SYRIA, AIN AL-ARAB : A Kurdish fighter holds his child in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobane, known as Ain al-Arab, on January 28, 2015. Kurdish forces recaptured the strategic town on the Turkish frontier on January 26 in a symbolic blow for the jihadists who have seized swathes of territory in a brutal onslaught across Syria and Iraq. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

Clint Eastwood
American Sniper
US (2014)
[Source]

There’s a lot that’s been written about the sheer horribleness of the racism in this film and the attacks it’s inspired, plus the fact that it’s a Best Picture nominee while Selma isn’t.

But the best analysis I’ve seen is from Gary Younge at The Guardian:

Say what you like about the film American Sniper, and people have, you have to admire its clarity. It’s about killing. There is no moral arc; no anguish about whether the killing is necessary or whether those who are killed are guilty of anything. “I’m prepared to meet my maker and answer for every shot I took,” says Bradley Cooper, who plays the late Chris Kyle, a navy Seal who was reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history. There is certainly no discursive quandary about whether the Iraq war, in which the killing takes place, is either legal or justified. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis,” wrote Kyle in his memoir, where he refers to the local people as “savages”.

The film celebrates a man who has a talent for shooting people dead when they are not looking and who, apparently, likes his job. “After the first kill, the others come easy,” writes Kyle. “I don’t have to psych myself up, or do anything special mentally. I look through the scope, get my target in the crosshairs, and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people.”

Americans are celebrating the film. It has been nominated for six Oscars and enjoyed the highest January debut ever. When Kyle kills his rival, a Syrian sniper named Mustafa, with a mile-long shot, audiences cheer. It has done particularly well with men and in southern and midwestern markets where the film industry does not expect to win big. And while its appeal is strong in the heartland it has travelled well too, providing career-best opening weekends for Clint Eastwood in the UK, Taiwan, New Zealand, Peru and Italy.

And so it is that within a few weeks of the developed world uniting to defend western culture and Enlightenment values, it produces a popular celluloid hero who is tasked not with satirising Islam, but killing Muslims. Threats to Arab and Muslim Americans have tripled since the film came out, according to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. It’s not difficult to see why. “If you see anyone from about 16 to 65 and they’re male, shoot ’em,” wrote Kyle, describing his understanding of the rules of engagement in Iraq. “Kill every male you see. That wasn’t the official language, but that was the idea.”

The west does not see itself the way others see it; indeed it often does not see others at all. Solipsistic in its suffering and narcissistic in its impulses, it promotes itself as the upholder of principles it does not keep, and a morality it does not practise. This alone would barely distinguish it from most cultures. What makes the west different is the physical and philosophical force with which it simultaneously makes its case for superiority and contradicts it. Therein lies the dysfunction whereby it keeps doing hateful things while expressing bewilderment at why some people hate it. It’s as though we are continually caught by surprise that others have not chosen to ignore their humiliation, pain, anger and sorrow just because we have.

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side,” wrote George Orwell in Notes on Nationalism. “But he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them … Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.” When these contradictions are rooted in history this sophistry can be neatly buried under time. If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were once our allies and have become enemies, then so be it. Needs must. What’s done is done. History that is inconvenient conveniently loses its legacy; an unpalatable past loses its connection to an unfortunate present. Reference to genocides and colonialism are dismissed as the fetid grievances of yore. Why keep bringing up old stuff?

But what should we make of this hypocrisy when it happens in real time; when the devoutly held principle is being brazenly flouted even as it is extolled? For over a decade the US condemned human rights in Cuba even as it operated a facility in that very country, Guantánamo Bay, which openly violated those very rights.

In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, Tony Blair told a closed-door meeting of around 300 Republicans that force was necessary to confront radical Islam. The US secretary of state John Kerry described the attack as “a larger confrontation, not between civilisations, but between civilisation itself and those who are opposed to a civilised world”.

