on: March 31, 2018, 08:52:48 AM
Started by Iniko Ujaama - Last post by Tyehimba
The concept of sustainable development is one of the current buzzwords around. In 2015 the United Nations approved a 2030 Development Agenda "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, thereby replacing the Millennium Development Goals. This agenda aims to end poverty in all forms and to facilitate the sustainable use of resources. Governments, NGOs and global financial organisations have incorporated this concept into their policy frameworks.
I quite agree that it is Eurocentric... It uses ideas of development that do not challenge power structures or address the subservient place of the Caribbean and global south in world affairs. It makes fancy promises to end poverty while not addressing the historical and structural causes of power. Also, talking about the environment, while ignoring the injustices of various peoples, is part of what contributes to environmental damage. Sustainable development is a distraction from other issues that people should be paying attention to.
on: March 26, 2018, 03:09:01 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
|Liberal Ire at Trump and Cambridge Analytica is Misdirected From Billionaires Who Own Your Data By Bruce A. Dixon
March 22, 2018 - blackagendareport.com
Liberals this week want to drum us into an outrageous fury over the fact that Facebook, with almost 2 billion accounts worldwide, handed over user data of millions of people to Cambridge Analytica, a firm retained by the Trump campaign.
Cambridge Analytica, or CA for short is part of the Robert Mercer empire
, which funds an entire zoo of nonprofits from Citizens United to the Cato and Heritage Foundations, and which sponsored Steve Bannon’s career and Breitbart News after the death of its founder Andrew Breitbart. CA’s claim to fame was the supposed identification of 5,000 data points on millions of people by which they could supposedly
distinguish firm supporters from wavering ones, identify potential contributors and much more. Of course, the millions whose data is being sold to marketers have nothing to say in the matter. This should be no surprise to anybody. Aggregating and selling user data to marketers of all kinds has always been at the core of Facebook’s business model, and US political campaigns were widely recognized and conducted as marketing operations for a generation or two before
Facebook or even the internet came along.
The angry liberals have forgotten that eight years earlier the Obama campaign hired Mark Zuckerberg’s college room mate
and former Facebook architect Chris Hughes to run their web operation, and to deploy and use the social networking data of millions of users and their Facebook friends purchased the same way Trump got it. The Obama crew was so good at using the stuff that a couple months before the election Advertising Age named the Obama campaign its 2008 “Marketer of the Year
” beating out the likes of Apple, Amazon and Nike.
It’s true that Cambridge Analytica, technically the offshoot of a British firm is under investigation
in the UK behind recordings of an exec boasting of their ability to invent and sell imaginary but widely believed bribery, buggery, prostitution or other scandals as needed. But they’re not the biggest villains in this drama, and what would you expect from an outfit which until recently had Steve Bannon on its board of directors?
As usual, the villains in this piece are NOT the ones the liberals want identified. Trump isn’t uniquely evil, he did and is doing exactly what his darling liberal predecessor did, and what a host of commercial firms do, buying and selling your personal online history and information. CA are certainly bad guys, but the only useful difference between them and a half dozen others is that Trump hired the one with Bannon on its board instead of a Democrat.
The issue at the bottom of all this evil mess is that Facebook, the data mining companies and the marketers they sell our data to are NOT just entirely unregulated – they’ve been allowed to write what laws do exist. Like Monsanto and the agribusiness crooks who bribed judges and maybe presidents too into creating laws which patent genetic material and ban labels identifying non-GMO products. Facebook, Twitter, the data miners and the marketers have purchased laws that prohibit programmers from writing the simple browser plug-ins
that would enable users to easily choose whether to share their data with Trump, Obama, Steve Bannon, Amazon, and a host of other players whose names many of us wouldn’t recognize.
Late stage capitalism has transformed our human social interactions into the private property of a handful of billionaires. In a better world, the social networks and the internet itself would not be privately owned marketing contraptions, they would be public property, democratically managed in the people's interests, and users would to able to easily withhold their personal information and that of their friends. But democratic management of public property is socialism, and we can’t have that.
Or can we?For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us every week at blackagendareport.com for the latest news, commentary and analysis from the black left. Our audio pieces are also at Soundcloud.com. Please follow and share our stuff from those places on all your favorite social media. And when you visit us at blackagendareport.com, you can subscribe to our direct and free weekly email of each week’s new content. Email is called dark social media because Google, Facebook, Twitter cannot track or block it.
Reproduced from: https://blackagendareport.com/liberal-ire-trump-and-cambridge-analytica-misdirected-billionaires-who-own-your-data
on: March 18, 2018, 02:27:47 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|Neanderthals weren’t the only ones modern humans liked to sleep with.By Mary Papenfuss
March 18, 2018 - huffingtonpost.com
It turns out that modern humans have a more complicated past than scientists realized. Researchers have discovered that populations of Homo sapiens swapped DNA in at least two regions of the world with a mysterious group of hominids known as Denisovans.
The Denisovans appear to have made a contribution to the modern human gene pool ? not nearly as significant as the Neanderthals, but notable.
Denisovans date back as far as 50,000 years ago, based on tests of a little Denisovan girl’s finger bone and a bit of molar discovered in a Siberian cave in 2008. The new species was called Denisovan after the name of the cave in the Altai mountains.
Scientists managed in 2016 to trace DNA of the Denisovans to some Melanesians — who live in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands — who were found to have 5 percent of Denisovan ancestry. Some East and South Asians have close to 0.2 percent. (Neanderthals have contributed between 1 percent and 4 percent of the genome in people in several continents.)
