[FB thoughts) Re Mubarak’s acquittal

Re Mubarak’s acquittal: Although the military has trumped all of its other opponents and is in a more or less secure position, this might be a gamble too far for the military. In taking this move which is the final reversal of‪#‎Jan25‬ they are essentially hedging their bets that the masses have been made completely docile at this point in time and will not react (Mubarak being acquitted by contrast would have been an unimaginable scenario in 2012). Furthermore it removes any pretence – weak and ‘kidding yourself’ as it may be, but still nominally ‘claimable’ in many people’s minds – that the military is separate from Mubarak’s regime, or that Sisi represents a system that is distinct from Mubarak.

For by being not the Defence Minister – holding all the de facto power but hiding behind a nominally higher government and president in name (as Sisi was between 2013-2014); being able to claim that he is ‘merely a minister amongst many’ – but the President himself, Sisi has now associated himself directly with Mubarak, something the military has avoided doing (explicitly) for the last three years, even though it was clearly the case to the majority of people by 2012. Mubarak was not released during Tantawi’s time, he was not released duing Morsi’s time, he was not released duing Mansour’s time but he (will be) released during Sisi’s time.

Meanwhile it poses an opportunity to finally get the answer to the question a lot of us have torturously wondered about for the for the last year or so since the military came in to remove Morsi; whether the masses still have any revolutionary fervour dormant deep inside or whether they have even a small residue of belief still in #Jan25 (those who haven’t been killed or are in jail that is). This is actually the ultimate test as so far its been a game of psychological speculation (according to one’s analysis of the quite confusing, regularly contradictory and often surprising Egyptian psyche). However, that’s not to say that if a reaction comes it will necessarily be immediate; it might very well be in the later future (if it comes at all). It will all depend on the economy. If no reaction occurs even if the economy hasn’t improved; stayed the same or even slightly deteriorated then that means that the military was able to successfully achieve its aim of pacifying the masses by making the economic and security situation since Jan25 so bad that people won’t ever risk provoking that again in the foreseeable future.

Alternatively, it could also be the case that people’s expectations are higher than this and that if the economy continues to steadily deteriorate, or even stay the same, it is not unlikely for something to occur in the foreseeable future, as it’s very unlikely the economy recovers anytime soon but is likely to continue deteriorating. Of course, such a reaction might merely be the optimism in me but I have a feeling that it’s more than that.

The scenario however which I feel most confident to predict about is if if the economy slumps *significantly* more, I think in that case it’s very likely to expect something to happen and that the threshold to surpass any mental restraints of the fear of doing something due to the experience post #Jan25 will have been passed, as it will be seen that the country was already in decline, that it was better if still bad under the early years after the revolution (specifically under Morsi for example) meaning that perhaps it was going to turn around, and that the military, with all the insult, unpleasantries and blood that came with it, not only failed to reverse the decline or steady it but made it significantly worse. Meaning in other words that the revolution was not to blame, for the military came in but was not able to fix it and yet they were the antidote to the revolution. In this case you have nothing to lose. And this is why it was perhaps better for the military and Sisi to stay in the background, they took a gamble out of their increased confidence and put themselves at the forefront and into the firing line, when they might not have needed to do so.

والله اعلم


We don’t want your solidarity – How Western ‘progressives’ scabbed on Syria: A comment on ‘Progressive Orientalism’ or “On Passive Interventionism”

Those self-denominated ‘anti-imperialists’ – George Galloway, Stop the War and the like – have proven that they are completely shaped by orientalism in their thought, by letting their reaction get framed completely by the precepts set out by that of which they’re reacting against.. The only problem therefore is that they do not understand that the status quo IS Western Intervention (and to rectify it you must fight against it), so their understanding of ‘non-intervention’ is a fallacy… the idea that only ‘active’ and not ‘passive’ processes are the ones that qualify as ‘intervention’ is a fallacy. If the West saw an uprising occur and did not intervene any more than ‘established’ forms of involvement (for e.g. selling a regime arms), that is not ‘non-intervention’ that is passive action to maintain an intervention-based structure. ‘Passive intervention’, so to speak..

