The evil freedom loving terrorist

What is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist?   

This answer is usually described as ‘a matter of perspective’. It is claimed that one side’s heroes are ‘naturally’ seen as the other’s villains.

As an example (and a safe one at that from an era that is long gone), Chingis (Genghis) Khan remains a hero to Mongols and large numbers of Central Asian people of Turkic or Mongol origins. Elsewhere, he is generally viewed with horror.

But this ‘explanation’ is surely not good enough. It cannot be the case that we do not know what is right or wrong.

We should be able to determine without any doubt who the ‘freedom fighters’ are as against ‘evil terrorists’ who exact death and destruction. Shouldn’t we?

Perhaps not!

Perhaps, the freedom fighters are the evil terrorists.

And likewise, the evil terrorists are also freedom fighters.

Regardless of whom we support, both warring sides usually see themselves as freedom fighters.

This is the case even with clearcut cases of aggression, as we saw in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yet the Americans tend to justify their regular aggressions around the world as somehow in the cause of ‘fighting for freedom’, and they describe their hapless victims and their rudimentary weaponry as ‘evil terrorists’ with ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

And both ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘evil terrorists’ regularly employ violent means with ease. Mercilessly. Brutally. Often against unarmed civilians by design.

And with plenty of Hate.

There is so much beauty in the world. Yet human beings seem to always find a way to fight rather than negotiate.

We all hate. Even though we are ashamed of admitting it, it is undeniable that love is not the only driver in human relations.

But we justify our hate through some ideological self-deception that paints a picture of a ‘just’ cause such as ‘freedom’ in our minds.

A wonderful act of propaganda turns mass murder into an act of love for ‘freedom’ or ‘country’ or ‘god’ or some such balderdash.

So a short answer to the question put is: There really is not much of a difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist!

A freedom fighter is a terrorist because he fights with hate and a brutal determination to kill, and without hesitation usually.

There is no real ‘lesser of two evils’. Rather, there are two hateful, murderous evils trying to portray themselves as angels to themselves and others.

From a neutral perspective, villains and heroes behave in the same manner in war, and it is only in the judgement made by others that they become separated as ‘opposites’ in a ‘moral’ sense.

And therein lies the central weakness of ‘morality’ as a driver for war. No cause justifies war.

Instead, I would suggest we should focus on restraining the link between our naturally existing hate and our propensity to violence.

We have managed to remove ourselves from the food chain. So it is time to relax and put a lid on our ‘hate’ and ‘fight’ instincts, and thereby become more civilised.

Better to fight it out on a football field than a battle field.

Niloufar Parsi

On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of “Mlada Bosna” (Young Bosnia), which is said to have led to World War I.

In politics, hypocrisy is a human art form

http://flowedthoughts.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/democracy_will_come_to_you.jpg

“Hypocrisy is the state of falsely claiming to possess virtuous characteristics that one lacks. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.”  

“Hypocrisy: the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings.”  

If you are among those who made the ‘mistake’ to (formally or informally) study politics, you must at some point have pondered the question of human hypocrisy. How can we be so confused and why are there so many lies involved in this business? The business of ‘power’, that is.  

Without a doubt, the highest level of hypocrisy is seen among politicians, but it is not limited to this group.  

We are all hypocrites, and not just in the realm of politics either. And I would guess that this is in large part due to poor intelligence more than anything else. Certainly there is no ‘evil intent’, at least not usually.  

I came across a profound quote recently. It may have been George Orwell’s. Something to the effect that nationalism makes people blind to their own country’s violations against others.

The issue must be related to perspectives. We are never truly objective.  

Depending on where you are born, where you have lived, whom you have met, what reading materials you entrusted to brainwash you, which media programmes you subject your mind to, and the kind of company you seek, you develop a certain perspective that is at the same time largely driven or informed by your desire to survive in life.  

These life experiences come together in the end in the form of some value system that we are supposed to adhere to. This value system gives us a framework that helps us make decisions and form opinions on various matters.  

But here is the crunch: Our value systems are simply not objective. They are by definition subjective. And more often than not, our value systems are shaped by our environment as much if not more than our own will.  

It is no accident that working class people are more likely to support socialist policies while the rich espouse personal freedom and rolling back ‘big government’ as ‘values’.  

It is also not surprising that people living in cold places are more likely to be socialist than those in hot climates. Geography demands it, as cold places require human cooperation for survival more than in warm climates.  

