Tag Archives: Charlie Hebdo

France’s Surveillance Law Amid Terror Created by The French Republic

By Tony Cartalucci
May 15, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

hollande-equalityCan a new surveillance law help stop terrorists the government is already tracking and simply choosing not to stop? 

France has announced that in the wake of the so-called “Charlie Hebdo Shooting,” it will be passing a controversial new bill granting security agencies unprecedented powers to tap the communications of France’s population without judicial overview.

Impossible to pass without having first provoked fear, hatred, division, and hysteria across the French population, and still facing stiff resistance from civil liberty activists, the bill’s passage raises further suspicions regarding the fatal January 2015 shooting in regards to who organized the incident and who stood most to benefit.

The Guardian in its article, “France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack,” would report:

The French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.

The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

The Guardian would also claim that:

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, defended the bill as “necessary and proportionate”, saying that to compare it to the mass surveillance Patriot Act introduced in the United States after the 9/11 attacks was a lie.

He said that the previous French law on wiretapping dated back to 1991, “when there were no mobile phones or internet,” and the new bill was crucial in the face of extremist threats.

Not a Lack of Surveillance 

As seen in nearly every recent terror attack both in Europe and North America including the “Charlie Hebdo shooting” and the more recent Garland, Texas attack, the alleged suspects behind the attacks all have one thread in common – they were all already under the watch of security agencies for years, some even imprisoned one or more times for terror-related and/or other violent offenses, some even having traveled overseas to fight alongside Western-backed terrorists in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

The Guardian itself admits that the French government alone has over 1,400 people under watch, including hundreds of terrorists who have recently returned from fighting alongside Western-backed terrorists including Al Qaeda and its regional franchise, the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Among these monitored potential risks were in fact the suspects behind the “Charlie Hebdo shooting.”

Slate Magazine would report in their article, “The Details of Paris Suspect Cherif Kouachi’s 2008 Terrorism Conviction,” that:

Kouachi was arrested in January 2005, accused of planning to join jihadists in Iraq. He was said to have fallen under the sway of Farid Benyettou, a young “self-taught preacher” who advocated violence, but had not actually yet traveled to Iraq or committed any acts of terror. Lawyers at the time said he had not received weapons training and “had begun having second thoughts,” going so far as to express “relief” that he’d been apprehended.

Kourachi and his brother would be reported to have traveled to the Middle East to receive training from Al Qaeda, then to have fought in Syria in a war backed in part by France, before returning home and carrying out their grisly terror attack, all while being tracked by French intelligence.

If Kouachi previously could be arrested for “association with wrongdoers with the intention of committing a terrorist act,” why wasn’t he arrested immediately upon his return to France for having received and employed military training by a terrorist organization?

CNN would report in an article titled, “France tells U.S. Paris suspect trained with al Qaeda in Yemen,” that:

Western intelligence officials are scrambling to learn more about possible travel of the two Paris terror attack suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, with new information suggesting one of the brothers recently spent time in Yemen associating with al Qaeda in that country, U.S. officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Additional information from a French source close to the French security services puts one of the brothers in Syria.

To explain how terrorists well-known to France’s legal system and intelligence community could simply “disappear,” the Wall Street Journal in an article titled, “Overburdened French Dropped Surveillance of Brothers,” would attempt to claim:

The terror attacks in Paris that have killed 17 people over three days this week represent one of the worst fears—and failures—of counterterrorist officials: a successful plot coordinated by people who had once been under surveillance but who were later dropped as a top priority.

The U.S. provided France with intelligence showing that the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo massacre received training in Yemen in 2011, prompting French authorities to begin monitoring the two brothers, according to U.S. officials. But that surveillance of Said and Chérif Kouachi came to an end last spring, U.S. officials said, after several years of monitoring turned up nothing suspicious.

It is a narrative that begs to be believed – considering the brothers had already tangled with the law, already traveled to Yemen to receive training from Al Qaeda, and with evidence suggesting they were indeed still being tracked since it is now known they have recently returned from Syria. The Wall Street Journal would also claim that France depends heavily on US intelligence, contradicting US intelligence officials who have said their information came from their French counterparts.

France reportedly has over 1,000 citizens under surveillance who have recently traveled to Iraq and Syria, believed to have fought alongside terrorists France itself has been arming. In an NBC article titled, “French Intelligence Is Tracking 1,000 Who Have Been to Iraq, Syria: Expert,” it is reported that:

“French intelligence is mostly focused today on more than 1,000 French citizens that traveled to Syria and Iraq since 2012,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, the author of “Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda.”

He added that one-fifth of them were being tracked around the clock. “This is a problem of resources,” he added. “We cannot follow everyone.”

Brisard said the brothers had been “well known to French intelligence [for] several years now.”

The problem that led up to the “Charlie Hebdo shooting” was clearly not a lack of intelligence or surveillance. French security agencies more than adequately identified the “Charlie Hebdo shooting” perpetrators as potential threats and tracked them for years beforehand. The problem was what appears to be a deliberate effort to keep these terrorists roaming freely among society. Free to join French-backed mercenary forces abroad, and free to commit heinous acts of terror at home, both serving the singular agenda of expanding Western hegemony abroad while preserving the primacy of select special interests at home.

New Surveillance is For Crushing Freedom, Not Terror

As already explained in painstaking detail, had the French government been interested in actually stopping terrorism, including the flight of its own citizens to the Middle East to participate in a war the French government itself is backing, it could have done so easily. Existing laws and France’s current security agencies successfully identified the impending threat that led to the “Charlie Hebdo shooting,” but willfully failed to stop it – with certain factions of French intelligence having even played a potential role in executing it.Therefore, clearly the solution to stopping terrorism is in fact evicting the criminal special interests occupying power throughout the French government, and more broadly, from across the Western World. However, such an eviction will now become exponentially more difficult to execute, thanks to France’s new surveillance laws that give them virtually unhindered access to their citizenry’s data, granting them an unparalleled strategic advantage.

Indeed, France’s new surveillance laws will not stop terrorism at home nor quell the legions of terror they are backing, ravaging lands abroad – instead – they will ensure the uncontested expansion of terror used to coerce the French population at home while justifying and carrying out extraterritorial conquest abroad.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Police, far right linked to attack on kosher grocery during Charlie Hebdo shooting

By Anthony Torres
May 9, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The arrest of an arms dealer linked to the neo-fascist National Front (FN) and the French police points to the possible role of the state and the far right in the terrorist attacks carried out in January in Paris by Amedy Coulibaly on the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, and by the Kouachi brothers on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

In late January, Claude Hermant, his partner, and another man were arrested for having repaired “many” decommissioned weapons from Eastern European countries. According to La Voix du Nord, the local paper near Lille, where Hermant lives, these weapons “were then delivered to criminal gangs, and not only those in Lille.”

Hermant reportedly sold Coulibaly, directly or through third persons, the weapons which he used to carry out the Hypercacher killings, according to the same newspaper: “It’s a very serious lead, which we hope to confirm soon.” The trail points to Belgium, where “Hermant apparently had ties in the context of his broader network. Let us recall that Coulibaly obtained his weapons at Charleroi,” in Belgium, the newspaper said.

La Voix du Nord published some extracts of emails sent between Hermant and police in November 2014. In one email, the policeman writes: “Hi Claude, we discussed things with our superiors. … We are OK with the two subjects you raised with us (weapons, Charleroi).”

These emails strongly suggest that Hermant could have received the support of intelligence services or of police to deliver weapons to Coulibaly or other Islamists. The newspaper continues, “Suppose that you found such messages (a dozen in all) that a policeman sent to Hermant, on November 21, 2014, at 8:47 a.m. Suppose that a close associate of the accused certified, ‘Claude Hermant has covered his bases’.”

Police officials were thus aware that Hermant was trafficking weapons and who he was selling them to. This again raises, very directly, the question of the role of the state in the deadly attacks of January 2015 in Paris.

It is already documented that Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers were known to the intelligence services and to police. The Kouachi brothers were under intelligence surveillance from November 2011 to June 2014; they were also placed on British and US surveillance lists. From 2011 to 2013, one of the brothers repeatedly traveled to Islamist training camps in Yemen.

As for Coulibaly, he was convicted for having plotted the jailbreak of an Islamist activist. He met Cherif Kouachi in prison.

