needs of the children of the poorer classes.

Fourthly: The religious seminaries, or madrassahs, that are funded by the Islamic charities and endowments, and that impart religious education to the children of the poorest of the poor. Petrodollars-funded madrassahs offer the kind of incentives which are lacking even in government schools, like free boarding and lodging, meals for the poor students, free of cost books and stationery; some generously-funded madrassahs even give monthly stipends to their students. The poor folk who admit their children in madrassahs, in a way, outsource the upbringing of their children to the madrassahs; because, for all practical purposes, such children are raised by the religious clerics.

Notwithstanding, in today’s complex world, without education, people are not equipped to survive. For instance: if I go to China and I don’t know the Chinese language, I’ll be needing a tour guide with me all the time. Similarly, those of us who can’t read and write, they can survive through their traditional social networks in the villages, but not in the modern cities. And the innumerate who can’t do math, they cannot succeed in business. If you want to register a property or a vehicle to your name, and you don’t know the law and the understanding of how the system works, you can run into a lot of trouble.

Therefore, education is imperative for survival in today’s complex world. Biological evolution is based on the cardinal principle of natural selection and the survival of the fittest; thus, fitness to the environment is the only law that ensures our survival. But that fitness is bestowed upon us by nature; and like I have said earlier, that in today’s complex, man-made world every newborn child is unfit until he gets a proper education.

More to the point, the lack of fitness of an individual (or a social group) is not their fault, it is the fault of the society as a whole. If you are fortunate enough to have been born in a rich, or an upper middle class family, by default you will be equipped with all the necessary tools that are required for survival and progress; but if you have not been properly educated to understand and deal with today’s complex modern societies, then you will remain an unfit peasant.

Finally and in the nutshell, equality of opportunity, which is the fundamental axiom of the modern egalitarian worldview, is directly linked to the equality of education, or at least, the equality of educational opportunities. In the capitalist neoliberal societies of the Third World, however, only the children of the upper classes get proper education which is essential for upward social mobility, while the children of the masses get barely sufficient education which might be enough for becoming clerks and technicians, but as far as one’s cognitive abilities and critical faculties are concerned, their optimal potential is not realized.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Missing Pieces of Bin Laden's Execution Mystery

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.
According to Seymour Hersh, the original plan of the Obama Administration regarding the disclosure of the execution of Osama bin Laden to the press was that he had been killed in a drone strike in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan side of the border. But things didn’t go as planned during the operation as a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound and the whole town now knew that an operation is underway.

Therefore, that original plan was abandoned and Obama Administration had to go public within hours of the operation with a hurriedly cooked up story. This explains so many contradictions and loopholes in the official version of the story; the biggest being that the US Special Ops conducted a raid deep inside the Pakistani territory on a garrison town without the approval of the Pakistani authorities.

Moreover, according to AFP, Pakistan’s military sources have confirmed that there was a defector who had met several times with Jonathan Bank, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, as a consequence of which the Pakistani intelligence disclosed his name to the newspapers and he had to leave Pakistan in December 2010 because his cover had been blown.

Seymour Hersh posited in his report [1] on the Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan as a favor to hide Bin Laden because he was a scion of a powerful Saudi-Yemeni Bin Laden Group and it was simply not possible for the Saudis to hand him over to the US.

Moreover, it should be remembered that the Pakistani military and Saudi Arabia have very deep and institutionalized links: thousands of Pakistani retired and serving army officers work on deputations in the Gulf states; furthermore, during the ‘80s and ‘90s Saudi Arabia lacked an efficient intelligence set-up, and the Pakistani ISI virtually played the role of Saudi Arabia’s foreign intelligence service.

But once the Pakistani walk-in colonel told the then-CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, that a high-value al Qaeda leader is hiding in an ISI’s safe house in Abbottabad, right next to the Pakistani Military Academy, and after that when the CIA obtained further proof in the form of Bin Laden’s DNA through the fake vaccination program carried out by Dr. Shakil Afridi, then it was no longer possible for the Pakistani security establishment to deny the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

In his report Seymour Hersh has already postulated various theories that why it was not possible for Pakistan to simply hand Bin Laden over to the US. Here let me only add that in 2011 Pakistan had a US-friendly, People’s Party’s government. It is quite plausible that the then army chief, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the ISI head, Shuja Pasha, might still have had strong objections to the US special ops carrying out an operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

Amb. Husain Haqqani, Kerry and Zardari.
But the Pakistan’s civilian administration under the then President Asif Ali Zardari, and especially the disgraced Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, must have pressed upon the army chief and the ISI head to order the Pakistan Air Force to stand down during the operation. Ambassador Haqqani’s role in this saga ruffled the feathers of Pakistani security establishment to an extent that they later filed a case against Haqqani regarding his memo to Admiral Mike Mullen [2] and eventually Ambassador Haqqani had to resign.

In his latest news story [3] Greg Miller of Washington Post posits that Mark Kelton, the CIA station chief in Islamabad at the time of Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, was poisoned by the ISI. The only purpose of this leak, five years after the operation, seems to be to discredit Seymour Hersh’s report in which he has proven beyond doubt that the Pakistani security establishment fully cooperated with the US during the operation. It is not a coincidence that this news story has been released only within a month of the publication of Seymour Hersh’s book: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden.”