But after a new DNA survey of humans, scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle were surprised to discover a new distinct set of Denisovan ancestry among some modern East Asians — particularly among Han Chinese, Chinese Dai and Japanese. This Denisovan DNA is more closely related to the sample from the fossils discovered in Siberia, according to the study published in the journal Cell.
The discovery demonstrates that there were at least two distinct populations of Denisovans living in Asia, and likely somewhat geographically distant.Full Article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-homo-sapiens-mix-with-denisovans_us_5aadd747e4b0c33361b0fc72
_________________________________Why Am I Neanderthal?
When our ancestors first migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago, they were not alone. At that time, at least two other species of hominid cousins walked the Eurasian landmass—Neanderthals and Denisovans. As our modern human ancestors migrated through Eurasia, they encountered the Neanderthals and interbred. Because of this, a small amount of Neanderthal DNA was introduced into the modern human gene pool.
Everyone living outside of Africa today has a small amount of Neanderthal in them, carried as a living relic of these ancient encounters. A team of scientists comparing the full genomes of the two species concluded that most Europeans and Asians have approximately 2 percent Neanderthal DNA. Indigenous sub-Saharan Africans have none, or very little Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not migrate through Eurasia.
On one level, it’s not surprising that modern humans were able to interbreed with their close cousins. According to one theory, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and all modern humans are all descended from the ancient human Homo heidelbergensis.
Between 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, an ancestral group of H. heidelbergensis
left Africa and then split shortly after. One branch ventured northwestward into West Asia and Europe and became the Neanderthals. The other branch moved east, becoming Denisovans. By 250,000 years ago H. heidelbergensis
in Africa had become Homo sapiens
. Our modern human ancestors did not begin their own exodus from Africa until about 70,000 years ago, when they expanded into Eurasia and encountered their ancient cousins.
The revelation that our ancient ancestors mated with one another could help explain one of the great mysteries in anthropology: Why did the Neanderthals disappear? After first venturing out of Africa, Neanderthals thrived in Europe for several hundred thousand years. But they mysteriously died out about 30,000 years ago, roughly around the same time that modern humans arrived in Europe.
Some scientists have suggested modern humans out-competed or outright killed the Neanderthals. But the new genetic evidence provides support for another theory: Perhaps our ancestors made love, not war, with their European cousins, and the Neanderthal lineage disappeared because it was absorbed into the much larger human population.
Even though Neanderthals and Denisovans are both extinct, modern humanity may owe them a debt of gratitude. A 2011 study by Stanford University researchers concluded that many of us carry ancient variants of immune system genes involved in destroying pathogens that arose after we left Africa. One possibility is that these gene variants came from other archaic humans.https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/neanderthal/
on: March 18, 2018, 02:11:39 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|By Ann Gibbons
April 02, 2015 - sciencemag.org
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, offers dramatic evidence of recent evolution in Europe and shows that most modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago.
The origins of Europeans have come into sharp focus in the past year as researchers have sequenced the genomes of ancient populations, rather than only a few individuals. By comparing key parts of the DNA across the genomes of 83 ancient individuals from archaeological sites throughout Europe, the international team of researchers reported earlier this year that Europeans today are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8000 years. The study revealed that a massive migration of Yamnaya herders from the steppes north of the Black Sea may have brought Indo-European languages to Europe about 4500 years ago.
Now, a new study from the same team drills down further into that remarkable data to search for genes that were under strong natural selection—including traits so favorable that they spread rapidly throughout Europe in the past 8000 years. By comparing the ancient European genomes with those of recent ones from the 1000 Genomes Project, population geneticist Iain Mathieson, a postdoc in the Harvard University lab of population geneticist David Reich, found five genes associated with changes in diet and skin pigmentation that underwent strong natural selection.
First, the scientists confirmed an earlier report that the hunter-gatherers in Europe could not digest the sugars in milk 8000 years ago, according to a poster. They also noted an interesting twist: The first farmers also couldn’t digest milk. The farmers who came from the Near East about 7800 years ago and the Yamnaya pastoralists who came from the steppes 4800 years ago lacked the version of the LCT gene that allows adults to digest sugars in milk. It wasn’t until about 4300 years ago that lactose tolerance swept through Europe.
When it comes to skin color, the team found a patchwork of evolution in different places, and three separate genes that produce light skin, telling a complex story for how European’s skin evolved to be much lighter during the past 8000 years. The modern humans who came out of Africa to originally settle Europe about 40,000 years are presumed to have had dark skin, which is advantageous in sunny latitudes. And the new data confirm that about 8500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary also had darker skin: They lacked versions of two genes—SLC24A5 and SLC45A2—that lead to depigmentation and, therefore, pale skin in Europeans today.
But in the far north—where low light levels would favor pale skin—the team found a different picture in hunter-gatherers: Seven people from the 7700-year-old Motala archaeological site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2. They also had a third gene, HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and may also contribute to light skin and blond hair. Thus ancient hunter-gatherers of the far north were already pale and blue-eyed, but those of central and southern Europe had darker skin.
Then, the first farmers from the Near East arrived in Europe; they carried both genes for light skin. As they interbred with the indigenous hunter-gatherers, one of their light-skin genes swept through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin. The other gene variant, SLC45A2, was at low levels until about 5800 years ago when it swept up to high frequency.