The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now. In an interview with the New York Times, President Obama has stated that the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy”:

“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
    Meanwhile, rebels in Aleppo are under simultaneous attack from both the North and the South, by ISIS and the Assad regime, in a critical battle for survival:

“As such, the principal defenders of areas of Aleppo still under opposition control today are a wide array of moderate FSA factions, some of whom still receive limited military support from the West, and members of the fading Islamic Front, most of whom are from the Aleppo area. These groups have borne the brunt of fighting ISIS while also facing a sustained Syrian military assault. Both of these offensives have combined to leave Aleppo critically vulnerable.”

    Way to go for those who betrayed in word and deed, and scabbed in solidarity those who for once actually took action to change the reality of the world they live in (which the former complain about all the time and spend their hours pontificating on how to change according to ideological manuscripts). Those who would like to think of themselves as anti-orientalist (I refer here to the self-denominated ‘anti-imperialists’ – George Galloway, Stop the War and the like) have proven that they are completely shaped by orientalism in their thought, by letting their reaction get framed completely by the precepts of what they’re reacting against, for e.g. those who bragged about being able to ‘stop the war on Syria’ have got their heads so far up their (still) orientalist asses that they think it was all about them and getting their country involved, instead of studying what was actually going on there (even if it required a translator to read first-hand reports and accounts), whether their countries actually wanted to intervene or whether there was much more to it (did you see Obama engage in endless debate and hearings on whether to intervene today in Iraq?). But of course not, since for many of these it comes down to identity politics, ‘we’ with all our history and baggage should not be going in there to fix a problem, ‘we’ are the epitome of evil, ‘we’ cannot do any good.

Yet what if I hypothetically posit that active intervention (more on why its in italics in a bit) in this particular case would do good, would save lives that would not be saved otherwise, would actually be better for the people in the region? ‘I’m sorry, its a terrible situation but I just can’t support a ‘return’ to Western adventures [even if they will save thousands of lives]’, those lives will have to be unfortunately expendable because it would save future suffering (without putting it so bluntly). For some undoubtedly meanwhile, it is ‘I’ am so radical I can never support Western intervention (regardless of whether an active intervention can actually be the better option for the people I’m purporting to support). Incidentally, according to one poll (which barely showed the Syrian opposition in a bask of glory), the majority of Syrian people support foreign intervention to break the horrible cycle they are currently trapped in. But what would they know, they’re only ‘reactively’ thinking like that aren’t they?

(I should note, my entire critique here does not necessarily mean that I am ‘pro-intervention‘, but it seeks to dispute the tenets that are often associated with the opposite position and which are simplistic, and I argue, often perversely orientalist. My positions regarding such questions on intervention I prefer to take from what those revolutionaries are asking for and saying from the ground.)

Incidentally, I have always held that the West did not want to intervene in Syria even after the chemical attacks, because although it appeared to have certain advantages as a whole there was a high risk it was not in its logical interests, and until now I’ve been right. Nor should I be expecting them to or be overly disappointed of them not doing so. Rather what irks me is how those here did not understand the political game at all and did not seek to scratch beneath the surface. What irks me is the attitude of simplification, lack of engagement and arrogance, amounting very much to subtle, un-conscious orientalism in operation, on the side of those ‘supporting us’. ‘Oh you don’t want us getting involved, we know better than you’. The arrogance, do you think we on the other end of Western imperial might know ‘less’ than you of what that might can entail? Do you think Islamists fighting Assad (and now ISIS) and asking for Western arms are ‘enamoured’ about seeking Western support? Do you not understand that we are trying to resist those very structures put in place by colonialists? Do you think its a coincidence that people in Kosovo used to name their children after Clinton and Blair, warmongers as they were? Do you think its a coincidence that you have Yazidis today raising placards saying ‘Thank you USA’? Of course those Western imperialists were war mongers who acted in their interests, but in certain specific contexts their interests for a variety of factors happened to be the lesser evil at that moment in time and coincided to some degree with the people’s ones; when in a certain situation there are worse warmongers, a warmonger whose military rapes as a matter of routine, tortures and destroys entire cities. Instead you think of it as a zero-sum game.