Here it should be remembered that Mark Kelton succeeded Jonathan Bank in January 2011, after the latter’s name was outed by the ISI. Hersh has mentioned in his report that the Pakistani walk-in colonel had met Jonathan Bank and told the latter that Bin Laden was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad under the custody of ISI. But in order to be sure, the US needed further proof; that’s why they arranged that vaccination program run by Dr. Shakil Afridi to get Bin Laden’s DNA samples.

The original deal between the Obama and Zardari Administrations was that the story would be made public a week after the operation, as mentioned by Hersh in his report, that Bin Laden has been killed/captured in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan side of the border. The crashed Black Hawk in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, however, made that impossible. Obama Administration had to improvise within hours of the operation with a hurriedly made up story. This explains so many contradictions and loopholes in the official version of the story, as I already mentioned.

Although, Seymour Hersh has claimed in his version of the story that the Pakistani military authorities were also on-board months before the operation; let me clarify, however, that in my opinion only the Pakistani civilian administration under the Zardari-led and US-friendly, People’s Party were on-board; and the military authorities, who were instrumental in harboring Bin Laden and his family for five years, were intimated only at the eleventh hour.

A Coordinated Operation between Pakistan and the US:

Operation Neptune Spear by the US Navy Seals in which Osama Bin Laden was killed on 2 May 2011 was a fully coordinated Pakistan-US operation. A lot of online material is available regarding the incident and the Pakistan government has also released the Abbottabad Commission’s Report (which is still classified though leaked by Al Jazeera) but the whole episode and its reporting sheds light on the complicity, sensationalism and spin-doctoring by the mainstream media.

By “coordinated operation” I mean that the operation was carried out in full coordination with the Pakistani Air Force and ground forces which secured the area around Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on the night of the operation. The Navy Seals allegedly flew from the Jalalabad airbase in Afghanistan in two ‘modified’ Black Hawk helicopters and landed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound 90 minutes later. Naturally the flight-path must have been from west-to-east.

A few points to note here:

Firstly, by ‘modified’ Black Hawks the corporate media spin-doctors imply a quieter stealth helicopter; but no matter what kind of technology is employed a helicopter is a very noisy aircraft, that’s why we don’t see any commitment of resources for developing stealth helicopters, a la the stealth jets like F-35. Moreover, even if it is assumed that the Black Hawks were stealth helicopters, then what about the Chinook that took Navy Seals back to their base in Afghanistan after one of the Black Hawks crashed in Bin Laden’s compound; was that also a stealth version of the Chinooks?

Secondly, we are not sure whether the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abottabad in Pakistan; because Pakistan had leased several airbases in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces to the joint US Air Force and CIA drone operations, like the Shamsi Airfield for instance, from October 2001 until the Salala incident in November 2011 in which 28 Pakistani soldiers were killed by the US forces based in Afghanistan and the relations between Pakistan and the US reached their all-time low. Bear in mind, however, that the Bin Laden operation took place in May 2011 when CIA still had bases inside Pakistan.

Assuming that the corporate media’s narrative is correct and that the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad to Abbottabad (west-to-east) in 90 minutes, in that case they had to fly through the airspace of some of Pakistan’s most strategic military and air-force installations.

The naïve audience of the mainstream media knows very little about Pakistan; it’s a fact that the Af-Pak border region is the lawless wild west of Pakistan; the US forces can fly drones there because it is totally unprotected on the ground as well as its air-space. This perhaps is the reason why they readily believed the lie which was fed to them about the Osama Bin Laden Operation.

But the area between Attock, Abbottabad and Islamabad is Pakistan’s most sensitive and heavily militarized area.

If we take a cursory look at some of the strategic locations from west-to-east that lie in the alleged flight path of the Black Hawks:

First, there is Pakistan Air Force’s Kamra airbase near Attock which is used for manufacturing JF-17 Thunders in collaboration with China.

Second, one of Pakistan’s biggest ordnance factory (POF Wah) which employs over 40,000 personnel is located in Wah cantonment which is only 60 kms south-west of Abbottabad.

Third, just opposite to the Wah cantonment is the newly built Air Weapons Complex (AWC) which is so sensitive and secretive that even the locals don’t know what kind of ballistic missiles are being manufactured there.

Fourth, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) another military site used for building battle tanks and APCs under the direct supervision of Pakistan Armed Forces.

And last but not the least, the Havelian ammunition depot which is only a stone’s throw away from Abbottabad.

Looking at all this data, if some chopper no matter how ‘modified’ or stealthy it might have been, passes through the air-space above, or anywhere near all those military sites, Pakistan must have the most inept armed forces in the world to let that happen.