The team also tracked complex traits, such as height, which are the result of the interaction of many genes. They found that selection strongly favored several gene variants for tallness in northern and central Europeans, starting 8000 years ago, with a boost coming from the Yamnaya migration, starting 4800 years ago. The Yamnaya have the greatest genetic potential for being tall of any of the populations, which is consistent with measurements of their ancient skeletons. In contrast, selection favored shorter people in Italy and Spain starting 8000 years ago, according to the paper now posted on the bioRxiv preprint server. Spaniards, in particular, shrank in stature 6000 years ago, perhaps as a result of adapting to colder temperatures and a poor diet.
Surprisingly, the team found no immune genes under intense selection, which is counter to hypotheses that diseases would have increased after the development of agriculture.
The paper doesn’t specify why these genes might have been under such strong selection. But the likely explanation for the pigmentation genes is to maximize vitamin D synthesis, said paleoanthropologist Nina Jablonski of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), University Park, as she looked at the poster’s results at the meeting. People living in northern latitudes often don’t get enough UV to synthesize vitamin D in their skin so natural selection has favored two genetic solutions to that problem—evolving pale skin that absorbs UV more efficiently or favoring lactose tolerance to be able to digest the sugars and vitamin D naturally found in milk. “What we thought was a fairly simple picture of the emergence of depigmented skin in Europe is an exciting patchwork of selection as populations disperse into northern latitudes,” Jablonski says. “This data is fun because it shows how much recent evolution has taken place.”
Anthropological geneticist George Perry, also of Penn State, notes that the work reveals how an individual’s genetic potential is shaped by their diet and adaptation to their habitat. “We’re getting a much more detailed picture now of how selection works.”http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/04/how-europeans-evolved-white-skin
on: March 01, 2018, 11:25:39 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
|March 01, 2018https://www.rt.com/news/420181-south-africa-land-redistribution-explained/South Africa’s new President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to redistribute land by taking it from white farmers and giving it to black people. But why is the millionaire pursuing such a drastic course of action and how will it work? How did white farmers get the land in the first place?
Dutch Calvinist settlers first landed on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 and soon began setting up farms in the arable regions around Cape Town. Over the following decades the number of Dutch (and some German and French) settlers grew. They continuously claimed land from the local Khoikhoi until the entire cape was colonized.
The British seized the region in 1795, sparking a long running conflict with the original Dutch settlers, now known as the Boers. To escape British rule the Boers pushed deeper north and northeast, claiming land in the present-day provinces of Free State and Natal. Eventually they established independent Boer republics.
Numerous wars and conflicts between colonists, both British and Boer, and local people including the Xhosa, Zulu, Basotho and Ndebele broke out over the intervening years, particularly as gold and diamonds were discovered. The colonists took advantage of their superior weaponry to claim further territories.
Eventually tensions between the Boers and the British boiled over, resulting in two Anglo-Boer wars. In the aftermath of the second war the British unified the colonies into a single country called the Union of South Africa.
The country’s 1913 Natives’ Land Act earmarked only eight percent of the land for black people. White people, who made up about 20 percent of the population, owned 90 percent of the land. The act set the legal framework for the control of South African land up until the fall of Apartheid in 1991.Who actually owns the land
The amount of land actually owned by whites is a contentious and much-debated issue. The statistics remain unclear. Many South African politicians in favor of land reform claim that, in a country of 55 million people, a mere 40,000 white farmers own 80 percent of the country’s agricultural land. However, a study by fact-checking website Africa Check found that the claim isn’t supported by any dataset, labelling it incorrect.“Land ownership is still deeply skewed along racial lines, but these figures do not illuminate the current land dispensation,”
Professor Cherryl Walker said.
Walker, author of ‘Landmarked: Land Claims and Land Restitution in South Africa,’ prepared a fact sheet on land distribution for the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) last year. It revealed that 67 percent of South Africa is used for agriculture and that, while the vast majority of this is indeed owned by white farmers, “small numbers” of black people with access to capital have managed to acquire land independent of land reform.Why is the government doing it now?
The African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the fall of apartheid, has long promised reforms to redress racial disparities in land ownership. Despite more than 20 years of ANC rule whites still own most of South Africa’s land.
Land redistribution was the key talking point ahead of last year’s ANC national conference where Cyril Ramaphosa was chosen to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader. The party appeared deeply divided in the run up to December’s vote and, while it still dominates the South African political landscape, it had its worst result since 1994 in last year’s local elections.
On Tuesday the radical left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, who control only 25 of the parliament’s 400 seats, brought a motion seeking to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. Crucially the move was backed by the ANC, which controls 249 seats, and was passed.
Speaking in parliament, EFF leader Julius Malema said “it was time for justice” on the land issue. “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” he said.
The official opposition Democratic Alliance party (DA) has come out against land redistribution. The DA’s Thandeka Mbabama told parliament that the efforts are merely a way to divert attention from the failure of successive ANC-led governments.How will it be done?
Redistribution moved a step closer after Tuesday’s vote, yet how the process would work in reality remains to be fleshed out by the government. After taking up the presidency, Ramaphosa said expropriation without compensation will be one of the measures used by the government to speed up redistribution.
But the new president stressed that the process will be handled properly and not in a “smash and grab”
manner. “We will handle it with responsibility. We will handle it in a way that will not damage our economy, that is not going to damage agricultural production,”
The perils of land redistribution are seen in the program carried out by then-Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The plan saw thousands of white farmers stripped of their lands and, in the years that followed, food production plummeted and the country’s economy collapsed. Likely referring to their neighbor to the north Ramaphosa said that “in dealing with this complex matter”
South Africa would not “make the mistakes that others have made.”https://www.rt.com/news/420181-south-africa-land-redistribution-explained/
on: February 27, 2018, 06:14:39 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|National Assembly adopts motion on land expropriation without compensation
Opening the debate on his motion, Malema said: "The time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice." He said they did not seek revenge on white people, but a restoration of black people's dignity, which was deeply rooted in the land. https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/South-Africas-Assembly-Approves-Land-Expropriation-Without-Compensation-20180227-0019.html
The legislation, approved by an overwhelming majority, was proposed by the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters party.