The French state is complicit in the arming of the Islamist networks that are active in this social layer in France, and which Paris is using as part of its proxy war to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In an interview with Le Monde, President François Hollande even insisted that France had been arming Syrian Islamist forces as far back as the spring of 2013. Such forces, when deployed in Syria, can rely on training and operational assistance from French soldiers and CIA agents.

These Islamist groups are used to foment terrorist attacks and wage a neo-colonial war aimed at installing a pro-imperialist regime in Syria.

The reports of Hermant’s weapons-dealing activities raise the most serious questions: did sections of the state with ties to the far right encourage or at least tolerate the preparation of the January attacks for political reasons? Hollande exploited the attacks to shift the political atmosphere, place 10,000 soldiers in the streets, accelerate attacks on democratic rights and promote the FN as indispensable to mainstream politics. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher, Hollande invited FN leader Marine Le Pen to the Elysée presidential palace.

Hermant’s comments suggest that he believed he was acting on behalf of the state. The weapons trafficker and police informant insists that he “will not be the next Marc Fievet,” referring to a former customs inspector tasked with infiltrating organized crime circles, but arrested by Canadian authorities and abandoned by his superiors.

Hermant’s ties with the police point to the growing integration of the FN in the security forces, who emerged politically strengthened from the attacks carried out by the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly. Since then, the Socialist Party (PS) government has voted new intelligence law and boosted the defense budget, while the FN is continuing its normalization in mainstream bourgeois politics.

These events constitute a warning to the working class. A reactionary milieu tied to the security services, involving both far-right operatives and Islamist terrorists, is being brought forward as shock troops to attack the working class.

Hermant was trained as a paratrooper in the 1980s and reportedly went on to fight in Croatia. In the 1990s, he joined the FN’s security service, the Department of Protection and Security (DPS), a paramilitary group modeled on the special forces. It was led by Bernard Courcelle, the former captain of a parachute regiment and informer for military intelligence. The DPS was reportedly financed by weapons sales, according to Libération, including to Chechen forces through Croatia.

The gun dealer was thus connected to paramilitary organizations composed of former soldiers carrying out missions involving critical interests of the French state, both at home and internationally.

Hermant reportedly infiltrated activist groups such as SOS-Racism, and led punitive actions in impoverished French suburbs. He left for Congo-Brazzaville in 1999, tasked with a mission by the Congolese government of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is closely tied to French interests. Hermant was incarcerated there before being released by a presidential pardon and leaving the DPS.

He led the Flemish House at Lambersart, a far-right association that was shut down in 2012. He reportedly now works in a restaurant in the Lille metropolitan area.

Garland Shooting: Gladio – Texas-Style

Garland Shooting Involved Troupe of Practiced War Propagandists and Patsies Long on the FBI’s Watch List

By Tony Cartalucci
May 5, 2015
Land Destroyer

 

pamela-geller-afdi-in-garland-texas-1ABC News confirms that one of the suspects of the Garland Texas shooting incident, featuring professional war propagandists of the so-called “American Freedom Defense Intitiative” (AFDI), has been under FBI surveillance and investigation since at least as early as 2007.

Their report, “Garland Shooting Suspect Elton Simpson’s Father: ‘My Son Made a Bad Choice’,” states:

Followers of ISIS had been sending messages about the event in Texas for more than a week, calling for attacks. One referenced January’s Charlie Hebdo massacre in France and said it was time for “brothers” in the United States to do their part.

Simpson was well known to the FBI. Five years ago he was convicted for lying to federal agents about his plans to travel to Africa where investigators alleged he planned to join a terror group.

The investigation into Simpson reached back to July 2007, when he was recorded saying of fighting with Islamists, “I know we can do it, man. But you got to find the right people that… Gotta have connects.”

Despite the event allegedly increasing chatter amongst “Islamic State” (ISIS) groups online, and despite the suspect Elton Simpson being long under FBI surveillance and even sentenced to 3 years of probation resulting from a terror-related investigation, he was still able to conveniently conspire and carry out an attack on a highly provocative propaganda stunt in the state of Texas.

Garland Shooting Fits Pattern of Larger Staged Terror Campaign

As with all other staged provocations, including similar shootings in Paris, France, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Sydney, Australia, the suspects were well known to state security agencies for years, but allowed to conspire and carry out predictable, deadly, and politically highly convenient attacks. All of this echos the similar and long-since exposed staged provocations of the notorious “Operation Gladio,” carried out by NATO.

In Paris, France, the suspects in the so-called “Charlie Hebdo Shooting” were under the watch of security forces for years, were in and out of jail specifically for terrorism, were known to have left France to join terrorists fighting with Western-backing in Syria and return, only to be left “unwatched” for precisely the 6 months they would need to plan, assemble the weapons for, and prepare to execute the attack.

In Copenhagen, an assailant who attacked a synagogue killing 2, was also well known to security agencies. The Washington Post would report in their article, “Danish attacks echo France,” that:

The assailant in this weekend’s attacks was well known to Danish intelligence, Madsen said. In November 2013, Hussein stabbed a teenager in the thigh while aboard a commuter train, and according to Danish media, he had recently been released from prison following his conviction. 

But it was unclear whether this weekend’s assailant was under surveillance and, if so, how he managed to slip free long enough to plan an attack with an assault rifle.

Once again, suspects under surveillance and even arrested and imprisoned as violent offenders or as terrorists, managed to conveniently “slip free” of security agencies just in time to carry out attacks that just so happen to help the West continue its extraterritorial wars raging abroad, and continue building an abhorrent police state back at home.

Finally, in Australia, a suspect who held up a cafe in a deadly hostage crisis, was literally brought to Australia from Iran for the purpose of waging a propaganda war on Iran. When this failed to materialize,the “shape-shifting sheik” would morph to fit the villain necessary to match whatever narrative was currently being floated around the Western media. His final performance would help bolster the illusion that ISIS is an enemy of the West, rather than a creation and perpetuation of it, and to this day serving as the West’s extraterritorial mercenary forces in nations like Syria and Iraq.

A Modern Day Gladio 

NATO’s Operation Gladio, and its larger “stay behind” networks established after World War II across Europe and at the center of multiple grisly assassinations, mass shootings, and terrorist bombings designed to demonize the Soviet Union as well as criminalize and crush support for left-leaning political parties growing in popularity in Western Europe. It would be determined that NATO’s own covert militant groups were killing innocent Western Europeans in order to effect a “strategy of tension” used to instill fear, obedience, and control over Western populations.

A similar campaign of staged terror has been and is still being carried out not only across Europe but also now in the Americas – including in Canada. The purpose of this campaign is to divide society socially and politically, while helping to radicalize young people to join the ranks of US-British-Saudi armed and funded mercenary groups abroad in nations like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya, and then return to commit staged provocations to inspire fear, hatred, and obedience at home.

It is a conflict of which both sides are controlled by the same criminal special interests. While it is clear that Western security forces maintain a large pool of potential terrorists they intentionally allow to roam free until needed, it may not be clear to many of what the backgrounds are of those who organized the event in Garland, Texas that allegedly provoked this most recent attack.

Neo-Con Propagandists Are Hiding Behind Freedom of Speech, Not Defending It

The supposed trigger for this provocation was a “draw Mohammad” contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Intitiative (AFDI), a performing Neo-Conservative propaganda troupe consisting of the Bush-era US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, full-time propagandist Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer, and Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Their debut performance was in 2010, where they came out to protest the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” supposedly to be built near the ruins of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City. The mosque was never actually built, not because of the public backlash, but because the entire controversy was manufactured. The “imam” allegedly behind the mosque, was in fact a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, funded and backed by the very same corporate-funded think tanks that set out to protest against the planned “mosque.” In other words, the entire scandal was manufactured on both sides by the same special interests for the purpose of manipulating the public.

Since then, with little success, AFDI and its various affiliates in North America and Europe have attempted to stoke hatred not toward “radical Islam,” terrorists, or the US-backed regimes arming and funding them, but against all Muslims. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for his part, while claiming to be defending “free speech” in Texas, has been busy trying to infringe on the rights of Muslims back in his home country.

He has even gone as far as calling for the complete censorship of the Qu’ran. The Telegraph in their article, “Ban Koran like Mein Kampf, says Dutch MP, would report:

The Koran should be banned as a “fascist book” alongside Mein Kampf because it urges Muslims to kill non-believers, says Dutch populist MP Geert Wilders.