Similarly, an Iranian living in America is not necessarily going to be looking for the Friday prayer venue every week. They are more likely to head to their favourite bar or restaurant, and thank ‘Allah’ that they do not have to assume the prostrate position in a big room full of worshipers.  

The big question is: if this same Iranian were living in Iran, might he/she be heading to the Friday prayer?  

You also get the opposite sometimes where a factory owner (e.g. Friedrich Engels) can turn into a socialist revolutionary while Joe the Plumber (or the Tea Party) can be a working class hero for the rich.  

But these are amusing precisely because they are unusual. There is no way of predicting individual behavior with any certainty, but there is a way of predicting the behavior of the average individual within different groups.  

And this should tell us all that we are not objective and our value systems are not as moral as we would like to believe. This is not to dismiss morality or idealism, but rather to highlight their limitations, especially in relation to the real world around us.  

After all, we are highly insecure beings who invented God without ever meeting him (or even expect to other than after death!) so as to give us some security and comfort in a cold and incomprehensible universe. We really can be imaginative with our beliefs (virgin births, revelations, god’s messengers etc) and this is a form of self-deception, so why not forgive a little hypocrisy?  

But hypocrisy in politics is on a whole different level. They say you know when a politician is lying by the fact that his/her lips are moving. This is not far from the truth.

Every single sentence uttered by a politician is likely to have an impact on people’s expectations and reactions. Politicians seek to manipulate rather than inform. They see it as their job to do so.  

It is indeed a rare occasion when a statement made by a politician is meant to convey the truth of a situation. Quite the contrary: in order to manipulate society, every single public statement is designed to achieve a hidden purpose, and one that cannot be shared openly because it negates the value system that the politician and his/her voters claim to uphold.  

So you end up with wars waged in the name of ‘peace’ or even ‘security’: illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 followed by a million deaths and torture and war crimes galore.  

You get collective punishment of whole societies (a war crime) described as ‘smart sanctions’ for the purpose of ‘avoiding’ conflict: 3 decades of Western sanctions on Iran.

You get elected governments being overthrown all over the world often with support from the ‘democratic’ West (Egypt, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela etc).  

You get a whole generation of politicians who believe being an idealist is the same as being a trigger happy warmonger with war after war on a permanent basis (Americans attacking Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with the intention to move on to Lebanon and Iran).  

You get the richest nation on earth having 50 million people on food stamps and without healthcare (so of course their leaders would block Iranians’ access to medicines).  

You get a period of rapid economic growth and prosperity for the great majority of the world’s population described as a ‘global financial crisis’ just because several rich Western countries went through a recession at the same time.  

You get the vilest types of Al Qaeda terrorists in bed with Western ‘idealists’ and Apartheid-loving Zionists to overthrow the only secular regime in the Levant and in the name of freedom too (Syria).  

And you get Iranian ‘human rights activists’ suckling from the bosom of the greatest war criminals on earth (i.e. the corporate fascist regime in USA) and pointing a finger of condemnation at the Iranian ‘regime’. 

A de-Americanized world

It’s early days yet, but the farce surrounding the ‘debt ceiling’ debate and a clear crisis of governance in USA have some inevitable consequences that bode well for the rest of the world (especially for Iran and BRICS), but not for the US, especially not in the medium term.

For a start, it is hard to refute a strong suspicion of rampant racism among Republicans. Racism in itself is not surprising or unexpected, particularly from the likes of McCain, Palin, Romney and Tea Party members.

What is surprising is their willingness to sacrifice the well being of all Americans in order to hurt a black president.

This extremist tendency is also evident in some Republicans’ determination to crush ‘big government’ without a clear agenda on what their libertarian alternative might be.

Worse still, their determination is not bound by any democratic principles as they have clearly shown that being in a minority (in terms of popular vote count or public opinion) does not hold them back from a willingness to crash the whole economic system.

In fact, their tactics are Mafioso in style and involve blackmail and extortion.

Such extremist idealists are in a position to cause serious hurt to the world economy, and this is a matter that the rest of the world cannot take lightly.

The prime problem for the world is the dollar.

In absolute terms, USA is the world’s most indebted nation by a huge margin. Its current budget farce is about the extent to which its debt ceiling should be raised and for how long.

It is not about how the debt will be repaid. That option apparently is not even on the table.

And the ‘solution’ announced today only covers the next 3 months, after which they are back to square 1.

How can the currency of the world’s most highly indebted nation with such inept management remain the reserve currency of other countries and the currency for international trade for much longer?

Well, the dollar isn’t what it used to be. Many countries have been lowering their dollar liabilities quietly since year 2008.