South Africa’s parliament passed Tuesday a motion brought by the leftist party Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, to carry out land expropriation without compensation, a key pillar of the ruling ANC government and new President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The motion, which would include a review of the constitution, was sponsored by leader of the EFF Julius Malema and was passed by an overwhelming majority of 241 votes in favor versus 83 votes against the proposal.
“We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” Malema told parliament while presenting the motion.
The African National Congress, or ANC, amended the motion, but supported it, with its deputy chief whip, Dorries Eunice Dlakude saying the party “recognizes that the current policy instruments, including the willing-buyer willing-seller policy and other provisions of section 25 of the constitution may be hindering effective land reform.”
In his first state of the nation address two weeks ago, Ramaphosa made a direct appeal to poorer Black voters, who are the core of the ANC’s electoral support base, saying he would aim to speed up the transfer of land to Black people.
Two decades after the end of apartheid, the ANC is under pressure to redress racial disparities in land ownership where whites own most of the land.
Ramaphosa said earlier Tuesday he would pursue expropriation of land without compensation, but said this should be done in a way that increases agricultural production and improves food security.
The national assembly, in concurrence with its upper house, instructed its constitutional review committee to review the constitution in line with the successful motion and report back to it by Aug. 30, 2018.https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/South-Africas-Assembly-Approves-Land-Expropriation-Without-Compensation-20180227-0019.html
on: February 05, 2018, 03:15:10 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|'Think about this': Beyonce's father Mathew Knowles says she wouldn't be as famous if she had darker skinBy Dailymail.com Reporter
February 05, 2018 - dailymail.co.uk
He masterminded his talented daughter's rise to fame in Destiny's Child, before helping her get started on a solo career.
Now Beyonce's father Mathew Knowles has spoken out about colorism in the music industry, saying that his superstar daughter and her sister Solange wouldn't be as famous if they had darker skin.
Talking to Ebony, he said the biggest black female stars all had lighter skin.
'When it comes to Black females, who are the people who get their music played on pop radio? Mariah Carey, Rihanna, the female rapper Nicki Minaj, my kids [Beyonce and Solange],' he told Ebony magazine.
Since parting ways with Beyonce professionally in 2011, African-American Knowles has reinvented himself as a college professor, and is promoting a new book about race relations, titled Racism: From the Eyes of a Child.
In his interview the 66-year-old also addressed his own deep-rooted attitudes to skin color, saying that when he first met Beyonce's mother, his ex-wife of 31 years, he assumed she was white.
'I actually thought when I met Tina, my former wife, that she was White. Later I found out that she wasn’t, and she was actually very much in-tune with her Blackness.'
He said that his preference for white or light-skinned black women was embedded in his childhood in Gadsden, a small town near the city of Birmingham, Alabama.
Said Knowles: 'When I was growing up, my mother used to say, "Don’t ever bring no nappy-head Black girl to my house." In the deep South in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the shade of your Blackness was considered important. So I, unfortunately, grew up hearing that message.'
And this had a lasting effect. 'I used to date mainly White women or very high-complexion Black women that looked White... I had been conditioned from childhood.
'With eroticized rage, there was actual rage in me as a Black man, and I saw the White female as a way, subconsciously, of getting even or getting back. There are a lot of Black men of my era that are not aware of this thing.'
Beyonce's rise to stardom began in 1988 when she won the Baby Junior Award at the Sammy Awards, a ceremony held to honour Sammy Davis Jr.
She signed up to join a girlband, Girls Tyme, when she was eight, with Knowles quitting his full-time sales job to co-manage the band two years later.
The band became Destiny's Child, which three years later signed a seven-album deal with Columbia/Sony.
Knowles co-managed Destiny's Child throughout, and was also credited as executive producer on Beyonce's first solo album Dangerously In Love, before she ended her working relationship with her father in 2011.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-5354429/Beyonces-dad-says-wouldnt-famous-darker-skin.html
on: January 25, 2018, 01:27:34 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|By Tariq Ali
September 29, 2014 - counterpunch.orgTariq Ali: I’m in conversation with Patrick Cockburn, who can only be described as a veteran reporter and courageous journalist who has covered the wars of the United States in the Middle East since they began with the invasion of Iraq, and was reporting from the region a long time before on the sanctions against Iraq, the Gulf wars. We’re now at a critical stage where a new organisation has emerged.