Wilders and the rest of AFDI are not exercising free speech, but are in fact attempting to inspire fear, suspicion, hatred, and tangible violence against not just “terrorists,” but all 1 billion plus practitioners of the Islamic faith, many of whom are fighting and dying this very moment battling real terrorists, ironically armed, funded, and fully backed by the very Neo-Cons that have assembled AFDI.

Not only does AFDI hold freedom of speech in contempt and actively set out to destroy it for others, they are now hiding behind it to further strip the rights, peace, and stability away from people both in the West and abroad. The so-called “War on Terror” that AFDI’s rhetoric actively supports has served as the impetus to do everything from expanding warrantless surveillance and an ever expanding police state at home, to help garner support for wars of geopolitical conquest abroad.

Not About “Free Speech” 

With these facts in mind, it is clear that “free speech” is a canard used by both the “left” and “right” to distract from the real purpose of the Garland shooting, and other acts of provocation like it. It distracts from the fact that all of the perpetrators have been well-known to security agencies for years, even sentenced and/or imprisoned by various courts, as well as investigated and kept under surveillance. It distracts from the fact that the event at the center of the attacks was organized and carried out by those who themselves have actively sought to curtail the freedoms of others, not to mention foster wars that have ended or otherwise destroyed the lives of millions. It distracts from the fact that the very Neo-Cons telling the world to fear “Islam” represent the same special interests arming and funding literal Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists across North Africa, the Middle East, and even Central and East Asia.

The AFDI represents one insidious arm of a larger criminal conspiracy that has verifiably helped end the lives of tens of thousands in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen since 2011. It also represents the same special interests that lied to the world to justify invading Iraq in 2003, ending the lives of some 1 million people and leaving the country, to this very day, in constant deadly chaos.

The Garland shooting is not about freedom of speech, but rather about criminal special interests playing both sides of a manufactured strategy of  tension to achieve further bloodshed, death, and conquest abroad, while inviting fear, division, and a growing police state stripping us all of our rights here at home.

Neither the AFDI nor the patsies involved in the shooting deserve the public’s sympathy or defense. Rather, they both demand the scrutiny and vigilance required to break the rhetorical back of this conspiracy, and strip away the support it receives from both sides of a mass-manipulated public.

Doonesbury cartoonist attacked for criticizing Charlie Hebdo

By Patrick Martin
April 27, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Garry Trudeau, the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip, has come under attack from right-wing editorialists and media pundits for publicly criticizing anti-Muslim cartoons appearing in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, calling them a form of hate speech.

Trudeau’s brief remarks were delivered at Long Island University April 10, where he received the George Polk Career Award for his more than four decades of work as a cartoonist, in the course of which he has frequently had to battle censorship of his outspoken liberal views. Only three years ago, 50 newspapers refused to carry his strip during a week when he bitingly attacked Republican politicians who oppose abortion rights even in the case of rape or incest.

The central point made by Trudeau is that Charlie Hebdo was engaged, not in satirizing the powerful, but in vilifying the most oppressed section of the French population, Muslim immigrants, who face the highest levels of unemployment, poverty, police harassment and imprisonment.

Trudeau was of course horrified by the bloody massacre in January at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, when an attack by two Islamist gunmen left 12 people dead, include most of the magazine’s senior cartoonists. He contributed to an online tribute to the murdered cartoonists. His refusal to go along with the retrospective glorification of the content of the cartoons, despite the enormous wave of media propaganda that has followed, is an act of intellectual and moral courage.

For that very reason, his statement has been vilified as an attack on the victims of terrorism, in a series of columns by right-wing pundits, including David Frum of The Atlantic, Cathy Young of Reason magazine, and Ross Douthat of the New York Times.

Frum made the most sweeping attack, citing the killings at Charlie Hebdo, the related attack on a kosher bakery in Paris, and a subsequent attack in Copenhagen, Denmark, and declaring, “For this long record of death and destruction—and for many other deaths as well—Garry Trudeau blamed the people who drew and published the offending cartoons.”

The right-wing pundit claims that Trudeau applied “privilege theory” to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, justifying it because the victims were from the white elite, while the gunmen were from the immigrant Muslim underclass. “To fix the blame for the killing on the murdered journalists, rather than the gunmen, Trudeau invoked the underdog status of the latter,” Frum writes.

He goes on to claim that news organizations in the United States that reported on the anti-Islam cartoons in Charlie Hebdo did not reprint them because they were afraid of terrorist attack, drawing the conclusion, “Violence does work.”

Trudeau offered a different explanation for the non-publication of the anti-Muslim cartoons in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he addressed the right-wing attack on his Long Island University remarks. US editors did not reprint the cartoons because they were demeaning and racist, he maintained. If similar cartoons had targeted African-Americans, they would be universally denounced and repudiated.

Douthat and Young both cite Frum’s column approvingly in their own shorter diatribes, echoing his claim that Trudeau had based his remarks on an extreme version of identity politics. These criticisms are baseless slanders, as can be easily demonstrated by looking at what Trudeau actually said. The cartoonist cited the example of the great satirists of the French Enlightenment.

“Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists such as Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

“By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech…”

The same issue was raised in a perspective published on the World Socialist Web Site immediately after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. WSWS Chairman David North rejected the claim by British historian Simon Schama that the French magazine was in the tradition of the great satirists of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, writing:

Schama places Charlie Hebdo in a tradition to which it does not belong. All the great satirists to whom Schama refers were representatives of a democratic Enlightenment who directed their scorn against the powerful and corrupt defenders of aristocratic privilege. In its relentlessly degrading portrayals of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo has mocked the poor and the powerless.

North explained that the orgy of praise for Charlie Hebdo, summed up in the slogan “I am Charlie,” raised at demonstrations in Paris, was an effort to provide an ideological justification for US and French imperialism:

The killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editors is being proclaimed an assault on the principles of free speech that are, supposedly, held so dear in Europe and the United States. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is, thus, presented as another outrage by Muslims who cannot tolerate Western “freedoms.” From this the conclusion must be drawn that the “war on terror”—i.e., the imperialist onslaught on the Middle East, Central Asia and North and Central Africa—is an unavoidable necessity.

These efforts are doubly hypocritical, given the onslaught on democratic rights, including freedom of the press, in all the Western countries, especially the United States. The Obama administration has targeted more journalists for surveillance and more whistleblowers for prosecution than any other in US history, singling out those who have played major roles in exposing the crimes of the US government, like Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange.

Trudeau is not an avowed opponent of imperialism, but rather a liberal who apparently supports the Obama administration, albeit with some disappointment. That does not detract from the principled character of his public repudiation of the right-wing efforts to whip up anti-Muslim prejudice.

The author also recommends:

“Free speech” hypocrisy in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo
[9 January 2015]

Muslim vs. White Mass Murderers

By Matt Peppe
March 31, 2015
Dissident Voice

 

islamophobia1In the early months of 2015, there have been two separate mass murders inside France that have generated headlines worldwide for their brutality and disregard for human life. In early January, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi entered the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and gunned down 11 employees, and shot dead one police officer on their way out. Last week, in an act of mass murder with more than 12 times the number of victims, 27-year-old pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally guided the plane he was flying straight into the French Alps and killed all 150 people on board. Yet it is only the former murderous act that has been described by politicians and portrayed in the media as an existential threat and an example of terrorism.

The coverage of the Kouachi brothers downplayed their humanity by describing them as calculating, rational, indifferent killing machines. A New York Times article, titled “From Amateur to Ruthless Jihadist in France,” describes “two jihadists in black, sheathed in body armor” who “gave a global audience a ruthless demonstration in terrorism.” The “hardened killer(s)” were said to walk “with military precision,” and “nonchalantly” take a phone call.

The article explains how French security services were unable to prevent the attacks: “The brothers appeared so nonthreatening that surveillance was dropped in the middle of last year.” Yet they had a long history of being monitored by French authorities, evidenced by the “thousands of pages of legal documents obtained by The New York Times, including minutes of interrogations, summaries of phone taps, intercepted jailhouse letters.”

It is seen as a failure of the security services, who presumably should not have let the brothers out of their surveillance dragnet. Their “steadily deepening radicalism .. occurred virtually under the noses of French authorities, who twice had Cherif in their grasp.”