Even the idea that a tyrannical Syrian power-seeker cannot be as bad as a tyrannical Western power-seeker is both a) mistaken and b) also again in a sense orientalist; a) mistaken because contrary to the idea that because he is not ‘white’ he cannot reach anything as bad as ‘us’, not least the fact that his actions can and have, he is also the vestige of a colonial and post-colonial legacy; b) orientalist because it offers the assumption that, in the hypothetical of his removal with the people now facing obstacles the West will put in front of them to prevent proper democracy (which I believe would be the case), at this point we do not have any autonomy to fight such further challenges and will undoubtedly be defeated by the West’s machinations. Yet indeed the fact that this is NOT a foregone conclusion and is very much a risk variable is *precisely* the reason the West has not from the start intervened in Syria or decisively backed the homegrown rebels, because it recognises the risk that supporting the revolution, even if putting obstacles after, might make the revolution succeed! The West is powerful, but it is not all-powerful. This is why today it prefers the survival of the Assad regime and a detente between them, so that they are able to focus together on ISIS.

So Re the commonly cited example, that the West had previously supported the Mujahedin in Afghanistan against the Soviets, since there was a large strategic advantage in doing so, but the Taliban were able to take over later ostensibly against their will (although incidentally I believe that have they the option to do so again, they would without a shadow of a doubt, but that’s a different matter). Rather what I find to be a remarkably more similar parallel to my mind in terms of the nature of the conflict (if with different colours) to Syria today is undoubtedly  the 1930s civil war in Spain. During that time the West too appeared to dislike the the fascists, as they formed a tangible threat to the West with the rise of Hitler, etc. Yet the Western imperialists were not too enamoured by the Republican, Leftist and anarchists on the other side either. They left them abandoned and often tacitly supported the fascists, not least by stopping resources going through to them, firstly through an arms embargo and then extending to eventually encompass a volunteers ban. Meanwhile, in Syria of course too, after a period of relative ‘flexibility’ to try and back the rhetoric with some form of ‘action’, there has been a ban on volunteers going to Syria to fight, while there have been also blockades attempting to the flow of weapons to the Syrian opposition.

Of course there are differences, a) that the opposition in this case has a very heavy religious component, rather than a socialist/leftist one (something which has abandoned it much support, ‘selective internationalism’), b) that the threat of communism taking hold in Western Europe was by far a much greater danger than that of Islamists doing so in the Near-East, meaning that British antipathy and tacit complicity against the Republican cause might have exceeded that of the Rebel cause in Syria, yet also c) that the threat of strengthening the Spanish fascists, and by extension their Italian and German backers far outweighed that of strengthening Assad (and his Iranian and Russian backers). Indeed, transversing through decades and generations, Neo-Nazi and fascist support for the Assad regime is an ignored phenomena, with many fascists even having gone to fight for him (not that that gets any coverage – its only the bearded ones). Indeed this is one of those ‘rare’ occasions which has brought the idiotic self-denominated-anti-imperialist ‘left’ (supposedly) and right together, and shows the overlap of their views with regards to the Syrian conflict.

The difference between ‘Non-Intervention’ and ‘Passive intervention’

How often do you hear this quote: ‘No good can come out of Western intervention, unfortunately they have to fight the battles no matter how costly themselves’. The foolishness! We are already fighting Western intervention in terms of the existent structures left to us by the West! Indeed even if we were to treat the merits of this statement hypothetically, you speak as if not intervening now would somehow establish a pattern of not intervening in the future (in the West’s interests) and the people’s battle for self-determination can eventually be fought unimpeded – yet what silly guarantee can you even offer that your governments will not intervene again in the future?? That we will be left to our own ‘self-determination’? That you have such control over your government’s policies! Illusions, much as we would like them not to be! And yet you formulate yourselves and your positions regarding actual current, real life struggles for emancipation happening now according to these illusions and hopes for a reality that doesn’t exist! And this is what you do not understand, that we live in a world of reality and not what *should* be the case, and we cannot act according to a reality which we might all want but does not exist! In our ideal ‘should-be’ world we would not have had colonialism occur in the first place! Yet to pretend it hadn’t, or that we aren’t fighting its remains today, is that being ‘progressive’? The battle to liberate ourselves was NOW and you failed to support us!

