The Party Line is…..Trump Unbound??

Rarely in history has a US president incurred the wrath of his or her citizens and especially not in his second week in office, but then the USA has never known a President like Donald John Trump.

Calls for the country to unite behind its new president have been drowned out by songs of protest and reaction to President Trump’s increasingly extreme policy announcements.

First it was the Wall.

One of his key election pledges, Donald Trump used his first day in office to sign an executive order to allow for the construction of a wall along the US- Mexican border at an estimated cost of over 12 billion US dollars.  But it’s alright he said, the Mexicans will pay for it!

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Trump’s wall: Bigger than the Great Wall of China?

Cue Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto denouncing the move and cancelling a proposed visit to the US. Looks like the Mexicans won’t be paying for it after all.

Next it was Obamacare.

The defining domestic legacy of the Obama administration, Obamacare or to use its proper name the affordable care act is designed to improve access to health insurance for US citizens.

Without the benefits of a national health service like we have in the UK, every citizen requires health insurance to pay for everything from routine medical procedures to complex operations.

Despite criticism in some quarters, mainly from the Republican party, who disagreed with its slightly socialist overtones, President Obama managed to get this important piece of legislation through a Republican dominated congress.

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Obamacare: Illustrated

Mr Trump’s second act as President was to sign an executive order repealing Obamacare, despite having no clear replacement policy and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

A visit from UK Prime Minister Theresa May followed, with some very public hand holding and a lot of talking between the two leaders. Mr Trump seemed more controlled, less prone to an outburst and more likely to be willing to consider his options rather than carrying on regardless.

I felt a certain sense of optimism, like the feeling you get when you wake up and you think things are going to be alright.

But at 4:47pm that bubble burst with the signing of an executive order allowing for the following:

  1. Suspension of the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days
  2. Indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program
  3. Banning entry to the USA of people from  seven majority Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of 90 days.
  4. Banning of Dual-nationals from those seven countries from entering the country for a period of 90 days.

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Cue chaos at airports across the US as millions attempting to enter the country were turned away, with US border officials struggling to cope with the new regulations.

Cue widespread condemnation from the international community.

Cue a weekend protests in the streets and throughout American society.

Cue a seemingly ceaseless number of stories of hardworking and loyal Americans being turned away from their native land for simply being born somewhere else.

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Did I miss anything out?

So here we are, the ban is almost 3 days old and people are still struggling to come to terms with it. Seeing things from an outside perspective gives you a unique understanding of the problem and for me the problem is simple: Logic.

Donald Trump is a man who has no previous political experience, but has considerable business experience as typified by his status as one of Americas leading businessmen.

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Brand Trump- In Numbers

Business people follow logical patterns of thought, if a person isn’t doing their job they get fired, if the business doesn’t make a profit they fire the CEO, if that doesn’t work they spend money to try to get out of the hole.

Donald Trump is applying business logic to international politics: High number of illegal migrants from mexico harming American business? Simple, build a wall. Obamacare costs too much? Simple, get rid of it. Europe has terrorism primarily undertaken by Islamic extremists? Simple, stop Muslims from coming to the US, no problem.

International Politics is rarely that simple. I wish it were.

Donald Trump is a man who has been given the keys to the car without first learning the responsibilities entailed in driving it. Most of the senior politicians in the world have considerable experience in politics, having come up through the ranks of their respective political parties and serving on various committees and bodies.

With experience comes the tempering of the judgement that got them elected, forcing them to compromise or die.

Mr Trump has had none of this experience having won the election straight to the top job in the US government. There has been no tempering, no compromise.

But he is not entirely to blame for this, the problem is that he is bypassing the US senate and signing executive orders without consulting them. He doesn’t need them.

The US political system is set up in such a way that the President (or the executive branch) can issue executive orders to help officers and agencies of the executive branch (the various departments: State etc) manage operations within the federal government itself.