There is no blame attributed to the French socioeconomic system, which relegates most of France’s Arab population to a permanent underclass of unemployment and poverty. As racial minorities in a country that holds few opportunities for people with their background, the brothers worked dead-end jobs like delivering pizzas and fish mongering. They were not able to get jobs at French investment banks or in the fashion industry. Certainly this must have produced adverse mental health effects.

There is no discussion of whether destitution and marginalization contributed to the Kouachi brothers’ decision to use violence against people who, to them, apparently represented a source of their humiliation.

Neither is there blame on French foreign policy, which has been complicit in arming and funding Al Qaeda for many years in Libya, Syria and other countries. France’s support for violent extremism abroad and its potential to create blowback at home is likewise disregarded in media analysis.

The murderous Germanwings pilot received a very different portrait in The New York Times. The title of a profile on Lubitz reads like a eulogy: “Andreas Lubitz, Who Loved to Fly, Ended Up on a Mysterious and Deadly Course.”

He has a name and a passion. And unlike the “ruthless jihadists,” who chose their path as criminals, Lubitz “ended up on a mysterious course” as if he was a passenger on the journey, rather than the instigator who drove 149 people intentionally to their death.

In describing the “mystery” behind Lubitz, the Times says that “the focus has turned to what had driven him to such an act – and to whether the airline industry and regulators do enough to screen pilots for psychological problems.” As was the case with Newtown elementary school killer Adam Lanza, the problem is understood as one of “missed chances,” in the workplace or by social services, not the police and security officials.

CNN wrote that Lanza “was an isolated young man with deteriorating mental health and a fascination for mass violence whose problems were not ignored but misunderstood and mistreated.” Lubitz had reportedly been treated by psychotherapists for “suicidal tendencies” and possibly suffered from depression.

For white young men like Lubitz and Lanza, the problem was a failure of society – parents, teachers, employers, government regulators – to recognize and treat mental health problems. Implicitly they are people deserving help, not security threats deserving surveillance and monitoring. The mental health of the killers is understood to be a cause – if not the primary cause – behind their actions. They were victimized by their mental health, whereas the Kouachi brothers were rational actors responsible for their actions.

Near the bottom of the New York Times article, a surviving Charlie Hebdo journalist is quoted as saying that one of the brothers told her “We don’t kill women.” One of the brothers also reportedly told a salesman “We don’t shoot civilians.” They clearly did kill civilians, but unlike either Lubitz or Lanza, they did spare lives rather than kill indiscriminately. Yet only the Kouachis are described as “hardened killers.”

Why such different treatments of the massacres and the killers responsible for them? Simply put, the massacre by the Kouachi brothers can be attributed to “Islamic extremism” while the massacre by Lubitz cannot. Surely the passengers who “shrieked in terror” would not have considered themselves any less terrorized than employees of Charlie Hebdo witnessing the masked attackers with Kalashnikovs.

The Paris attacks were described by CNN, BBC, New York Times, NBC, and virtually every major Western news outlet as terrorism. But the Germanwings plane crash has not been called terrorism at all. USA Today reported that the FBI “has found no connection of anyone aboard to terrorism.” CNN reported that Lubitz “was not known to be on any terrorism list, and his religion was not immediately known.”

In other words, it was not immediately known whether Lubitz was a Muslim, and, by extension, whether he was a terrorist. This connection between religion and terrorism, used in the same sentence in the CNN article, demonstrates how terrorism in common usage is understood to be about who a person is rather than what he does. Two Muslim brothers of North African heritage are terrorists when they murder 12 people, while a white German is not a terrorist when he murders 149.

Terrorism is perceived as the most heinous type of crime. Terrorists are thought to be irredeemable, subhuman creatures who do not even qualify as legitimate members of society with rights. But there is no commonly accepted definition of a terrorist, so any terrorist label is completely arbitrary. Unsurprisingly, there is a racial and cultural bias for using such a label.

Media portrayals of mass murderers are a representation of the society’s attitudes towards the subjects they cover. That Muslims and Arabs engender an irrational fear is nothing new. As Edward Said explains in Orientalism, this has a long history.

“For Europe, Islam was a lasting trauma. Until the end of the seventeenth century the ‘Ottoman peril’ lurked alongside Europe to represent for the whole of Christian civilization a constant danger, and in time European civilization incorporated that peril and its lore, its great events, figures, virtues and vices, as something woven into the fabric of life,” Said writes.

This danger still manifests itself in the disproportionate reaction of Western nations and its people to crimes that can be attributed to Islam and Arabs. Even if, as is the case with the Kouachi brothers, they were born and raised in France, never having stepped foot in their parents’ native country of Algeria. But “Frenchness” is still widely understood to be the exclusive domain of the country’s Catholic population.

As Joseph Massad notes in The Electronic Intifada, French colonialists killed millions of people in Vietnam, Algeria and Madagascar, practicing inhuman forms of savagery and torture in the process. In this context, the Kouachi brothers and their accomplice should be compared.

“Despite the horrific magnitude of the three men’s deeds, their crimes remain numerically modest and pale in comparison to with the far more cruel French Catholic and ‘laic’ monstrosities that have reached genocidal proportions across the globe,” Massad writes. “Had the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly lived, however, they would have still needed many more lessons in cruelty and violent intolerance before they could become fully assimilated into true Catholic and laic Frenchness.”

After the Charlie Hebdo shooting, more than a million people marched in Paris with 40 heads of state “in the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the September 11 attacks,” according to the New York Times.

The marchers, “people of all races, ages and political stripes swarmed central Paris beneath a bright blue sky, calling for peace and an end to violent extremism.” This in the same city where six months earlier French authorities banned marches demanding an end to Israel’s massacres in Gaza, where nearly 2,200 people were killed by drone strikes, tank and naval shelling, artillery fire, and F16 bombings.

In an farcical piece of irony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ordered and presided over the military assault, was standing in the first row of world leaders demonstrating their “unity in outrage” during the staged march.

The framing of the Charlie Hebdo narrative as an assault by Islam against Western civilization misrepresents the violence as uniquely Islamic and uniquely evil. Any comparison of the media coverage of mass murderers must recognize that race and ethnicity drive the way those crimes are understood and portrayed. To American and European whites, Islam has always been perceived as a force that needs to be subdued and controlled, usually through violence. It is no surprise that crimes by “Islamists” are depicted by Western media through this lens, in ways that equivalent or more serious crimes by whites are not.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter. Read other articles by Matt, or visit Matt’s website.

When Free Speech Got Foolish: France’s Dieudonné Verdict

By Binoy Kampmark
March 21, 2015
Dissident Voice

 

Dieudonné M’bala M’bala

It lies in the ambiguity of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10, the provision that provides for the protection of free speech, can hardly be said to be the broad creature it purports to be.  Restrictions will be tolerated, as long as they be “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”.

Similarly, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 19) notes that the exercise of free speech “carries with it special duties and responsibilities.”  Governments have that greatest of get out clauses in targeting those they deem a threat to “national security” or “public order (ordre public)”, “public health” and “morals”.

Many countries in the European Union already have a range of laws that would, if applied in the context of free speech laws in the United States, fail to pass muster.  Within the European Charter, such laws, including hate speech regulations, are deemed appropriate. The incitement to the Nazi jackboot and the concentration camp loom as large apologias.  Only privileged opinions will be accepted.

France tends to lead the pack on that one, with a range of statutes criminalising speech deemed insulting, defamatory or inciting of hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation (Washington Post, January 8).  In what is the grand inversion of free speech advocates in France, those killed at Charlie Hebdo were similarly harassed by government authorities through the cause of their employment.

In 2006, then French President Jacques Chirac took firm issue with the reprinting by the magazine of the Danish Muhammad cartoons that had caused much consternation.  Then, as now, the free speech advocates fled behind the veil of supposedly conscionable authority. “Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided.”  Free speech must obviously be tender and gentle in order to be acceptable.

In light of the Paris attacks between January 7 and 9 that saw 17 people killed, dozens of cases were commenced targeting those “condoning terrorism” or “making threats to carry out terrorist acts”.  French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, with his tendency to sail rather close to the wind of authority, was always going to be on the radar.