Apart from the aforementioned sites, Pakistan’s Military Academy Kakul; Pakistan Air Force installations in Kalabagh, Nathiagali; and several Pakistan Army’s regiment centers are also located in Abbottabad. In fact the whole city is a garrison town like Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

For all these reasons, I fully endorse Seymour Hersh’s view that Operation Neptune Spear was a coordinated operation between the Pakistani and the US Armed Forces.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Syrian Civil War and the Making of Islamic State

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in August 2011 to April 2013, Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front were a single organization that chose the banner of “Jabhat al Nusra.” Although, the current Al-Nusra Front is led by Abu Mohammad al Julani but he was appointed as the Emir of Al-Nusra Front by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, in January 2012. The current Al-Nusra Front is only a splinter group of Islamic State which split away from its parent organization in April 2013 over a dispute between the leaders of two organizations. Al Qaeda Central’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, tried to mediate the dispute between Baghdadi and Julani but eventually, in October 2013, he endorsed Al-Nusra Front as the official franchise of Al Qaeda Central in Syria. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, however, defied the nominal authority of Al Qaeda Central and declared himself as the Caliph of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. I have discussed this topic in detail in one of my write-ups for Asia Times: “How Syrian Jihad spawned Islamic State?” [1]

Moreover, unlike al Qaeda, which is a terrorist organization that generally employs anticolonial and anti-West rhetoric to draw funds and followers, Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front, both, are basically anti-Shi’a sectarian outfits. By the designation “terrorism” it is generally implied and understood that an organization which has the intentions and capability of carrying out acts of terrorism on the Western soil. Though, Islamic State has carried out a few acts of terrorism against the Western countries, such as the high profile November 2015 Paris attacks, but if we look at the pattern of its sabotage activities, especially in the Middle East, it generally targets the Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq. A few acts of terrorism that it has carried out in the Gulf Arab states were also directed against the Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Shi’a mosques in Yemen and Kuwait. Moreover, al Qaeda Central is only a small band of Arab individuals whose strength is numbered in a few hundreds, while Islamic State is a mass insurgency whose strength is numbered in tens of thousands, especially in Syria and Iraq.

Furthermore, for the sake of argument, let me concede that it is a plausible fact that the US does not directly supports the Syrian militants, it only sets the broad policy framework and lets its client states in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey, do the actual financing, training and arming of the Syrian militants. For instance, although the US openly provides the American-made antitank (TOW) weapons to the Syrian rebels but it had strictly forbidden the aforementioned clients from providing anti-aircraft weapons (MANPADS) to the militants, because Israel frequently flies surveillance aircrafts and drones and occasionally carries out airstrikes in Syria and Lebanon and had such weapons fallen into the wrong hands, it could have become a long term threat to the Israeli Air Force. Lately, some anti-aircraft weapons from Gaddafi’s looted arsenal in Libya have made their way into the hands of the Syrian militants but for the initial years of the civil war there was an absolute prohibition on providing such weapons to the insurgents.

More to the point, the declassified Defense Intelligence Agency’s report [2] of 2012 that presaged the imminent rise of a Salafist principality in north-eastern Syria was not overlooked it was deliberately suppressed, not just the report but that view in general that a civil war in Syria will give birth to the radical Islamists, was forcefully stifled in the Western policy making circles under pressure from the Zionist lobbies. The Western powers were fully aware of the consequences of their actions in Syria but they kept pursuing the policy of financing, training, arming and internationally legitimizing the so-called “Syrian opposition” to weaken the Syrian regime and to neutralize the threat that its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, had posed to Israel’s regional security; a fact which the Israeli defense community realized for the first time during the 2006 Lebanon war during the course of which Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel. Those were only unguided rockets but it was a wakeup call for the Israeli military strategists that what will happen if Iran passed the guided missile technology to Hezbollah whose area of operations lies very close to the northern borders of Israel? The Western interest in the Syrian civil war is primarily about ensuring Israel’s regional security.

Sectarianism and the rise of Islamic State:

Syria's pro-Assad militias are comprised of local militiamen as well as Shi’a foreign fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and even the Hazara Shi’as from Afghanistan. And Sunni Jihadists from all over the region have also been flocking to the Syrian battlefield of jihad for the past five years. A full-scale Sunni-Shi’a war has been going on in Syria, Iraq and Yemen which will obviously have its repercussions all over the Middle East region where Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have coexisted peacefully for centuries. But the neocolonial powers will conveniently deny all responsibility by simply asserting that: “It isn’t our fault, the Muslims are killing each other,” an absurd claim made by the Bush Administration during the occupation years in Iraq. However, had the US not invaded Iraq in 2003 for its 140 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, would things have reached such a point of crisis? And the victim-blaming neoliberals will point fingers at Islam as a religion and some of its decontextualized Jihadist verses for all the violence and bloodshed without understanding anything about the underlying politics behind the Sunni-Shi’a conflict in the region.

Notwithstanding, after the Russian involvement in Syria, when Russia claims that it will fight the Islamic State, the assertion at least makes sense. But how can US claim to fight a force that was an obvious by-product of its own policy in the region in the first place? Let’s settle on one issue first: there were two parties to the Syrian civil war initially, the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition; which party did the US support since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011 to June 2014 when Islamic State overran Mosul in Iraq? Obviously, the US supported the Syrian opposition, and what was the composition of that so-called “Syrian opposition?” A small fraction of it was comprised of defected Syrian soldiers who go by the name of Free Syria Army, but the vast majority had been comprised of Islamic jihadists who were generously funded, trained, armed and internationally legitimized by the NATO-GCC alliance.