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The Three Branches of the US Government

These orders are independent of the Legislative branch (Congress) and the Judiciary branch (The US courts) and do not require their assent or consultation to be put into law.

Our system here in the UK has a similar equivalent, Prerogative powers which can be used without the assent of Parliament. These were recently called into use by the government to try to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary assent, but were vetoed by the supreme court after a legal case.

There is no such check on Mr Trump, nothing to stop him signing whatever he deems to be correct into an executive order and making it law.

The Republican party, buoyed by its resounding dominance of the senate has been completely sidelined by the Presidents position. They cannot check his power because they have no constitutional mechanism to do so, save for impeachment.

But he’s not doing anything wrong and is acting completely within the bounds of his role as the head of the executive branch of the US government.

The outcry that has followed this new immigration ban must give President Trump a clear moment of pause to reconsider the office to which he has been given and the clear responsibility to his 320 million stockholders. He would be wise to calm down his more extreme policies before America yells in a collective voice “You’re Fired”.

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Breaking Whispers- Berlin Christmas Market Attack: Manhunt continues

German police are continuing the manhunt for the suspect in Monday’s Christmas market attack.

The man who police are anxious to question a man who has been identified by the police as Anis A, a Tunisian man from the city of Tataouine.

He is suspected to have been the individual who hijacked a truck belonging to a Polish  citizen, Lukasz Urban who was later found dead nearby with gunshot and stab wounds.

The truck left the road and ploughed into a crowd at a busy Berlin Christmas Market, killing 12 people and injuring another 48 on Monday evening.

A Pakistani asylum seeker who was detained by police in the wake of the attack has since been released without charge.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack but this has yet to be confirmed by Germany’s interior ministry.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday laid flowers near the scene of the attack amidst heightened security, which has been echoed all across Europe.

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Merkel, pictured centre lays flowers at the Berlin attack site.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a review of security precautions with concerns that London could be the next target. The threat level in London has been listed as ‘severe’meaning an attack is highly likely.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said today “Keeping everyone safe remains the highest priority for the Met commissioner and for me.”

 

 

The Party Line is…………Hindsight

Throughout our lives, there are times when we make the wrong decisions. We choose one course of action over another, we support one thing where another may have been the more correct point of view and we express remorse when our decisions are proven to be wrong.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing and with hindsight I would say that at the time I would never have supported the war in Iraq.

I should qualify that last statement: I supported the British government undertaking to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. I believed that it was a logical and highly justified endeavour, I mean why wouldn’t I? This was a concerted military action to remove a tyrannical despot from power and free a people from a regime of terror that claimed so many of their fellow citizens.  It would also serve to protect us from his potentially hostile intent. I refused to believe those who said that it was an illegitimate war and supported the Blair position in this area.

But 13 years and almost 300,000 deaths later, I can say unequivocally that I was wrong.

The process by which a government admits it made a mistake is a much more complicated one and is generally not legislated for in any constitution. It becomes the province of the individual politician or government to determine the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any action undertaken, they have to be seen to take responsibility for their actions both previous and current. In the continuance of this imperative, the UK government called for a public enquiry into the government’s actions in both the lead up and the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Testimony was taken, evidence analysed, reports written and a week ago the results of this enquiry were made known to the general public and more particularly to the families of those who died as a result of this war.

At 6,000 pages the report is the most detailed examination of the Iraq war to date and its publication has shown the failings and backroom politics of the Blair administration during this period.

So you might be wondering, what else is there left to say that hasn’t already been said?

While the individual truths of the conflict and the lead up to it are slowly being disclosed, the key thing that characterises both the war in Iraq and the lead up to it is failure. Failures of international systems of law and governance and failures of the political process in the UK.

The Prime Minister of the time, Tony Blair has become a scapegoat for the systemic failures that allowed the war in Iraq to take place in the first place. If these systems had been as robust as is intended and portrayed, then war would have been impossible. Any concerted action by the Prime Minister with such a course in mind should have been checked at once by the cabinet, the party and the people of the UK. It was not, and the actions that Tony Blair undertook to force the country to war qualify as an abuse of executive power.