On the day of the Paris March – yes, tinged with the irony that it was in the name of free speech – Dieudonné’s Facebook book page featured the following post that caught the attention of authorities:  “After this historic march, what do I say… Legendary!  A magic moment equal to the Big Bang that created the universe… or at least (more local) comparable to the crowning of [the Gaulish king] Vercingétorix, I’m finally back home.  Know that this evening, as far as I am concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.”

The charge that might well be levelled at Dieudonné might well be one of poor, or even a lack of humour (Amedy Coulibaly having been one of the assailants), but inflating the language with the puffing pretension of “condoning terrorism” is a touch rich. After all, it wasn’t as if Dieudonné had not made his sentiments clear in a letter sent to the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve on the day of the march itself.  “Yesterday we were all Charlie, marching and standing tall for liberties.  So that we can continue to laugh at everything.”

The comedian continues to reflect on his role as the creator of laughter, and for doing that, being mistreated.  “For a year I have been treated as public enemy one, even though all I’ve done is try to make people laugh, and to die of laughter, since death is laughing at us, as Charlie knows all too well alas.” Humour tends to be impossible when the censors take the reins.

The prosecutor, Annabelle Philippe, claimed in the course of her submission that the comedian had presented “in a favourable light the acts committed by Amedy Coulibaly.”  But the mocking inference via the combine “Charlie Coulibaly” suggests how terms can become dogmatic reference points, unimpeachable in the speech of those who carelessly, or purposely, manipulate it.  In the scheme of things, people were told to march without question to the brand slogan of “Je suis Charlie”.  Those in dissent were bound to face a prosecutor’s brief – either you are with Charlie or against it.  The greatest insult to those slain that day was precisely the sanctification of free speech even as it was being undermined.

Even the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has suggested what he believes to be opinions, and what are patently not.  Dieudonné, in his mind, had metamorphosed from “comedian” to “anti-Semite and racist.”  The result was a two-month suspended sentence, which is the difference in what you can say, and what you cannot.

In other words, the heavy hand of the police state can regulate the mere fact of an opinion, as long as it is deemed to be racist, anti-Semitic and “justifying terrorism”.  As jurist Jonathan Turley would suggest (Washington Post, January 8) even as the blood of the Charlie massacres was yet to dry, “The greatest threat to liberty in France has come not from the terrorists who have committed such horrific acts this past week but from the French themselves, who have been leading the Western world in a crackdown on free speech.”

That governments of the day have reserved their sacred right to move opinions out of circulation deemed inappropriate is a simple reaffirmation of that old battle between speech and its broad exercise.  That such exercises be responsible is the authoritarian twist deemed necessary to have an “opinion”.  If the authorities dislike it, then invariably you are not privileged enough to hold it – at least legitimately.  Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy exemplifies this rather well, suggesting that any “imam who holds views that do not respect the values of the republic” ought to be “expelled”.  The obscurantists of all shades will have their day, while the killers of free speech will continue to be its aggressive protectors.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com. Read other articles by Binoy.

Anti-Muslim actions rise sharply in France after Charlie Hebdo shooting

By Anthony Torres
March 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

islamophobia1Since the January 7 Charlie Hebdo shootings, the number of acts against Muslims has risen sharply, spurred on by the hysteria of the media and politicians. The official response to the shootings is encouraging the most reactionary forces in society and the state to target and persecute France’s Muslim minority.

According to the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, 116 anti-Muslim actions have been reported in France since the beginning of 2015, more than in all of 2014. Muslim religious sites were targeted 28 times and received 88 threats. These statistics are likely underestimations, as many Muslims do not report intimidation or attacks for fear of reprisals.

Many attacks occurred in the days after the Kouachi brothers’ terrorist attack. Mosques or prayer rooms in Bayonne, Le Mans, and Port-la-Nouvelle were attacked or sprayed with graffiti. (See: French Muslims targeted by revenge attacks after Charlie Hebdo shootings)

The official stimulation of a climate of fear and suspicion towards Muslims has even led police to investigate schoolchildren denounced by school officials or third persons.

Nice-matin reported that a school in Nice called police after an eight-year-old schoolboy said, “I am not Charlie. I am on the side of the terrorists.”

The boy was held for a two-hour interrogation by police on suspicion of the crime of “apologetics for terrorist actions,” even though the regional head of public security declared: “The child manifestly did not know what he was saying. We do not know where he got this idea.”

According to the lawyer for the boy’s family, “The child is under investigation for apologetics for terrorist actions. It is written in black and white on the police documents I had to sign. The police are lying.” He added that the boy’s father, who went to the school to try to calm his son, faces charges of “breaking into a public establishment.”

He added that the parents had explained to their son that “terrorism is bad,” and condemned his remarks.

According to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), the child has diabetes and complained of “being deprived of his insulin treatments by teaching staff.”

The CCIF and the lawyer both state that while the boy was playing in a sandbox, the school’s headmaster shouted at him: “Quit digging in that sand, you won’t find a machine gun to kill us under there.”

A child aged 9 was investigated for shouting, “God is great, long live the Koran.”

Prosecutors explained, “Afterwards, another child told his mother, an employee at the cafeteria, about the event, and she told the person overseeing the cafeteria, a report was drawn up. … Finally, the military police [ gendarmerie ] were notified.”

The child facing charges “told investigators that he did not understand, there had been some misunderstanding between the two children.” Prosecutors added that “on the basis of the facts, accusations are entirely unfounded.”

Exploiting the rise of anti-Muslim prejudices to promote their reactionary agenda, leading politicians are embracing and stimulating anti-Muslim sentiment.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the vice-president of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), declared: “I’m going to give you a very concrete example. The mayor of Mulhouse, a friend, tells me that in his city there are dozens of children who arrive late every day because of prayers, their parents take them to prayers. And when their parents are summoned, because they are summoned, they explain that there are religious authorities which are superior to those of the Republic.”

She said that she supported taking away children and placing them in foster homes. “I want to be very precise,” Kosciusko-Morizet said. “Today, half of all reports to the judicial authorities protecting youth come from the schools. And very often they are on suspicion of violence, of incest or mistreatment.”

The role of the ruling Socialist Party (PS) and its pseudo-left satellites is not substantially different. They supported, under the false guise of defending “secularism,” bans on Islamic headscarves in the schools and on the burqa. The PS invited the neo-fascist National Front (FN), which is notoriously anti-Muslim, to the Elysée after the Charlie Hebdo shootings. They exploited anti-Muslim cartoons and sentiment to promote their military interventions in Africa and the Middle East. Such policies create the conditions for the persecution and stigmatizing of the Muslim population.

PS statements addressing the rise of anti-Muslim actions drip with cynicism. President François Hollande declared, “We must abstain from all amalgams and confusions. Frenchmen of the Muslim faith have the same rights and responsibilities as all citizens. They must be protected. Secularism is a part of this, it respects all religions.”

The same day, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “In these moments, everyone has his importance, and I want to assure all of my fellow citizens, and especially those of the Muslim faith, that they have the right to the same protection, including of their places of worship.”

In fact, the PS is exploiting both the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the anti-Muslim hysteria to bolster the security forces, accelerate the building of a police-state infrastructure, and promote a climate of fear and intimidation against all those who oppose its policies of austerity and war.

I’m Still Not Charlie!

Two Months Later

by Andre Vltchek
February 27, 2015
Counter Punch

 

My disgust with Western imperialism and fascism is much stronger than my aversion towards religions. And I don’t think that “all religions are equally evil.” I mainly hold Christianity responsible for most of the crimes committed in modern human history. I hold it responsible for “derailing” and radicalizing traditionally much more peaceful religions, like Buddhism and yes, like Islam.

Therefore, I am definitely not Charlie!

I don’t want to quarrel with dead people. Journalists at Charlie Hebdo should have never died in that terrible way. I actually don’t know exactly who is responsible for their demise, although I am well aware of the fact that there are many sound theories, not only the official one.

What is clear and absolutely certain is that for almost two months, their deaths have been politicized by the Western regime, by the Empire. Politicized to a sickening extreme.

Their deaths became a rallying cry of the “liberals,” of apologists who are once again ready to forget and forgive all the crimes committed by Western nations for those long centuries, all over the world.