Instead of truly caring about the ends and not the means, the ends of helping people to liberate themselves and fight oppression, you would have been pushing your governments which at least have some form of representation to *help* those trying to liberate themselves (even if that involves making it attractive for them to intervene, if you were truly selfless yes!) as you inevitably push your governments to do other things (*not* intervene in military conflicts, pressing for various types of social reforms, etc.). Instead you leave them to their fates. After all, anti-establishment tactics do not consist of a 24/7 demand for the ‘collapse of the state’, a unilateral boycott/refusal to engage with it, and indeed inevitably always encompass engagement of some sort with the state, whether that’s consciously admitted or not. A campaign which tries to change government policy regarding say the introduction of a higher minimum wage, or to stop the privatisation of a certain facility does not do so raising slogans demanding the collapse of the state, but by putting pressure on it through different means. Even if those individuals engaged in such campaigns would like to see the ‘collapse of the state’, this does not mean that that is their policy and mechanism for every campaign when conditions for that goal are not ripe, for if that were the case very little progress could arguably be made while we wait for the ‘revolution’ (and while one could argue that such processes are in themselves part of the revolutionary process, one could equally argue that they are part of a reformist one which inevitably keep and legitimise the current system of government).

The only problem therefore is that you do not understand that the status quo IS Western Intervention (and to rectify it you must fight against it), so your understanding of ‘non-intervention’ is a fallacy. The idea that only ‘active’ and not ‘passive’ processes are the ones that count as ‘intervention’ is a fallacy you do not seem to comprehend. If the West saw an uprising occur and did not intervene any more than established involvement (for e..g selling a regime arms) that is not ‘non-intervention’ that is passive action to maintain an intervention-based structure. ‘Passive intervention’, so to speak.

This is why the West generally intervenes where it can make it worse, not better. Even after a vote in the House of Commons do you think the UK could not covertly help the opposition if they wanted to, regardless of what their ‘people’ think? Do you think that history does not exist?

But when the people rise up and it happened to be that that government they rose up against cannot be defended even by your governments than if you want to help you must push them to act! Organisations like Stop the War’s accomplishment was not to stop the war and massacre in Iraq but to stop any support for the Syrian revolution, and today we see what the result is with two forms of fascists taking back control (ISIS and Assad). Its amazing how the ‘resistance’ (to imperialism, neo-liberalism, the whole global order in general) in the Middle East knew what the problems were and took actions to fight it (even if against massive odds), despite their supposed ‘backwardness’ and ‘lack of advanced knowledge’ they knew the way to resistance and acted on it with little support, while the more developed, knowledgeable and ‘experienced’ elites of the advanced countries here knew nothing. What hope is there when even the fucking people on ‘our side’ have got it so wrong? We don’t want your solidarity. You’re just as blind (and think it ‘ideologically astute’) as your governments.

   For in its depths it comes down to identity politics (with varying degrees on ‘how deep’), identity politics that ‘you cannot ever support the West intervening’ even if it were to be in the hypothetical in the interest of the people living there, naturally rationalised by different means.

Would it be better if Hamas had a ‘conventional’ army?

There is an intuitive image of Hamas that many people share as much more worse than a ‘conventional’ army would be in their place because of their tactics (i.e. throwing unguided rockets), when in reality its tactics (regardless of normative judgments) are not worse than their alternatives. Ironically, if Hamas had a conventional army and pretended to talk like Israel about wanting to avoid civilians and dropping them leaflets, would one assume that people would be more relaxed about this ‘new look’ of theirs, rather than the more visually disconcerting image of them throwing unguided rockets, even if it meant they killed more Israelis?