In his eagerness to support our American allies, he became blind to the severely questionable legality of invading a country which posed no immediate threat to the United Kingdom. The intelligence and security services failed to produce significant evidence of any so-called “weapons of mass destruction” and the case for invasion was a fudged coalition of half-truths, presented to the British people as concrete facts.

That is not to say that there was not significant opposition to the potential invasion of Iraq. Four senior ministers within the cabinet publicly voiced their opposition and were forced to resign. Public protests were widespread in both the UK and the US and many of our international partners voiced their opposition in the EU and in the United Nations.

Mr Blair conducted secret meetings with individuals outside of the regular parliamentary system, ignoring political procedure when it suited his aims. Political pressure was brought to bear on members of parliament, by both whip and lobby to force them to vote in the affirmative for war.

This absence of cabinet legitimacy prevented the instruments of government being used effectively once the decision to go to war was taken. As a direct result of this failure to utilise effective government our troops went into the war without the tools to effectively wage it, which contributed to the high number of service deaths in the conflict. Indeed, once the war ended, this failure to use government prevented the ability to produce a coherent strategy for the post war environment, allowing the Bush administration to pursue its damaging policy of complete structural destruction of the Iraqi system of government.

A country should at its heart, not plan for war and should exercise all possible actions to avoid this through diplomatic means. It is impossible to talk about the diplomatic methods to avoid war without addressing the chief diplomatic body of the time: The United Nations.

An organisation of mutual collaboration, designed to provide a check to the dictatorial and despotic ambitions of member countries as the previous League of Nations failed to do. In this endeavour it utterly failed to provide a significant check against the invasion ambitions of the US and UK. Its resolutions, while well-meaning were completely ignored when it suited the Bush administration and by proxy the Blair government. It should have pressed the member nations to exert political pressure on the US and UK and backed it up with the prospect of sanctions, both pre and post invasion. The gesture of placing Weapons inspectors in Iraq was a token one and achieved absolutely nothing but prolonging the period before war was declared regardless.

All efforts at diplomacy failed, but realistically was there any chance of them succeeding at all? Old animosities from the previous Iraq conflict, coupled with the American desire to fight back at the so-called “Axis of Evil” made the chances of a peaceful diplomatic solution very slim.

The American people, shocked out of their isolation by their biggest tragedy since Pearl Harbour in 9/11 can be somewhat forgiven for having an appetite for revenge. The American congress, however cannot be forgiven for allowing President Bush to pursue this agenda without a clear plan for the aftermath and for allowing their intelligence agencies to manipulate intelligence to suit a flimsy case.

An American politician advocating peaceful solutions at this time would like their UK counterparts be shouted down albeit more vociferously by their own people. In the aftermath of the war, the public opinion changed dramatically, as the US Army and its government became bogged down in the quagmire.

The failure to clearly plan for the aftermath of the War and the rush to utterly destroy the existing political structures of Iraq created the power vacuum and ultimately created the conditions for the Islamic State movement to exist. This is the greatest failure of the war in Iraq and has contributed to many more deaths and terrorist acts over the years following the cessation of operations.

The civilian enquiry into the War in Iraq should be applauded for both being thorough and unequivocal in its judgments, but such a mechanism should be in place in the constitution of this country and should not have to rely on civilian oversight. The problem with this, particularly in the UK is that Parliament is essentially the presence of the Crown in politics and as such cannot be seen to be wrong.

The weight of evidence, high number of deaths and obvious manipulation of government necessitates the need for strong political changes in this area. These changes must occur not just in the UK but in both the United States and the United Nations.

What can we do in the UK to prevent such a situation occurring in the future?

Changes in legislation to ensure that a Prime Minister cannot operate independently of his cabinet, the introduction of large-scale political engagement in the war making process be it from the populous or ministers independent of cabinet and party and the reintroduction of the historic practice of impeachment for those who flout constitutional law.