Patrick has written a new book, The Jihadis Return, which is an extended essay on the emergence of ISIS and its links to the Sunni population in Iraq and the likely consequences of this for the region. Because there’s absolutely no doubt that what this opens up is yet another front in the unending war that has become a total misery for the people who live in the Arab world today. Patrick, let’s begin by sort of inquiring about the origins of the Islamic State group, ISIS as they call themselves, where do they come out from and when did this start? Patrick Cockburn:
Well they come most immediately from al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was at the height of its influence in 2006 [and] 2007 when it was an element–but not the only element–in the Sunni resistance to a Shia government and the American occupation. Ideologically, it comes out of the Jihadi movement and actually its religious beliefs are not that much different from Saudi Wahhabism, the variant of the Islam which is effectively the state religion of Saudi Arabia with its denigration of Shia as heretics, [along with] Christians and Jews. It’s just carrying these beliefs to a higher and more violent level but it’s very much in the context of the Jihadi movement.Tariq Ali: Can I just interrupt you there? This Jihadi movement did not exist in Iraq as such prior to the American invasion and occupation.Patrick Cockburn:
No, it didn’t. And Saddam arrested anybody who was an obvious Jihadi. I mean, it was always an absurd pretence at the time of the invasion of Iraq to say that Saddam had any connection with the Jihadis or 9/11. Though such was the volume of propaganda at the time that 60% of Americans believed that somehow Saddam was linked to 9/11Tariq Ali: So following through on this, we have the American occupation, we have a Shia government, which they have effectively put into power, and we have the beginnings of an uprising in the early days of the occupation, which involved not just Sunnis but also Muqtada al-Sadr who was very hostile to the occupation. What happened to break up this sort of resistance, which was initially a combined resistance, such as Shia groups like Muqtada sending medical aid and help to the besieged Fallujah? Why did that break up?Patrick Cockburn:
The unity between the Sunni and Shia resistance to the Americans was always tentative, although taken very seriously by the Americans. I mean, the memoirs of American generals at the time said they were really worried that these two groups would unite in resisting the occupation. And it’s perhaps one of the many disasters to have happened to Iraq that they didn’t unite, that they remained sectarian, in fact remained more sectarian, on the Sunni side.Tariq Ali: And so, if we come down to the speed with which this particular organisation swept through parts of Iraq, which you yourself talk about in the book, how do you explain the total collapse of the Iraqi army, Patrick? Is it in that sense not too much different from the army created by the West in Afghanistan, the fact that they are not prepared to fight and die for the United States?At that time it was, al-Qaeda and Iraq was only one of a number of serious resistance movements to the occupation but it was very evident in Baghdad at the time when I went to American briefings that anything that happened was attributed by the spokesman, the military spokesman, to al-Qaeda. Of course this played well back in the US, but in Iraq it had quite the contrary effect which people who were against the occupation think, oh it’s al-Qaeda who’s doing all this resisting, let’s go an get a black flag and join them…Patrick Cockburn:
Yeah, and even more so. I mean I think this is, it’s difficult to think of another example in history, where there are 300 or 350 thousand men in the Iraqi army, they’d spent 41.6 billion dollars on this army over the last three years. OR Book Going RougeBut it disintegrated because of an attack by maybe a couple of thousand people in Mosul. Why did it happen? Well, the army was rather extraordinary. I mean one Iraqi general I was talking to who’d been forcibly retired said at the beginning of the disaster was the Americans, [who] when they set it up, insisted that supplies and things like that should be outsourced, privatised.
So immediately a colonel of a battalion nominally of 600 men would get money for 600 men, [but] in fact there were only 200 men in it, and would pocket the difference, which was spread out among the officers. And this applied to fuel, it applied to ammunition… At the time of the fall of Mosul there are meant to be 30,000 troops there. In fact, it’s estimated that only one in three was there. Because what you did was: you joined the army, you got your full salary and then you kicked back half that salary to your officer, who spread it among the officers. So I remember about a year ago talking to a senior Iraqi politician, and who said look: the army’s going to collapse if it’s attacked. I said surely some will fight, he said: no no no, you don’t understand. These officers are not soldiers, they’re investors!
They have no interest in fighting anybody; they have interest in making money out of their investment. Of course you had to buy your position. So in 2009, you want to be a colonel in the Iraqi army, it’ll cost you about 20,000 dollars, more recently it cost you about $200,000. You want to be divisional commander, and there are 15 divisions, it will cost you about 2 million. Of course, there are other ways of making money. Checkpoints on the roads act as sort of customs barriers and a tariff on each truck going through would be paid. So that’s why they ran away, led by their commanding officer, the three commanding generals got into a helicopter in civilian clothes and fled to Erbil, the Kurdish capital. And that led to the final dissolution of the army.Tariq Ali: It is one of the most astonishing events in recent history, Patrick. I mean can you think of any other equivalent, even in the last century?Patrick Cockburn:
I can’t think of any of such a large well-equipped army disintegrating. You could say that Saddam’s army disintegrated in ’91 when attacked by the Americans, and again in 2003. But then it was attacked by the largest military force in the world and was being bombed. So it’s not a parallel. It of course shows that ISIS was quite effective in spreading terror through social media, by films of it decapitating Shia captives. So the soldiers were terrified of ISIS.