A friend of mine (incidentally one of the most people I respect, a member of the Jewish community who has incurred many problems for his anti-Israel views – but he also felt I did not talk about Hamas enough) recently came to me with ‘evidence’ of Hamas firing a rocket from a residential Gaza area, telling me that ‘civilian embedding’ is a real thing. But of course its a real thing, for as many have undoubtedly already heard by now ‘Gaza is an extremely densely populated area’ and hardly has any open space (a fact incidentally emphasised by the footage, a very cramped area with hardly any open space in view). Neither have I ever claimed that Hamas fires only from military/government installments or military areas – nor do I think many else do for that matter; there is hardly any space for ‘military areas’ in Gaza while ‘military installments’ and government facilities are the first targets and generally get destroyed straight away, meaning that they do not have the capacity to use them. What some have claimed rather, including the notoriously pro-Palestinian New York Times (heavy dose of sarcasm), is that there has been no evidence that Hamas has used ‘human shields’ in the legal meaning of the word; i.e. to hold civilians hostage by forcing them to stay in an area under attack to allow them to fight from ‘behind’ them. So the video didn’t show me anything particularly new or surprising. As a Palestinian friend recently put it to me, ‘In Gaza if you stretch out both your arms one of them will probably hit something’ (an exaggeration, but you get the jist).

Meanwhile, in Israel’s unique and customary fashion of (projected) morose irony, it has recently surfaced that it is in fact the Zionist state which has again explicitly used human shields in its current massacre in Gaza. Nor is this novel for Israel; in 2005 it emerged in an Israeli court that Israel had made use of Human shields an astonishing number of 1,200 times between the years 2000-2005, and this has continued ever since (see here, here, here, and here; and there’s quite a bit of footage on Youtube as well). But let us move on.

Let us talk now in purely military-strategic terms regardless of normative considerations of the military reality Hamas faces today and how it differs from that it encountered in the past. Israeli attacks today tend to overwhelmingly take the form of airstrikes, blockades of the borders, etc. rather than actual ground occupation by Israeli troops of the territory as was the case in the past (which would make troops an obvious target, the reason I believe they ultimately decided to withdraw to effect a less costly yet arguably just as effective occupation). Now in strategic terms the fact that Hamas are generally unable to respond directly to an Israeli attack or strike – for example by targeting an airplane with a anti-aircraft missile or reciprocating by flying its own over Israel – along with the fact that Hamas cannot operate a conventional war (i.e. have its own facilities/military installments or centres which it can protect and use, as mentioned above, as well as obviously the lack of an army or military equipment) leaves them with three main options, a) that they try to infilitrate Israel to attack troops/military installations on the other side (and they get equally blamed and termed ‘terror tunnels’ when they do so), b) that they try to infiltrate to carry out suicide bombings etc. inside Israel, and c) that they fire rockets. The first option has been used but is obviously very difficult to carry out, due to strong Israeli military capabilities, intelligence, border controls, etc.. The second option has stopped being used due to international condemnation, leaving the third option as generically the only viable way of issuing some form of military response. Incidentally there is a myth (an ironic one at that) that having a conventional army/airforce is in a way a good thing, and that Hamas’s unconventional missiles is much worse. The fact is that had Hamas had a conventional military the civilian casualties on Israel’s side would be multiple-folds what they are now!

Some will say ‘Oh but at least they wouldn’t be trying to target civilians as opposed to their indiscriminate rocket fire’, yet the idea that conventional armies do not target civilians is a myth! But lets leave that aside for a second; even going along with the argument that its less morally ‘wrong’ to target another country’s populated areas with conventional militaries rather than unconventional guerrillas because of the different ‘intent’ (i.e. lets accept the premise that with the former ‘civilian casualties are not intentional targets’) – the fact is that the overwhelming evidence of a century that ‘conventional’ bombings of populated areas are incredibly more costly in terms of civilian lives than ‘unconventional’ ones means that regardless of ‘intent’ the sheer consistent *outcome* of so many more innocent deaths means that it is actually much more morally *worse* to continue doing so! In other words, if you’re targeting an area with an F-16 airstrike, even presumably with nebulous intentions of trying to avoid civilian casualties, against targeting an area with a rocket intending civilian casualties; the overwhelming historical (and contemporary) evidence that the former will still ultimately result in much more innocent casualties than the latter means that the consistently means-tested end-result of greater innocent deaths if ignored renders it *morally worse*.