Additionally, we have to create a mechanism where civilian oversight in both foreign policy and the practice of war making becomes a legitimate function of government. Abuses of executive power should be documented and prevented via legislation and judicial restraints. It should not take a public outcry for these things to come to light, it should be parliamentary practice to review.

We have to create a climate where making war truly becomes a last resort and is conducted as a legitimate constitutional act, controlled by parliament and with the full consent of the people. I do accept that there are always situations where wars do not conform to these sorts of absolute aims, but by maintaining these absolute maxims and conditions we can more effectively manage the hardest duty of any government: declaring war.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Security

Security. Peace. Freedom to exist without fear of terror. Fundamental truths that exist at the very heart of good government. Fundamental truths which are under threat on an almost hourly basis.

In a globalised world where individuals can move freely between countries, internal security and external security have a symbiotic relationship where one determines the success of the other.

Maintaining this relationship has become a substantial drain on the resources of nation states, particularly those who expose themselves directly in both militaristic and diplomatic actions in those rogue nations and regimes. Exerting this influence leaves them vulnerable to reprisals, both in their spheres of influence and at home.

There are however, mechanisms in place between the various countries in the world to both combat the increasing threats and to disseminate information across the various law enforcement agencies which operate in each nation.

At no previous point in history has there been such vulnerability in international security with truly international threats manifesting themselves around the globe. Terrorist organisations seemingly operating without borders and using increasingly covert methods of spreading their messages of fear.

Intelligence, both for and counter plays an increasingly large part of the international response to these sorts of threats.  Anticipating and countering threats before they occur forms a vital part of this, saving lives and preventing tragedies.

Mutual defence treaties need to be maintained to prevent the rise of a larger foreign power with hostile intent and to provide a check against further acts of terror. 27 mid-size nations defending the interests of a small client nation have a greater chance of stopping a bigger nation exerting its agenda, being hostile or otherwise.

The mere presence of these sorts of treaties and international agencies keeps the complex spider web of international interdependency working.

But with every success using these methods, there are failures like Orlando, Paris and Amsterdam.

Terrorists and criminals hiding in plain sight, integrating themselves surreptitiously within minority communities until the need arises to perpetrate their acts.

Far too often, these individuals exploit legislation designed for altruistic methods, such as the European Union’s free movement of individuals within its borders doctrine. Organisations like Islamic State have used the smokescreen of the immigration crisis and the Syrian civil war to place individuals from their organisations into these countries, exploiting the compassionate nature of the European Union. For every altruistic act, there are those who wish to exploit it, for nefarious and corrupting aims.

Migration of individuals from these at risk countries, is being closely monitored by agencies both foreign and domestic but one has to ask the question, where do we draw the line? When does the terror threat become so severe that we pull up the drawbridge and look to our own security?

It is a political issue that speaks to the heart of every community within the European Union. When does the Union allow too much terrorist activity to occur for it to remain a viable secure entity?

It is a vital issue in government and has been drawn to the heart of the EU referendum debate in the campaigns of both the Brexit and Remain campaigns. Dire prognostications of doom have been made, should the vote lean towards the exit door with assumptions being made that our security services will be unable to cope with ongoing international threats without the support of our partners within the European Union. What they fail to state is that the bulk of the organisations designed to counter these threats do not depend on Britain remaining in the European Union, they are instead internationally independent agencies. The failure of the Brexit campaign to explain this obvious distinction explains why the Remain campaign are winning the security argument.

But in utilising these sorts of sentiments, they are engendering a climate of fear to what should be a legitimate question: Can the EU provide for Britain’s future security, when it perceptibly cannot manage its own?

In a globalised world, we cannot simply baton down the hatches and expect to survive the storm unscathed, we must take a positive assertive role in preserving our own security. International Co-operation and intelligence resource pooling enables us to do this and should form the bedrock of what we do to counter external threats.