And also the whole Sunni community, about 20% of Iraqis, maybe 6 million in the Sunni provinces, were alienated by the Nouri al-Malaki’s regime. They were persecuted, they couldn’t get jobs, collective punishment, young men in villages around Fallujah – sometimes there aren’t many young men because they’re all in jail – and some were on death row going to be executed for crimes which somebody had already been executed for. It was completely arbitrary. So not surprisingly to this day it’s one of the reasons that ISIS still has support, that for all its bloodthirstiness, for a lot of the Sunni community it’s better than the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Shia militias coming back.Tariq Ali: I mean this is something which apart from yourself and possibly one other journalist in the entire Western media is not being reported at all, that however violent and brutal this group seems and is, it does have some support among the population…Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, ISIS has a number of different kinds of support. It has support of the alienated Sunni community in Iraq and also in Syria. That at least their victors, after all these people have been defeated – they were defeated in ’91 by the Americans, they were defeated again in 2003, they were marginalised, persecuted – so victory is important to them. I think also they appeal to jobless young men, I mean sometimes referred to as the underclass, but actually just the poor, poor young men.Tariq Ali: Poor and unemployed.Patrick Cockburn:
Poor, unemployed young men with nothing in front of them: this does have an appeal for them. And the alternative is pretty bad. I mean, the few successful counterattacks made primarily by the Shia and Kurdish militias, that they’ve immediately driven out the Sunni from areas were ISIS had driven out the Shia. So from the Sunni point of view, they don’t have much alternative but to stick with ISIS.Tariq Ali: And is there no alternative Sunni organisation, which at least offers a different political programme apart from this sort of fanaticism shown by ISIS. I mean, what about the Association of Sunni Scholars?Patrick Cockburn:
Many sort of went along with ISIS trying to sort of ride the tiger. And … it was believed in Baghdad, and I think really until about a month ago, that, yes, ISIS had appeared to have won these great victories but in fact they were simply the shock troops of the Sunni community. And there were tribes and there were former army officers and there were others like the scholars who would displace them once the Sunni had got what they wanted.Tariq Ali: And we thought this was wishful thinking because ISIS tends to monopolise power just as soon as it can, even when it took power in an area in combination with others. It’s also extremely paranoid, so it’s going to kill anybody whom it thinks is preparing to stab it in the back or rise up against it. In Mosul for instance, they seem to have taken hostage about 300 people. But former generals, sort of Sunni dignitaries, the sort of people who they suspect might lead that sort of resistance. And in Syria, in Deir ez-Zo province, one tribe sort of rose up against them, they crushed it immediately and executed 700 of its members. So I think it’s just wishful thinking to imagine that ISIS is going to be displaced in the areas it has conquered.
Let’s come to the next point. A lot of people have speculated that the Saudis in some form or the other, if not the government directly, people close to the government in Saudi Arabia, were partially responsible for creating, helping and funding this force as a sort of proto-Saudi intervention against Shia domination in Iraq after the occupation. To what extent is this true, if at all?Patrick Cockburn:
There’s some truth in it, but you want to avoid a conspiracy theory that the Saudis are the sort of master who moves the pawns on the board, which is sometimes believed in parts of the Middle East. The Saudis have always been behind the Jihadi movement in general, above all abroad, not within Saudi Arabia. And generally they will support those who oppose Shia governments, and don’t really distinguish or didn’t really distinguish who they were supporting. But it’s also pretty clear that a lot of their support did go to ISIS, did go to other groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, this was all through private donors, not just Saudi Arabia, but Kuwait and Qatar, and Turkey.
The US and Britain would [try to] distinguish between the moderate Syrian opposition in this corner and the Jihadi extreme opposition in the other corner. But actually the two were together, I mean there was a report this very week by a research organisation itemising various weapons in the hands of ISIS that appear to have been supplied by Saudi Arabia last year to the supposedly moderate Syrian opposition, but were immediately transferred because the gap between the two is much more limited than you’d imagine…Tariq Ali: Yeah. And there’s a report in, I think, in the newspapers today as we speak, that Steven Sotloff was sold to ISIS by a supposedly moderate Syrian organisation who captured him.Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, his family are saying this. And it’s also interesting that immediately the American spokesmen say: no no no that didn’t happen, because they can see how far this undermines what may be their policy to be announced today by Obama of building up a moderate opposition, a third force, which is going to supposedly fight Assad and fight ISIS simultaneouslyTariq Ali: It’s pure fantasyPatrick Cockburn:
It’s fantasy … in that form. But I mean it’s interesting that the commanding general of the Free Syrian Army says that the Free Syrian Army commanders in Syria, now get their orders directly from the Americans. He said he and the other officers in Turkey were meant to be the headquarters and the leaders of the Free Syrian Army. He said I think it’s 16 commanders in northern Syria and some other, about 60 of the smaller groups in the South, now get their equipment, advice and instructions directly from the AmericansTariq Ali: But Patrick, this again is pretty astonishing. That here we had, not so long ago, the entire Western world led by the United States determined to get rid of Assad, arming all these people, and as you’ve pointed out arms flowing from one group to the other in the battle against Assad. And now we are facing a situation where the United States might actually be bombing ISIS sites inside Syria. Is this possible?Patrick Cockburn:
Well I think so. I think they’ve gone so far down this road to suggesting this that I think it’ll certainly happen at some point. One of the strengths of ISIS is being able to operate in Iraq and SyriaTariq Ali: At the same time…Patrick Cockburn:
At the same time. And in fact its potential constituency in Syria is bigger than Iraq, because only 20 percent of Iraqis are Syri, are Sunni Arabs and 60 percent of Syrians are Sunni Arabs. So potentially they could dominate the Syrian opposition and not all of course of Syrian Sunni Arabs support the opposition, quite a lot support the government. But they can have a far bigger reach there and they are still expanding. I mean they are 30 miles from Aleppo. They inflicted some of the biggest defeats, in fact the biggest defeats, which the Syrian army has suffered in three years. [These] were inflicted in Raqqah province within the last month by ISIS.Tariq Ali: Okay, now let’s come to the third factor in the situation, not discussed seriously but often referred to. The Kurdish parties in Syria and in Iraq are clearly opposed to all this and are fighting ISIS as best they can.The Kurds in Syria are under siege from them, the Kurds in Iraq are determined to fight them. To what extent is this effective and why was the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq not capable of dealing with them in a tougher way at the very beginning?Patrick Cockburn:
I think probably the reputation of the Peshmerga in Iraq was exaggerated anyway. They haven’t fought anybody apart from their own [separatist] war and that was in the 90s, for many years. They were always good at mountain ambushes and at public relations, but otherwise it was always a bit exaggerated. I mean maybe it’s not their fault, they were fighting Saddam’s enormous army. But that was exaggerated. And also it has become an oil state…many Kurds are just interested in making money and so forth. Now they say they weren’t properly equipped.