Reuters today claims:

The political dysfunction has worried U.S. allies and creditors such as China, the biggest foreign holder of U.S. debt, and raised questions about the impact on America’s prestige. The Treasury has said it risks hurting the country’s reputation as a safe haven and stable financial center.

What some Chinese were saying during the Washington budget farce was rather more direct:

Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.

And their remedy?

“For starters, all nations need to hew to the basic principles of the international law, including respect for sovereignty, and keeping hands off domestic affairs of others.”

“Furthermore, the authority of the United Nations in handling global hotspot issues has to be recognized.”

“Apart from that, the world’s financial system also has to embrace some substantial reforms.”

“What may also be included as a key part of an effective reform is the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant U.S. dollar, so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.”

And the purpose of all this?

Of course, the purpose of promoting these changes is not to completely toss the United States aside, which is also impossible. Rather, it is to encourage Washington to play a much more constructive role in addressing global affairs.

“To that end, several corner stones should be laid to underpin a de-Americanized world.

Just a couple of days later, several opeds started to openly call on world leaders and China in particular to ‘Dump the dollar‘.

Meet the warmongers

Who are the warmongers of the world we live in today?

With so many accusations and counter-accusations on who is the cause of this or that war in the world, and with the fog of war propaganda coming from all sides, I thought it would be useful to take a hard look at the facts on military expenditure as key indicators.

It is easy to refute claims about who fired the first shot and who was being aggressive or ‘asking for it’, or even who was ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ or ‘blasphemous’ etc.

But it is not so easy to deny who is buying, selling, producing and using weapons for warfare the most.

A good source of data is the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The charts below are taken from their ‘Recent trends’ section. They provide a clear flavour of the current military spenders hall of fame in the world.

The first is by the highest spenders in 2012 by country:

States-with-the-highest-military-expenditure-in-2012

Another SIPRI Chart for 2012 shows military expenditure by region:

World-military-expenditure-by-region-in-2012

The table below was created to provide a longer-term trend analysis over the 25-year period for which SIPRI’s data is available to compare 5 main regions, namely: Africa, Americas, Asia and Oceania, Europe and the Middle East.

The regions are also sub-divided into their subregions. For example Africa is divided into North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia into Central, East and South Asia together with Oceania.

The table also provides comparative time series data for the first decade of the 21st century, as well as a five-year period following the 2008 financial crisis. This allows us to assess whether and how trends have shifted over the past quarter century.

Source: SIPRI World-military-expenditure-by-region-in-2012

MET

As the figures demonstrate, North America clearly leads and accounts for 43% of the world’s military expenditures over the past quarter century.

USA alone accounts for 40% of all global military expenditure, averaging at close to $600 billion spent every year on warfare.

America’s dedication to war and conflict spending is 12 times higher than what it spends on ‘aid’, which totalled less than $50 billion in year 2011.

In fact, the US aid figure includes $18 billion of military aid, which leaves a total of $32 billion in economic aid.

So the actual ratio of military expenditure versus economic aid is close to 20 to 1 ($618 bn. versus $32 bn.).

It is therefore fair to say that the US spends 20 times more on terrorising the world than it does on aid and peacemaking.

A worrying feature of the global military expenditure figures is the fact that average annual spending on war machines and weapons of mass destruction has increased since 1988 and the fall of the Berlin wall.

The global average for the period stands at US$1.4 trillion a year between 1988 and 2012. The average for the period 2000-2009 was slightly higher as the table shows. This is not surprising as 9/11 occurred in this period.

What is rather surprising is a significant rise in the West’s military expenditures over the period 2008-2012, which is the period of the Western financial/economic crisis.

Average US military expenditure rose from $560 billion a year before the ‘crisis’ to $699 billion a year – a rise of 25% in military expenditure at a time when the economy was apparently in some trouble.

This is a clear indicator of the centrality of the war industry to the US economy.

Here one can note a divergence between Europe and the US.

North America and Europe together account for 74% of global military expenditures for a quarter of a century (1988-2012). Europe’s share was 31%, but this share has declined to 25% of the total since the 2008 financial crisis.

However, it should be noted that the total amount Europe spends on warfare every year has in fact risen by $26 billion or 7% on average since year 2008 as compared to the average for 2000-2009. It is just their share of global spending that is relatively lower today.

There is a noticeable though slight shift within Europe with a rising share of expenditure by Eastern as compared to Western Europe. Regardless, Western Europe’s expenditure on warfare ($308 billion a year) is close to 3 times higher than that of Central and Eastern Europe combined ($115 billion a year).