Relationships of this nature thrive on co-operation between nations and although the EU referendum may result in us leaving this political union, our greater spirit of co-operation with our neighbours in this area should continue as it is mutually beneficial for all.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

How do we defeat Islamic State?

Baghdad, Aden, Brussels, Jakarta, Istanbul, Paris.  It is a sad litany of names all united in tragedy: they are all cities touched by Terrorism; they have all been successfully targeted by Islamic State.  It is an organisation which has killed almost 50,000 individuals throughout the Middle East and beyond.  Its European, African and Asian activities show a terrorist network which is expanding further and further beyond this area.   Despite the efforts of the international community, despite all of our victories the terrorists are still getting through, still spreading their message of hate, still causing the death of countless numbers.

A key part of the Islamic State machine is its use of Propaganda, from video to social media and beyond. It is how it recruits new members, maintains a political presence and enacts terrorist acts. We cannot simply close down every site or video which they use, as barring the use of media by individuals in the region would stop others in the region from expressing their legitimate opinions.  We must use their methods against them, posting interrogations of captured suspects, illustrating the methods we use to combat their followers. Every defeat of Islamic State must be broadcast on every channel in the region using every media. Illegitimate organisations such as the hacker collective Anonymous have voiced their intention to target Islamic State, most recently in the wake of the Brussels attacks. It is these organisations which should be brought into the fight, be it legitimately or covertly, we can use their skills to remove the ability of Islamic State to broadcast its message of hate or recruit new followers. These organisations can do this effectively without the wider need to cut off legitimate media in the region.

Islamic State purports the idea that it is an organisation engaged in warfare with the western powers only, as it supports its message of Anti-Semitism against non Muslims. The coalition of powers engaged in attacks against them, collectively known as Operation Inherent Resolve has over 30 countries 8 of which are in the region affected and are predominantly Muslim. This should be highlighted and used in propaganda against Islamic State to sabotage their assertion that it is only the Christian nations who are against them. At home in the nations affected and those not affected by terrorist acts, there must be a concerted effort to recruit and support the Muslim community and the local tribes in the combat area. It is these individuals who will stop the beginning of terrorism and fight Islamic State on their own territory. Radicalisation begins at home and will end when the communities themselves take responsibility for their members. We need to show that they are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

A propaganda war must be supported by a concerted international effort to combat the territorial and political gains made by Islamic State.  An invasion force, made up of predominantly western nations would ultimately prove counterproductive and replicate the same conditions which allowed Islamic State to flourish in the first place. That being said western intervention is inevitable, however it must be restricted to a support capacity only. The local nations must be seen to be spearheading the efforts; else Islamic State will use its propaganda machine to turn the region against coalition forces.

The two key countries to this effort are Syria and Russia. Syria, a country torn apart by civil war and one of the two areas where Islamic State predominantly operate (the other being Iraq) has recently called a cease fire between rebels and the Al Assad regime.  Russian support and political pressure was crucial in making this ceasefire a reality. It is the Russian government which can effectively use its influence over the Assad regime to secure a peaceful transition to alternative government. Assad is a war criminal, guilty of many crimes against his own people and he must answer for them in front of the international community, but great care must be taken in when this transition takes place. A transition which occurs too fast could result in an unstable government replacing a stable one as was witnessed in Iraq upon the transfer of power from the coalition to civilian government. It may be necessary to leave him in power for the moment, but place significant restrictions in place to prevent him from abusing his people as he has done previously. There must be a timetable for the transition of power to occur and this can be achieved by engaging and unifying the legitimate opposition groups in the Syrian political system. Leaving Assad in power for a limited time would conceivably be a workable scenario for the Russian federation as it continues its international political rehabilitation after the Ukraine crisis.  A stabilised Syrian government could turn its attention to eliminating those terrorist elements from their country, chief among them being Islamic State.