Well, you know, you can buy arms … it doesn’t all have to come from America. Why are there all this big hotels in Erbil their capital, and why didn’t they have some heavy machine guns? And they also have got a 600 mile border to defend. And also they took advantage of the fall of Mosul to extend their territories into territories [that are] disputed with the Arabs. This made the Arabs in these mixed areas much more anti-Kurdish than they had been previously. So there was acceptability to what ISIS did in advancing among the Arabs, and one of the many toxic effects of this is that the populations are now separating. First of all the Yazidis and the Kurds and others fled, and now the Sunni Arabs are fleeing these areas to avoid revenge attacks.Tariq Ali: And what about the Syrian Kurds?Patrick Cockburn:
Well, that’s different because they are 10% of the population in Syria. They’re in enclaves mostly in the North East and the North.Tariq Ali: And Assad has given them autonomy, this is true?Patrick Cockburn:
Not quite, but they’ve sort of [made an] opportunistic withdrawal, because he knows that … ISIS is going to attack them … and actually you know, the people that are attacking them are not just ISIS but Jabhat al-Nusra. All the other opposition groups suddenly come together to attack the Kurds in these areas. I mean it also undermines that idea that there is a moderate opposition and a Jihadi opposition. That the Free Syrian Army and all these others come to attack the Kurds. The [dominant] Kurds there are … the PKK which is basically the Turkish Kurdish opposition. But they are much more effective fighters than the Iraqi Peshmerga. In fact, they rescued quite a lot of the Yazidis in Sinjar in Western KurdistanTariq Ali: The Syrian Kurd state….Patrick Cockburn:
The Syrian Kurds, yeah. Somewhat to the embarrassment of the [Kurds] of ErbilTariq Ali: Yeah. So, coming to the key thing now. You’ve written that the Skykes-Picot agreement has probably finally finished. This was the agreement after the First World War whereby Ottoman lands in the Arab world were divided up between France and Britain. But Patrick, you may be right. In 2006 I felt that there was no future for Iraq as a state because of what had happened and you’d probably have a Shia state and a pro-Saudi Sunni state and a Kurdish state. Do you think this is going to happen now in some shape or form over the next five years?Patrick Cockburn:
In some shape, but not exactly, you know I don’t think map-makers are going to sort of have the borders of their new states there. But I think you’ll effectively have three sovereign states in Iraq. And you do have that already. I mean, you’re a Shia in Baghdad. If I’m in Baghdad, I can’t go an hour North of Baghdad without having my head chopped off. Likewise a Kurd in the North and likewise any Sunni who tries to come through any checkpoint in Baghdad or into Kurdistan is likely to be arrested…Tariq Ali: Well you’ve been visiting Baghdad for years, Patrick. Are you telling me that effectively there are ethnic borders now in Baghdad and you can’t move from one part of the city to the other?Patrick Cockburn:
No. Between Baghdad and the rest of Iraq you can’t. I mean there are Sunni parts of Baghdad, but you had a sectarian civil war 2006-7 in which the Sunni basically lost. So they have quite small enclaves in Baghdad. There aren’t many mixed areas left, the Shia dominate the city. Now these Sunni areas could rise up, but they’re also vulnerable to counterattack from the Shia majority. There could be a battle for Baghdad but the Sunni in the city are likely to lose it, which is one of the reasons why they are terrified.Tariq Ali: And there’s a Kurdish population in Baghdad too, let’s not forget…Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, but a lot of them are, have melted into the local population.Tariq Ali: Intermarriages?Patrick Cockburn:
Intermarriages…. There’s never been sort of hardcore Kurdish areas or enclaves in Baghdad with their own militia, which is true of the Shia, and in a covert way is true of the Sunni as well.Tariq Ali: If we just move to Syria for a bit. What is your impression of the current state of play with the sort of emergence of ISIS, not just the emergence but the successes of ISIS, with the Americans in NATO now trying to work up some sort of a plot or, not a plot, but openly debating how to destroy the organisation. Surely this is going to, I mean, immediately strengthen the Assad regime, regardless of what is intended or not…Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, I think that’s absolutely true. And that’s of course what has put them in such a muddle. I mean ISIS controls about 35, 40% of Syria. In eastern Syria, they control the oil fields. They’re very close to Aleppo, which was the biggest city in Syria. They could take over the rebel held part and then maybe they could take over the whole city. This would be more significant than taking Mosul in Iraq. Jihadi organisations, particularly Jabhat al-Nusra, but also ISIS, are close to Hama, the fourth biggest city in Syria. So they’re in a strong position. It wouldn’t take much for ISIS to reach the Mediterranean there, where they were before they did a tactical withdrawal earlier in the year.
So it’s rather an extraordinary situation that you have America and the other Westerners and powers saying we’re going to intervene against ISIS but we’re not going to do anything to help Assad. But Assad is the main enemy of ISIS and if they’re trying to weaken Assad then they help ISIS. And it’s the result of their, to my mind, catastrophic policies over the last two years. It has been evident since the end of 2012 that Assad was not going to go, previous to that there was a presumption that in 2011 and 2012, in the Western capitals and elsewhere, that he was going to follow Gaddafi–he was going to go down. But they’ve sort of pretended that he was going to go. [In] negotiations in Geneva earlier this year it was said … that the only thing worth talking about was transition, Assad going.