Apologists are ready to forgive their own crimes, the crimes committed by their own states, crimes of their own religion, and of their own dogma. For many years the simple logic of Western liberals was: we are all human and humans are all equally violent. Which is thorough, absolute nonsense! The death of 12 people is not the same as death of one million! 2,000 victims are not the same as several hundreds of millions! Car brakes that fail 10 times are much, much safer for people to use than those that fail several millions of times, and only a total idiot would claim otherwise!

***

These liberals, and Charlie Hebdo was one of them, have been extremely selective in their criticisms of the world. We hardly hear from them about the terror their Empire (consisting mainly of North America and the European nations) is spreading everywhere. They don’t poke jokes at Western style “democracy” too often, or at the barbarity of Christianity, or at European colonialism, which has been enslaving almost the entire planet for hundreds of years, virtually destroying almost all alternatives for humanity.

We hardly hear them poking upsetting jokes at Zionism and Israeli apartheid. And where are their brave witty and provocative puns exposing genocides that are being committed by the Empire’s allies: India and Indonesia? Why are we not rolling on the floor, laughing at those corrupt bandits in Jakarta and New Delhi, when their servile, twisted regimes are called – “democracies”? And where are Charlie Hebdo and others, confronting the funniest lies: those about so-called Western democracy itself?

Or are Charlie and his cohorts only brave where it pays and where it is not really risky at all?

I did some research, and realized that there was not one single essay or cartoon by Charlie Hebdo exposing Western responsibility for radicalizing Islam. Not one! And this is one of the main stories of the 20th and 21st centuries; the story about how Brits endorsed and helped to spread Wahhabism, the most appalling form of Islam, which is metastasizing radicalism all over the world. Or how the West literally liquidated all forms of socialist, secular, tolerant Islam!

That is exactly what Islam was becoming, at least after the WWII – secular, tolerant and socialist: in Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, and Afghanistan (allied to the Soviet Union) and in many other places.

Socialist Muslim countries: that would be, of course, thoroughly unacceptable to the West. The Empire needed yet another Rottweiler to fight socialism and Communism. A Rottweiler that could go, periodically, bananas, and would “have to be fought” by the West and its Christian fundamentalism, justifying insane and out of control “defense” budgets.

The Empire and its “brave satirists” like Charlie Hebdo saw (or were ordered to see) socially oriented, secular and tolerant Islam as a tremendous threat!

Eventually, all secular Muslim governments were overthrown directly by the West, at the cost of millions of human lives. And when great rulers of the Muslim world were murdered of sidelined, the common logic in the West proclaimed: “You see, these Arab niggers cannot rule themselves!”

And the brainwashed Western public ate up all these lies, that “intellectual shit,” about the Muslim world, about Africa, Asia and Latin America – before Latin America rose again and broke its shackles!

What I have written about the Muslim world – that was, of course only the first, post-WWII wave. What followed decades later was total horror, genocide, in Iraq, Libya, Syria…

There were few half-hearted protests in several European public parks, but no decisive wave of resistance by the Western intellectuals, including the comedians and satirists.

Not a word from Charlie Hebdo on that account.

And that is why I am not Charlie!

***

To piss on Islam is an extremely safe undertaking. To do it, in the West, is unmistakable sign of “coolness” and “secularity.” But deep down, it is nothing more than ignorance, bigotry and collaboration with the regime, a sign of cowardice!

If the trend continues, I will soon stop calling myself “atheist,” because I do not want to be in “that” company.

True internationalists and sensible atheists want to liberate people from oppression, not to hurt, not to harm defenseless beings! And not to cover up crimes of the real villains and bandits!

Islam has already been ruined, humiliated, stripped of its socially oriented essence. Western demagogues, propagandists and academics usurped its achievements: from great accomplishments in medicine, science, and architecture, to enormous efforts to build egalitarian societies. Yes, the first free and public hospitals in the world were in the Muslim world, and the first universities were there as well. Now, most of them are for a fee, and have ‘American’ in their name – in Cairo, Amman, Beirut, everywhere!

Cultural Islam had been defeated: not in some open intellectual duel, but by brutal force and by the most effective weapons of Western “civilization” – by filthy tricks, by deceit!

As a result, all of humanity lost!

Of course, if you go “too far” in urinating on Islam, frustrated followers may chop you to pieces. But still, you will enjoy a great martyrdom after your death. You will be admired and commemorated by millions of brainwashed fellow Christian fundamentalists (yes, that is what most of them really are, even if they call themselves “secular,” or even “atheists”). And if you are not killed (the great majority is not), you will be respected and embraced by the majority of your “oh so free countrymen” and glorified by mass media!

And that is why I am not Charlie! I don’t want to be a collaborator. I don’t want to be an official clown serving the fascist Empire. Forgive me, but no, seriously, fuck you!

Je Suis Chavez! Je Suis Lumumba! Je suis Salvador Allende, bordel! Not Charlie, oh no, not Charlie!

***

As I saw those multitudes marching in Paris, and as I saw their tears, I felt embarrassed and nauseated: yes, these people were Charlie! Yes, they were crying over their fallen men.

Those uncritical, brainwashed masses, are still reigning over the world. Not only the politicians and business tycoons (I don’t buy the claim that Europeans and North Americans are “also victims”) but also these people!

A few of their men falling evokes total national outrage, hysteria.

Millions that are being slaughtered because of French business interests, all over the world, particularly those millions in Africa, don’t produce even one tear, or one major protest!

Hundreds of millions of Muslims who are forced to live under the yoke of the worst regimes imaginable, the shittiest rulers money can buy; rulers who are fully maintained by the Empire (of which France is an integral part) are of no interest to that selfish, horrifying crowd.

The crowd is naturally and fully responsible for its rulers. It is benefiting from global plunder; not as much as before the late 80’s, but it is still benefiting, nevertheless!

The crowd desperately needs Charlies! It is insecure, intellectually and morally fucked, therefore it is longing for “symbols.” It needs to feel that it is Charlie! It is cowardly, and therefore it needs heroes and martyrs.

The heads, dictators of the Empire, need Charlie, too. The crowd and the Empire are, on most accounts, one single entity, with similar goals: to fuck the world and do very little while living materially “great” – although arguably empty – lives.

That is why the Empire manufactures individuals like those who are willing to run bigoted magazines. That is why it is canonizing them, if they fall. That is why it makes sure that some of them do occasionally fall, in order to become martyrs…

This way the crowd can have its symbols, its “heroes.”

And that is why I am not Charlie!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His critically acclaimed political revolutionary novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). He just completed feature documentary “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

 

Lessons From the Charlie Hebdo Shootings

By Kristoffer Larsson
February 19, 2015
Counter Punch

 

f460f-double-standard3More than a month has passed since the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. How should we understand this dreadful massacre? That if you insult a minority that then a few individuals within that group might come after you? Or is it perhaps much worse than that, as some will have us believe, and that freedom of speech is under threat?

Demonstrations were held throughout France supposedly in defence of freedom of speech. As many writers have pointed out, the demonstration in Paris was attended by world leaders that—to put it mildly—don’t seem to find freedom of speech all that important in their own countries. One of the survivors of the shooting, Laurent Léger, lambasted the hypocrisy of Western governments who pretended to stand up for freedom of speech. [1] In fact, France seized the opportunity to crack down on ‘hate speech’. [2]

But the world leaders’ presence, despite their faulty records, is nonetheless understandable; they attended the demonstration to express their commiseration, and that’s perfectly fine.

Yet, the ‘freedom of speech’ aspect bothers me. It is an attempt to take this shooting out of its political context, to describe it as a story of two young Muslims who saw a cartoon, and got so angry that they decided to kill eleven people.

The fact of the matter is that the two terrorists didn’t care about freedom of speech (or lack thereof) in France. They were radicalised by the U.S.-led Western interventions in the Muslim world, and in their frustration over the endless killing that’s going on there, they decided to exact vengeance. In their eyes, Charlie Hebdo was a perfectly logical target because it had become a symbol of anti-Muslim mockery.

The message the perpetrators wanted to send is clear: if you continue to attack us, then you’ll pay for it. For a long, long time the West has been able to carry out bombing campaigns, invasions and occupations, stage coups d’état and targeted killings in other parts of the world, without fear of revenge attacks at home. Not so anymore.

Reducing the Charlie Hebdo shooting to a question of freedom of speech is convenient because it allows us to ignore the misery caused by Western interventionism, which ultimately led to the Jihadist resurgence. Massacres and shootings carried out by Muslims, like the ones we saw in France, are now an everyday occurrence in countries that have been ‘blessed’ with Western intervention. Though Islamist groups carry out occasional terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe, it is in the Mideast where most of their victims are to be found – and the greater majority of their victims there are Muslim. This is the ‘New Middle East’ that the neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration envisioned when they plotted the Iraq War. [3]

But this is not the only reason for my scepticism towards the ‘we must stand up for freedom of speech’ crowd. Although this is a right that must be defended, it is important to do so without being hypocritical. Charlie Hebdo mocked Islamic figures, and when they were criticised and threatened for doing it, they made a point of not backing down. Instead, they kept publishing such cartoons, which they have every right to do. While this may seem admirable, or even heroic, the magazine doesn’t always stand its ground.

In 2008 Charlie Hebdo was criticised for ridiculing Judaism. Though the magazine had stood up for freedom of the press when it came to mocking Islam, in that case cartoonist Siné was asked by his editor Philippe Val to apologise. When Siné refused, Val sacked him. Siné also received a death threat on a website run by the Jewish Defence League (JDL). There is clearly a double standard being employed by Charlie Hebdo, and it’s not alone.

A similar incident occurred at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the infamous prophet Muhammad cartoons. An Iranian newspaper said that in response it would hold a contest with cartoons mocking the Holocaust as an analogous – and offensive – way to test the limits of freedom of speech. The culture editor at Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, likely not wanting to be seen as a hypocrite, said he would consider publishing these cartoons. Upon hearing this, however, Jyllands-Posten’s editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, declared that his paper would publish the cartoons “in no circumstances,” called the Iranian contest a “tasteless media stunt” (unlike his own provocation, I suppose) and urged Rose to “take a vacation.” The editor of the newspaper’s Sunday edition, Jens Kaiser, had a few years earlier turned down cartoons of Jesus’ resurrection, telling the cartoonist that they would “provoke an outcry,” although he later said the real reason was because the drawings were sub-par. [4]

Blatant hypocrisy, or unintended bias? To many Muslims this double standard is hard to grasp, and it makes them feel even more outraged. However, there is an explanation for it.

It is important to understand that the criticism stems from different sources. When anti-Muslim cartoons are published, it is mostly the Muslim community that objects. The reaction under these circumstances from what one can call our ‘elites’ – politicians, editors, journalists, mavericks, etc. – is that no matter the content, freedom of speech must be defended at all cost. This elite responds very differently, however, to cartoons containing anti-Jewish mockery: all of a sudden, the content does matter. It is then characterized as a question of ‘hate speech’, not freedom of speech.

The Iranian newspaper chose to focus on a subject it knows to be a Western taboo. In a number of European countries Holocaust denial has even been criminalised (France included), yet you don’t see newspapers publishing texts that question the Holocaust to test the boundaries of freedom of speech. (If anything threatens freedom of speech, it is government-imposed restrictions of this kind.) The issue is so sensitive that even publicly defending the right to question the Holocaust is often regarded as support for Holocaust deniers, and those who occasionally dare to do so invariably make sure to emphasise their utter dislike for the people whose rights they are defending.

Around 50 million people perished in World War II, including 5 million Jews. It was a huge disaster, not least for Europe. European school children of today are taught about the anti-Semitic propaganda disseminated by the Nazi regime and how it enabled the extermination of European Jews. They are taught that anti-Jewish hatred and propaganda is dangerous because we know what it ultimately leads to: genocide.

This is why many Europeans (including our elites) respond emotionally to what they perceive as being anti-Semitic, while they don’t respond as emotionally to other forms of racist propaganda, including Islamophobia. This is the reason for the double standard. To oppose anti-Semitism is a value of the elite, and editors that act in violation of this value will be treated like outcasts. A magazine can make a point of printing anti-Muslim mockery in response to threats because it knows that freedom of speech (and of the press) will be vociferously defended by the elites of Europe when the target is Muslim, whereas anti-Jewish cartoons will generate harsh condemnations.

So when Charlie Hebdo or Jyllands-Posten mocks Islam, they are not really testing the boundaries of freedom of speech. And when an Iranian newspaper mocks the Holocaust, it’s not doing so either. If challenging taboos was their purpose, then the Iranian newspaper would publish anti-Islamic cartoons and Europeans magazines would run articles questioning the Holocaust.

What about anti-Christian satire then? If a ‘Christian’ newspaper in the West mocks Christianity it would not cause much fuss because it is no longer a taboo. But if a group such as ISIS did so while persecuting Christians, it would not be regarded as satire.

In short, context matters. That’s why we should not expect the publication of anti-Muslim cartoons while Muslim countries are being bombed and invaded to be perceived as harmless, just like the anti-Semitic cartoons published in Der Sturmer in hindsight cannot be presented to the world as ‘testing the boundaries of freedom of speech’.

LARSSONCHARLIE

Source: http://normanfinkelstein.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/sorry-charlie.jpg

After the massacre in Egypt in August 2014, that claimed the lives of maybe 1,000 people that protested against the Sisi regime, Charlie Hebdo mocked the victims by putting a cartoon on the cover of a Muslim man being shot. The text reads: “The Koran is shit, it doesn’t stop the bullets.” After the Charlie Hebdo shooting someone manipulated the cartoon and changed the text to: “Charlie Hebdo is shit, it doesn’t stop the bullets.” It would have been a suitable cover for the first Charlie Hebdo issue after the tragic shooting, and I’m sure the victims would have appreciated the satire.

Kristoffer Larsson lives in Sweden. He can be reached at krislarsson@gmail.com

Notes.

[1] Survivor of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre ‘Very Happy Obama Didn’t Come to Paris’, Jonathan Schwarz, Huffington Post (26/1/2015); http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-schwarz/survivor-of-charlie-hebdo_b_6543718.html

[2] France Arrests 54, Announces ‘Hate Speech’ Crackdown, Jason Ditz, AntiWar.com (1/14/2015); http://news.antiwar.com/2015/01/14/france-arrests-54-announces-hate-speech-crackdown/

[3] Clean Break or Dirty War? Israel’s Foreign Policy Directive to the United States, IRmep (3/27/2003); http://www.irmep.org/Policy_Briefs/3_27_2003_Clean_Break_or_Dirty_War.html

[4] Cartoon row editor sent on leave, BBC News (2/10/2009); http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4700124.stm

 

 

The Muslim Response to Paris

Why was Catholicism Never Blamed for IRA Offensives?

By Tariq Ali
February 1, 2015
Counter Punch

 

The late Charlie Hebdo editor Charb, or Stephane Charbonnier

The late Charlie Hebdo editor Charb, or Stephane Charbonnier

In the week following the atrocities, a wave of moral hysteria swept France. ‘Je suis Charlie’ became almost obligatory. The Hollande/Valls message was simple: either you were for the magazine or for the terrorists. Quite a few, now as in 2001, were for neither. These included Henri Roussel, the 80-year-old founder of Hara-Kiri, the title under which Charlie Hebdo was published before it was forced into a name change – it was banned by the French government for insulting the corpse of Charles de Gaulle. In a remarkable essay published in the Nouvel Observateur Roussel made two essential points. The first concerned French foreign policy:

I don’t much like it when a head of state speaks of the dead as heroes. It usually happens because citizens have been sent to war and not come back, which is rather the case with the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The attack is part of a war declared on France, but can also be seen in the light of the wars France has got itself involved in: conflicts where its participation isn’t called for, where worse massacres than that at Charlie Hebdo take place every day, several times a day, where our bombardments pile death on death in the hope of saving potentates who feel threatened and are no better than those who threaten them … If Obama had not held Hollande back, he would have gone after Assad in Syria, just as Sarkozy went after Gaddafi in Libya … with the result we’re familiar with.

The second was personal. Roussel knew all the victims well and this made him both angry and sorrowful. He denounced Charb for his recklessness:

He was the boss. Why did he need to drag the whole team into it? In the first attack on Charlie Hebdo in November 2011, the offices were torched after an issue was called ‘Charia Hebdo’. I quote what I said … in the Obs: ‘I think we’re ignorant and imbeciles who have taken a pointless risk. That’s all. We think we’re invulnerable. For years, decades even, we do provocative things and then one day the provocation comes back at us. It didn’t need to be done.’

It didn’t need to be done, but Charb did it again. A year later, in September 2012, after a provocation that put France’s ambassadors in Muslim countries in a state of siege … I asked Charb in the pages of the Obs: ‘To show, with the caption “Muhammed: A Star is Born”, a naked Muhammed praying, seen from behind, balls dangling and prick dripping, in black and white but with a yellow star on his anus – whatever way you look at it, how is this funny?’

I was sick of it. Charb told a journalist from Le Monde: ‘I have no kids, no wife, I prefer to die on my feet than to live on my knees.’ Cavanna, who feared death, wrote when he was Charb’s age: ‘Rather red than dead.’ * The reds are no longer red, the dead are still dead. Everyone has seen Charb’s last cartoon: ‘Still no attacks in France?’ And the jihadist in the cartoon, armed like the one who killed Charb, Tignous, Cabu, Honoré and the others, replies: ‘Wait! We’ve got until the end of January for New Year’s greetings …’ Have you seen Wolinski’s last cartoon? It ends: ‘I dream of returning to Cuba to drink rum, smoke a cigar and dance with the beautiful Cuban girls.’

Charb who preferred to die and Wolin who preferred to live. I blame you, Charb. Peace on your soul.

Roussel’s was a lonely voice and in response to complaints, including one from the publisher of Charlie Hebdo, the editor of Nouvel Observateur replied that after serious discussion it had been agreed that freedom of speech was best preserved by not denying it to those who disagreed with the mainstream narrative. Elsewhere three publishers who refused to display ‘Je suis Charlie’ on their websites were subjected to persistent questioning and bullying. It was reminiscent of the post 9/11 mood in this country (remember Mary Beard?), leave alone the States.

And what of the huge Sunday crowd convened by the president at the place de la République? The photo-op brigade at the front turned into a disaster when Netanyahu, waving triumphantly to onlookers, crashed his way to the front. The dignitaries he was so keen to join weren’t all that impressive: the puppet president of Mali; Angela Merkel, the Mother of Europe (her hands held in a way that suggested a mysterious Masonic signal); Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the Council of Europe. And, hurriedly summoned at the last minute to balance the presence of the Israeli leader, there was Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO leader, holding hands with the king of Jordan (both are Israeli supplicants). Sarkozy, placed in the fourth row, quickly began his own long march to the front, but by the time he got there the cameras had disappeared and the celebs soon followed suit. How many turned up in all? A million was the official figure. Eric Hazan, the waspish historian of Paris, used different criteria:

It was as big as the one on 28 April 1944, when Marshal Pétain attended the funeral service for the victims of Allied bombings at the Hôtel de Ville. War fever apart (the shouts of ‘To Berlin!’ in 1914), the great moments of unanimity have taken place at public funerals – like those of Victor Hugo, Pierre Overney, Jean-Paul Sartre, or Edith Piaf. Sunday’s demonstration is of the same order, the crowd is moved by sentiment and satisfied by coming together to express a vague desire for unity and reconciliation. As if the strength of the crowd was enough to mitigate the lack of a society that takes our common well-being as its goal.

Slowly, a more critical France is beginning to speak up. An opinion poll two days after the big march revealed a divided country: 57 per cent were ‘Je suis Charlie’s, but 42 per cent were opposed to hurting the feelings of minorities. Some of the latter might have been thinking of the blanket publicity for Michel Houellebecq and his new novel, Soumission, on TV and in print in the week preceding the attack on the magazine. Those with longer memories might have recalled Houellebecq’s statement in 2001, which laid the basis for the title of his latest offering: ‘Reading the Quran is a disgusting experience. Ever since Islam’s birth it has been distinguished by its desire to make the world submit to itself. Submission is its very nature.’ Replace the Quran with the Old Testament and Islam with Judaism and you would be locked up in France today, as some have been, including a 16-year-old schoolboy who parodied Charlie Hebdo. A satirical magazine, it appears, cannot be satirised. The double standards prevailing in France were made clear yet again when the Jewish Defence League, modelled on its US counterpart, was allowed to organise a demonstration under a banner – IMMIGRATION: REFERENDUM – which aligned it firmly with the extreme right in France and the rest of Europe.

In the Muslim world responses were varied. Even as Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, was marching in Paris, 45 Christian churches in his country were being torched and pastors’ homes targeted – the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, was born in Niger and is an influential presence there, if only on video. Public funerals for the slain terrorists were held in Pakistan and Turkey (even though Islam expressly forbids funerals without a body). Two distinct narratives competed in Turkey. The president and his prime minister, just back from the Paris march, entered the realm of conspiracy satire by implying that the terrorist attack had been carried out by the French themselves, possibly aided by Mossad. The mayor of Istanbul backed them. These are Nato’s favourite Islamists and we can only speculate as to whether the leash will be shortened soon. The Turkish republican followers of Kemal Atatürk supported Charlie Hebdo unconditionally. Their daily paper, Cumhuriyet, published four pages from the new issue of Charlie Hebdo as an insert, but not the cover or drawings portraying the Prophet Muhammed. However two columnists on the paper reproduced the cover beside their pieces, enraging the government and its followers. Vans carrying the paper to distribution outlets were seized and Erdoğan also used the crisis as an excuse to crack down on local dissidents who had been rubbishing him on various websites.

Elsewhere the Sunni-Shia divide was highlighted when Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, used a TV address marking the anniversary of the prophet’s birth to denounce extremists within Islam (takfiris) who behead and slaughter their captives, claiming that their actions were much more dangerous for Islam than for anyone else. He had no such compunctions when the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a fatwa sentencing Salman Rushdie to death, and was still going on about it in 2006 on al-Jazeera. ‘If the faithful had carried out Ayatollah Khomeini’s injunction and killed the apostate Rushdie,’ he said on that occasion, ‘the Danish newspaper editor would never have dared to publish these cartoons.’ A naive view, but times have changed and the battle with Sunni extremism is now at its peak.

On the question of images there has always been a debate within Islam. The Quran itself contains warnings against the worship of idols and graven images, but this is taken straight from the Abrahamic tradition and the Old Testament. It’s a stricture on forms of worship. After all, images of the prophet were embossed on early Muslim coins to replace Byzantine and Persian potentates. A number of paintings by Muslim artists in the late medieval period depict the prophet with loving care. The Shia tradition has always ignored the supposed ban on images and portraits of Shia imams have never been forbidden. All the different schools of Sunni jurisprudence don’t agree on the question. It has only become a big issue since Saudi money pushed Wahhabi clerics onto the world stage to fight communism during the Cold War (with the total backing of Washington). Wahhabi literalism misinterprets the Quran and its hostility to images led the Saudi government to destroy the graves in Mecca of the prophet, his companions and his wives. There were no protests except by architects and historians who denounced the vandalism. One can only imagine the response in the world of Islam had the destruction of the graves been carried out, deliberately or accidentally, by a Western power.

We now know that the assault on Charlie Hebdo was the outcome of intra-Wahhabi rivalry. The attack has been claimed by Ayman al-Zawahiri as an al-Qaida initiative, organised by its section in the Yemen. There is no reason to doubt his assertion. His organisation has been outflanked and partially displaced by the Islamic State and a global act of terror was needed to restore its place as the leading terror group. As in other suicide-terrorism outings by al-Qaida, the act itself was well planned and predictably successful, and those who carried it out were duly sacrificed. Al-Qaida’s supporters will now boast that while their rivals kill other Muslims and accept Western largesse, they alone target the West and inflict damage. The fact that all these acts are inimical to the interests of European or American Muslims and benefit only the West seems to escape their attention.

David Cameron and other Western leaders insist, as they do after every outrage, that the problem is radicalised Islam and therefore the responsibility lies within the religion. (Why was Catholicism never blamed for the IRA offensives?) The real problem is not a secret: Western intelligence services regularly tell their leaders that the radicalisation of a tiny sliver of young Muslims (more work for the security services in Britain and France than for al-Qaida or ISIS) is a result of US foreign policy over the last decade and a half. Some of these Muslims have been happy to acquire new skills and priorities while fighting in Bosnia and, more recently, Syria.

Tariq Ali is the author of  The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

This essay originally was originally published by the London Review of Books.