Islamic State is nothing more than one of the numerous Syrian jihadist outfits, others being: al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Tawhid brigade, Jaysh al Islam etc. The reason why the US has turned against Islamic State is that all other jihadist outfits only have local ambitions that are limited to fighting the Assad regime in Syria, even al Nusra’s Emir, Abu Mohammad al Julani, has taken a public pledge [3] on al Jazeera on the behest of his Gulf-based patrons that his organization does not intends to strike targets in the Western countries, after which the Western mainstream media has become cozy to it and included al Qaeda Central’s official franchise in Syria in its list of militant groups with whom the Western powers can do business as a Hobson’s choice.

All the Sunni jihadist groups that are operating in Syria are just as brutal as Islamic State, only thing that differentiates Islamic State from the rest is that it is more ideological and independent-minded, and it also includes hundreds of Western citizens in its ranks who can later become a national security risk to the Western countries, this fact explains the ambivalent policy of the US towards a monster that it had nurtured in Syria from August 2011 to June 2014 until it threatened the US’ strategic interests in the oil-rich, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) controlled Northern Iraq. Thus the US-led “war against Islamic State” since August 2014 has less to do with finding an expeditious solution to the Syrian crisis or the threat that Islamic State poses to Iraq and Syria and it is more about the threat that Islamic State poses to the Western countries in the long run, a fact that has now become obvious after the November 2015 Paris attacks.

According to this NY Times report [4], there are more than 30,000 foreign fighters in Syria from over 100 countries that are fighting alongside the Sunni jihadist groups to topple the Syrian regime; 4500 of those foreign jihadists are from the Western countries and France is the single largest European contributor of foreign jihadists with 1800 fighters, Britain is a distant second with 750, and the number of American jihadists fighting in Syria is relatively small, approximately 250. Although the report claims that most foreign jihadists fight for the Islamic State but corporate media, being a mouthpiece of the Western political establishments, has a vested interest in selectively singling out the Islamic State and giving a carte blanche to all the other Sunni jihadist groups, in line with the stated Western policy and objective of toppling the Assad regime in Syria.

The reason why Syria and Iran have been more willing to form an alliance with Russia against the Sunni jihadists is that the US-led “war against Islamic State” is limited only to Islamic State while all other Sunni jihadist groups are enjoying complete impunity, and the coalition against Islamic State also includes the main patrons of Sunni jihadists like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan. But the Russian-led offensive in coalition with the aforementioned Shi’a regimes has been more comprehensive against all the Sunni jihadist outfits which are just as much of a threat to the Shi’a regimes as Islamic State.

Moreover, the Western corporate media is trumpeting these days that the Syrian regime has been unwilling to fight Islamic State. I don’t know what kind of spin-doctors come up with preposterous and counterfactual stories such as these, but it’s a fact that the military resources of the Syrian regime were stretched thin before the Russian intervention, therefore, its first priority had been to defend itself around the densely-populated urban areas from Damascus and Homs to Hamah, Idlib and Aleppo and around the coastal Latakia. However, does anyone remembers the Hasakah Offensive of August 2015 in which the Syrian military successfully defended Hasakah and then routed Islamic State in alliance with the Syrian Kurds? The corporate media will never tell you about the previous alliance that existed between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian regime against the Sunni Arab jihadists.

Kurdish factor in the Syrian civil war:

Masoud Barzani.
In order to understand the Kurdish factor in the Syria-Iraq equation, we should bear in mind that there are four distinct types of Kurds: 1) the KDP Kurds of Iraq that are led by Masoud Barzani; 2) the PUK Kurds of Iraq led by Jalal Talabani; 3) the PKK Kurds of Turkey; and 4) the PYD/YPG Kurds of Syria. The first of these, i.e. the Barzani-led KDP Kurds of Iraq have traditionally been imperialist collaborators who have formed a strategic alliance with the US and Israel since the ‘90s, i.e. the First Gulf war. All other Kurds, however, have traditionally been in the anticolonial socialist camp and that’s the reason why PKK has been designated as a terrorist organization by NATO because Turkey has the second largest army in the NATO and the separatist PKK Kurds are the traditional foes of the Turkish establishment.

Unlike the Barzani-led Kurds of Iraq, however, the PYD/YPG Kurds of Syria, who are ideologically akin to the socialist PKK Kurds of Turkey, had initially formed an alliance with the pro-Russia Assad regime against the Sunni jihadists in return for limited autonomy – the aforementioned alliance, however, was not just against the Islamic State but against all the Sunni Arab jihadist groups that are operating in Syria, some of which have been supported by NATO and Gulf Arab countries. It was only in August 2014, after the US' declaration of war against Islamic State, that the Syrian Kurds switched sides and now they are the centerpiece of the US policy for defeating Islamic State in the region.

One can’t really blame the Kurds for this perfidy because they are fighting for their right of self-determination, but once again the Western powers have executed their tried-and-tested, divide-and-rule policy to perfection in Syria and Iraq to gain leverage and to turn the tide despite the dismal failure of their undisguised regime-change policy for the initial three years of the Syrian civil war, i.e. from August 2011 to August 2014.

Until August 2014 the evident US policy in Syria was regime change and the Syrian Kurds had formed a defensive alliance with the Syrian regime against the Sunni Arab jihadists in order to defend the semi-autonomous Kurdish majority areas in the Syrian Rojava, that equation changed, however, when Islamic State captured Mosul in June 2014 and also threatened the US’ most steadfast ally in the region – Masoud Barzani and his capital Erbil in the Iraqi Kurdistan, which is also the hub of Big Oil’s Northern Iraq operations.