One might assume that Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive and atheists are treated as terrorists, was on the wrong side of that confrontation. After all, it beheads more people than Isis and has been a key source of funding for terrorist organisations. It’s certainly no fan of freedom of speech. Two days after the killings in Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, was flogged 50 times after being found guilty last year of insulting Islam. His calls for more political and religious freedom left him with a sentence of 10 years in jail, and 950 more lashes to be administered at a rate of 50 a week.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud
Saudi Arabia (2007)
[Source]

But when the nation’s leader, King Abdullah, died last week Kerry hailed him as “a man of wisdom & vision. US has lost a friend & Kingdom of #SaudiArabia, Middle East, and world has lost a revered leader”, while Tony Blair tweeted: “He was loved by his people and will be deeply missed.”

Pointing out these hypocrisies justifies nothing. Seeking to understand the source of hate does not equate to condoning hateful acts, regardless of who is committing them. But reflecting on that source is a precursor for a level of self-awareness that is both clearly lacking and clearly needed. Human rights are not a western value, but a universal one that is imperilled when people pick and choose whose humanity they are prepared to respect and protect and hope nobody will notice.

The Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano once told me that the apparent reluctance to learn from the past scared him. “My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia,” he said. “I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated.”

Who, I asked, is responsible for this forgetfulness? “It’s not a person,” he explained. “It’s a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.” We are much more alike than we are told, as well.

Kyle was a young, working-class man who was losing direction in life when he saw people he identified with being senselessly killed on the other side of the world (according to the film he was radicalised by the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998) and decided to sign up to go and kill them back. Sound familiar? “I don’t see too much grey,” he wrote. “If I had to order my priorities, they would be god, country, family.” He was every bit as much a jihadi in uniform as his nemesis, Mustafa, was a soldier in casual wear.

From Returning Syrian Kurds Find Recaptured Kobani in Ruins, one of 25 photos. Wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ain al-Arab, on January 28, 2015. Kurdish forces recaptured the strategic town on the Turkish frontier on January 26 in a symbolic blow against ISIS jihadists who have seized swaths of territory in a brutal onslaught across Syria and Iraq. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

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Good Morning America!  

Are You Sunni Or Shiite?

{PLEASE} Let the identities of the Sunni-Shiite divide be superimposed upon Secular America, along the fault lines of its extant dichotomies, perhaps adding a few cross-cutting cleavages to skew things ever-so-slightly.

{THANK YOU} Let SUNNI or SHIITE act as indicators of personality types, and let this be the question that best addresses the personality of the arising zeitgeist.  

Why? Because it’s fun!  

Let’s just needlessly globalize this split and see if it’s worth dying for — IN & OF ITSELF. The divisive mechanism of Islam, sans Islamic theology, and in lieu of 1,000+ years of history.  Sunni?  …Shiite?  

Will there still be an almost visceral alignment among informed respondents in such a SUNNI or SHIITE or …sunni inquiry-reassignment, wherein a preference — however slight — is furnished almost immediately following acquaintance with the terms?

Or does something so rootless not manage to take root, in spite of itself?  

DO TELL, AMERICA

You Have Every Right To Choose 

Sunni!  Or Shiite!

You Don’t Have To Choose, Of Course

But You Could, If You Like

 

SYRIA, AIN AL-ARAB : A shell is used as a vase in the Syrian border town of Kobane, known as Ain al-Arab, on January 28, 2015. Kurdish forces recaptured the strategic town on the Turkish frontier on January 26 in a symbolic blow for the jihadists who have seized swathes of territory in a brutal onslaught across Syria and Iraq. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

The lesson is clear: The old system of following the United States without carrying risk is not going to work anymore. If Japan is to become a global player, it will have to expand its diplomatic relations abroad, identifying key regional players such as Jordan and Turkey in places it wants to have an increased role.
— 

ISIS has inadvertently sent Japan a blunt message

The country must militarize if it wants to be a global player

KHANKE, Iraq — I HAVE visited Iraq five times since 2007, and I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now.
I came to visit the camps and informal settlements where displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees are desperately seeking shelter from the fighting that has convulsed their region.

In almost four years of war, nearly half of Syria’s population of 23 million people has been uprooted. Within Iraq itself, more than two million people have fled conflict and the terror unleashed by extremist groups. These refugees and displaced people have witnessed unspeakable brutality. Their children are out of school, they are struggling to survive, and they are surrounded on all sides by violence.