But Assad obviously wasn’t going to go, because there are 14 provincial capitals in Syria and he held 13 of them. So if you said that, in fact, you were saying: well, then the war will go on because he wasn’t going to go. And I think for a time, they – Washington, and the others, and the Saudis – were not unhappy with this. It was something they could live with because he was there but he was weak and was probably going to stay there. And then the Jihadis were there, but they were involved in their own civil war. But the great miscalculation was that on the Jihadis side one group would win out, which was ISIS. And secondly, this wasn’t going to remain Syrian on Syrian, or Iraqi on Iraqi, or even Muslim on Muslim, that after all the new caliphate claims the allegiance of all Muslims and claims the allegiance of the world. So its ambitions….Tariq Ali: Are global…Patrick Cockburn:
Are global.Tariq Ali: And its prospectus, which is very similar to the NATO prospectus, if you see both organisations’ prospectuses together, it’s obvious that ISIS has copied the NATO model. They have pictures like that one in their prospectus saying this is what we do, this is how many people we killed here, there. There’s no shame at all about what they are doing. So in a weird way, despite the ideology which is Wahhabi and sort of born-again Muslimism, literalism, they are quite modern in their approach in some ways are they not?Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, I mean rather amazingly so. You know, at the beginning of the Arab uprisings in 2011, blogging, new Twitter, YouTube, were considered progressive instruments that would erode the power of police states and authoritarianism and so forth. But in fact, the people that have put them to greatest use have been Jihadi organisations, and ISIS in particular, to spread their views, to spread terror, very effectively. The families of an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad, you know, a soldier’s wife, his mother, they’ve all seen this stuff so, they say: don’t go back to the army, you’ll be killed. So this is pretty effectiveTariq Ali: Patrick, what is the United States going to do now, what are its options? I mean do you think they can have any success in wiping out ISIS, which seems to be their plan. I mean how the hell are they going to do it without ground troops and all the available reports suggest that the Pentagon is opposed to putting in ground troops. I mean are they going to find some Arab countries to act as their auxiliaries?Patrick Cockburn:
Well, yes, … auxiliaries. I don’t think they’re going to commit troops. I mean look what happened: the Iraqi army fled, the Syrian army fought, it still lost. It lost an important air base in Raqqah province a few weeks ago although it fought very hard. So I think they’ll be very nervous of fighting ISIS. The US is looking, Obama says, for local partners. It’s a bit unclear what this means. Local partners in Baghdad, the parties have sort of come together because they’re all terrified of ISIS but when you look more closely the Kurds have agreed to nothing. The Sunni leaders have taken some jobs in Baghdad, but these are Sunni leaders who dare not go back their own cities and towns because they’d get their heads chopped off. So it’s still very disorganised and divided and has only sort of happened under pressure from the US and Iran who have parallel interests there.Tariq Ali: Well they know exactly the obvious ally in this, were they looking for serious allies in the region, would actually be Iran. Which they’re not prepared to consider because they’ve demonised Iran to such a level and the Israelis would probably be hostile to any such notion. Because the Iranians could use any alliance with the Americans now to get a bomb quickly like General Zia did during the war against Afghanistan. But apart from Iran, who else is there with the firepower?Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, and also this applies to Syria as well. the Americans and the others are sort of refusing to make a choice … Say we put a coalition backed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These people have money, they have influence on the Jihadis maybe, on the Sunni community, but they’re avoiding changing relations or ending confrontation with Iran and in Syria Russia matters a lot. They’re still hostile to Hezbollah … and the Kurds in Syria who are fighting ISIS rather effectively. So what is it? It’s really a recipe for a very long war in a very confused situation.
And, you know, what are they going to do if ISIS advances into Aleppo? Are they going to bomb it there at the same time as the Syrian Air Force is bombing ISIS? How do they know that Syrian Air Force planes are not going to try to shoot down American planes? Of course, what they will do, I think, is have covert relations with the Assad government. In fact, I’m told they already do–not to do a public U-turn but have a sort of an understanding with them, as to some degree happened in Iraq after 2003… Iraqis always used to say that Iran and the US wave their fists at each other over the table, but they sort of shake hands under the tableTariq Ali: Which they did.Patrick Cockburn:
Oh absolutely.Tariq Ali: Without the Iranian green light it would have been difficult for them to take Iraq just like that.Patrick Cockburn:
Oh yes. Why did we have Nouri al-Maliki as the disastrous Prime Minister of Iraq for eight years and then reappointed in 2010? And I remember an Iraqi friend of mine, a diplomat, rang me up when Maliki … basically got back as Prime Minister and said, you know, the great Satan America and the axis of evil Iran have come together with … catastrophic consequences for Iraqis.Tariq Ali: Exactly. So Patrick, overall the situation is pretty grim and likely to remain so?Patrick Cockburn:
Yes, it’s grim because there are so many players involved. There are so many different crises entangled with each other that this is now likely to go on for a long time. There might have been a moment two years ago when they could’ve prevented ISIS taking off. Because really the war in Syria that changed the fortunes of ISIS. Previously in Iraq, it benefited from the alienation of the Sunni community, but suddenly the war in Syria relaunched ISIS, because it destabilised Iraq. It reignited the war in Iraq which had died down, but never quite ended. And Iraqi politicians, I remember Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister saying to me at that time, if the West allows the war in Syria to go on, that will inevitably destabilise Iraq and that is what has happened.Tariq Ali: On that pessimistic note, we end this conversation. Thanks very much Patrick and we will talk again no doubt.Patrick Cockburn:
Great, thank you.Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).
Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising. https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/09/29/the-rise-of-isis-and-the-origins-of-the-new-middle-east-war/