After that development, the US made a volte-face on its regime-change policy in Syria and now the declared objective became “the war against Islamic State.” That policy change in turn led to a reconfiguration of alliances among the regional actors and the Syrian Kurds broke off their previous arrangement with Assad regime and formed a new alliance with NATO against the Islamic State. Unlike their previous defensive alliance with the Syrian regime, however, whose objective was to protect and defend the Kurdish majority areas in Syria from the onslaught of the Sunni Arab jihadists, this new Kurdish alliance with NATO is more aggressive and expansionist, and its outcome is obvious from this Amnesty International report [5] on the forced displacement of Arabs and demographic change by the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds.

Moreover, after the US’ initiative of training and arming the so-called “moderate Syrian rebels” in Turkey and Jordan to battle the Islamic State fell flat on its face, it is now trying desperately to put all of its eggs in the Kurdish basket in order to resuscitate its failed Syria policy. The so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” is nothing more than the Kurdish YPG militias with a tinkering of a few hundred parochial Syrian Arab tribesmen in order to make it appear more inclusive and representative in the eyes of the international audience.

Composition of Islamic State:

The only difference between the Afghan Jihad back in the ‘80s, that spawned the Islamic jihadists like the Taliban and al Qaeda for the first time in history, and the Libyan and Syrian Jihads 2011-onward, is that the Afghan Jihad was an overt Jihad – back then the Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, used to openly brag that CIA provides all those AK-47s, RPGs and stingers to the Pakistani ISI which then forwards such weapons to the Afghan Mujahideen (freedom fighters) to combat the erstwhile Soviet Union. After the 9/11 tragedy, however, the Western political establishments and corporate media have become a lot more circumspect, therefore, this time around they have waged covert jihads against the hostile Gaddafi regime in Libya and the anti-Zionist Assad regime in Syria, in which the Islamic jihadists (aka terrorists) have been sold as “moderate rebels” with secular and nationalist ambitions to the Western audience.

Since the regime change objective in those hapless countries went against the established mainstream narrative of “the war on terror,” therefore, the Western political establishments and the mainstream media are now trying to muddle the reality by offering color-coded schemes to identify myriads of militant and terrorist outfits that are operating in those countries – like the red militants of Islamic State which the Western powers want to eliminate; the yellow militants of Jaysh al-Fateh (the Army of Conquest,) that includes al-Qaeda allied al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, with whom NATO can collaborate under desperate circumstances; and the green militants of Free Syria Army (FSA) and a few other inconsequential outfits which together comprise the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition.”

It’s an incontrovertible fact that more than 90% of militants that are operating in Syria are either the Islamic jihadists or the armed tribesmen, and less than 10% are those who have defected from the Syrian army or otherwise have secular and nationalist goals. As far as the infinitesimally small secular and liberal elite of the developing countries is concerned, such privileged classes can’t even cook breakfasts for themselves if their servants are on a holiday and the corporate media had us believing that the majority of the Syrian militants are “moderate rebels” who constitute the vanguard of the Syrian opposition against the Syrian regime in a brutal civil war and who believe in the principles of democracy, rule of law and liberal values as their cherished goals?

Notwithstanding, it is a fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in the battle; moreover, we also know that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has been directly inspired by the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is never sufficient to succeed in the battle. Looking at the Islamic State’s spectacular gains in Syria and Iraq in the last couple of years, one wonders that where does its recruits get all the training and sophisticated weapons that are imperative not only for the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding vast swathes of territory? Even the Afghan National Army, that has been trained and armed by NATO’s military instructors, is finding itself in trouble these days to hold territory in Afghanistan in the face of the unrelenting Taliban insurgency.

Apart from the training and arms that are provided to the Islamic jihadists in the training camps located on the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with the Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor that has contributed to the spectacular success of Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of the former Baathist military and intelligence officers of the Saddam regime. According to this informative Associated Press report by Dawn [6], hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

Moreover, the US’ State department appears to be quite “worried” these days that where does Islamic State’s jihadists get all the sophisticated weapons and especially those fancy, white Toyota pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns at the back, colloquially known as “The Technicals” among the jihadists? I think that I have found the answer to this riddle in this news story [7] from a website affiliated with the UAE government which is highly biased in favor of the Syrian opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, RPGs and other military gear the Saudi government also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training either in the border regions of Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Once those jihadists cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in Syria from the Jordan-Syria border then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqaa and Deir ez-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

The only thing that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure that is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state of the art armory that has been provided to all the Sunni jihadist outfits that are fighting in Syria by the NATO-GCC alliance. However, a number of Islamic State affiliates have recently been springing up all over the Middle East and North Africa region that have no organizational and operational link, whatsoever, with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, such as, the Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan, Sinai, Libya and even the Boko Haram in Nigeria now falls under the umbrella of the Islamic State. It’s understandable for the laymen to mistake such ragtag militant outfits for ISIS but how come the policy analysts of the think tanks and the corporate media’s spin-doctors, who are fully in the know, have fallen for such a ruse? Can we categorize any ragtag militant outfit as Islamic State merely on the basis of ideological affinity and “a letter of accreditation” from Abu Bakr al Baghdadi without the Islamic State’s Baathist command structure and superior weaponry that has been bankrolled by the Gulf’s petro-dollars?

The Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, deliberately and knowingly falls for such ruses because it serves their agenda of creating bogeymen after bogeymen to keep the enterprise of the Fear Inc. running. Before acknowledging the Islamic State’s affiliates in the region, the Western political establishments had also similarly and “naively” acknowledged the al Qaeda affiliates in the region, too, merely on the basis of ideological affinity without any organizational and operational link, such as, al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb.

While we are on the subject of Islamic State’s weaponry, it is generally claimed in the mainstream media that Islamic State came in possession of those sophisticated weapons when it overran Mosul in June 2014 and seized huge caches of weapons that were provided to the Iraqi armed forces by the Americans. On empirical grounds, is it not a bit paradoxical, however, that Islamic State conquered large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq before it overran Mosul, when it supposedly did not had those sophisticated weapons, and after allegedly coming into possession of those weapons it is continuously losing ground? The only conclusion that can be drawn from this fact is that Islamic State had those weapons, or equally deadly weapons, before it overran Mosul and that those weapons were provided to all the Sunni jihadist groups in Syria, including the Islamic State, by the intelligence agencies of the Western power, Turkey and the Gulf Arab states.

Turkish dilemma and the Western intervention:

Ahmet Davutoglu.
The dilemma that Turkey is facing in Syria is quite unique: in the wake of the Ghouta chemical weapons attacks in Damascus in August 2013 the stage was all set for yet another no-fly zone and “humanitarian intervention” a la Gaddafi’s Libya; the war hounds were waiting for a finishing blow and the then Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the then Saudi intelligence chief, Bandar bin Sultan, were shuttling between the Western capitals to lobby for the military intervention. Francois Hollande had already announced his intentions and David Cameron was also onboard.

Here it should be remembered that even during the Libyan intervention Obama’s policy was a bit ambivalent and France under the leadership of Sarkozy had taken the lead role. In the Syrian case, however, the British parliament forced Cameron to seek a vote for military intervention in the House of Commons before committing British troops and Air Force to Syria; taking cue from the British parliament the US’ Congress also compelled Obama to seek approval before another ill-conceived military intervention; and since both those administrations lacked the requisite majority in their respective parliaments and the public opinion was also fiercely against another Middle Eastern war, therefore, Obama and Cameron dropped their plans of enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria.

In the end, France was left alone as the only Western power still in favor of intervention; at this point, however, the seasoned Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, staged a diplomatic coup by announcing that the Syrian regime is willing to ship its chemical weapons’ stockpiles out of Syria and subsequently the issue was amicably resolved. Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf Arab states – the main beneficiaries of the Sunni Jihad in Syria, however, had lost a golden opportunity for dealing a fatal blow to the Shi’a alliance comprising Iran, Syria and their Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah.

To add insult to the injury, the Islamic State, one of the numerous Sunni jihadist outfits fighting in Syria, trespassed its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul in northern Iraq in June 2014 and threatened the capital of America’s most steadfast ally in the oil-rich region – Masoud Barzani’s Erbil. The US had no choice but to adopt some countermeasures to show to the world that it is still sincere in pursuing its schizophrenic and hypocritical “war on terror” policy; at the same time, however, it assured its Turkish, Jordanian and Gulf Arab allies that despite fighting a symbolic war against the maverick jihadist outfit, the Islamic State, the Western policy of training and arming the so-called “moderate Syrian militants” will continue apace and that Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered, one way or the other.

Moreover, declaring a war against Islamic State in August 2014 served another purpose too – in order to commit the US Air Force to Syria and Iraq, Obama Administration needed the approval of the US Congress which was not available, as I have already mentioned, but by declaring a war against Islamic State, which is a designated terrorist organization, the Obama Administration availed itself of the “war on terror” provisions in the US’ laws and thus circumvented the US’ Congress.

But then Russia threw a spanner in the wicked schemes of NATO and its Gulf Arab allies in September 2015 by its surreptitious military buildup in Latakia that was executed with an element of surprise unheard of since Rommel, the Desert Fox. And now Turkey, Jordan, the Gulf Arab states and their Sunni jihadist proxies in Syria find themselves at the receiving end in the Syrian civil war. The shooting down of the Russian jet by Turkey in November last year, which is also a member of NATO, seemed like a desperate attempt by Turkey to provoke Russia into a military encounter and thus invoke NATO’s treaty obligation of “collective defense” in the face of “aggression” against any of NATO’s member states.

Maintaining credibility through charades:

In order to create a semblance of objectivity and fairness, the American policy-makers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on the present and the future, however, any fact that impinges on their present policy is conveniently brushed aside. In the case of the formation of Islamic State, for instance, the US’ policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated the sectarian divisions and gave birth to a Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government; similarly, the “war on terror” era political commentators also “generously” accept that the Cold War era policy of nurturing the al Qaeda, Taliban and myriads of other Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.

The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the formation of Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the previous Bush Administration as it has to do with the present policy of Obama Administration in Syria of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the Sunni militants against the Syrian regime since 2011-onward in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region, in fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and numerous other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.