For many years I have visited camps, and every time, I sit in a tent and hear stories. I try my best to give support. To say something that will show solidarity and give some kind of thoughtful guidance. On this trip I was speechless.

What do you say to a mother with tears streaming down her face who says her daughter is in the hands of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and that she wishes she were there, too? Even if she had to be raped and tortured, she says, it would be better than not being with her daughter.

What do you say to the 13-year-old girl who describes the warehouses where she and the others lived and would be pulled out, three at a time, to be raped by the men? When her brother found out, he killed himself.

How can you speak when a woman your own age looks you in the eye and tells you that her whole family was killed in front of her, and that she now lives alone in a tent and has minimal food rations?

In the next tent, I met a family of eight children. No parents. Father killed. Mother missing, most likely taken. The 19-year-old boy is the sole breadwinner. When I comment that it is a lot of responsibility for his age, he just smiles and puts his arm around his young sister. He tells me he is grateful he has the opportunity to work and help them. He means it. He and his family are the hope for the future. They are resilient against impossible odds.

Nothing prepares you for the reality of so much individual human misery: for the stories of suffering and death, and the gaze of hungry, traumatized children.

Who can blame them for thinking that we have given up on them? Only a fraction of the humanitarian aid they need is being provided. There has been no progress on ending the war in Syria since the Geneva process collapsed 12 months ago. Syria is in flames, and areas of Iraq are gripped by fighting. The doors of many nations are bolted against them. There is nowhere they can turn.

Syria’s neighbors have taken in nearly four million Syrian refugees, but they are reaching their limits. Syrian refugees now make up 10 percent of Jordan’s population. In Lebanon, every fourth person is now a Syrian. They need food, shelter, education, health care and work. This means fewer resources available for local people. Far wealthier countries might crack under these pressures.

Stories of terror, barrel bombs and massacres have acquired an awful familiarity. There is a great temptation to turn inward, to focus on our own troubles.

But the plain fact is we cannot insulate ourselves against this crisis. The spread of extremism, the surge in foreign fighters, the threat of new terrorism — only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems. Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.

At stake are not only the lives of millions of people and the future of the Middle East, but also the credibility of the international system. What does it say about our commitment to human rights and accountability that we seem to tolerate crimes against humanity happening in Syria and Iraq on a daily basis?

When the United Nations refugee agency was created after World War II, it was intended to help people return to their homes after conflict. It wasn’t created to feed, year after year, people who may never go home, whose children will be born stateless, and whose countries may never see peace. But that is the situation today, with 51 million refugees, asylum-seekers or displaced people worldwide, more than at any time in the organization’s history.

Much more assistance must be found to help Syria’s neighbors bear the unsustainable burden of millions of refugees. The United Nations’ humanitarian appeals are significantly underfunded. Countries outside the region should offer sanctuary to the most vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement — for example, those who have experienced rape or torture. And above all, the international community as a whole has to find a path to a peace settlement. It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria.

Angelina Jolie is an actress, special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative.

— 

"A New Level of Refugee Suffering. Angelina Jolie on the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can’t Go Home" New York Times, January 27th, 2015

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Pentagon Lies About Killing Civilians in Fight Against ISIS

[image: screenshot from Israeli news sight]

In light of what’s going on in Israel - I’d like you all to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Not all Jews -in the Diaspora or in Israel- support the Israeli government’s policy/ war/ air strikes on neighboring countries.
  2. Middle Eastern politics are complicated, and can’t be narrowed down to “Do you support Israel?”. Expecting a person to answer such a question -and judging them accordingly- is an act of antisemitism.
  3. It’s a sad fact, but we know that at times like these antisemitism flares up in the rest of the world. While it shouldn’t be your responsibility, please be alert and keep yourselves safe.
  4. If you want to keep up with Israeli media (which has its biases but will at least inform you of what’s going on), check into Ynet’s updates.

Love,

Mod S

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Kobane: Syrian rebels and Kurdish flags on a hill