The European slack has been taken up by East Asia (16% of total since year 2008 as compared to 13% for the period since 1988).

This is not so surprising in that East Asia’s economic rise would be expected to show such trends for the period.

The above comparisons do not delve into population densities and average expenditures per head of population. A per capita count of military expenditure might be a better indicator of a culture of violence.

According to Wikipedia,  the top 10 military spenders in the world in 2012 were the following:

1. USA ($683 billion = $2,200 per capita)

2. China ($166 billion = $123 per capita)

3. Russia ($91 billion = $436 per capita)

4. United Kingdom ($61 billion = $984 per capita)

5. Japan ($59 billion = $465 per capita)

6. France ($59 billion = $908 per capita)

7. Saudi Arabia ($57 billion = $2,014 percapita)

8. India ($46 billion = $26 per capita)

9. Germany ($43 billion = $524 per capita)

10. Italy ($34 billion = $557 per capita)

Among the top 10 military spenders above, only Saudi Arabia with a per capita military expenditure of $2,014 comes anywhere near USA.

Changing the above table in per capita order of ranking, we get:

1. USA ($2,200)

2. Saudi Arabia ($2,014)

3. United Kingdom ($984)

4. France ($908)

5. Italy ($557)

6. Germany ($524)

7. Japan ($465)

8. Russia ($436)

9. China ($123)

10. India ($26)

China and India are the lowest per capita spenders with the Europeans – including Russia – making up the bulk of the world’s warmongers following the lead of USA, Saudi Arabia and Japan. (yes, Japan!)

Another method for rating the most warmongering nations/governments (personally, I think governments and governance systems are mirror images of societies) would be to look at their level of military expenditure compared to the overall size of their economy, measured as a ratio of total military spending to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The ratio of military expenditure to the overall size of the economy measures the resource commitment of an economy to the military sector. This gives a fairly accurate measure of the priority given to wars and war machines in a nation’s economy. This is where all the talk (hot air) can be checked by hard financial data.

In general, the more a nation’s GDP is skewed by military spending, the more warmongering a nation can be said to be. It is not a definitive measure by itself, but it certainly is a key indicator.

The global average in terms of military expenditure as a share of GDP was 2.5% in 2012. In other words, on average, countries dedicated the equivalent of 2.5% of their economy to military spending in year 2012.

Interestingly, Iran’s military expenditure as a share of GDP stood at 1.8% in 2012, which is significantly (28%) below the global average.

Iran spent $9 billion on its military in 2012, which amounted to about $129 per head of population, compared to USA’s $2,200 and Saudi Arabia’s $2,014.

To put it more starkly: on average, an Amercian citizen ‘spends’ $2,200 on wars in a year, a Saudi spends $2,014, while an average Iranian would spend $129 a year on the same.

What is more, the Iranian would be spending a much smaller percentage of his/her budget on warmongering, as compared to Americans and Saudis.

But American and Saudi warmongers are not even the worst cases in the world today. Iran’s military expenditure of $9 billion with a population of 70 million in 2012 is minuscule compared to Israel’s $15 billion (excluding $3 billion a year in US military aid), which amounts to $2,500 per head of Israeli Jewish population.

Compared to USA and the Saudis, Israel is even a bigger warmonger.

All three make Iran look holy.

In terms of GDP shares, USA spent close to 5% of its GDP on warmongering in 2012. Saudi Arabia spent 9% of its GDP on the same, while Israel spent 6.2% of its GDP on making or preparing for war.

The equivalent for Syria was 4%. The global average stood at 2.5%. Iran’s score was 1.8%.

The threat posed by the world’s main warmongering nations cannot be overestimated.

They are in constant pursuit of more wars and weapons of mass destruction, and their economies are structured to depend on war for growth and ‘prosperity’.

The value of international treaties designed to eliminate the threat posed by these warmongers’ weapons of mass destruction is yet to be realised.

Contrary to how their propagandist media portrays the situation, it is in fact countries like USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Europeans who pose the greatest threat to global peace and stability for they drive and thrive on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their use and reproduction.

These warmongers’ weapons of mass destruction must be brought under control.

Independent and non-aggressive countries with peaceful records have an important role to play in safeguarding our collective future, and in bringing these rouge warmongering nations under some form of rule of law in the international arena.

There is quite some way to go yet, but the recent developments bode well for the peace camp in the world.

Let us hope we can join hands to try and stop these warmongers from destroying our precious planet and its good people.