If the Obama Administration decides today to stop providing money, arms and training to the so-called “moderate rebels” and declares them terrorists (Islamic jihadists,) the insurgency in Syria will fizzle out within months, at least, in the densely-populated urban Syria from Damascus and Homs to Hamah, Idlib and Aleppo and the coastal Latakia. The northern Syria under the control of Kurds and the central and eastern Syria from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor which is dominated by the Islamic State, however, is a whole different ball game now and it will take years to subdue the insurgency in those rural-tribal areas of Syria, if at all.

Distinction between terrorism and insurgency:

In political science the devil always lies in the definitions of the terms that we employ. For instance: how do you define a terrorist or a militant? In order to understand this we need to identify the core of a “militant,” that what essential feature distinguishes him from the rest? A militant is basically an armed and violent individual who carries out the acts of sabotage against the state. That being understood, now we need to examine the concept of “violence.” Is it violence per se that is wrong, or does some kind of justifiable violence exists? I take the view, on empirical grounds, that all kinds of violence is essentially wrong; because the ends (goals) for which such violence is often employed are seldom right and elusive at best. Though, democracy and liberal ideals are cherished goals but such goals can only be accomplished through peaceful means; expecting from the armed and violent militants to bring about democratic reform is very naïve and preposterous.

The Western mainstream media and its credulous neoliberal constituents, however, take a different view. According to them, there are two kinds of violence: justifiable and unjustifiable. When a militant resorts to violence for the secular and nationalist goals, such as “bringing democracy” to Libya and Syria, the blindfolded neoliberals enthusiastically exhort such form of violence; however, if such militants later turn out to be Islamic jihadists, like the Misrata militia in Libya or the Islamic State, al Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham in Syria, the misinformed neoliberals, who have been duped by the corporate media’s mainstream narrative, promptly make a volte-face and label them as “terrorists.”

In order to further elaborate this distinction by way of an analogy, there is a big difference between an anarchist and a nihilist: an anarchist believes in something and wants to change the status quo in favor of that belief, while a nihilist believes is nothing and considers life to be meaningless. Similarly, there is also a very big difference between a terrorist and an insurgent: an Islamic insurgent believes in something and wants to enforce that belief in the insurgency-hit regions, while a terrorist is just a bloodthirsty lunatic who is hell-bent on causing death and destruction. The distinguishing feature between the two is that an insurgent has well defined objectives and territorial ambitions, while a terrorist is basically motivated by the spirit of revenge and the goal of causing widespread fear.

The phenomena of terrorism is that which had threatened the Western countries between 2001 to 2005 when some of the most audacious terrorist acts were carried out by al Qaeda against the Western targets like the 9/11 tragedy, the Madrid bombing in 2004 and the London bombing in 2005; or the Paris and Brussels bombings by Islamic State, those acts were primarily the result of the intelligence failure on the part of the Western intelligence agencies.

However, the phenomena that is currently threatening the Islamic countries is not terrorism, as such, but Islamic insurgencies. All the regional militant groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria, and even some of the ideological affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State, like Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan, Sinai and Libya which have no organizational and operational association with al Qaeda Central or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, respectively, are not terror groups, as such, but Islamic insurgents who are fighting for the goal of enforcing Shari’a in the areas under their control; like their progenitor, the Salafist State of Saudi Arabia.

United States realized this fact many years ago when its occupying military in Afghanistan changed its counter-terrorism (CT) doctrines in favor of a counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy. As a rule of thumb, if the membership of a militant group does not exceeds a few hundreds and its leadership and foot soldiers are primarily comprised of foreigners, such as the pre-dominantly Arab al Qaeda Central in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such groups can be correctly branded as terrorist outfits; however, if the membership of a militant group runs into thousands and it also has indigenous support among the population of the areas of their operations, then the correct designation for such militant outfits would be “insurgent groups,” such as, the Taliban insurgency in the Af-Pak, the Islamic State’s sectarian insurgency in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria, al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula insurgency in Yemen and al Shabaab insurgency in Somalia.

The goals for which the Islamic insurgents have been fighting in the aforementioned regions are irrelevant for the debate at hand; it can be argued, however, that if some of the closest Western allies in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, had already enforced Shari’a as part and parcel of their conservative legal systems and when beheadings, amputations and flogging of the criminals are a routine in Saudi Arabia, then what is the basis for the US’ declaration of war against the Islamic insurgents in the Middle East who are erroneously but deliberately labeled as “terrorists” by the Western mainstream media to manufacture consent for the Western military presence and interventions in the energy-rich region under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror?” The real reason why the US has declared war on some Islamist insurgents, like the Taliban and the Islamic State, is not due to their human rights violations or the goal of enforcing Shari’a, but due to a fierce anticolonial sentiment among the membership of those insurgent outfits as opposed to the friendly and servile attitude of the Gulf Arab tyrants towards the West.