This is of course merely a hypothetical for those who hold that view, it is a myth that ‘generically’ conventional militaries do not ‘intend’ civilian casualties any more than non-state actors (or at least try to apply more caution); it it not true that with a conventional army ‘at least you’re not trying to intentionally target civilians’; when has this been the case? This is an absolute fiction, the historical evidence from the last century of offensive wars show that practically every single army that launches airstrikes on cities know – and moreover *intends* for there to be civilian casualties, because they see that as a necessary part of what war entails (killing civilians is a massive damage to the government which is unable to protect them, hence it is ’emasculated’ in comparative terms and much weakens its authority) and *just as relevant* to it as targeting military forces.

What’s the point of me saying all this? Well because there is an intuitive image of Hamas that many people share as infinitely much more worse than a ‘conventional’ army would be in their place, because of their tactics (i.e. throwing rockets), when its tactics (regardless of normative judgments) are not worse than their alternatives. Ironically, if Hamas had a conventional army and pretended to talk like Israel about wanting to avoid civilians and dropping them leaflets, would people be more relaxed about them, rather than the more visually disconcerting image of them throwing unguided rockets, even if it meant they killed more Israelis?

Ultimately regardless of one’s own views on Hamas, they are not exceptional in terms of guerilla tactics nor are they that different from other guerrilla groups which have historically operated within civilian areas (that’s not to say that they are necessarily right in everything they did either); look at the Algerian resistance to the French, they operated in populated areas as well and hid amongst civilians (and targeted French settlers). With guerrilla movements generally there is often no clear ‘military-civilian’ dichotomy as the (civilian) community tends to support the resistance (of whichever form). The Fourth Geneva Convention gives an occupied people the right to resistance – with force of arms if necessary – against an occupied power to achieve self-determination. While this does not entail the wording of ‘targeting of civilians’, it does entail the wording of ‘war’; ultimately therefore it comes down to whether it is preferable for Hamas (or any other Palestinian armed group) to carry out this resistance through locally-made rockets or a conventional army with modern-day bombs, missiles and tank-shells. Would that be more comforting for those who cite Hamas’s ‘indiscriminate’ rocket attacks as an incomparably exceptional evil? Presuming that the answer to this would be the obvious ‘no’, and presuming that the option for violent resistance is say still chosen (as it is entitled to be under international law), the legitimacy of Hamas’s military tactic of throwing rockets in the complex setting of Gaza thus comes down to whether doing so is something the civilians of that area accept and are behind, as opposed to them doing so when the civilians are against it.

Again, this is separate from any normative judgement entailing me ‘relishing’ that Hamas should throw rockets, what I am saying is that this is the objective reality regardless of what I think of Hamas. Is it a pleasant situation? No, it is not. And this is why we must put the onus on Israel, because in human terms they have left the blockaded, hungered, imprisoned and massacred people in Gaza, who have nonetheless still not lost their natural human sensibilities (anger, justice, etc.), with two choices; either they do not respond at all to Israel (which would require on their part either immense self-restraint or that their will has finally been broken – with God’s will this will not happen) and continue with their slow-death, or they do so in the form they are doing now (unless it can find a more efficient military strategy to attack Israeli forces inside Israel, a difficult task considering the restrictions. again, would people prefer if they had an airforce?) Considering the amount of hell they’re living in and considering the amount of anger and feeling of nothing to lose, is the first option realistic (yet alone just) for everyone to accept these constant massacres with no hope of justice, with the best they can hope for being a (routinely-violated) ceasefire and the continuation of a slower death? This is why we put the onus on Israel, because as opposed to most guerilla liberation movements which have their faults and are often engaged in controversial things (look at the ANC during the 1980s), the ultimate source of the problem, as always, remains the colonising occupier who is attempting to wipe a people off the face of their map, and has forced them along with everyone else into this situation. And until the oppressed are liberated from their oppression, we are tied to them by our humanitarian bonds for justice.