As stated previously, Russian involvement was integral in bringing the Syrian civil war to an end but the need for Russia to be involved goes much deeper than that. Russia with its 16 million Muslims has a vested interest in stopping Islamic State and terrorist attacks on its citizens have been met with retaliatory strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq. Russian influence on Syria and Iran can have the effect of concentrating the efforts of these countries in eradicating the extremists.  Its inclusion in Operation Inherent Resolve would bring it into an alliance of co-operation with many countries that it has become estranged from, particularly the USA.  Drawing Russia back into the fold would enable the other coalition partners to impose a crucial distinction on their future strikes, stopping them from attacking legitimate opposition groups in Syria.

One thing is abundantly clear, the international community can do more than it is doing.  The predominantly regional conflict is isolated and it is easier to do less to address a problem when it is not on your doorstep. Additionally Islamic State is like no other terrorist organisation in history, operating without borders or centralised country. What this needs is a leader or a nation to take the lead and make it their primary concern.  Many leaders cannot because of their own provincial concerns/ responsibilities but all it would take is one to lead the way and galvanise international action.

There is no magic bullet that will end the conflict against Islamic State. What is set out here is one potential blueprint. A difficult and uncertain path lies ahead for the World as they tackle this threat. One thing is a given though, we will face this threat together.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Middle East and Africa: The Nightmare Scenario

“We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity”

With a simple audio message, the die was cast. The fates of both organizations became intertwined. Boko Haram and Islamic State became allies.

Islamic State, a nascent political power has attempted to establish an Islamic Caliphate over the Middle East and North Africa. But with this alliance, it appears that their objectives have widened. In this expanded sphere of influence, they have attempted to seek allies with common ground.

Boko Haram is an organisation that has primarily confined its activities to Nigeria, making sorties into Cameroon, Niger and Chad. While it claims to be a terrorist organization, many of its methods which include kidnapping, drug smuggling and murder have more in common with a gang than they do a terrorist organisation. They have committed many high profile crimes, such as the kidnapping of 200 school girls in Nigeria and many suicide bombings across central Africa.

The joining of these two organizations adds legitimacy to the Boko Haram cause, while allowing Islamic State to gain a foothold in Africa without actually putting boots on the ground. It also would allow Islamic State to deflect much of the flak from itself onto Boko Haram by having them carry out their agenda.

But what if this is the start of a network of alliances, across the terrorist organizations of the world?

Hamas joins Al-Qaeda, Al Qaeda joins Al Shabaab, Hezbollah joins The Muslim Liberation front and they all join Islamic State before hooking up with the pirates in Somalia.

Suddenly where there were multiple organisations only one would exist, an organization entirely devoted to terrorism but large enough and diverse enough to conduct its activities in multiple spheres of influence.

It could use its members to attack, undermine and overthrow the government of any country in its way and once it did it could use that power base to create financial and military assistance to any of its subsidiary organisations.  Subsidiaries occupying opposing powers could create the distractions required for the main organization to seize control of any country of its choice.

All of this is reliant on one thing and one thing only, common ground. For these factions to cooperate there must be a commonality between them and at the moment the only common ground is their mutual hatred of western governments.  Their ideologies are a hotch potch of extremism and religious fundamentalism, each operating with its own interpretation of scripture and beliefs.

Intercession by religious leaders in respect of these movements could create the perfect conditions for an international terrorist organisation to wage a truly international jihad against those countries which do not practice their particular religion.  Evidence of the beginnings of this Jihad can be seen in the singling out of Jewish people in the Paris massacres and the summary executions of Christians in Egypt. A unified organization would only exacerbate this disturbing trend to its natural conclusion, a religious world war.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Is IS actually a fascist organisation?

One cannot look at the current affairs of the world without encountering one very prominent and disturbing organisation: The Islamic State (IS). Its spectre looms large over the Middle East claiming both territory and lives, but if you look further into the organization itself, past the propaganda you start to see the fundamentals of the politics being employed. Questions begin to sprout, one of which I will attempt to answer here.

To effectively examine whether IS is essentially a fascist organization we must look at several key factors the most obvious being their methods and their politics. We can also examine their history to understand their future. The easiest way to confirm this is to compare them against the greatest exponent of the fascist ideal in the last 200 years: The National Socialist Movement in Germany.

The Nazi Party invaded all of the social and political structures of Germany, perverting a great and noble people into the worst cycle of human depravity. No structure was so greatly invaded than the minds of the people of Germany, organisations like the Hitler Youth exploited the young forcing them to accept their ideology from an early age. They also exploited the ordinary working class people of Germany, so humbled by the effects of the great depression using rallies, propaganda and promises of a new future.

IS, while not in possession of a country rather a fluid state employs similar methods to radicalise ordinary Muslims. It uses social media and the internet to broadcast its messages of hate, none more so than the sickening videos of their massacres. Its videos of the vile beheading of westerners like Alan Hemming push the ideology that the western powers can be challenged and they can do nothing about it.

The use of obvious propaganda instruments like social media is supported by its use of subversive propaganda. IS targets vulnerable Islamic youth radicalising them with promises that they are doing what Allah wants them to do. The fact that a lot of these “Jihadi Johns” are springing up in the combat zones is proof that their message is getting through. It is not just male Muslims being targeted, there has been a disturbing rise in “Jihadi brides”, vulnerable women lured to the Middle East as part of a scheme to marry them to IS fighters. The fact that it is now an offence to view a beheading video online under anti-terrorism laws is testament to how seriously the Western powers view IS propaganda.

Religion played a prominent but not obvious part in Nazi ideology, manifesting itself in the myth of the Aryan race and its divine destiny to rule the world. The Nazis perverted pagan mysticism and scripture to suit their ideology and supported this through the use of the aforementioned propaganda rallies and book burnings. Even newer mediums such as film were used as tools for ramming home this belief system, directors like Leni Riefenstahl were indoctrinated into making propaganda films like Victory of Faith.

IS exploits religion in a far more obvious way, using it as a bedrock of their organization. You cannot view a video of IS fighters without encountering references to Allah and the Quran, even though every Muslim organization has denounced them as zealots. The establishment of the Islamic Caliphate has been cloaked in the scriptures and traditions of Sunni Islam. Radicalised clerics have used Islamic texts to legitimize the movements and the massacres.

The core membership of the Nazi party was primarily composed of politicized veterans of the First World War and middle class Germans. Men with experience of combat and higher education than the disaffected individuals that they drew to their cause.

The current leader and Emir of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad obtained a BA, MA and a PHD in Islamic studies from the University of Baghdad. Many of the core members of IS are former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican guard, men such as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari. Both men were dismissed from the guard in 2003 after the American led invasion of Iraq, drifting into radicalization and then open insurrection against Iraq and Syria. Education and military experience has enhanced the effectiveness of IS and its message.

Both organizations have used genocide to expand their spheres of influence. The Nazi’s used eugenics as a cloak for the removal of those they deemed to be inferior like the Jews and homosexuals. IS regularly engages in the genocide of Shia Muslims but does not cloak its activities, in fact it pushes them to the forefront of its propaganda message. In addition the principals of Lebensraum and the Islamic Caliphate are very similar in their intention to unite both Islamic and Germanic peoples.

Moving away from National Socialism, comparing IS to fascism itself provides a good comparison but it ultimately raises more questions than answers. The chief virtues of Fascism like totalitarianism and direct action through violence, together with the fascist view of the roles of Men and Women are in evidence when looking at IS.

Its desire to purge all pervasive and corrupting influences to enable a regeneration also harkens to the Fascist ideal of palingenesis. The idea of sweeping away the old order in favour of the new, or in this case sweeping away those who do not share the IS interpretation of Islam.

However the other chief tenet of Fascism, the nationalist ideal is not in evidence because the IS nation state has not been established as a stable country. There is no certainty if this will take place, not if the nations of the coalition have anything to say about it.

As an observer of this movement, you could argue that once the area is brought entirely under IS control that the green shoots of Nationalism will spring up to complement those fascistic qualities which already exist in IS, but it remains to be seen.

While IS shares many similarities with Fascism, the ultimate judgment as to whether it is or is not will only be borne out by time and in all likelihood not by this generation of political observers.

As members of the politically aware world it is our responsibility to form these judgments and make such comparisons to gauge the principles and motivations of the political organisations involved. In short we must always ask these questions.

Dedicated to LSS: Thanks for the idea and support.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Failure of “Flat Pack” Democracy

Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and numerous other Arab speaking and Asian countries.

The names read like a who’s who of the Foreign Offices “must avoid” list. What do they have in common?

Simple, they have experimented in democracy, with varying successes and failures.

Let’s take Afghanistan first, the American led invasion of 2001 while being primarily an act of revenge for 9/11 had one very important thing, the support of the local leaders. The tribes of Afghanistan, militarised in the form of the Northern Alliance who long despised the Taliban had no trouble falling in with the Americans in their war of freedom.

The post war government of Afghanistan, led by Mohammed Karzai is a western friendly government, eager to fall in line with its American backers.  The April 2014 election, coincidental with the withdrawal of the bulk of the American forces from Afghanistan was a widely contested and criticised affair.  To date there has been no clear winner announced amidst rumours of electoral vote rigging and corruption of officials. Democracy has in this case bred corruption.

Iraq, the second great American war of the 21st century was an equally short affair. The government, while enjoying popular support from the mostly Shia population is without the means to effectively defend  itself in the same way that it’s Ba’ath (the party of Saddam Hussein) did.  The Sunni bankrolled Islamic State (IS) organisation has been allowed to rise in Iraq in the vacuum of power left by the demise of the aforementioned dictator. IS now controls large parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, cities like Tikrit, Mosul and Fallujah and has perpetrated appalling war crimes in its pursuit of its aims. Democracy, while present has been proven ineffective against brutality.

Eqypt, the great and ancient power eager to shake off the chains of the oppressive Hosni Mubarak presidency was the next to rise up in revolt.  No one can forget the scenes in Tahir square, it was a regime change that was as popular as it was swift. Free elections followed and it was believed that democracy would prevail. Democracy did for a time, but revolutions are fickle things as the Muslim Brotherhood found out when the army coalition of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wrestled power back from the government.

Rather than reel off another narrative on the failure of democracy in Libya, I shall quote one disturbing fact, this: The Libyan government does not control its own capital, Tripoli, it has been in the hands of Islamist militants since the start of 2014. Muammar Gaddafi, so much a dominant figure over the last 40 years left a power vacuum which the current government has struggled to fill.

Syria is a sad and tragic story and has been in a state of civil war since the dawn of the Arab Spring in 2011. Where the people of Syria have suffered, the Islamic State has profited from the proliferation of weapons and combatants eager to embrace their extremist view of Islam. The failure of the surrounding Arab states and the Western powers to act has led to the growth of this genocidal band of fanatics in Syria and can be blamed for the current crisis.

The countries highlighted above together with several others were enthusiastic for change, but once it did the imposition of the democratic framework from the ground up has not worked.  In most cases the free people cannot move past the previous system, be it dictatorship, or corrupt form of democracy. Surely the failure of “Flat pack” democracy is the proof that what works in the western hemisphere does not work in the east, or the south. The countries that have adopted this have become political and conflict quagmires, where the innocent people of those countries become bogged down casualties.

So what are the alternatives?  Is there a happy medium that allows the rule of strong law but retains the rights and individual freedoms of the people?  The dictatorship for all its faults does fulfil at least one of these aims if only at the expense of the other.

If such a thing exists, the multitudes across the Middle East and Africa need this as soon as possible.

The Writing Mercenary- 12/9/2014

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

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