On the subject of the supposed “powerlessness” of the US in the global affairs, the Western think tanks and the corporate media’s spin-doctors generally claim that Pakistan deceived the US in Afghanistan by not “doing more” to rein in the Taliban; Turkey hoodwinked the US in Syria by using the war against Islamic State as a pretext for cracking down on Kurds; Saudi Arabia and UAE betrayed the US in Yemen by mounting airstrikes against the Houthis and Saleh’s loyalists; and once again Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt went against the “ostensible” policy of the US in Libya by carrying out airstrikes against the Tripoli-based government, even though Khalifa Haftar, the military commander of the so-called “internationally recognized” Tobruk-based government’s armed forces, lived next door to CIA’s headquarter in Langley, Virginia, for more than two decades.

If the US’ policy-makers are so naïve then how come they still control the Persian Gulf and its 800 billion barrels of proven oil reserves out of a global total of 1500 billion barrels? This perennial whining attitude of the Western corporate media, that such and such regional actors had betrayed them otherwise they were on the top of their game, is actually a clever stratagem that has been deliberately designed by the spin-doctors to cast the Western powers in a positive light and to demonize the adversaries, even if the latter are their tactical allies in some of the regional conflicts.

Fighting wars through proxies allows the international power brokers the luxury of taking the plea of “plausible deniability” in their defense and at the same time they can shift all the blame for wrongdoing on the minor regional players like the Islamic State, the Syrian regime, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia et al. The Western powers’ culpability lies in the fact that because of them we cannot build a system of international justice based on sound principles of morality, justice and fair play in which the violators can be punished for wrongdoing and the victims of injustice, tyranny and violence can be protected.

The neocolonial powers only pay a lip service to the cause of morality, justice and humanity in the international arena and their foreign policies are solely driven by the motive to protect the Western national interest without any regard for the human suffering in the remote regions of the world. Sometimes it isn’t even about protecting their “national interests,” bear in mind that the Western powers are not true democracies; they are plutocratic-oligarchies catering to the needs of their business interests that wield a disproportionate influence in the governmental decision-making and the formulation of public policy. Thus, the real core of the oft-quoted “Western national interests” is mainly comprised of the Western corporate interests.

Notwithstanding, back in the ‘80s the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” did not spring up spontaneously out of nowhere, some powers financed, trained, armed and internationally legitimized those militants; how else could such ragtag militants have beaten back the super power of its time? Then in 2011 in the wake of the “Arab Spring” in Libya that same powers once again financed, trained, armed and internationally legitimized the Libyan militants by calling them pro-democracy, “armed” activists against the supposedly “brutal and tyrannical” anticolonial Gaddafi regime.

Similarly, in Syria those very same powers once again had the audacity to finance, train, arm and internationally legitimize the Syrian militants; how else could such peaceful and democratic protests have mutated into a full-blown armed insurrection? And even if those protests did mutate into an armed rebellion, left to their own resources the best such civilian protestors could have mustered was to get a few pistols, shotguns and rifles; where did they get all those machine gun-mounted pick-up trucks, rocket-propelled grenades and the US-made TOW antitank missiles? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a military strategist to understand a simple fact that unarmed civilian population and even the ragtag militant outfits lack the wherewithal to fight against the organized and professional armed forces of a country that are equipped with artillery, armored vehicles, battle tanks, air force and navy.

Leaving the funding, training and arming aspects of the insurgencies aside, but especially pertaining to conferring international legitimacy to an armed insurgency, like the Afghan so-called “freedom struggle” of the Cold War, or the supposedly “moderate and democratic” Libyan and Syrian insurgencies of today, it is simply beyond the power of minor regional players and their nascent media that has a geographically and linguistically limited audience to cast such heavily armed and brutal insurrections in a positive light in order to internationally legitimize them; only the Western mainstream media, that has a global audience and which serves as the mouthpiece of the Western political establishments, has perfected this game of legitimizing the absurd and selling the satans as saviors.

Finally, for the whole of the last five years of the Syrian proxy war the focal point of the Western policy had been that “Assad must go!” But what difference would it make to the lives of the ordinary Syrians even if the regime is replaced now when the civil war has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced half of the population and reduced the whole country of 22 million people to rubble? I do concede that Libya and Syria were not democratic states under Gaddafi and Assad, respectively; however, both of those countries were at least functioning states.

Gaddafi was ousted from power in September 2011; four years later, Tripoli is ruled by the Misrata militia, Benghazi is under the control of Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by the Zintan militia, and Sirte is under the effective suzerainty of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Libya. It will now take decades, not years, to restore even a semblance of stability in Libya and Syria; remember that the proxy war in Afghanistan was originally fought in the ‘80s and today, 35 years later, Afghanistan is still in the midst of perpetual anarchy, lawlessness and an unrelenting Taliban insurgency. It’s very unfortunate that the haughty and myopic politicians and diplomats do not learn any lessons from history, otherwise all the telltale signs are there that Syria has become the Afghanistan of the Middle East and its repercussions on the instability of the energy-rich region and the security threat that the Syrian militants pose to the world will have far reaching consequences for many decades to come.

Sources and links:

[1] How Syrian Jihad spawned the Islamic State?

[2] US’ Defense intelligence agency’s report of 2012:

[3] al-Nusra leader: Our mission is to defeat Syrian regime:

[4] Thousands enter Syria to join Islamic State despite global efforts:

[5] Syrian Kurds razing villages seized from Islamic State, Amnesty International report:

[6] Islamic State’s top command dominated by ex-officers in Saddam’s army:

[7] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman: